Four Newcastle United players, who have contracted conjunctivitis, have been banned from the club’s training ground.

Goalkeeper Shay Given, defender Andy O’Brien, and midfielders Lee Bowyer and Tony Caig have all been hit by the eye condition, which can be picked up through bacteria, viruses or allergic reactions.

The infection has disrupted Sir Bobby Robson’s pre-season plans as the squad begins to look ahead to the start of the new season.

Each member of the squad has been issued with a list of do’s and don’ts by the clubs medical staff, in attempts to curb the spread of the infection. The infected players will be training at home over the next few days, and avoiding contact with their teammates until the condition has cleared up.

Robson revealed: “The eye infection affecting certain players is becoming an epidemic. We have to shut down for four days which is rather unfortunate bearing in mind the trip to Middlesbrough is so close.

“It’s very serious. We have four down now and we’re not sure how many more players have been affected. The incubation period is five to seven days so we could still see some of the lads coming down with it over the weekend. Everybody’s worried about it. It’s not dangerously serious but it’s something we need to attack and we have to close the whole place down.

“If you saw Shay Given’s eye you would realise how bad things are. He’s in a wretched state. He was the first to be affected and then Andy O’Brien picked it up. Now Lee Bowyer and Tony Caig have joined the casualty list. The eye closes up, it swells and waters. Shay looks like he’s been in a fight with Muhammad Ali, his eye is so swollen. It’s very nasty.”