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By ESPN Staff

Owen ready to start running

Michael Owen is stepping up his rehabilitation programme after suffering knee ligament damage during the World Cup by beginning running sessions with Newcastle this week.

Owen has been sidelined since suffering cruciate knee ligament damage against Sweden in a group match in Germany last summer.

But Owen maintains he is on schedule to return to action before the end of the current campaign.

He said: 'The knee is fine. All is on schedule. I am starting to do some running this week - and I'm hopeful I can play this season.

'I am not sure yet but I am clinging on to that belief. I feel it is a realistic target.

'The physios at Newcastle are not saying it is impossible. I am confident I can play this season despite people saying otherwise.'

Meanwhile England midfielder Owen Hargreaves is also in an optimistic mood after launching his comeback from a broken leg for Bayern Munich on Friday.

Hargreaves was one of England's few players to fulfil his potential during the World Cup and has been sorely missed in recent months.

He said: 'The leg feels good. It's been a long four and a half months. I played my first game on Friday and it feels so good to be back on the pitch.

'It has been a frustrating time - but I now want to look forward.'

Hargreaves is expected to play only a minor role in Wednesday's friendly international with Spain at Old Trafford.