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Capello may regret Owen exclusion

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Phil McNulty | 09:11 UK time, Monday, 1 September 2008

Fabio Capello has already demonstrated a capacity to surprise - but it is to be hoped England do not live to regret what amounts to a massive gamble by the Italian coach.

Capello's England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia contained two major stories, namely the inclusion of Fulham's Jimmy Bullard and the exclusion of Newcastle United striker Michael Owen.

No-one could accuse Capello of playing it safe by leaving Owen out of the squad that leaves for Barcelona later this week, but quite a few will accuse him of plenty more if England do not come back with a haul of at least four points.

Let me state straight from the start that I am an unashamed fan of Owen, but this is not the only reason I believe Capello has made a potentially grave mistake by leaving him out of his squad altogether.

There are compelling football reasons that make the case for Owen to be in side that plays in Barcelona on Saturday and Zagreb next Wednesday - and for him not even to be in the squad is baffling.

Capello clearly questions what Owen can bring to his new England era. He has used him only as a substitute in the defeat in France and seems suspicious about whether he can deliver at the top level any more.

The case against Owen is a constant battle against injuries in recent times, and even a bout of illness that laid him low this summer.

The case for is a simple one. Who is best equipped to take what might only be one chance to give England a vital goal in Croatia?

In a squad not exactly bulging with goals, that man remains Michael Owen by some distance, and my view is that he should be partnering Wayne Rooney in Zagreb.

Capello watched Owen in Newcastle's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday and obviously did not see enough to warrant inclusion for England.

True, he is still short of match sharpness, but this will improve again in the days before the two games, and even in these reduced circumstances he has still scored the goals that won games for Newcastle against Bolton and Coventry.

Jermain Defoe has yet to produce a defining moment at international level, while Theo Walcott has yet to deliver on a consistent basis for Arsenal, let alone England.

Owen, in sharp contrast, is a proven scorer of crucial goals at every level - and his name and reputation alone still makes the best international defenders take a step back.

Emile Heskey just about passes muster as an alternative to the relatively diminutive forwards - what has happened to Peter Crouch and Dean Ashton? - but I have an uneasy feeling, as Alan Shearer expressed on MOTD2 last night, about England going to Zagreb without Owen.

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The selection of Fulham's Bullard is a marvellous story, and great testimony to the character of the 29-year-old who started his career with Gravesend and Northfleet and who battled back from an horrendous knee injury in September 2006.

He has profited from injuries to Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves, as well as from any emerging youngsters stating an irressistible case for inclusion.

But he is hardly one for the future and his best hope of a cap seems to lie in England being roughly five goals ahead of Andorra with 20 minutes left. He will surely have no place in Zagreb, which is the true acid test of Capello's new regime.

The exclusion of Spurs defender Jonathan Woodgate is another surprise, especially given that he has been dropped in favour of the returning Joleon Lescott, who has made an awful start to the season at Everton.

But it is Owen's exclusion that will be the main bone of contention and debate - and undoubtedly recrimination, if England fail in Croatia.

Capello, in my opinion, has committed a needless error in not even giving himself the safety net of having Owen in his squad.

It is a decision that ratchets up the pressure another notch on Capello, especially with the misery of England's display against the Czech Republic at Wembley still souring the memory.

They say fortune favours the brave. For Capello's sake it is to be hoped that is true.


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  • Comment number 1.

    someone watched match of the day

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Clearly another reason why we should not employ a non-Englishman as national coach.


    Doh! McLaren was English. And, as Brucie would say, "didnt he do well!"

  • Comment number 4.

    Simple fact is Owen scores goals. I cant believe Capello has tried to be clever and not take him with Defoe being favoured. How many chances does Defoe need to prove he is not an international striker? Sometimes it happens, good league players dont always make great England players. Ian Wright, John Barnes and Andy Cole all spring to mind.

  • Comment number 5.

    We have relied on Owen for far too long and it is about time for a change.

    I would go further and cull a few more, James (will be too old by the time the WC comes around), Neville (there must be a better RB in the country), Beckham (won't be playing to a high standard by the time the WC comes round), Terry (better CBs wherever you look), Lampard (cannot play with Gerrard, and Gerrard is a better player)

    Honestly, the same players for the last umpteen years, it is time to say enough is enough, let a new breed take up the challenge

  • Comment number 6.

    Perhaps by giving Owen a break now he'll have time to reach full fitness and actually make it through a whole season without injuries.

  • Comment number 7.

    MR CHORIZO. complete rubbish mate. Capello is a top professional and to allege that he wouldn't care (or even be pleased) if England didn't qualifying is laughable.
    We shall see if leaving Owen behind was the right choice or not, but lets wait and see how we perform before we judge Capello's selection - who will be talking about Michael Owen if we come away with 6 points and two good performances? wishful thinking perhaps!
    ps. why is peter crouch not in the squad!

  • Comment number 8.

    Well, now the truth is out! The FA should only consult omniscient journalists like Phil McNulty. The only reason why Mr McNulty would like to see Owen in the squad is because he used to play for Liverpool. Owen has been injured for basically 3 years now. While he may score the odd goal for Newcastle and his finishing instincts are still there, you can't expect him to cut it at international level.
    Capello wants fit players, that's why Dean Ashton isn't in there either - again a decent premiership player, but still of no international class. It may sound sad, but at the moment Jermaine Defoe is probably the best striker we have. I still don't understand the inclusion of that big donkey Heskey though.

  • Comment number 9.

    To dax47988...I agree England have relied on Owen for far too long - but that is not his fault and no-one has stepped up to take his place as a reliable, regular scorer of international goals.

    Wayne Rooney has not done and neither has anyone else in that squad - Capello is taking a huge risk with England's World Cup qualification hopes.

    Owen is still England's best bet for a goal. This is a credit to him and a question mark against the other strikers.

  • Comment number 10.

    Fabio Capello is rapidly proving to be a complete waste of time and money.

    What on earth posseses him to keep pluginng away with that drip Beckham at the xpense of players such as Crouch and Owen who are proven goal scorers.

    We may have thought that we couldn't do worse than McClaren, the FA have all but proven us wrong.

  • Comment number 11.


    seeing as Beckham plays in a different position to Owen and Crouch, I don't see your point.

