Martins, the missing man for Nigeria, was visiting sick mother

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle United striker Obafemi Martins missed Nigeria's friendly with Ghana on Tuesday night after flying home to tend to his sick mother.

Nigeria's coach, Austin Eguavoen, was furious with the 22-year-old's absence for the Super Eagles' 4-1 defeat at Brentford's Griffin Park. Newcastle said this week that they had not refused their £10m signing permission to play in the game. However, the Premiership club's manager, Glenn Roeder, said yesterday that the player had taken advantage of Fifa's "free day" for international players to travel to Lagos and bring his mother back to Tyneside.

Roeder said: "Oba was back in training today after making a lightning-quick return to Nigeria to attend to his mother, who has been poorly."

Roeder recently attributed Martins' improved form - he scored his 11th goal of the season in the 2-1 Premiership defeat at Fulham last weekend - to his mother's previous visit to England. Roeder also said last month that he would ask the former Internazionale player to consider sitting out the Ghana game.

Eguavoen has vowed to take his fight to the relevant authorities and Martins could face a domestic ban if it is decided that he has breached the rules on availability for international fixtures.

Roeder's wish to rest the striker is understandable - he will be without Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi for much, if not all, of this season thanks to injury and the Nigerian is his only fit out-and-out striker. Newcastle have been indebted to the midfielders Antoine Sibierski and Kieron Dyer, who have scored 12 goals between them.

Roeder said: "Our injury worries started at the World Cup with Michael Owen getting hurt and have continued from then. We have not made injuries an excuse, we have merely stated who is or is not available.

"But we knew before a ball had even been kicked we would be robbed of Michael Owen's services. What team would not find it hard without Michael? He is a world-class striker. You only need to look at Chelsea when John Terry was out to see what a difference one player being injured can make."

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