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02/01/2004

Dabizas exits on sour note

Dabizas exits on sour note
Nikos Dabizas is bidding to breathe new life into his faltering Premiership career with Leicester City after revealing how his Newcastle dream became a nightmare.

United's popular Greek international has agreed a six-month deal with Micky Adams' men, subject to a medical, and could make his debut in tomorrow's FA Cup tie against Manchester City.

However, the experienced centre-half leaves Tyneside sickened at his treatment during the last few months and determined to prove Sir Bobby Robson wrong.

Dabizas has displayed admirable professionalism in previously refusing to criticise United's manager this season but one of the proudest players on the club's books is still baffled at the reasons behind his sudden fall from grace.

"The last year has been the most harrowing experience of my career," explained a player now in a position to cement his place in the Greek national side prior to next summer's European Championships.

"Of course things were bad when Ruud Gullit was in charge but that was a purely personal problem and had nothing to do with my footballing ability.

"I was out of the team then but it was a clash of personalities and I was resigned to the fact that I would not be selected, no matter how well or poorly I performed.

"Under Sir Bobby, it has been different. Until early last year he had always showed faith in me but suddenly his attitude changed. That's why it hurt even more.

"I went from being a first choice defender to a player who would only get a sniff if there were three or four injuries. Everything changed within the space of a few months. I just couldn't accept that."

Adams has been tracking Dabizas for six months and it is understood a nominal fee will change hands assuming the defender completes his switch to the Walkers Stadium today.

The former Olympiakos favourite has the option of signing a further year-long deal should Leicester retain their Premiership status but the 30-year-old will become a free agent in the summer should the Foxes go down.

"We're obviously disappointed with the goals we've conceded and I feel some of them could have been avoided," explained Adams, who looks set to reunite Dabizas with former Newcastle colleague Steve Howey at the heart of City's defence.

"Nikos is a proven defender at the very highest level and he's in to bolster our defence. "He's experienced and, if he had been any younger, there's no way we would have been in a position to sign him. At 30 he still has a lot of football left in him and he just fits nicely into what we're trying to achieve here.

"He's match fit but I don't think he'll be involved against Manchester City - I'd like to see him in a couple of training sessions before I send him out there.

"If we go down he becomes a free transfer player because we won't be able to afford to keep him here. If we stay up he can sign for another year."

Dabizas made 130 Premiership appearances, scoring 10 goals, during nearly six years on Tyneside and proved to be one of former Newcastle manager Kenny Dalglish's more astute signings.

However, the arrival of £9m centre half Jonathan Woodgate 12 months ago spelled the end for the Amindeo-born defender's United career and he has not featured in the first team all season.

Dabizas is due to leave St James's Park at a time when the Magpies' oft-criticised defence is under fresh scrutiny in the wake of Robson's post-match criticism last Sunday.

And it is still not clear that Newcastle's manager has found an adequate replacement for a defender who, despite the occasional lapse, became a consistent crowd favourite on Tyneside.

The Journal

 

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.