Football: Owen fit for play-offs but Dyer misses out

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KEVIN KEEGAN experienced the highs and lows of the England manager's job within a few minutes yesterday.

Moments after the Liverpool striker Michael Owen had announced himself fit for the Euro 2000 play-off games against Scotland, the Newcastle United midfielder Kieron Dyer was ruled out of both games because he needs an operation on his calf injury.

Owen, who limped out of Liverpool's game at Southampton last month with a hamstring injury, has declared himself fit for the first leg at Hampden Park on Saturday week, but Dyer will undergo surgery on his long-standing injury and is expected to be out of action for between four to six weeks.

Owen, who has only Liverpool's game against Derby County on Saturday to prove his fitness, said: "The injury is coming on fine. I've started full training with the lads and there's been no reaction. I've only missed a week of football so I think I will be sharp.

"I've not been sitting on my bum doing nothing since I've been away. I've been training but just not using my legs as much. It was 50-50 if I played against Bradford but we decided to give it an extra week to strengthen the area and hopefully that extra week will put me in good stead."

Dyer has proved the principal bonus of Keegan's short career as England coach. He signed for the former Magpies manager Ruud Gullit for pounds 6m during the summer and will be a severe loss to both Keegan and Gullit's successor, Bobby Robson, who informed Keegan of the situation which became inevitable after the midfielder broke down once again 38 minutes into his club's 2-0 victory over Derby County nine days ago.

Dyer has been fighting a losing battle against his injury for several weeks despite being rested at regular intervals by his manager. It causes him to lose all feeling in his foot, but Newcastle were told that playing would not make the injury any worse.

The situation deteriorated last week and a series of tests was ordered, with the final examination carried out in Leicester on Sunday when the decision to operate was taken as soon as the full extent of the problem became apparent.

The six-week saga of Stoke City's takeover by a group of Icelandic businessmen ended last night when the consortium paid pounds 3.5m for a 66 per cent stake in the Second Division club. The group also pledged pounds 2.5m to wipe out debts and buy new players.

The appointment of the Icelandic coach, Gudjon Thordarsson, as manager now appears unlikely with Gary Megson having secured his position by taking the Potteries club to second in the table and making himself hugely popular with the fans.

The troubled Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore could return to Nottingham Forest, whose manager, David Platt, wants to sign the 28-year-old former City Ground player on loan with a view to a permanent move."We have a shortlist of strikers that we have identified and Stan is very high up on that list," Platt said.

The temporary Dunfermline Athletic manager, Jimmy Nicholl, will select the team for Saturday's Scottish First Division encounter with Raith Rovers at East End Park following yesterday's departure of Dick Campbell.

The official line from the Fife club is that Campbell tendered his resignation after deciding that five wins, six draws and a single defeat was not a sufficient return from the first 12 games of the campaign. The Fifers were relegated from the Premier League after finishing bottom of the table last term but looked handily placed for a swift return.

Nicholl, the former Raith and Millwall manager who has been acting as Campbell's assistant, hinted that he may have jumped seconds before he was pushed. "A man shouldn't lose his job when his team are second in the league," he said.

Aberdeen fans, desperate to launch a revival at the club, are set to ask the Government for help in buying a seat on the Pittodrie board.

And following the announcement by Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, that grant assistance would be given to non- profit-making trusts set up by supporters to buy shares, the Aberdeen Shareholders' Association chairman, Paul Stephen, is to make further enquiries.