Owen preparing to take first steps on long road to fitness

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The Independent Online

The Newcastle striker Michael Owen yesterday paid tribute to the American surgeon Richard Steadman who he says has prolonged his career.

The £17m England forward was back at St James' Park yesterday for the club's annual photo-shoot but could only hobble on to the pitch on crutches after undergoing surgery to repair his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament three weeks ago. That procedure was Owen's second of the summer after Steadman first repaired his damaged cartilage following the injury he sustained in England's World Cup finals clash with Sweden in June.

However, he is confident that the world-renowned specialist's decision to operate twice will bear fruit in the long run.

"We knew as soon as I got to America the first time that it was going to be a two-stage operation," Owen said. "Now I have got over that initial disappointment, I know it is for the best. I know it will probably prolong my career, him doing that. If he had done everything at once there might have been complications in the future.

"I know it was the right thing to do, and you have just got to accept it and bite your lip - and now I am looking forward to the day I can return," the striker added.

Owen, who spent five months on the sidelines with a fractured metatarsal last season, knows he faces a gruelling fight for fitness and will miss most of the current campaign. He is optimistic about making a complete recovery.

"Everything has gone fine. I am about three weeks post-op now, and everything is going according to plan. I am working closely with the physios, the doctor and all the staff - and it is all progressing well so far.

"I have got to accept it is going to be a long road back. Coming out of an operation, there is plenty of bruising and swelling - and Dr Steadman likes to get a full flexion back before you start anything. We are working on getting that back and then we will start right from the bottom and try to build my strength back up.

"It will take a good few months to do that. I have lost a lot of muscle in the last few months since my initial injury, so that will be the plan over the next few months," Owen said.

The striker's absence will be hugely significant for the manager Glenn Roeder, who spent £10m on Obafemi Martins and recruited Antoine Sibierski and the loan signing Giuseppe Rossi last summer. The former Liverpool and Real Madrid player has been a regular in the stands at St James' Park as the season has unfolded with mixed results.

However, he is predicting better fortunes in the weeks and months ahead.

Owen told his club's official website: "We have put in some good performances. We have played a couple of tough teams and not got many points out of the tougher games. But we have won a few games, and the confidence is fine. We are attacking quite well. It has been an OK start, and I am sure we will improve and get stronger as the season goes on - like last year."

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