Most top-flight managers have their heart set on a starting XI for the first game of the 2013-14 campaign, and Newcastle United’s Alan Pardew is no different.
But beyond the handful of names already secured on his team sheet for the trip to Manchester City, there are players waiting nervously to see if their hard work in preseason has landed them a place.
Behind every stalwart certain to start at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night, there are those hoping to prove their worth in a black and white shirt over the coming months.
And with the start of the new Premier League season just days away, we take a look at five Magpies players who are looking to make an early impression in the weeks ahead.
Outside of Celtic Park, Newcastle’s Paul Dummett was considered by many to be one of the most consistent defenders in the Scottish Premier League last term during his loan spell with St. Mirren.
And the Welsh Under-21 international has picked up where he left off this preseason, impressing United boss Alan Pardew with a string of solid displays at left-back.
Billed as “the pride of Newcastle’s academy” by Pardew in an interview with Lee Ryder in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Dummett is believed to be pushing Davide Santon for a first team place.
And after his spell north of the border, which saw the 21-year-old pick up a League Cup winners’ medal, he’ll be hoping this is the season that marks his breakthrough at St. James’ Park.
In many ways, 2013-14 is a make-or-break season for Sammy Ameobi, with Newcastle boss Alan Pardew seemingly ready to hand the 21-year-old Geordie one more chance to shine over the coming months.
Having spent the second half of last term on loan with North-East neighbours Middlesbrough, the youngster was again linked with a temporary move ahead of the new campaign, as reported by Paul Fraser in The Northern Echo.
But a string of eye-catching displays during preseason has forced Pardew into a rethink. And for now at least, it looks like the younger brother of United striker Shola Ameobi will remain at St. James’ Park.
His sheer determination to make a name for himself with his hometown club is to be applauded, but all eyes will be on the England Under-21 star to see if he can realise that ambition.
French forward Yoan Gouffran has seen plenty of action during Newcastle’s preseason campaign, but his natural position is still something of a mystery on the terraces.
Frequently switched from centre-forward to the left wing by Alan Pardew since his arrival in January this year, the 27-year-old is yet to find his rhythm on Tyneside, despite showing glimpses of obvious talent.
With a lack of striking options, Gouffran was thought to be an obvious partner for Papiss Cissé in United’s attack, but the arrival of his fellow Frenchman Loïc Rémy has changed all of that.
And with the club still in the market for at least one new forward and even a winger before the transfer window closes, nailing down a regular role as early as possible could be crucial for the former Bordeaux man.
Despite entering his third full season at Newcastle United, winger Sylvain Marveaux remains something of an enigma at St. James’ Park, and is in desperate need of an uninterrupted run in the first team.
But a run of bad luck on the injury front, coupled with competition from Jonás Gutiérrez and Hatem Ben Arfa, has seen the 27-year-old struggle to hold down a regular place.
With his future on Tyneside the subject of debate last month, as reported by Mark Douglas in The Journal, his aim this season must be to realise his obvious potential in the Premier League.
Things haven’t really gone to plan for Vurnon Anita at Newcastle since his £6.7 million move from Ajax last summer, but the Dutch international is hoping to rectify the situation this time around.
Having arrived from Holland with a glowing reputation, the 24-year-old struggled to hold down a regular starting place at St. James’ Park, and fell behind in the pecking order.
With the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Moussa Sissoko ahead of him, the technically gifted central midfielder found himself playing catch up for much of the 2012-13 campaign.
But with doubts surrounding Cabaye’s future on Tyneside, as reported by Ben Jefferson in the Daily Express, Anita will be hoping to jump the queue and finally make a major impact.