Shearer puts Barton saga aside
Alan Shearer is hoping to draw a line under the unsavoury Joey Barton saga and focus on Premier League survival. The Newcastle boss has seen St James' Park once again fall under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons of late. Barton's dismissal during a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday, and his subsequent suspension by the club, has offered an unwelcome distraction at a crucial stage of the season. With the Magpies still scrapping for their Premier League lives, the episode could not have come at a worse time for temporary coach Shearer. However, the former England captain is keen to put the issue to rest and give his full attention to a crunch derby date with Middlesbrough on Monday. "Joey has been suspended until further notice. The club wants to look at a few things and they will make another statement or comment when the time is right," he said. "But other than that, there are far more important things to talk about than what has gone on this week." Newcastle enter their meeting with Middlesbrough with both sides languishing in the bottom three. The North East duo are locked together on 31 points, three points from safety with three games remaining. That has added an extra dimension to the Tyne-Tees clash, but Shearer insists the events of the last week have not had an adverse affect on his side's preparations. Mood"No, they haven't at all to be honest," he said. "The mood around the place has been good, and despite the result on Sunday, training has been fine and I have been encouraged." Shearer is under no illusions, though, as to the size of the task still facing his troops. "It will be the biggest game I have been involved in and certainly for the players as well," he said. "We are playing for big stakes here and it will be a huge football match. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on both teams, but we're looking forward to it." The Magpies boss also believes that a morale-boosting success at this stage of the campaign could help to carry the club to safety. "It will be massive. It would give everyone a huge lift confidence wise and belief wise," he added. "I believe we can do that. I really do. I have seen enough from the players, not just this week but in recent games, and if we go into it and create chances I'm pretty sure one will go in." Injuries continue to disrupt Shearer's plans heading into the game, with Jose Enrique and Alan Smith struggling to shake off knee and thigh problems respectively. On a more positive note, Steven Taylor returned to training on Wednesday after an ankle problem and could feature on Monday night.
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