Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Magpies Past Can Fire Star

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Magpies Past Can Fire Star

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL GILDER.

ROY Keane is confident that Michael Chopra's black-and-white background can work to his advantage after insisting the Sunderland striker's St James's Park past will inspire him to shine in tomorrow's battle for North-East bragging rights, writes PAUL GILDER.

Chopra is preparing to face his boyhood heroes for the first time since he called time on his Newcastle career 18 months ago and, although his prior allegiances made his summer signing a controversial one, Keane feels the 23-year-old's heritage will help rather than hinder as he finalises his plans for his first Wear-Tyne showdown.

The Black Cats boss last night praised the former England Under-21 international for being brave enough to join his hometown club's fiercest rivals and admitted he would have found it difficult to do the same. And although his pounds 5m forward is without a goal since August 15, Keane has backed Chopra to get back to his free-scoring best and insisted there could be no better fixture in which to end his longrunning drought.

"I haven't even thought about Michael's past," said the Irishman, who is expected to restore the Tynesider to his starting XI for tomorrow's 138th Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light. "Players have moved to football clubs in the past and then been involved in derbies - I've seen Real Madrid players who have signed for Barcelona - and it won't be a problem. Everyone knows that Michael's from the (Newcastle) area, but that might drive him on a bit more this weekend.

"As I've said before, it doesn't bother me in the least whether he's from Newcastle or New Zealand. It's not important where a player comes from - should he warrant a place in the team, he will be in it. It isn't an issue. Michael's a striker and he'll be determined to score."

Chopra scored the last time Newcastle played at Sunderland - albeit for the visitors - and, having enraged the red-andwhite ranks with his exuberant celebrations, agreeing to join the club just 15 months later was a courageous decision. …

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