Souness stands by 'intelligent' tactics

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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness, the Newcastle United manager, has promised an "intelligent" response to his tactical dilemma in a rebuke to his critics on Tyneside.

Newcastle were booed off at half-time and full-time against Charlton Athletic on Saturday when a 1-1 draw further undermined their prospects of qualifying for Europe.

Souness has taken those members of his squad not on international duty this week to Dubai for a mid-season training camp. But as the fall-out continued back in the North-east, he was adamant that his way would work and urged the supporters to show patience.

"I can't understand how the boos can help our cause," he said. "You have to look at the team that's dominating the Premiership at the moment - Chelsea. They have won 1-0 eight or nine times. We have to be able to win 1-0.

"The fans pay their money and are entitled to say whatever they want," Souness added. "But I have to say that I thought some of our football was very intelligent.

"Football these days is more like a game of chess than ever, and we have to live with it. Teams come to St James' Park and show us an enormous amount of respect. You have to chase games in an intelligent manner.

"My players have had a go in every game they've played, and I don't care who disagrees. I'd say there have only been two or three games in which we've been poor since I've been at this club."

There has been discontent among supporters at the decision by Souness to relegate Laurent Robert to the bench. However popular Robert may be, Souness is unrepentant about his decision. He even admitted that it had been a mistake to introduce the French winger and the Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert into the Charlton game during the final quarter.

"Making the substitutions didn't help our cause," said Souness. "That was wrong of me. They raided down our left-hand side after that and could have scored two or three goals."

The recruitment of defensive midfielder Amdy Faye, coupled with Craig Bellamy's departure on loan to Celtic and Robert's marginalisation, have sparked a debate over how Souness intends Newcastle to play in the long term.

Supporters have been treated to a more cavalier approach from former managers Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson. Souness insists his side is still set up to play adventurous football, but they have scored only six goals in their last seven Premiership games.

Despite the drive for greater resilience at the back, they have conceded the same number. Souness has repeated his belief that there are no such things as wingers in the modern game - he prefers the term "wide-working players" - and hinted that the change of emphasis will continue.

"I've inherited a group of players, and I can't change everything at once," he said. "First of all, we have not got the money to sign eight or nine players. We have to be patient, and the biggest headache I've got is replacing a player who scores 25 goals a season, Alan Shearer. That's the biggest issue for us."

The trip to Dubai has given Souness and his players a chance to address their problems away from the limelight and help to foster a new camaraderie. He is confident that the initiative will pay dividends. "It's been good," Souness said. "They've all been working hard. We've got the balance just right, and there's a togetherness. That's the big plus we have got out of it. We have been talking about what we have to do and what they should be doing."

Meanwhile, former Newcastle favourite Chris Waddle has backed Souness in the row with Craig Bellamy. "These are problems not of Graeme's making, but he has to carry the can," Waddle said. "The decision to get rid of Bellamy was absolutely correct, otherwise the whole club would have come crashing down. You can't have one player running everything.

"Souness would have appeared weak and that would have been that. Luckily, the chairman, Freddy Shepherd, backed his manager to the hilt."