Souness hoping to keep Yeading out of limelight

The Newcastle manager Graeme Souness has warned his players not to underestimate non-league Yeading when they meet in the FA Cup next month.

The Newcastle manager Graeme Souness has warned his players not to underestimate non-league Yeading when they meet in the FA Cup next month.

The Magpies were paired with the Ryman League side during Sunday's draw for the FA Cup third round in a fairy-tale fixture for the West London club.

The non-league side had considered switching the tie to St James' Park but it has now been confirmed that it will kick off at 12.30pm on January 8 at Yeading's Warren ground, where the capacity will be 2,300, with 1,500 places for home fans and 800 for the visitors.

The Ryman League club's secretary Bill Gritt said: "There are a few things we need to get done still, but I am quite confident we will get there.

"There is some segregation, tidying up, that sort of thing - but we know what we need to do and we will get it done.

"It is very important for us. It is a historic moment, and I am very proud to be involved in it. I will be quite happy to get a draw. A win would be unbelievable."

Souness is acutely aware of the potential for embarrassment, and few on Tyneside need any reminder of the club's humiliation at non-league Hereford in 1972 or their uncomfortable encounter with the Conference side Stevenage Borough in 1998.

"I don't even know where Yeading is, and while I have contacts in football throughout the world, I must admit I have nothing on them," Souness said. "It's a famous draw for them getting Newcastle United at home, but we don't want to make them even more famous.

"I have been on the wrong end of Cup upsets before. I was player-manager of Rangers when we were beaten 1-0 by Hamilton Academical, and in my latter days at Liverpool, Bristol City came up to Anfield in an FA Cup replay and beat us.

"Everybody knows that you can play games like this on the wrong day and suffer, but we have good players at Newcastle United. Good players should be able to adapt to playing under any conditions and I am confident we will be able to deal with this tie."

Yeading's initial reaction seemed to suggest they would like next month's tie switched to St James' Park, but it quickly emerged that the competition rules do not allow that.

"The FA Cup rules state that venues for FA Cup ties may only be switched for safety and security reasons, and in such cases, the alternative venue would be the nearest suitable ground," an FA spokesman said.

The game is likely to be televised, with the BBC having the choice of games in the third round, and the Saturday evening slot is the favourite.

Before facing Yeading, Souness and his players must bounce back from Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Premiership leaders Chelsea. Despite starting quite brightly, they crumbled late in the game.

For striker Patrick Kluivert, once again teamed with Craig Bellamy in attack in the absence of the captain Alan Shearer, it proved a particularly frustrating experience.

"It was a frustrating afternoon for everyone connected with Newcastle," he said. "Before the game, we had a good feeling that we could get something at Chelsea - and even at half-time, we still felt that. But it was different after the game. We have to be realistic, though, 4-0 wasn't really a fair result."

Shearer is likely to return from his thigh strain against Pompey on Saturday and that will leave Souness with a major decision to make over which of his three main strikers to field from the start.

Souness has insisted Shearer remains key to his side's hopes of success this season.

The Scot spoke out amid continued speculation over who will lead the line for the Magpies as they attempt to get their campaign back on track, and suggestions that the 34-year-old could be sacrificed, particularly for away games.

Shearer has missed the last four matches with a thigh injury but seems certain to return to the starting line-up when Portsmouth head for St James' Park on Saturday.

That is a game the Magpies must win if their fading hopes of Champions League qualification are to remain alive - and with the former England captain once again leading the way with 10 goals so far this season, Souness is likely to use him for this crucial fixture.

The manager described claims that Shearer - who has not scored from open play in an away game in the league since October last year - could be confined to the role of substitute for the rest of the final year of his career as "absolute nonsense".

The suggestions surfaced as a result of Souness' difficulty in accommodating his three most dangerous players - Shearer, Bellamy and Kluivert - in the same team. "It's not what one individual wants," Souness said. "It's about what's best for this football club."

Newcastle's defender Andy O'Brien has been dealt a fresh injury blow. The Republic of Ireland international missed the last four games with a hamstring injury and has now picked up a calf injury in training. "It's a blow to us because had he been ready to come back it would have given us an extra choice for Saturday," Souness added.

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