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Relegation drama guaranteed on Premier League's final day

Alan Shearer insists pride and not pound notes will be at stake when Newcastle make one last desperate attempt to avoid the shame of Premier League relegation on Sunday.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, London
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2009 03:45 PM IST

Alan Shearer insists pride and not pound notes will be at stake when Newcastle make one last desperate attempt to avoid the shame of Premier League relegation on Sunday.

Shearer's side travel to Aston Villa knowing relegation is certain if they lose and even a victory may not be enough to save them from second tier football for the first time since 1993.

Relegation would cost Newcastle around 60 million pounds in lost revenue but the financial implications mean little to caretaker boss Shearer, who is more concerned at the embarrassing prospect of playing the likes of Doncaster and Peterborough next season instead of Manchester United and Liverpool.

"Funnily enough, at this moment in time, I am not interested in the cash implications," Shearer said.

"I am not important in this, Mike Ashley is not important in this. What is important is the football club. That will always be bigger and better than any one individual."

Shearer's hopes of avoiding an ignominious start to his managerial career have been dented by injuries to Habib Beye and Jose Enrique and a suspension for Sebastien Bassong that leaves him without three of his four first choice defenders.

Michael Owen could return however as Newcastle try to overhaul Hull, who are one point above the relegation zone, or Sunderland, who sit two points clear of their local rivals.

After enjoying a fairytale start to the season, Hull's campaign is in danger of ending with a nightmarish slide back to the Championship just one year after winning promotion to the top-flight for the first time.

The Tigers await the arrival of champions United hoping that Sir Alex Ferguson will send out a weakened team ahead of Wednesday's Champions League final against Barcelona.

Hull boss Phil Brown believes even United's reserves will trouble his team, but he would be delighted to see Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the rest missing from Ferguson's team.

"Sir Alex has got a massive game three days after this game," Brown said. "But if Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland have fears about what is coming out of Manchester United's changing room - I have as well.

"We have held our own and now it comes down to one game. Would I have taken that? Yes."

Sunderland will kick off in a similar position as they host a Chelsea team with next weekend's FA Cup final against Everton on their minds.

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink insists he will pick a strong team but that won't guarantee a whole-hearted display from players who will be keen to avoid injury ahead of the Wembley clash.

If Sunderland do go down, boss Ricky Sbragia will have few complaints.

"It's happened over the 38 games, we have not been consistent enough," he said. "From our point of view, we have conceded too many and not scored enough. "We have had many chances to get out of the position we are in, we have not taken them and we are down to the final game."

Middlesbrough have the least hope of beating the drop as they must win at West Ham and hope Hull and Newcastle lose.
Boss Gareth Southgate is planning changes regardless of which division Middlesbrough end up in.

"After our experiences this season, it would be folly to not make wholesale changes," he said. "We clearly haven't been good enough this year so even if we stay up we've fallen a long way short of where we're trying to be."

Fulham can clinch seventh spot and the final place in the Europa League with a win over Everton.

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