Surgeons yesterday carried out an operation on Michael Owen's broken toe - but Newcastle's injury problems are increasing still further.
The England striker had an operation at a Manchester hospital where a pin was inserted into the fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The operation is understood to have gone successfully. But Owen, who suffered the fracture against Tottenham Hotspur on New Year's Eve, will be out for 10 weeks.
With Shola Ameobi also now facing a spell on the sidelines, the Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness, insists that not even a squad as strong as Chelsea's could cope with such a crisis.
Ameobi is to have a scan on his hip, fearing that it may be a recurrence of the same injury that affected him so badly last season.
Matters could deteriorate even further for Souness if the midfielder Scott Parker, who has a knee problem, needs surgery. Emre (hamstring), Kieron Dyer (hamstring), Steven Taylor (shoulder), Stephen Carr (hernia) and Craig Moore (hamstring) are also missing - while Lee Bowyer still has two games of a suspension left to serve.
Souness said: "When you look at the six or so players we've got injured any team in the country would miss them. Take six of Manchester United's, Arsenal's, Liverpool's or Chelsea's best players away - and see what team they could put out."
Souness believes that Parker may not needan operation. But the position on Ameobi, who limped off during the 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough on Monday, is uncertain.
Ameobi told the club's website: "It just came on gradually. I could feel it grinding during the first half. That was the problem I suffered with last season.
"I've been pain-free for a while now after games. But that is the first time I have had a reaction, so I will go for a scan and see what the extent of the damage is."
Lee Clark has offered Souness his support by dedicating his goal in the Tyne-Tees derby to him. The 32-year-old's first goal for the Magpies in almost nine years ensured his side a share of the spoils just when it looked as though Middlesbrough were about to heap more pressure on Souness's shoulders after taking a late 2-1 lead at St James' Park.
The former Sunderland and Fulham midfielder headed straight for the dug-out to embrace Souness after his equaliser in injury time.
"That goal wasn't only for the fans, it was also for the manager," he said. "I have a lot of time for him and respect him a lot. I have only worked with him for six months and I just wanted to show my appreciation to him. I just wanted to show him that I am behind him, as are all the players. It was a dream for me to come back to St James' Park from Fulham, and he was the man who sanctioned it."Reuse content