Peter Beardsley will miss the first six weeks of the new season after fracturing his cheek bone in three places against his old club Liverpool.
The ex-Anfield favourite, now with Newcastle, was taken to hospital after a clash with Liverpool new boy Neil Ruddock after just two minutes of the Ronnie Whelan testimonial match. Beardsley, a 1.5 million pound summer signing from Everton, had to be helped off in a daze and went straight to hospital where the fracture was diagnosed.
Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan said: "He will be operated on in the morning for what is a triple fracture and will be out for up to six weeks. We're desperately disappointed. He is an exciting signing and added a completely new dimension to our play."
Whelan said: "I feel terrible for Peter and can only apologise to him. But it was just one of those things that happen and the pity is that it was in my testimonial game. There was nothing malicious - he and Neil just went for it."
It was a cruel blow for both Beardsley and Keegan, returning to Anfield to honour Republic Of Ireland star Whelan.
Ironically, it was Ruddock, a 2.5 million pound buy from Tottenham, who scored the only goal of the game from a Rob Jones free-kick. The big defender almost turned villain in the 47th minute when he brought down Robert Lee. But John Beresford saw his penalty saved by Mike Hooper - a second half substitute for Bruce Grobbelaar. And Hooper did equally well minutes later to keep out an explosive free-kick from Nicki Papavasliou after Torben Piechnik, a Ruddock replacement, had fouled Andy Cole.
But Keegan is in no mood to be bullied back into the transfer market - despite the imminence of the new season, saying: "It could be a bit late for that."
The mood remains philosophical, especially after a visit to Beardsley's hospital bedside. When the team arrived at Walton hospital after the match they became aware of a tragic road accident in the city in which three women had died. Assistant manager Terry McDermott, who is from Liverpool, said: "What happened to Peter Beardsley is a big blow but this tragedy puts things in perspective.
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