Newton could make permanent move

March 19, 2013

Newcastle assistant manager John Carver and Wigan coach Graham Barrow have been charged with misconduct by the Football Association.

The FA's action comes in relation to an incident at half-time during Sunday's Premier League match at the DW Stadium.

Carver was incensed with Wigan forward Callum McManaman following his challenge on Massadio Haidara as the players left the field and Barrow also became embroiled in the fracas.

Both men were sent to the stands for the second half of the match, which Wigan went on to win 2-1 courtesy of Arouna Kone's last-minute goal.

Haidara was carried off with a knee injury and is still waiting to discover the full extent of the damage.

The fall-out from the incident has led to a war of words between the two clubs, although the FA ruled earlier on Tuesday that McManaman would face no retrospective action.

Both men have until 4pm on Friday, 22 March, to respond to the FA charge.

The City players could both be in line for starts in the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

Lescott was one of England's most successful performers at the Euro 2012 finals only to then receive limited opportunities at City during the current campaign.

But Milner has no doubts Lescott will be ready for the games ahead which will have a big bearing on whether Roy Hodgson's side can book a spot in Brazil in 15 months time.

He said: "Joleon hasn't played loads of games for City this year but when he has done, he has played well.

"He had a great season last year, a great Euro 2012 and he will be full of confidence and ready to go.

"I don't think we will be affected by the withdrawals (of Ferdinand, Gary Cahill and Michael Dawson).

"Joleon has now come in, has played a lot of games for England and is a top player as well.

"I see him day in and day out, the work he puts in at the gym, keeping himself right, his work with the fitness and physio guys before training.

"Whether he is playing or not, he is always ready to go. With the attitude and the professional he is, whenever he has played for City this year, he has been top notch and will be ready for Friday."

Milner has also been reunited with another defender called up in Newcastle's Steven Taylor, whom he played with at club level and at England youth level.

He said of the 27-year-old: "He is a bit mad! He will be a bit quieter this week because he is new and will be figuring things out.

"I'm sure as he gets more comfortable, he will be having a joke and a bit of banter as he normally does.

"I think he's had a few injury problems but hopefully he has put those behind him now.

"I was in the Under-16s Victory Shield England squad with 'Tayls' and knew him from Newcastle. He has been having a good season and has earned his place in the squad.

"He's always on the line, sticking his head on the line, running into goalposts and that's the kind of guy he is. He will put his body on the line for the team. You need those sort of characters."

Milner is dreaming of playing in a World Cup in Brazil but admits England need positive results from the next two games.

He said: "Everyone dreams of playing in World Cups and the result against Brazil gives us a lot of confidence to go there.

"If we can get two more positive results in these games, we will be well on our way.

"Four points will not be a disaster but we will look to win both games."

Milner knows England have to be professional against the minnows of San Marino who were beaten 5-0 at Wembley earlier in the campaign.

He remembers the infamous occasion when San Marino scored after eight seconds against England from a Stuart Pearce back pass in a 1993 World Cup qualifier before losing 7-1.

He said: "We need to make sure we are solid at the back as well because we know what has happened in a previous England game against them which I watched.

"But as long as we do that, with the creative players we have, hopefully we can get an early goal, push on from there, score a few goals and take that confidence and momentum into Tuesday's game.

"We know they will put men behind the ball and will not come out even if we score early on."

Milner is also casting an eye towards the Montenegro game and expects it to be a hostile atmosphere after the sides drew 2-2 in Podgorica in a Euro 2012 qualifier.

He has stressed the need for discipline after Wayne Rooney's red card in that encounter.

He said: "It is important when the crowd are close to the pitch, they are whistling every decision that is made and that can affect the referee and maybe leaning towards their side.

"That is quite a natural thing to happen and that's when you need to make sure our discipline is top notch.

"We need to concentrate on the game, try not to get involved in anything off the ball.

"These teams are clever, they are going to use the atmosphere to their advantage and try and get any little advantage they can.

"They are playing England, it is a massive game for them, we need to make sure we concentrate on the football."

The 36-year-old previously worked with the Young Lions in February 2012, backing up coaches Brian Eastick and John Peacock for the Euro 2013 qualifier against Belgium - a 4-0 victory - while boss Stuart Pearce and his assistant Steve Wigley looked after the senior side for one match.

