There is one central factor in the renaissance and his name is Peter Beardsley. In this Indian summer of his career, it has been the 34-year- old's ingenuity which has bonded the new players with the old, the young with the experienced. It is no wonder that Newcastle have been willing his hamstring injury to heal for today's FA Cup quarter-final at Everton, one of his previous clubs.
"His enthusiasm rubs off on everybody," the Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan says. "He is living proof that if you do the right things you can play for ever. He is better than ever. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when I paid £1.35m for him but he has been worth every penny. I can talk all day to players about what you should do, what you must do. But all they need to do is come and see this man play.''
Beardsley's return last week to another of his former clubs ended badly. With the score goalless at Liverpool, injury forced him off the field and Newcastle went on to lose 2-0. His appearance today should enable Newcastle to leave Merseyside this time with a draw at least.
Everton, chasing a record 23rd semi-final, are waiting on the fitness of a less heralded player but one important to their own current pattern of play. The dead-ball potency of the left-back Andy Hinchcliffe, notably with inswinging corners from the right, has often looked their most likely source of goals, one from which Duncan Ferguson in particular has profited.
Hinchcliffe and the cup-tied Earl Barrett will be replaced by the defenders Matthew Jackson and Gary Ablett, while John Ebbrell may come in for the midfielder Vinny Samways.
Of huge significance to the chances of Queen's Park Rangers at Manchester United is the appearance of Les Ferdinand. The striker who is their touchstone dislocated a shoulder last weekend and rates his chances of playing as 60-40.
United will be without the cup-tied Cole, but will have Roy Keane and Andrei Kanchelskis available again; assuming, that is, that the Ukrainian who plays for Russia explains satisfactorily to Alex Ferguson the comments he was supposed to have made in Moscow in midweek about wanting a transfer because he felt the manager had been treating him a little offhandedly of late. Whatever, United should have too much in their armoury.
Mark Hughes profile, page 10Reuse content