'He showed real class': Newcastle United defender wows coach
It was a short 45 minutes after a long six months.
Florian Lejeune is finally back on the field for Newcastle United after completing a painstaking rehabilitation programme – and that little bit closer to a first-team comeback.
The defender – who ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee four months after returning from the same injury in his right knee – was withdrawn at the break at Whitley Park last night, as planned, with the club’s Under-23s trailing 2-0 to Middlesbrough.
Lejeune has strolled through a lot of games since joining United from Eibar in the summer of 2017, but this hadn’t been a stroll, and that was a good thing for the 28-year-old.
Watched by Steve Bruce, Miguel Almiron, Sean and Matty Longstaff and a few hundred fans, Newcastle had spent much of the first half the back foot. They trailed 2-0 when Lejeune was withdrawn at the half-time break. He hadn’t been at fault for either goal.
Lejeune had a couple of forays forward, but his team had to defend for a large part of the first half.
It was a different story after the break as Newcastle laid siege to Middlesbrough’s goal. Jack Young and Oisin McEntee scored to claim a deserved point from a 2-2 draw for Neil Redfearn’s side.
Lejeune – who had surgery in Italy after suffering his injury against Crystal Palace at St James’s Park in April – isn’t yet ready for a first-team recall.
Still, the centre-half’s return was a positive story on the back of a frustrating first-team result at St James’s Park on Sunday, but he didn’t speak to journalists after the game.
Redfearn, however, gave his verdict on Lejeune’s comeback.
“I thought he was good, Flo,” said the club’s Under-23 coach. “He came in there and showed real class at times. He’s obviously an outstanding player, and I thought he defended well.
“None of the goals were down to him. I thought he did really well considering he’d been out that length of time and this was his first 45 minutes. It was a really good performance.”
Hopefully, they were the first of many minutes this season.