Neville, who has won 59 senior England caps, said: "It is a fantastic opportunity for me to work with the best young players at under-21 level.

"I had a little taste of this against Belgium and it was probably the best three days I have had - it was a real eye-opener.

"Those three days told me that coaching is what I really want to do.

"The thing I noticed about the under-21s is that there is a great spirit amongst the staff and the players, and there is a real togetherness and determination that they want to win this tournament.

"If I can play a small part and learn from it then, it will be great."

Neville added: "In tournament football, you learn so much. You learn how to handle players in a different environment and how to get the best out of players.

"As a coach, it is more intense during a tournament as you have got so many games to watch, videos to prepare and then you have to plan and manage your squad.

"I have been to three major tournaments as a player and to now sample it on the other side will be a great chance for me. I am looking forward to working with the best young players this country has got."

Pearce, whose team have been drawn in Group A with Italy, Norway and hosts Israel for the Euros, which take place in June, added: "Phil is treading a path towards building up his coaching credentials and has demonstrated his commitment to this by taking time out of his own summer to join us in Israel.

"For the FA, it's important to encourage young coaches to take such opportunities and we're pleased that Phil will be with us during the tournament.

"Not only is it a good opportunity for Phil to learn from our environment, but it is also a chance for the young players to work with Phil. Everyone benefits from this arrangement."

On Tuesday, Neville was at St George's Park, where England Under-21s were preparing for friendlies against Romania at Wycombe's Adams Park on Thursday and Austria at Brighton's Amex Stadium next Monday.

Pearce will name his 23-man squad for the Euros after the double-header of matches.

Neville's older brother and former Manchester United team-mate Gary is part of the coaching staff for the senior side, having been appointed by head coach Roy Hodgson last May.

Kelly, a former Republic goalkeeper, has seen the 33-year-old Millwall stopper edge ahead of Sunderland's Keiren Westwood in the battle to become Shay Given's long-term replacement.

Forde seems likely to get the nod for Friday night's World Cup qualifier in Sweden, winning his sixth senior cap, but his first in a game in which points are at stake.

Asked if the former League of Ireland player was ready for the challenge, Kelly said: "Absolutely.

"You just have to see the way he holds himself now. He's standing tall - he's a big lad anyway, but he's doing well for Millwall, playing week in week out.

"He's got to the semi-final of the FA Cup, he's in form and what an opportunity now at 33.

"He's come through the ranks, played in the League of Ireland and now he's going to be playing in a World Cup qualifier, so it's a fantastic story and a fantastic tribute to his abilities.

"It shows what you can overcome, that if you keep working hard, this is where it can get you. He's done it."

Westwood was manager Giovanni Trapattoni's initial choice to replace Given when he announced his retirement from international football in the wake of a disappointing Euro 2012 finals campaign.

However, his lack of regular football for Sunderland, where Belgium international Simon Mignolet's form has been excellent, became a concern and the Italian turned to Forde for the November friendly against Greece and last month's 2-0 win over Poland.

Asked if Forde could make the place his own, Kelly said: "Well, he's there on merit.

"The one thing I would say about David is that the amount of work he puts in on the training ground is incredible.

"But he's taken a real step and shown that if you put that work into your game on the training pitch, then you get the rewards. That's what we are seeing now."

Forde may also have to contend with a different challenge on Friday evening with the Swedish FA reportedly set to play with the roof at the Friends Arena in Stockholm closed amid forecasts of sub-zero temperatures.

Trapattoni is keen for that not to be the case, but Kelly insists it will make little difference either way.

He said: "I suppose if you are in a stadium where there's wind inside, that could affect it.

"Does it change the atmosphere, does it make the air a bit warmer so the ball travels a bit faster?

"Because it's so cold over there, I don't think it's going to make a great deal of difference. But I'll tell you after the game."

Roof or no roof, Forde and his team-mates will have to produce a performance of real character to emerge with a positive result, which would keep alive their hopes of at least claiming the play-off spot in Group C.

Much of the talk this week has surrounded the potential impact on the game of Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and what they can do to restrict the threat he poses.

Kelly said with a smile: "Well, in the old days, you would put him in Row Z of the stand in the first minute - but you are not allowed do that anymore.

