STEVEN Taylor will make his long-awaited comeback on Saturday evening as Newcastle United look to ensure the much-missed centre-back is in contention for the Premier League kick-off next month.
Taylor will get a 45-minute run-out against Olympiacos in United’s opening game in the XII Trofeo Guadiana – handing him his first competitive football for some seven months.
The defender was a member of the travelling party that headed to Germany and Austria to kick off United’s pre-season programme but played no part in the trio of games.
He will jet out to the Algarve today though and, with no breakthrough in the hunt for a senior defender imminent, Alan Pardew is likely to need Taylor to be in contention for a busy first month of the season. Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa are set to join up with their team-mates after an extended break following Euro 2012 but, despite the imminent transfer of Australian youngster Curtis Good, the defender is unlikely to have signed in time to join the tournament in Portugal.
United play twice and will then hold warm-weather training sessions until Tuesday.
While the team is in Portugal, The Journal understands that United chiefs hope to kick-start deals for three key targets over the next few days. Mike Ashley has taken a personal interest in a deal to bring Andy Carroll back to Tyneside and United’s desire to get the deal over the line is genuine and ongoing.
United chiefs remain convinced a deal can be struck and have been informed by sources close to the player that he has no future at Anfield – despite the mixed messages emanating from Merseyside.
United are set to snap up 19-year-old defender Good later this week but progress on deals for priority targets Mathieu Debuchy, Vurnon Anita and Carroll has slowed of late as Newcastle look to extract the best possible deals.
Newcastle have identified an alternative right-back in case they fail to reach an agreement with Lille for Debuchy but remain interested in the France international, who has made it clear he wants to come to Tyneside.
A dream scenario would see United land all three but senior sources at the club have ruled out ‘panic buys’, insisting Newcastle will not scramble to find a new set of targets if they don’t manage to land a handful of priority
signings. That could see the Magpies enter the season with roughly the same squad that they finished last year with, although the club’s desire to broker a deal for a new striker is genuine.
Alan Pardew added to the pressure on Liverpool yesterday by saying that the Reds must be prepared to take a loss on the England striker.
“(Reading chairman) John Madejski used to say to me about certain players, ‘Just wipe your nose and move on’, and I think [Liverpool] are going to have to do that with Andy,” he said.
“I think it was obvious as soon as Brendan went into Liverpool that Andy’s time was going to have to be somewhere else. I think it’s quite right we’re involved in that. Whether he comes here, is something that I will take or I will leave. It’s a lot of money for Mike (Ashley, Newcastle owner), although we’ll obviously be getting a big upside in terms of what we sold him for. As the manager, I want the best players I can get.”
Weekend reports of an enquiry for Loïc Remy were genuine but the interest is no more than tentative at this stage. Marseille’s Remy comes highly recommended to Newcastle chiefs, but their initial query revealed a fee of around £20million – which would rule him too expensive.