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Nicos Dabizas turns the clock back when he plays for Newcastle United against Derby Country at St James's Park tomororw. For it was in the corresponding game last season - the first home match - that the Greek international picked up a bad knee injury which threatened to keep him out for the rest of the campaign. Dabizas did manage to come back in the middle of April and if anything he looks a better player than he was before he was injured.

Looking forward to tomorrow's game Dabizas told me: "What happened last season is something that has been at the back of my mind because it is something you cannot avoid thinking about".

"Obviously it was not a good thing for me but it is something which tests your character and you can see how strong you are. It was very disappointing for me but I think I have come back stronger both physically and mentally. When you are out of the game for six months like I was you start to appreciate the simple things and see how important they are. Before my injury against Derby County I had hardly missed a game throughout my whole career. When you are at home and sitting on your couch and thinking things are good you get a shock when something happens like what happened to me against Derby County last season. But I do feel that I am now better both on and off the field. As far as tomorrow's game with Derby is concerned I am not superstitious so it is not something I am afraid off. However at the same time I would still like to turn in a good performance against them tomorrow."

Dabizas has shaken off the ankle injury which saw him substituted 15 minutes from time by Syvlain Distin in last Saturday's defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage.

And he is looking forward to his first confrontation with Derby's silver fox Fabrizio Ravanelli.

Certainly Bobby Robson could hardly be happier with the form his Greek international has shown since he came back and the United boss made a point of praising Dabizas and his attitude and commitment after he was back in training on Thursday morning after playing for his country in an international the night before.

But Dabizas shrugged this off saying: "Greece is Greece and Newcastle United is Newcastle United. As soon as last Wednesday night's game finished the only thing on my mind was how quickly I could get back on the plane to Newcastle and back into training. If you are not 100 per cent professional you should not be with a club as big as Newcastle United."

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.