Souness steeled for Stockport

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The Independent Online
Graeme Souness believes Southampton are heading for another field of nightmares, but he has promised his players will be geared up for the Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final match at Second Division Stockport tonight, no matter what the state of the ground.

Souness was angry at the condition of the Reading pitch on Saturday when his Premiership side were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round. He knows Edgeley Park in mid-winter will be no place for the faint-hearted.

He said: "I have told the players the pitch at Stockport will be worse than at Reading and that was bone hard. Reading is now a thing of the past and we have a great chance to get into the semi-finals.

"If I was the Stockport manager David Jones I would be telling my players that Southampton don't fancy this match one little bit. But he is wrong."

Souness has pledged to make changes after the shattering defeat at Elm Park, knowing another setback at a Nationwide League side would spark a crisis at The Dell. Defender Simon Charlton is set to take over from Matthew Robinson, while striker Egil Ostenstad needs a fitness test on an infected toe, although Matthew Oakley is available after recovering from a chest infection.

Stockport, who go into the biggest game in their history having lost only twice in 27 games, contest a quarter-final place in a major cup competition for the first time. However, Jones admits it is nonsense to talk of his side being favourites. He said: "Don't forget Southampton are still a Premiership side full of internationals who not so long ago thrashed the double winners Manchester United.

"Certainly if we play to our full potential we've definitely got a chance of beating them. We proved that we are a match for anyone in the games against Blackburn and West Ham."

Stockport have been out of action since a 3-2 Boxing Day victory at Wrexham, having had three matches postponed. The enforced break has enabled defender Sean Connelly to recover from a broken toe and striker Alun Armstrong to rest a niggling ankle injury.

Tom Bennett is available again after a two-match suspension and is likely to replace Tony Dinning in midfield.

"We feel the break has done us good," said Jones, who faced Souness in his playing days at Everton and Coventry.

"I am sure Graeme will have his players fired up as he was a winner as a player. You could see by how upset he was after the defeat at Reading on Saturday that he wants to be a winner as a manager.

"But I am not worrying about them, I'd rather they would worry about us. You can get bogged down by going into too many details about the opposition."

A secret Uefa investigation team, in existence for the last five months, will examine new allegations of widespread corruption and match-fixing said to be exposed in a French judiciary report into the Tapie-Marseille affair.

The identities of the three man tribunal are not being revealed to prevent any undue influence being exerted. Uefa also said yesterday it was looking into something they had learnt about the Belgian side Club Brugge, but the club categorically denied any wrongdoing.

The Uefa spokesman, Frits Ahlstrom, said: "We have learned something about Club Brugge and we will look into it. We always do, that is our policy. But we can only look into such matters after we've received an official report. We cannot do something just on newspaper reports."

Club Bruges' secretary-general, Jacques Denolf, said: "This is nonsense. We have nothing to do whatsoever with irregularities regarding our two matches with Marseille." Brugge and Marseille met twice in the European Cup in the 1992-93 season, Brugge losing 3-0 away in Marseille and 1- 0 at home.

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