    Now if he was in at the expense of Bentley, that would be different.

    (Crouch should never be in an England side, neither should Heskey)

  • Comment number 12.

    What is baffling about the decision not to pick Owen? He's played one game this season, and hasn't played or scored consistently for about 3 years now. Capello knows not to pick players purely on reputation, although I still don't quite see what Beckham adds to the team. Bullard is an excellent addition to the squad, and I truly believe he has both the talent and necessary physicality to be a big success in international football.

  • Comment number 13.

    One would argue that Capello is thinking for the future by excluding Owen from the squad, but then, by the same logic, why is Beckham in again?

  • Comment number 14.

    'It is a decision that ratchets up the pressure another notch on Capello,'

    The insinuation here is that the press will now take it upon themselves to slate Capello for not agreeing with them.

    Perhaps some in the press might like to jump off the gravy train they are currently riding in their ivory tower and get down the park on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning and try to work their way into the position that Capello has.

    Frankly, whilst we might all have an opinion on the squad, surely the jury is out until after the two games.

    Phil, is this article based on measured assessment of the players available and likely tactics, or simply because his choice does not agree with yours? (and the admission of you being an unashamed fan of Owen may go some way to answering that question. You go on to say there are compelling football reasons but only elaborate to the extent of criticising those chosen by Capello and seem to suggest that therefore Owen should be in there by default).

  • Comment number 15.

    There is a point to be made for having both Beckham and Owen on the bench for both games.

    Beckham hasn't got that edge to play 90 minutes at the top level but there is a case to argue that coming off the bench with 20 minutes left he could well play the killer pass through a tiring defence or has the ability to create that one chance from a dead ball that may be crucial with ten minutes to go in a nil nil draw in Zagreb. Also with no Steven Gerrad where are these pases going to come from?

    As to Owen I don't believe he is fully fit yet but may be able to give you 25 or 30 minutes at the end of both games.

    I agree with much of what Phil says re some of the other strikers in the squad and as for peoples comments re players being too old in 2010 we have to qualify first and to be blunt the most important thing about the next ten days is coming back with at least four points from a win in barcelona and a draw in Croatia. The qualifiers run for the next 15 months only.

    Lets not forget it was the two points dropped at home against Macedonia early on that caused all the must win games at the end of qualifying for Euro 2008.

  • Comment number 16.

    let me see !

    what will i do......

    pick heskey who has scored about 5 goals and is murder on the dance floor


    owen who has scored 40 mmmmm ohh and let throu in jimmy bullard as he is going to frighten them

    lets go for heskey.......

  • Comment number 17.

    ohh and

    do you think capello was actually filling out his suns fantasy football team and just ran out of money and went for bullard hesly and lescott ??

    just a thought...

  • Comment number 18.

    walcock has 8 goals in 84 games. now that is england quality.
    no young? no agbonlahor?

    and no woodgate?? is this a joke from crapello?

  • Comment number 19.

    Everybody is entitled to Phil's opinion. Owen shot himself in the foot (no pun intended) when he opted for Real Madrid. As they say the rest (and Owen) is history. England cannot continue living in the past. There should equally well be no place for Becks. After all how many (old?) passengers can a team carry?

  • Comment number 20.

    Whys everyone excited about Bullard!!!!

    hes just come back from a horrific injury......hes probably lacking match fitness, and thats for him being a big success for England is a JOKE

    hes like 30 right now..... too old

    the best team hes ever played for is Fulham

    ahahahaha and hes our highest prospect for the near future?

    what a joke!

    Why Capello left Owen out i shall never ever know

    Owen is the best striker in England at the momment in term of getting us goals

    people say we need to move on, but we cant move on if no player wants to take the responsibility!

    Heskey isnt good enough, Walcott??? Why

    Ashton and Crouch would of been an understandable replacement BUT they've been left out too!!!

    if Capello wants to leave someone out then he should leave Rooney out! i dont think he deserves his England shirt at the moment!

    Beckham is still quality but his time has passed, we need a young replacement this time and Shaun Wright-Phillips is too old (although i like him)

    Lennon or Young would be my best bet

    But overall Owen being left out is just pathetic!

  • Comment number 21.

    owen has played in 3 games this season and has scored 2 goals, and also when owen hasn't been injured he's scored consistently for both england and newcastle...

    I firmly believe he should be in the squad, instead of defoe, who has hardly even scored for england and hasn't got the quality to perform at that level, he was 4th choice striker at tottenham!

  • Comment number 22.

    Owen not picked isn't surprising he is not on good form. Defoe is.

    What is surprising is Rooney's inclusion he is well overdue a big performance. I'd like to see him dropped. Heskey and Defoe would work as a front two as would Heskey and Owen if the little man starts knocking them in for his club. Or even Heskey and Rooney.

    Owen and Rooney is a complete waste of time.

    One of Rooney, Owen, Defoe has to play with one of Heskey, Ashton, or Bent. Crouch is too slow for international football.

    At the moment I'd go with Defoe and Heskey.

  • Comment number 23.

    "While he may score the odd goal for Newcastle and his finishing instincts are still there, you can't expect him to cut it at international level." - Stokerambo

    He was scoring at international level fairly regularly last year. You guys writing him off are acting like it was decades ago.

    There is absolutely no reason for him to be dropped from the squad, other than Capello being absolutely clueless, apparently.
    Surely we could have sacrificed a player like Matthew Upson who's never even going to get on the pitch so that England's highest competitive goal scorer could get the spot he deserves?

    If anybody deserved to be dropped though, it's Wayne Rooney. The guy hasn't done anything notable for England for over 4 years now.
    (Knowing my luck, he'll probably score hat-tricks against Andorra and Croatia, but the fact remains that up to this point, based on form, he doesn't deserve to be in the squad)

  • Comment number 24.

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  • Comment number 25.

    Why leave the most able goal-scorer out of the squad?

    Even an unfit Owen is capable of getting that all important goal when coming off the bench.

    Capello needs to earn his money in the next 2 games esp in Zagreb.

    Surelly England have less chance of winning with arguably the only striker England have that can get a goal out of nothing.

  • Comment number 26.

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  • Comment number 27.

    Capello has won Serie A seven times, and has also won the Champions' League and the Spanish league twice. He watches matches involving the players first-hand every single week and will have a solid network of staff supporting him in scouting roles.

