Boos will spur me on, says Shearer

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The Independent Football

In what must be the most challenging couple of days of his managerial career, Graeme Souness has had to pick up his Newcastle players in the wake of Thursday's débâcle in Lisbon, and get them ready to face Manchester United in tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final.

In what must be the most challenging couple of days of his managerial career, Graeme Souness has had to pick up his Newcastle players in the wake of Thursday's débâcle in Lisbon, and get them ready to face Manchester United in tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final.

Worse, they face a United side still smarting from last Saturday's humiliating defeat at Norwich. "They are a wounded animal," Souness said yesterday. "They are used to having a winning taste in their mouth. They have had a whole week to prepare for this game with the taste of what happened to them at Norwich still there, so for me, it makes them a dangerous animal."

The only consolation for Souness is that by the same token, the events of Thursday night must surely make his own side something akin to a bear with a sore head.

"All proper players hate losing - that is one of the ingredients of being a proper player, that you do not like losing, and you will do anything to make sure that you do not have that feeling on a regular basis. We have to make sure that we do not have a losing taste again on Sunday night."

On Thursday night that particular taste was overwhelming as Sporting Lisbon staged a remarkable fightback to ease their way into the last four of the Uefa Cup. Newcastle were edging towards the semi-finals when Kieron Dyer increased their aggregate lead to 2-0 with 20 minutes gone, and as the game approached the hour-mark, Sporting were sliding out of the competition despite levelling on the night through Marius Niculae just before the break.

However, injuries to Dyer and Titus Bramble cost Newcastle dear and goals from Sa Pinto, Beto and Fabio Rochemback in the final 19 minutes saw Jose Peseiro's side through.

"After a tough start in the first five minutes, I felt we weathered the storm well," the Newcastle captain, Alan Shearer, said. "We got a very good goal and we could and should have had one or two others. The changes hurt us. Kieron's pace was causing them problems, but even so, we still should have come away victorious."

Shearer expects to be the target of the Manchester United boo boys as usual tomorrow after twice turning down Sir Alex Ferguson in the past, but he remains unmoved.

"I do not think that will change, somehow," he said with a smile. "I think it is a sign of respect more than anything, it does not bother me. In fact, if anything, it spurs me on just that little bit extra.

"We have had some great games over the years. I am not sure what the records are, how many won and lost, but whatever it is, it does not matter, it only matters on this day and hopefully we will come out victorious."

Jermaine Jenas, who sparked an exodus of walking wounded at the break on Thursday when he limped off with injuries to his calf and Achilles tendon, said: "We believe we should have won, but we have only ourselves to blame really because we basically gave it to them.

"It is a bitter pill to swallow, but we have to take it on the chin. We have got a massive game in the FA Cup. It could keep our season alive, so it is important to pick ourselves up and go into the game mentally right."

Jenas, along with Titus Bramble, Celestine Babayaro and Aaron Hughes, is a major doubt for tomorrow's game, and Souness is facing a dilemma over his dissenting Frenchman Laurent Robert. The 29-year-old midfielder was left out of Thursday's squad after claiming the Magpies had gone backwards in the last 12 months.

Souness gave teenager Charles N'Zogbia the left-sided role in Lisbon, but the youngster returned with a suspected fractured collar-bone. With Jenas also in doubt and Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer suspended, Souness may be forced to think the unthinkable in an attempt to inject pace and guile into his side in the shape of the former Paris St Germain winger.

* The West Yorkshire referee, Mike Riley, will take charge of the game after Graham Poll withdrew with an injured hamstring.

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