American doctor to treat striken striker

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Michael Owen was back on Tyneside yesterday amid fears that his absence could be even more prolonged than first thought.

The 26-year-old England striker visited the club's Darsley Park training headquarters yesterday morning along with his father, Terry, as the Magpies' medical staff assessed the extent of the damage.

A scan carried out in Germany on Wednesday confirmed he had ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but there are fears he also damaged the medial ligament against Sweden on Tuesday. Owen is already facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and while Newcastle are not imposing a time-frame, they are privately preparing themselves to be without him until at least next year.

The club's chairman, Freddy Shepherd, and the medical staff, led by the club doctor Roddy McDonald, will decide on the way forward in consultation with the player as they plan the surgery required to repair his knee. Newcastle have turned to the American specialist Richard Steadman in the past with both Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy crediting the Colorado-based surgeon with saving their careers.

In the mean time, Owen will prepare himself for yet another long haul back to fitness, but will do so having been greeted by a stack of get-well messages on his return to the North-east. He told the club's website: "The injury is a big blow because, after the World Cup, I was really looking forward to the new season with Newcastle. Now I have to accept I'm going to be out for a while again, but what will help me is the support of the fans, and I really appreciate all the messages. And I look forward to the day I can thank them by getting back out on the pitch and scoring in a Newcastle shirt."

Shepherd and the club's manager, Glenn Roeder, turned their attention to replacing not only Owen, but Alan Shearer and Michael Chopra as well, within hours of Owen's injury.

They will also be boosted by the return of James Milner for pre-season training next week.