Elliot Anderson's Newcastle United window of opportunity
The one to watch at Newcastle United in pre-season might not be Sven Botman, the club’s latest signing.
Botman today reported to the club for pre-season training ahead of Saturday’s first warm-up game, a behind-closed-doors fixture against Gateshead.
The arrival of £35million defender – who joined from Lille last week – has excited fans, but he may not be involved in the training ground game.
One player who is almost certain to be involved is attacking midfielder Elliot Anderson, back from a half-season loan at Bristol Rovers.
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And Anderson, certainly, is capable of exciting fans.
A phrase that rankled with fans during Alan Pardew’s time at the club was “like a new signing”. At the time, supporters wanted genuine new signings.
Anderson, though, could be just that for United this season – if Eddie Howe chooses not to loan out again.
And the 19-year-old – who scored seven League Two goals from 21 appearances for Rovers – has a window of opportunity at Newcastle as Howe finalises his squad.
Speaking in May, Howe said: “I’ll have a close look at him. He’ll be involved in pre-season games. We’ll make a decision then on whether he needs another loan – or whether he’s going to stay with us.”
Anderson, an intelligent and technically-gifted player with an eye for goal, was promoted to the first-team squad the season before last by then-head coach Steve Bruce.
Last season, Anderson – who was physically ready for competitive football as an 18-year-old – was dubbed the “Geordie Maradona” by Rovers fans. He scored the all-important seventh goal of a 7-0 final-day rout against relegated Scunthorpe United to secure promotion to League One.
Another loan for Anderson would be a “waste of time”, according to former Newcastle chief scout Graham Carr.
“You can go out and sign as many young players as you want, you will be doing well to get any better than Elliot Anderson,” Carr told the Daily Mail. “It’s a waste of time sending him out again. He should definitely be part of the squad.”
Carr – who brought the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Georginio Wijnaldum to Newcastle – went even further in his praise.
“He’s classy,” said Carr. “He receives the ball like Peter Beardsley. He kills it and moves it all in one motion. That’s a gift. He’s the best young player I have seen in a long time.
"Newcastle haven’t produced anyone like him, in terms of his technical gifts, probably all the way back to Gazza.
“He plays with a swagger. Every time he got the ball, you knew something was going to happen. He always wants to dribble. He knows he’s good – but there’s no harm in that.”
Howe knows that Anderson’s good too, having had a good look at him late last year before loaning him out.
“We didn’t, initially, want to pitch him into League Two, because we felt that he was better than that level, but due to one reason or another that was the level he ended up at,” said Howe.
"He’s excelled. It’s difficult, as a young player, to go out and really make a difference, but he’s done that – and made an incredible difference.”
Howe must now decide whether Anderson’s ready to make a difference at Newcastle.