By Matt Farr
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has handed Massadio Haidara his first appearance of the season against Birmingham in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Haidara has missed the first-half of the season with a knee injury, and has managed just two appearances for the reserve side.
The France full-back has not featured for the senior side since the win over Norwich on 18 October 2015.
However, with many of Benitez’s first-team stars rested for the FA Cup encounter, Haidara has been welcomed back to the starting line-up, by both the manager and the Magpies fans.
The Newcastle support took to social media ahead of the game to voice their opinions on Haidara’s inclusion.
Here are some of their messages on Twitter:
— Tim Croft (@TimCro25) January 7, 2017
Pleased to see @MassadioHaidara back in the starting 11
— Shaun Durning (@SDMorpeth) January 7, 2017
Great to see @MassadioHaidara 💪
— Raj Parmar (@Rajp14) January 7, 2017
@MassadioHaidara Great your back in a Black and White shirt Massadio. Hope you get game time and have a good match mate. All the best 👍◼◻◼◻
— Toonfan (@ataylor1892) January 7, 2017
Great to see Massadio Haidara in the squad today. #NUFC
— Newcastle Fans TV (@NewcastleFansTV) January 7, 2017
Haidara arrived at St. James’ Park in January 2013, but has struggled to lay down a regular place in the first-team because of repeated injury concerns.
Benitez made eight changes for the tie, also handing rare opportunities for Magpies outcasts Cheick Tiote, Grant Hanley and Daryl Murphy.
The trio have made just 17 appearances between them this season, but have been given a chance to impress Benitez and fight their corner in a bid to land a regular starting role.
Goalkeeper Matz Sels, striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, and defenders Achraf Lazaar and DeAndre Yedlin also return to the fray.
Jamaal Lascelles, Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita are the three players that keep their places.
In other Newcastle team news, striker Ivan Toney could be heading for the St. James’ Park exit this month.