Newcastle play down player bust-up

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The Independent Football

Newcastle today attempted to play down a training ground bust-up between team-mates Andy Carroll and Charles N'Zogbia.

The pair clashed at the club's Darlsey Park training headquarters yesterday as tempers frayed following a challenge.

A club spokesman said: "It was a bit of handbags and an incident that has probably happened at other training grounds up and down the country lots of times before."

However, sources on Tyneside have suggested the two men had to be separated on several occasions amid a furious exchange.

Gateshead-born Carroll, 20, scored his first senior goal for the club in the 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw with West Ham on January 10, while 22-year-old Frenchman N'Zogbia has spent the last few weeks yet again agitating for a move away.

While scuffles on training grounds are not unusual, the fall-out between the two men could hardly have come at a worse time with the Magpies engaged in a fight for top-flight survival which would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.

Saturday's 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Blackburn, now managed by former Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce, left them in 14th place in the league table, but just two points clear of the drop zone.

Injuries continue to severely limit current manager Joe Kinnear's options, and efforts to strengthen the squad have so far come to nothing.

Kinnear ran the rule over former Denmark international Peter Lovenkrands and a series of young trialists in a practice match against Carlisle yesterday - the visitors witnessed the Carroll-N'Zogbia incident - although it is understood the potential Italian and Argentinian loan signings he hoped would play did not figure.

The 62-year has problems of his own too after being landed with a third Football Association charge, the latest as a result of his touchline clash with Hull counterpart Phil Brown during last week's FA Cup third-round replay defeat at St James' Park.