Versatile Duff delights Shearer
Alan Shearer has praised Damien Duff's professionalism in answering Newcastle's emergency call. The 30-year-old Republic of Ireland winger could once again find himself employed at left-back in Monday's must-win Barclays Premier League clash with Middlesbrough as the club's only specialist in that position, Jose Enrique, struggles to overcome a hamstring injury. Duff has been asked to play in a variety of roles since his £5million switch from Chelsea to St James' Park during the summer of 2006, and Shearer said: "We are struggling for options over on that side, we have not got that many. But what Damien has given us is everything he has got, and that's the type of professional he is." He added: "He realises it is not his real position, but he has gone in there and done a really good job for us without any complaints." Shearer inherited a squad which is short on experienced and competent defenders, with cover in both full-back positions virtually non-existent. However, he could at least call upon the services of home-grown talent Steven Taylor for a derby clash which will have a major say in the ultimate conclusion to a dreadful campaign. Taylor has missed the last two games after aggravating an ankle problem on his return to action at Tottenham last month, but returned to training on Wednesday and could have forced his way back into contention. Shearer said: "He will be desperate to play. He wanted to train on Wednesday, and that was fine." If he gets the nod, Taylor could be the only Geordie in the starting line-up, although the one in the dug-out does not necessarily believe that will be a problem in a game which transcends local rivalry. Shearer said: "There is local pride at stake, without a doubt, but it would probably be disrespectful to the other lads to say they don't understand the importance of the game, because they do. They are aware we are playing for huge stakes here."
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