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Allardyce waits on Viduka test

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SAM Allardyce is keeping his fingers crossed that Mark Viduka passes a fitness test this morning as he prepares for tomorrow’s clash with a rejuvenated Manchester City.


United desperately need Viduka to play in the lunchtime game at the City of Manchester Stadium as Shola Ameobi is definitely out of the trip to the north-west and is facing another frustrating spell on the sidelines.


The Magpies are still waiting for the results of a scan on his groin, but Allardyce has already ruled him out of his plans for the weekend as he could hardly walk when he left the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night following the Carling Cup defeat by Arsenal.


And the feeling inside St James’s Park is that the player will be missing for weeks, rather than days.


Allardyce said: “We still haven’t seen the results of the scan, but there is no chance of Shola playing against Manchester City.


“He was in a lot of pain after the game against Arsenal and had very little mobility so we will have to make do without him. Whatever the scan results show the damage is, he will not have recovered in time.”


Viduka missed the Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal in midweek after aggravating his foot injury during the 3-1 win over West Ham United last weekend, but the Australian’s absence is understood to have been more of a precautionary measure. With Michael Owen due to have an operation on his groin in Germany today, Allardyce could not afford to risk Viduka against the Gunners and United’s manager will hope the former Boro striker can quickly build up an understanding with Obafemi Martins.


Owen will be missing for at least three weeks as he recovers from surgery, although Martins is a more than able replacement for the England international, despite his wayward finishing on Tuesday night.


Meanwhile, Allardyce thinks it will probably be easier to keep Steve Harper happy on the substitutes’ bench than Shay Given this season, but refuses to let it influence his team selections.


Harper has started all of Newcastle’s Premier League matches this term and Given both League Cup ties. Now Allardyce must decide if the trend should continue at Eastlands tomorrow.


As the Magpies manager had hoped, Republic of Ireland international Given made the decision a more difficult one by putting in an outstanding performance at Arsenal on Tuesday.


The man who has been Newcastle United’s undisputed first-choice for the past seven seasons is now pushing hard to retain the mantle for the Premier League game against Manchester City.


“That’s why I chose him against


Arsenal,” said Allardyce. “I usually did the opposite (when he was manager of Bolton), I’d have been playing Stevie Harper because that’s what I always did in cup matches.


“But when you’ve got two outstanding keepers, the hardest part of the job is keeping one happy when he’s not playing.”


Given lost his place in the league side when he suffered a groin injury in the pre-season friendly against Sampdoria. In previous years it has become customary for the Irishman to return to the side as soon as he was fit again, but Allardyce has chosen instead to reward Harper for his solid displays in the opening weeks of the season.


The former Seaham Red Star goalkeeper has always been highly rated within St James’s Park, but such has been the outstanding form of his rival and close friend, he has never had the recognition his performances have merited.


Having been at the club since 1994, Harper is well used to playing the role of substitute goalkeeper and does so without complaint.


But Given is also his country’s preferred goalkeeper and was described by Republic team-mate Robbie Keane as the best goalkeeper in the world during the last international break.


Having always rejected the opportunity to leave the club in the past, the 31-year-old needs and deserves regular first-team football.


Allardyce is fully aware of the situation but is adamant it must not cloud his thinking when deciding who should play in goal. When asked how he could keep Given happy without regular first-team football, his response was a simple one: “You can’t. As for Stevie Harper, he’s slightly better at it (being a substitute). But it’s not about making a decision on who causes you more problems, it’s about what you think is the right team or the right goalkeeper at that particular time.”


Until last season, Harper had suffered from Given’s incredible ability to avoid and recover from injury. He missed only two Premier League games between the start of the 2001-02 season and the end of the 2005-06 campaign.


But, since tearing his abdomen in a collision with West Ham’s Marlon Harewood 12 months ago, he has suffered a host of minor groin injuries and other related problems.

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