NEWCASTLE UNITED’S management team are experiencing mounting frustration at their inability to field the club’s French internationals in the build-up to this summer’s World Cup.
Despite previous hopes that he would be fit for this weekend’s trip to Stoke City, Loic Remy’s calf injury has not healed sufficiently for him to be involved at the Britannia Stadium.
The striker will be joined on the sidelines by compatriots Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko, both of whom will also hope to feature in Didier Deschamps’ final 23-man squad for this summer’s finals in Brazil.
Last week, Christian Benteke’s Achilles injury highlighted the potential danger of suffering a problem so close to the start of the World Cup, with the Belgian striker having been ruled out of the entire tournament.
Given that all three of Newcastle’s likely French internationals are already carrying knocks, there is an understandable degree of reticence on the part of the trio to risk making the situation worse.
However, there is growing unease within the Magpies’ backroom team at the length of time it is taking for Remy in particular to make himself available.
While Alan Pardew has trod a cautious line in public, the Newcastle manager is understood to have been particularly disappointed at the latest setback that has lengthened the QPR loanee’s absence. Pardew has been forced to alter his predicted timescale on three separate occasions now, with Remy still not having resumed full training after sustaining an injury in the 4-1 win at Hull on March 1.
One of the ironies of the current situation is that Remy is by no means guaranteed a place in the France squad, and the hope at St James’ Park is that the 27-year-old will realise his World Cup cause would be aided by a flurry of goals in the final month of the season.
“The French manager obviously needs to see them fit and ready before the World Cup,” said Pardew, who has seen his side concede ten goals without reply in their last three games. “Debuchy will train on Monday or Tuesday, Moussa will probably be another week – I don’t see him being involved in the next two games.
“Loic won't make this game, but he's training now and we'd like to think he'll make the next game. It’s been a bit longer than we expected.”
Remy has failed to feature in ten Premier League games this season, and Papiss Cisse’s 90th-minute winner against Crystal Palace is the only goal Newcastle have scored in all of those matches.
Their goalscoring record without their leading scorer is wretched, and while Yoan Gouffran will be available for tomorrow’s game at the Britannia Stadium, neither he nor Luuk de Jong have carried much of a threat in recent games.
Cisse has flickered into life sporadically, but last month’s goal against Palace was his first Premier League strike since Boxing Day, and he continues to struggle for sharpness and form.
As a result, there has been a growing clamour for Pardew to start with 17-year-old Adam Armstrong, who made his senior debut when he came off the bench against Fulham last week.
Armstrong boasts an impressive goalscoring record at development level this season, but with Newcastle’s senior team in an awful run of form, Pardew feels this would be the wrong time to ask the teenager to step up, even though such a decision would be well received in the stands.
“I think it’s a little bit unfair,” he said. “I gave (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain his debut at Southampton when he was 16 or 17. Mark Noble was definitely 16. Jonjo Shelvey was 16 or 17. I don’t shy away from young players, in fact, nothing gives me more pleasure.
“But I have to protect the welfare of the player. Now this player is coming into a team at the moment that is not functioning very well. I’m not sure he is quite ready to start at this level in his own confidence, so I don’t want to damage him in any way.
“If the team was performing better, if we were looking like we were bossing games, I think that would be an environment where he could come on. So we’ve got to earn the right for him.
“With fans calling for him, I think I would probably get a lot of plaudits if I put him in the team. But actually that’s not the right decision for him or the team, so I am resisting that at the moment for the player, more than anything.”
With thoughts inevitably turning to the rebuilding job that will be required in the summer, Pardew has welcomed this week’s appointment of Lee Charnley as Newcastle’s new managing director.
"I'm pleased Lee's been appointed in that role," he said. "He's somebody who knows the club inside out. He's worked on transfers and has good experience on those, and I hope we can work together in the summer to secure the players we need. We're focusing on that at the moment.
“There's absolutely no conflict in terms of where we're going. The owner's set out the criteria and we've got to bring in players to take us forward.
“We have to reflect on what happens to the squad. If there's two or three that leave, then we have to replace them on top of the two we want to bring in.
“There's no doubt after the loss of (Yohan) Cabaye, we need to add quality. The Remy situation also needs to be addressed because we need a player of his quality.”