Relegation-threatened Newcastle United are to make an unexpected return to Europe – for a mid-season training camp and friendly.
The club has an 18-day gap between fixtures after Saturday’s game against Chelsea because of its early FA Cup exit and the postponement of the Manchester City home game.
And head coach Steve McClaren plans to take his team to La Manga, Spain, where they will play a friendly against Norwegian club Lillestrom on February 20.
McClaren is keen for an intensive week of warm-weather training ahead of the club’s game against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on March 2.
The club also considered a trip to Dubai – where Sam Allardyce is taking Sunderland next week – but McClaren felt La Manga was more appropriate for the work he wanted to do on the training field.
Mid-season breaks have proved controversial at United in the past.
Last season, then-head coach John Carver took the club’s squad to Dubai during a break in the fixture list. Defending the trip, Carver said: “People will be putting two and two together and thinking it’s a jolly, but let me tell you it’s no jolly-up.
“There will be curfews and I will treat the players with respect, but if anyone oversteps the mark, or breaks the curfew, then they will be fined.”
Lillestrom, meanwhile, yesterday announced the friendly, which is yet to be confirmed by Newcastle.
United met Lillestrom in a two-legged Intertoto Cup tie in July 2006. Newcastle won 4-1 on aggregate to qualify for the UEFA Cup.