United's weather warning - 21/07/2003
Newcastle United arrived in Malaysia today with a warning that intense humidity may hamper the club's attempt to clinch the Asia Cup in style.
Former St James's Park favourite John Beresford is in Kuala Lumpur as part of main broadcaster ESPN's commentary team and is well aware of the uncompromising South East Asian climate. And, as Sir Bobby Robson's men began acclimatising to 80 per cent humidity after their gruelling 12-and-a-half hour flight, the ex-Newcastle defender admitted: "The players will struggle to catch their breath. "What everyone wants is for United to play the kind of attractive, free-flowing football which has taken them to successive top-four Premiership finishes. "But that will only be possible if the players pace themselves. It's so humid out here that one run really knocks you for six. It can be a killer. "Players like Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer are renowned for their energy and pace and they are why Newcastle can be so good to watch. I just hope the conditions do not slow their game down too much."
Beresford is a frequent visitor to the Malaysian capital and Premiership football is one of the fastest growing television sports in a region ready to embrace the inaugural Asia Cup. Newcastle, their opponents on Thursday, Birmingham City, and tournament favourites Chelsea are well supported in Kuala Lumpur and the city is bracing itself for four days of top-class competition. "From a spectator's point of view, I'm hoping the games don't follow the usual pre-season pattern of players feeling their way back in after the summer," added Beresford. "The good thing is that Birmingham can only play one way and that's to get stuck in from the start. I'd like to see Robbie Savage fly in with an early tackle, or Lee Bowyer to make his presence felt and then the tone will be set from the start.
"The Asia Cup has the makings of a great tournament and I think Newcastle have just got to go for it to set up the final everyone wants against Chelsea on Sunday." Robson's men will be back on the training pitch tomorrow following their long-haul flight, but Newcastle's manager was due to face his first Press conference less than four hours after touchdown in Kuala Lumpur - such is the interest in United in Malaysia. The Magpies will train outdoors despite the humid conditions but an air-conditioned gym has been made available should the weather prove too much of a hindrance.
All four fixtures kick off at 8.45pm local time (1.45pm in the UK) to alleviate the stress on the players' bodies, but evening temperatures are not expected to dip below 25C. Only Jonathan Woodgate will not take part in tomorrow's first training session as he continues to recover from his thigh strain. Titus Bramble will partner either Andy O'Brien or Steve Caldwell at the heart of Newcastle's defence when United face Steve Bruce's Blues. And, although it is unlikely that many players will be asked to complete the full 90 minutes, Robson is determined to start with his strongest side as the Magpies look to open their Asia Cup account in style.
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