NEWCASTLE United will decide this week whether to add a second centre-back to their January hit-list after Steven Taylor was ruled out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.
United are facing a major injury crisis ahead of the festive period with both skipper Fabricio Coloccini and midfielder Cheick Tioté doubtful for Norwich.
But it is the fate of seemingly jinxed Taylor that has caused most anxiety at St James’ Park.
The homegrown centre-back was in London last night ahead of an operation on his Achilles, which suffered a rupture in the late stages of Saturday’s 3-0 reverse. In what is a devastating blow for a player playing the best football of his career following a series of serious injuries, the club have confirmed he is unlikely to play again this term.
With Mike Williamson not likely to be available for another three weeks and out-of-favour Tamas Kadar frozen out at St James’ Park, United face the prospect of going to Carrow Road without a specialist centre-back.
The Journal understands that United had already decided to bring in defensive cover during the transfer window, but top-level discussions this week will determine whether another defender will be required in the wake of Taylor’s injury. Continental targets that would be suitable have already been identified.
PSV Eindhoven defender Erik Pieters remains a big favourite and has plenty of admirers within St James’ Park, but United were not happy with the way negotiations progressed for the Holland defender in August.
Circumstances, however, may force Newcastle back to the negotiating table.
The Journal also understands that Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has been watched extensively by Newcastle and is a potential target, even though Alan Pardew has denied interest in the centre-back.
Domestic options – including Birmingham’s versatile Liam Ridgewell – have been ruled out at this stage.
“The injuries are our biggest concern now as we look ahead,” Pardew said. “Colo has a thigh strain, we hope it doesn’t tear. We’ll have to scan them to find out how serious they are.
“I was pleased with James Perch because he came on in a really intense game against a top player, and although he started shaky he got better as the game went on and that was pleasing.
“We’ve been a bit unfortunate in these three games, we’ve not had our best squad to pick from, no Gutiérrez, no Cheick, the two centre-halves off the pitch for the last ten minutes, and yet I still look at my team and they’re competitive.”
The manager remains defiant – and adamant that his team can cope.
“Once we lost Williamson we were always in trouble,” he admitted. “Up until now we’ve been really unfortunate to have them both (Steven Taylor and Coloccini) every week.
“But at some point in the season you’re going to get into difficult situations and it looks like we’re in a difficult situation – but the spirit of the group will remain strong and we go to the next game.”
Pardew bristled at talk that the injuries were a “warning” to the board about the perils of not investing in January.
“No, I think that’s unfair and I wouldn’t want to use that word,” he said. “We’ve had a brilliant season so far, but injuries are going to come our way and you have to cope with it.”
Meanwhile, the United boss said he felt “sick to the stomach” at the decision that changed the course of the game.
He revealed that referee Mike Dean, who failed to send off David Luiz for a foul on Demba Ba in the fourth minute, had apologised for his blunder.
He added: “I’ve got a lot of positives to take from the game. I just feel really sick in the stomach in terms of the events.”