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England still need Owen

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Phil McNulty | 11:20 UK time, Monday, 30 March 2009

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.

"I have to choose the players to play against Ukraine not against history," said Capello in a remark not exactly designed to talk up Owen's England future.

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.

Some have suggested the inclusion of Carlton Cole and Darren Bent ahead of Owen could almost be construed as Capello's way of telling him the game is up, adding insult to his injuries.

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?

No prizes for guessing who my money, and I suspect the money of the majority of England fans, would be on. It would go on the man with 40 goals in 89 England games.

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.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Firstly, despite what Capello says he has a history of changing his mind. At Real Madrid he dropped Beckham and sold him on to LA, only to do a u-turn and start picking him as his form improved.

    Michael Owen needs games and badly, but at this point in time I can't see that happening so Capello has said he won't get picked. What exactly is the problem with this??

    There is also a major difference between Owen and Beckham - Beckham has moved to a club for less pay and away from his family to improve his chances of playing for England. Michael Owen moved to a club with a known history for injuries (think Newcastles average is the highest in the Prem so they must be doing something wrong!!) for massive weekly wages. I know who I would rather have in my team.

  • Comment number 2.

    first time blogger here......As a liverpool fan, i truly believe the worst thing Owen did for his career was leaving anfield. It may potentially worked out as a good move however in modern day football it has been proven that British players cant cut it abroad, robbie keane, woodgate, even beckham had his issues. he new that a return to the premiership was right for him however Newcastle certainly was going to be a home for him. injuries aside if you have a fully fit owen you have goals, england need him to have a poacher, to have a proven goal scorer. in rooney we have something a bit special (on occasions) but owen will always put that ball in the net. Gully fit owen needs to be playing for club and country.

  • Comment number 3.

    Agreed Phil, we cannot afford not to have someone like Michael Owen with us. The problem we have is that now we have found that Gerrard Rooney and Heskey works a treat, if Rooney (god forbid) ever needs to come off in a game, who do we turn to as a replacement without Owen? Heskey and Cole or Crouch won't work as an attacking force up-front, and given that we know already how lethal the Heskey & Owen partnership can be i can't see how Darren Bent would be a justifiable selection. I'd even put Agbonglahor ahead of Bent as a Rooney understudy.

    Anyway here's hoping i get proved wrong.

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't think Capello has abandoned Owen for good, but I think it's become clear that with people like Agbonlahor around - who has pace to burn and some, Owen is going to find it harder to 'walk' straight into the team, even if playing well. Another thing is that Owen should definitely leave Newcastle this summer regardless of whether they stay up or not. Staying at Newcastle is not helping matters. I fhe joined City or Everton I think Capello might just change his view about Owen.

  • Comment number 5.

    A very topical choice of blog Phil.

    I for one totally agree with yourself that Owen still has the ability to play a big part in Englands World Cup bid. He in my opinion is still the best finisher Engalnd can call upon. Also if Beckham still has a part to play then why on Earth would Owen not have a part.

    I am Irish myself but still feel that with Owen in the squad as a starter whens his fit or as a bit part player who is brought on as a sub i firmly believe Capello is wrong to totally discount Owen.


  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    Owen definitely deserves a chance. In this instance, I do believe Capello is being stubborn.

  • Comment number 8.

    IF Owen can stay fit for the remainder of the season and get sme proper game time and IF Owen gets a good pre season, then I believe he would be worth a place in the world cup squad.
    His experience and ability to fall over a defenders leg could be invaluable in the right situation, maybe when trying to break down an ultra defensive side.

    Thinking of Owen in the same terms as Beckham is not really realistic, Beckham never had pace to lose and so his game hasn't changed so much, where as Owen's pace was all he had to beat a defender, now that has left him his positioning and instinct for goal is 'all' he has left, is that enough at international level now that half of his game has gone ?

    As you point out, Capello likes to play the big fella up front, to hold the ball up and bring others into play, or to flick it on to runners from midfield, Owen can fill neither of these rolls.

  • Comment number 9.

    Not a huge Owen fan but I agree with you. The World Cup finals are a long way off and England are not overly blessed with instinctive scorers, or at least those proven at the highest level. Yes, he has been injury prone of late and does need a lot of games under his belt to prove he still has what it takes but Owen cannot be ruled out. We criticise Ronaldo for being a "diver" and I'm afraid Michael has been guilty of that too and he does seem to have lost some of his early 'sharpness'...but Capello would be a fool to dismiss him out of hand and the shrewd Italian is surely no fool.

  • Comment number 10.

    Capello has shown with Beckham when he was at Madrid that he's not one to cut off his nose to spite his face. If Owen isn't in his thinking right now then it's up to Owen to get fit, start scoring goals and put himself back in the frame. If he does so i'm sure Capello will bring him back as, on his game, we have no-one better at putting the ball in the net.

  • Comment number 11.

    I can see some justification for owen being left out before Saturday with him playing only 20min but with the injuries we have and a big qualifier on Wednesday can we afford not to have him at least on the bench rather than Bent with no England goals to his name?

