Unlike their bitter English Premier League rivals, Newcastle United FC decided to do the full monty.
The Magpies trained Thursday and Friday in the searing heat at Sacramento State in preparation for Saturday’s sold-out international friendly against Republic FC at Bonney Field.
Sunderland AFC, which played Republic FC on Tuesday and FC Pachuca of Liga MX on Friday at Bonney, chose to hunker down in cooler San Francisco and train in Santa Clara.
But Newcastle’s new manager, Steve McClaren, thought he made the right choice, even if his players pined for the cooler temperatures back home in northern England.
“It’s a wee bit warm but, yeah, (Sacramento is) a great place, with great facilities, a nice hotel,” said McClaren, the former England national team coach. “(Sacramento State) is a beautiful place to train. … It’s nice because it’s raining back home. I don’t mind it.”
Although Newcastle has a star-studded lineup with at least 20 players who earn salaries of a $1 million or more a season, the Magpies were viewed as underachievers last season.
We know it’s going to be a competitive game. They beat Sunderland in their last friendly. So we know they are going to be a good outfit. With a new manager, everyone wants to impress.
Newcastle captain and midfielder Jack Colback on Republic FC
The 18th richest club in the world and seventh richest in the EPL came close to being relegated last season before finishing 15th. The team also lost significantly more days to injury (1,871) than any of their 19 league opponents.
So McClaren was brought in to shape things up and is starting the process with a grinding nine-day tour of America that started on Tuesday with a 2-1 loss to Liga MX side Atlas FC in Milwaukee. Newcastle trained in the morning and the evening Thursday and Friday in Sacramento. After playing Republic FC, it will head to Portland to play the Major League Soccer Timbers on Tuesday before returning home to get ready for the EPL season.
The team has 16 players with senior national team experience. Among them are goalkeeper Tim Krul; midfielder Siem De Jong; defender Daryl Janmaat; midfielder Vurnon Anita (Netherlands); midfielder Moussa Sissoko (France); defender Fabricio Coloccini (Argentina) and striker Papiss Cisse (Senegal).
Highly touted attacking midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, another Dutch national-teamer and McClaren’s first new signing, joined the team in Sacramento on Wednesday.
While the emphasis is on building fitness and team chemistry, the Newcastle players also want to establish a winning mentality while trying to win or keep jobs. They don’t want to lose to a third-division U.S. team like Republic FC, which stunned Sunderland 1-0 on Tuesday.
“We know it’s going to be a competitive game,” said Newcastle captain and midfielder Jack Colback, a Newcastle native who started his career at Sunderland. “They beat Sunderland in their last friendly. So we know they are going to be a good outfit. With a new manager, everyone wants to impress.”
McClaren said he doesn’t know fellow Englishman Paul Buckle, the new Republic FC coach. But he is friends with Republic FC technical director Graham Smith.
“I had a good chat with Graham to catch up on some people we both know,” McClaren said. “It’s a great opportunity for Paul, and a great opportunity to be playing his compatriots in these games.”
Republic FC vs. Newcastle FC (EPL)
- Time: 8 p.m.
- Where: Bonney Field
- Tickets: Sold out