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Injuries and suspensions...but still up there - 27/04/2004

Injuries and suspensions...but still up there
Woody - who wouldn't miss him?
   Jonathan Woodgate
   Craig Bellamy
   Kieron Dyer
   Jermaine Jenas
   Darren Ambrose
   Gary Speed
   Hugo Viana
   Titus Bramble
   Andy O Brien
   Newcastle United

Injuries have hit the club hard, and it's massively bad luck that the timing of these injuries coincides with what is the most important part of the season. Any club would miss the talent of Kieron, Bellers, and JJ but atleast in midfield we've a squad that has international strength in depth. It's not quite the same in the defence and whereas we can still turn out a midfield of Robert, Hugo, Speedo and Darren Ambrose, the injury to Woody and impending suspension of OB will hurt. Woody has been magnificent over the last few games and it's no surprise that he's being touted as an England starter for Euro 2004.

The other factor is that both Titus and OB are a yellow card away from a European if we are to make it to the final, it's possible we could be without all three established centre-backs for the final. If we're going to be pessimistic you can also mention that Alan Shearer is also in the same boat - one booking away from a ban. Marseille will be aware of these facts and perhaps look to take advantage.

But to be fair this sort of thing isn't praying on the minds of the lads, the focus is on the fact that we're one game away from the UEFA Cup Final and four games away from a Champions League place. Heads didn't drop when we lost Bellers, JJ and Kieron, and heads won't drop now we've lost Woody.

As for me, I'm playing in the final reserve game of the season tomorrow and expect to be on the bench at Man City. It is a risk playing against Scunthorpe reserves but I'll just have to play my usual game. There's no point in trying to take it easy or pulling out of tackles, indeed that sort of play can often be counter productive and you can still pick up knocks. I'll just get on with my game - hopefully with no problems - and I'll be fit, if called upon, for all of the remaining first team games. I won't be first team match fit, there's no way you can be that sharp after just training and playing second string football - there's such a big difference between the pace of reserve and first team football, it can take between ten and fifteen games to reach full fitness. Perhaps that's why Woody has been playing so well in recent's just a case of him getting a number of games under his belt. The game against Chelsea was his thirteenth since the start of March - he was flying.

Many people back in September would have gladly accepted our present position - even with injury and suspension problems, so in football goes on and we've still got it all to play for.

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