    And to argue againsts Capello's reasoning he is playing Rooney up front with 36 Domestic appearances this season and Owen has 31 (both scoring 10 goals). Not only that but 6 other Englishmen have scored more premierleague goals this season (Gerrard, Lampard, Crouch, Davis, Agbonlahor & Bent). Capello seems to be showing some hypocricy when it comes to selection.

    Does are currently front line really look threatening; compare our starters Rooney and Heskey to Spain's Villa and Torres. Torres and scored as many domestic goals as Rooney with 7 games less played and Villa is in another league to Heskey. We are not equipped with many great strikers and to league someone out like Owen with so few options available is madness.

  • Comment number 12.

    Micheal Owen is injury prone and lightweight as he has proven on many occasions. The fact he was played every week from the age of 17, while still not fully developed probably ruined his career. Capello is right to discount him, it's just a shame there are few other options as no English players het a chance in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 13.

    If he keeps himself fit and does the business for Newcastle, than he is worthy of a place in the squad, but at the moment, he doesn't play enough for Newcastle, so he doesn't deserve to be in the squad. Becks plays for Milan regularly and has done well for them, so he is worthy of a place in the squad. Thats the difference between Becks and Owen, Becks fitness is fine and is playing for his club, whereas Owen's fitness is causing problems and he isn't playing for his club.

  • Comment number 14.


  • Comment number 15.

    the one thing that will stop england being the best in the world is their strikers....

    compared to spain, italy, brazil etc we are way behind in that department...

    hopefully soon someone will rise from the dust but right now we just dont have it up front....they all seem to bottle it or just be average...

    look at spain raul isnt even in the squad, torres isnt the main man...

    on the injury front pick ledly king but leave owen out...ledly cant even run during the week ha

  • Comment number 16.

    what is there to lose? we have enough cover in other areas of the pitch, that the inclusion of one more striker would save Capello from the debate.

    Capello did say that the Owen way of playing didn't suit the formation - the manager wants players who play in all areas of the pitch and not just the 18 yard box.

    but the ball comes in, from a cross or corner, from a substitute David Beckham, and if there's a substitute Owen taking up more than his fair quota of defenders, the space is there for Terry or anyone else to get the ball in the net.
    discount Owen's bursts of speed, or his opportunistic accuracy at our peril.

  • Comment number 17.


    GET A GRIP PHIL...................

  • Comment number 18.

    Disappointing to see Michael Owen's exclusion from the England squad...yet again, but it is hardly surprising given his injuries and current lack of first team football with Newcastle. You have to hope that Capello is not thinking of axing him completely. Even with the injuries he is still the classiest natural goalscorer we possess.

  • Comment number 19.

    England havnt needed Owen since 1998, it would definatley be a step backwards if he got his place back in the squad.

  • Comment number 20.

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

  • Comment number 21.

    He is still worthy of a place in the world cup in my opinion i think it'd be ridiculous if defoe or bent got in ahead of him, they have never proved themselves for england and i very much cannot see them scoring individual goals against brazil and argentina like owen could. He may have lost that pace but you dont lose the finishing touch.

    Becks should also go in my opinion even as an option, he is and always will be an outlet for goals for england from his assists in every major tournament. Walcott and lennon are good but I'd say lennon would probably be the one left out here despite recent form. Its all about big game performers.

  • Comment number 22.

    The key words here are 'when fit'. Owen hasn't been on top form for so long, it seems perfectly logical for Capello to ignore him, for the time being at least. Phil, you seem to be relying on history, the one element Capello refuses to cane in to.

  • Comment number 23.

    Unusually I agree with virtually all that Mr McNulty has said, except to add that Capello also had Owen at Madrid and never really played him there either, so perhaps there is something else behind what seems to be stubborn determination to end Owen's England career.

    Oh, and FC chose a half fit Ledley King, but wont choose a returning to fitness MO, the same double standard (only in reverse) that he accused Harry Redknapp of over the choice of Hutton for Scotland...

  • Comment number 24.

    If he is fit, he would definately be in my squad. If he is half-fit he would still be in ahead of Defoe, Bent & Carlton Cole! His scoring record speaks for itself. If we need Beckham to cross, we need Owen in the box doing what he does best - sticking the ball in the back of the net.

  • Comment number 25.

    It appears to me that Capello prefers a target man up front with Rooney running from deep. I can understand his preference, but to discount Owen entirely is completely baffling. I agree that at the very least he should be used as an impact substitute. His goalscoring record at international and club level cannot be ignored.

  • Comment number 26.

    It's simple. He scores goals for England, always has done, always will do. He is needed now.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think Capello is being tactical even in the exclusion of Owen. He is hoping that by excluding Owen, he will make the striker step up his game. It's all calculated to get Owen back in the first team.

  • Comment number 28.

