Newcastle 'have not spoken' to Eriksson

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The Independent Online

Glenn Roeder, the Newcastle United manager, was yesterday preparing for his side's tough Uefa Cup trip to Palermo having received the backing of his chairman.

The 50-year-old awoke on Tuesday to be greeted by newspaper headlines suggesting that the former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was waiting in the wings to succeed him after a run of poor Premiership results. However, while the Magpies' current 17th-place standing in the league table is a matter for concern, Roeder will head for Sicily today having been reassured that the Swede is neither targeting nor being targeted for his job.

The chairman Freddy Shepherd, who fought to win special dispensation from the Premier League to appoint the former Newcastle defender in May, was unequivocal in his response.

He told the club's official website: "This is all news to me. I have not spoken to Sven since he left the England job and I have no intention of speaking to him.

"Neither have I spoken to his agent Athole Still, and as far as I am aware, they have not tried to approach us. In any case if they did, it would not matter because we already have a manager."

Still was also quick to dismiss the speculation. He said: "It does not surprise me because he was linked with West Ham. Such is his stature that if there is a vacancy, he is going to be linked with it. But I have spoken to Sven and he is not happy at the suggestion that he has 'targeted' Newcastle, which gives quite a different slant to the thing.

"To suggest he is looking at a club where there is another coach in situ, it is absolute rubbish to say that. He would never do that. It is one thing to say that a club is interested in him - and in this case, there has been no contact whatsoever - but to say he has targeted the job of another coach is absolutely unacceptable and is malicious."

Roeder has found himself under pressure, externally at least, following a run of results which has left the club languishing at the wrong end of the Premiership table.

They have won only two league games all season - on the opening day against Wigan and then at West Ham on 17 September - and have taken just five points from as many home games, three times taking the lead at St James' Park and failing to claim all three points.

Newcastle were booed off the pitch on Saturday after dominating against lowly Charlton but failing to break the deadlock, despite creating a host of chances.

There are extenuating circumstances: Alan Shearer's retirement and Michael Owen's knee injury have left a huge gap which is yet to be plugged by either the £10-million summer signing Obafemi Martins or Shola Ameobi.

An injury crisis which has seen both join the casualty list in recent weeks has underlined the lack of depth in a squad which was reduced significantly during the summer when scarce resources meant limited cash was invested in quality and potential in the shape of Damien Duff and Martins rather than in numbers.

The Magpies have fared rather better in the cup competitions than they have in the league, and head into tomorrow night's game in Palermo unbeaten in seven games in Europe, the last of them a creditable 1-0 victory over the Turkish side Fenerbahce.

They also face a Carling Cup fourth round trip to Watford having disposed of Portsmouth in the previous round. However, Saturday's visit of promoted Sheffield United to Tyneside represents a must-win game if they are to pull away from the relegation zone and the kind of fight in which they were embroiled when Roeder succeeded Graeme Souness in February.

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