Jamal Lewis could be on the brink of a golden opportunity at Newcastle United.
The left-back has only appeared in the Premier League once this season, a late cameo in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester United.
Matt Ritchie has been the club’s first choice left-back or left wing-back this season, leaving Lewis on the bench.
However, Newcastle will be without Ritchie for Tuesday night’s game against Norwich. The 32-year-old picked up his fifth booking of the season versus Arsenal and will now serve a one-game ban.
It’s bad news for Ritchie, but it could be the opportunity that Lewis has been waiting for at St James’ Park. But will he get it?
Eddie Howe has other left-back options vs Norwich
Howe will be forced into at least two changes against Norwich, with Ritchie and Jamaal Lascelles suspended.
On the face of it, Lewis is the obvious option to replace Ritchie. However, Howe does have other options, and it may depend on which system he goes for.
Newcastle started with a flat back four against Arsenal on Saturday. If we continue with that against Norwich, then the left-back slot should be a straight fight between Lewis and Javi Manquillo. The Spaniard played on that side multiple times under Rafa Benitez.
But Lewis will surely fancy his chances in that battle, considering he is an out-and-out left-back.
Another option for Howe is playing 3-4-3 like he did against Brentford. He shifted to that formation in the second half against Arsenal, and deployed Ryan Fraser as a left wing-back.
It was an ambitious move, and indicative of the manager desperately trying to get back into the game. Could Fraser start in this position against Norwich?
Jamal Lewis has to start
If Lewis doesn’t start against his former club, serious questions need to be asked.
If he can’t get in the starting XI on Tuesday night then when will he?
So far, Lewis’ Newcastle career hasn’t gone to plan. But he is still young. The £15million man has plenty of time to turn things around.
If Howe goes with someone other than Lewis, perhaps it could be a sign that his Newcastle career really is over. That would be sad considering the potential he had when he arrived.
Rather than being the end of his Newcastle career, tomorrow can be the rebirth. Lewis should start against Norwich, then it is up to him whether or not he can take the huge opportunity presented to him.