The Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder admitted yesterday that the injured striker Michael Owen may not play at all this season.
Owen, 26, ruptured his anterior cruciate knee ligament in England's 2-2 draw against Sweden at the World Cup finals and is set to have an operation.
"I don't know if he'll play again this season," Roeder said. "He's getting the best possible treatment and will have the best surgeon in the world operating on him.
"Michael has an injury that will take a fair bit of time to repair. If we put a date on it and we say that he'll be back by next March, and then he's not fit, then it will cause more problems."
Owen's cruciate ligament surgery had been delayed until September because he required an operation to repair cartilage damage on his injured right knee in July. He missed most of the second half of last season with a broken foot.
The former Newcastle forward Les Ferdinand believes that, with Owen out, the club will struggle to fill the gap left by Alan Shearer, who retired in April."It's very difficult to replace Alan Shearer and losing Michael is a huge blow," he said. "[Newcastle] need to bring someone in to support Shola Ameobi and Albert Luque."