NEWCASTLE United’s defenders have had to get used to an unusual feeling in training this week.
All season the back four and goalkeeper Tim Krul have been unchanged in the Premier League, a remarkable achievement in December. But in training this week they have had to get used to some new faces.
Steven Taylor is unlikely to play again this season after rupturing his Achilles against Chelsea, and central defensive partner Fabricio Coloccini is also a major doubt for Saturday’s trip to Norwich City, which now takes on added significance.
Once upon a time such stability would be commonplace, but in an era of often massive squads and regular rotation, it is an oddity to have so many ever-presents at this stage of a campaign, particularly in the same department.
French midfielder Yohan Cabaye is another to have started all 14 Premier League games this term. Fellow defender Danny Simpson admits he has enjoyed the predictability of the top-flight’s most settled defensive unit.
“We have been working as a back five in training, day in and day out working on things,” said the Mancunian, who could face a change of position at Carrow Road. “It’s nice when you don’t have to change things.”
Manager Alan Pardew is playing his cards close to his chest about his plans for the Norwich game, although it seems certain James Perch will deputise for Taylor, despite having played most of his football for the club at full-back.
Replacing captain Coloccini will be more troublesome, with the Magpies’ third senior centre-back, Mike Williamson, recovering from an ankle injury.
Pardew’s options include moving Simpson from right-back into the heart of the defence, something which he did during the Championship-winning season.
Although he has played most of his senior football out wide, either in defence or midfield, Davide Santon could make his full Premier League debut out of position.
Santon’s debut came as a 77th-minute substitute for Simpson during October’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur.