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Shearer tries to lift Newcastle morale

ALAN Shearer's latest step in his attempt to keep Newcastle in the Premier League involved inviting fans and media to St. James' Park stadium on Tuesday to watch the players train.

More than 7,000 fans showed up to watch the club's record scorer, who signed up as manager for the last eight matches of the season, oversee preparations for Saturday's crucial match at Stoke.

Newcastle is still in the relegation zone after losing Shearer's opening game 0-2 to Chelsea at the weekend. Almost as disappointingly for the club, the former England striker's appointment did not lift the crowd sufficiently to create an intimidating atmosphere.

Shearer appears to be hoping that fans will respond to a greater involvement with their side, and that the players are lifted by the support. "I said to the boys, 'Where else would you get thousands of fans turning up to watch training when the team is third bottom?'" Shearer said. "It's unique and you've got to appreciate it and the players loved it."

The 38-year-old Shearer joined in a training match and scored with a header to cheers from the fans, celebrating with the outstretched salute that followed nearly every goal of his career.

The Magpies are now three points from safety ahead of the trip to 13th-place Stoke, with an inferior goal difference to the next team - local rival Sunderland.

"We all know what we're going to face at Stoke," Shearer said. "It'll be one hell of a battle, but we're in one hell of a battle anyway. We know we have to win matches. We have to win to get out of this trouble. Stoke aren't a Chelsea, but the way they play and the atmosphere of their stadium will be equally as tough."

Shearer has also tried to improve discipline and team spirit by following the example of former Newcastle manager Bobby Robson and making his players eat together after training, rather than drifting off to dine alone or in cliques.


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