Football: Stevenage reveal their wind-up master plan

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The Independent Online
Neil Trebble, the Stevenage midfielder, admitted yesterday that his team made a point of trying to wind up Newcastle's foreign players during their 1-1 draw in the FA Cup fourth round match on Sunday.

Trebble believes that one of them, the Italian Alessandro Pistone, was lucky not to have been sent off. Pistone became the bad boy of Broadhall Way, booed repeatedly by the home fans and reacting by the minute to the provocation he was subjected to on and off the pitch.

Pistone was not the only one as the Tynesiders grew increasingly fretful and flustered. Even Alan Shearer lost his rag, involved in a scuffle and slap incident with Jason Soloman before picking up a comeback booking for a foul on the magnificent Mark Smith.

And Trebble, a former Army PT instructor who now barks out the orders to Borough's youth academy, revealed that Paul Fairclough's master plan had worked perfectly.

"We felt that the foreign players might be a weakness for them and that if we got into them a bit we might get them to react the wrong way," said the former Preston, Scunthorpe and Scarborough striker.

"We've seen them on the box, seen their reactions, and there's that thing about the Italian make-up that we thought we might exploit. There were four or five characters who we felt might not want to do it if things went against them.

"That turned out to be the case and Pistone started it really. He was getting involved in all sorts of stuff. For somebody like him, coming down here and arriving at a place like this was going to maybe be something new.

"We got at certain individuals and he reacted badly. To be honest he was lucky to stay on because he took a swing off the ball at a couple of our players. But they were all disjointed."

Stevenage's reward for their heroics will be a pounds 300,000 share of the spoils. Unlike the league, revenue from FA Cup matches is shared, meaning a massive pay-day. It will also be a chance for more Newcastle fans than usual to see their team - Stevenage will only be taking up one-third of their potential ticket allocation.

Stevenage are entitled to 5,500 tickets for the game next Wednesday night but have instead decided to apply for just 1,800. The club cannot return any tickets they do not sell and do not want to be left making a loss if fans prefer to watch the game on television rather than making the 500-mile round trip on a working day.

Andy Griffin has agreed to a pounds 1.5m move from Stoke to Newcastle, although Leicester City have come up with a bigger offer. The teenage full-back agreed to sign for Kenny Dalglish, but the deal may not go through. The Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, has tabled a larger offer although Griffin does not want to go there.

Chris Kamara, the Stoke manager, is in talks with Newcastle to find out if they will increase their bid or possibly throw in a player in exchange. Kamara is keen on Newcastle's third-choice keeper, Pavel Srnicek.

Newcastle will be without their only two orthodox left- backs for the fifth round of the FA Cup should they dispose of Stevenage in the replay, with both Alessandro Pistone and John Beresford facing a two-match ban. The Italian Under-21 defender Pistone and former Portsmouth defender Beresford picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season at Broadhall Way on Sunday.

l The Rangers assistant manager, Archie Knox, has been severely censured for his comments to referee John Rowbotham after the match against Celtic at Parkhead in November. The Scottish Football Association's disciplinary committee warned Knox as to his future conduct following his words at the end of a game which was overshadowed by Paul Gascoigne's sending off. The same disciplinary committee fined the Airdrie manager, Alex MacDonald, pounds 500 and banned him from the touchline for six months for an incident during a league match against Stirling Albion.