Jamaal Lascelles can’t expect to walk straight back into Newcastle United’s starting XI.
That’s the view of Steve Howey ahead of the club’s visit to Turf Moor.
Lascelles suffered a shoulder injury in Newcastle’s win over Watford earlier this month.
The 24-year-old sat out the victory against Bournemouth before the international break and is being assessed ahead of Monday night’s game against Burnley.
Switzerland international Fabian Schar has deputised for Lascelles, United’s captain, and has looked comfortable in the Premier League.
With Federico Fernandez, Schar’s fellow summer signing, having also impressed this season, ex-Newcastle defender Howey doesn’t believe Lascelles will necessarily return to the starting XI as soon as he’s declared fit.
Florian Lejeune, pictured back in training yesterday, is also close to a comeback from the serious knee injury he suffered in the summer.
Asked about United’s defensive options, Howey said: “You’ve got Schar, Fernandez, Lejeune and Lascelles.
“We had this debate on the radio. The fact is that Lascelles is captain, but if the manager went with another two, or another one instead of him, you’d think ‘they’ve done a great job’.
“Lascelles has been injured and the lads who’ve come in have done well. Yes, that’s kind of covered. “
I couldn’t have imagined my first job being more difficult. This gives you valuable experience for the future.Steve Watson
Benitez has also lost left-back Paul Dummett to injury, though Howey believes the club’s manager has enough options.
Dummett, who was handed a call-up to the Wales squad by Ryan Giggs, was taken off during the first half of their 2-1 defeat to Denmark last Friday and now looks set to miss the trip to Turf Moor on Monday.
“We were talking also about the left-back position with Dummett injured,” said Howey, who will play for a Newcastle Legends XI in a game against a team of former Gateshead players on April 7 at the International Stadium next year.
“We’re still kind of all right with options there. As I said, the lads are confident, but given the fact that you’ve got competition for places, certainly in certain places, then that’s very good for the club.”
The mood on Tyneside has been lifted by back-to-back wins. Newcastle are 14th in the Premier League – and a point above the relegation zone – ahead of the Burnley fixture.
And with confidence boosted by those two victories, the Magpies can take on Sean Dyche’s side in a positive manner.
Howey said: “Maybe a little bit fortunate against Watford, but so what? We’ll take that every day of the week.
“Bournemouth would definitely have been the favourites. To get the win was absolutely brilliant.
“You look at the last-ditch tackle from Kenedy (against Watford) – that’s how hard the players are working. They’re grafting for each other.
“It’s all about taking your chances. In the last two games, the other teams haven’t done that.
“We’ve had a chance and scored it. It’s worked the other way some games this season.
“Everyone’s confidence is high. It’s always difficult to play against Burnley, but given the last two results, you’ve got to fancy your chances.”
Howey was a key member of Kevin Keegan’s buccaneering “Entertainers” team in the 1990s. The 47-year-old made almost 200 league appearances during a decade-long senior career at the club.
Howey won four England caps and went on to play for Manchester City.
The legends game will see Howey reunited with a number of his former Newcastle team-mates.
Reflecting on his United career, Howey said: “It was a golden period. We had some fantastic players.
“The club was flying, unbelievable manager. Everything was just right at that particular time. It was unfortunate not to capitalise on that and win something.
“We did have a group of lads that is fondly remembered for the style of football. It was always everybody else’s second team. It’s always nice when we get together.
“You can go without seeing the lads for a good period of time, but as soon as we get together it’s still exactly the same. We’ll be looking forward to this.
“I do tend to keep on top of fitness – strength and conditioning – but having said that I got involved in something – England v Germany – for one of the TV channels and we had to train for 12 weeks.
“I had to train on my own and go down for games. We had a game about a month ago, and felt all right. I couldn’t move for three days afterwards!
“Gateshead will have some fit lads and we’ll have some lads can play a bit, not as fit, but it’s about making the ball move. We’ll see what we can do.”
l Peter Beardsley will take part in the Gateshead Legends v Newcastle Legends game on April 7. Tickets, priced £10 for adults and £5 for under-18s, will go on sale from gateshead-fc.com/event/newcastle-legends.