Starlets, call ups and retirements

Last updated : 03 November 2002 By Martyn Elliott

The Evening Chronicle yesterday ran a story claiming that Sir Bobby has decided not to retire in May, but will definitely stand down at the end of the 2003-2004 season.

The report offers absolutely nothing in the way of quotes or evidence to back this up, but again speculates that Freddy Shepherd is keen to appoint a Geordie, preferably Alan Shearer, as Sir Bobby’s successor.

I would love to see Shearer in charge at some point in the future, but preferably after working for a more experienced manager. Steve McClaren would be my choice to succeed Sir Bobby – if you look at what he’s done at Boro, imagine what he could do with a big club.

It also compares Shearer to Sir Alex Ferguson, they may both be winners but the comparison still seems a little harsh on Al.

Steve Harper has revealed that he still harbours an ambition to become England’s number one.

He rarely plays for us, but with such a shortage of good English keepers around the idea is not as strange as it first seems. Steve certainly wouldn’t let anyone down if Sven gave him the chance.

Sir Bobby spoke to the Journal about Harper: "If Harper had been playing regularly, who can say he would not be in with a shout for England?

"He is English and you would not say anyone else is better than Harper."

Steve himself said: "It's been very tough, I'm not the sort of person to go hammering on the manager's door and I couldn't really because last season I was kept out by the best goalkeeper in the Premiership, as voted by his fellow players.

"Monday to Friday I'm fine, I love my training. But then at the weekend like any pro that doesn't play it's disappointing.

"But it's a massive club, this is where I'm from, so it's worth the wait to play in big games like the Champions League.

"Obviously, the longer it goes on the more difficult it's going to be. But goalkeepers peak in their thirties and I'm still only 27. This club seems to be going places again so it's a good place to be.

"There's a lot of good England goalkeepers out there but people say to me that I have a chance of that and if I could get in the team here and stay in, who knows what could happen?"

Michael Chopra now looks certain to make his debut against Everton on Wednesday night, after Sir Bobby revealed that he is unlikely to field many of the players who face the smoggies on Monday night.

"I would not be afraid to put Chopra in," said Sir Bobby.

"Only by putting him in will we find out about him. He is doing well in the reserves, doing as well as anyone.

"I don't think I can play too many of the same players for the two games (Middlesbrough on Monday, Everton on Wednesday), so I will have to use different members of the squad.

"Hugo Viana needs to play and there will be others," he continued.

"Dabizas will play on Wednesday but not on Monday and I have to look at the strikers.

"It might be expecting too much for Alan to play on Wednesday because we have Arsenal after that, so we will have to look at how Alan is after Monday.

"I will play my best side against Middlesbrough because that is very important, and then see what happens during the game and after the game.

"I will play the best team we can for the Worthington Cup because I respect the competition."

The Worthington Cup is definitely worth winning, just ask Blackburn as they entertain Celtic in the UEFA Cup next week, but the opportunity to see the likes of Chopra, Viana and Caldwell (as well as Wayne Rooney) certainly makes this tie more interesting.

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