    Why anyone feels that they can question his decisions is beyond me.

    Why bother talking about who he hasn't picked? What's that going to achieve? He will know what he is doing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Owen simply can not be considered match fit. The one I feel that should be dropped is Rooney. He is picked as a striker and does not score goals. Instead he imitates a headless chicken getting in the way of mid field and wing back play all the time. England have played better on the occasions he has been sent off.
    England need some team players. There are too many celebrities in the team. It needs a core of players who are not stars but hold the game together.

  • Comment number 29.

    Dropping Owen does seem an odd decision. Its well documented that when Owen comes back from injury he needs 5 or 6 full games to regain his sharpness and touch in front of goal, so playing him for a full 90 may be rushing him back too soon, but I would much rather have an 80% Micheal Owen up front than Emile Heskey, whos goal scoring record is lamentable (16 goals in last THREE full seasons - over 100 games) compared to Owen (20 in 45 from last three full seasons). Moral - IF Owen is fit, he scores goals.

    Rest of the squad looks pretty much OK. Lescott is not international class (neither are Downing, Jenas, Johnson or Brown) but with injuries to the thre midfielders, plus Micah Richards and Gary Neville coming back a fully fit squad looks good once he sorts out the srikers.

    And congratulaions to Jimmy Bullard. A choise from left-field maybe, but he's a decent play who works hard and who passes and strikes the ball well and I think he could do OK if he gets a game.

  • Comment number 30.


    I agree with much of what you say. If Rooney is picked as a striker, he should score goals, but as you say, he is more famed for getting in other people's way.

    However, you say that the players should not be stars but hold the play together. I don't care if they are stars, and I don't understand the phrase 'over paid prima donna's' which will surely be wheeled out soon enough. As long as whoever is picked puts in the right thought and effort, that will be a good starting point for me.

  • Comment number 31.

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  • Comment number 32.

    wayne4, i think the number next to your age represents your mental age. How stupid of you to say your comments.

    SWP too old?

    Beckham time passed?

    Wallcott is a pace based player like Owen, Rooney and Owen work, and im sure if given the chance Walcott Rooney would work.

    Saying Rooney doesnt deserve his England shirt at the moment? Where is your justification? The guy works his socks off all day long maybe too much for his own good.

    Oh I see your point drop Rooney, lets drop every other decent player we have and put in kids, go on Fraiser Campbell knock em dead!

    And who the hell says Terry needs to be dropped?

    Terry and Ferdinance, with Cashley down the left and (at the moment) Wes Brown down the right is the best back 4 I can think of! Both full backs loving to support and move up and down the lines all day long!

    The fact of the matter is Rooney probably isnt scoring the goals he has been doing in previous years because hes playing out of his favoured position, hes doing the best he can with where he is being told to play, which I reckon deserves a merit badge on its own.

    We havent got another Striker that can be Michael Owen. Defoe is garbage and I have never rated him. Crouch is a second striker rather then a main threat. The only player I can think of being a now-to-future replacement for Owen is Walcott.

    Anyone saying Owen is passed it, is stupid, the guy has had such bad luck with injuries!

    Finally Lampard will never be an England player in my eyes, hes massivly over rated and the likes of Gerrard with cover from Hargreaves or someone similar is key.

    Going back to the days of Euro 04. We had a ginger named Paul Scholes who was our attacking midfielder in the days when Gerrard played a more cover/defensive role.

    Now times have changed and Gerrard is now the new Scholes (In the sense of position for England) so he needs a player to cover him while he go's darting off shooting from range and creating things. Hargreaves when (if ever?) fit would be my vote. The guy works harder and covers more ground than any other player I know.

    The End?

  • Comment number 33.

    I wish everybody hould get over this fixation with Michael Owen. The reason England underperform is because we should blind loyalty to bg names regardless of form. We insist on playing Gerrard and Lampard together even though the two prima donas refuse to alter their playing style to accomodate each other. Lets not pretend that they CAN'T play together, they WON'T play together. For goodness sake, if their talent doesn't stretch to playing with each other then what are we paying them for?!

    And as for Owen, the Owen you all talk about as capable of scoring important last minute goals is the Owen of 5 or 6 years ago. He was a world beater then. He no longer is.

    The sooner Capello shakes up the England team and makes the positions something to fight for, the better. At the moment, most England players are guarenteed their place regardless of how they perform. If that we no longer the places, and players had to fight for their positions, England would start winning trophies.

  • Comment number 34.

    Like the wally before him, Fabio has decided to drop a big name. I hope he has done this purely down to the issue of fitness and not to make a statement like Macca in the case of Beckham. Both were/are right that Beckham/Owen didn't merit first team status at the time of selection, but a squad berth seems a decent compromise. What worries me more is the fact that we are still not seeing the likes of Young (far better than Bullard or Downing in either of their positions), Agbonlahor, Ashton, Lennon- crikey, even Wheater would be better than Lescott. I rate Heskey, I really do, but he has had 8 years to prove it for Englands and he never has. He works hard, holds the ball up, and plays with intelligence, but he doesn't really scare defenders.

  • Comment number 35.

    There has long been a fixation in this country with Owen that is not mirrored elsewhere. He did not get a look-in at Real Madrid simply because he offers nothing except fitful (nowadays) predatory instincts. He is not as quick as he once was and neither as prolific so he should offer more than goal-hanging. One has only to look at Torres to see how a player in the Owen mould should be performing on the pitch. Torres is a well rounded centre-forward, Owen a relic.

  • Comment number 36.

    you said that you expect 4 points from a possible 6, yet you then said jimmy bullard is hardly one for the future? i couldnt careless if jimmy bullard helped us to 6 points in the next 2 games and then never played for england again. we dont need to worry about the future when were in such dire straights as we are at the moment, we need to sort out now first.
    i cant remember the last time i saw england play really well...... germany 5-1, 6 years ago, holland 4-1, 12 years ago.
    owen hasnt had enough games recently to warrant a place, although i do agree with your point on heskey, absolute donkey! rooneys performances of late have been awful in an england shirt, and walcott is not good enough!
    rant over.

  • Comment number 37.

