Owen set for Toon return, but it's gloomy for Shearer
Michael Owen has been named in the Newcastle squad for Saturday's home Barclays Premiership match with West Brom.
Magpies caretaker manager Glenn Roeder has named the 26-year-old England striker in his squad for the first time since he fractured a metatarsal at White Hart Lane on New Year's Eve.
A week ago Roeder revealed he was 'confident' Owen would play again for Newcastle before the end of the season, a view later backed up by the player himself.
It is good news for England, with Owen facing a race against time to make Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad for the World Cup.
And it is also a boost for the Magpies, with Alan Shearer unlikely to play again because of a knee injury.
Shola Ameobi, who broke his two front teeth in last Saturday's win over Wigan is also doubt, which means Albert Luque and Michael Chopra are likely to start in attack.
Defender Steven Taylor also returns to the squad for the first time since he suffered a shoulder injury against Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Meanwhile, the Premier League today gave Glenn Roeder permission to carry on as caretaker manager of Newcastle as the club wait for the outcome of the search for the next England boss.
Roeder, appointed as temporary boss at St James' Park in early February after the sacking of Graeme Souness, was initially told that due to his lack of coaching qualifications he would be in charge for no more than 12 weeks.
That tenure ends after the visit of West Brom to Tyneside tomorrow, potentially leaving the Magpies without a manager for the two remaining matches at Birmingham and home to Chelsea.
However, a statement from the League today revealed that, due to the ongoing search for the next England boss, Newcastle would be allowed to carry on with Roeder in charge until the end of the season.
That could mean Martin O'Neill, the bookmakers' favourite for the Newcastle hotseat, is waiting to hear if he gets the England job before deciding whether to take over the Magpies.
The statement read: 'The board of the Premier League today announced that they have accepted Newcastle United's request to extend Glenn Roeder's position as caretaker manager of the club to the end of the season.
'Although this takes Glenn beyond the 12-week limit for caretaker managers set out in rule Q7 of the Premier League rules, the board felt that the circumstances involving the appointment of a new England head coach meant that the sensible course of action was to allow the club to extend Glenn Roeder's term in charge for an additional two matches without sanction.'
Roeder has again refused to confirm whether he would like to take on the job full-time but, after masterminding a remarkable about-turn in the club's fortunes, his odds are shortening every week.
O'Neill may remain favourite but Roeder is in the frame because, after flirting with the relegation zone following his appointment, Newcastle have rocketed up to seventh.
After claiming 25 points from his 12 games in charge, Roeder is on the brink of leading Newcastle into Europe again via the UEFA Cup - an unthinkable prospect three months ago.
He said: 'If you go back to my first game in charge, if we had lost at home to Portsmouth the gap to them would have been just a few points.
'But we've taken 25 from 12 games, so it has been a satisfying couple of months from a personal point of view.
'But I don't want to take much credit. It's the players who are to be congratulated because they are the ones who score the goals and keep them out at the other end.
'It has meant that instead of going into the game with West Brom with a nervous disposition, we are now in a brilliant position.
'We are fighting for a UEFA Cup place, and being in Europe means everything. This club is geared to playing in Europe every year.
'That is why, if we don't make the UEFA Cup then we will enter the Intertoto Cup and try to get into the UEFA Cup that way.'
The Intertoto Cup, though, is a 'safety net' Roeder would prefer to avoid, adding: 'I know my players want an extra 10 days' holiday.
'If you ask them whether they would prefer returning to training at the end of June or coming back a couple of weeks later, I know what they would say.
'So they will be fighting for their lives to clinch that UEFA Cup spot automatically.'