Maiga could join Mike in Magpies team

RETURN CLOSE: Mike Williamson

RETURN CLOSE: Mike Williamson

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

MIKE WILLIAMSON has given Alan Pardew the perfect pick-me-up by edging closer to easing Newcastle United's defensive woes.

On the day that Sochaux striker Modibo Maiga underwent a medical ahead of a January move to Newcastle, Williamson emerged through 45 minutes of reserves action in a 1-1 draw with Bolton before being taken off without any hint of a set-back.

Provided there has been no adverse reaction overnight, the 28-year-old is hoping to train tomorrow and Friday when Pardew will then determine whether to consider him to face Swansea City.

Newcastle are short of options at the heart of the defence following Steven Taylor's serious Achilles injury and the hope is that Fabricio Coloccini will have recovered from a thigh problem to face the Swans.

Williamson would then provide an alternative option to James Perch, who is likely to start his second game in a row at St James' Park regardless of whether the former is deemed fit enough to play.

Williamson has been out since suffering the setback in the Carling Cup clash with Scunthorpe in August and his comeback is a boost after the 4-2 defeat at Norwich

Williamson said: "I feel completely fine. That was the plan - to play 45, to get myself back in and try to get the cobwebs out and then train on Thursday and Friday.

"I'll accelerate it (his return) as quickly as possible, but not to the detriment of anything. But my knee and ankle are completely fine now, so it's just about getting the minutes under my belt and as much fitness and running as I can."

Newcastle are looking for an immediate response to the defeat at Carrow Road, having now gone four games without a win and slipping down to seventh in the Premier League.

"There is no need to start panicking or worrying because we're having a little spell. We've got massive talent in this squad and we'll be able to stay up there," said striker Sammy Ameobi yesterday, as he visited poorly children at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary yesterday.

"We've had a little bit of a rough patch, that's true. But which team in the league doesn't have one? Even Manchester City have lost a game now.

"We'll be able to bounce back against Swansea - there's a huge amount of confidence in the squad that we'll be able to do that. There's no fear from us and confidence is still very high.

"To be where we are, we deserve it. We've got the talent to be seventh in the league and the injuries won't affect us. It's a small rough patch but we'll come through it. We're sure of that."

Pardew is keen to make progress in the next few weeks on possible deals to be concluded in the January transfer window.

And while a defender is now a priority after a further breakdown in Danny Simpson's refusal to accept the terms being offered on a new contract, there was further progress made towards sealing the signature of Mali-born Maiga last night.

The 24-year-old was in London yesterday to undergo a medical as he prepares to complete a £7m move to Tyneside next month, as revealed in The Northern Echo last month.

Maiga had hoped for the deal to be finalised last summer, but Sochaux's determination to hang on to their highly-rated forward prevented a deal from taking place.

But with negotiations aimed at striking a deal for January completed between the two clubs weeks ago, the medical is another indication that a move should take place early in the new year.

* Newcastle players were visiting poorly children at the RVI in Newcastle yesterday, when Sammy Ameobi spoke.

He later tweeted on Twitter: "Really enjoyed seeing the kids at RVI this afternoon. Just wish they could all get out to spend Christmas at home with their families.

"Next time I will think before complaining about the smallest things… imagine what those kids have to go through every day."

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