Football: Beardsley boosts Newcastle with surprise return: Kevin Keegan will not alter his attacking policy in the Uefa Cup. Guy Hodgson reports from Antwerp

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The Independent Online
NEWCASTLE may have been missing from European club competition for 17 years, but clearly they have lost none of the cloak- and-dagger skills that seem to be de rigueur in this environment. To the surprise of everyone not connected with St James' Park, Peter Beardsley will play tonight in the Uefa Cup first round first leg match against Royal Antwerp.

The England striker, out of action since breaking a cheekbone in the first match of the season, returns in Belgium to reinforce a team that leads the Premiership with five successive wins.

'Peter wants to play and I want him to play too,' Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle manager, said. 'I wouldn't change the side for any other player after what they have achieved this season.'

Earlier Beardsley, his eye still bloodshot, had said he would not be fit for another three weeks, and even intimated that an experiment with a Paul Gascoigne-style mask to protect the injury had been a failure. Later it transpired that this was all a smokescreen.

The news was a timely tonic for Keegan, who had said he was going to forsake the time-honoured safety-first tactic of the away team. 'It will be business as usual,' he said. 'We've got where we are playing in a certain manner and it would be foolish to abandon it now.

'We're not going to try to win in Roy of The Rovers style, but we'll attack sensibly. I could try to gain coaching points by changing things, but I might take something away if I did.' In short, the field might be foreign but the style is resolutely domestic.

Audacity and attack have taken Newcastle to the Premiership apex after a start which has equalled the club's best in 1908. They were champions then, and the way they have brushed opponents aside so far has suggested they will repeat the feat next May.

Not that Antwerp qualify as 'bum of the month' material. Sixteen months ago they reached the final of the Cup Winners' Cup, losing to Parma at Wembley, and, as Newcastle's newly acquired Belgian Philippe Albert confirmed, they are difficult to beat.

'They play five at the back,' the former Anderlecht centre-back said, 'and work tremendously hard. Normally they operate with only one man up front, Francis Severeyns, who is very quick. He was the top scorer in Belgium a few years ago and is dangerous.'

Newcastle have had Albert's knowledge to tap and have had the Belgians watched twice, although Keegan said the personnel were vastly different in each match and the reports inconclusive. Antwerp's form is mixed too, a 3-3 draw against Ghent at the weekend did not suggest a lock-tight rearguard.

Newcastle conceded two goals against Chelsea on Saturday, but they created enough chances to double their four goals. That, coupled with Beardsley's news, has encouraged Keegan. 'Our success has bred confidence and that should overcome any trepidation,' he said.

'We know when we get on the plane home it will only be half- time, but we have to make sure we have a chance in the second game.

'People on the Continent know Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool because of their success in Europe, but foreigners arrive in England and say they've never heard of Newcastle. Maybe we can start putting that right.'