NEWCASTLE United will be forced to re-draw their pre-season programme after plans to tour South Africa fell through.
United had been in negotiations for a money-spinning participation in the Vodacom Challenge, alongside Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Congolese champions TP Mazembe, but the tournament has been pulled after the teams failed to sign a contract to compete. Newcastle will now look to extend their trip to Portugal as well as re-visiting earlier plans to play a Bundesliga side in Germany before the Algarve tournament.
They are also looking into games closer to home, with the trip to Cardiff in August the only game on British soil which has been signed off so far.
United had hoped to make a six-figure sum by playing in South Africa, with the club understood to be keen to extend their global appeal and maximise revenues with their pre-season plans.
However, the organisers pulled the plug after failing to agree the plans with either of the host clubs or Newcastle. The Chief Executive Officer of SAIL, who had been organising the competition, confirmed to The Journal the Vodacom Challenge was no longer taking place.
He said: “I can confirm the tournament has been cancelled for 2012 due to various circumstances and that we will not be hosting Newcastle.
So far United have confirmed only three pre-season fixtures – against Olympiakos on July 27 and Porto on July 28 in the Algarve tournament, before a clash with Cardiff on August 11.
United have talked to Sporting Lisbon about playing a fixture as part of an extended training camp in Portugal and there has been talk in America of a possible trip to Philadelphia to play Milan on August 3, although that would appear unlikely at this stage.
Meanwhile, Alan Pardew has said he still hopes to keep Demba Ba at Newcastle next season – while predicting there will be no transfer business until next month.
“Ever since (Demba) signed with us we’ve had it, I don’t think it’s going to go away,” he told BBC Newcastle.
“We want him to stay, the fans do too, and we hope that will be the case.”
As for incomings, Pardew reckons it will not start kicking into gear until July – probably when the players return for pre-season.
He added: “Sometimes the summer is one of reflection and a little bit of disappointment at who you lose.
“People like Peter Lovenkrands, who has been a brilliant servant. We start thinking on the positive side when we get back.
“On the transfer front it has been quiet but I think we are all getting poised to do some business.
“I think it will start around July 5 when we go back.”
Pardew reflected on a tough start to the season and said he felt it is “significantly” tougher than last year.
He said: “It is a tough game. I thought it was one of the best games last year, Spurs at home.
“It is a great start for the fans and hopefully we will get a positive result.
“It is two tough games to start with but on the back of last year we are hoping to get positive results in those (first two) games.
“It is significantly tougher than last year.
“We make no bones about last year, we did a softer start than most in terms of not meeting the big clubs.
“This year we are going right in at the deep end so pre-season is important we are up to speed for that first game.
“Looking at the fixture list, the end looks tricky. We are going to make sure we are in a strong position in those final games.”