Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

`Fans Have Not Written Me Off'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

`Fans Have Not Written Me Off'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

As he made his final preparations for a match which many believe could be his last in charge of Newcastle, an appreciative Graeme Souness insisted last night that he retains the backing of a significant number of Magpies supporters.

United's players have readied themselves for this lunchtime's critical FA Cup fourth round tie at Cheltenham against a background of managerial uncertainty at St James's Park. But while Souness faced furious protests following last weekend's Premiership defeat at the hands of Blackburn, he has discovered that the dissenting voices were not representative of the black-and-white faithful as a whole.

There is no doubt that a fast-growing number of supporters are losing patience with the Scot, as he struggles to meet the high expectations at a club without a piece of major silverware in almost 37 years.

But while the Tyneside-born Cheltenham defender Craig Armstrong insisted this week that he knows of United fans who hope their side will lose at Whaddon Road in order to hasten their manager's departure, Souness has been heartened by the positive messages which have landed on his desk.

"I have had messages of support from fans; many, many of them," said a manager who knows that the consequences of a defeat this afternoon could be catastrophic for his 16-month tenure in the North-East.

"I would like to thank them for that, they have been very supportive towards me." There are perhaps more Newcastle fans who would like to see Freddie Shepherd sack rather than back Souness but, for as long as United remain in the FA Cup, it seems as though that will not happen.

It has increased the significance of the competition to a manager who retains confidence in his capabilities to make a success of one of the most demanding jobs in English football.

"It means a great deal to us because it's the last chance we have of winning something this season," said Souness, who spoke of having reassessed his targets for the season in light of the crippling list of injuries which have undermined all he has tried to do.

"We have got to be realistic ( this is the only competition we have got a chance of winning and so it's very important to us. …

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