Bramble backs Blues to go up

TITUS Bramble last night took time out from Newcastle United's UEFA Cup semi-final build-up to pass on a good luck message to Ipswich Town.

TITUS Bramble last night took time out from Newcastle United's UEFA Cup semi-final build-up to pass on a good luck message to Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.

Bramble will line up for the Magpies in Marseilles tonight confident that his new club will progress to the final after a goal-less draw at St James' Park, but he is also keeping everything crossed that the Blues beat Cardiff City on Sunday to reach the play-offs and then go on to win Premiership promotion.

Speaking from his hotel in the south of France, Bramble told the EADT: "I'm confident Ipswich will go up. They have the ability and they have the experience. They should beat Cardiff City on Sunday and then go all the way to the Millennium Stadium."

The 22-year-old, who joined Newcastle for £6m in the summer of 2002, is another of the huge crop of successful Academy players and remembers Town's last play-off success as a fan.

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He said: "I was a fan watching from the terraces and can remember the pain of those semi-finals at home with Sheffield United and Charlton. But then we beat Bolton in 2000 and Wembley was fantastic.

"Jim Magilton was the hero of the semi-final and he will be key this time too. He is incredibly influential and superb to play alongside. He is experienced and the likes of him, Jamma (Jermaine Wright), Bam Bam (Richard Naylor) and Fabian (Wilnis) will help the younger players no end."

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Bramble, along with Kieron Dyer and Darren Ambrose, and possibly even Sir Bobby Robson, will watch the first half of Town's game on TV at St James before preparing for the Wolves game.

Seeing Ipswich go up and helping Newcastle to win their first trophy in 35 years would be a perfect end to what has been a nightmare season at times for Bramble.

He hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons and a dip in form saw the Geordie fans get on his back as well. Through all of it he turned to those he knew and trusted, Sir Bobby at St James' and his closest friends in Suffolk.

He said: "Sir Bobby was brilliant. He sat me down and talked things through with me and showed faith. He told me to keep my head down and concentrate on my football which is what I did.

"Then I was able to come home to Ipswich where my friends and family helped me enormously and I'm grateful to them for that.

"Now it is all over, thank God, and I'm able to just get on with my football."

Part of that success can be achieved tonight in Marseilles.

Newcastle, who have been plagued with injuries, will be without Dyer, Jermaine Jenas, Jonathan Woodgate and Craig Bellamy.

But Lee Bowyer has been included in the squad after recovering from injury and serving a six game European ban.

Former Town star Ambrose is likely to provide the ammunition for Alan Shearer and Shola Ameobi.

Bramble believes the firepower will see them though and said: "Keeping the clean sheet could prove vital. We just need to score an away goal and we have enough players capable of doing that."

The attack could be boosted even further for the final and the last two league games, against Wolves on Sunday then Liverpool the following week, after Portsmouth reached agreement with Newcastle to allow Lomana Lua Lua to return from a loan spell.

The Congo international is expected to make his decision within the next 24 hours.

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