SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Keane offers a helping hand

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

KEANE OFFERS A HELPING HAND:

ROY KEANE hopes to arrange some friendly games to help his healed players back to match fitness.

The Sunderland boss has been boosted by Graham Kavanagh and Steve Caldwell’s return to training and should have Stephen Elliott back this week.

But all will be short of match sharpness and fitness and Keane wants them in low-key action before throwing them into the thick of the first team.

He said: “We’ll be looking to set-up friendly games in the next week or two to get these lads back. It will be nice to get them back involved to give us a few more options.

“Kav made an effort to come back last week and it was a bit too soon. He hates being injured and possibly tried too much.

“We’re hoping to have him and Steve Caldwell back in full training this week, and Stephen Elliott is progressing. It’s good for the players and good for us.”

Keane is pleased his side got a win under its belt against Barnsley at the weekend and will hope for another this coming weekend against basement club Hull.

He said: “It would be nice to get a couple of wins on the board and get up to the middle of the table so that these lads who have been injured are not coming into a pressure situation.”

And the comebacks of Kavanagh and Caldwell in particular offers Keane extra leadership in the dressing room.

Keane said: “Graham is an important part of what we’re trying to do here. He’s influential not only on the pitch but off it too – in the dressing room. We’ve been missing an element of experience in there.

“Steve Caldwell is similar to Kav. He’s been reporting on match days, despite being injured. He talks a lot in the dressing room and out on the training pitch, and you want that short of influence.

“We have a relatively quite dressing room, which is always a concern of mine.

“You need a decent dressing room, you need characters in there – lads who are going to run through brick walls for each other and that’s what I’m trying to get in terms of my players.

“But we are clearly not there yet.

“In the last couple of months I’ve learnt which players need and arm around them and which need a kick up the backside. Different types of characters need different things. It’s nice, it’s a good challenge.

“You’ve got the quiet lads, and loud lads – all different types of characters – and trying to get that is what management is all about.

“I didn’t need a kick up the backside as a player. I was always pretty much motivated, but every player is different.”

MASCHERANO HITS OUT AT ‘BITER’ DEFOE

JAVIER MASCHERANO has hit back at Jermain Defoe after the Tottenham striker’s alleged ‘bite’ on the West Ham midfielder.

Defoe is set to escape further punishment after receiving a yellow card for reacting angrily to a challenge from behind by the Argentinian midfielder which, under FIFA regulations, means the Football Association cannot take retrospective action.

Mascherano, however, has criticised Defoe claiming his opponent was lucky not to have been sent off and refuted Spurs coach Martin Jol’s assertion the incident was a “comical nibble.”

He said: “My reaction was that this was not a joke. I have a mark on my arm and my reaction was not theatrical like the Spurs coach (Martin Jol) suggested.

“This whole incident was incredible. Never in my professional career have I witnessed action like this and I still don’t understand why the referee has not shown the red card to Defoe.

“When I arrived in England journalists questioned me about the hard nature of Argentinian football.

“But I’ve never received a bite there – and I never thought I would receive a bite in the Premiership.

“I had a face to face with Defoe in the game but football is a sport for men, not those who want to bite.”