MIKE Williamson’s set to come in from the cold for Newcastle United – but not at a sub-zero Luzhniki Stadium.
The defender’s been marginalised by the arrival of transfer-window signing Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Williamson didn’t travel to the Ukraine for Newcastle’s last Europa League tie, the 1-0 win over Metalist Kharkiv which booked the club a place in the Round of 16.
And the 29-year-old isn’t expected to start against Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow tomorrow night, even with captain Fabricio Coloccini absent through injury.
Yanga-Mbiwa, signed from Montpellier in last month’s transfer window, is likely to continue in the heart of Newcastle’s defence on the Luzhniki Stadium’s artificial surface.
However, United manager Alan Pardew is adamant that Williamson is still in his thoughts – and he is considering handing the 6ft 4ins player a role when dead-ball specialists Stoke City visit St James’s Park on Sunday.
“Mike hasn’t disappeared – but we’ve got good players,” Pardew said.
“Willo’s training well, and he’s in the background if I need him. With Stoke coming up, I might well need him.”
Williamson’s last appearance came in the 2-1 home defeat to Reading on January 19.
Yanga-Mbiwa signed three days later, and Williamson hasn’t made the bench in recent weeks, with utility player James Perch having got the nod over him because of his versatility.
Perch is also able to fill in at full-back and in midfield, while Williamson is a specialist central defender.
“He hasn’t made the bench because we’ve got Perchie,” added Pardew.
“He gives me that cover, and gives me another option at full-back and in the centre of midfield.
“He’s gets the nod over him in terms of getting on the bench.”