Alan Shearer has spoken to Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Sir Bobby Robson in this his first full week of management and the message from the former Newcastle managers was: "Welcome to the mad house." As if to illustrate the difficulties of the job, Shearer revealed that he may be forced into playing Damien Duff at left-back in the crucial relegation battle at Stoke City tomorrow evening.
Injuries have played a significant role in Newcastle's downfall this season and Jose Enrique has a knee problem. One of Keegan's persistent requests last summer was for another left-back, but there is no cover with Charles N'Zogbia after he was sold to Wigan in January. "We've got one left-back and one right-back," Shearer said. "It doesn't take a genius to work out you need more than that. But that's what we've got, so we deal with it.
"Duff is an option, yes. The last time I looked, Ryan Taylor is right-footed, but he can play there. He's done that before."
Steven Taylor is another unfit defender, though there was better news on Sébastien Bassong and Habib Beye, who both trained yesterday for the first time this week. It is possible Joey Barton and Mark Viduka will be fit for Tottenham on Sunday week.
Shearer's tone was upbeat. Despite last Saturday's home defeat by Chelsea and the physical prospect of Stoke, Shearer is relishing his new profession. "I haven't been able to switch off, not at all," he said. "Bang goes your relaxation time. It takes over your thoughts. Every waking minute. Every second, not minute. Picking teams – 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-1-2, whatever. But it's been great. I've enjoyed it.
"We know what we're facing on Saturday, but knowing and doing something about it are totally different. Not many teams have gone there this season and been able to handle everything Stoke are about. Can we? Can we take them on at being physical? Probably not. But can we take them on at football? Probably yes."