Woodgate eager to end trophy drought

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The Independent Football

Jonathan Woodgate is desperate to win this season's Uefa Cup to bring an end to Newcastle's 35-year trophy drought.

Jonathan Woodgate is desperate to win this season's Uefa Cup to bring an end to Newcastle's 35-year trophy drought.

The 24-year-old defender explained his £9m move from Leeds in January last year by insisting he had joined Newcastle to win trophies, but he has already seen both the Carling Cup and FA Cup pass his new club by this season. Failure to take advantage of their chance to qualify for the Champions' League saw another important avenue close, and the Uefa Cup was then seen as scant consolation.

However, as Sir Bobby Robson and his players prepare for tonight's fourth-round, second-leg tie with Real Mallorca in Palma with a 4-1 lead under their belts, there is a growing excitement within St James' Park.

"I know Newcastle fans and players have been saying this for a lot of years, but we want to win something and I think we've got a good chance of going all the way in this one," Woodgate said. "When we go out, the players have to be in the right frame of mind and we have to be looking to win the game.

"We know if we concede three goals, we could be out, and that would be a catastrophe. They've got experienced players and it's going to be tough. They will be no pushovers. We've got to pretend it's 0-0 at the start."

Woodgate's season has been punctuated by injury and a stomach problem, which required surgery back in September, is still troubling him.

However, he is working hard to return to full fitness and give himself a chance of making Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad for this summer's European Championship finals, and more club performances like the one against Charlton on Saturday will do his cause no harm.

"I want to play in every game," he said. "I'm always disappointed when I miss games. I'm doing exercises on my stomach all the time. The problem hasn't gone away, but I'm getting in games and hopefully I can now get in 20 in a row.

"I'm happy at Newcastle, I'm settled in and injuries apart, it's going well."

Robson knows how important a fully-fit Woodgate is to his team - he has started only 18 of the club's 41 games this season - and is desperate to see an end to his injury problems.

Newcastle have lost only three of their last 23 games in all competitions and have conceded 13 goals in the last 12, but have not kept a clean sheet in that period.

"There's no doubt I would place him as our number one centre-half and Andy O'Brien and Titus Bramble are doing very, very well, too," Robson said. "Had he played, you never know, we might have conceded one or two fewer goals, but our defensive record overall is quite good.

"We've conceded one goal a game, if you like, and in the Premiership overall, that's pretty consistent and I would think an exceptionally high level."

Robson will have to make one change at the back. Aaron Hughes is ruled out with a calf injury, O'Brien will move to right-back and Bramble will take his place in the middle alongside Woodgate, but it is in attack where the manager faces a bigger decision.

Craig Bellamy, who found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons yet again after an airport altercation with coach John Carver, is recovering from a hamstring injury but is far from certain to start. If he misses out, Shola Ameobi could retain his place in partnership with Alan Shearer.

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