Keegan's return lifts City morale

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The Independent Football

Kevin Keegan, the Manchester City manager, is set to return to training for the first time in more than a fortnight today after missing two games in the club's relegation battle due to back treatment.

Keegan has been forced to remain at home on doctor's orders after having a cortisone injection in his back just 24 hours after City lost at Leeds on 22 March. Initially, it was suggested that the former England coach would be absent only for a matter of days, but he was forced to have secondary treatment to ease inflammation of his spine. This meant that he missed the matches against Fulham and Aston Villa, from which City collected two points.

With just seven games of the campaign remaining, starting with Saturday's vital encounter with the bottom club Wolves, Keegan's return could prove crucial.

The club's midfielder Claudio Reyna believes the manager's presence in the dressing room can ensure that City stave off relegation."It's not so much on the training ground where we miss the manager, because quite often he is away doing other work," the USA captain said yesterday. "It's on match days when you realise he is not there. He really motivates us before games and gets us going, so in that sense it will be good to have him back.

"We all realise his health is the most important thing and he needs to take care of himself. But having him around could just make the difference for us and give us the lift we need."

Charlton's South African striker Shaun Bartlett has made clear his desire to sign a new contract. Bartlett rejoined the first-team squad a month ago, having badly damaged an ankle soon after scoring Charlton's last-minute winner at Portsmouth on 4 October. "I'm out of contract soon but I want to stay here," he said. "The club have given no indication. We are just concentrating on getting to the end of the season."

The club's goalkeeper Dean Kiely still believes that Charlton can qualify for the Uefa Cup, even though they have dropped out of the Premiership's top six for the first time since November following two consecutive defeats. "We are still in the van, and I have strong belief we can make it into Europe," Kiely said. "It would a be a great achievement but also a deserved one."