Owen back in full training at Newcastle

Newcastle United striker Michael Owen is back in full training.

The 28-year-old has not played since tearing a thigh muscle in England's 1-0 friendly victory over Austria on November 16 and has managed only eight starts for his club all season.

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However, manager Sam Allardyce has revealed the Magpies' £17million record signing could figure in his plans - perhaps initially only as a substitute - in the coming days.

Asked if Owen could be involved soon, Allardyce said: "Yes, he could be.

"It is a balance of the fact that he has been out for a number of weeks without any match practice.

"Damien Duff has had two games behind closed doors, and he felt ready to come and make a contribution off the bench on Sunday.

"We could see Michael but in between the next three games we have no chance to put on a behind-closed-doors game to give Michael the opportunity to get the feel of playing in an 11 v 11.

"But at the end of the day, when fit and given the opportunity to join the squad and make a contribution, it could be a small contribution, but with a goalscorer like him, it could be major for us.

"It's then a case of building him up from there. Using him sparingly at this period of time is something we consider, and hopefully that builds the match fitness and staves off any more injuries."

Owen has featured only 25 times in competitive games since his arrival from Real Madrid in August 2005 with injuries severely limiting his participation.

There was little he or his club could do about the fractured metatarsal which interrupted his first season on Tyneside, or the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which wrecked his second.

However, Allardyce is hoping the more minor problems which have hampered Owen since will become a thing of the past once he gets back in action.

He said: "It's always a challenge when you have got a quality player of that nature who is bitterly disappointed, as we are, that he keeps picking up little niggly injuries.

"It is not as if they are the sort of injuries he has had before which have been major or long-term. That's another challenge compared to what he has had.

"But he is fit again now and hopefully that will be the end of it for a long period of time.

"Any player who gets injured on a regular basis, it is our concern to try to avoid that situation as much as possible.

"It does not come overnight. Prevention of injuries is a slow process and the fact you have got lots of games means you have to balance that process with training and playing football matches.

"He has worked very, very hard again to get back in the squad, as has Damien Duff, and now it is about keeping him available for selection as much as possible and keeping his core strength and his availability open to us on a regular basis."

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