NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Newcastle pair Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson pay for moments of madness

23 November 2010 12:11
Chris Hughton does not have much depth to his squad, as Newcastle have discovered to their cost in the last month. Thankfully he does have plenty of centre-backs.

It looked like two moments of madness cost Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson the right to face Chelsea on Sunday and right the wrongs which have befallen Hughton's team since their incredible derby victory last month.

In fact they lost control throughout their encounter with Johann Elmander, who sent Williamson flying behind referee Howard Webb's back in the opening minutes of the game.

Nasty: Johan Elmander is struck in the face by Fabricio Coloccini

Williamson thought he had got away with his retribution but while the cameras missed their earlier altercation, Williamson's blatant assault was replayed for Webb and the FA's benefit over the weekend, leaving them with little alternative but to hand him a violent conduct charge. He will fight it but the cameras rarely lie.

Elmander, who spent the game winding up the centre-backs, as well Kevin Nolan and Alan Smith, who had spotted the original offence, scored two goals and won three points.

But Saturday February 26 is a date in Newcastle United's calendar which will have been circled by several members of Hughton's squad. It us the return fixture with Bolton Wanderers at St James's Park 

Whether Coloccini and Williamson will be there to meet him will depend on the next three games.

Coloccini's elbow - despite his bizarre denials - and Williamson's head-butt will also rule the pair out of the visit to West Brom and Liverpool's early December visit to Tyneside.

But on the bench at the Reebok, and ready to play after a handful of reserve team appearances between them, are Sol Campbell and Steven Taylor. Not a bad fall-back alternative to turn to as centre-backs, and possibly many Newcastle supporters' preferred partnership anyway.

Controversial: The cameras picked up on Mike Williamson's clash with Johan Elmander

Fitness and injuries have ruled Campbell and Taylor out of playing any meaningful part in Newcastle's season so far but then the form of Williamson and Coloccini from the start of the season would have made them difficult to remove if they had been fully fit. Their partnership has been an added, and much-needed bonus for Hughton.

The loss of discipline was worrying enough on Saturday, and perhaps they were sidetracked by Elmander's presence, but equally galling for the Newcastle manager is the pair's alarming slip in form.

Coloccini looked like the player from two years ago. Bolton's fourth goal, and the Swede's second, came after he hesitated and dithered over a high bouncing ball midway inside his own half. His error brought back memories of his first season in the Premier League, the year Newcastle were relegated, when he struggled with the pace, power and bravery of virtually every striker he marked. 

Perhaps Taylor and Campbell get their chances at just the right time. Very few managers could turn to defenders of such experience and ability, the only slight worry is over their match fitness, but throughout their careers of very differing lengths, both have been the type of players to switch to match-day mode very quickly after any lay-off.

Coloccini and Williamson could be in for a very long wait for their next chance, if the new pair can stay fit.

 Rusty: Darren Bent wasn't quite at his best against Everton

There are selection problems of a very different kind for Steve Bruce as he prepares for Saturday's visit to Wolves and former Mackem boss Mick McCarthy.

Asamoah Gyan's thigh injury, which could be cured by the weekend, meant Bruce did not have to ponder the dilemma of how three goes into two for Monday night's clash with Everton.

Top scorer Darren Bent, who looked a little rusty against the Merseysiders, should be the first choice striker but after their recent performances Gyan and Danny Welbeck deserved the chance to start and continue their partnership.

Welbeck took a little time to warm to Wearside, not helped by Bruce's decision to play him out of his favoured centre forward position and use him as part of a five-man midfield.

His performance at Chelsea prompted his Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand to tweet that the teenager, who turns 20 on Friday, has set the standard of an Old Trafford employee. And he appeared to take that to heart with another man of the match performance and two goals against David Moyes's side.

But who would you choose if you were Bruce and all three are fit? Not an easy one for the Sunderland manager.

Bruce knows he will be without Titus Bramble for at least a month and the club will assess his knee injury over the next couple of days before deciding whether he needs surgery.

Bramble will certainly be missed and, I must admit, that's a sentence I did not anticipate writing this season.

Although, as the dad in the Yellow Pages advert used to say (sort of): `I were right about that derby performance though.'

 Williamson charged with violent conduct after clash with ElmanderI didn't elbow him! Coloccini insists he's not guilty over swipe at Elmander

 Explore more:People: Kevin Nolan, Chris Hughton, Steve Bruce, Sol Campbell, David Moyes, Mick McCarthy, Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck, Steven Taylor, Rio Ferdinand, Titus Bramble, Alan Smith Places: Liverpool, Newcastle

Source: Daily_Mail