Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder believes there is still a chance Michael Owen could return to action this season following his successful knee operation in Colorado this week.
Roeder said Owen, who has been out since rupturing cruciate ligaments in June, can now see 'the light at the end of the tunnel' as he begins what is certain to be a lengthy rehabilitation process.
But despite suggestions Owen may have to write off the whole of this Premiership campaign, Roeder is determined not to place a time-scale on the striker's return.
Roeder said: 'We have to say it is long-term, but beyond that I would not like to make a prediction because football has a nasty habit of proving you wrong.
'If we aimed for March or April then he wasn't fit, people would perceive it as a setback, while if we said May people would write him off for the whole season.
'The most important thing is that Michael comes back and has rehab of the highest quality. It might take seven, eight or nine months, we don't know because every injury of this kind is different.'
At least Roeder is no longer hampered by the acute striker shortage which hampered his pre-season preparations, following the arrivals of Obafemi Martins and Manchester United loanee Giuseppe Rossi.
Rossi could come into the frame for Saturday's St James' Park clash with Fulham although Roeder remains hopeful Shola Ameobi could play despite writing off the front man earlier this week.
Ameobi has been battling a long-standing hip complaint and Roeder added: 'We were really worried when Shola came off against Wigan that he might need an operation.
'But he started improving at the back end of last week. Whether he is ready to start against Fulham I don't know, but I certainly think he will figure at some point.'
The 19-year-old Rossi, who joined this week on an initial four-month deal from Old Trafford, has declared himself fit to play after a successful return from midweek international action.
Rossi is relishing the prospect of more first-team opportunities and of treading the same turf as a host of recent Magpies striking greats like Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand.
Rossi said: 'Newcastle is a club with so many legends and a great history. It has been great to train with so many quality players this week and I am very satisfied with this move.'
While the feeling is Sir Alex Ferguson has loaned out Rossi for experience rather than with a view to a possible move, the Italian is refusing to think long-term.
Asked about the prospect of signing a permanent deal in January, Rossi added: 'There is a possibility but I will see how it goes then make the decision from there.
'I felt it was the best move for me to come to Newcastle at this time and it will give me great experience to play at such a great club. I feel fine and if I am picked I will be ready.'
Meanwhile Roeder will give a late fitness test to England Under-21 defender Steven Taylor, who returned from international duty with an injured foot and is a doubt for the game.