"He's a world-class player, but it's not all about one man. A lot of teams are very wary - and quite rightly so - of players like Ibrahimovic, but any team that comes back from four down against Germany has obviously got a threat going forward."

Delaney, who has presided over stringent cutbacks which have affected even Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni and his coaching staff, reportedly earns around 340,000 euros a year.

However, he has revealed he could have left for a better-paid post and believes his wage is commensurate with the FAI's income, with Ireland still in the grip of a difficult economic situation.

Delaney told Sky Sports News: "I was offered a job three times the salary that I'm currently on, and that's a fact.

"I didn't take the job, I didn't want the job. I'm very happy in this job.

"I think the turnover of the FAI in the mid-90s, 1996,97, was about seven million euros. Last year it was north of 40 million euros.

"We are in a tough economy here in Ireland at the moment and anybody who is on a big salary is going to grab media attention."

Delaney also defended the FAI against accusations from Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill that they have poached players born in the North to represent the Republic.

He said: "The way I look upon it is we have never asked anyone to play for us who didn't want to play for us, so the players come and declare.

"That can be historic roots too - players like James McClean and Darron Gibson from Derry, they want to play for the Republic of Ireland, that's what they want to do.

"They may have played underage football for the North - and I'm respectful of that - but ultimately it comes down to the players' choice."

However, Delaney admits he would happy to see a team one day representing the whole of Ireland, as their rugby union colleagues do.

He said: "That's something I would personally like to see.

"I think anything like that is inextricably linked to a solution for the whole island. I don't think that can happen aside of that."

Luyindula must await a work visa before he can begin his Red Bulls career, but the Major League Soccer franchise confirmed his signing on Tuesday.

"Peguy has a good pedigree as a forward who has played for many years in Europe and has now returned to full fitness," said Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh.

"He is technically very good and his movements on the pitch are impressive. We are happy to add him to our roster."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The former Lyon and Marseille forward will link up with compatriot Thierry Henry in the New York attack, as well as former Lyon team-mate Juninho.

The 32-year-old, capped six times by France, played 179 games for PSG, scoring 37 goals, but was relegated to the club's reserves after a dispute with then-coach Antoine Kombouare, and could not re-establish himself as an influx of high-priced signings arrived.

Pearce will name a 23-man party for the UEFA European U21 Championship tournament in Israel after his Young Lions play friendlies against Romania at Wycombe's Adams Park on Thursday and Austria at Brighton's Amex Stadium next Monday.

And while the 50-year-old admits he has between 18 and 20 names already firmly in his thoughts for the summer, he has also emphasised

he is keeping an open mind about who might join them.

Asked on Tuesday the extent to which he knew his squad for Israel, Pearce, who has been in charge of England Under-21s at three previous European Championships, said: "You have to bear in mind that we have been in a qualification process now for the best part of two years, so we know who has contributed really well for us.

"But the thing is, at under-21 level especially, people can come on the scene very late and I wouldn't rule out anybody at this stage.

"It would be fair to say that if I had to jot 18, 19, 20 names down on a list that I hope will be there fitness-wise, we know those.

"But as I have found out in previous years, there is always one or two people that come in very, very late - Leroy Lita in my first time out had a real late charge, got in the team and had a real impact, and various other players have done exactly the same."

One player Pearce will want available this summer is Tottenham centre-back Steven Caulker, who had come back into the England Under-21 squad for their forthcoming double-header but has subsequently been called up to the seniors following the withdrawal of Rio Ferdinand.

Caulker is enjoying a landmark season, establishing himself as a key member of the Spurs team and scoring on his senior England debut against Sweden in November.

He is eligible to play from the start of the Under-21s' campaign in Israel after the two-game ban imposed on him by UEFA relating to the trouble at the end of last October's qualifying play-off second leg in Serbia was lifted on appeal.

Pearce said of the 21-year-old: "He is a real top professional and really wants to learn the game.

"I had the fortune to work with him not just at under-21 level but with the Olympic squad (which Pearce was in charge of last summer) as well, and the way he conducts himself and, more importantly, the way he wants to get better at his profession, is commendable.

"We are delighted he is up with the seniors and I think he thoroughly deserves that opportunity."

A number of more experienced players that were involved in the qualifying campaign have returned after a two-game absence to Pearce's squad for the Romania and Austria matches, including forwards Nathan Delfouneso and Marvin Sordell, defender Danny Rose and goalkeeper Jack Butland.

