The England striker Michael Owen has admitted that he feared his World Cup dream was over when he was told he needed another operation on his injured foot.
Owen said he panicked when his surgeon informed him last month that the fracture had not fully healed. But after being reassured that the setback was only a minor one, the 26-year-old Newcastle United player quickly agreed to undergo surgery to hasten his recovery ahead of this summer in Germany.
"When the surgeon called me, there was that panic," Owen recalled. "He said 'I think you should go in and have another operation', and I panicked then. It had healed three-quarters but it was still giving me a little pain after I had this little setback, and he couldn't guarantee whether that little last quarter would heal in four weeks or 12 weeks.
"I needed to guarantee it wasn't going to be 12 weeks, and the only way that was going to happen was if I had a slightly bigger screw in so that the thread wouldn't be in the same place. There was nothing wrong with the initial operation, it was just the final gap hadn't healed. That operation, unless I had any setbacks in the meantime, would guarantee a six-week maximum time-out, so I decided to have another one."
Owen is currently working his way back to full fitness, and although he is setting no comeback date, he is confident he will play again for his club this season before setting his sights on the World Cup finals. "I'm confident, as long as I don't have anymore setbacks or any muscular problems, as a lot of people can have when they come back from long-term injuries," he said. "As long as I don't have any of that, then I'll be fit to play for Newcastle this season, and England will look after itself."
Injuries have meant Owen has played just 10 games for Newcastle since completing his £17m move from Real Madrid in August. He admits being embarrassed by that - despite managing seven goals in those 10 games before disaster struck in a challenge with England team-mate Paul Robinson at Tottenham on New Year's Eve.
"God help me if I didn't do that because if I'd played 10 games and only scored one or two goals, then I really would be feeling low," he said. "That's the only thing that's made the season bearable, that when I've played, I've scored a few goals. That makes it slightly better, but I need to play more than 10 games this season to feel as if I've given any return."