7,500 gather to watch Shearer train Magpies

First published in Newcastle United News, Match Reports, Fixtures, Results & Tables The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

NEWCASTLE boss Alan Shearer today threw open the gates at St James' Park as he called for a united front in the battle for top-flight survival.

Thousands of fans turned up to watch an open training session during which the 38-year-old and his coaching staff put the players through their paces in warm sunshine on Tyneside.

A crowd of 7,500, including thousands of schoolchildren on their Easter holidays, looked on as Shearer and assistant Iain Dowie supervised shooting practice, while long-term absentees Joey Barton and Mark Viduka worked together as they continued their recovery from injury.

There were cheers when the ball hit the back of the net - something which has not happened too often in recent matches - with Argentinian winger Jonas Gutierrez in particular suggesting he should be more of a threat when it matters.

But the biggest came when the manager claimed a double in a small-sided game and could not resist the temptation to briefly reprise his famous celebration after the first.

Skipper Michael Owen, without a goal since January 10, joined in the shooting exercises, although the real work had already taken place before the gates were opened at 11.30am.

There was no sign of defenders Steven Taylor and Sebastien Bassong, who are battling against ankle and groin injuries respectively ahead of Saturday's crucial Barclays Premier League trip to Stoke, although the Frenchman had been present for the start of the session.

Shearer was at his most animated as he passed on the knowledge gained from almost 20 years of life at the sharp end and a record 206 goals in a black and white shirt in a decade of service to his home-town club.

However, for all the excitement as Jonas, Owen and Obafemi Martins peppered keeper's Steve Harper and Fraser Forster with close-range shots, there was no escaping the severity of the challenge which faces to Magpies over the remaining seven games of the season.

They head for the Britannia Stadium three points adrift of safety and knowing they need to start winning games if they are to avoid slipping into the Coca-Cola Championship.

Shearer is well aware that he faces a monumental struggle to save the club, but is determined to use everyone and everything at his disposal to pull off an escape.

That could yet include handing a role to 20-year-old local boy Andy Carroll, who warmed down with the reserves on the pitch this morning after claiming a double in last nights 2-1 victory over Manchester City in front of his new manager.

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