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Newcastle United striker Michael Owen is said to be focusing on returning to full fitness, according to caretaker-manager Chris Hughton.

Owing to the injury crisis that the English international squad is currently faced with, Michael Owen's future has been called into question on more than one occasion. But despite the constant buzz regarding the fragile striker, he has ignored the press and used the international break to his advantage, utilizing the time to return to full fitness.

Owen had been out of action for six weeks following an ankle ligament injury that he picked up during Newcastle's 2-1 win at Manchester City on January 28, and due to this, he has not been amongst those considered to take over at the front of England's attack.

Chris Hughton, the current caretaker-manager at Newcastle United, has turned Fabio Capello's refusal to call up Owen for England into a positive light, and has expressed his delight in the progress that the 29-year-old has made over the past weeks regarding his injury.

"Michael has benefited from the two-week break, and it's been a real bonus for us that he's been able to work with us at the training ground," revealed Hughton.

"And what helps during the international break is that the group is a little bit smaller and you are able to concentrate a little bit more on each player.

"Michael is focused on getting on with the job in hand. He is just back from six weeks out through injury, and Michael will want to get back to his full fitness levels.

"He has been concentrating on doing the best he can because it's the tough end of the season now and it's all about what part he can play."

Owen returned to Newcastle's first team on March 14 in the 1-1 draw at Hull City, but the striker was evidently short of full match fitness. He was then used only as a substitute a week later, when Newcastle lost 3-1 to Arsenal.

And while Owen's bid to return to his peak is good news for Hughton, the interim gaffer is still plagued by an assortment of other injured players. Steven Taylor, Sebastien Bassong and Damien Duff have all been relegated to the sideline as they wait for their respective injuries to heal.


Stephen Crawford, Goal.com

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