Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Speed's a Big Threat to His Old Buddies

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Speed's a Big Threat to His Old Buddies

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Before Newcastle's buoyant supporters begin dreaming of a 10th match unbeaten under Graeme Souness, it is worth bearing the following statistic in mind.

Gary Speed, who struck an impressive 29 league goals in 213 league appearances for United, has yet to open his Bolton Wanderers account and the former Welsh international's frustration is reaching boiling point.

A threat from set-pieces and in possession of a stinging drive from long range, the 35-year-old honed his goalscoring skills in a black-and-white shirt but there will be no room for sentiment or sweet reflection tomorrow.

Speed is still smarting at Newcastle's decision to dispense with his services during the summer and the Premiership's most experienced performer could not wish for a more pertinent fixture in which to prove his enduring worth.

Souness, for one, will not underestimate a player guaranteed a rousing reception from United's travelling fans and the Scot could be forgiven for feeling a tinge of regret that he was never afforded the opportunity to work with Sam Allardyce's astute summer capture.

Sir Bobby Robson's successor may be blessed with a midfield envied by the majority of his managerial peers but Speed's is a talent quite unique in an era when age is no apparent barrier to success.

"I've never worked with Gary but from the outside looking in you see a fantastic professional," explained Souness. "For him still to be playing at this level week in, week out means two things ( he has great passion and he's looked after himself superbly well.

"I can't complain about the midfield I have now. We have some great players who can only get better and I'm not about to question the decision to sell Gary Speed.

"Given what we have here I'm just grateful for what I've got. Sunday should be interesting ( if I'm a 35-year-old playing in the heart of midfield then I don't want to be up against somebody like Jermaine Jenas right now."

Jenas, of course, was the fortunate beneficiary of Speed's vast experience during the duo's two-and-half seasons together on Tyneside and it is easy to draw parallels between two exceptional midfield performers. …

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