The scene: Stade Chaban Delmas
The Date: December 6, 2012
The Event: Matchday 6 of the Europa League Group Stage
You may remember this day. On this day Alan Pardew, with the end-of-year fixture congestion looming and qualification for the knock-out stage of the Europa League already assured in one form or another, decided to entrust the away match v. Girondins de Bordeaux to the kids. The starting lineup on the day (the match reaction called the formation a 4-2-3-1, but that breaks my head, so view it as a 4-4-2):
James Tavernier, Mike Williamson, James Perch, ShaneFerguson
Gaël Bigirimana, Sylvain Marveaux, Mehdi Abeid, Sammy Ameobi
Nile Ranger, Shola Ameobi
On the bench: Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Vurnon Anita, Romain Amalfitano, Papiss Cissé, Adam Campbell. The presence of Coloccini and Cissé was largely ceremonial (although Coloccini played 15 minutes for Perch and Cissé played the final 10 minutes for Shola) and the idea was clearly to give the young players a chance to carry the day. The final result could be said to be flattering to deceive as Bordeaux's 2-0 victory really does not do justice to the gulf in class between the two sides that day. Sammy Ameobi was pulled at halftime in favor of Vurnon Anita in an early signal of what would follow the match.
This was the beginning of what I called Alan Pardew's "The Kids Aren't Alright Tour". Players that had been handed prominent roles early in the season would be shipped out on loan (some sooner than others, but the ones who didn't go on loan immediately ended up being frozen out until they did take a loan move.
Fast forward 4 months, and several of those players are returning. Bradden Inman, who had a solid stint with Crewe Alexandria in League One, has returned and is featuring today for the U-21s against Bolton (a match that could wrap up the league for them if they win, incidentally). Shane Ferguson tweeted this morning that he had his last training session with Birmingham City and is reportedly on the way to London to meet up with Newcastle, as is Sammy Ameobi.
Sammy and Shane will be in the discussion for a spot in the matchday squad for Alan Pardew, and it is conceivable that at least one of them may get a start, leaving us to hope that they have made the most of their time away from St. James' Park.
We saw Shane at the left back position some early in this season and there were times that he looked very very good. Like Bradden Inman, he had a pretty solid stint with Birmingham City and there is hope that he is prepared to potentially be plugged straight in to the starting XI v. Big Sam and the Holding Company with the injuries to Davide Santon and Massadio Haïdara depleting the squad of true left backs. Let's not fool ourselves, though - Alan Pardew will restore Jonas Gutierrez to the LB position and Ferguson will sit the bench (if he even gets to sit the bench).
We find Sammy in a situation similar to Shane's. Sylvain Marveaux has been ruled out through injury for the trip to London and Sammy could step straight in for Marveaux - assuming that Jonas plays at LB. The likelihood (based on a season's worth of evidence) that AP sits Jonas with both left-sided positions available is precisely 0.00000000% (to be precise) so it then becomes a question of which player (Sammy or Shane) stands the best chance to get the call.
Who do you think is most likely to step in after returning from loan? Sammy Ameobi? Shane Ferguson? Is there a permutation of lineup I haven't thought of that will keep both of them out? Let us know below!