Yanga-Mbiwa is set for an early debut

BACK HOME: Shola Ameobi runs with a group of youngsters from Walker Central Boys Club yesterday when a newly-refurbished sports centre was opened

BACK HOME: Shola Ameobi runs with a group of youngsters from Walker Central Boys Club yesterday when a newly-refurbished sports centre was opened

First published in Sport
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

ALAN PARDEW is likely to hand £7million defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa his first start when Newcastle United host Metalist Kharkiv on Thursday.

The Magpies resume their Europa League campaign at St James’ Park, where Pardew will hope for a positive result going into the second leg of their last 32 tie in Ukraine seven days later.

As he has already done in the competition this season, Pardew is likely to make changes to his starting line-up and one January signing that hasn’t started yet could be handed a home debut.

Yanga-Mbiwa became Newcastle’s second signing of the transfer window when he completed a £7m move from Montpellier, but he only made two late substitute appearances in the wins over Aston Villa and Chelsea.

The 23-year-old was one of three players added to the Magpies’ European squad last week – Moussa Sissoko and Massadio Haidara the others - and Pardew is understood to be targeting the Europa League games as a way of easing the central defender into the team.

Should Yanga-Mbiwa be given a starting berth on Thursday night, Pardew will decide whether to replace Fabricio Coloccini or Steven Taylor at the heart of the Magpies’ defence.

There will be cases to rest both with Taylor having played a lot of minutes since returning from a long-term injury, while captain Coloccini has suffered from a dip in form this season.

Haidara could also feature after impressing during an under-21s win over Stoke City last week, in which he scored his first goal for the club.

The Nancy left-back, who can also play in midfield is viewed as a one for the future by Newcastle coaches, but his impressive debut for Willie Donachie’s side could propel him into first-team action.

Newcastle’s European opposition warmed up for Thursday’s match with a friendly against Northern League side Whitley Bay on Sunday evening.

The game, which finished 1- 1, was watched by Pardew at Hillheads and the Magpies boss saw Metalist field a different 11 in each half.

One player Pardew won’t have available this week is Yoan Gouffran. The attacker was stretchered off during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham, but although scans revealed the player hadn’t suffered a broken leg, he is cuptied having represented Bordeaux in the group stages.

Meanwhile, Magpies brothers Shola and Sammy Ameobi returned to the streets where they honed their football skills as youngsters to open a newly-refurbished community sports centre which could inspire a new generation of local Premier League stars.

The brothers, who both played for Walker Central Boys Club and went to school nearby, were on hand to launch the revamped Walker Activity Dome sports centre, which has undergone a second phase of redevelopment thanks to a £338,819 grant from the Premier League’s Community Facilities Fund.

The Ameobis were joined by local children and a host of special guests from Newcastle United, the Newcastle United Foundation, Newcastle City Council, the Premier League and the Football Foundation, with Nick Brown MP performing a formal plaque unveiling.

Shola, who has made more than 300 first appearances for his hometown club, said: “The new facilities are absolutely brilliant. I think back to when I was a kid growing up around here and we didn’t have anything like this.

“It’s a fantastic scheme for communities like Walker.

“This is a city which lives for football and the foundations are now there for a new generation of players to come along, enjoy themselves and to learn skills which will not only benefit them on the pitch, but also off it in their everyday lives.”

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