Owen fit for last-day rescue act as Bassong appeal fails
Michael Owen is fit for Newcastle's crucial final match of the season at Aston Villa on Sunday Amid the gloom at Newcastle United, there was brighter news at last for manager Alan Shearer as former England striker Michael Owen was declared fit for their make-or-break last-day trip to Aston Villa on Sunday. But the ex-Liverpool forward is sure to be playing his last game for the St James' Park club before moving on a free transfer in the summer, with Everton, Galatasaray and Celtic among those interested in his signature. Shearer has insisted for some time that his old pal and international strike partner will come good for the Newcastle cause - and, if Owen can rediscover his sense of timing after a groin injury, then now would be a great way to bow out for the club. The good news about Owen tempered the loss of key defender Sebastien Bassong after the club's appeal over his red card against Fulham was rejected. Bassong, 22, was sent off for a foul on Fulham's Diomansy Kamara 60 minutes into a potentially pivotal game last Saturday with his side trailing to Kamara's first-half strike. The incident came 10 minutes after referee Howard Webb had chalked off a Mark Viduka header in a defeat which sends the Tyneside club to Villa Park sitting just inside the relegation zone rather than outside it. Because it was Bassong's second red card of the season - he was dismissed at Wigan on Boxing Day - he will serve a two-match ban with immediate effect, ruling him out of the first game of the 2009-10 campaign as well. He has been one of Newcastle's few successes this season, starting 30 games after signing from FC Metz for £500,000 last summer. Despite losing out on Bassong's appeal, which was largely expected within the club,Shearer and his assistant Iain Dowie have remained in buoyant mood in the early part of the week. Newcastle have sent full back Habib Beye to Germany to see a surgeon, hoping he will be able to have an injection which will relieve the pain and swelling in his hamstring injury and enable him to play at Aston Villa. And Owen will be asked to put aside any aches and pains and lay his body on the line for the club and their thousands of supporters, who will flock to Villa Park.
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