England’s dismal performances aside, there wasn’t much Toon news to stick our teeth into over the past week. In years gone by, international breaks would offer a form of solace from our patchy Premier League form but now, a league lower but 16 or so places higher, it seems as though international breaks only serve to do one thing, interrupt our flow (and injure our keepers!)
But how did our clutch of Championship players fare when out on international duty this week?
The Young guns were on song
In an exciting-looking England U21 side, Isaac Hayden had a starting berth and fully justified his manager’s faith in him, helping England to a 5-0 win over Bosnia. Freddie Woodman also made his debut in the previous game where the U21’s recorded a narrow win over Kazakhstan.
Speedy fullback DeAndre Yedlin was also in action for his native USA against Cuba and New Zealand respectively. The American, who has been impressive since arriving on Tyneside got taken off in USA’s 2-0 win over Cuba but played a full game against NZ and had a relatively stable performance.
Woe for Hanley & Ritchie
The Toon duo could do nothing to prevent Scotland’s disappointing draw with Lithuania and heavy 3-0 defeat to Slovakia. Hanley, signed from Blackburn this season, was given a torrid time by lively Slovakian attacker Mak yesterday evening whilst his Newcastle team mate Ritchie, proved ineffective and looked devoid of confidence over on the flank for Scotland.
The ever-consistent Ciaran Clark took his club form over to the international scene after helping Republic of Ireland record two wins in their World Cup 2018 qualifying group. Mitro netted twice on Sunday for his native Serbia and there were wins for Diame and Mbema for Senegal and DR Congo (that’s Democratic Republic, not Doctor Congo) respectively.
This weekend, normality resumes as the Toon take on Brentford at St James’ Park. In previous months, international breaks have left us ravaged with injuries – it arguably hit us hardest at the back end of last season when Rob Elliot’s season-ending injury for Ireland left us without a first team keeper for our remaining matches.
This time round, in a league where we can boast more ‘strength-in-depth’ over most, if not all teams, Rafa’s men look in good shape but should expect a tough contest against a side who are more than holding their own in this division.
After his performance for Serbia last weekend, I’d like to see Mitrovic get a starting spot this weekend. With Brentford being a physical side (then again, which side isn’t in the Championship), a potentially gritty game such as this one, could play into the Serb’s hand.
Assuming all things remain equal between now and the weekend, I’m plumping for us to keep a clean sheet and record another narrow 1-0 over the Bees.