    Owen is a good player and should be in the squad. Any player who has scored 40 odd international goals and is scoring regularly for his club should be and we should rightly be bemused by Capellos decision to drop Owen. But why is Rooney not under the same scrutiny? Rooney, who has only hit 2 competitive international goals since Euro 2004, seems guaranteed a starting place and talk of who should play up front alongside Rooney confirms this.

    This article questions the exclusion of OWen but should surely also question the continued inclusion of Rooney a player out of form for club and country.

  • Comment number 38.

    Owen is still one of the best strikers this country has ever produced, and his record in an England shirt is tremendous, to leave out a fit Owen for an important match against the Group Favourites like Croatia is Naive at best and incompetence at worse. Personally I would rather see Rooney left out than Owen, he's very much overrated. One thing I do applaud is the inclusion of Jimmy Bullard, a player who always gives everything, would also have liked to have seen Kevin Nolan included, a very similar player. These next two games will show whether we have got a tactical genius in Capello or just another ex-club manager who sees the England job has a pension plan, unfortunately I fear the latter. In my opinion there's only one man for the England job, the best English manager we have, its obvious really, Harry Redknapp! Anyway with this line-up of players we will probably beat the minnows of Andorra 3-0, but against Croatia I predict a 2-0 loss. Lets see what happens!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Quickly further more, we English always moan about something wrong with the team! If its not left wing (now 100% sorted by Joseph Le Cole) or Goalkeeper, which I still think David James should be 4th behind the likes of Foster, Hart, Carsson.

  • Comment number 40.

    walcock was the star of the arsenal team and the world cup squad. he is bang on form and finding the net all too often for his opposition.
    this is the best england have.
    agbonlahor and bent and young are nothing compared to walcock. even if walcock plays 5 minutes for arsenal one week, he should get called up as this is our maradonna.
    who cares if he has 8 goals in 84 games, he is a striker and doesnt have to score nor do anything other than misplace some passes and do some runs.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm not convinced on Capello yet but I still think we shoul wait a little longer before making up our minds on him.

    I think not choosing Owen is not the biggest suprise if you aren't a big Owen fan like McNulty, he's out of form and Defoe's doing well at the moment, although could be worth a bench spot.

    Heskey is a bit of a shock, what can he do that Crouch or Ashton can't, particularly if Owen isn't there.

    I only hope we don't play with four central midfielders again, it's boring, but what do you expect from an Italian.

  • Comment number 42.

    Just wondering did any of you pro-Owen lot actually see him play Saturday? He was terrible, didn't seem to be anywhere near match fitness and didn't provide any threat to the Arsenal defence. I think this is a brilliant m,essage to send out to all our so called superstars that no1's place is a certainty. Fair play to Capello, the fact is if he did play Owen and he didn't score I'm sure Mr McNulty's next Expert Column will be on Capello's lack of new ideas and following in Erickssons and McClarens footsteps anmd selecting the same players! Fair play Capello, make Owen realise he either has to move club or start playing properly to warrant a place in the England side!!

  • Comment number 43.

    It shows that Capello has some guts at least. Owens record for England is good, but hes yesterdays man. Hes also one of the clique that needs removing from that squad. There are other more, deserving players whos time must now come. Owen has been washed up for some years. Its the fear of change and of losing that leads people to clamour for his inclusion and its gone on for long enough. I reckon Capello thinks so too, whether or not we qualify.

    I applaud his decision, but then i watched Owen last week end and he was pitiful.

  • Comment number 44.

    If we want a proven goalscorer at international level all we have is Owen.
    Great players rise to the challenge and Owen's record speaks for itself. 40 goals only behind Greaves, Lineker and Charlton.
    Walcott must have something others see which most of us don't as why he is in the squad is bewlidering (yes he has great potential but, as yet unrealised).
    Heskey's inclusion is unreal.
    And why is Peter Crouch is not included is stupefying.
    If we are going to stick our neck out why not go for Gabriel Agbonlahor up front and Michael Johnson in midfield. Ashley Young was also mentioned which would be a smart slection.
    Woodgate's also recovered his form and should be there instead of Upson or Lescott.
    Robinson is having a poor start so why not include Scott Carson.
    Everyone can always pick a better England team but I agree with a number of contributors that some of this squad is (politley) is a big gamble.
    Croatia are no pushovers and they must be licking their lips.

  • Comment number 45.

    Owen should be in the squad - if not starting. All English forwards play better off a big man - and no big man has done a better job than Heskey over the years.

    Defoe is on a good run of form - and Capello should watch the tape of him making an idiot of Lescott and then select Woodgate and drop Lescott - and deserves a place in the squad.

    Crouch has never had great pace but that has not stopped him having an excellent scoring record (better than any of the faster players who are likely to start in the next two matches) for his country.

  • Comment number 46.

    so walcock is better than darren bent who has 102 goals in 265 games, dean ashton, ashley young, agbonlahor and owen.


  • Comment number 47.

    Absolutely insane. I have very little faith in Capello now. Owen has played very well so far this season, and actually did well against Arsenal and would've had a goal if Ameobi hadn't got in his way. Yes he's recently come back from injury but he's playing well and England need him.

    As for the argument that he's past his best, two words: David Beckham. How the hell can he get in the squad and not Owen?

  • Comment number 48.

    In my opinion, Capello has made a good move.

    Owen is not match fit. I believe the England squad is capable of returning with at least 4 points without him and so there is no need to include an unfit Owen. To do so would be a return to "the old boys club" under McClaren whereby certain players were simply undroppable.

    We will get the points and not including Owen will be beneficial for the future. Star players need to feel that they have to be playing well to be included, simply turning out for a game or 2 is not good enough.

    Owen will be back, no doubt about that. But only when he is fit and banging them in for Newcastle.

    England needs a strong manager who sticks to his principles no matter whether you are Michale Owen or Jimmy Bullard.

    Of course, it is up to the players in the squad to do the job and provide the platform for the future. I'm not denying that without at least 4 points, Capello will look very foolish indeed.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm all for giving Walcott a chance ahead of Michael Owen. But Lescott ahead of Woodgate? Illogical, Captain...

  • Comment number 50.

    I think you should wait until England has lost before you start picking at the group of player picked.

    If England win both games then Fabio Capello will have picked the right group of players even if they come home with 4 points i think that would be a classed as a successful start as Croatia are a good side and will be hard to beat.

