Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keegan Denies Rift with Viduka; Boss Attacks Bust-Up Claims

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keegan Denies Rift with Viduka; Boss Attacks Bust-Up Claims

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

KEVIN Keegan has moved to quash rumours that he has a difficult relationship with Newcastle striker Mark Viduka as the Australian prepares to finally return to the United side against Birmingham City next week.

Viduka has only started 11 games since his Bosman-style free transfer switch from Middlesbrough in the summer and has not been named in the starting lineup since the 4-1 FA Cup win over Stoke on January 16, the day Keegan returned as manager. But Keegan is adamant the 32-year-old is finally approaching match fitness as he strongly denied the player had done anything to upset him since he returned to St James's Park.

Some had interpreted Keegan's previous comments regarding Viduka's inability to train as a veiled criticism of the striker's attitude, but that was quickly dismissed yesterday. "Can I just say that most of the stuff written about this club is tosh, absolute rubbish and that's just another case," he said when asked if he could clarify what had gone on behind the scenes at St James's Park with the former Leeds and Middlesbrough star.

"I get on really well with Mark, we've never had a bust-up with any player at this club, and that's the truth, he just hasn't been fit. He's come back from one thing and then got another thing and they've all been genuine. All the other stuff you've seen is absolute garbage.

"He's my kind of player. I like him as a player. He's got this fantastic ability to score goals in tight situations and to score goals at important times. That's what wins you football matches.

"You saw Fernando Torres the other night score a goal (against Inter Milan) when a lot of players would have taken another touch and moved across, and Mark comes into that category. He doesn't need a lot of space, he can do the unexpected. It's a massive bonus having him back for the last 10 games."

With United struggling to score goals since Keegan returned - they have managed three in eight games so far - as well as failing to keep them out at the other end, Keegan is keen to see Viduka rebuild his partnership with Michael Owen.

The pairing has, generally, looked United's best attacking spearhead this season, but injuries have meant they have only managed nine appearances together and only a handful of those have seen them both start the game. …

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