Byline: Mark Douglas
NEWCASTLE United have begun a major strengthening operation of their under-performing development squad - as Alan Pardew lays bare his frustration with the young guns who have misfired so far this season.
Pardew hinted darkly at having to make "tough decisions" in the summer surrounding many of the players who have been handed unprecedented opportunities to shine in black-andwhite this year.
That would suggest that few are absolved from some pretty strident criticism of their performances this season.
No names are mentioned, but it is safe to assume that none of the players who were briefed before the season that this would be their opportunity to make a breakthrough are safe.
That is thrown into sharp context by the scale of the operation being implemented by the United hierarchy, who have set aside a pot of cash to bring in up to 10 new faces between now and the start of next season.
That recruitment process has already begun, with United having made contact with Valenciennes in an attempt to take left-back Gaetan Bong (pictured left) and having expressed an interest in Bastia striker Florian Thauvin.
Others will follow, with 17-year-old defensive midfielder Kevin Mbabu - who plays for Switzerland under-19s - also linked.
Cynics will argue that this is all part of the same policy that has brought the likes of Mehdi Abeid and Romain Amalfitano to the club - two of the players who are in the firing line of Pardew's broadside.
But the difference is that Mike Ashley has sanctioned a transfer fund to bring in some of the current players being looked at.
Last week's visit to Paris was all part of this endeavour. Newcastle's bosses have become particularly frustrated with the lack of ready-made replacements in the ranks when injuries bite, and last summer's complete clear-out at Academy level - which saw effectively an entire squad of homegrown players released - was a reflection of that.
Now it may go even wider, with the young pros on Newcastle's books coming under greater scrutiny from Pardew following successive failures against Bordeaux and Brighton. For while the Newcastle boss acknowledges that they should really be gaining match experience in the under-21s - indeed he will send Adam Campbell back to that level this weekend to bolster his ailing confidence - he does feel they should have a greater work ethic. …