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30/12/2002

Interview for The Journal

Interview for The Journal

Nikos Dabizas last night confessed his Newcastle future appears far from certain despite five years of unstinting service at St James's Park.

The Greek international returned to action against Tottenham on Sunday only to mark his comeback with a badly gashed leg and a stunning own goal.

For Dabizas the latest setbacks of a difficult season were typical of the bad luck which has plagued the centre-half in recent weeks.

And the former Olympiakos defender concedes he is enduring his toughest spell on Tyneside since he was frozen out of the first team picture by former manager Ruud Gullit.

"When the summer arrives I'll assess the situation and see where I stand," explained a player who would love to see out his career in the North-East. "I have 18 months remaining on my contract and the close-season will be the time to begin talks on a new deal or think about other options.

"But I don't want to contemplate leaving Newcastle because you cannot find a better team, or better fans, in England. It would be very hard to bare."

Dabizas remains a firm favourite with the majority of Magpies' fans and enjoyed his best campaign in a black-and-white shirt last season.

However, the experienced defender has found himself stranded on the substitutes' bench during December with Steve Caldwell and Andy O'Brien the preferred centre-half pairing.

And, although Sir Bobby Robson has made it clear that Dabizas does have a Newcastle future, there are those who claim the writing is on the wall for the experienced defender.

"The last few weeks have been very difficult for me, but the team has been doing well so I can understand the manager's decision to leave me out," he added.

"I love it here at Newcastle and I'm desperate to win back my place. In March I will have been at the club for five years and I'm not used to being out of the team.

"I've only been in this situation once before - for two months towards the end of Ruud Gullit's time at the club - and it's not great.

"It's hard to come to terms with it but I know I'm not out of the picture completely like I was when Gullit was here. I know I haven't suddenly become a bad player and I've been consistent for Newcastle over the last five years.

"I know I have to work hard to win back my place and the manager is just trying to do his job fairly and correctly. He's spoken to me about my position and he's just doing what he has to do in the best possible way.

"Some players are always going to be disappointed with a squad as big as ours and I am one of those players at the moment."

Dabizas was able to joke about his spectacular own-goal after Newcastle secured all three points against Spurs and admitted: "It was great to be back - even for 45 minutes.

"Scoring an own-goal is about as bad as it gets, but I'm grateful it didn't cost us the points.

"Maybe I'll ask Andy O'Brien for some advice on how you manage to head the ball onto the bar instead of into the net!

"Alan was in front of me, and was covering for me, because I'd just been getting treatment on my gashed leg.

"But I sprinted back onto the pitch and got there before him without realising there was nobody behind me. It was a difficult ball to defend and I realised I was going to have to dive in order to reach it in time. I wanted to put it out for a corner even though it didn't look that way!"


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.