Newcastle United are in the final stretch of pre season, Sheffield United away was the fifth of seven games to get NUFC ready for the challenges of the Premier League.

So Steve McClaren must be now getting a decent idea of the team he will be putting out against Southampton in 13 days time.

(To feature like Sam, send in your articles for our website to [email protected])

To my eye it looked as though the Newcastle Head Coach played what he thought was United’s strongest team yesterday at Bramall Lane.

In fact 9 of the Newcastle players (allowing for the fact that Krul is highest of the keepers) who have now had the most minutes on the pitch pre season were in yesterday’s starting 11, plus the other two (Aarons and de Jong came on as subs).

342 Janmaat

332 Sissoko

315 Williamson

315 Colback

311 Cisse

309 Anita

272 Haidara

219 Aarons,

219 Perez 

218 De Jong

180 Krul

pre season

This would give us a team looking something like this:

Krul: Janmaat, Williamson, Haidara: Colback, Anita, Sissoko, Aarons: de Jong, Perez, Cisse

Whilst the next seven highest for the bench:

208 Obertan, 201 Lascelles, 192 Gouffran, 153 Bigirimana, 153 Ferguson, 139 Wijnaldum, 135  Darlow

135 Woodman, 135 Satka, 118 Armstrong, 114 Taylor, 75 Abeid, 45 Good, 45 Tiote, 45 Riviere, 0 Coloccini, 0 Mitrovic

The positives are that last season’s better performers such as Janmaat, Colback, Cisse and Sissoko have got plenty time under their belts, whilst Aarons appears to be putting his injury problems behind him and Wijnaldum is getting more and more minutes after joining pre season late.

On the other hand, Williamson and Lascelles (looks nowhere near ready for the Premier League) are the two centre-backs with most time on the pitch, whilst Anita is looking as poor as last season despite getting every chance pre season and Haidara keeps his place largely because of the lack of competition.

Looking at the set of players making up the bench it gets really desperate, with the exception of Wijnaldum.

On top of all this of course is the fact that neither Mitrovic or Mbemba have been involved yet – Steve McClaren saying he hoped the Serbian striker would join the squad on Tuesday and Mbemba would sort his work visa by next weekend.

My hope is that the team that lines up in September will bear little resemblance to that which starts the season.

The opening quartet of matches against four teams who finished top eight last season could be a tough wake up call for McClaren and his team.