WITH their squad finally reunited after separate tours to the United States and Holland, Newcastle assistant manager John Carver expects his side's pre-season preparations to step up a gear when they travel to Leeds United tomorrow.
With Joey Barton, Nile Ranger and Yohan Cabaye all unable to travel to America, the Magpies' summer has had something of a fragmented feel so far.
Throw in the sudden switch to a plastic pitch in Orlando and rumours of simmering discontent in the camp, and manager Alan Pardew will be desperate for a morale-boosting result and performance at Elland Road.
To that end, Newcastle are expected to field a strong starting line-up tomorrow, with the likes of Cabaye, Barton, Danny Simpson and Mike Williamson all expected to feature.
Cheik Tiote is likely to miss out as visa problems have delayed his return from Ghana, but with Leeds due to start their Championship campaign a week today, Carver is expecting a competitive encounter in front of a 20,000-plus crowd.
"When you're planning pre-season you're looking for progress with every game and this certainly gives us the perfect build up following the trip to America," said the United number two.
"A game at Elland Road with a great home crowd, a decent away following and good opposition will be a real test and although it's up to the manager I'm sure you'll see a team that is closer to the one that starts against Arsenal.
"We've got a few important players coming back in. Yohan Cabaye trained with the reserves on Friday, as did Ryan Taylor and Joey Barton, Mike Williamson, Danny Simpson and James Perch will all be back too.
"The only real absences will be Cheik Tiote, who is sorting out his visa in Ghana, Hatem (Ben Arfa), Shane Ferguson and Danny Guthrie.
"I think you'll probably get more of an idea of where we are in pre-season after this game. It's a perfect test for us really."
Alan Smith is poised to make an emotional return to Elland Road some seven years after swapping the white of Leeds for the red of Manchester United.
The midfielder, who has been linked with a possible return to his hometown club, is expected to receive a mixed reception, but Carver insists he will not be given preferential treatment when it comes to picking a side.
"Alan's had quite a bit of playing time in pre-season and he will be involved I'm sure," he said. "Obviously it's up to the manager but I can't see any reason why he wouldn't be."
While Newcastle's first team will travel to Yorkshire tomorrow, the club's reserves are in action today with a trip to reigning Northern League champions Spennymoor Town.
The Magpies have promised to send several players with first-team experience to Brewery Field, and Pardew has told Moors that Wayne Routledge, Nile Ranger, Xisco, Sammy Ameobi, Phil Airey and James Perch will all be playing.
Spennymoor will include their latest signing, former Darlington defender Steve Foster, whose last game of football was in the FA Trophy final for Mansfield against his old club in May.