Michael Owen is out of Newcastle's derby at Sunderland tomorrow and will also miss next Tuesday night's visit of West Bromwich Albion to St James' Park. Newcastle's interim manager Joe Kinnear has a further problem in that Nicky Butt, who stood in as captain against Manchester City on Monday, collected a foot injury in the game and is a doubt for Sunderland.
Should Butt not recover, there is a greater chance that Joey Barton will start.
Regardless of his comments this week acknowledging that he has one last chance in his career, Barton's volatility is proven and starting him in such a game would a risk by Kinnear. Barton is, moreover, not fully match fit but Newcastle's midfield options are limited.
From one quarter, though, Barton has received a measure of understanding, the Sunderland manager, Roy Keane, saying: "He seems to have got good backing, particularly when Keegan was there. He'll have had good support and hopefully he'll take the chance.
"Footballers are very privileged, as soon as you know it, it's gone. In the last few months we've seen ex-footballers go to prison. Your career is over before you know. Hopefully he will take that choice. Sometimes the penny drops too late.
"Players make mistakes like everybody else and they can have difficult times away from football. They might be hanging around with the wrong people. Sometimes it is addictions. If you have got an addiction, or a problem, it doesn't matter what kind of money you are on, you have got to sort out the problem."
At least Kinnear had better news from the Football Association yesterday who upheld Habib Beye's claim for wrongful dismissal. Beye was shown a straight red card by referee Rob Styles against City.
"That is fantastic news," said Kinnear. "That is a victory for common sense."