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A big improvement - 22/04/2003

   Simo Valakari
   Newcastle United

We’ve done well recently, and three wins out of five only tells part of the story. It’s not just the results, but the way we’re playing football that’s pleasing. We’ve played some decent teams and managed to get results, and we can even take positives from the Watford defeat. I think tiredness caught up with us on yesterday, and I know that on a personal front that two games in three days is too much. The previous nine games were a real struggle but now we’ve turned a corner.

I’ve been carrying a shoulder problem that ideally would have been operated on last October. But due to the pressures of the game I’ve been patching myself up with cortisone injections – I’ve had the maximum of three so as soon as the season is completed I’ll be off for the op. I also damaged my back against Watford, and it was this rather than the shoulder that forced me off the pitch at half time. I feel like I’m falling to pieces, but with only two games to go I’m sure I’ll be able to soldier on.

George Burley has done very well, he brought his own ideas with him but also used the knowledge of Billy McEwan to get the most form the lads. We all enjoy hi style of play and it’s easy to see why he was voted the manager of the year a couple of seasons back. No one knows what the future holds, but his reputation can only have been enhanced with the recent performances at the club. He’s also brought in a few fresh faces, Simo Valaraki being one, and he’s done well since his recall.

Looking at my old club Newcastle, they’ve not been performing over recent games. I’m not talking about the Man Utd game, they’d have turned over most clubs with the way they played that day. But it’s disappointing not to pick up a point at Everton and Fulham and only to draw at home to Villa. It just goes to show how big and how far the club have come that the expectancy levels are so high. They’ve also missed Gary Speed and Jermaine Jenas, but still have the games to put it right – starting with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this Saturday – one things for sure, the fans will have their songs ready and I’m sure it’ll be a tremendous atmosphere up there.

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