Football: Graham ready for boo-boys

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The Independent Online
George Graham is ready for a volley of abuse from disenchanted Highbury fans if Arsenal fail to end their home jinx against Southampton tomorrow. "When you are winning everyone will cheer you off the pitch," Graham said. "But if you are not you must be prepared to be booed off. "The game has changed a hell of a lot. There is so much pressure nowadays. Quite a few managers and teams have been getting stick from their own supporters. It is too long since we won a League game at Highbury. We are all determined to put that right."

Three controversial months have passed since Arsenal's last home league win, and Graham admits: "We have had a bad run and a lot of criticism. But if we beat Southampton we will be in a respectable position."

Arsenal could climb as high as eighth if they follow Saturday's pressure-easing win at Coventry with another against Southampton.

Graham plans no action against John Jensen or Eddie McGoldrick over media outbursts against Arsenal's tactics. He also refutes suggestions that Jensen was dropped at Coventry for disciplinary reasons.

"There are so many games these days that John was feeling the pace," Graham said. "I have a lot of midfield players, so I simply rested him."

Captain Tony Adams is not yet ready for senior action and with Nigel Winterburn still suspended, Martin Keown is set to continue in his place at left-back.

Southampton, seeking their first win in six Premiership games, could pair their £1m former Chelsea striker, Neil Shipperley, with Ronnie Ekelund for the first time.

Ekelund feared his season was over when he returned to Denmark before Christmas for treatment on a trapped nerve in his back. But he is fit and ready to resume for a Southampton team who have gone more than four months without a league win away from home.

David May is set for his first outing of the year, in Manchester United's central defence at Crystal Palace tomorrow night as suspensions threaten the championship lifeline Eric Cantona threw United against with his late winner against Blackburn on Sunday.

May, United's £1.4m summer buy from Blackburn, who has started just one of the last 10 games, comes in for captain Steve Bruce as United seek to reclaim the Premiership lead from Rovers.

Gary Neville is in the middle of a four-match ban and Roy Keane will be the next to fall foul of the disciplinary crackdown, dropping out for two games after Saturday's FA Cup tie against Wrexham at Old Trafford.

Nicky Butt, Dennis Irwin and Cantona (whose six bookings include two in Europe) are also coming close to enforced breaks, but manager Alex Ferguson can offset the disciplinary damage with the return to fitness of Lee Sharpe and Paul Ince, and the spectacular return to form of Ryan Giggs.

"Ryan's missed so many games," Bruce said, "but now he's getting back his fitness level and the sharpness we all know he has."

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