Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper has hailed Michael Owen for his fortitude following his most recent return to fitness.

The England striker was used as a second-half substitute in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Aston Villa and subsequently returned to international duty following his comeback from a thigh strain.

The 32-year-old said: "It is great to see him back, he has had a dreadfully unlucky spell but he has kept his head down.

"Michael has worked his socks off to get back and it was great to see him back out there against Villa.

"We know Michael is 100% committed to the club and he has said nothing to any of us to the contrary. Michael is the ultimate professional. He works hard and does not cause any problems.

"He is also a top, top player. The sooner we can get him back out and firing on all cylinders the better.

"He is a down-to-earth player and it's great to see him back."