Viduka's great appetite earns Newcastle recall

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The Independent Football

Alan Shearer and Mark Viduka could be said to occupy the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Newcastle United centre forwards. But the Australian, who has not started a game all season and who has featured for only 22 minutes this year, has been included in Shearer's squad for the game at Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow and is the subject of a splurge of praise from the new Newcastle temporary manager.

Shearer's message is that a player earning vast sums per week had virtually been written off by the previous regime and that in Newcastle's situation, the club cannot afford that financially or in terms of playing numbers.

Viduka's contract expires in June and he was not expected to be seen in black and white stripes again.

"It's fair to say that Mark probably wouldn't have played again this season if things hadn't changed," Shearer began. "So just having him available to play some part is great. He was injured and not in a good condition and probably on his way to Australia this summer because talks hadn't happened between himself and the football club.

"But he's shown a great appetite to get us out of trouble which is what I'm looking for. He was sidelined before I came. Everyone knows he's got ability. If we can get something out of him between now and the end of the season it could be key."

Viduka, 33, has seen his stock fall low enough on Tyneside for him to have been booed by Newcastle fans this season, but that is not the Viduka Shearer has experienced in his two weeks at the Benton training ground.

"Mark's shown a great attitude and pushed himself hard," Shearer said. "He's been in early every morning and does extra work every afternoon. It's a fine balance of trying to get him fit without pushing him too hard."

Shearer's enthusiasm for Viduka led to a discussion over the possibility of a one-year extension being offered.

"That's something we'd have to look at come the end of the season," Shearer added. "I asked Mark: 'Do you want to help play a part in us trying to stay up?' And the answer was most definitely a 'Yes'. I think it would have been a complete waste to just let him lie on the treatment table looking forward to going back to the beaches in Australia. That's what his plans were this summer."

Shearer does not care how Newcastle get the points they need to avoid relegation as long as they get them. "Points are the most important thing. I believe in trying to play the game the right way, if there is a right way. But I don't really care, to be honest. As long as we get more points than the other three at the bottom between now and the end of the season, I don't care how they come."