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DAMIEN READY TO WING BACK; Hughton puts his faith in Duff as Smith faces op.

Byline: By ALAN OLIVER Chief Sports Writer

DAMIEN DUFF will be back in the Newcastle United fold at West Ham tomorrow - with caretaker boss Chris Hughton believing the pounds 5m winger can finally do the business in a blackand- white shirt.

Hughton is hoping is his faith in Duff will prove well founded, with Alan Smith being ruled out for the next three months.

Before taking his already depleted squad to London, Hughton said: "Alan Smith needs an operation on his ankle and we are not expecting to have him available again until near the New Year."

Smith has yet to score a competitive goal for United in 30 starts, plus seven as substitute, since Sam Allardyce paid Manchester United pounds 6m for him in the summer of 2007.

And Duff, who came 12 months earlier in what was thought to be a bargain transfer from Chelsea, has fared little better. Indeed his goal at Upton Park two years ago is the only one the 29-year-old Republic of Ireland international has managed for United in a league game.

However, if his four strikes in pre-season games are counted, he is the club's top scorer in all matches in the current campaign.

Duff has missed the last three games because of the knee injury he suffered in a tackle by former United defender Andy O'Brien in the win over Bolton Wanderers at St James's Park at the end of August.

But Hughton could certainly do with the former Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea man tomorrow.

The odds are against Oba Martins returning from injury on the ground where - like Duff - he grabbed his first United goal in September 2006.

He followed it up with another there last season The United caretaker-boss added: "The team hasn't been announced yet, but one thing I would say is that's it's certainly good to have Damien Duff back with us.

"Obviously, I am aware he scored at West Ham a couple of seasons ago, and hopefully that's a good omen.

"He's come through his first full preseason in three years and started the season in very good form. He's a top international player and it's good to have him back in the fold.

"I was involved with Damien very much as a coach with the Republic of Ireland and there's no doubt he's a big addition to our squad.

"I am also aware that he has only scored one Premier League goal for us, but I think with statistics you can always look at them and turn them how you want to turn them.

"The statistic of his we've looked at, at this particular time, is the impact that he's had on this team in pre-season and at the start of the season.

"You look at what he gives the team. I'm sure he'll be very aware he's only scored one league goal, but it's about what he can give this team.

"For him, it's not just about scoring goals. It's about getting in good positions, working hard when the opposition have got the ball and creating things."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 19, 2008
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