Newcastle United 1 Southampton 0: Dyer learns love means forgiving and forgetting

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The Independent Online

If, 18 months ago, Kieron Dyer had introduced himself to the Gallowgate End in the manner he chose on Saturday night, his dismembered body parts would today still adorn the perimeter boards. Such is football's fickle nature, his punishment amounted to nothing more sinister than a yellow card for over-exuberance.

Instead of being torn to shreds by hoards of baying Geordies, Dyer was greeted with open arms. Redemption, at least until the next self-inflicted crisis in the life of a confirmed foot-shooter, is apparently complete.

Dyer's goal, his first in 10 months, saw him mobbed by the same supporters who, with some justification, had made the midfielder's life a misery for letting his ego run wild and refusing to play out of position last season, a work to rule that seemed to have sealed his exit from the club.

Dyer said: "I was rightly booed at the start of last season. That was a major test of my character but I think I've come through it. I knew I had to win a lot of the fans back and I hope this has gone some way to it."

The inevitable booking was well worth it as Dyer converted a second-half pass from Charles N'Zogbia to edge out visitors who belied a tortuous Championship season with a performance that merited a replay. Dyer added: "I knew I'd get booked but, to be honest, I didn't care. I just wanted to go straight to the fans to show them how much it meant to me."

Due to injury, Dyer has made only six appearances this season and had not started a game since August, but in stark contrast to the fit of pique he aimed at Sir Bobby Robson in 2004, he stood in at less than two hours' notice for Alan Shearer.

The captain was precluded from playing by a calf injury, but he took vicarious pleasure in the continuation of his quest to bring the curtain down on his playing career by lifting the FA Cup as his team-mates, not without the occasional scare, ensured safe passage to today's quarter-final draw.

After he took narcissism to such heights during his career, Dyer's absence through injury and illness has clearly rekindled another passion. "More than anything this has reminded me how much I love playing football," he enthused. "I was like an excited schoolkid out there. You saw from my celebration just how much it meant to me. A lot of frustration and relief came out there. I didn't plan it like that."

George Burley, the Southampton manager, introduced Dyer to first-team football at Ipswich Town a decade ago, and despite the outcome, took an avuncular satisfaction in the goalscorer's contribution.

"I feel like I brought him up as a kid, I know Kieron well and I know his family," Burley said. "He's had a really bad couple of years with illness and injury and has had it tough. If he keeps on performing like that he'll get into England's World Cup squad."

Dyer is not quite so confident: "Sven Goran Eriksson says he knows his 23 if the World Cup was tomorrow, and I've not played a full game since March."

"A lot of players have come into the reckoning since then and they're all a step ahead of me."

Shola Ameobi and Jean-Alain Boumsong struck the woodwork for Newcastle, who were lucky to emerge unscathed as they were cut open several times in a post-interval purple patch for the visitors. Not that Glenn Roeder, who boasts a 100 per cent record as caretaker manager, felt his side rode their luck: "You're having a laugh, aren't you?"

Dexter Blackstock raised a few smiles as an emergency goalkeeper for Southampton in the final 10 minutes after Bartosz Bialkowski twisted his knee with a trio of substitutes already used. "Hopefully, that's the one and only time," Blackstock said. When it comes to launching impromptu pitch-side love-ins, Dyer will not concur.

Goal: Dyer (68) 1-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Ramage, Boumsong, Bramble, Elliott; Solano, Emre, Parker, N'Zogbia; K Dyer (Bowyer, 76), Ameobi (Luque, 70). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Faye, Clark.

Southampton (3-5-2): Bialkowski; Lundekvam (Potter, h-t), Powell, Craine; Ostlund, Oakley, Wright, Pahars (N Dyer, h-t), Brennan; Madsen, Jones (Blackstock, 77). Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Kenton.

Referee: M Atkinson (W. Yorkshire).

Booked: Newcastle United Dyer.

Man of the match: Dyer.

Attendance: 40,975.

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