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What a game! - 21/10/2002

What a game!
Bobby Robson - squad rotation problems?
   Alan Shearer
   Hugo Viana
   Michael Ricketts
   Olivier Bernard
   Robbie Elliott
   Sir Bobby Robson
 Leagues & Cups:
   Champions League

The 5-2 scoreline suggests this was an incident packed game, but really, it only tells half the story. The main talking point is obviously Dabi’s sending off…it changed the whole game.

As a defender myself, I really can’t understand why he handled the ball. It could only be a reflex action as it was a no-win situation to put himself in. For all my years in the game, I don’t remember being in that situation more than a couple of times. I chose to throw my head or body at the ball, but that was me. The thing is that you know you’re giving away a penalty – and 9 out of 10 are put away, and secondly, you know that you’re going to get sent off. With only three minutes on the clock, the team will be down to ten men and at this level, for that length of time, it was always going to be costly. Yes, maybe if you need the points to qualify for the Champions League are you’re 1-0 with two minutes to go, perhaps then it’s worth the gamble. But it’s cost the player and the club dearly.

As for Shearer’s contribution, well it doesn’t surprise me! Chris Kamara said that Shearer is the best English centre forward he’s seen in his lifetime – that’s quite an accolade, and personally I couldn’t disagree with him. I wouldn’t mind betting he’ll hit the 350 club goal market – for all the talk of him hanging only a couple more seasons left! He’s simply got a fantastic gift of scoring goals. Some players are flash in the pan – they hit a purple patch over the course of a six months to a year; Marcus Stewart, Michael Ricketts, for example. But with Al, he’s done it year in, year out…and that’s not to mention the injuries he’s had. Quite simply, he’s incredible.

I’ve been reading that Hugo Viana hasn’t been happy with life on the bench. That’s understandable but at his age, I don’t think it’s such as bad thing. He’ll be learning about the English game without being thrown in at the deep end, and with the strength of squad we’ve got it’s a luxury we can afford. He’ll certainly get his chance, but I feel he’ll be all the better for taking it slowly. Bobby’s (nice) problem is that he has a large, quality squad and he can only make eleven people happy at any one time. Looking at midfield, he’s got four players competing for two places and that’s not to mention some decent reserve player knocking at the door. Looking at the left-back position, I know that it’s an area where there’s some focus. Robbie deserves a chance, and Bernard played well last year without managing to continue to build this year. Moving Aaron to left back is a temporary switch, you need to pick player’s in their natural position, and Aaron is a centre or a right back! I’ve also seen Speedo playing here for Wales, don’t expect to see this at St. James – he’s too important to our midfield. On Wednesday we face the pick of our Champions League games and whatever side is selected, I hope they AND the fans will enjoy it. The good times need to be appreciated, and this is our reward for the success of last year. Get behind the team and you never know what might happen.

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