Souness to confront Bellamy over abuse

Charlton Athletic 1 - Newcastle United 1
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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness was last night facing his first serious disciplinary issue since becoming Newcastle United's manager following an outburst by Craig Bellamy over being substituted midway through the second half at The Valley.

Graeme Souness was last night facing his first serious disciplinary issue since becoming Newcastle United's manager following an outburst by Craig Bellamy over being substituted midway through the second half at The Valley.

Bellamy, whose first-half header had given Newcastle the lead, was withdrawn by Souness in the 66th minute, and appeared to mouth the words "you f***ing prick" in the direction of the man who took over from Sir Bobby Robson last month with a mission to tighten up discipline at the club.

"I didn't see it, but I can understand players not being happy," Souness said. "I'll look at it and ask him if it was directed at me and I'll let you know what happens."

The former Liverpool player and manager described the decision to withdraw his Wales forward as "common sense", given his recent involvement in successive games for his country, adding that he was not in top physical or psychological shape.

"If you are a top player what you are going to have is a big ego, but you have to be prepared to be substituted," Souness added. "It's up to me to make the right decision to keep myself in a job."

Souness is hardly doing a bad job so far ­ this result extended his unbeaten Premiership record in charge at St James' Park to seven matches, and lifted the team into the top half of the table. And although Souness was guilty of severe disciplinary lapses as a player, he appears to be on a collision course with Bellamy ­ who has had numerous problems both on and off the pitch in recent years ­ given the disciplinarian managerial style he now adopts.

When Souness arrived at St James' Park, there was a general assumption that his first task was to sort out the culture of indiscipline affecting some of the club's younger players, and he immediately imposed measures such as Sunday training and drinking restrictions.

Generally, however, Souness professed himself pleased with the "grit and determination" his side had shown in a full-blooded match that demonstrated many of the old-fashioned virtues.

Like his counterpart, Alan Curbishley, he described the draw as "a fair result", although there was a shade of regret that Newcastle had not been able to capitalise upon the lead they took six minutes before half-time when Bellamy headed home at the near post after Olivier Bernard concluded a string of thoughtful passes with a perfectly measured cross from the left.

But the home side drew level after just six minutes of the second half when Luke Young's long ball forward was headed on by Shaun Bartlett and a slumbering defence allowed it to bounce invitingly for Kevin Lisbie, who hooked it over the head of the oncoming Andy O'Brien, rounded the Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given and drove in a shot which the recovering O'Brien could only divert more firmly into the net.

Charlton, wearing a special kit to celebrate the club's centenary, might have claimed the points three minutes from time when Alan Shearer chested Jonathan Fortune's shot off the line and Matt Holland hit the post from the clearance.

Newcastle, however, could point to a goal-line clearance five minutes earlier, when Danny Murphy ­ singled out for praise afterwards by Curbishley following the criticism he has received from some home fans ­ kicked Shearer's header away.

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