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Shearer and Magpies facing D-Day

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Finale bigger than a cup final - Shearer

PREMIER LEAGUE FINAL DAY
Date: Sunday, 24 May Kick-off: All 10 games start at 1600 BST
Coverage: Follow all the build-up and developments on the BBC Sport website from 1300 BST; Final Score on the red button/online from 1545-1900; Full match commentary from BBC Newcastle 95.4FM, BBC Radio Five from 1600 GMT; Highlights on Match of the Day at 2220-2350 BST on BBC One/online; Live TV coverage on Sky Sports


Newcastle boss Alan Shearer is refusing to contemplate relegation as he hopes to lead his side to a final-day escape.

The Magpies face Aston Villa for their last game of the season in the bottom three, with Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull also trying to avoid the drop.

A traumatic season has left Newcastle on the brink of relegation for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

But Shearer said: "I won't think about that. I will be as positive as possible and my players will be."

Defeat at Villa Park would confirm Newcastle's relegation to the second tier after 16 seasons in the Premier League.

To escape, the Magpies need results elsewhere to go in their favour.

A win would keep them up if Hull fail to take three points at home against champions Manchester United or Sunderland lose to Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.

If Hull were to lose then the Magpies would even avoid the drop by drawing at Villa.

Shearer remains positive despite winning only once - at home to Middlesbrough - in seven games since taking over.

He added: "We all know the stakes, we all know what we are playing for, but I still believe, I really do.

"We will see what happens. It's a massive game. But I am totally convinced we will get out of it, yes, and more importantly, so are my players.

"I'm confident we can go there and give our great fans something to shout about, I really am."

The Magpies have endured a tumultuous season with Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear, Chris Hughton and Shearer all in charge of first-team affairs at various points.

Kinnear was brought in as manager in the wake of Keegan's abrupt departure, but had to undergo heart surgery in in February. Hughton took the reins in the short-term before Shearer arrived for the final eight games of the season.

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Owner Mike Ashley came in for huge criticism from supporters in the wake of Keegan's departure in September and put the club up for sale, before changing his mind in December, while there have been several changes at boardroom level - including the exit of executive director Dennis Wise.

Former Newcastle chairman Sir John Hall believes the appointment of Wise was a major error.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Bringing in Dennis Wise was an absolute disaster. Absentee landlords like Wise are no good good for the club at all.

"But I have got a little bit of sympathy for Mike Ashley. He has wanted to take the club forward.

"But on reflection he has to ask himself whether Kevin Keegan was the right manager or whether it was a mistake.

"It didn't work out but I don't think Ashley deserves to be slagged off the way he has."

With Newcastle's Premier League survival resting on 90 minutes against Villa, Shearer says the size of the match is as big as any he has ever been involved in.

"It's bigger than a cup final, a hell of a lot bigger than a cup final," added Shearer.

"The question has been asked on four or five occasions over the last four or five games, 'is this the biggest game of your career?', and I keep answering, 'yes, because it's the next one'.

"We have asked the players to forget about what happened when we lost [1-0 at home] to Fulham last weekend, because it's gone, we can't change it.

"What we can change is this weekend and I believe if we go there and win, it will be a very very good day for us."

West Brom are already down, but two from Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Hull and Sunderland will join them in the Championship next season.

We'll keep fighting - Southgate

Boro must beat West Ham away to stand any chance of survival, while Sunderland, who are two points above Newcastle, face Chelsea at home.

The Teessiders have arguably the toughest task - not helped by their inferior goal difference - but boss Gareth Southgate dismissed suggestions that his players do not care as much as the fans.

"When I hear people say the players and staff don't care as much as the fans, I think that's nonsense," he said.

"We have nothing else in our lives, nothing else at all. Our hobby, our love is our work as well, so you live with it 24 hours a day.

"The supporters, they may not like the jobs they do, but football is their switch-off, and there is family as well.

"But for players and staff, you live with it all the time, it is constantly in your thoughts.

If we don't win on Sunday I will be slaughtered on Monday

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

"Of course, unless you have ever played or coached or managed or been involved in a football club, you won't understand that."

