Despite weeks of international football and cup weekend breaks I can`t say I`m overly enamoured with having to troop up to SJP tomorrow for what is ultimately another meaningless game. Having probably blow any lingering hopes of European qualification through the league at the Valley last time out, the next 8 games should make an interesting PR exercise for the club. How the players and Roeder conduct themselves will ultimately go a long way in determining their long term futures with the club.
At the back there really isn`t any clear cut solution. The new Roeder conundrum of difficult decisions is now in place, with the manager actually having to manage a fit group of highly paid and highly strung prima donnas, rather than just make sure he gets 11 fit players onto the pitch on a Saturday. There are many of us who believe that Roeder lacks the bottle to make the hard decisions and pick a squad based on the best interests of the team rather than the individuals.
Shoe horning the likes of Dyer into whatever position is available ahead of Milner as well as playing Duff over N`Zogbia have been a couple of my own personal pet-hates. How he lines the team up against City will be watched with great interest. I suggest Shepherd, being the knowledgeable football expert he is (how else do you explain his meddling with signing players?) pays attention too.
City come into the game off the back of a comfortable win against Southgate`s Boro reserves and with the pressure marginally lifted off Pearce and Beanie`s backs. Anything less than a win against them though will represent just how low our status has dropped. After five home wins against them on the spin, making up the half dozen is absolutely essential.
Vital Quotes: Glenn Roeder & Stuart Pearce
'This is the biggest squad I have had to pick from since the start of the season and a few important decisions have to be made. But this is the sort of problem I have craved for in the past six months and it is a bit frustrating that I have now got it when there are only eight games remaining. Certainly the position I find myself in today and tomorrow is a bit different from the times this season when we only had 11 senior players and the team picked itself and we had to blood a number of our kids before they were ready.
They always say you can gauge just how strong a team is by looking at its bench and for the first time this season we will have five senior players as our substitutes. We are looking for a strong finish from our last eight games and we know that City gave us a tough time down at their place before Kieron Dyer came off the bench and should have won the game for us.'
Stuart Pearce (on Sib):
'I am pleased Antoine went to Newcastle and I think it was the right time for him to go. He went to Newcastle and it is a great opportunity for him at a club that I know first hand. He's worked hard to get where he is and credit to him for that. With the striker injury problems Newcastle have had, he's had a chance and took it.'
Newcastle Team News:
NUFC: (from) Given, Harper, Solano, Carr, Babayaro, Edgar, Taylor, Bramble, Onyewu, Moore, Ramage, Huntington, Butt, Parker, Milner, Duff, Emre, N`Zogbia, Pattison, Troisi, Martins, Dyer, Sibierski, Luque, Carroll, LuaLua.
Player to watch: Oba Martins
Needless to say that any threat we have will come from him.
Man City Team News:
Richards out, Mpenza and Sinclair back in contention.
Player to watch: Emile Mpenza
We signed Carl Cort ahead of this lad so it'll be interesting to see just whether he is any kop and we can add another to the 'top decisions' pile our managers have made in the transfer market.
Match Facts & Stats
Last 5 homes v City:
2005-06 Won 1-0 Owen
2004-05 Won 4-3 Robert, Shearer, Elliott, Bellamy.
2003/04 Won 3-0 Shearer 2, Ameobi
2002/03 Won 2-0 Shearer, Bellamy
2001/02 Won 1-0 Solano (FAC)
Graham Poll - the thing from Tring.
2-1 to the black and whites, Dyer and Martins for us, Mpenza for City.
Sheffield United (away)