Newcastle manager Alan Shearer is hoping forgotten man Joey Barton can revitalise his midfield just when he needs it most.
The 26-year-old former Manchester City player is expected to return to full training later this week after recovering from a fractured metatarsal and would then be in contention for the make-or-break Barclays Premier League clash with Portsmouth on Monday evening.
The manager said: "Joey has had treatment all over the weekend and if everything goes well with him over the next few days, we might have him in full training on Thursday or Friday."
The Magpies midfield has lacked penetration in recent months, leaving the club's strikers starved of meaningful possession, so the return of a man who is yet to even start paying off his Â£5.8million transfer fee cannot come soon enough.
At his peak with City, Barton both scored and created goals, and Shearer is desperate for him to do just that as his side prepare for their final five games of the campaign, with three of them must-win affairs at St James' Park.
Shearer added: "He can also run on and get past the forwards, which, with all due respect, Nicky Butt, who is 34, can't do.
"He does well in other jobs that he does, but he can't get past the forwards, and if Joey is there to do that, then it would free up some other players."
Newcastle's chances of top-flight survival have realistically come down to their remaining home games against Pompey, Middlesbrough and Fulham with only three victories likely to keep them up.
Barton's return, as well as that of Jose Enrique, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, could prove significant, although the club was on Wednesday awaiting the outcome of a scan on Steven Taylor's ankle problem.
It promises to be a tense few weeks on Tyneside as the Magpies attempt to dig themselves out of a hole entirely of their own making.
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