Newcastle United are currently gearing up for what is not only a vital game in their season, but also one of their most important meetings for decades, with the Magpies set to take on Manchester United in the League Cup final on Sunday.
Amid the bubbling anticipation among both players and supporters ahead of that long-awaited return to Wembley, one man who will not be taking part in the weekend’s showpiece showdown is peripheral figure, Ryan Fraser, with the Scotland international having been frozen out by manager Eddie Howe.
As the Daily Mail’s Craig Hope revealed earlier this week, the 28-year-old has been banished to the club’s U21 ranks, with it looking as if the former Bournemouth man will not return to the senior set-up between now and the end of the season.
The 26-cap speedster – who arrived at St James’ Park on a free transfer from the Cherries in 2020 – had been heavily linked with an exit during the January transfer window, with Howe and co having seemingly been open to letting the winger depart.
While the former Ipswich Town forward ultimately remained on Tyneside beyond deadline day, it does appear that a summer departure is now an inevitability, with the £42k-per-week dud having not started a Premier League game since September.
That has led Howe to take the rather drastic action to demote the struggling asset, with it something of a bold call to make considering that the top-four hopefuls are not particularly blessed with regard to squad depth.
The exile of Fraser could, however, open the door for one of the club’s academy starlets to take his place in the first-team squad, with 20-year-old Amadou Diallo having no doubt staked his claim for a promotion of late.
How is Diallo getting on at Newcastle?
The eye-catching forward – who can operate on either flank – was snapped up by Newcastle back in October following a successful trial period at the club, having left former employers West Ham United in the summer following the expiry of his contract.
The promising Englishman had been “highly rated” by those at the London Stadium – according to The Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg – and had even been training with fellow Premier League side Chelsea last year, before ultimately opting to seal the move to Tyneside.
Speaking at the time of that capture, Magpies academy director Steve Harper had admitted he was “delighted” to have got the youngster through the door, with Diallo having also previously received glowing praise from West Ham youth coach Dmitri Halajko during his stint in the capital:
“Amadou is a tricky winger. He’s right-footed but he likes to play on the left, cutting inside to try and get goals and assists. He’s got flair in his game, but he’s also got a really hard-working aspect as well. He’s humble, quiet, but in a nice, confident way.”
Those qualities have been evident so far this season, with the former England youth international shaking off a slow start to the campaign to start each of the last four Premier League 2 games, having previously netted five goals and provided two assists in 25 games for the Irons at U21 level.
The fleet-footed starlet has clearly made an impression on Howe and co having been part of first-team training in recent times, with the aim now to make that step-up on a more regular basis – something that could be boosted by Fraser’s recent banishment.