  • Comment number 51.

    Rite heres my opinion for what its worth - Michael Owen has a proven international goal scoring record. No one else in that squad does. Owen has scored 2 goals this season, whats wrong with that from 4 games ? To be honest it doesnt make any difference against Andorra, u cld play my nan up front nd we'd win but who is gonna score our goal(s) v croatia from that squad ? This shows me that England are goin for a 0-0 draw which sums up the negativety that has surrounded the England team for the last few years. This is why we will never win nething! I will reserve judgement on Capello until hes had some competitve matches in charge, but as for his selection well thats a joke. Also how can ne1 justify Walcott over Owen???? Wot has he ever done ? He cant even get into the Arsenal Team !!!

  • Comment number 52.

    Owen deserves a place in the squad on the basis of his international experience and credentials alone. He also has a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net.

  • Comment number 53.

    6.8million pounds EVERY year to pick

    a) walcock over ashton, agbonlahor, bent, owen and young

    b) lescock over woodgate.

  • Comment number 54.

    To Mr Blue Burns...firstly I want to know what sort of gravy train can been ridden inside an ivory tower??

    But to be serious, I think I did elaborate on why Owen should be in. I do not feel I was simply critical of Capello's decision.

    I wrote this: "The case for is a simple one. Who is best equipped to take what might only be one chance to give England a vital goal in Croatia?

    "In a squad not exactly bulging with goals, that man remains Michael Owen by some distance, and my view is that he should be partnering Wayne Rooney in Zagreb.

    "Capello watched Owen in Newcastle's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday and obviously did not see enough to warrant inclusion for England.

    "True, he is still short of match sharpness, but this will improve again in the days before the two games, and even in these reduced circumstances he has still scored the goals that won games for Newcastle against Bolton and Coventry.

    "Jermain Defoe has yet to produce a defining moment at international level, while Theo Walcott has yet to deliver on a consistent basis for Arsenal, let alone England.

    "Owen, in sharp contrast, is a proven scorer of crucial goals at every level - and his name and reputation alone still makes the best international defenders take a step back."

    It is actually a poor reflection on England's other strikers that Owen is still their most reliable striker in front of goal.

    And even if you don't feel he should be in the team, then surely you would have him in the squad and on the bench for the moment when you might be desperate for a goal?

  • Comment number 55.

    Owen,Young and Ashton in. Downing,Heskey and Walcott out.

    Maybe England should be managed by the English Public. We all seem to speak more sense than the multi millionaire managers.

    We are aiming to play and achieve some thing in 2010, start intergrating some of the younger players in with the experienced players. Not just stick with the same oldies! Capello obviously thinks every player can last as long as his native 'Maldini'.

  • Comment number 56.

    Not picking the best international striker England have is stunningly ridiculous.
    Including celeb players in the startup is baffling. Maybe he should pick Boris Johnson as well as he has Wembley experience.
    Until England get a proper coach, they will continue to struggle. Throwing money at people to deliver won`t solve the problem. You need people who have produced results from ground level AND/OR have international/European playing exp.
    Either pay Arsene Wenger / Martin O`Neill / Jose Morinhou to do the job ... or accept that the squad will continue to revolve around `team Beckham` and the rest of the celeb-11.. They will beat Andorra, then I think it will be a struggle .. again

  • Comment number 57.

    Bobby Charlton has scored 40+ goals for England, lets call him up

  • Comment number 58.

    i came here to actually back capello's choice to not pick owen, but the article does have a point, owen seems to be the only striker who seems capable of scoring internationally. no one has stepped up to take his place, and i have to say i blame that on previous coaches not giving other players a steady run in the national team.

    a little devils advocate: based on form and (mainly) fitness, owen not getting picked is very logical. despite his effectiveness (2 in 3), he looks half the player he used to be. defoe has been the opposite, and it is now left to him to take up the mantle, he should get at least 2 starts heading up the team. he looks to be the heir apparent and i hate to say this, owen and rooney have a knack of breaking metatarsals before important tournaments

    trying to be pragmatic here, 4 points are what we need here from these games. if the squad we have right now cant do it, then our problems are much more than owen not being in this team.

  • Comment number 59.

    When all is said and done, Capello is largely going on what he has seen with his own eyes.

    Most of the points on here, maybe even my previous points, address individual issues but do not deal with contradictions.

    Pick Owen on his record some say. In that case, we can pick Lampard on his record.

    Others say pick form players rather than old favourites. So why Owen?

    They criticise the defence, yet, we seem to have one of the best defences around Terry and Rio were almost impregnable when playing together in the qualifiers.

    You wanted rid of Mclaren, you got it. You wanted the best that was available, you got it.

    Whatever has happened, what ever the long term future may hold and whoever may be available if and when we get to the world cup, it doesn't matter.

    All that matters right now is to get two decent results and restore a bit of belief in the team and give something for us to actually judge Capello by.


  • Comment number 60.

    I like the inclusion of Jimmy Bullard. Not so much because I think he will do great things for England but because of the message it sends out - work hard, play well and you will be rewarded. It lets Englishman at less fashionable clubs know that they too can earn national caps.

    Owen's exclusion is a contentious one. On the one hand, he is always injured. I've heard people say for three years that "he's not match sharp yet but that will come". I'm not sure it will and Owen will probably only ever play in fits and bursts from now on. But what fits and bursts! The guy is the most natural centre forward England has produced since Lineker. His goalscoring record is excellent, even in the past few injury-plagued seasons.

    Most importantly of all, he is a big game player. Certain players excel when the pressure's on. It is a quality that few players possess at the highest level and is generally the factor that separates the great from the good. England need players like that and if Owen is fit enough to start for Newcastle then he's fit enough to make the England bench.

    But the biggest decisions Capello has to make will be in midfield. He has stuck to Sven's policy of playing Gerrard and Lampard together. I don't believe that will work - they should play Gerrard and a sitter such as Barry (or even Bullard). The sooner Capello realises this and restores balance to the midfield the sooner England will become a major footballing force once again.

  • Comment number 61.

    P.S. Why J. Lescott has ever been in an England squad is still a mystery.

  • Comment number 62.

    How Lescott and Upson get in the squad ahead of Woodgate and Ledley King is pretty baffling.
    And Bridge doesn't play football - he just pops in to get his wage packet every week and then goes home. What a waste of a career.

