KUALA LUMPUR: Newcastle flew in to a wet, wet welcome here yesterday but they are in high spirits for their challenge in the inaugural FA Premier League (FAPL) Asia Cup tournament, which kicks off at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Thursday.
And they have skipper Alan Shearer fully recovered from an ankle injury to spearhead their charge.
The Magpies will play against Birmingham in the opening match of the tournament on Thursday. The winners will contest the final on Sunday against the winners the match between Chelsea and Malaysia, which will be played on Friday.
Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson said at a press conference: “Shearer finished the season with a fractured ankle but he has made a splendid recovery and I am pleased with that.
“He is on schedule and training very hard. Shearer is as strong as ever. He is not limping. The evidence is right now he will be fit for the start of the season.”
Newcastle finished third last season with Shearer playing an inspiring role for the team. For the 2003-04 season, Newcastle have bought additional fire-power with the signing of former Leeds player Lee Bowyer to add to Kieron Dyer, who is described as one of England's brightest young stars.
Newcastle are here with a full-strength 22-player squad. The other big names in the team are Welsh stars Craig Bellamy and Gary Speed and Nigerian Shola Ameobi.
“We have come here to win ... not to lose to anyone. Competing in this tournament is part of our pre-season build-up. We will utilise all our players. We are professionals and we will take each game very professionally,” said Robson.
“It is a paying game and we will have to do everything professionally. To be in the final, we need to win our first game and I will pick my best team for the match.
“The weather is hot and humid. This is not conducive for good football. I will look at the tournament rules and I will do what I can do in the first game and then look at the second game.”
Shearer, who was also at the press conference, said: “I keep saying before every season that this our chance and I will say it again. We certainly have a tremendous chance to win something this season. Every player has a responsibility, more so for yourself.”
Robson also brushed aside that Dyer has had talks with champions Manchester United.
“I saw a headline in a newspaper but I know absolutely nothing about it. As far as I am concerned, there is no truth in it. It's a fabricated story. Dyer will remain a Magpie.”
Yesterday evening, Newcastle had a training session at the National Sports Council's (NSC) training field in Bukit Jalil.