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Next

Horncastle: The end of the "Rafalution"?

Serie A about an hour ago
Read
 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 17, 2009

Shearer puts Toon survival ahead of style

Alan Shearer does not care how Newcastle United accumulate the points they need to avoid relegation as long as they get them.

In an ideal world, Shearer would like the Magpies to play the kind of flowing, exciting football they did during his days as a player under Sir Bobby Robson, when they secured three successive top-five finishes in the Premier League and on more than once occasion, threatened to end a trophy drought which now extends to 40 years.

However, Shearer's men head for Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday locked in a tense battle for top-flight survival which has just six, crucial games to run.

In the circumstances, the only thing that matters is a points total which currently stands at a paltry 30 and which needs to increase significantly if relegation is to be avoided.

Shearer said: ''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.''

Shearer's pragmatism is both understandable and realistic: he has inherited a squad which has been ravaged by a fatally-flawed transfer policy which has left it, among other things, short on pace and creativity in midfield.

Where he had the speed and delivery of the likes of Kieron Dyer, Nolberto Solano and Laurent Robert at his disposal, the current crop of Newcastle strikers have been starved of service for much of the season, and Shearer, his assistant Iain Dowie and the coaching staff have spent the last few weeks working to resolve that issue.

Mark Viduka could return at White Hart Lane after finally recovering from his troublesome Achilles injury, while Obafemi Martins has been challenged to play through the pain of his groin problem in his cub's hour of need.

But it is perhaps former team-mate Michael Owen who could hold the key for Shearer as he looks for the goals which might just save the club.

Owen's suffered the infamous metatarsal fracture which prompted his desperate fight for fitness ahead of the 2006 World Cup finals at Spurs on New Year's Eve, 2005, incidentally the last time the Magpies tasted league defeat home or away at the hands of the north London club.

That was the last time the two men played together, although Shearer needs no reminder of his former side-kick's ability.

He said: ''Right now, Michael needs a goal, like all strikers do, but one thing we know is that he won't shy away from trying to get them.

''We would rather have Michael in our team than somebody else's, put it that way. I wouldn't bet against him having a big day in the last six games.''

Remarkably, the Magpies have won each of their past six league games against Spurs, although they lost to them in the Carling Cup third round at St James' Park in September last year.

That run includes victories at White Hart Lane in each of the last two seasons in which midfielder Nicky Butt has scored.

Astonishingly, Butt has played under 10 different managers, including caretakers, since his arrival on Tyneside in July 2004 - he also had a season on loan at Birmingham City under Steve Bruce - and he admits the need for stability has never been more pressing.

The midfielder said: ''It's scary. I knew it was a lot, but I didn't realise it was that many.

''It just goes to show the instability we have had at the club. Hopefully now we can get that over the next few months and years.''

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