    I personally think Beckham should be left stateside. What's he going to offer in 2 years time when he hardly has the legs now. And what has Jenas done recently...or ever for that matter. I'd rather have Ashley Young in there instead of one of these two. England are lacking players who can take on the opposition and get to the by-line. Having a couple of these in the squad like Young would give more options.
    Walcott also falls into that category. Whenever I see him play he creates chances. Yes he looks a bit light-weight still but he doesn't half frighten those left-backs. How many other players do that?

    Rooney's link up play is outstanding - just notice how ManUtd play much better when he's in the team. Heskey's okay but again more of a foil than a striker.

    Which leaves Defoe as the only out-and-out striker in the team. He's on form but what a weight on his shoulders. Can he take the burden?
    What separates Owen from his peers is that he thrives under that expectation. Give him a pressure game and he'll deliver. That's why he should be in there.

    So drop Lescott, Upson, Bridge, Beckham, Jenas.
    Bring in King, Woodgate, Young, Owen.
    ...and Wright-Phillips.

  • Comment number 63.

    As an unashamed fan of Owen perhaps you are not the best one to comment. I for one have never been impressed by Owen: good enough as a poacher but not a patch on the likes of Drogba, Torres, Kaka, ie. great strikers who can make something wonderful out of nothing, and who also possess great technique, awareness, and skill in abundance. If this is the top international standard for forwards where does that leave Owen (who has no guile, technique, nor creative flair, and seems unable to go past defenders anyone)?

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    It's true that some of the players mentioned here - Owen in particular - have a proven record, but the evidence points to Owen being about 5 years past his peak; injuries have made sure of that. Yes, Walcott doesn't get in the Arsenal team at the moment, but I suspect Owen wouldn't either.

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm with MrBlueBurns.

    Great stuff.

    All I ask for is that Fabio is consistent and logical with his choices. I'm not doubting Owen's record, but not making this squad does not mean he is finished. He'll be back.

  • Comment number 67.

    Yes, Walcott doesn't get in the Arsenal team at the moment, but I suspect Owen wouldn't either.


  • Comment number 68.

    Capello is right not to include Owen in the England squad. The fact that he has done the business for England in the past does not mean he should be automatically selected even though he looks half the player he was at Liverpool, and well short of fitness.
    How would you justify that decision to Defoe and Heskey who seem to be bang in form? Isn't the whole qualifying to do with the best squad AT THE TIME of the game, or best performers of the past.
    Remember that in Capello we have one of the most succesful coaches in football, and if we do not make an impact with him in charge, then perhaps we have to accept the cold cruel fact that our players are simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

  • Comment number 69.

    Beckham hasn't got that edge to play 90 minutes at the top level but there is a case to argue that coming off the bench with 20 minutes left he could well play the killer pass through a tiring defence or has the ability to create that one chance from a dead ball that may be crucial with ten minutes to go in a nil nil draw in Zagreb.


    No, if Beckham is to play then he should be starting the game.

    There is nothing about Beckham's game that improves with a tiring opposition, n fact his pin-point crosses are more important when a team is fresh and sharp.

    The best use of Beckham is as a crossing machine in the first 60 minutes of a game. Then take him off and put on a SWP, Lennon or Joe Cole who will benefit much more from a tired opposition and would be much less effective agaisnt a fresh one.

    As for Owen, of course he should be in the squad, he is still the best goalscorer in the country (just look at hism goals per minute fro Newcastle compared to Defoe/Crouch/Bent/Henkey etc., only Rooney and Ashton get close). Saying there is a need for someone else to come througyh is all good and well but until someone actually, you know, does, then what is the point of dropping him?

    I just hope that the only reason is the worry about his fitness. Certainly if Owen kleeps fit and is not in the next squad then I would be very worried.

  • Comment number 70.

    "And even if you don't feel he should be in the team, then surely you would have him in the squad and on the bench for the moment when you might be desperate for a goal?"

    maybe thats what he is trying to avoid, looking desparate

  • Comment number 71.

    About time aswell,talk about overrated players.Owen just isnt good enough,never has been in my opinion,should have been dropped last year...

  • Comment number 72.


    Thanks for the response. I'm not usually one for lazy cliches and in writing about gravy trains and ivory towers (in answer, a small one!) I was just trying to convey the point, in as few words as possible, that I do believe there is an aloofness, not necessarily backed up by any substance, among many, many journalists. Check out the Sunday Supplement for a sense of self righteousness far above anything you might get at a religious service that it coincidentally goes up against. (Please note, I exempt Patrick Barclay from that particular criticism even though I don't read his paper).

    Also, I have never claimed to be a writer, I just stick to getting grammar right first!

    I concede that Owen perhaps should be in the squad but I cannot see that he should find a place based on past achievements or, for that matter, current form.

    I watched the Coventry/Newcastle match and you should have heard the commentator eulogising about Owen's goal. 'Once it was at his feet there was only one outcome...'. The outcome was a goal, but it was via a large slip and the goalkeepers glove! Point is, this was not a clinical finish, more a shot that somehow ended up in the goal!

    And where was he against Arsenal? I only saw MOTD but I think he had one shot which he screwed wide and the Croatian defense is likely to be at least the equal of Arsenal's, perhaps with a better midfield ahead of it.

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.

    "We have relied on Owen for far too long and it is about time for a change"

    Yup, makes sense

    I reckon Man U will dump Ronaldo because he was far too reliable last season

  • Comment number 75.

    It make's me laugh to be true that a man as special is being mocked by some morons on the dole and some so called "educated" persons on this blog.

    The Facts are that Owen is not fit enough!! Walcott is faster heskey is stronger and defoe is defoe!

    I could understand if he had played every minute of the prem this year and was even average but he's just poor.

    We need to get out of the mentality of picking players on past glories and Cappello is clearly doing that.

    On people questioning Beckham's inclution you must remember that Capello dropewd him at Real madrid and would not pick him unless he is playing well in the MLS.

    Thats me done moaning for now!!

  • Comment number 76.

    Can't imagine why Lescott is in there. He's already proved he's not up to it. What happened to Woodgate? Wheater? Heskey's no good without Owen.

