Viduka seeks to make up lost time at Newcastle as derby day looms

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle United striker Mark Viduka is determined to show Kevin Keegan what he can do on a long-term basis. The 32-year-old Australia international will start his sixth successive game should Keegan stick to his intention to make no changes for Sunday's derby match with Sunderland at St James' Park as an injury-hit first season on Tyneside draws to a close.

Viduka has had limited opportunities to make his presence felt since his summer move from Middlesbrough. However, when he has played he has made an impact and his presence in a new-look frontline alongside Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins has been a major feature of his side's recent five-game unbeaten run.

Viduka said: "I am just starting to get a good taste of what it is like to play for Newcastle United, which is a massive club with big potential. I would love to be in Kevin Keegan's starting line up every week and that's what I am working towards."

Viduka returned from injury for the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light in November when James Milner's fortuitous equaliser earned the Magpies a point and extended the Wearsiders' wait for a home league win over their arch rivals to more than 27 years.

But it will be two very different teams that run out this weekend with Keegan having emerged from a desperately difficult start after replacing Sam Allardyce at the helm and Sunderland knowing Premier League survival is very much in their own hands.

Victory for Newcastle would increase their advantage over Roy Keane's side to six points. However, Viduka, whose previous derby experiences include the Celtic versus Rangers rivalry north of the border, is expecting nothing more than a tough encounter.

"I came back into the Newcastle side for our game at Sunderland in November and the atmosphere reminded me of an Old Firm game," Viduka said. "But I am expecting it to be even bigger on Sunday. There will be so much emotion and passion and that's what everybody wants to be a part of."

Viduka's return to fitness has been a major boost for Newcastle, and the news that he hopes to represent his country at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will have given cause for concern at his club.

The national coach Pim Verbeek flew to Tyneside to hold talks with one of his most experienced players last week. But while the striker's international ambitions are important, he insists he will not put his country before his club.

He said: "I would love to be involved in the World Cup but it just depends on myself physically. I want to get myself to a high level of fitness. I love playing for Australia and I am very proud of representing my country. But it is very demanding having to go such a long way."

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