Steve McClaren says Newcastle United’s defensive crisis has been as much a concern as transfers ahead of the club’s visit to Vicarage Road.
McClaren has just four fully fit defenders availble for this afternoon’s Premier League game against Watford.
However, the relegation-threatened club’s head coach also has Steven Taylor available, with the centre-half having recovered from the hamstring problem which has kept him out since September.
McClaren lost Paul Dummett to a hamstring injury last weekend, and midfielder Jack Colback – who had been pencilled in to fill-in at left-back – is unavailable because of a “niggle”.
Kevin Mbabu and Massadio Haidara are also sidelined with injuries.
Unless McClaren feels Taylor is fit enough to start, the team’s defence of Fabricio Coloccinin, Chancel Mbemba, Daryl Janmaat and Jamaal Lascelles picks itself.
Asked if he had been preoccupied with injuries as much as transfers this week, McClaren said: “Yes, definitely, because Dummett we’ve lost, we put Jack there at left-back, and he did well and now he’s got a little niggle that he’s had for a few weeks.
“They’ve been playing every game, so we’ve got to be careful.
“We haven’t got the personnel or the squad to handle that.
“They’ve played every game and got a lot of niggles. In training, it’s definitely given us a headache as to who plays where at Watford.”
Meanwhile, unsettled winger Florian Thauvin – who was booed by some Newcastle fans in the club’s FA Cup defeat to Watford earlier this month – is back in the squad after missing the club’s last two games with a knock.
McClaren said: “He is OK. He has been training OK. His attitude has been good.”
Thauvin could return to former club Olympique Marseille on loan this month.