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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

Toon boss facing FA charge

Newcastle United boss Joe Kinnear could face an FA charge after being asked to explain his "Mickey Mouse" comments about referee Martin Atkinson.

Football Association disciplinary chiefs have written to the 61-year-old, who has a week to respond, and then a decision will be taken on whether or not further action is required.

An FA spokesman said: "The FA have confirmed they have written to Joe Kinnear to ask him to explain his comments about referee Martin Atkinson following the game at Fulham."

Kinnear reacted furiously after Atkinson failed to award his side a free-kick in the run-up to Fulham's decisive penalty in the 2-1 win over the Magpies at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

Speaking at his post-match press conference, he said: "[Claudio] Cacapa was on the ball and [Andy] Johnson completely pushes him out the way, nicks the ball and gets the penalty.

"We have got the Mickey Mouse referee doing nothing. He's made an error that cost us."

Ironically, Atkinson was also the official confronted by Sunderland boss Roy Keane at half-time at Stamford Bridge eight days earlier, an exchange which ultimately brought the Irishman an improper conduct charge.

It is not the first time Kinnear has been asked to explain himself after voicing his opinion of a referee.

He spent his first two games in charge at Newcastle watching from the stands as he served a two-match touchline ban dating back almost four years to his time in charge at Nottingham Forest.

The penalty was imposed after he, by his own admission, called another official "Coco the Clown".

Kinnear has already received a letter from the FA this season reminding him of his responsibilities following the now infamous press conference in which he made his feelings towards sections of the national press clear in his own inimitable fashion.

The most recent development represents just another twist in the Tyneside soap opera on a day when the city awoke to read reports that the odds on former skipper Alan Shearer returning to St James' Park as manager had plummeted yesterday amid suggestions that two American consortia are vying to buy out owner Mike Ashley.

However, sources close to Shearer were quick to insist he knew nothing about the rumours.

Indeed, talk of an imminent take-over - Kinnear has suggested the picture will become clearer after the Chelsea game on November 22 - is being taken with a pinch of salt on Gallowgate despite the apparent interest from the United States.

Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce, which has been asked to fund a buyer, has hinted that the current economic climate means a sale could take some time yet.

In addition, American businessman Clark Hunt, who owns FC Dallas and NFL franchise the Kansas City Chiefs, has distanced himself from the Magpies amid speculation over the identities of the potential purchasers.

Kinnear, however, can concentrate only on on-the-field matters, and he will hope one problem will be resolved ahead of Saturday's must-win Barclays Premier League clash with Wigan at St James'.

Defender Steven Taylor missed the trip to Fulham with a groin problem, and was replaced by a rusty-looking Cacapa.

The England Under-21 skipper is determined to return for the weekend, but knows he cannot take any risks.

He said: "I am just taking things day by day, but I will be disappointed if I am not available for selection on Saturday.

"There were fears that it might be a hernia, which would have meant weeks if not months on the sidelines, but fortunately that has not proved to be the case."

The news is not so good, however, for midfielder Igancio Gonzalez, the Uruguayan controversially brought in on loan at the end of the summer transfer window.

Gonzalez, 26, has undergone surgery on an Achilles problem and will be out of action for four months, meaning he is unlikely to add significantly to the 38 minutes of senior football he has played for the club before his season-long deal draws to a close.

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