Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Football: PLAY IT AGAIN SAM; Same Toon Team on Cards for Villa Visit

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Football: PLAY IT AGAIN SAM; Same Toon Team on Cards for Villa Visit

Article excerpt

Byline: By ALAN OLIVER Chief Sports Writer

SAM ALLARDYCE is ready to give a vote of confidence to the Newcastle United team which won at Bolton last Saturday for tomorrow's St James' Park opener with Aston Villa.

And this means that Michael Owen will have to be content with a seat on the bench after declaring himself fit for the first time at senior level since the opening friendly of the season at Hartlepool.

Big Sam is not one to reveal his plans to opposing managers and his only comment on his team selection today was: "It will be the same squad that went to Bolton Wanderers, plus Michael Owen."

Keeper Shay Given is still not ready, along with long-term injuries Emre, Damien Duff, Joey Barton and Celestine Babayaro, although the Turkish ace is close to a return.

And while Cacapa is again in the squad and favourite to become the 1000th player to represent United, Spanish left-back Jose Enrique has been kept back again following his pounds 4.2m switch from Villarreal.

Said the United boss: "Jose is improving but he is still a way off. He's fit but he has not done a pre-season programme to give him the physical strength to play in the Premiership.

"So until he is absolutely 100% in that category, and bearing in mind he has come from a different environment in Spain, I'll take it slowly but surely with him to make sure nobody levels any sort of criticism at him too early on if he doesn't perform to the level we know he can."

Given misses out on coming face to face with Marlon Harewood, who will be on the Villa bench, although the United keeper insists he has fully recovered from his clash with the burly striker at Upton Park last September. …

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