NEWCASTLE United’s youngsters have been warned this season is do-or-die time for their St James’ Park careers.
Jonás Gutiérrez feels the Magpies are stronger for manager Alan Pardew’s policy of giving younger players valuable experience in the cup competitions.
But the Argentinian has warned Pardew will dip into the transfer market for their replacements if they do not make the most of it.
Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson and Haris Vuckic all featured in the first-team last season, but the added demands of Europa League football have allowed them a more prominent role. Twenty-one-year-old defender James Tavernier has returned from loan spells at Carlisle United, Sheffield Wednesday and Milton Keynes Dons, and 19-year-old Gaël Bigirimana joined from Coventry City in the summer.
They have freshened up what this time last year was an extremely inflexible starting XI.
“We have a number of young players who are training really well and playing well in the team – Fergie, Sammy, Bigi (Bigirimana), Mehdi (Abeid), Tav (Tavernier),” said Gutiérrez, who has been left out of this month’s Argentina squad to play Saudi Arabia in a friendly.
“They know they will have opportunities and have to do it right. If they do the manager will think he doesn’t need another player, the players I want are already here. They must do it right and prove to the manager they can play.”
Algerian midfielder Abeid was also part of the young fringe group last season but is yet to feature this, having perhaps failed to kick on.
But Ferguson, Ameobi and Bigirimana have shown enough playing in Europe and the League Cup to force their way into Pardew’s Premier League plans. Gutiérrez wants others to follow their lead. “They have to be ready for the opportunities they are going to have this year,” he said. “They must try to do their best. If not, next year will come and they won’t play if another player is brought in. They have to work hard and not let the opportunity go.”
That United’s team was so predictable last season was an important reason behind the impressive unbeaten start they made to it. With so many more games this term, the Magpies’ line-up invariably features a raft of changes from game to game.
“It does make it more difficult to find a rhythm but that is football and there’s nothing we can do,” Gutiérrez reflected.