Fitness boost for under-fire Newcastle boss Steve McClaren

Newcastle United midfielder Vurnon Anita
Newcastle United midfielder Vurnon Anita

Vurnon Anita is closing in on a Newcastle United return after almost two months out with a hamstring injury.

The Dutch midfielder has returned to first team training in La Manga, where Steve McClaren's squad are taking part in a training camp aimed at kick-starting their survival hopes.

Newcastle were hammered 5-1 away at Chelsea in the final match before the enforced break, leaving McClaren's side deep in relegation trouble.

And while the pressure intensifies on McClaren, he has been handed a boost with the return of Anita after his longest ever spell out.

The 26-year-old, sidelined since the end of December by a hamstring injury sustained at West Bromwich Albion, has successfully come through double training sessions unscathed.

"It has been a good camp for me," said Anita.

"I have been out for seven-and-a-half weeks - that is way too long for me and the longest I have ever been out.

"But I am back training with the group for the first time and my hamstring feels good.

"I hope to get back on the pitch very soon to help the team because it is hard watching at any time, but even more so when results aren’t going our way.

"You want to help but you cannot do anything other than offering support to your teammates, which is what I have done.

"But now I am getting closer to playing again and that will be a good moment for me."

His return to training is a major boost to under-fire McClaren, who said Anita has been “great” before he got injured.

United are not back in action until March 2 when they face Stoke City, giving Anita more time to hone his fitness levels.

Mid-season training camps are familiar to the former Ajax man, who enjoyed annual winter breaks while playing in Holland.

"You get everybody together for a few days with no other surroundings and no distractions, so it means everyone is completely focussed,” added Anita ahead of today’s friendly against Norwegian side Lillestrom.

"A change of scenery from being at the same training ground every day of the season is also nice.

"The weather is better than at home, we are able to work hard in it with two sessions a day, and the team will benefit from this."