Football: Barker plans a Rudge match

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The Independent Online
SIMON BARKER is hoping to repay his manager John Rudge for rescuing him from football oblivion by helping Port Vale overcome Liverpool in today's FA Cup tie at Vale Park.

The 34-year-old former Blackburn and Queen's Park Rangers midfielder moved to the Potteries initially as a non-contract player in the summer, having been released from Loftus Road.

Now, having recovered from a bout of flu, he plans to produce an inspirational display to upset Vale's in-form Premiership opponents. "It's been tough for us this season, but maybe a Cup tie like this will take a few minds off what has been going on in the league," Barker said. "I know that everyone would rather have three points than a Cup win, but it will be a game that will fill the ground and give the fans something to look forward to as well."

Barker is a great admirer of Rudge's 15 years of work for Vale, saying: "People in the game have got great respect for what John has done at the club, keeping them in this division has been a great achievement. There are times when he gets some stick from the fans here, they seem to want more, but really professionals in football know what a good job he has done."

Such is Rudge's record that the Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier is taking no chances. Houllier has asked for help from his countryman and friend Arsene Wenger as he prepares for his first experience of the FA Cup. "I have spoken to Arsene and he has told me that it is very hard to play your football at Port Vale, very tough indeed," Houllier said.

Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday are still waiting for the all clear for striker Andy Booth after he turned his ankle in the defeat to Aston Villa. Norwich are still without the services of Craig Bellamy, who is out with a knee injury.