FABRICIO Coloccini will lead Newcastle United out at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
And manager Alan Pardew is looking for his captain to be a steadying influence on his team in the cauldron of a Wear-Tyne derby.
Cocloccini has missed the club’s last three games with a hamstring problem. But the 30-year-old returned to training this week, and Pardew has confirmed the defender will start.
In his absence, Newcastle have struggled defensively, and Pardew admits the Argentina international’s return to fitness is timely given the challenge his side faces against Sunderland.
Steven Taylor and Tim Krul are also available after recovering from their calf and elbow problems.
But it is Coloccini’s return which is the most significant given his dual role in both stopping the opposition, and starting Newcastle’s own attacking moves.
“I think we’ve been buoyed by the players (coming back), particularly the captain’s return,” Pardew said.
“He’ll play. He’s an important player, not just his name on the teamsheet, but in games this season we’ve been crying out for someone to put their foot on it, control it and bring some intelligence to our play. He does that.
“I just think the team look to him as a steadying influence. We all do.”
Pardew has sensed a “renewed vigour” in Coloccini.
“I can’t wait to give him the armband, and have him back in the team,” added Pardew.
“He very often brings a calmness to us, at half time too, so I’m absolutely delighted that he’s fit and ready.
“I can see in him a renewed vigour. His season’s been disrupted by injury. He’s got back in the Argentinian team, and had nothing but injury.
“I can see he’s desperate to get going.”