    I agree with your comments and if MO was fully fit he would be in the squad. The biggest surprise to me is Heskey, who is surely one of the most overrated strikers in England. I'd play a fit MO and WR up front every time.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm a little bit confused as to the hulabaloo surrounding Owen's omission. People are saying its the end of his England career but Capello explicitly said that i he'd played four or five games in a row for Newcastle then 'he would be with us'. Owen's a proven international goalscorer but at the same time he's not fit. The game against the Ukraine is by no means crucial given the position we find ourselves in and it would be foolhardy to throw Owen in at the deep end on the back of 20 minutes of football for a club struggling at the wrong end of the Premiership. If anyone ought to feel a little put out its Kevin Davies. Playing well for a team who are easily holding their own in the middle of the Premierleague and the top English striker in terms of goals all he gets is a measley 'it won't be Kevin Davies'. I don't think that Davies is international class at all but I fail to see what Carlton Cole offers that Davies doesn't, except maybe a yard of extra pace.
    As for Owen I'm sure that if he regains full fitness over a sustained period he will be a shoo-in for the World Cup squad. Whether this is a feat his body is capable of reaching is another matter.

  • Comment number 30.

    I fully agree with you, Phil.Owen is a great player and history clearly witness to that fact.His hat trick against germany, His fabulous Goal against argentina , his stunner against slovakia, his breathtaking turn and subsequent goal against portugal are but a few examples of what Owen can do.I fully like and respect Capello but it looks like he is committing another mistake like he did when he axed Beckham only to go back on his word,,,few weeks later to his delight because without him real would have never won la ligua,,,finally history can not be made without the use of the present,,,You need that to have history...hoping that Capello will give owen one more chance to prove that using the current present,( allowing him to play), He will create history all over again,,,

  • Comment number 31.

    Michael owen is too busy with his horses and promoting dubai. I watched a clip of him promoting Dubai Sports City which by the way will be awesome when finished. But owen needs to get back to playing for a good prem club. He will have enough time to live in his Dubai sports city luxury apartment overlooking ernie els golf course and the 4 huge stadiums and of course Man U Soccer School. Owen knows that in the future all football clubs will be training mid winter in Dubai Sports City

  • Comment number 32.

    "If David Beckham can still be included to be used mainly as a substitute, why cannot this also apply to Owen?"

    I totally agree. Although, the only reason Becks is in the squad right now is because he is on top of his game right now, regularly starting games and playing well for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

    Unfortuneatley for Owen he is part of a very poor Newcastle squad. Even if he was fully fit, with the players around him I just don't see him scoring 20 plus goals a season. I fear Owen will have to move clubs to stand a chance of getting back into the Englad first team.

  • Comment number 33.

    Owen still has a shot. He needs to

    1) Get fit and stay fit
    2) Play in a top-half premier league team. That can be at newcastle next year assuming they stay up. He'll be gone if they go down I'm sure.
    3) Score goals. For Owen, this is the easy bit.

  • Comment number 34.

    Why Owen is not still wearing the 3 lions is a mystery to me. As anyone, who cares to read any of my previous posts dating back a few years, would know that i'm a big fan of Owen and he should be one of the first names on the team sheet.

    PS: I'm a MUFC fan, so saying that about ex liverpool isnt easy, ha ha!

  • Comment number 35.

    Owen is living of reputation and has not really performed to satisfy his inclusion into the England squad. l think its time we accepted that his over and he is more likely to win at Ascot and not at Wembley. People change, so do circumstances and Owen for all the good he has done cannot in all honesty belive his performance, or lack of, warrants him a place in the squad.

  • Comment number 36.

    McNulty... Fail.

    Can't agree with this... at this moment in time how can questions be asked?? England are playing and winning.. and more importantly, for England fans , looking like they are enjoying playing for their country again...

    You quote Capello talking about picking players based on recent form and not history.. then you back up your argument talking about Owen's history..?? Beckham isnt a good argument either as he has put in a lot of effort forcing his way back into the England set up.. where as Owen has mostly put effort into selling his services elsewhere when his contract runs out...

  • Comment number 37.

    I can only agree with Phil. Capello can ill afford to rule out Owen completely. Rooney and Gerrard are of the highest calibre and would surely be able to link with Owen. It's a cliche but surely it's a question of "horses for course". Some teams will be very adept at defending against a target man,therefore, another tactic will be needed. The succesful teams are adatable and can play in diferent manners when it is required- let's keep our options open.

    If Owen plays all of next season for a team that is playing well he will score 20 odd goals. You can't apply that sort of forecasting to any other English striker (Rooney aside) at this present time.

  • Comment number 38.

    As a Middlesbrough fan, it's never easy to 'big up' a Newcastle player, but Owen is still one of the best in the business; 40 goals in 89 appearances says it all. I personally think it's an insult to call up the likes of Darren Bent, Carlton Cole et al in place of Owen.

    Ok, yes, we know he's been injured, and yes, he might be a little out of form, but you can't teach instinct nor class, and that is something he has in abundance.

  • Comment number 39.

