Football: Shearer confirms fitness for new season

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The Independent Online
ALAN SHEARER, the Newcastle United captain, allayed fears that he may miss the start of the Premiership season by playing for over an hour of his side's 2-0 friendly defeat at Celtic on Tuesday night and said he expected to be fit for the opening day meeting with Aston Villa at St James' Park.

Shearer's fitness had been doubtful since he damaged an ankle during the club's pre-season tour of the Netherlands, but after playing since he signed a long-term contract, he said he would ready for the new campaign. "I'm fit," he said. "It's not a problem. I've been fit since last week. There's no doubt about it and there never has been as far as I'm concerned. The ankle is fine and has been for a week, so I'm raring to go."

However, the immediate future of Shearer's strike partner, Duncan Ferguson, is not so promising. The former Rangers and Everton forward has been pencilled in for a game in Germany against Bochum on Saturday in what will be his last chance to prove his fitness before the big kick-off. Ferguson's involvement has been minimal since he underwent surgery on a groin injury at the turn of the year.

But his performance as a substitute in the FA Cup semi-final victory over Tottenham Hotspur showed what an asset he can be.

"Duncan is training and he's going well," said manager Ruud Gullit. "Hopefully we can get him a game on Saturday. He's working very hard and doing fine. The good thing about Duncan is he's a character player. He plays with his heart."