Butland is another that has made rapid progress, having been part of the Great Britain squad for the London Olympics and made a breakthrough to the senior squad.

He was selected for the Three Lions squad that travelled to the European Championships last summer and made his full international debut against Italy in August.

Butland's impressive form earned him a January move from Birmingham to Stoke, although he opted to return to Blues on loan for the rest of the season.

The 20-year-old has spoken about how he has rejected advances from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City because he did not want his development to be hampered by a lack of first-team opportunities, and Pearce is certainly impressed.

"I don't think he is washed away with celebrity in any way, shape or form," Pearce said.

"We have a few Jack Butlands in this under-21s squad at the moment - they are an absolute pleasure to work with.

"When you have that mentality, like Caulker and Butland, to want to learn and get better, you can go as far as you want."

Owen confirmed on Tuesday that he would be retiring at the end of the season after Stoke opted not to extend his contract.

The striker has always maintained he had no interest in dropping down the leagues and preferred instead to concentrate on a career in the media in addition to his growing horse racing empire.

Ultimately, Owen will be remembered as much for the injuries that have blighted the latter part of his career as the brilliance that characterised the start of it.

However, Hoddle, who gave the Chester-born star his international debut in 1998 ahead of that brilliant World Cup goal against Argentina, feels Owen deserves a place amongst the very best England forwards.

"He is in the top four of our greatest ever finishers, along with Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer," Hoddle told Sky Sports News.

"Some might say he is at the top of that list.

"He was a baby-faced assassin. His finishing was amazing for a young man. He had that coolness in the penalty box. Some players get anxious but he seemed to get calmer and calmer.

"Michael also had that wonderful intelligence to make the right movement to stay onside. He must have been a nightmare to defend against."

The first English player to win the European Footballer of the Year award since Kevin Keegan when he scooped the prize in 2001, Owen could hardly have made a more dramatic introduction to life on the international scene, slaloming through the Argentina defence before scoring one of the most memorable England goals.

And, although he also netted a memorable hat-trick in that 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, former Three Lions team-mate Frank Lampard believes it will be the goal against Argentina for which Owen will always be remembered.

"The hat-trick in Munich was fantastic," said Lampard.

"He was at the top of his game at the time, but to come on at the age he did and score a goal of such eye-catching quality was amazing.

"I was a fan at that stage, watching the game in a bar.

"I wouldn't have had the confidence to run past five Argentinian defenders at that age.

"It is one of the moments that sticks in my mind about England not just Michael Owen."

Owen's heroics in Munich run a close second though, followed by his exploits at club level, where he scored in UEFA and FA Cup finals for Liverpool in their 2001 Treble-winning campaign.

A decade after that came his first Premier League title, for Manchester United, for whom he also scored a memorable goal against Manchester City.

"He's always been a fantastic football player," said former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.

"He's a danger all the time.

"You never had any problems with Michael Owen, on or off the pitch.

"He was always professional and you knew if you had him in your team he could score the winning goal.

"He's one of those players out there who can win the game for you, as he did so many times in his career."

When he scored his 40th international goal in 2007, it seemed just a matter of time before he eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton to become England's leading marksman.

The fact he never got another was almost entirely due to a chronic run of injuries, which took the edge off that explosive pace and never allowed him to build up a run of games to force his way back on to the international stage.

"The only problem with Michael Owen was his injuries," said Eriksson.

"It has been going on for a long time.

"He's been unlucky because he couldn't work as hard as he wanted and he missed too many games.

"That's a pity for him, a pity for England, a pity for the clubs he played for and the pity for football."

Venky's have been warned they must bring some stability to the club or risk a second straight relegation.

Appleton's sacking after just 67 days was confirmed on Tuesday in a short club statement. His predecessor Henning Berg managed 10 days less at the helm before he too was fired.

Indian poultry firm Venky's are now looking for a fifth permanent manager since their ?23million takeover of the club in November 2010. Sam Allardyce was the first boss to go, sacked within a month of the buy-out with the club 13th in the Premier League.

He was succeeded by Steve Kean, who resigned last September following a long campaign of protests from supporters against him.

Rovers are currently 18th in the Championship, only four points above the relegation zone.

