ALAN Smith has been confirmed as Newcastle United’s new captain as the Magpies frantically look for some sort of leadership in the dressing room despite the ongoing problems surrounding the club.
Although Smith has often struggled to hold down a regular place in the side during two injury disrupted years at St James’s Park, his personality made him the obvious choice to lead the side, according to caretaker manager Chris Hughton.
Smith (pictured) has been a loud and powerful voice behind the scenes and has helped organise the players during pre-season training in the absence of a specialist manager with the help of other prominent senior players Steve Harper and Geremi.
And Hughton had no doubts about handing him the captain’s armband for the opening game of the season at West Bromwich Albion as Nicky Butt is missing with a dislocated thumb.
Hughton said: “Alan will be captain in Nicky Butt’s absence. Alan’s one that’s had a good pre-season and I’ve seen leadership qualities in him.
“He’s respected by all the lads and he’s a player of experience and that lends itself to that position. In this period I have to name a captain we all know. If it changes, somebody might have their own ideas but with Nicky out, for me it’s the right choice.”
Smith has played in midfield during United’s friendlies, with either Shola Ameobi or Andy Carroll playing as a lone front-man, but it is difficult to know where his favoured position is.
Having started his career at Leeds United as an out-and-out centre-forward, he was switched to the centre of midfield during his time with Manchester United and has also played on the right wing for Newcastle.
Although many expected the 28-year-old to leave the club this summer, he has shown a determination to make the best out of what remains a terrible situation for players at St James’s Park.
Indeed, the former England international has rounded on anyone who has not shown the required work rate or commitment in training or matches and almost came to blows with one teammate following a dressing room row immediately after the 6-1 humiliation by Leyton Orient last month.
Habib Beye will not be in the squad which travels to the Hawthorns tomorrow as he is due to discuss personal terms with Hull City ahead of a £2m move, while Sébastien Bassong – another of the disgruntled members of the squad following relegation – is expected to complete a £9m move to Tottenham Hotspur before the start of next week.
And the Frenchman, who qualifies to play for Cameroon, declared he had no choice but to leave Newcastle as he did not want to damage his career by playing in the Championship.
He said: “Playing for Newcastle was a real honour in front of the supporters at St James’s Park. It has been an unbelievable experience for me. But I have always said that I wanted to play in the Premier League and that wasn’t possible with Newcastle.
“It was not good for my career to be at a Championship club. I want to play in future World Cups and African Cup of Nations competitions with Cameroon. That is made more difficult if you are not playing at the higher level.”
A typically cautious Hughton refused to give any details of the proposed moves, but he did at least admit they would not be in the squad tomorrow.
He said: “They won’t be in the squad, no. I think you’re aware certainly at this moment I can’t say anything (about the transfers). There’s speculation. Fabricio Coloccini, though, is in the squad. We’re also introducing a few young lads who’ve done well in pre-season, Tamás Kádár, Kazenga LuaLua and Ryan Donaldson, who’ve done very well.”