Keegan puts faith in Viduka

Striker set to return from injury against Birmingham

Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan has dismissed claims that he has had a bust-up with Mark Viduka.

The Australian striker has made just one substitute appearance since Keegan's return to St James' Park after being hampered by niggling injuries.

It has led to suggestions of a falling-out between Viduka and Keegan, but the Magpies boss is keen to set the record straight.

Keegan is a huge admirer of Viduka and is hoping the former Leeds United forward can boost the club's survival bid by returning to the team against Birmingham City on Monday.

No bust-up

"I get on really well with Mark," said Keegan. "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 injury and then got another thing and they've all been genuine.

"If he'd been fit and available, Mark is the kind of player you want on your team sheet every week. Definitely.

"When you look back over the season, when Michael Owen has played with Mark, the results have been pretty good, but unfortunately they have not been paired together much. One's had an injury, then the other.

Huge bonus

"For the last nine games we can look at a partnership there that's going to score goals. You always want your best players available, especially forwards who can score you goals and win you football matches. It's a nine-game season for us now.

"If we can have a fit Mark Viduka for the last nine games, that'll be a huge bonus for us. 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.

"It's a massive bonus having him back. At the moment, it looks as though he'll definitely be involved. We've always erred on the side of caution, but he should be ready."