Souness backs Bowyer's aggression in Uefa Cup

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The Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness, will not do anything to rein in Lee Bowyer's aggression as the Magpies attempt to reach the Uefa Cup group stages.

The Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness, will not do anything to rein in Lee Bowyer's aggression as the Magpies attempt to reach the Uefa Cup group stages.

The combative 27-year-old midfielder has been booked in each of his last three games, including the first leg of the European tie with Israeli side Hapoel Bnei Sakhnin, which also saw Nicky Butt sent off for a clash with Abas Suan two minutes after coming on as a substitute. Both Butt and Suan will miss Thursday night's return fixture in Israel with the Newcastle man also sitting out the first two games of the next stage should his side progress.

However, while Souness knows he could lose a player with European experience, he will not restrict Bowyer.

"There's a very thin dividing line," he said. "You want people to be competitive - if I have to turn around and ask him to be less competitive, I think you'd be taking a great deal away from his game. In midfield, it can be a frantic place to be in some games of football. You have to have your wits about you, and I think he's got that. I think he enjoys that part of the game, and long may it continue."

Bowyer endured a difficult start to his career on Tyneside, struggling to force his way into the side under Sir Bobby Robson following his free transfer move last summer and only rediscovered his form at the end of a tough campaign. However, he has started the last five games - the last four of them victories - to remind his team-mates and the club's supporters of his battling qualities and ability.

Bowyer took the Champions' League by storm in Leeds' run in 2001, and, as he flew off to Tel Aviv yesterday for Thursday night's game at the national Ramat Gan Stadium, Souness was hoping for yet more. "In the short time I've been here, he's done really well, and we just need more of the same," Souness said.

The strikers Craig Bellamy and Patrick Kluivert were both included in an 18-man party which flew out from Newcastle International Airport, although both limped off on Saturday with injuries.

Kluivert, who scored his fourth goal in as many starts in the 3-1 Premiership victory against West Bromwich Albion, has recovered from tightness in the hamstrings, while Bellamy looks likely to shake off an ankle problem.

Shola Ameobi was left behind and expects to discover today the extent of his hip problem. Titus Bramble and Ronny Johnsen continue to work on a return to full-match fitness. Kieron Dyer is likely to be out for another four weeks with a hamstring injury.

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