The Newcastle midfielder Nolberto Solano is urging his side to become more ruthless at home to claw their way up the Premiership table. The Magpies have won only one of the three League games they have played at St James' Park this season, the opening-day meeting with Wigan.
Since then, they have managed to squander a 1-0 lead inside eight disastrous minutes to lose 2-1 to Fulham, and allowed Everton to snatch a point with an equaliser in a 1-1 draw last time out on Tyneside.
Bolton meet them today, and Solano is hoping for a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season when Newcastle, with their manager, Glenn Roeder, then working in a caretaker capacity, won 3-1. That result went a long way towards making up the mind of the chairman, Freddy Shepherd, over Graeme Souness' successor.
Solano said: "We need to score early and get in control of the game, which is what we did last season. In recent times - like Fulham and Everton at home - we have lost control when we have been in the lead. We must learn to control those situations - if we do that, then we have more chance of winning. It is never easy against Bolton. They are a strong side and we have to be clever in this one, especially defending their throw-ins and free-kicks."
Newcastle have so far collected only seven points from as many Premiership games, illustrating just how costly their failure to hang on to leads at homes has been.
Solano, 31, is in his second spell at the club, and remembers well from his first just how difficult a place St James' can be for visiting sides. At the peak of Sir Bobby Robson's reign, few teams left with anything. The Peruvian said: "We need to be strong in our home games because at the moment we are not strong enough. The season has been stop-start so far, but that changes now with the Uefa Cup. There are a lot of games coming up in a short space of time.
"That is something we are familiar with because we played in Europe a few years ago and we were successful after games away in Europe. We need to get back to that."
Meanwhile, Talal El Karkouri is determined to make the most of a second chance at Charlton Athletic under their new manager, Iain Dowie - just months after he considered walking away from the game. The Moroccan defender had settled well in south-east London following his £1m move from Paris St-Germain in the summer of 2004. However, a knee injury on international duty saw his progress hampered at the start of last season and, after finally returning to full match fitness, El Karkouri fell out of favour with the then manager, Alan Curbishley.
When he was eventually loaned out to Qatar side Al Gharafa in May with a view to a permanent move, it seemed as if the defender had played his last match for the Addicks. But following the departure of the long-serving Curbishley and the arrival of Dowie, El Karkouri suddenly found himself back in The Valley fold.
It is an opportunity he intends to make the most of. "I was expecting a call from the chairman, chief executive or new manager saying they did not want me, but I did not receive any such call," El Karkouri said. "So I was happy the new manager wanted me to come back and be in his squad. I was going to stop playing for a year, but was really pleased to hear there was a new manager and now I am just enjoying my life here with Iain and the lads. I have now completely forgotten what happened last season and have turned the page. There are new people here now, and this is a new season."
Despite his new-found confidence, the 30-year-old admits the past 12 months had been a difficult chapter in his career. El Karkouri recalled: "When I came back from my injury, I only played a few games and then the manager decided to try to change the team again. I remember playing away at Manchester City and, although we lost, I thought I did well. But when we played Brentford in the FA Cup the next week, I did not even make the bench.
"I was going crazy last season - all I wanted to do was go out and kick the ball. Something happened between me and him [Curbishley]. It was not an argument, just a discussion in his office. I played just 12 games, and that was a big disappointment for me and my family."
Although El Karkouri is now happy to be back in the fold, it has been a dismal start to the Dowie era. The Addicks have lost six out of their first seven Premiership matches and head into tomorrow's game at Fulham bottom of the table.
El Karkouri said: "Hopefully we can turn things around because I do not think Charlton deserve to be in the position we are. But even if you are playing well, you can still lose."Reuse content