Hull are in a similar boat to Sunderland in that a victory will see them safe no matter what happens elsewhere.

The Tigers take on an understrength Manchester United, who are resting several key players ahead of their Champions League final next Wednesday, at the KC Stadium.

The likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Carrick have been omitted from the squad with Federico Macheda and Daniel Welbeck set to lead the United attack and Darren Gibson in midfield.

But Hull assistant boss Brian Horton says that does not make the game any easier for the Tigers.

"Whatever side they put out, it will be will be full of quality," he told BBC Sport.

"I've seen their reserves play numerous times this season and their second team play in the cup games and they have been fantastic.

Hull inspired by theatre trip - Brown

"We're trying to focus on ourselves. It's in our own hands, if we can beat United we're safe no matter what anyone else does."

City boss Phil Brown also says he is not concerned with Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Team selection where Manchester United are concerned will be very interesting. But as far as I am concerned we have to focus ourselves on trying to win the game at all costs.

"If we do that, earning another year in the Premier League is very achievable.

"We are challenging the champions of English football - and possibly the champions of Europe - and we have got to get something from this game, hopefully a win that will retain our Premier League status."

Ferguson, meanwhile, has reiterated that his side will be going to Hull to win.

"If we don't win on Sunday I will be slaughtered on Monday," he said. "It will be the worst thing that has ever happened to the British game.

"People will be complaining about me damaging the integrity of our league. But no-one should be unduly worried about our intentions.

I remember Bradford playing Liverpool and nobody gave Bradford a hope in hell, and they won 1-0, so it can always happen

Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia

"Ricky Sbragia worked here. He knows this club. He knows exactly what we will do. Gareth Southgate and Shearer played against us many times. They know exactly what it is like against Manchester United."

Sbragia, the Sunderland boss, is drawing inspiration from Bradford's remarkable escape from relegation in 2000 when David Wetherall's header sealed victory for City over Champions League-chasing Liverpool.

"I am confident we still stay in the Premier League, but we have got to go and do it," said Sbragia.

"I can remember Bradford playing Liverpool and nobody gave Bradford a hope in hell, and they won 1-0, so it can always happen.

"We have got to go out there and be a bit braver and take the game to them.

Hiddink pledges to play strong team

"Anything can happen in football, and we hope we can come out with a win."

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink is planning to field a strong team at the Stadium of Light in preparation for their FA Cup final against Everton a week later.

"I don't want to rest a lot of players because they need to maintain their physical shape and also the way we want them to play," he said.

"If I rest too many people then I don't think it's good preparation for Wembley."

WORK OUT WHO WILL SURVIVE ON SUNDAY WITH BBC SPORT'S PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTOR



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Barclays Premier League Table
01 February 2010 22:00
    P GD PTS
1 Chelsea 23 38 54
2 Man Utd 24 36 53
3 Arsenal 24 32 49
4 Tottenham 24 20 42

5 Liverpool 24 16 41

6 Man City 22 14 41
7 Aston Villa 23 13 40
8 Birmingham 23 -1 34
9 Everton 23 -1 32
10 Blackburn 24 -15 28
11 Fulham 23 -2 27
12 Stoke 22 -7 26
13 Sunderland 23 -10 24
14 Wigan 22 -23 22
15 West Ham 23 -9 21
16 Bolton 22 -15 21
17 Wolverhampton 23 -21 21

18 Burnley 23 -23 20
19 Hull 23 -26 20
20 Portsmouth 22 -16 15


see also
Lawro's predictions
21 May 09 |  Football
West Ham v Middlesbrough
21 May 09 |  Premier League
Sunderland v Chelsea
21 May 09 |  Premier League
Hull v Man Utd
21 May 09 |  Premier League
Aston Villa v Newcastle
22 May 09 |  Premier League
What's gone wrong in the north east?
22 May 09 |  Football
Shearer relying on last-day drama
16 May 09 |  Premier League
Sbragia focused on last-day test
19 May 09 |  Premier League
Jones in Sunderland rallying cry
22 May 09 |  Sunderland
Boro must show pride - Southgate
15 May 09 |  Middlesbrough
Ups and downs
23 May 09 |  Football


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