Souness has faith in Faye to revitalise Newcastle

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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness, the Newcastle United manager, is facing another injury crisis as he attempts to lift his club out of trouble. The Scot was pleased with the way his depleted side responded to their Carling Cup defeat at Wigan Athletic last week in Saturday's 1-1 Premiership draw with Aston Villa despite missing Michael Owen, Kieron Dyer, Emre, Celestine Babayaro, Steven Taylor, Stephen Carr and Charles N'Zogbia, and with Albert Luque sitting on the bench.

However, speculation persists that Souness's time at St James' Park is drawing to a close after just 15 months - he has played down talk of a return to Rangers when or if Alex McLeish gets the sack - and he heads into Saturday's visit of Arsenal to Tyneside still under pressure.

Yet again he will be forced to use the full depth of his squad with Emre and N'Zogbia already ruled out and Babayaro completing a three-match suspension. Owen's chances of playing hang in the balance, while hopes of Taylor, Carr and Dyer being fit appear to be receding.

Owen has missed the last four games with a groin injury - Newcastle have only scored a penalty in his absence - while Taylor has been sidelined since dislocating his shoulder on England Under-21 duty last month, and is still several weeks away from being fit.

Souness has already paid for rushing players back from injury during his time at Newcastle, with Dyer and Titus Bramble both succumbing during last season's Uefa Cup quarter-final trip to Sporting Lisbon, and Dyer and Emre breaking down before half-time in the 2-0 home defeat by Manchester United in August.

Should Newcastle's fitness problems continue, Senegal international midfielder Amdy Faye is likely to be one of the beneficiaries, and he is relishing the chance to make his mark.

Faye returned to the starting line-up against Villa and had one of is better games for the club he joined for £2m from Portsmouth in January.

"I want to show the fans what I can do," he said. "This is a big club and I want to do well here. The manager brought me to the club and he has faith in me. Now I hope I can get a run of games in the team, and I am confident we can start winning again soon.

"I had been struggling with my ankle for a while," he admitted. "I would say I have only been about 70 or 80 per cent fit.

"I felt the pressure because it was important for me personally to come in and do well for the team. Now I hope to stay in the side at the weekend when we play Arsenal. We take the positives from the game against Villa and, while Arsenal will be tough for us, we hope to get the three points."

Faye has had a difficult start to his career on Tyneside, but Souness launched a passionate defence of the African after last Saturday's game.

"There seems to be a general feeling that Amdy Faye is not a very good football player," Souness said. "I felt he was the best player on the park and, being a midfield player -- and regarded by some as quite a good midfield player as a central midfield player - I'm telling you Amdy Faye is a good player. I do not think there are many midfield players who would enjoy playing against Amdy Faye."

Faye and his team-mates know they face a major task, both against Arsenal and to achieve their aim of a top-six finish this season, but he is determined to play his part.

"It has been tough over the last few weeks," Faye said. "We have a lot of competition in midfield, especially in the middle where I play.

"We are all professionals though, we know what the situation is. You cannot just have 11 players in the squad. You always get injuries and suspensions and you have to be ready to come in when you are called upon."

The Newcastle defender Peter Ramage agreed it had been a difficult week. "It has been tough, but we are all grown men, we are all taking it on the chin and we tried to rectify that on Saturday," he said.

"We went a little way to doing that. Obviously it would have been better if we had won but we got a point and now we have got to try to regroup and build on it for the weekend."