Good news at least over Owen as X-rays show no new damage

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Michael Owen's World Cup hopes improved significantly yesterday when an X-ray revealed no fresh damage to the foot injury that kept him out of the game for four months.

Owen, who suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal in a collision with England colleague Paul Robinson at Tottenham on New Year's Eve, left Birmingham City's ground in discomfort on Saturday after a 28-minute comeback as a substitute for Newcastle United.

A spokesman for Newcastle said: "Michael saw the specialist and had an X-ray and undertook various tests. The results were positive - there is no damage and the specialist said that it was quite normal for a certain level of pain to be experienced in the first couple of games back after an injury of this type."

The former Liverpool striker, 26, required two operations to rectify the original damage and learnt before kick-off of Wayne Rooney's injury. He appeared to come through at Birmingham without problems, only to complain afterwards of a "dull ache".

Newcastle have one Premiership fixture left, against Chelsea on Sunday. If he were to miss that match, Owen would have just three non-competitive games before England open their Group B schedule against Paraguay in Frankfurt on 10 June.

One is Alan Shearer's testimonial match at home to Celtic on 11 May. The others are England's warm-up games against Hungary on 30 May and Jamaica on 3 June, both at Manchester United.

Owen, England's current top scorer with 33 goals, said: "My foot doesn't feel right. I felt something go. There's a numbness there, but it's not the kind of pain I experienced when I needed a second operation. It wasn't a crack I felt when I first did it, but it's obviously not ideal. As far as the World Cup is concerned, it's much too early to say."

Glenn Roeder, Newcastle's caretaker manager, had welcomed Owen back to full training a week ago today. He said the player was neither "100 per cent happy" nor "overly concerned". Roeder said: "I asked Michael what the severity was. He said it isn't severe at all, just a dull ache. We'll let his foot cool down and then the medical department will decide the next step. He'll probably have a scan.

"I wouldn't have taken a chance by putting him out there for half an hour if he hadn't trained so well. He did all the things we wanted - twisting, turning, jumping, running in straight lines - with no problem at all."

Roeder added: "It's not a time for everyone to start saying: 'Michael's not going to the World Cup.' We're nowhere near that stage. It's no more than a concern at the moment."

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