Steve McClaren has claimed that the reason Newcastle United have jetted off to La Manga, is because they couldn’t find a team to play them in the UK.

In an interview with the club’s own official TV channel, the United boss says that he couldn’t allow his team to go 18 days without a match and the only way he could get a match organised was to go abroad to have a kickabout against foreign opposition.

A bit of a strange one as you would have thought there would be some team somewhere in the UK that would have fancied a match.

No confirmation of how long exactly Newcastle’s first team squad will spend at La Managa but they are due to face Norwegian side Lillestrom on Saturday at 3pm (2pm UK time).

The league in Norway runs from March to November so Lillestrom will be in the middle of pre-season preparations.

Talking about Saturday’s shocking early surrender at Stamford Bridge, Steve McClaren says that when he saw their starting eleven he thought ‘They’re going for it’ and knew then the first 20 minutes would be important, though he accepts the game ended up being over in the first 15 minutes.

McClaren talks of working on fitness and getting players back from injury in these next couple of weeks but if the team play as badly as they did on Saturday, then it won’t matter who is back and how fit they are.

Steve McClaren talking to NUFC TV:

“When I saw the (Chelsea) team I thought ‘They’re going to go for it’, five attackers in there and the first 20 minutes were going to be important…we lost the game in the first 15.

“We shot ourselves in the foot by giving the ball away too many times, gave them opportunities and they punished it.”

‘Strange first half because you actually had more possession?’

“Possession means nothing, it is what you do with it.

“We didn’t keep the ball well enough and we knew they’d press, we had to beat the press and go through it, we couldn’t do that and by the time they had pinched it off us and they were three up.”

‘How much did results elsewhere affect the players, if at all?’

“In what respect?”

‘Just in terms of Sunderland (beating Manchester United) and Norwich getting a point?’

“I don’t think so, this was always a game where you can have a go and try to get a result. Dust yourself down (afterwards), whatever the result, and that is what we have done.

“We have come here and lost the game, 18 days before the next one – regroup. Try to solve the problem of getting more points away from home.”

‘A first goal for Andros Townsend?’

“Yes we’ve already seen that in the last few weeks, he’ll get fitter – same with Jonjo. Other defenders coming back also – Dummy and Chancel, Haidara as well, Vurnon coming back, getting Jack also – fitness, Cheicky also.

“You have got to stay calm and stable, know that we have enough in that dressing room…and 18 days now to start winning on the road now.”

‘Is fitness the real key to why going to La Manga?’

“We couldn’t go 18 days without a game and we tried to arrange one over in this country but we couldn’t, no one is free to play us.

“So the only game we could organise was abroad against foreign opposition.

“Get together, work – morning and afternoon, come together as a team, forget the result (Chelsea) and look forward  – that is what we have to do.”