Wednesday, June 21, 2006


"I nearly vomited when it happened". Thus quoth Fat Fred, and for once I'm 100% with him.

I'm still not sure what was worse - the knee-wrenching fall itself, the tragi-comic rolling off the pitch or the agonised look on Michael Owen's face as the England physios prodded his leg on the sidelines before the stretcher appeared.

This morning BBC News 24 were still holding out some hope of Owen appearing in the World Cup, saying his injury would "probably" rule him out, but shortly before lunchtime came the announcement that the damage sustained to his anterior cruciate knee ligament will rule him out of action for around five months - no less terrible for its depressing inevitability.

Dreadful news for England, not least because of Sven-Goran Eriksson's decision to take only four strikers to Germany - but when Owen went down my first thoughts, like those of Fat Fred, were of Newcastle.

You wouldn't have guessed it was a tragedy for the club, though, from the way it's been reported in the media. Newcastle have merited a mention for the fact that that's where Owen's headed upon his arrival back in Blighty. But, as Shepherd has said, it's now us who "pick up the pieces". It's hardly any consolation to know that we'll be compensated by the FA for the loss of Owen's services.

For long-suffering Geordies like ourselves, it's shades of 1997 all over again, when Alan Shearer suffered a terrible injury in a pre-season friendly at Goodison Park that ruled him out for the first half of the season. The club desperately tried to halt Les Ferdinand's move to Spurs, but it had already gone too far to turn back and we were left with just Tino Asprilla and youthful new signing Jon Dahl Tomasson, untried in the English game.

If anything, the situation as it currently stands is worse. Owen's long-term injury, allied to the retirement of Shearer and the departure of Michael Chopra, leaves us with the semi-fit Shola Ameobi and sulky Spaniard Albert Luque, who could still come good but who in his first season on Tyneside looked short of form and motivation - when he wasn't injured himself, that is.

Our summer dealings have just become that much more important. Roeder and Shepherd had already been talking about replenishing and reinforcing our attacking options, and now it's even more imperative that we get two or maybe even three forward-thinking players in. And of course, as the chaps at have pointed out, everyone will know how desperate we are and try to capitalise by demanding that we pay over the odds for strikers. Oh joy.

Best wishes for a swift recovery, Mickey.


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