JOEY Barton remains a doubt for Everton’s visit to St James’s Park on Saturday.
But if the influential midfielder fails to prove his fitness in time, there could still be positive news on the injury front for Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew.
Shola Ameobi, Stephen Ireland and Danny Guthrie have successfully returned to training this week, and all could be involved.
The trio – and boyhood Everton fan Barton – will be assessed over the next 24 hours by the club’s medical staff ahead of the game.
Barton missed last Saturday’s home draw against Bolton Wanderers with a thigh problem, Ameobi has been out for a month with a fractured cheekbone and Guthrie has been struggling with a hamstring injury.
And Ireland is yet to kick a ball for the club after his deadline-day loan move from Aston Villa in January because of a niggling knee problem.
“We’ll know more on Joey soon after the medical staff have had a look at him,” said assistant manager John Carver. “He’s being assessed, and they’ll see if he’s okay.
“It’s been a good week in training for Shola and Stephen Ireland and that has to be looked at as two real pluses. Danny Guthrie’s also back and in contention again.”