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Shearer says Viduka return can help Newcastle survival bid

AUSTRALIA striker Mark Viduka could play a big role in helping Newcastle United avoid relegation after declaring himself fit for the Premier League run-in, interim manager Alan Shearer said yesterday.

Viduka is expected to play at Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow, the first of third-from-bottom Newcastle's final six matches of a troubled season on and off the pitch.

"It's fair to say Mark probably wouldn't have played again this season if things hadn't changed but just having him available to play some part is great," said Shearer, who is in charge until the end of the season.

"He was injured and not in a good condition and probably on his way to Australia this summer because talks hadn't happened between himself and the football club," he told reporters.

"It would have been a complete waste to just let him lie on the treatment table looking forward to going back to the beaches in Australia. That's what his plans were."

Injuries have restricted Viduka to a single start this season, well short of the amount of games the 33-year-old required to trigger a 12-month extension when his contract expires in June.

The Australian, capped 43 times for his country, has mustered a modest 20 Premier League starts since moving from Middlesbrough on a free transfer almost two years ago and has not scored for a year.

Viduka was also jeered by Newcastle fans who accused him of lacking commitment when limping off in the defeat at Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day.

But Shearer, the club's record goalscorer, said: "If we can get something out of him between now and the end of the season it could be key.

"I asked Mark if he wanted to help play a part in us trying to stay up and the answer was most definitely yes. He's shown a great appetite to get us out of trouble which is what I'm looking for."

Newcastle have 30 points, two behind fourth-from-bottom Sunderland.


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