Newcastle can do well without absent Owen

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The Independent Online

The injured striker Michael Owen is backing Newcastle to prosper without him. The 26-year-old might have been lining up for England against Greece at Old Trafford tonight had he not suffered a devastating knee injury during this summer's World Cup finals.

Instead, he is facing a gruelling period of recovery which will see him miss most of the new campaign.

That has left manager Glenn Roeder and chairman Freddy Shepherd desperately scouring the transfer market for a replacement.

However, Owen is confident the Magpies can still make an impression in the Premiership and beyond despite his absence.

Owen, who is currently awaiting a second operation to repair his knee ligament injury, said: "The lads did well at the back end of last season to get into seventh spot with that fantastic late run, and they have done well over the summer.

"The pre-season has been tough because the competitive games came first, but European football is vital for the club so it will have been worth it if we get into the Uefa Cup proper.

"The players want to play in Europe and, from the club's point of view, it is huge financially as well. "Everyone is excited with the start of the Premiership season coming up, you can sense that around the place.

"On paper, it looks as though we have a good start to the season, but we need to turn those games into points from the start."

Newcastle launch their Premiership campaign at home to Wigan on Saturday, and will then look to cement their place in the Uefa Cup by completing an aggregate victory over Latvian side Ventspils.

Reports linking the club with Wigan's Henri Camara have been played down, while it appears the interest in Internazionale's Nigerian frontman Obafemi Martins - whose age they have been trying to confirm - is waning.

They could be ready once again to turn to Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt, with Roeder planning to watch him if he plays for the Netherlands against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin tonight.

Meanwhile, Roeder will be hoping new signing Damien Duff's return to Tyneside from the Irish camp with a groin injury proves to be just a precaution, with the 27-year-old due to make his league debut for Newcastle at the weekend.

The Magpies are hoping for a hostile atmosphere for the visit of Paul Jewell's men and in an effort to recreate the scenes at Alan Shearer's testimonial will give a scarf to every spectator as they arrive at St James' Park.

Shepherd said: "When the fans at Alan's testimonial started waving the scarves, it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. It was the talk of football.

"I hope the scarf-waving will become a tradition at home games. When St James' Park is buzzing, there is no better ground in the world for atmosphere."

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