    Could be one of the gaffer's mind games... surely he cannot, seriously, rule out Owen.. ever! If he works hard, stays fit ans scores goals he'll be in the team, without a doubt.

  • Comment number 40.

    For too long Newcastle United has been at the back of Owen's mind - play well for your club, play for your country - that's how it should be! UNTIL Owen is producing the goods at club level, he shouldn't be playing internationally, however, i hope Capello doesn't pick lesser players just to make a point!

  • Comment number 41.

    I really can't believe all the comments that are saying we need Michael Owen. The last 2 games were 4-1 and 4-0, it hardly seems to be a problem scoring goals without him.

    There is also no reference to the fact that he has changed as a player. The last game I saw him play for Newcastle he seemed to be dropping deep to get the ball (in fairness this may be due to the quality of players around him). He is no longer the goal poaching machine that Phil is making him out to be. Rooney has a similar goals to game ratio for England anyway, we should be looking to the future and it doesn't, at this point, include Owen.

    I agree with the poster saying he has to leave Newcastle in the summer, but will anyone take a chance on him? How can you expect to play for your country if you cannot play for your club (Ledley King shouldn't have been picked either)?

  • Comment number 42.

    As a young liverpool fan who got drawn into supporting liverpool because of MO after That goal in the 1998 world cup I think that the idea that owen is a lethasl finisher is a misconception. He is a good finisher, but what he does is get in the right place repeatedly, even after missing a good chance. I would have thought fit and firing englands 4/5 strikers for a squad would be rooney, heskey, Agbonlahor, owen, crouch.
    Also owen to tottenham this summer???

  • Comment number 43.

    I know few will agree but I think Owen would be a better choice for England than Rooney.

    Aside from recent games Rooney doesn't really offer much to the team (apart from allowing them more exercise when he gets sent off) and if Owen were played it would allow Gerrard a position to be more effective.

  • Comment number 44.

    To is probably fair to say Owen's recent career has not turned out as he would have liked, even aside from his injuries.

    It was ironic that in the season after he left Liverpool to seek more success on the European stage and sample foreign football with Real Madrid, Liverpool won the Champions League.

    I would disagree that Owen did not cut it at The Bernabeu. He had a very respectable record and ultimately was just a victim of the musical chairs mentality that prevails at that particular club.

    It is also fairly safe to assume that Liverpool would have been his first choice of Premier League club on his return from Spain, but it was Newcastle who came up with the deal.

    For all that, it is my firm belief that a fit Michael Owen must be part of the England set up.

  • Comment number 45.

    You are spot on Phil! In a crunch world cup game I'd opt for Owen ahead of most of the other forwards in contention. He's experienced, tried and tested. And his scoring rate for England speaks for itself! Come on Fabio - give him a chance!

  • Comment number 46.

    Fabio Capello has done nothing to Owen's chances, up or down.

    He's merely 'stated the bleedin' obvious', in his new role as darts-playing, joke-cracking impersonator of John Cleese (according to yesterday's London Times)!

    1. Has he stated anything other than: 'I don't pick players recovering from injury'? No.
    2. Has he said anything other than: 'If Owen is fit and scoring goals, then he's got as good a chance as any of being in the squad'? No.
    3. Has he got more important things to think about than: 'Which 18 do I pick for Wednesday?' No.

    It's you lot in the media who see a boy dance for the first time with a girl and say they're an item, she's pregnant, she's dreaming of weddings....

    Don't know what they taught you at journalism school, but it wasn't listening....and I'm not sure it was observing either......

    But as Mr McKenzie would no doubt say: 'Stiffs don't sell newspapers, but stiffies do......'

  • Comment number 47.

    Couldn't disagree more! Owen has a one dimensional game & is a liability at senior level. He lost his sharpness & fitness years ago as Newcastle fans have found out.

  • Comment number 48.

    a fit Owen is still the best striker we have. Most players loose something more than just pace when they've had repeated injuries, but even with that taken into account, he's still the best finisher. He's lost his pace ages ago, so its just his eye for goal and instinct for being in the right place.

    I think Capello likes to throw people out so he can shock them into action. If they're the kind of player he wants they'll respond by proving him wrong. It thorougly worked with Beckham.

  • Comment number 49.

    "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."

    I totally disagree with this comment. The decision to leave out owen was totally correct in that instance. Everyone knows it takes him a few games to get back to scoring. This point would be mute providing his overall contribution was good outside the box, but the reality is he offer very little for a team like newcastle when he's not fit (i.e. not scoring).

    Plus the decision was vindicated by our good 1st half performance.

    I do think owen should be in the england squad, a goalscorer is invaluable in international competitions and their lead ups; plus he's better playing for england with better players around him, however to make such a broad generalization about newcastle based on one, justified, decision to leave him out of a starting line up is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 50.

