Bowyer's future in doubt as FA extends suspension

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The Independent Football

Lee Bowyer's future with Newcastle United remained in doubt last night after the Football Association extended his four-match suspension for fighting Kieron Dyer to seven games. The midfielder will now not be available until Newcastle's penultimate match of the season, at Everton on 7 May.

Lee Bowyer's future with Newcastle United remained in doubt last night after the Football Association extended his four-match suspension for fighting Kieron Dyer to seven games. The midfielder will now not be available until Newcastle's penultimate match of the season, at Everton on 7 May.

That will be five weeks after he attacked Dyer during Newcastle's 3-0 defeat by Aston Villa on 2 April. Having been dismissed for violent conduct Bowyer received an automatic three-match ban, increased to four matches as it was his second domestic dismissal of the season.

A further three matches and a £30,000 fine were added by the Football Association's disciplinary commission yesterday after Bowyer admitted a violent conduct charge.

The fine took the financial cost of Bowyer's loss of control to an estimated quarter of a million pounds. The player had already been fined six weeks' wages by Newcastle and lost out on bonuses.

The cost for Newcastle is immeasurable. Without Bowyer and Dyer, who was banned for three matches for reacting to Bowyer's assault, they were thrashed in the FA Cup semi-final by Manchester United and were destabilised in the build-up to the Uefa Cup quarter-final defeat to Sporting Lisbon. Newcastle have also slipped in the Premiership, thus probably missing out on end-of-season merit payments well in excess of £1m.

Given this, it was hardly surprising that Bowyer, when asked if he would be playing for Newcastle next season, replied: "Don't ask me, ask the chairman."

The chairman, Freddy Shepherd, though a man with a chequered past of his own, said he had considered sacking Bowyer, who is under contract to 2007. However, the manager Graeme Souness has insisted he "most definitely" still has a future at the club.

Dyer returns for Newcastle at Old Trafford tomorrow but the additional three-match suspension means Bowyer, already slated to miss that match, will also miss the home games with Middlesbrough next Wednesday and Crystal Palace three days later, plus the trip to Fulham on 4 May. He said: "I think I got a fair hearing. I just want to concentrate on getting back playing football."

"Hopefully, when I get back we'll still be playing for something and trying to get into Europe by then. I'll give my all like every other game I play for Newcastle."

Mick McGuire, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said: "We were very concerned they might throw the book at Lee, and it wouldn't have been fair. It's good to see he will be playing before the end of the season."

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