All quiet in the north east… but things are about to get busy
15:28 GMT, 24 July 2012
All quiet on the north eastern front.
Newcastle and Sunderland welcome back their Euro 2012 participants this week as pre-season moves up a notch.
We can safely ignore the games, results, performances so far, although the internet clips have provided a few excellent goals, most notably Ryan Noble’s cracker in Korea.
Up and running: Demba Ba scores Newcastle's first goal against Monaco
Carlos Cuellar is Martin O’Neill’s only signing but his number one target is more than a striker, but a proven goalscorer who can replace the enormous and lucrative gap left by Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan.
Fraizer Campbell and Connor Wickham (remember him) are his other options and the phrase `big season for the lad’ was written for the pair of them. Time to deliver boys.
While he may have made the England squad briefly last season, Campbell needs an extended injury-free run which Sunderland may not be able to afford.
More from Colin Young…
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Northern Exposure: Middlesbrough have 90 minutes to keep Premier League dream alive… or face the consequences
Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Sunderland face battle to keep hold of their best players
Northern Exposure: Ben Arfa's dream goal makes European football even more of a reality for Newcastle
Northern Exposure: Sunderland cup joy would be Euro nightmare for Toon
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At 8million, Wickham might have been expected to make an impact last season but it by-passed him. Injuries at every turning hardly helped but the glimpses of his potential were few and far between.
Of potential new recruits, Steve Fletcher fits the O’Neill mould, and he may be overpriced, but he’s shown he is worth it. With decent ammunition, which James McClean and Seb Larsson can provide, they become a different proposition, particularly at home. And O’Neill knows it.
Does Ryan Noble come into the equation That’s up to him.
He’s a Sunderland academy lad who has scored goals for fun at every level so far. Steve Bruce gave him his debut, but questioned his physical presence and it will be how he reacts that and his goal which O’Neill and Steve Walford will note now as they ruthlessly assess the fringe elements of the entire squad they inherited from his predecessor.
Time to shine: Connor Wickham has a chance to step up and prove his worth at Sunderland
They’ve been busy over at Middlesbrough, and Tony Mowbray has quickly started to assemble his squad.
He’s a shrewd operator in the transfer market, so take note of any more sly additions, as Boro look to build on last season’s surprise rise up the table and cement a place among the promotion contenders for the whole nine months.
Jonathan Woodgate may have been the chairman’s brainchild, but Mowbray was delighted to sanction it and build a team around and outstanding defender who can become an icon of a re-born club which has suffered enough now.
Stuart Parnaby returns without the spotlight and drama, sobered by a difficult year out of the game following his release from Birmingham City.
Many would have turned their back on the game but he has never been hungrier and deserves his place in helping put the Teesside club back on the map.
It won’t be easy. As Woodgate said last week, during a refreshingly frank press conference: `It is a very tough division, 46 games, very tough and there will be ten teams up there going for it won't there
'But no one expected Middlesbrough to finish where they finished last season did they I didn't, especially with the amount of money cut of the wage bill that surprised us.
Getting the business done early: Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray has signed Emanuel Ledesma, Jonathan Woodgate, Grant Leadbitter and Stuart Parnaby
'I can see the way the manager wants to progress the club and the way he wants the team to play. We were on the same song sheet. We all want to play football in the right way, winning football as well. I think we can do that here and with a few more players we can do even better.’
As the Euro boys return to duty, there are few new recruits to meet as competition intensifies for a starting place on August 18.
But that is certain to change.
Targets have been identified, priorities and finances dissected and the managers of both clubs will be looking to bring in new signings sooner rather than later even though the market closes a fortnight after the opening game.
Newcastle are awaiting for Liverpool to make the next move regarding Andy Carroll’s future. A homecoming makes perfect sense for all three parties, with the burden of responsibility on Carroll’s shoulders to deliver.
Doing so in his beloved black and white shirt was not a problem previously and his style and strengths are more in keeping with the robust attacking style Newcastle adopt. But this club has evolved beyond recognition under Pardew and the board which sold him and not always seen eye to eye. He has to blend into those surroundings, not hog them.
The hurt from his Liverpool experience could be the making of him. He will certainly need to show unparalleled restraint of avoid the troubles which haunted him during his Geordie upbringing. He is the antithesis of the clean-leaving Demba Ba, Papa Cisse and Shola Ameobi but could not work with three better more influential role models.
Forget any contract, ignore the small print on the deal. These are the terms he has to accept. If that happens, Carroll could prove one of the signings of the summer.
St James's Park gets its name back for The Games
St James’s Park is gearing up to play its part in the Olympics.
And the good news is that for a fortnight we get official permission to call St James’s Park by its proper name St James’s Park.
Kick-off at St James’s Park will be Mexico v South Korea at four on Thursday, followed by the big game of the week, Switzerland v Gabon. Spain and Brazil will also be playing at St James Park and the news from St James’s Park is that ticket sales are promising at this stage, with more than 40,000 expected at St James’s Park for the quarter-finals match.
Back to the original name: St James' Park will be used for the Olympic football tournament
Organisers have rightly decided that fans can pay on the St James’s Park door on the day, with the offices opening at nine in the morning. And if the seats at St James’s Park are filled it will be more than just the stadium’s name which will look familiar.