LUCKLESS Alan Smith’s season is almost certainly over at Newcastle United.
Smith suffered a serious ankle injury in January’s Wear-Tyne derby after being caught by Kieran Richardson.
While Smith is finally out of a protective boot, manager Alan Pardew would be “surprised” if he returns to fitness before the end of the season.
The injury was complicated by the fact it was on the foot he badly injured playing for Manchester United more than four years ago.
Smith dislocated the same ankle, and also broke his leg, in February, 2006, and the injury was described as “career-threatening”.
And Pardew, a huge admirer of Smith’s commitment on the field, would be “surprised” if he recovers in time to play again this season.
“He’s out of the protective boot you have to wear with that injury, but he’s a long way from playing,” Pardew said.
“I’d be very surprised if he comes back this season.”
Smith is out of contract next year, and there could be interest in him in the summer, not least from his former club Leeds United.
He arrived at St James’s Park as a striker in the summer of 2007 during Sam Allardyce’s tenure.
However, Smith – who hasn’t scored a goal for the club – found his opportunities limited up front, and has played the bulk of his football for Newcastle in midfield, most recently in the centre of the park.
Smith was a key figure last season as the club fought for promotion back to the Premier League, making 31 league starts.
The arrival of defensive midfielder Cheik Tiote from FC Twente in August, however, saw him start most games on the bench.
He had just regained his place while Tiote was suspended for three games when he was forced off the field in the first half at the Stadium of Light.