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Rozehnal keen to remain at Newcastle

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Rozehnal keen to remain at Newcastle

By Colin Young - More by this author » Last updated at 23:11pm on 9th November 2007




Allowing a Newcastle United defender to be photographed blindfolded and being led through an obstacle course by a guide dog at St James' Park was perhaps not the wisest public relations stunt of the season.


This was not a punishment handed out by manager Sam Allardyce, although it was the week Newcastle conceded four goals at home to Portsmouth and one of the back four was substituted after just 18 minutes.



As Match of the Day viewers were reminded on Saturday, the club have spent more than £30million on centre backs in less than a decade . . . and still Newcastle are notorious for defensive weakness.


Most top-flight footballers might have been uncomfortable donning a blindfold to promote a Premier League 'Creating Chances' scheme to help Tynemouth's King's School but David Rozehnal, one of the new faces in the Newcastle back line, was quick to volunteer.


Rozehnal has also thrown himself into the Newcastle cause, and the city, since his summer arrival for £2.9m from Paris St-Germain.


As he did in the French capital for two years, he spends his afternoons with wife Petra wandering the streets, museums and attractions, usually walking from their nearby home which was chosen for its proximity to a thriving city centre.


'I've noticed three things,' he said. 'First, it is a fantastic city and we feel at home here. Second, when the people recognise you, they are friendly and happy to see you. I can enjoy walking around and they always respect my family. And it's easy for me — it's not like I am Michael Owen or Nicky Butt.


'The third thing is they really don't care about the cold. Some guys walk round in T-shirts, no matter what the weather. It's crazy but I like it.'


And while his Czech mate and former Newcastle favourite Pavel Srnicek may have worn the 'Pavel Is A Geordie' T-shirt, and earned his own theme song of the same name, Rozehnal has gone a step further. His first son Luka was born a Geordie a month ago.


'My wife and I wanted to stay together when he was born,' said Rozehnal. 'If she had gone to our home city, I wouldn't have seen them for weeks.


'We knew they would be looked after well in Newcastle and they are both very healthy. It is important as a footballer that your private life is settled and Sam Allardyce and the club have done a lot to make sure all the new players are happy.'


Rozehnal has been introduced to Allardyce's intense group therapy and extensive match preparations. The 27-year-old, who started his career with SK Sigma Olomouc before moving to Bruges and then PSG, is encountering a new world.


He said: 'This is a really high level and it is good for the team that the manager cares so much about making sure we are ready and everything is taken care of so we can just concentrate on our football.


In Paris, I had to organise things myself but here, everything we need is at the training ground.


'Now it is up to us to perform.'


By his own admission, that has not been easy. He may be settled at home now, but the Czech Republic international with 35 caps has found it harder keeping his place in Allardyce's back four.


Much was made of Steven Taylor's absence from the side after Newcastle's miserable display at Manchester City in September and Rozehnal was the fall guy.


Last week, Claudio Cacapa experienced his manager's wrath and his number was held up after Portsmouth scored three in four minutes. Rozehnal came on and, although he was fortunate not to give away a penalty for a clear hand-ball, the visitors added only one more, which was Taylor's fault.


Rozehnal will keep Cacapa out for today's derby at Sunderland where Newcastle look to preserve a 27- year unbeaten record on Wearside.


Winning a derby contest with Kenwyne Jones and Michael Chopra at lunchtime could reestablish the Czech in Allardyce's evolving team and he knows the significance of his recall.


He said: 'The Premier League is the best in the world and I couldn't wait to sign for Newcastle because this is the level I want to play at.


'I did not come here to be on the bench but I can't disagree with the manager's decision. I have to show, in training or when I play that I'm the best and I want to play for him.


'I have never played at this level so regularly before and it is still a challenge. Every single week you know that you will play against a very good striker.


'There are some big names out there but even if they are not big stars, they will be strong and dangerous and it's a real test, but that is why I came here. Those are players I enjoy playing against.'

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