Newcastle United flew out to Norway yesterday with Sir Bobby Robson riled by the absence of the midfielder Lee Bowyer, while Craig Bellamy insulted some of Europe's finest striking talent.
Bellamy, who has scored two goals in as many games since returning to the side after five months out with a knee injury, has been incensed by the constant speculation linking the Magpies with a new striker.
He used the build-up to this evening's Uefa Cup third-round clash with Valerenga as an opportunity to round on those who have argued that Robson needs to add another forward to complement and eventually replace Alan Shearer.
Henrik Larsson, Patrick Kluivert and Alan Smith have all been linked with a move to the North-east, but their big-name status has failed to impress the Welsh international.
"They were talking about players coming in to replace me who were not fit to lace up my boots,'' he snapped. "When I was injured, there were a lot of people slagging me off. It made me all the more determined to get back and look these people in the eye again.''
A definite absentee will be Bowyer. The controversial midfielder, to Robson's obvious irritation, was not in the squad that boarded the plane for Oslo after a mind-boggling piece of administrative incompetence.
The England international, who has also just returned from injury, had been serving a six-match European ban for stamping on an opponent during Leeds United's Uefa Cup defeat to Malaga last season - or so Robson thought.
With six European games played by Newcastle this season Bowyer had been expected to start but Robson was told on Tuesday morning that his summer signing had not served his ban because he had not been registered for the competition.
Robson said: "He is naturally disappointed and so are we. But we have him for the League and our fight for fourth spot so that there is plenty of football left for Lee Bowyer yet.''
Newcastle (probable 4-4-2): Given; Hughes, O'Brien, Bramble, Bernard; Ambrose, Jenas, Dyer, Robert; Bridges, Shearer.
Valerenga (probable 4-4-2): Bolthof; Brocken, Hagen, Santos, Rekdal; Berre, Hovi, Gashi, Hanssen; Normann, Holm.
Referee: G Gilewski (Poland).
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