STEPHEN Ireland is pencilled in for a belated Newcastle United debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers, writes Miles Starforth.
The on-loan midfielder, sidelined since his January move to St James’s Park, will return to training on Monday from the thigh problem which has sidelined him in recent weeks.
And striker Leon Best (ankle) is also expected to be available for the April 2 fixture.
But defender Jose Enrique remains a slight doubt after limping out of Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at Stoke City with a tight hamstring.
And Dan Gosling – who, like Ireland, is yet to play for Newcastle – is still several weeks away from his comeback from a long-term knee injury.
Manager Alan Pardew will also be without the suspended Cheik Tiote, though Ryan Taylor will be available after serving the last of his three-game ban.
“Stephen Ireland will resume full training on Monday,” said assistant manager John Carver.
“He’ll join in with the group then and get a good week of training before Wolves, so we’re hopeful there. Dan Gosling is about three weeks away. He’s is progressing nicely.
”Jose Enrique’s no worse than he was leading up to the game on Saturday, so he has a chance.
“It’s a mild hamstring which we’ll monitor over the next seven days.
“Leon Best had to report with the Irish team, but I do know that the last time he had the injection on his ankle, he was fine.
“He had to report to Dublin to have the injury assessed, but hopefully time is a great healer and by the time Wolves comes along we’ll have him back.”
Meanwhile, winger Hatem Ben Arfa is yet to return to Tyneside to step up his training ahead of his comeback from his double leg break.
Carver added: “To be honest, I don’t really know exactly where he is.
“He’s still not at the training ground and I’m not sure how far he is away, but he’s not in our immediate thoughts.”
Meanwhile, reports today suggest Newcastle will not pursue their interest in Ipswich striker Connor Wickham.
The 17-year-old, who has also been linked with Sunderland, had been regularly scouted by Newcastle well before they banked £35million from the sale of Andy Carroll.
But the Magpies have been put off by the asking price for the England U21 international and are unsure whether he is ready for the top flight.