    Owen is a world class finisher who is blighted by injuries. I would take him to the world cup, but only if:
    1) He had completed 10+ games in a row for his club just before the WC
    2) Scoring regularly for the club
    3) Not had a 'bad' injury that season hampering his rehabilitation

    Even then, he's a bench player now. Shame, but we have to accept that to accommodate Owen you have to play certain players in static positions which don't allow the fluidity that we had at the weekend. Owen cannot be a Heskey, nor is he a Rooney - and that now is his problem.

    Before he got in the side on ability alone, now he needs everything else to be in place - and that to me shows how much the team has improved under Capello.

  • Comment number 51.

    So agreed then Phill that a fully fit owen is imperative to the england set up. Maybe the underlining issue of your blog is that apart from Rooney since owen there has not been a striker that can perform for either club or country to deliver the goods. I mean Hesky doesnt score enough goals even he would agree, Crouch ( liverpool should never have got rid) cant perform at his current club, Carlton cole for 7 games in in his whole career has finally scored a few goals. And darren Bent is our back up. Even his own manager doesnt have any faith in him, So phill the premier league is full of the torres and the ronaldo's but where are englands and what can we do about it?

  • Comment number 52.

    Phil, this doesn't read properly... and is Rooney this centre forward?

    "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."

  • Comment number 53.

    At this time, Capello is right to leave Owen out. He made the big deal about Beckham not being selected due to lack of competitive match fitness, and it is the same for Owen. I think that if Owen REALLY wants his England career back on track, he needs to leave Newcastle in the summer. At Liverpool he played with players which helped him to shine. The likes of Heskey and Fowler were instrumental in making him a player that every club would have wanted. Even if he joined Man City, or (stirr up some controversy) Everton, he would have a better chance of catching Capello's eye. England does need him, he is still a threat, and is always going to score goals. What do we think teams fear more, the name of Carlton Cole, or the name of Michael Owen? The Argentinians didnt nickname him "baby-gol" for nothing (after THAT goal in France '98), which is an obvious compliment as it is a play on the term "baty-gol", the nickname given to Batistuta! Carlton Cole is not good enough, Agbonlahor could be, but he needs a role model. Defoe and Bent aren't consistent enough. Once Owen finds a way out of Newcastle, and makes an impression early next season with a new club and fresh start I think he'll be back in Englands plans.

  • Comment number 54.

    whoah! what's with all the moderation? Has your blog always been pre-moderated? It's not a good sign, y'know. I mean, I understand that they can't risk letting anyone comment on Mihir Bose's blog without censorship (sorry, 'pre-moderation'), 'cos it'd be embarrassing to have the overwhelming predominance of negative comments on display, but I'd have thought you'd be okay.

    I like your blogs Phil, on the whole, but with that said I do think you're flogging a dead horse on this one. This must be the third or fourth blog of yours I've read where you spend the entire column pleading with the England manager to pick Owen.

    Capello seems to be a big enough man to change his mind, and to pick players who demand to be picked, regardless of history. If Owen can get back to full fitness and top form, I'm sure he'll get picked. But I don't reckon Capello will pick Owen as a squad member otherwise, on the evidence of the past and on the off-chance that he might come in useful from the bench sometime. No matter how much you beg him.

    I also don't think the majority of England supporters feel the same way you do, either. I don't, and judging from the number of comments you've been able to publish on this blog, I don't reckon many others do either.

  • Comment number 55.

    Michael Owen does not have the pace he used to, he has a poor first touch, poor technique, bad penalty taker and hasnt scored many for England in his last 20 or so caps. Now that a good manager is in charge he hasnt been picked and England are winning all their games.

  • Comment number 56.

    "....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.

    An interesting interpretation of bringing back a player from injury. Surely if you're playing Arsenal it's better to start with your fully fit players.

    That aside, I can understand why Capello wouldn't call up a player who isn't match fit. It might be a different story if Owen were fully fit and scoring goals, but the player himself admitted recently that it takes him 2-3 games to get his sharpness back, and surely you wouldn't want to risk that in a WC qualifier.

  • Comment number 57.

    A decent article by Phil, but one that will ultimately ruined by the idea of pre-moderation that seems almost exclusive to Phil's blogs.

    A very timely point for discussion that will get lost in over 1 3/4 of moderation approval.

    The defence that it keeps it on topic is probably right in that it takes too long for it to go off topic!

    Just give Phil a 606 style thread and we can discuss this article like grown ups.

  • Comment number 58.

    Quote From Post number 2:

    "As a liverpool fan, i truly believe the worst thing Owen did for his career was leaving anfield. It may potentially worked out as a good move however in modern day football it has been proven that British players cant cut it abroad"

    He did cut it abroad, he still had a ration of 1 goal every 2 games and Real Madrid and had the best goals per minutes played in the league that season. Even though they used him as a sub more often than not he still banged the goals in.

    For the life of me i don't know what Real Madrid was thinking because he was prolific and should of been starting more games.

    In a tournament you need, i would say at least 4 strikers with varying qualities and a mixture of experience and youth. Michael Owen has plenty of experience and is quality through and through. The only striker i have seen with his natural goalscoring instinct and ability is Fernando Torres and David Villa.

