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31/10/2002

United can handle loss of personnel - Dabizas

United can handle loss of personnel - Dabizas

Nikos Dabizas is confident the determination and drive of his Newcastle colleagues will offset any potential defensive crisis ahead of the busiest period of the season so far.

Sir Bobby Robson could go into the first of five games in 12 days - Monday night's Tyne-Tees derby against Middlesbrough - without three senior centre-halves.

The Magpies face Everton in the Worthington Cup 48 hours later and must travel to Arsenal and Feyenoord during the following week.

"It will be very tough but the spirit and resilience of this Newcastle team is amazing," explained Dabizas, who serves a one-match suspension when Boro visit St James's Park next week.

"Twice in four days we came from a goal down to win 2-1 and that's not easy at any level of football.

"We keep showing great determination and we are never beaten. As long as we're winning games it's great to be part of a team with that kind of attitude and I can't remember enjoying my football this much.

"We will have bad results in the future but we will always bounce back. Everybody was down after Blackburn but we have won our last three games and that's proof of a club with real character."

That character will be tested to the limit over the coming weeks and it would appear that Newcastle's youthful squad is already feeling the strain of a punishing domestic and European schedule.

United have played 17 games since August 14 and Sir Bobby Robson has used 22 players in an attempt to keep his core first 11 fresh. However, the double blow of losing both O'Brien and Bramble during Tuesday night's clash with Kiev highlighted the enormity of the task facing the Magpies' manager within the next few days.

"With three games in six days fitness was always going to be a problem and both Titus and Andy have suffered," added Dabizas.

"The pace of the game in the Champions League and the Premiership is so fast that's it's easy to pick up injuries. These things will always happen. "It's unfortunate for them, but we have to come through the injuries and suspensions if we're going to achieve anything.

"We want to be successful and that's why the manager has been rebuilding the squad over the last three years. It's at times like this when the strength in depth pays dividends.

"You have to have at least 20 senior players ready to play their part at any stage of the season and we will need everyone to be at their best in the next fortnight.

"Hopefully Titus or Andy will be back to face Middlesbrough and Aaron Hughes is an excellent centre-half. But we'll still be short of numbers at the back and it will be another test of this team's spirit and determination."

It is understood O'Brien, who complained of back spasms during the match against Kiev, has a good chance of making Monday's derby, but Bramble is a doubt.

Scottish international Steve Caldwell and Spanish outcast Marcelino have both been placed on standby and it would be no surprise if both featured in the squads to face Boro and Everton next week.

Dabizas, meanwhile, is still basking in the glory of Newcastle's Kiev triumph and admitted: "I was very relieved to get my chance against Dynamo. I felt that I was part of the win against Juventus, but it wasn't the same and nothing beats being out there.

"The win against Kiev was probably the biggest European victory of my career because it gives us a chance of making the second group stage and completing a great comeback."


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.