Keegan praises Martins' 'character'

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The Independent Football

Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle United manager, has said he will not discipline the striker Obafemi Martins for his petulant reaction to being substituted during the 1-1 Premier League draw at Birmingham City on Monday.

Martins impressed in his first start under Keegan after recovering from an ankle injury and set up the Newcastle equaliser for Michael Owen. But he showed his displeasure when taken off with 10 minutes to go and appeared to ignore Keegan's offer of a handshake before sitting at the back of the dugout.

Keegan felt the need to console Martins and admitted the player had every reason to be unhappy as he stressed that the move had been purely tactical and no reflection on Martins' performance.

It was a similar scenario to the Tottenham striker Robbie Keane's reaction after he had been replaced during the second half of Sunday's match at Manchester City.

"I haven't got a problem with him [Martins]," Keegan said. "I wouldn't be happy to fetch a player off and then seeing them doing cartwheels and being pleased to come off. You've seen it with Robbie Keane as well the other night. I like that in players. All right, I went over to him afterwards and said, 'I know it hurts when you come off'.

"But it was not for his performance. It was just tactical and myself saying, 'Let's just shore things up here'. Obafemi put a really good stint in.

"He has every right to be disappointed but whoever I fetched off at Birmingham would have been disappointed because they certainly were committed. There is no problem. We won't fight or fall out."

Keegan is hoping the point at St Andrew's will be a platform for an upturn in Newcastle's fortunes. "The players showed a lot of character and resilience. They've been accused of not having enough of that, so maybe it is a start of something really good," he said.

"When you look at the names on our team sheet, we shouldn't be down the bottom, but we are, and they've got to show another side to their character. It is different for some of these players but I've never doubted their character. You've never heard me once criticise any of them.

"The character is there. The confidence has been the big problem and we will take some confidence from that second half performance at Birmingham. Away from home, it was probably how we played at Arsenal in the FA Cup."