Shaming of the Toon

Mayhem at Newcastle: Bowyer and Dyer fight on the pitch and in the tunnel to bring disgrace to what should have been Shearer's day
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The Independent Online

It was difficult to say who won on points in what emerged as the main bout here yesterday. Lee Bowyer departed with his shirt ripped down the front and Kieron Dyer with the blows of his team-mate ringing in his ears. Both players were shown red cards for their part in a scrap that stunned the 52,306 spectators sitting at ringside and left Graeme Souness's Newcastle side far from United.

It was difficult to say who won on points in what emerged as the main bout here yesterday. Lee Bowyer departed with his shirt ripped down the front and Kieron Dyer with the blows of his team-mate ringing in his ears. Both players were shown red cards for their part in a scrap that stunned the 52,306 spectators sitting at ringside and left Graeme Souness's Newcastle side far from United.

Newcastle have set pantomime standards over the years, but the internecine fight that broke out in the 81st minute of their 3-0 Premiership home defeat against Aston Villa was no Punch and Judy affair. It flared after an exchange of curses when Dyer chose not to thread a pass in Bowyer's direction. The pair converged, some 15 yards inside the Villa half, Bowyer landing a flurry of punches as they clinched.

It took the combined efforts of Stephen Carr, Gareth Barry and Alan Shearer to prise them apart, before the referee, Barry Knight, sent them from the field, reducing Newcastle to eight men for the final eight minutes - Steven Taylor already having been dismissed for a deliberate handball. Reports of a renewal of hostilities in the tunnel were subsequently denied by Newcastle officials.

Souness watched it all in a state of open-mouthed disbelief. The Newcastle manager, however, regained sufficient composure to emerge from the spat with some honour, hauling the miscreant Magpies into the press room an hour after the final whistle to offer their apologies to everyone, except, pointedly, to each other.

Bowyer, sitting to his manager's left, was first up. "We'd just like to apologise to the fans, to the chairman, to the management staff, all the players and everybody that's connected to Newcastle - family and everybody that witnessed what happened today on the football pitch," he said. "I'm sincerely sorry."

Dyer, sitting at the other side of his manager, was next. "I'd like to apologise to my team-mates, the manager, the chairman and the fans and everyone connected with the club as well," he said. "We have disagreements, but we shouldn't be fighting in front of 53,000 people. I'm deeply sorry, especially because it's a crucial stage of the season."

Crucially, both players will receive automatic three-match bans and miss their club's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United in Cardiff on 17 April if they are deemed guilty of violent conduct. Souness, however, intends to fight Dyer's corner.

"I've seen the incident once on television," he said, "and I have been reassured by Kieron Dyer that he did not throw any punches, that he was on the receiving end. I think Lee Bowyer's case is indefensible. I think he is guilty, as the pictures show, of throwing more than one punch. He has to accept whatever punishment comes his way.

"There will be internal discipline, obviously, but I can envisage both of them playing for Newcastle again. I don't know the chairman's view, but I would hope he would see it like this: that if it ever happened again, that would definitely be the end for the pair of them."

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