Newcastle captain Michael Owen is set to end his latest injury lay-off against Hull this weekend. Saturday's match at the KC Stadium has been the target date for the England striker's return since he suffered the ankle ligament problem which has sidelined him since January.
Having Owen back would be a huge boost for the Magpies in their quest for English Premier League survival and caretaker manager Chris Hughton could not be more pleased. "It's a massive lift," he said. "He is our club captain, he is a player with a wonderful scoring record and ability, so for everybody just to have him back on board, it gives us all a lift.
"One thing we have continually said is what we wanted to do is have a stronger bench," the temporary boss went on. "A stronger bench means a stronger team and also competition for places. That being the case, to have someone like Michael back involved in the squad is a lift for everybody."
Hughton, in charge while Joe Kinnear recovers from heart surgery, was coy over whether the 29-year-old Owen would end a five-game absence with a starting appearance. But he did say the former Liverpool and Real Madrid forward would have a part to play against the Tigers. "Michael will be involved. The decision on the team will be left until tomorrow (Friday), but Michael has had a good week and a half's training under his belt," Hughton explained. "He has trained very, very well and it is a massive bonus to have him back involved again.
"That will be a decision we will make over the next day," Hughton went on. "It is about playing the right team against a good Hull side on the back of a big win for them, so that will be a decision which is made over the next day or so. But the important thing is that we have got him back involved and he stays fit and helps us in these last 10 games of the season."
Newcastle are currently only above the relegation zone on goal difference, having won just once in 10 league games. "It's been a bad season, we know that, but there's no point feeling sorry for ourselves," said Newcastle midfielder Nicky Butt. "All we can do is concentrate on getting as many points as we can. We can't worry about how bad it is or what other teams do," the former Manchester United player added. We just need to get as many points as we can."