Ambrose pays tribute to Dale

THERE may be no Patrick Kluivert, Nicky Butt or Jonathan Woodgate but Darren Ambrose, Titus Bramble and Kieron Dyer would not have missed this game for the world, writes Derek Davis.

THERE may be no Patrick Kluivert, Nicky Butt or Jonathan Woodgate but Darren Ambrose, Titus Bramble and Kieron Dyer would not have missed this game for the world, writes Derek Davis.

All three have paid tribute to Dale Roberts' influence on their careers and, for Ambrose in particular, returning to Portman Road for the first time to play will be emotional.

Ambrose won a Premier Reserve League Championship with Roberts in 2002 and remembers how the whole squad knew just how significant it was as a swan song for Roberts.

He said: "I will never forget the year we won the reserve team title with Dale. I was just 17 and he was very ill at the time. That's why it was extra special that we had some success."

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Ambrose rose rapidly through the youth ranks into the first team, playing in Europe and making his debut in the Premiership against Arsenal. But he always knew Roberts would never let him get too big for his boots.

The Newcastle winger last night added: "He was a very honest coach, which immediately won him respect. He never lied to his players.

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"Dale told you what he thought of you there and then and if you didn't like it then it was tough luck. In that respect he helped me a great deal. I needed to hear when I was playing poorly and he would give everyone food for thought – by being so honest he helped a lot of young players become much better footballers."

While Dyer's last appearance at Portman Road was for England last August when he had a goal disallowed in the dying moments against Croatia, it will be Ambrose's first game back after making a £1.5m move to St James Park last year.

He said: "It's going to be a very emotional night for myself, Kieron Dyer, Titus Bramble and the gaffer, as well as everyone associated with Ipswich.

"He would have liked us to play this game. He was a Geordie through and through and loved both Ipswich and Newcastle United. Hopefully, between the two clubs, we'll make a lot of money for the cancer charities in East Anglia which are set to benefit from the game.

"It's a great way of paying tribute to Dale. From Newcastle's point of view I just hope we can put on a good show."

It is unlikely that new signing Kluivert will play as he is in Spain tying up some loose ends and is expected to make his debut in the Newcastle Gateshead Cup this weekend.

Even if Butt's signing is complete by today it is unlikely that the England midfielder will travel down with the squad who fly into Stansted this afternoon.

In addition to Butt, who returned from Manchester United's US tour overnight, the Magpies are also understood to have bid £5million for Benfica right-back Miguel.

England defender Woodgate is out as he is not in full training as yet, but otherwise it will be a full-strength Newcastle side.

Shola Ameobi is likely to partner Alan Shearer up front, although Craig Bellamy is fit after missing out on their trip to the Far East.

James Milner, who moved to St James' Park from Leeds United earlier this month, is expected to start on the left flank with Laurent Robert on the bench.

Ambrose, Dyer and Jermaine Jenas will make up the midfield. Bramble will partner Andy O'Brien at the back, with Aaron Hughes and Olivier Bernard the full-backs. Irish international Shay Given will be in goal.

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