Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder has revealed Michael Owen is on the brink of a return to action, but ruled out the striker facing Hartlepool in a friendly on Wednesday.
Owen has not played competitive football since suffering a serious knee injury on World Cup duty last summer.
The forward's rehabilitation has gone as planned and he has made good progress in the last six weeks.
Speculation had suggested the forward and fellow long-term injury victim Shola Ameobi would be let loose on Wednesday.
Roeder has admitted the club had considered fielding the pair, but has opted to keep their powder dry.
"With Michael, it is quite simple, very simple: the very fact we considered him for a game on Wednesday - and Shola is the same - and have decided not to play either of them just shows you how close both of them are to playing," said Roeder.
"You can make your own assumptions from that.
"Michael Owen is world news, not just British news, in football. If I say he is going to play in the middle of next week and he does not, hysteria breaks out that he has had a setback when he, for sure, has not.
"All I can say is we are getting very, very close. He is in great shape, he really is. Honestly, he is in great shape."
Roeder admits that he will look to tee-up a game when he feels the time is right.
He said: "We can pick up the phone to any local club and get a friendly pretty quickly, within a day.
"But we have not thought about arranging a friendly for next week just yet. We will see how this week goes first."