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06/02/2003

I've got score to settle

I've got score to settle

Nicos Dabizas is hoping to get the nod from Sir Bobby Robson for Sunday's top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal at St James's Park - so he can put the record straight with Dennis Bergkamp.

The Dutchman, of course, scored what many considered to be the best goal of last season when he rounded the Newcastle United defender as Arsenal won 2-0 at St James's Park last March.

However, Dabizas told me today: "To tell the truth, I was never 100 per cent convinced that Bergkamp meant to do what he did.

"But if he did, then this was a wonderful world class goal from a player who can only be described as a genius.

"And it goes without saying that I would love to be out there on Sunday to face Bergkamp and Arsenal."

Dabizas has been outstanding at the heart of the United defence as Robson's side have kept three clean sheets in a row against Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers at St James's Park and against Spurs at White Hart Lane last Wednesday.

Both Aaron Hughes and Steve Caldwell come back into the picture after missing the win in North London because of the dreaded flu bug.

But with new boy Jonathan Woodgate still not ready, it's a fair bet that the 29-year-old Greek international will line up on Sunday.

And if he does, he will not only come face to face with Bergkamp but also with Arsenal's French striker Robert Pires.

It was following a tackle from Dabizas in the FA Cup quarter-final replay defeat at Highbury on March 23 that Pires damaged his knee ligaments and was sidelined until the end of October.

But there was never any suggestion from Pires or anyone else at Arsenal that it was anything other than an accident.

What hasn't been an accident has been the way United have performed defensively lately, with Dabizas playing a full part.

And, while no one knows what is going to happen in the central defensive positions after the arrival of Woodgate, it must not be forgotten that Dabizas has been a tremendous servant to United after Kenny Dalglish paid Olympiakos 2.25 million for him four years ago.

Dabizas added: "I have been disappointed to have been out of the team for so long this season, but in football you have got to take your chance.

"And that's what I hope I have done as I have been happy enough at the way I have played in the last three matches.

"We all want to play on Sunday as this is our biggest game of the season against the team which I feel is the best team in the country.

"Now we will see how we play against them and we know this is a key match for us. I don't know whether it is realistic for us to win the Premiership but it has got to be at the back of our minds at least.

"We have got to think positive. We qualified for the Champions League but we have got to be looking to do better because you have got to keep moving forward in this game."

Dabizas has not been afraid to move forward and his 14 goals make him the greatest goalscoring defender in United's history.

However, he pointed out: "I have not scored since I got our winner against Sunderland last April and I am due a goal. But I would settle for not scoring if I am playing on Sunday as long as we stop Arsenal and Dennis Bergkamp from scoring at the other end.


The Evening Chronicle

 

232 Appearances in England (175 for Newcastle United, 18 for Leicester in the Premier League and 39 for Leicester in the Championship). Total League-Cup-Europe appearances 550. National Team appearances 70. Goals total 40.