NEWCASTLE boss Alan Shearer is preparing for the return of one key striker after clearing the air with another as a desperate scrap for survival gathers pace.
Shearer could have vastly-experienced Australia international Mark Viduka at his disposal for the first time for Sunday’s trip to Tottenham. Indeed, his strike-force could be boosted further if Nigerian counterpart Obafemi Martins manages to shake off the groin injury which sidelined him at Stoke at the last minute last weekend and earned him a visit to the manager’s office.
That would be a major bonus for the Magpies and rekindle memories of last season, when then boss Kevin Keegan fielded the pair alongside skipper Michael Owen in a three-pronged attack which ultimately fired the club to safety.
Viduka’s availability would be more than welcome at the end of an injury-wrecked campaign which has seen the 33-year make just six appearances and only one start.
He last played as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Bolton on March 1, when he aggravated the achilles injury which has hampered him since last season, and has been a big miss.
Shearer is well aware of how big a part he could play during the next few weeks, and will definitely take the former Middlesbrough frontman to White Hart Lane.
He said: “Mark Viduka has trained for the majority of the week and will travel with us.
“He has trained well. He obviously has got a huge amount of talent and we believe if we can keep him fit, he will play a big part in helping us.”
There remains a question mark over Martins’ fitness after he withdrew from the squad just hours before last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Stoke, forcing Shearer to reshuffle his squad and tear up the plans on which he had been working all week.
The 24-year-old has not trained this week and a late decision will be taken on him today.
However, Shearer insists there is no rift between the two after initially expressing his surprise at being told the £10m man was not fit to play at the Britannia Stadium.
The former England skipper said: “That’s all forgotten about. I spoke to him again on Monday and there are no problems. I said how much I was disappointed with the timing of things more than anything, and he totally understood that. But as an ongoing thing, no, that’s gone, forgotten about.”
Newcastle kept themselves in touch with the teams ahead of them, if only just, as a result of Andy Carroll’s late equaliser at Stoke, but remain two points adrift of derby rivals Sunderland, who currently occupy 17 place. The Black Cats face their own six-pointer at home to plummeting Hull on Saturday, and the Magpies know they could have slipped even further off the pace by the time they kick off the following day.
However, Shearer is hopeful that a spirited display at Stoke has raised confidence within the squad.
He said: “Not only did we prove we are up for the battle and the fight and the scrap, but that we can also play a little bit, which has given everyone a big, big lift. It would have been a hell of a long week coming back from that game with nothing. But we got a point, so it has been a decent week for us.”
Peter Lovenkrands could return to the squad after recovering from the chest infection which left him fighting for breath during the 2-0 home defeat by Chelsea, although Jose Enrique remains a doubt with a knee problem.
In addition, midfielder Joey Barton is expected to return to full training next week and could come into contention for the home clash with Portsmouth on April 27.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved