England still need Owen
Michael Owen may just have been watching the credits roll on his England career as coach Fabio Capello swatted away the merest notion of him being enlisted for World Cup combat to confront Ukraine.
England strikers dropped like fallers at Aintree's first in the friendly win against Slovakia - but Capello still refused to countenance the recall of a marksman proven over time at the highest level.
Capello has a case in this instance because Owen is still in recovery from the latest in a string of injuries, but the Italian is nobody's fool and surely it would be folly to erase the 29-year-old from his plans on a permanent basis?
He did suggest Owen would return to his thoughts once he was playing regularly for Newcastle, but there remains a sense that he simply does not fit into Capello's England template. He was, after all, left out of squads for World Cup qualifiers earlier this season when he was playing and scoring at club level.
Capello used Newcastle's decision to drop Owen for their recent defeat against Arsenal to act as support for his exclusion. Not exactly compelling evidence on the basis that this was a case of more fool Newcastle and the sort of selection that graphically explains why they are fighting relegation.
England's coach is currently armour-plated against criticism by his results, and he has a valid argument when he states that Owen simply has not played enough football to justify being parachuted back into immediate contention.
And his evolving England is being built around a powerful centre-forward who is used to give freedom to the more expansive gifts of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
On this specific occasion, however I believe Capello's decision not to go with Owen is based on sound logic and is correct - to erase him from his plans completely is another matter entirely.
The question still remains? If England need a goal in a World Cup game, who would you rather that crucial chance fell to - Emile Heskey, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole, Darren Bent or Michael Owen?
There is a feeling that an Owen interview hinting at confused tactical messages after a defeat in France just over a year ago may still count against him, but I spoke at length to the striker in Paris after that friendly and he was positive about the coach's impact.
As someone who has watched Owen on a regular basis since his emergence in Liverpool's FA Youth Cup-winning side of 1996, it is only right to confess to being a huge admirer and that still applies.
Owen is ruthlessly single-minded, thrives on the major occasion and history tells us that he has that priceless cold-eyed knack of scoring goals when it matters most.
History also tells us that Owen has struggled desperately with injuries - something Capello must take into consideration - but he if he plays games he will score goals and this makes him worth a place in the squad at least.
To have Owen as an option in an emergency is a luxury indeed. It must not be discounted. If David Beckham can still be included to be used mainly as a substitute, why cannot this also apply to Owen?
The pace of old may be reduced these days, but Owen's reputation still endures to the extent that even the best defenders will take a crucial step back in his presence.
Owen has even been surrounded by talk that horses are his first love rather than football these days, but it does him a grave disservice to claim he would no longer be turned on by playing his part in another England World Cup campaign.
Capello is the great pragmatist, so it would make no sense for him to dismiss a player he knows is capable of a huge impact on a vital game.
If Capello has reached that decision, it is to be hoped the striker gets the chance to force him into a re-think because England are not so blessed with quality forwards that they can afford to simply cast aside a fit Michael Owen.