    Owen should be one of the 4 strikers going IF he is fit, im not saying put him there now but if he doesnt get injured between when he comes back and the World Cup i'm sure he would go.

    The 4 strikers i would take would be:

    Rooney (speaks for itself)
    Owen (Natural goalscorer with bags of experience)
    Crouch (Good form and good outlet, plan B player)
    Defoe (He's a goalscorer and has a good all round game minus his heading probably).

    Can anyone honesty say, hand on heart that a fully fit Heskey, Carlton Cole, Agbonlahor (in time maybe) is a better choice than a fully fit Michael Owen?

    If Owen is fit, Capello will pick him.

    Class is permanent.

  • Comment number 59.

    Yes Owen should not have left Liverpool, but he also should not have left Real Madrid....He did so Because Sven said he needed 1st team football to make the World Cup team. He bottled it and went. He was getting enough football at Madrid that he could sustain (ie play without injury) and would have been in the team. He was a definite pick, just like Beckham (who didn't always justify it at the time)

    About the future....I have a little fancy, and as a Man Utd fan would like to see; that over the summer, Manchester United won't stump up £32million for a bench player; Tevez)and Owen on a free transfer will represent great business and football sense and head to Old Trafford. (Maybe a reduced wage and some sort of pay as you play) He will see enough matches with all the games Utd play, and I'm sure he will score enough in a great Man Utd team to earn a seat on the plane to RSA!

    If Ronaldo goes, maybe you could play Rooney Berb and Owen! What odds people?

  • Comment number 60.

    Owen, has had injury problems throughout his career. He only performs well when he is 100% fit. When he is 100% fit he is a great striker and should be in the squad. Unfortunately, he is one of those players that does not do the business if he is not fully fit, which has been the situation all this season.

    IMHO, he should not even be considered at the moment.

  • Comment number 61.

    Wow! Do all of the above comments break the house rules?

    Capello is not only good tacticly, he is also a good man manager and wants to make clear who he thinks in charge is. He is.

    if England fail, all of Enlgand will forget how rubbish beckham has been at penalties and how Rooney's red cards have game changing effects on outcome and call for Capello's head.

    If I were in his position, i would do bloody what I think is right without giving a toss to what others think.

  • Comment number 62.

    2 hours without moderation.. How can you debate football with someone like this?

  • Comment number 63.

    Until Owen returns from injury and can show he can still deliver, this all remains an utter moot point anyway.

  • Comment number 64.

    I am a Liverpool fan and have always been a fan of Owen he'll guarantee you goals when fit. I would also say that he's still the best finisher currently available for England. England must however learn to exist without a player on which they cannot rely on to be fit.

    If he managed to play 20 consecutive games and scored 10 goals then I think he would be worth an inclusion. Only though as an alternative off the bench and maybe if he was fit longer term he would be worth considering as a first choice in Rooney's absence.

    Similar to Spain and the Raul situation where his selection was enshrouded with sentiment you need to look to the future at some point, unfortunately England only have one world class forward in Rooney and not two like Torres and Villa.

    Agbonlahor, Bent, Defoe, C Cole are all distinctly average and will not improve appreciably in my eyes. We have a couple of competent target men in Crouch and Heskey that can do a good job, which is where we have strength in depth. The problem lies in when Rooney is injured or most likely suspended. Who do we have to replace him.

    Well nobody is the short answer, the nearest we have to a second world class forward in the making is Theo Walcott who finishes well and obviously has exceptional pace. However to play him out of his club position for England would be a risk.

    Ultimately England need to plan and build without Owen and view him as a bonus from the bench once he's proved his fitness. Capello is a sensible and intelligent man and would include Owen if he had 15 goals to his name this season. What he won't do is play him through sentiment, and the fact that we are discussing the exclusion of a player that has scored few goals and played few games is indicative of the reason we don't have an English manager. As the English managers would be picking the team on history not form.

  • Comment number 65.

    Owen is finished. I doubt he has much of a Premiership career left, let alone International. Capello is right to resign him to history.

  • Comment number 66.

    You just cant shake the fact Cappello has dropped Owen can you phil?? It irked you when it happened and it still does. I for one back cappello, england have looked a far better side without than with him. Prob a similar scenario with scotland, if we could drop barry ferguson we would be a better side.

    Alas, its not to be. However, what remains certain is that even if england dont win the world cup, which they prob wont, it wont be down to owen not being there, rather the techical ineptitude which was highlighted against the spanish.

  • Comment number 67.

