Thursday 22 March 2018

Steve McClaren: Newcastle did not see this defensive crisis coming

Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren has defended the club's transfer policy
Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren has defended the club's transfer policy

Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren has defended the club's decision not to recruit defenders in January as he faces a fresh injury crisis during a relegation fight.

The Magpies entertain West Brom on Saturday still sitting inside the Barclays Premier League's bottom three and are two points shy of safety with time running out fast.

McClaren will be without a specialist left-back and is down to his last two central defenders for a game which increasingly looks like a must-win affair after Chancel Mbemba and Paul Dummett picked up injuries in Wednesday night's 3-0 defeat at Everton, during which Jamaal Lascelles was sent off.

But the boss has insisted a club which now has 12 men on the casualty list could not have foreseen the simultaneous loss of so many key players as it carried out its transfer window business.

He said: "We could never have foreseen that. We had four fit ones (central defenders) all training before the window closed, so no, there's no criticism there.

"We would never envisage that in one game, we would lose three defenders, two centre-halves especially.

"The sending-off right in the last minute was really frustrating because Jamaal was playing well and we'll need Jamaal for the next few games."

Mbemba is the main concern with appointments to see specialists in both London and Belgium about his ankle problem having been arranged, and while McClaren is keeping his fingers crossed, there is a fear that the player's absence could be lengthy.

The former England boss said: "We are still waiting. He's had one scan and I think he is going for a second opinion down in London and also in Belgium, so by the middle of next week, we will really know the diagnosis and how long he will be out."

McClaren, who will miss Lascelles through suspension for just one game, is more hopeful over Dummett after he aggravated an existing hamstring problem, but midfielder Jack Colback, a potential emergency left-back, will not be involved this weekend, leaving his boss with a major headache.

He at least has experienced central defender Steven Taylor as his disposal, although his only football since he damaged a hamstring back in August came in a behind-closed-doors practice match defeat to Sunderland 10 days ago.

McClaren said: "He's the next one in line. It's great for him. He's been working hard, it's been a long time. It's very, very frustrating for him - he's a true Geordie, he's a Newcastle boy and he wears his heart on his sleeve.

"We will need that kind of character tomorrow and that commitment from him."

Press Association

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