NEWCASTLE: A rise in COVID-19 cases has seen Newcastle United’s Premier League trip to Southampton postponed.
And as a result, Eddie Howe’s Magpies will not kick a ball in the top flight until Jan. 15.
United were due to travel to St Mary’s on Sunday, Jan. 2, but following a request to call off the fixture, the Premier League agreed the club would not be able to field a suitably experienced team with substitutes.
The decision is understood to have angered Southampton, and especially manager Ralph Hasenhüttl.
He told reporters in his pre-match press conference on Thursday: “Injuries are not COVID-19 cases, injuries are also here for us.
“They had seven or eight players on the bench during their last game and now they have two more injuries.
“They should still have thirteen players plus one (goalkeeper), this is the message from the Premier League.”
The Magpies have been hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak among the club’s players and support staff over the course of the last week.
That, coupled with injuries to the likes of Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin, Isaac Hayden and Ryan Fraser this week, has resulted in the club not being able to field 13 senior, Premier League-experienced players, as per the rules, plus two goalkeepers.
A club statement that confirmed the news, announced on Friday afternoon, read: “Sunday’s Premier League clash between Southampton and Newcastle United at St. Mary’s Stadium has been postponed due to ongoing Covid-19 cases and injuries amongst the Magpies’ first team squad.
“The match is the second successive Newcastle United fixture to be postponed following the cancellation of Thursday’s scheduled game at Everton, with several players and staff having succumbed to illness and injury over the festive period.
“In accordance with protocol, the Magpies submitted a separate request to the Premier League to postpone the trip to the south coast, and this has been approved by the Premier League Board.
“Both away fixtures will now be rescheduled and new dates and times will be confirmed in due course.”
The statement continued: “The club will not be naming individuals who have contracted Covid-19 or their vaccination status. We ask that their privacy is respected and we wish them a full and speedy recovery.”
United’s next game in the top flight is slated for Jan. 15 when Watford are the visitors to St James' Park. It is hoped that the Magpies will have at least two new faces in their ranks by the time that game rolls around.
Arab News understands a deal for England international Kieran Trippier is very close to being signed off, while moves for the likes of Sven Botman and Lloyd Kelly are also on the agenda. A loan move for Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic and a permanent deal for current Lyon forward Moussa Dembele are also under consideration.
The Magpies’ next fixture is set for Saturday, Jan. 8, when Cambridge United are the visitors to Tyneside in the third round of the FA Cup.
Meanwhile, club directors Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi have posted a message to Newcastle United fans ahead of what looks set to be a busy January transfer window.
Accepting the gravity of the challenges the club faces in 2022, the duo have reiterated the long-term thinking of the buyers, even with relegation from the top flight a harsh but realistic prospect in the new year.
“Despite the current challenges, we see a bright and, ultimately, successful future for Newcastle United. The club has amazing fans. It has serious, long-term investors. And the club has a workforce committed to getting the best for both the football club and the City of Newcastle,” their statement read.
“Obviously, we face some stern challenges ahead of us — not least the issues surrounding the continuing pandemic. But we will meet these challenges with fierce determination and a strong resolve to improve every aspect of the club, while playing a full role in the community we serve.”
It continued: “We all know that we have a great deal to do, but we will strive to fulfil this great club’s promise.
“As ever, the massively passionate support of our fans will be crucial as we look to improve our results on the pitch. We have had a very tough first half of the season, but you have been right behind the team and we want to take this opportunity to let you know how very much we appreciate it. Our most recent match at St. James’ Park showed the power that can be generated when the players and supporters unite and feed off each other, and it was wonderful to experience that special atmosphere.
“Let’s take that positivity into 2022 as we aim to progress on and off the pitch. We have very important fixtures ahead of us and a January transfer window that we have worked tirelessly to prepare for, so let’s face our challenges head on and look forward to the second half of the season with optimism.”