Kieron Dyer was yesterday keeping his fingers crossed after suffering a setback in his return from injury.
The 22-year-old Newcastle midfielder played his first football in nine months after coming on as a late substitute in the 1-0 win at his former club Ipswich on Saturday and came off the pitch reporting no reaction.
But after training on Monday as he prepared for tonight's Worthington Cup quarter-final clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Dyer complained of soreness in the shin – which has caused him so much trouble over the last year.
That left the player and Newcastle manager, Bobby Robson, both hoping that the pain was nothing more than a reminder of the turmoil he has been through in his bid for fitness. "Kieron had a slight reaction to playing which surprised us because he came off fine," said Robson. "But yesterday, he was complaining about general soreness in the shin again.
"Whether it's a reaction to just playing Premiership football, which is a step up from anything that you might do in training or in the reserves, I don't know. Our physios, Derek Wright and Paul Ferris, think he is going to have days like this where it doesn't feel as good one day as it does another day.
"Derek even suggested that the weather can have an effect on it. I know he's got a steel rod down his leg – maybe he's got a bit of frostbite in it. We are going to check him, but the way he was yesterday, he will be doubtful."
That would come as a huge blow to Robson, who has three other midfielders on the casualty list. Clarence Acuna has struggled to shake off a hamstring problem and Christian Bassedas has a similar injury.
The Frenchman Laurent Robert limped off at Portman Road with a recurrence of a long-standing hip injury and is even more unlikely to feature tonight than Dyer. That could open the way for compatriot Olivier Bernard, who replaced him at Ipswich, and Robson will have no qualms about throwing the combative midfielder into the fray at Chelsea.
"Laurent is a bigger risk than Kieron at the moment, to be honest with you," admitted Robson. "But we have Olivier. He's a young kid, but we like him very much. He's done very well for us. We're delighted with him. He's strong, he's very quick.
"He and Chris Makin made a tackle on Saturday and it is a good job they both played the ball, otherwise I think two legs would have finished in the stand, one each."