    Beckham has to be in the squad, because the alternatives have proved they are not good enough. SWP can't cross, and he's a winger? Bentley is the only alternative.

    I can't see Bullard playing, and if he doesn't it will be a waste of a pick. Agree that Rooney's done little for England, however we can't afford to not pick him.

  • Comment number 77.

    Owen should at least be in the squad. Really don't see where the goals are in this team.

    Upson/Lescott ahead of Woodgate??? Laughable decision.

    Bullard is a damn good player, can't do any worse than Lampard - who lets be honest no one can stand the site of unless a Chelsea fan. He's so overrated its untrue!

  • Comment number 78.

    To stevesalmon...fair point about Upson and Lescott getting in ahead of Woodgate, but Ledley King's injury record is awful.

    Woodgate's is not great either, but it is better than King's and on early-season form he has to get the nod ahead of Lescott and Upson.

    Lescott, in particular, has had a terrible start to the new season at Everton and had a nightmare against Portsmouth on Saturday.

  • Comment number 79.

    I love owen for his record, for the memories, for his prowess and proven goal scoring ability. Fact of the matter is though.. I'd rather see england muddle through to the world cup without him at this early stage - and then let him have his swan song at that competition.

    Fact of the matter is that everyone panics whilst looking at a list of strikers without his name but I think this is a poor attitude. Sure there is a lack of proven english goal scorers in the premier league but i don't hear you glory hunting non-patriotic doofuses complaining about it week in week out whilst your teams romp to victory or attempt to beat the top4. So NOW you're complaining that an italian doesn't pick a worthy team? LOOK AT WHAT HE'S GOT TO WORK WITH. It's not like he's got a pletherer of choice, and I'm sorry but owen just isn't fit enough to go right now.

    What scares me most about this team is that we're missing Woodgate as backup, SWP as the talent on the wing and of course Hardgreaves as our most consistant performer.

    I'm not even bothered about gerrard not being there, in fact it would be a great thing for the england team if at least either him or Lamps was always injured before england games. Our midfield would then have balance at least.

    On a side note, Capello would do well to get Rooney to go up top and stay up top instead of going to midfield every 5 mins.

  • Comment number 80.

    What is wrong with Capello?
    Does Ashley Young have some sort of disease? He has been one of the best players in the EPL for about a year now and if i'm correct has only been called up once? Same goes for Gabriel Agbonlahor never seems to get a mention, what have Walcott, Defoe and Heskey done better than him to deserve a call up? Plus both the players I have mentioned are young and still will be when WC2010 come round. I'm not a Villa fan either I support Newcastle.

    Which probably brings me onto Owen. 40 goals in 89 international games there's on a handful of players in the world who can boast a record like that on the international stage, yes he may be 28 and will be 30 when WC2010 comes around but look at Capello's other selections..
    Lampard's still included and he will be 33, Beckham will be 35 and for the life of me I cannot see why he is still selected..probably to boost sales of shirts in the far east.
    David James, Joe Hart anyone? I admire James he's an amazing shot stopper and very agile but in 2 years time he'll be 40 whereas Joe Hart will have got 2 more Premier League seasons under his belt and is already showing signs he will be a world class keeper soon and Capello hasn't even included him.

    The defensive selection includes Matthew Upson, Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott. For a start Lescott has had a horrible start to the season Bridge hasn't been a regular for his club since he signed years and years ago and Upson hasn't exactly shone and all of these have been picked over Micah Richards a versatile up and coming defender who seems to have vanished for some unknown reason out of Capello's plans.

    The Midfield selection includes Beckham WHY IS HE STILL GETTING PICKED?! He can deliver a decent ball still and set pieces ares till above average and thats about it, Bentley is a better player now get over Beckham.
    I'm happy Bullard has been picked he almost single handedly kepy Fulham up last year 1 and a half years after what could have been a career threatening injury. I can't stress how important it is that Capello starts including younger players e.g Michael Johnson, Ashley Young and James Milner isn't exactly old at 22 because in 2 years time if Capellos still picking the same team we may not have qualified and if we have we will have a squad of past its.

    The forward line. Where are the goals? Rooney is a world class player involved in everything but he hasn't scored for England in god knows how long. Walcott well if I say why is he included? That will just contradict what I said about introducing new players but he isn't a regular and doesnt get into the Arsenal XI I believe he is a magnificent player but Wenger and Capello if selecting him why not play him? Otherwise whats the point from Wengers point of you spending millions of pounds and Capellos perspective selecting him?! Defoe fair enough scores a lot in the EPL but when has he really stepped up to the international stage? And Heskey hmmm i'm not sure what to say about him. But honestly why leave Owen out? Yes he was a no show against Arsenal but the two matches prior he's shown he can score goals regualarly even when coming off the bench.

    To conclude this essay which I don't see why i've written because i've wasted lots of time. England and Capello really need to step out of the past because what have the generic teamsheet that I keep seeing done for English football in the last 10 years? I hope Capello realises there are good young players in the Premier League going to waste and that we're not going to win anything with 30 year olds saying that Chelsea are probably going to win the title this year but shhh..
    What happened to change Mr Capello?

    (AFter this though I do believe Capellos past achievements are pretty impressive and rate him still as a good club manager)

  • Comment number 81.

    johnedgar I think you should be banned from talking to anyone about football.

    Your comments about Owen are false, pathetic and complete rubbish.

    Maybe search youtube for a little goal he scored against Argentina in the 1998 world cup or maybe a hat trick against Germany in the 2002 world cup qualifiers and then maybe just watch as many videos of him you can find then come back and say your an idiot please!

  • Comment number 82.

    again...for the 30th we go

    If england fail its because the players arent good enough. Cappello knows how to win football matches, hes won everything everywhere and done it consistently. No one in england, not manager, pundit or 2 bit journalist has pedigree even appraoching this man.

    if it fails and england loose, will Mr McNulty write his next blog entry on which youngesters he should bring in to replace the fancy charlies who have done nothing since 1996?

  • Comment number 83.

    Capello is a well established coach and this is not his first team. We all might see it as an English team but he just sees it as another one. This probably gives him the best perspective.
    Good coaches exclude good players all the time and get results.I believe team selection is best left to the coach and verdicts can only be passed after the match against Andorra.

  • Comment number 84.