Wayne Wild, the co-chairman of supporters group the Rovers Trust, said in a statement: "News of Michael Appleton's sacking ought to come as a surprise, but sadly it does not.

"This is just the latest in a long line of incomprehensible and ill-thought out decisions that go back to the very start of the Venky's ownership of Blackburn.

"It is obvious to any experienced fan or football professional that to keep changing managers - we are now looking for our sixth this season - will only lead to yet more instability and uncertainty. It is also a costly exercise to keep paying off staff.

"The owners have to face up to the fact they are entirely responsible for the situation we find ourselves in with a second successive relegation a distinct possibility."

Wild demanded that Venky's start to communicate with fans and other interested parties, and that they ensure the next man in permanent charge has managerial pedigree.

"We've been calling for an experienced manager to be given the job, but they've made three appointments, all of inexperienced managers, and they just aren't learning from the mistakes they're making," said Wild.

"All our recent success has been with having an experienced, established manager. All our recent failings have been with having an inexperienced manager, and I include Paul Ince and Brian Kidd in that when the club was under the Walker Trust stewardship.

"Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Mark Hughes have all been successful in their careers, so history tells you what the right decision is."

Wild, a director of the WEC Group, an engineering and fabrication company which is the main sponsor of the Darwen End stand at Ewood Park, has written to Venky's on numerous occasions seeking to set up meetings with the Rovers Trust in an attempt to get fan representation on the club's board.

"Correspondence from Venky's has always been non-existent," said Wild.

"We've tried to correspond with Venky's many times but we've never had a direct reply.

"Again, today, we've had no information from the club. No one knows why (Appleton) has been sacked, what the reasons are or what the plan going forward is.

"It's very difficult to get anything out of the club regarding what's happening next.

"There has been a gulf developing between the owners and supporters for some time now and it's getting worse."

The statement from Blackburn confirming Appleton's sacking read: "Blackburn Rovers FC can confirm that Michael Appleton has been relieved of his duties as manager along with assistant manager Ashley Westwood, first-team coach Darren Moore and head of senior recruitment Luke Dowling."

The Sports PR Company, which represents Appleton, later released a statement from him via Twitter which read: "I am disappointed to be leaving Blackburn Rovers. I would like to thank the players and wish them all the best for the rest of the season. I would also like to say thanks to the fans who have made me feel so welcome over the past few months."

The Stoke man was hurt towards the end of Tuesday morning's session in Malahide as he and the rest of the squad continued their preparations for Friday's World Cup qualifier in Sweden.

However, goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly later revealed the medical staff are confident there is no lasting damage.

Kelly said: "It's a bit of a bang. He sort of stepped across the ball and Shane Long came in and hit the nerves on the outside of the leg, so it's really just an impact injury.

"I think he'll be okay. It's not a twist or anything like that, just an impact injury.

"After the initial burning went, he got up and got on with it. He's a tough lad, Jon."

Walters had lengthy treatment on the pitch, but was able to walk back to the team coach and the squad headed to their Portmarnock base at the end of Tuesday morning's session.

He will be assessed further but again, Kelly is hoping his injury is minor.

He said: "Obviously after something like that, he would be assessed, but he was okay. Just talking to him there, he seemed to be getting over the initial shock of it, really.

"He'll get a bit of ice and as I say, he's a big, tough lad, Jon, and I think he will be okay."

The Republic faces the Swedes at the Friends Arena in Stockholm and then take on Austria in Dublin next Tuesday evening with all three sides looking to win the race for second spot in Group C behind leaders Germany.

The 28-year-old has enjoyed a successful first campaign in England following his summer move from Malaga.

Cazorla has chalked up 11 goals for the Gunners, including a hat-trick in the 5-2 league win at Reading before Christmas.

The creative midfielder hopes that tally will be extended as Arsenal look to close back in on the top four and Champions League qualification once again.

"It's an aspect of my game I've always tried to improve," said Cazorla on the club's official website.

"Last season at Malaga I hit nine and my target was to go beyond that.

"I think a figure of 11 goals this season is good for a midfielder, but I think I can score more and improve in that facet of the game.

"Everything influences it (the improvement in front of goal). You have to try and improve as an individual and, ultimately, if you're better, the team makes you better too.

"It all works in tandem and you need the two to come together, the individual and the collective."

