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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Newcastle chief laughs off Eriksson 'text talk'

Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has laughed off claims that he contacted England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson about coming to St James' Park in the summer - and eased the immediate pressure on manager Graeme Souness.

A News of the World report today claimed Shepherd had sent a text message to the Swede.

But Shepherd told Newcastle's website: 'I must have amnesia as I can't remember sending a text message to Mr Eriksson - in fact I don't even have his number so I'd love to see this message.

'All I can say is that I'd like to wish Mr Eriksson well with England in the summer, and good luck for whatever he chooses to do after that.'

Souness has learned during his time at Newcastle that it is a rare day when his club is not in the headlines.

Too often for the Scot, it has not been good news which has provided his breakfast-time reading, and it was with a sense of relief that he left Cheltenham's Whaddon Road ground on Saturday after the Magpies negotiated a potentially tricky FA Cup fourth-round clash.

The pressure on Souness mounted after he emerged from a meeting with Shepherd on Monday. His job appeared safe but he knew that defeat by League Two Cheltenham would not be good for his health.

In the end, Newcastle ran out comfortable winners as goals from Michael Chopra and Scott Parker inside two minutes just before half-time won the day.

However, £8million defender Jean-Alain Boumsong was given an uncomfortable afternoon by Nigerian-born striker Kayode Odejayi, who left him for dead four times before the break and with greater composure might have punished Newcastle.

Odejayi should have ensured a nervy conclusion for Newcastle's multi-millionaires when he escaped once again 13 minutes from time and rounded Shay Given, only to fire wide of an empty net.

Wednesday night's league trip to Manchester City and the quest for a first Premiership win in six attempts is a big priority for Souness.

'Our league form has been very up and down this year and we need to try to use this as a platform now to go and produce good results in the league,' said Parker, who made his comeback despite being up since 4am on the day of the game with a stomach bug.

The former Chelsea midfielder's strike was his first for the club, although he admitted he did not know a great deal about it after defender Jerry Gill blasted the ball straight at him in an attempt to clear.

'I was very surprised, I wasn't expecting it,' he said. 'I just made the run into the box and Peter (Ramage) put the ball in. The lad went to clear it and it just hit me in the chest. But they all count.'

Souness will hope the win does provide a platform, while opposite number John Ward has urged his players to take a creditable performance into their fight for promotion.

'The occasion has been fantastic for the whole town and we hopefully have made people see us in a good light - particularly the locals, whom we'd like to come back and watch us a few more times,' he said.

'But we need to come in on Monday morning and we have to get our heads around the trip to Peterborough and we have another 17 big efforts in our league.

'Saturday was our 41st game of the season and our 12th cup tie, so we have had a tremendous run and a tremendous number of games.'