By Will Butcher

Newcastle left-back Massadio Haidara has stepped up his long road to recovery after being named in the club’s Under-23s starting line-up against Sheffield United.

It is almost a year since the French full-back made a first-team appearance, when he was a substitute during the Toon’s 6-2 Premier League win against Norwich in October 2015.

The Evening Chronicle’s Chief Football Writer Lee Ryder revealed on his personal Twitter account that Haidara was starting alongside the likes of goalkeeper Freddie Woodman and former Celtic defender Stuart Findlay on Thursday.

The former Nancy defender, who joined the Toon in January 2013 for £2million, injured his knee in training and went under the knife in November 2015.

He was expected to make his return to first-team action during the tail end of last season, but a groin problem continued to keep him sidelined.

However, Haidara looks set to put his injury nightmare behind him as he looks to develop match fitness ahead of a return to the first team.

Newcastle’s number 19 has two years remaining on the five-year deal he signed in 2013, after impressing in Ligue 1 for Nancy who have just gained promotion back to the top-flight.

Making his debut at just 18, Haidara went on to make 51 league and cup appearances in two and a half years before moving to Tyneside.

Before the injury, Haidara made 49 appearances in all competitions and will be remembered for being on the receiving end of a horror tackle from winger Callum McManaman.

In other Newcastle news, Rafa Benitez has revealed why he rejected moves for this in-form attacker.