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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 26, 2006

Newcastle's Parker set for FA Cup return?

Scott Parker is desperate to play his part in a Newcastle fightback after handing under-pressure manager Graeme Souness a huge boost.

Parker, 25, underwent knee cartilage surgery three weeks ago and has not played since the defeat to Tottenham on December 31, but the midfielder could be involved in the FA Cup fourth-round trip to Cheltenham on Saturday.

Parker's absence - along with injuries to Michael Owen, Emre, Kieron Dyer and Steven Taylor among a well-publicised casualty list - has coincided with a dreadful run of results which has left Souness clinging on to his job.

However, former Charlton and Chelsea player Parker is convinced once the Magpies' fitness problems start to abate - Emre and Shola Ameobi could also return at Whaddon Road, while Dyer is finally on the mend - things will start to turn.

'It has been hard watching from the sidelines over the last three weeks because obviously things haven't been going well for us,' he said. 'I'm not the best at watching games anyway, I always want to be involved, and it is harder when you can't make a contribution.

'I think all we can do is stick together as a squad and remain positive that we can pull through the situation we find ourselves in at the moment.

'But at the end of the day, all we can do is our best, and I don't think there is one occasion this year where we haven't done our best. In some games, we have been unlucky.

'Everyone knows we have had injuries, but as long as we give our all every time we go out there, then I think we will turn the corner.

'I know people will think it is the same stuff being said all the time, but we need to get the players back fit and we'll get through it.'

Parker, a £6.5million summer signing from Chelsea, made an excellent start to his career at St James' Park before injury struck, and having seen him return to full training on Wednesday Souness will be keen to have him back in the starting line-up as soon as possible.

Whether or not that happens on Saturday remains to be seen, although the midfielder will be happy to answer the manager's call if it comes.

'It's three weeks since I had the operation, so it has been pretty quick for me,' he told the club's official website, www.nufc.co.uk.

'A lot depended on the surgeon and the job he did, and the physios here have been brilliant with me.

'Everything has gone to plan. Normally you look at four to six weeks, but it has been a bit quicker than that for me.

'I haven't spoken to the manager yet, but I'll let him make the decision whether he starts me or puts me on the bench.'

With Dyer hoping to return to full training next week after finally getting to grips with the hamstring problems which have blighted his career and the illness which hampered his recovery, things are finally starting to look at little brighter for Souness.

The Scot emerged from his brief meeting with chairman Freddy Shepherd on Monday claiming he still has his full support, although there has been no public confirmation and a tricky FA Cup tie is looming.

Souness, however, is remaining positive and concentrating solely on the immediate task at hand.

'I'd imagine most of the nation will be hoping we come unstuck at Cheltenham,' he said. 'The BBC are there with their cameras, so they will be hoping that we come unstuck as it will make for great television.

'If you're not a Newcastle United fan, then I'd guess you will be shouting for Cheltenham. It will be a really difficult game. It is a banana skin and we have to understand that people like to see the big club come unstuck against the little club.

'I've been involved in games like this before, where the players you are facing have their eyes popping out of their heads with adrenaline from the very first minute. It will be a proper cup tie.'

Meanwhile, Newcastle have refused to comment on reports that Scottish giants Celtic are being lined up for skipper Alan Shearer's testimonial game.

Arrangements are underway to mark the 35-year-old striker's 10 seasons on Tyneside, which will draw to a close at the end of the current campaign, although they are being kept a closely-guarded secret.

Shearer needs just one more strike to establish a new record of 201 goals for the Magpies after equalling Jackie Milburn's total in the 1-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Mansfield earlier this month.