    I think Capello has set his mind for managing 4 points out of six, which is not too bad, considering the fact that Owen and Rooney have not shrugged off their injuries completely. So, the temporary problem of England is not at the frontline but at the back and middle of the field. England will play a defensive game in Zagret. With that tactic, Hesky is a good choice.

    You have to think about 10 games or so, not just two games and risk your key men. Moreover, Walcott is the future (the foreseeableone) of England. Walcott hasnt delivered consistently at Arsenal so far, but he's shown no sign of faltering in big games. Is this what you all are tight-lipped of slating on your 'superstar' players ?

  • Comment number 85.

    to sambosa75...

    How was John Barnes not a succesful England player? Do you not remember the goal against Brazil in the maracana, 1984?
    Considered by many to be one of (if not the actual) greatest goal ever scored by England??

  • Comment number 86.

    I would have included Owen, but looking at it logically, what has Capello seen him do in the last two years. Not much!
    I think Capello was impressed by the English style, but only now has he realised that the English do the running about and occasional flashes, but the foreigners that provide the guile.
    After being involved with Italian defending for 40 years, he looked like he thought he was dreaming, watching England's in the last match.

  • Comment number 87.

    On people questioning Beckham's inclution you must remember that Capello dropewd him at Real madrid and would not pick him unless he is playing well in the MLS.


    I have to confess I've never watched Beckham playing in the MLS as I have no desire to watch substandard football where people are paid £6m+ a year, but LA Galaxy's record over the last ten matches is:

    Played 10, Won 0, Lost 5, Drawn 5.

    That doesn't suggest to me that Beckham is in tip top form. A 1999-era Beckham would have had that league for breakfast.

    Not including Owen seems nonsensical. He's clearly England's best goalscorer, but equally Capello is a top, top manager and it will not be lost on him that the game away to Croatia is not the be-all and end-all of our qualification. If he plays Owen now and he picks up another injury through playing too many games so soon after coming back from a long-term series of injuries then he could risk ruling him out of the remainder of the season.

    I agree with Walcott's inclusion. He adds pace, which is something England have approximately none of throughout the rest of the squad. Personally I'd have included Agbonlahor in the squad for the same reason, in place of either Rooney or Heskey.

    The other glaring omission from where I'm standing is Ashley Young, who's been great for Villa for the last 12 months. Surely he's more worthy of a place in the squad than Downing.

  • Comment number 88.

    England don't need a coach as these players are coached by some of the very best in the business Scolari, Ferguson etc. What we need is a man who picks the best players and puts them into a system which suits our game. The premier league is played at a high tempo so why not play international football like that? Technical ability you say? So players like Steven Gerrard, Lampard, Rio, Rooney aren't as good as their foreign counterparts? Give Alan Shearer the job, somebody who the nation will get behind and inject a bit of passion into our game. Football is a results business and if we don't beat Andorra and at least get a draw in Croatia Capello has to go. Our football is reflected in the personality of the manager. Dour. Not only does the Owen decision baffle me but Upson instead of Woodgate? Robinson instead of Hart? Why now to decide to Pick Robert Green? Why persist with Beckham who now only crosses from the halfway line as he no longer gets at the full back? Walcott who flatters to decieve still? No Ashley Young or Gabby Abgonlahor or Crouch who when called upon scores for England (look at his record?). England haven't even taken a sideways step with Capello only backwards. It used to pain me to admit Englands shortcomings but this Saturday at 7pm I'll find something else to do.

  • Comment number 89.

    Phil, Capello's capacity to surprise ? In what sense. By picking five dreary friendly squads ?
    By kowtowing to the sponsors and backroom politico's and dragging out beckham's career ? By not experimenting one iota with the goalkeeper position ? I don't understand where you're coming from I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 90.

    I agree with most people's opinion that Upson and Lescott ahead of Micah Richards and Woodgate seems barmy. I also agree that leaving out Owen would be OK, on recent form, if he was being replaced by promising up and coming players like Agbonlahor, but Heskey? Again? Please.

    All the same, Alf Ramsey had similar criticisms when he picked functional players who fitted into an effective system above gifted players who didn't. If Capello can achieve the same alchemy for England, that's fine by me.

  • Comment number 91.


    Personally I'd have included Agbonlahor in the squad for the same reason, in place of either Rooney or Heskey.


    Agbonlahor is nowhere near the position that Rooney can play, skill- and presence-wise.

  • Comment number 92.

    Good call for Bullard though. Long overdue

  • Comment number 93.


    this gets boring i think you should have Owen in the squad as this would defo mean you have no chance of qualifying, i mean can someone supply owens goalscoing record for the last 2 season?

  • Comment number 94.

    Out of all the four Strikers that Cappello has chosen, why leave out Micheal Owen

    He has scored more goals than any four of them all together.

    Theo Wallcot is very unmatch fit, and the rest can't score at the moment, I.e Wayne Rooney

    Cappello's choice for me is baffling really and that Owen Omission is quite shocking really

  • Comment number 95.

    Bullard good going forward but shirks all the hard work excellent inclusion.

    England should try and create a good squad atmosphere and not a room full of egos.

  • Comment number 96.

    Owen is shot, has been for several years - why do you think Real punted him first chance they got?

  • Comment number 97.

    WOODGATE IS BETTER than lescott
    and bent, young, ashton, agbonlahor are all a level or two better than walcock

  • Comment number 98.

    Bit bored of idiots on blogs and journo's questioning a man with Capello's record.

    He knows more than you or I and thats an end to it. If England fail, it is as a result of the lack of talent available to him.

  • Comment number 99.

    QunicyMD. Have a look at Owen's scoring record for Real Madrid. The reason Madrid got rid of him was because he didn't sell enough shirts

  • Comment number 100.

    didn't Capello say he was only going to pick players with full fitness - as an absolute policy?

    Also that no spots were guaranteed?

    I am a big fan of Owen, but have to respect the position of Capello. Newcastle have been shafted re Owen a few times, so for them it must be great to have an England Manager who does not rush Owen back to the fray when he has only started 1 game back.

    Also Owen is injury prone and 28, so surely we need to expose other strikers to this environment or we will be in a position (like last WC) where Owen gets injured and nobody is fit to make the step up.

    I am sure that once Owen has been starting regularly and is back to 100% match fitness Capello with be playing him regularly.


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