Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lee Poised for Rovers Return

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lee Poised for Rovers Return

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Lee Clark is in line to start a game for Newcastle United for the first time in more than eight years after emerging as the focal point for a new-look Magpies midfield.

Such is the paucity of talent available to Graeme Souness ahead of Sunday's trip to Blackburn that the Scot can do little else but draft a player primarily signed as cover into his starting XI.

And Clark will be asked to spearhead a midfield due to operate in diamond formation as Newcastle seek to haul themselves clear of the Premiership relegation zone.

Unless Souness has a late change of heart then a player who has started 153 league games for United will return to front-line action in a black-and-white shirt for the first time since May 1997.

Clark's appearance will cap a remarkable summer for a player deemed surplus to requirements by Fulham at the end of last season and without a club until St James's Park bosses stepped in to offer him a short-term deal.

The Wallsend-born midfielder rejoined his boyhood heroes on the proviso that he would only be required for Premiership duty in the case of emergencies and that he could concentrate on improving his coaching skills with Tommy Craig's reserves.

However, such has been Clark's determination to make an impact on Tyneside second time around that he already has three substitutes' appearances under his belt this season and is in prime condition to kick-start his top-flight career. The 32-year-old will play as the most advanced of a central quartet against Rovers following a week of training geared towards getting the best out of a first-team squad decimated by injuries to four international midfielders.

And Clark will be encouraged to support strikers Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, with Amdy Faye taking the holding role, Lee Bowyer on the right and Charles N'Zogbia tucked in on the left.

With Nolberto Solano not yet fit enough to train with his fellow first teamers and Martin Brittain still recovering from the bug which forced him out of Tuesday's reserve game against Everton, Souness has decided against utilising a straight 4-4-2 formation.

But the feeling within the Newcastle camp is that there is no risk in handing Clark a first start of the season ( indeed the ebullient Geordie's presence on Sunday could be just the fillip United need as they go in search of a first league win of the season. …

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