Roeder pays as Newcastle profit from fixture pile-up

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The Independent Online

It is a "sacrifice" that will see Newcastle rake in roughly £8,000-an-hour for the duration of their discomfort, but the true cost of their self-imposed fixture pile-up might only become apparent next May.

The £350,000 - enough to fund Michael Owen's rehabilitation for the best part of a month - that finds its way into the club's coffers from Sky TV for live coverage of this evening's Premiership visit of Sheffield United is the plus point.

A 43-and-a-half-hour turnaround following the Uefa Cup victory over Palermo is the considerable downside, as Newcastle approach the second of four games in 10 days.

"The Sheffield United fixture cannot be helped," claimed Glenn Roeder, the Newcastle manager. Yet the possibility of Newcastle facing this schedule was already clear when they agreed to the match being televised as the Uefa Cup fixture list was drawn up before the match was chosen by Sky.

Newcastle opted for a scheduling version of Russian Roulette which now sees them staring down a loaded barrel. The consequences for their Premiership placing, or even status, could be far-reaching.

"It was decided in July," added Roeder, who was without 10 first-team players on Thursday. "It's not ideal playing again in 48 hours but that's the situation." He added, disengenuously, "Sky had decided it would be played on Saturday night, and that was the end of it."

Newcastle trained in Sicily yesterday before flying to a hotel in the North-east, 24 hours before kick-off, as they search for only a third Premiership victory of the season to lift them away from the relegation zone.

After taking a point against Charlton, the first of back-to-back home games against two of the three clubs below them in the League, anything less than a victory will leave Newcastle open to accusations of short-termism.

With each Premiership place worth the best part of £500,000, the cost of Newcastle's folly in opening themselves up to dropping yet further precious points might only be- come apparent six months' hence. Relegation would be massively more costly with the new TV contract about to kick in.

"It's a big ask to have to play Thursday, Saturday and then Tuesday," added Roeder. His side travel to Watford in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, then Manchester City in the Premiership next weekend.

Roeder added: "We haven't got much time to prepare but we've got to overcome it."

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