What a game! - 21/10/2002

What a game!
Bobby Robson - squad rotation problems?

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 Dabiís sending offÖit changed the whole game.

As a defender myself, I really canít 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 donít 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 youíre giving away a penalty Ė and 9 out of 10 are put away, and secondly, you know that youíre 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 youíre 1-0 with two minutes to go, perhaps then itís worth the gamble. But itís cost the player and the club dearly.

As for Shearerís contribution, well it doesnít surprise me! Chris Kamara said that Shearer is the best English centre forward heís seen in his lifetime Ė thatís quite an accolade, and personally I couldnít disagree with him. I wouldnít mind betting heíll hit the 350 club goal market Ė for all the talk of him hanging only a couple more seasons left! Heís simply got a fantastic gift of scoring goals. Some players are flash in the pan Ė they hit a purple patch over the course of a six months to a year; Marcus Stewart, Michael Ricketts, for example. But with Al, heís done it year in, year outÖand thatís not to mention the injuries heís had. Quite simply, heís incredible.

Iíve been reading that Hugo Viana hasnít been happy with life on the bench. Thatís understandable but at his age, I donít think itís such as bad thing. Heíll be learning about the English game without being thrown in at the deep end, and with the strength of squad weíve got itís a luxury we can afford. Heíll certainly get his chance, but I feel heíll be all the better for taking it slowly. Bobbyís (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, heís got four players competing for two places and thatís not to mention some decent reserve player knocking at the door. Looking at the left-back position, I know that itís an area where thereís 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 playerís in their natural position, and Aaron is a centre or a right back! Iíve also seen Speedo playing here for Wales, donít expect to see this at St. James Ė heís 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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