    To be honest I have no idea what the point of this blog is?!! What's the story here? There isn't one!
    Being a Liverpool fan i'm also a big Michael Owen fan. His career at Liverpool & Real Madrid shows when he is fit, and when he plays he scores goals for fun. Considering he has been riddled with successive injuries for the last 3 years and plays in a struggling team his record for Newcastle is excellent too. Anyone who disagrees with that is simply wrong.
    However, how anyone can be talking of the need to pick Owen for England at this time is ridiculous. The man has hardly played this season, and has played only 20 minutes of his latest recovery! History also shows that when he returns from injury it takes 5 or 6 games for him to start firing again (the reason for his slightly inferior record at Newcastle).
    With no match fitness or sharpness and no current form how can Capello consider him right now? The man is exactly right not to pick him.
    I have no doubt that if Owen stays fit next season he will be scoring goals regularly again (for a better club than Newcastle), and Capello will pick him - based on merit and on form.
    Capello may not fancy him as a player, but he has shown that he picks the best players if they are fit, and he will pick Owen if Owen's performances make it impossible for him not to.
    So there is absolutely no story here right now. If he's not picked in a years time after a season of scoring a goal every other game fair enough, but why are we even having the conversation now? Lazy journalism if you ask me.
    The real, and only story anyone can make on this subject, and one that has been completely ignored by everyone is the merits of Darren Bent for inclusion. An inconsistent performer who seems to lack the ability on the ball, control and hold up play needed for international football. All he is is lots of pace and sometimes the ability to finish.........on a good day! His selection puzzles me more than Owen's exclusion, particularly as Capello commented that you need to be a more rounded player than just a finisher to play a part in the team (when talking about Owen before the France game), when it seems that this is exactly where Bent is most lacking.
    Write a piece about that rather than dredging up this tired discussion about Owen when he's done nothing to warrent his place all season!

  • Comment number 68.

    Owen is proven quality at international level, you only have to look at his record to see that. He isn't helped by injuries of course, and playing for a poor Newcastle team is hardly impressive for Capello. I'm of the opinion he needs the right move in the summer to rejuvenate his career - any of Liverpool (as a fan I'd love him to return, but he'd ahve to accept Torres being the main striker), Aston Villa, or Arsenal. Even Spurs, Everton or West Ham or someone like Wigan would be good as they are at the better end of the premier, and that is better if you are wanting to be an England regular. What is certain is the fact that Capello is ignoring our best striker and it's all the more puzzling when you consider we are low in that area - you're not telling me that Cole, Bent or even Defoe are in the same league when it comes to international football.

  • Comment number 69.

    As always everybody is entitled to Phil's opinion. Phil makes a good point about M.O.'s fitness. When did M.O. last play 5 consecutive matches? Yet this is number of matches you must play to win a tournament. Who would take a player to a tournament not believing he would be available in the later stages of the contest?

    Since leaving LFC M.O. has become a loser! First he quit LFC because LFC could not win anything according to M.O. Then he became a bench warmer at RMFC. The loser then re-appeared at the circus called NFC! It is a testimony to his status that he is being compared to other losers. It is like comparing a one-eyed king to his blind subjects and not to other two-eyed kings!

  • Comment number 70.

    And Phil, where do you think Owen will be next season? As you say so succinctly in your blog every time Newcastle drop Owen, they only contribute to their own demise towards Champinship status. Surely Owen then needs to move a club which appreciates his considerable, admittedly injury-interrupted, class?

    I hear Everton have been sniffing around. Do you think that would be a good move, or any move for that matter?

  • Comment number 71.

    To the question of who England would pick if Rooney was not fit. Surely the answer has to be Joe Cole, who would then interchange with Gerard in exactly the same sort of relationship as Gerrard with Rooney. Heskey seems potentially more difficult to replace than Rooney.

  • Comment number 72.

    Some time ago most of us thought Emile Heskey had had his day. How wrong we were! I agree that in a WC game, with us needing a goal with 20 minutes left, I would slot Owen in.

  • Comment number 73.

    Capello does Not take passengers !
    All i keep hearing is "If Owen is fit". Thats a big IF !

  • Comment number 74.

    Owen was forced out by that idiot Houllier, he didn't actually want to leave.
    England will need a different game plan to play different teams, so a player like Owen will be needed, I do agree with Capello's style, it certainly seems to have instilled some discipline in the team, but as with "making" Gerrard and King appear to "justify" themselves for not be available, I think this side of his character/style maybe a bit too strong.

    If he still refuses to pick a fit Owen, I think that's perilous.

  • Comment number 75.

    Michael Owen is a proven international goalscorer at the highest level. Irrespective of injuries, unlike press hyped celebs, he is genuine proven class against the best teams in the world. Its ok England wildly celebrating about beating a very poor team but lest see how they get on against Ukraine and then some of the better teams (Spain, etc). I would like to see Owen, Gerrard, Rooney, Heskey, Cole as first names on the sheet. Build the team around that ..... beckham has so much celeb status publicity he would get in, maybe even when he`s 50

  • Comment number 76.

    Every major tournament we have taken Michael Owen to it has emerged that "he was injured". No doubt if he was fit we should have won a competition by now. Is he really that talismatic that the press are getting in their pre-emptive strike before we go to the world cup in case we fail. I can see it now. "If only we had Michael Owen, wed've won the World Cup". Tosh and balderdash.

