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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 10, 2006

Roeder gives backing to Toon chief Shepherd

Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder has leapt to the defence of chairman Freddy Shepherd as he attempts to improve the Magpies' Barclays Premiership fortunes.

Shepherd, who was targeted by disgruntled fans after last Saturday's painful surrender against Sheffield United at St James' Park, insisted in the wake of that debacle that the club's decline in the league was a 'blip' and backed Roeder to get it right.

Whether or not that amounted to the dreaded vote of confidence remains to be seen as some commentators wait for a chairman who has a reputation for readily wielding the axe - something he denies, insisting he has sacked only two managers - to add another casualty to the list.

However, as Roeder and his players head into a crucial clash with Manchester City at Eastlands tomorrow, there was a message of unity emerging from St James' Park.

Roeder said: 'The thing is, everyone who supports Newcastle and loves Newcastle has to know the chairman, like us, is hurting greatly as well.

'He does not want to see us where we are, none of us do. He is the head, the leader at Newcastle and he is suffering like we are about our position in the Premiership.

'He is very happy with the cup form. It is a complete mystery why it should have worked out like it has so far this year.

'But we have got to continue with our good cup form and turn the good Premiership performances into victories.

'When you are playing well and you do not win, it is very disappointing; but as we showed last Saturday, if you do not play well, you definitely will not.'

Tuesday night's nail-biting penalty shoot-out victory at Watford took the Magpies into the Carling Cup quarter-finals, and with qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup just a point away, they are prospering outside the Premiership, in which they lie in 19th place.

Roeder knows that is a situation which cannot continue, and he admits he is at a loss to explain the disparity.

He said: 'People keep asking me, `What is the difference?', and I honestly cannot tell them.

'We set out to win every game, yet in the Premiership, that has not worked out. We have either missed chances or defended poorly after dominating games.

'Yet in the cups, that has not happened. We have always managed a good result.

'It is an absolute must tomorrow. There is nothing more important than picking up Premiership points over the next few weeks, starting at Manchester City.'

Newcastle's only tangible success in recent years has come via the league, with last season's seventh-place finish earning them European football, although simply increasing their hunger for a return to the days when, under Sir Bobby Robson, they finished in the top five in three successive campaigns.

But with no trophy having arrived at St James' Park since 1969, and no domestic prize for 14 years before that, Roeder admits that ending that drought and a Premiership recovery could yet make for a good season.

Roeder said: 'We have not won a domestic cup since 1955 - it is easy for me to remember that because it was the year I was born.

'We have got to make sure in the coming weeks and months that we get ourselves up into a position in the Premiership that is away from where we are at the moment and we are not looking over our shoulders at all.

'But to win a cup this year would be fantastic. The fans would love that and I think they would accept if we climbed back above halfway in the Premiership on the back of winning something. With the size of the squad and the amount of games, they would see that as a good season.'

Roeder could be boosted by the return of both midfielder Kieron Dyer and striker Shola Ameobi from injury after both resumed training this week.