Most of Arsenal's first-team squad, including England's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, are now away on international duty.

Midfielder Jack Wilshere, however, will continue his rehabilitation with the club after spending some time in Dubai to aid recovery from a slight ankle problem which Arsenal hope will clear up in time for the resumption of Premier League action against Reading on March 30.

Cazorla has joined up with Spain for their games against Finland and France.

The Uruguay international has scored 29 times so far and is the top flight's leading scorer with 22, becoming only the third Reds player to go past 20 Premier League goals in a single campaign after Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres.

Suarez's form has regularly seen him linked with clubs who can offer him Champions League football but the 26-year-old has constantly stressed he is happy at Anfield, having only signed an improved contract less than 12 months ago which will bring him a significant pay rise in the summer.

"I'm having a nice time because the club is growing and I feel I'm helping personally," said Suarez, who is back in Uruguay preparing for crucial World Cup qualifiers at home to Paraguay on Friday and in Chile on Tuesday.

"I do not know if I'm in the best form but I feel like it's my fate to score and I have to take advantage."

A booking in the first match would rule him out of the second, which would no doubt be a welcome boost for Rodgers ahead of next week's trip to Aston Villa as the player is not expected to return to Melwood until the Friday afternoon.

But with Uruguay's qualification on a knife-edge - they are currently fifth in the South American group having taken just one point from their last four games - Suarez knows he has to strike a fine balance.

"The way referees are now I have to take care," he told Uruguay newspaper El Observador.

"The two games ahead are complicated but we must be aware that they are the last chances we have left."

While Suarez has once again been insisting he is content at Anfield team-mate Jose Reina has been doing the same.

The Spain goalkeeper has been heavily linked with a move away this summer with former club Barcelona seemingly top of the list as they are on the look-out for a long-term replacement for Victor Valdes.

Reina, who could make a rare start for Spain in their World Cup qualifiers because of injury to Real Madrid's Iker Casillas, has dismissed the speculation.

"I believe that is conjecture. It's not in my hands and the rumour mill is part of this," he told Spanish newspaper AS.

"It's a great club (Barcelona) but I'm happy at Liverpool."

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen, who pulled out of Wales' squad on Sunday, is set to undergo an operation on a troublesome shoulder injury later this week.

Surgery will rule out the ?15million summer signing for the remainder of the season but it provides an opening for the likes of Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey.

Both have found first-team opportunities restricted in recent weeks with the latter getting more game time for Liverpool's under-21s side than the seniors.

That hard work and willingness to drop down a level has not gone unnoticed by Rodgers.

"Jonjo is a great kid, he wants to learn and he is prepared to work hard," he told

"He hasn't had so many chances recently but he is still a great prospect.

"He played in a reserve game recently and asked to be used in the holding position because he wants to learn about the role and about his craft.

"That shows the attitude he has."

The Tottenham winger is in a stunning vein of form, and broke Scottish hearts with a late double which gave Wales a 2-1 win when the sides met in Cardiff in October.

The 23-year-old suffered an ankle knock in Tottenham's 1-0 defeat against Fulham on Sunday, and has not yet trained this week after linking up with Chris Coleman's squad.

But there are no doubts over Bale's availability for the 'Battle of Britain' clash, and striker Sam Vokes believes the Spurs star's presence will be a big boost.

He said: "We think he is going to be fit, he is in and around the team and will be training in the next couple of days with Friday in mind.

"It is fantastic to play alongside him, the last couple of goals I have scored for Wales have come from his assists, and in the Scotland game here he turned the game on its head.

"He has been different class for club and country for a while now, every game he plays in he is excellent and he will be a big player for us on Friday."

For the first time in Coleman's reign, Wales head into a round of fixtures with some momentum behind them in Group A.

The Dragons have won two of their last three games, against Scotland and Austria, and are keen to continue their progress in Glasgow.

Burnley striker Vokes knows prevailing in the hostile Hampden cauldron will be a sure-fire indicator that Wales are again heading in the right direction.

"It would be a huge step forward, we can take confidence from our recent results against some strong opposition," he said.

"It will be a different sort of game on Friday as you will have the occasion of it being a derby, but hopefully we can take confidence into the game.

"It is a 'Battle of Britain' which adds to the passion and pride that goes with it. There was a great atmosphere here in Cardiff and it will be the same again this time."

