TYNE-WEAR derby assassin Shola Ameobi is set to return for Sunday’s high noon showdown – as Dan Gosling emerged as a surprise contender to fill in for the suspended Cheik Tiote against Sunderland.
Ameobi, who boasts an excellent goalscoring record against the Wearsiders, will return to training tomorrow to put himself in the frame for a Stadium of Light starting role.
Manager Alan Pardew is now “optimistic” that the big striker will be fit to continue tormenting the Black Cats.
And in a further fitness boost for United, Pardew also expects to be able to reunite injury doubts Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez on Newcastle’s left-hand side – although he said it is “too early” to make a definitive judgement on Andy Carroll, who returned from Dubai yesterday.
That is all positive news for a Newcastle camp still stung by Saturday’s defeat at Stevenage, but it was an impressive comeback for Dan Gosling in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Hibernian which really got Pardew thinking as he considers his options for Sunday’s crucial clash with Sunderland.
With the chances of a new signing before Sunday appearing slim – the Newcastle boss admitted to The Journal there had been “no movement” on that front as he headed into a transfer summit with owner Mike Ashley yesterday evening – Gosling may be pressed into action on Sunday. The midfielder has been out of action for nine months, but sailed through 70 minutes in the 3-3 draw with Hibs and reported no ill effects from the run-out.
“The injury news is looking positive for us and we should have some important players back,” Pardew told The Journal.
“Shola Ameobi should be fit now, Jonas will be fine and Jose Enrique should be available too. It will be a boost to have Shola back, he is going to train on Friday and that is what we’re working towards at the moment – although there is a couple of days’ work to be done there.
“The other positive for us is that Dan Gosling came back and he is certainly looking good.
“I couldn’t really use him over Christmas without getting some minutes under his belt but he’s given me something to think about.”
Pardew remains hopeful of adding a new recruit before the weekend, but time has run out on United’s pursuit of Seb Larsson.
The Swedish winger was given permission to talk to Newcastle on Monday but sources in the West Midlands indicated that the player was lukewarm at best towards a St James’ Park switch, an attitude that appears to have prompted United to pull the plug.
That means Pardew is likely to be picking from his existing pool of midfield talent, which includes a rejuvenated Gosling. The 20-year-old certainly believes he has something to offer at the Stadium of Light.
However, he crucially said that fatigue had hit him towards the end of yesterday’s scratch match against the SPL side.
“I will look out for the numbers on Sunday and see what the gaffer decides to do,” he said.
“But I’m not getting carried away, I’ll just take it as it comes.
“We have another reserve game against Wigan on Monday, so I’m sure that I will play some part in that, and I will look forward to that one as well.
“I’m tired, but I feel all right. I stiffened up a little bit, but it was a good run-out and I really enjoyed it.
“I was getting more confident as the game went on and it’s a shame I couldn’t last the 90 minutes, but that will come sooner rather than later.
“The plan was to play for at least an hour and see after that, and 70 minutes was a good workout for me.”