Souness hopeful Dyer will be fit to torment Boro

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle United manager, Graeme Souness, is hoping Kieron Dyer can complete his rehabilitation and belatedly making their derby rivals Middlesbrough pay for his frustration.

The Newcastle United manager, Graeme Souness, is hoping Kieron Dyer can complete his rehabilitation and belatedly making their derby rivals Middlesbrough pay for his frustration.

The 26-year-old England midfielder refused to play out of position against the Teessiders at the Riverside Stadium on the opening day of the season, prompting the then manager, Sir Bobby Robson, to drop him from the squad.

Dyer's actions resulted in a broadside from fans which continued long after the 72-year-old's departure. But it is a measure of the extent to which Dyer has reinvented himself that the whole of Tyneside is hoping he has shaken off the hamstring injury which has kept him out of the last three games, along with his ban for fighting with team-mate Lee Bowyer, to line up at St James' Park tonight.

Dyer's current contract - reputedly worth £60,000 a week - is due to expire at the end of next season. Souness is hopeful the club can negotiate a new deal with a man he believes can play a vital role as an attacking force in the years to come, and that would seal a remarkable turnaround for a player who looked to have ensured the end of his spell on Tyneside in August.

Souness said: "I have always been an admirer of Kieron - I think anyone who knows about football would admire him when he is playing well.

"People tell me he is playing the best football of his career in the last few months. I do not see him as a ball-winning midfield player, I see him as someone who we have to get in the last third of the pitch.

"He has played four games for me up front and scored three goals. He looks threatening when we get him into the last third, so long-term, I would see him more as a, without using the word striker, certainly someone who will play further up the field."

The baggage that comes along with Dyer is well-known, although Souness insists he has had no problems with him.

Souness said: "Apart from him peeing in the street and a visit to the police station, he has been spot-on for me."

The hope with which Dyer's prospective return is being anticipated is a reflection of the selection crisis which is rapidly transforming Newcastle's season from disappointing to disastrous, and Souness will once again be without the suspended Bowyer, as well as the injured Celestine Babayaro, Titus Bramble, Nicky Butt, Aaron Hughes and Jermaine Jenas.

They have lost their last five games, all of them away from home and including a Uefa Cup quarter-final and an FA Cup semi-final, on the trot, and desperately need to take maximum points from tonight and Crystal Palace at the weekend if they are not to slide further from 14th place.

It has been a testing time for Souness, and he admits that he has learnt a lot from it. "I have learnt that it is quite unique here on Tyneside. I have had to endure - and I think it is endure - like the supporters have, it has been difficult at times.

"It has been a difficult season at times, things I have not had to put up with in previous jobs - but I was warned about that before I came here," Souness said. "I have managed big clubs in the past and this is a very big football club."

But asked what he had learnt about himself, he added: "Absolutely nothing. I know what I am made of."

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