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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 12, 2006

Hughes backing Neill despite fans' fury

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes has promised Lucas Neill his full support.

The Australia defender, widely tipped to join Liverpool next month, came under fire from some supporters in the home defeat by Newcastle.

Hughes, however, is in no doubt about Neill's commitment to the club while he continues to wear the colours.

'Lucas has never knocked on my door and stated he wants to go,' said the Blackburn boss, preparing his team for the UEFA Cup game against Nancy tomorrow.

'I was made aware that some people in the crowd may have questioned his position in the team.

'That is a very small minority.

'Lucas, along with everyone else, put in a great second-half performance to really affect the game. He was excellent and came out of the match with great credit.

'If Lucas continues to perform like that I will continue to play him.'

Central defender Andy Todd looks certain to be recalled to the starting line-up against Nancy, after coming off the bench at the weekend.

Stephane Henchoz is ineligible, while Zurab Khizanishvili remains troubled by a groin injury.

Hughes said: 'I thought Andy did well when he came on against Newcastle.

'He was calm when he had to be and strong when he had to be.

'There could be a real opportunity for him against Nancy.'

Blackburn know only a victory will do against the French side if they are to top Group E and avoid a team that has dropped out of Champions League.

Hughes believes they can reverse their poor domestic form - six defeats in eight games - and achieve that goal.

He said: 'Our objective is clear. We need a win, and we will have a real go.

'People expect the Champions League teams to be a bigger test, but the UEFA Cup is strong in its own right.

'This is a huge period for us, with a lot of games in the next few weeks.

'But we cannot afford to make wholesale changes tomorrow, because the opposition is so good.

'Nancy have a lot of quality and like to put teams under pressure. It should be a stiff test for us.'

However like Blackburn, Nancy have suffered a dip in form - winning just one of the last five league games and slipping to seventh in the table.

Uruguayan coach Pablo Correa is expected to name an experimental line-up, because he has a number of key players injured.

They have already proved their pedigree in the group by beating Feyenoord and Wisla Krakow.

Correa told his club website: 'Like in all competitions, we want to finish top and we are looking for a good result.

'There is still something to play for in this match.'