Konchesky injustice heightens pressure on Souness

Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Football

The breathtaking ineptitude which laced their futile attempts to unlock visitors shorn of Paul Konchesky for most of the second half made uncomfortable viewing, and supporters jeered at the final whistle.

Freddy Shepherd, the chairman who has parted with his last three managers during August, yesterday dismissed as "absolutely ridiculous" reports that he is ready to add Graeme Souness to the list, with academy director Glenn Roeder taking temporary charge to afford time to lure Aston Villa's David O'Leary.

Souness knows ousting him now, after being backed to the tune of more than £10m in the summer, would be an act of gross stupidity.

However, Shepherd's record suggests he is impervious to such technicalities, and a trip to Bolton followed by Sunday's visit of Manchester United is, on this evidence, unlikely to add to Newcastle's single point.

Despite the absurdity of discussing his departure two games into a season, the manager is also a realist. On Friday, Souness talked for the first time about "when I leave this club" after less than a year in charge. He has helped to created an unholy mess, but deserves time to right the wrongs.

At present Newcastle are short of everything but rhetoric. In an interesting exercise in spin, Souness, having overseen a player exodus he has failed to redress, has become adept at casting himself as the victim of his own miscalculation.

"We're thin on the ground, it doesn't take a genius to work that out," admitted Alan Shearer, who cut a forlorn figure employed as a lone striker.

"If you don't get off to a good start it is very difficult. The manager will be under pressure but so too the chairman and the players because of a lack of results. It's as simple as that."

Newcastle should this week at least have one arrival in Deportivo La Coruña's Alberto Luque, if the forward can persuade Augusto Cesar Lendoiro, his club president, to stir himself. A fee of around £10m with add-ons is close to being agreed, with Hugo Viana possibly heading in the opposite direction.

Spain international Luque said: "Originally, I was to be presented by Newcastle on Saturday, but of course that's now a bit difficult because the president isn't one to get up early."

For his part, Lendoiro is unimpressed at how Newcastle conduct their business: "There's an unfortunate custom of doing things backwards. They should first have an agreement with the club and then with the player, but we aren't far away and the deal could be closed today."

West Ham found Newcastle more forgiving opponents than referee Dermot Gallagher, who along with his assistant James Tattan were the only ones not to see Konchesky clearly win the ball from Jermaine Jenas.

"I'm baffled," admitted the West Ham manager, Alan Pardew - his satisfaction at an unbeaten start slightly tempered by an uncharacteristic Gallagher error. "I've showed Dermot the replays, yet he maintains it's a foul, I can't fathom it. He's taken the ball cleanly.

"We've appealed but I don't hold out much hope because Dermot's adamant. This place goes berserk if there's a penalty, but their fans were having a chuckle about it."

Newcastle (4-1-4-1): Given; Carr, Boumsong, Taylor, Babayaro; Parker; Bowyer, Jenas, N'Zogbia (Clark, 64), Milner; Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Elliott, Faye, Brittain.

West Ham (4-4-2): Carroll; Repka, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun (Dailly, 79), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington; Harewood (Zamora, 89), Sheringham (Newton, 49). Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Noble.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Booked: Newcastle Jenas.

Sent off: West Ham Konchesky (55).

Man of the match: Ferdinand (West Ham).

Attendance: 51,620.