Aston Villa 1 Newcastle United 2: Roeder reluctantly offers a calm hand

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The Independent Online

Glenn Roeder may insist he harbours no desire to take "permanent" charge of Newcastle United, but a battling victory over Aston Villa and the caretaker manager's demeanour were tantamount to an impressive job application to set before Freddy Shepherd and his fellow directors.

The more Roeder spoke of how he has changed during the two-and-a-half years since he left West Ham and had surgery to remove a brain tumour, the more he seemed to be making a case for the Newcastle chairman to consider. The irony is that he was actually arguing against the idea.

He was relaxed, he said, and genuinely enjoying being back in the front line. Not only was he confident, but he sensed the players had picked up on his mood. Six points from two games, for a side who were in a free fall under Graeme Souness, suggested he was right.

Even at the height of Villa's second-half siege, when Shay Given saved Milan Baros's penalty to ensure the home side spent the remaining half-hour chasing a draw rather than the win, Roeder cut a calm, detached and often amused figure in the technical area.

"My time out of the game gave me the opportunity to analyse a lot of things," he said. "I'm a much more buoyant person, more comfortable with the whole situation of a Premiership manager's life. For instance, I can now deal with media criticism. I used to think it was personal."

The 50-year-old Londoner said he assumed that Shepherd trusted him, adding that his experience of working at the top level made him "the obvious person" within the club to take the reins temporarily.

So would he be interested in climbing back on the crazy carousel? "As soon as the chairman finds his new manager, I'll be quite happy to go back to my lads in the academy."

By Saturday night, however, Roeder and Newcastle will be within two wins of the FA Cup final if they can see off Southampton. "The only constant in football is change," he said at one point. If that is true, a continuation of the current run of positive results could change much, including the mind of the reluctant caretaker.

It is not as if he backed away when Shepherd asked him to step from the shadows, pleading an understandable aversion to the pressures involved. It was a case, he explained, of "Your club needs you". There was "never any possibility of saying no".

The slapstick defending of Jean-Alain Boumsong and Titus Bramble was still Newcastle's weakest link. Elsewhere, there was a new vibrancy, embodied by the cunning of Nolberto Solano, the sheer physicality of Alan Shearer and the metronomic industry of Scott Parker, who must have impressed the watching Sven Goran Eriksson.

Goals by Shola Ameobi and Charles N'Zogbia, either side of Luke Moore's fifth in three games, gave Newcastle an interval lead which did not flatter them. Villa pressed urgently for a second equaliser, only for Given to prevent their exploiting a one-man advantage after Celestine Babayaro was harshly sent off after fouling Baros for the penalty.

Roeder's serenity did not blind him to the passions that fuel football on Tyneside. After 200 games for Newcastle, many as captain, he is steeped in them. "It's a great club made great by the fans.

"Yes, the pressures are greater," he concluded, increasingly resembling a man talking himself into admitting an interest. "But if you've got anything about yourself, that's the cooker you want to live in."

Goals: Ameobi (2) 0-1; Moore (16) 1-1; N'Zogbia (29) 1-2.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; Hughes, Delaney, Mellberg, Samuel; Hendrie (Angel, 55), Gardner (Ridgewell, 59), Barry, Whittingham; Moore, Phillips (Baros, 55). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), De La Cruz.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Ramage, Bramble, Boumsong, Babayaro; Solano (Elliott, 66), Parker, Emre, NíZogbia (Bowyer, 84); Shearer, Ameobi (Dyer, 69). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Clark.

Referee: M Riley (W Yorkshire).

Booked: Aston Villa Gardner, Baros, Whittingham; Newcastle United Parker, Given.

Sent off: Newcastle Babayaro (61).

Man of the match: Given.

Attendance: 37, 140.

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