Scottish Premier League

Brown calls for fans' backing

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Wed, 06 Mar 2013 08:11:00

Manchester City Pablo Zabaleta believes team-mate Carlos Tevez has shown he is as good as ever this season.

Tevez's City career looked to be over after a fall-out with coach Roberto Mancini saw him go AWOL for three months of the club's Premier League title-winning campaign.

But the Argentine forward has returned to play an important role this season, scoring at Aston Villa on Monday, and his compatriot admits it has been a long road back.

"It's been difficult for Carlos, for Mancini, for the club. From something small, it grew so big," said Zabaleta, quoted in the Daily Star.

"After it happened, everything went crazy and it was so difficult.

"Everybody makes mistakes. The positive thing is Carlos came back again and the commitment for the club and team has been 100 per cent, so that is well done by him.

"Is he as good as before? Yes, definitely. He got a fantastic goal against Chelsea and he's been great all season."

While Tevez has impressed, things have not gone smoothly for the Premier League champions as they are out of Europe and set to surrender their domestic crown to rivals Manchester United.

But Zabaleta claims the team are still learning and clinging to hopes of FA Cup success in May.

"We should have done better than we did this season," added the 28-year-old full-back. "We still have the FA Cup, but we are still learning."

The pair last came up against each other in March 2004 when an 18-year-old Taylor was handed a senior debut as a late substitute as the Magpies completed a 7-1 aggregate victory over Real Mallorca in the Balearics on their way to the UEFA Cup semi-finals.

Taylor and Eto'o swapped shirts after the game and, while the defender still has his souvenir as a prized possession, he is not so sure the much-travelled striker, now plying his trade at Anzhi Makhachkala, will have been as impressed.

He said: "I remember that - he's probably still got my shirt as his duster! He might bring it to the game with cobwebs on it. never thought I would play against him again. He won't have a clue who I am, no chance!

"To have the chance of playing against a top-quality player like him is good. I've still got his shirt - it's framed."

The reunion will come at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday evening when Anzhi host Newcastle in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie.

While Eto'o has spent much of the intervening years playing at the very top for Barcelona and Inter Milan, Taylor and the Magpies have experienced something of a rollercoaster ride.

However, having secured a return to European competition, they are determined to extend their run as far as possible, although their credentials will be put to the sternest of tests in Russia.

Taylor, who was part of the side unfortunate to go down 1-0 at Swansea in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday, said: "They have spent a lot of money, but we have got class in our team - look at the players we have got.

"We showed quality [against Swansea], and they have got to be worried about what we have got.

"We will have young, fresh players with more energy on the pitch.

"We will need that in Moscow."

The Dens Park side are 15 points adrift at the foot of the Scottish Premier League table but the new interim manager has not given up hope of a remarkable escape job just yet.

And for that reason he has pleaded with the Dark Blue faithful to turn out in numbers for Wednesday night's home meeting with St Mirren.

Brown, whose side lost to city rivals Dundee United in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup at the weekend, said: "I think the fans appreciated what the guys put in against United as far as effort goes.

"They all gave everything and when they do that I'll never criticise them.

"We need the supporters to keep right behind us and hopefully they do that.

"We have to be attack-minded without going gung-ho.

"We know wins are ideally what we need to try to make up some ground on the teams above us.

"That's our job, to close that gap, and nobody here will ever be giving up on that."

The compact nature of the SPL table this season means just 16 points currently separate 10 of the 12 teams.

And for that reason, St Mirren boss Danny Lennon has not given up hope that his team, who sit in 10th place at present, could go even further than their original target of sixth.

A win tonight would leave them just seven points behind fourth-placed Ross County.

He said: "This game is of huge importance to us because we still have a strong desire to keep chapping at the door for the top six.

"This is our game over all the other teams in the league and I believe we are still capable of fighting for three of the top-six slots.

"Only Celtic, Motherwell and Inverness are guaranteed to be in the top six and the rest is up for grabs.

"There are plenty of twists and turns and a win would certainly keep us in there with a realistic shout.

"But it's totally down to us and we need to get the wins on the board."

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