Striker Obafemi Martins said yesterday how desperate he is to play a part in Kevin Keegan's attempt to revive Newcastle. The 23-year-old Nigerian is yet to play for the club's new manager after missing his first four games in charge because of the African Nations Cup, and the fifth with an ankle injury.
Now Martins is hoping to be fit enough to be considered for next Saturday's daunting Premier League meeting with Manchester United as the Magpies attempt to stop themselves being dragged into the relegation fight.
The £10m signing from Internazionale could only look on from afar at the rapture with which Keegan was welcomed back to Tyneside, and although the former England manager is still waiting for his first victory, Martins is looking forward to working with him.
The striker said: "He did a lot for Newcastle and all the fans love him. That's why they brought him back. They call him the king, so I think it is very good. It is very good for him as well, and the players are going to try our best just to make him proud."
Martins remains the club's top scorer this season with seven goals to date, one ahead of England international Michael Owen, who has scored in each of his last two games.
However, he will do well to get anywhere near the 17 he managed during his first campaign at St James' Park with only 12 games remaining and Newcastle facing something of a crisis.
The club's wait for a league win dates back to 15 December, a run of nine games that has brought only three points.
But Nigeria international Martins is determined to put his African Nations Cup disappointment behind him – his country went out to hosts Ghana in the quarter-finals – by helping the Magpies out of a hole, injury permitting.
He said: "I am sure everything will be OK. Let's wait and see. I think Kevin is very busy at the moment, but he had the doctor call me to see if I am OK. Everything has changed. We have a new manager and he will have changed a lot of things. It is not a problem for me to go back and focus on starting playing."
Martins may have been happier than most at Keegan's arrival after failing to win a regular place in the starting line-up under predecessor Sam Allardyce despite prospering under the man who signed him, Glenn Roeder. Allardyce drafted in Mark Viduka and Alan Smith during the summer, and the latter has found himself partnering Owen in attack in recent weeks with the Australian struggling to shake off a calf injury.
Viduka too could come into contention for the United game after sitting on the bench throughout Saturday's 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa.
However, there could be further competition in the offing with 19-year-old Andy Carroll banging on the door. The teenager scored in Monday night's 1-1 reserve-team draw with Manchester City, his fourth goal in as many second-string fixtures since his return from a loan spell at Preston.
That has alerted Ipswich and Swindon, while Roeder's Norwich have made no secret of their wish to take him on loan. However, Keegan has told the youngster he is going nowhere.
Asked about the possibility of Carroll making another temporary move, the manager said: "Absolutely no chance. We would not let anybody out on loan at the moment. We have let David Rozehnal go [to Lazio], but we just would not be doing our jobs properly if we left this club bare.
"He can learn everything he needs to learn here at the moment."Reuse content