This weekend's eagerly-awaited clash will also mark Gordon Strachan's first competitive fixture in charge of Scotland, with Craig Levein having made way shortly after Bale's last-gasp heroics in the reverse fixture.

And Vokes is wary of the reaction the presence of a new man in charge could have on the hosts.

"We have gone through a manager change recently and it is one they will look for a good reaction from, but we need to focus on our own game and go from there," he said.

Vokes found the net in the 2-1 win over Austria last time out, becoming the first player other than Bale to score for Wales under Coleman.

With Steve Morison again an injury absentee, Vokes may have the chance to stake a claim for the number nine shirt, but will wait to see which system Coleman operates, with Craig Bellamy and Bale also options for the central role.

"Steve has made a lot of his chance in the number nine slot, and it has been up to me to make an impact off the bench," he said.

"Hopefully Friday is a big chance for me, although Craig Bellamy started there against Austria so it depends which way the manager wants to go, but I want to put my name forward."

The Stoke midfielder saw his initial month-long stay expire after Saturday's 1-1 draw against Torquay, but manager Paul Sturrock has moved to keep him at Roots Hall for the remainder of the Shrimpers' play-off charge.

Lund, 22, has so far made eight appearances for the Essex club, scoring once on his debut against Northampton, and will be available for Tuesday night's home clash against Plymouth.

"I've really enjoyed my time at the club so far so I am pleased to be staying here for longer," Lund told Southend's official website.

"The lads have been excellent and there's some big games coming up. Hopefully I can play a helping hand in pushing us back into the play-off places."

Boss Sturrock said: "Matt has done very well for us since he came in on loan in February. He has looked very assured in the midfield and has a very important part to play for us in the remainder of the season."

The Newcastle youngster was farmed out to the Scottish Premier League outfit alongside fellow Magpies recruit Paul Dummett as part of a link-up between the two clubs.

But both players are out of contract in the summer and 21-year-old Newton - who scored the Buddies' third goal in the 3-2 win over Hearts on Sunday as the club ended a 26-year wait for a trophy - insists the buzz that success has created would see him happily remain with Danny Lennon's side if he is released by Geordies boss Alan Pardew.

He told Press Association Sport: "It's been a whirlwind experience. I've been out in Paisley celebrating for the past two days and you can't take two steps without someone coming up and hugging you. It's been unbelievable.

"If you would have told me I'd have been part of something like this two months ago, I'd have laughed at you. It's been mental, absolutely mental.

"The memories of Sunday will stay with me forever, especially my goal. When it hit the net, I ran to celebrate but before I knew it, I'd been hit by Lee Mair, who had been warming up as a sub. He absolutely flattened me. I hit the deck and then everyone was on top of me. It was brilliant.

"I got a call from John Carver, the assistant down at Newcastle, congratulating me and it's nice to know that people are watching down there.

"But I don't know what will happen in the summer. If I have to move on, well that's life. I'm not naive enough to think I'm going to get flung straight into first-team football with Newcastle.

"If the option came up to stay with St Mirren, it would definitely be worth thinking about. I've loved my time here so far. St Mirren has got a wee place in my heart now.

"I don't know if it's the fans and how brilliant they were on Sunday or because it's the place where I got my first taste of first-team football, but this place means a lot to me now and I can see myself staying here."

While Dummett arrived in Scotland last August, Newton did not make his move until the January transfer window.

His first start for the club, however, ended in disappointment as he was replaced at half-time in Saints' 4-1 home defeat to Ross County.

A week later, though, he was back in the side to set up fellow new signing Esmael Goncalves to score the opener in the 3-2 semi-final win over Celtic.

Now Newton insists he has benefited from the experience of his move north.

He said: "Playing up here has matured me. I was playing reserve football with Newcastle but up here, it's men against men. Guys are playing for their careers. If you lose a few games too many, the gaffer could get sacked. It's totally different from reserve football. There is so much more riding on it.

"So that has matured me as a person and a footballer too. I've settled in quickly and having Paul up here has helped.

"I was taken off against Ross County but the gaffer told me it was just for tactical reasons. I'm my own biggest critic and I was surprised to get back in the side for the Celtic game but it was brilliant and I definitely believe I'm a better player for my move to St Mirren."