Gump grabs United glory

Steven Taylor was last night labelled the Forrest Gump of Tyneside after the defender headed his team into the last 32 of the Uefa Cup with his first goal in Newcastle colours.

Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor was last night labelled the Forrest Gump of Tyneside after the defender headed his team into the last 32 of the Uefa Cup with his first goal in Newcastle colours.

The 20-year-old struck four minutes from the end to secure a 2-1 win against Celta Vigo and, having celebrated with an unstoppable dash from one end of the pitch to the other, he earned an unfortunate moniker from his appreciative team-mates.

Taylor's priceless contribution ensured the club's Continental campaign will continue into 2007. And although his new nickname is certain to stick, the popular stopper departed St James's Park with a broad grin on his face.

"It was his first goal and I think he let everyone in the stadium know that it was his first goal," said Glenn Roeder, whose side remain unbeaten in 11 cup fixtures this season. "I heard some shouts in the dressing room about Forrest Gump when I got back in there. I don't know what all that was about but I know Steven has enjoyed himself. Good luck to him."

The night started badly for Newcastle when Fabio Canobbio fired the visitors into a ninth-minute lead.

But Antoine Sibierski restored parity just before half-time and Taylor headed a dramatic winner to spark celebrations that reminded his team-mates of the Hollywood character played by Tom Hanks who was renowned for his enthusiastic running.

Having already beaten Fenerbahce and Palermo in their Group H campaign, the Magpies have maintained their 100% record to secure progression to the last 32.

A point in Frankfurt next week would be enough to ensure Roeder's men finish on top of the standings.

"It (qualification) is very satisfying, especially having beaten a team of Celta Vigo's calibre," said the Magpies boss. "They have had some very good victories recently, especially away from home. To beat a team that won away at Real Madrid, and to do it after going behind, is a special victory for us. To have won all three games in the group is very important to us."

Qualification is guaranteed. But should Newcastle lose to Eintracht, and Fenerbahce win their remaining two fixtures, the Istanbul team could still pip United on goal difference.

It is a situation Roeder is keen to avoid, with the seeding system ensuring group winners cannot meet teams entering the competition from the Champions League in the next round.

With the likes of Barcelona, Roma and Werder Bremen all in danger of joining the Uefa Cup in February, finishing first could be ofvital importance to black-and-white prospects.

Of more immediate concern is this weekend's Premiership fixture against Portsmouth and, having done so well in European competition, United must start to produce in the league.

"Sunday is of vital importance to us," said Roeder. "It is so important to get three points and move up the table. It's mystifying why we have got such good results in Europe but not in the Premiership. It is frustrating for everyone involved with the club and it's something we must address."

Emre and Nicky Butt both suffered minor knocks last night but both are expected to recover in time to face Portsmouth. Obafemi Martins, Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer should return to the starting line-up, although it remains to be seen who Roeder will leave out.

"It is nice that the players who have been given an opportunity (in Europe) have taken up the challenge," said the United boss. "It is unfair on those who have played to suggest others might have done better. They could not have done better than winning all three games and taking nine points, could they?"

Roeder declared himself "satisfied" with Albert Luque's performance and said: "He played his part in the team as I wanted him to. I haven't used him in a wide position before but he knows the role and he gave what I expected of him."

The United boss also praised Sibierski, whose fourth goal in Newcastle colours was another important one. He added: "Maybe people didn't expect much from Antoine because he didn't cost anything. But I watched him at Lens when I was at West Ham and I almost bought him then, so I knew what to expect. I feel very fortunate to have got him without paying any money. He has proved he is a very important member of the squad, and has chipped in with some important goals."


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Damien Duff has undergone knee surgery in London. The Irishman yesterday had an operation to correct a cartilage problem he suffered at Arsenal last weekend and, although no timescale has been put on his recovery, he is expected to spend several weeks on the sidelines.

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