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Monday 18 December 2017

Taylor 'broken jaw' threatens to derail Newcastle's run-in

STEVEN Taylor, the former England Under-21 captain, has suffered a suspected broken jaw in a training ground incident involving Andy Carroll, his Newcastle United team-mate, presenting the club with an unwanted distraction as their promotion campaign enters its final, pivotal stages.

Taylor only recently had a brace removed from his knee after receiving a long-term injury during Newcastle's 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion in January and Chris Hughton, the manager, stated yesterday that "it will probably be another two weeks" before the centre half can resume full training.

Given that Taylor is not yet participating in competitive physical activity, a facial fracture can be regarded as an unusual development and Newcastle refused to confirm or deny the existence of the centre half's latest setback, let alone the cause of it. A source close to the player, however, did say that Taylor's jaw was thought to have been broken.

It is understood that a meeting, called by the club's hierarchy, has been held at Newcastle's training facility, in which players and staff were warned not to discuss the episode publicly while an internal investigation was conducted. Hughton and his first-team squad were in a Yorkshire hotel last night before tonight's Championship match at Doncaster Rovers. Rumours that Carroll had damaged his hand and wouldn't feature tonight could not be substantiated.



NEGATIVITY

In a marked contrast to preceding seasons, Newcastle have largely avoided controversy since their relegation from the Premier League, with Carroll's scheduled court appearance next month a rare exception. The 21-year-old is accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm over an incident in a Newcastle nightclub in December.

Any return of the negativity that became a regular feature of their spell in the Premier League would be regarded with dismay by fans, who have seen their team perform admirably on the pitch. They are two points clear of West Bromwich Albion at the top of the division and 10 ahead of third-placed Nottingham Forest. They have a match in hand over both.

At his regular pre-match press briefing yesterday, Hughton was asked about the club's success in avoiding damaging headlines. "The fact we've been top for most of the season and the fact we've shown enough good things on the pitch has allowed the fans to have more good weeks than bad weeks," he said. "It gives them optimism about next season that we're going in the right direction."

Ironically, Joey Barton, arguably the most contentious player of recent vintage, has returned to the Newcastle squad for their fixture at the Keepmoat Stadium. The midfield player, who has a chequered disciplinary record and has spent time in prison for assault, has not played since September, when he broke a bone in his foot.

"What we have always said with Joey is that, when he was fit and available, then we would like him involved," Hughton said. "Now, whether that sees him get parts of games or games from now until the end of the season, we don't know. But certainly we would rather have him available than not available."

©The Times, London

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