Toon unlikely to risk Smith

Vice-captain set to be given summer to get back to full fitness

Smith: Running again but is unlikely to return to action for Newcastle this season

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Alan Smith is unlikely to be risked in Newcastle United's run-in despite returning to training.

The 30-year-old midfielder shattered his ankle in the Tyne-Wear derby back in January after a late tackle by Kieran Richardson.

The former Leeds and Manchester United man wore a protective boot during his rehabilitation and was running again at the club's Benton training base last week.

That was a welcome sight for manager Alan Pardew, and while Smith is not guaranteed a first-team slot due to the form of Cheick Tiote and Kevin Nolan, he remains a key member of the Magpies' squad.

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"During his injury Alan has played a big part off the field for us," assistant boss John Carver told the Chronicle.

Important role

"Just because a player is injured it doesn't mean they don't have a part to play, and Alan has been an excellent example of that."

Smith is nearing full fitness under the watchful eye of fitness coach Simon Tweddle but his agent, Alex Black, confirmed he is unlikely to feature in the Magpies' last three games.

"Alan has been running with Simon Tweddle at the training ground. He's doing well," said Black.

"There's a slight chance he could play again this season but it could well be next season when we see him back."