England must face crucial Euro qualifiers without Owen

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Michael Owen is out of England's crucial Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia next month, his Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce revealed last night. The striker will go to Germany on Friday to learn whether he needs a hernia operation, but he is already out for up to three weeks with a tear to an abductor muscle.

Allardyce is still holding out hope that Owen will not need the hernia operation but said that it made sense that the player was checked given that he is already out with a "3cm tear in his abductor muscle". Steve McClaren now looks certain to turn to the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch in attack against Estonia on 13 October and against Russia in Moscow four days later.

Owen will be treated by the renowned doctor, Ulrike Muschaweck. Not until Dr Muschaweck has seen Owen herself can it be said with total certainty what treatment he will receive, but the belief at Newcastle is that he will have a double hernia operation. It will be up to Dr Muschaweck to determine the next course of action with Allardyce still seeming to believe that rest could be as sensible a course as intervention.

"Whoever does the surgery [if he needs it] cannot say whether he needs a hernia operation or not until they have seen him," Allardyce said. "I would have thought he misses the England games with his groin [abductor muscle injury] anyway so we might as well check whether he needs the hernia or not. He is out for about two or three weeks with his abductor tear."

Dramatic as a double hernia operation sounds, Muschaweck's technique of minimal surgery leaves patients often able to walk immediately and not even have to stay overnight at her prestigious base on the top floor of a luxury hotel adjacent to Munich airport. Two years ago, Alan Shearer visited Dr Muschaweck for a hernia operation and played 10 days later.

Owen is Newcastle's record signing, at £17m from Real Madrid, and the widely-held belief that Newcastle used, up-front, Northern Rock sponsorship money to fund the deal appeared to be confirmed by new Newcastle chairman Chris Mort yesterday.

"What we also found was that the club had spent sponsorship money before it actually came in," Mort said of this summer's takeover. " For example, all the cash from Northern Rock, which should have been paid annually, has already gone. Money was also borrowed against a deal with Adidas."

The development came on a day when the new owner of Newcastle United, Mike Ashley, pumped another £45m into the club's coffers to address the inherited debt. That comes on top of £30m a few weeks ago, all that on top of the £133m he paid for the club. The debt level has clearly taken Ashley aback.

"We were surprised at how bad the financial position was. We didn't fully realise it," admitted Mort. "If the old board had not been successful in re-financing the club by the end of the financial year it would have folded like a pack of cards."

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