    We shouldn't feast on the past, we shouldn't take injury prone players, tha includes Ledley King as well in my view.

  • Comment number 77.

    Owen needs to Leave Newcastle on a free at the end of the season, and join a club such as Everton or Aston Villa, get a good pre-season behind him and get playing on a regular basis.
    If he does this he should rightly be the second striker on the England squad list behind Rooney as while he does not have the latters all round ability and has lost a yard of pace, his finishing is second to none.

  • Comment number 78.

    Michael Owen is a great player but I do not believe he should be an automatic choice. It is good that Capello is not including him the squad just based on his good record. Sven made this grave mistake in 2006 WC, including Owen over other fit and on form strikers, and look where that got England! English fans need to stop looking at the sentimental choice and start looking at the sensible and logical choice. Owen, like Shearer, is seen as the English choice - the golden boy. That is how the old fashioned English managers used to pick squads. Capello is a modern football manager, more atuned with the technical aspects of the game. Let him do his job.

  • Comment number 79.

    Capello's stance of not picking Owen because of injuries is understandable, by why on earth then was Ledley King in the squad??

  • Comment number 80.

    You can't keep picking a man who hasn't been fully fit or consistently scoring goals for more than 3 years and seems to lack motivation as well as fitness.

    Owen's a broken shadow of his former self.

  • Comment number 81.

    As an international striker your role is first and formost to score goals. Owen offers the one thing that is so often missing against top teams for England - Goals. Rooney's record against top international sides is no better than Crouch's and Crouch is often criticised for only scoring against "small" nations (his exceptions of his 21 goals being 1 in friendlies against agentina and holland and 3 in competitive games against croatia). Should Owen have had the same 2 chances Rooney took on saturday there's is almost no doubt that he would have stuck both away.

    The big difference between the 2 is that owen has forged good partnerships with several players (heskey, crouch, shearer...) yet rooney struggles to do the same.

    I'm not saying Owen should start but he should be on the bench. For me it should be Gerrard and Crouch up front.

    Just for info this is the domestic srike rate for England players this season - the question is why Bent over Davis and Owen.

    Gerrard 0.47 per game (30 games) - 14 goals
    Lampard 0.37 (38) - 14
    Crouch 0.36 (33) - 12
    Cole 0.35 (31) - 11
    Davis 0.32 (34) - 11
    Owen 0.32 (31) - 10
    Rooney 0.31 (32) - 10
    Agbonlahor 0.29 (35) - 10
    Bent 0.24 (45) - 11
    Heskey 0.13 (30) - 4
    Walcott 0.05 (21) - 1

    Based on the BBC Sport figures

  • Comment number 82.

    To river_pines...fair point about the strikers. If Wayne Rooney was to pick up an injury, who would Fabio Capello turn to?

    My own guess is he would still employ the powerful front man and drop Steven Gerrard into a free role just behind him, but it would expose a current lack of world-class striking options. Owen would have to enter the equation then.

  • Comment number 83.

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

  • Comment number 84.

    At 12:21pm on 30 Mar 2009, CantTackleWontTackle wrote:

    Firstly, despite what Capello says he has a history of changing his mind. At Real Madrid he dropped Beckham and sold him on to LA, only to do a u-turn and start picking him as his form improved.


    Capello didn't sell Beckham to LA - Real Madrid were trying to get Beckham to extend his contract which was up at the end of the season but instead Beckham chose to sign for LA Galaxy. When this was announced, with months left to run on Beckham's contract, Capello initially said that Beckham would never play for Real again but Beckham's application and professionalism in training impressed him such that he backtracked and picked him to play an important part in a championship winning season.

    Having seen the interview with Capello, I didn't see it as the end of Owen's international career. He pointed out that he's not going to select somebody who's only played 20 minutes in the last few months. If he did, the press would question this and then if Owen's recovery was setback by an injury playing or training for England, there'd be as much furore as there was over King. Even when Owen was overlooked last year, it's not like his form was that good or he went loads of games without niggles and knocks. I'm sure if he has a long injury free run where he's banging them in, he'll get back in the squad.

    I did think of Owen when the various pundits were discussing caps and the potential of Rooney to exceed both Beckham's and Shilton's records. Not so long ago, I remember seeing Shearer and Lineker have exactly the same conversation about Owen with regard to the caps and goals records. Something about tallying up those chickens springs to mind!

  • Comment number 85.

    It seems to me England no long have a proven goal scoring forward. All the way back as far as my memory goes we had Lineker, Shearer, Owen. Defoe and co. do not score regularly enough for club or country. A slower Owen probably isn't the answer either but I'd say he has an edge when fit over the others. Expect him to be in the 2010 squad if we get there.
    The big questions are about Walcott and Wilshere, will Theo be an out and out goalscorer? And will Wilshere be playing for Arsenal next season with the kind of impact a certain somebody had himself 11 (gulp) years ago?

  • Comment number 86.

    Good afternoon - a quick apology for the speed of moderation on this blog today. We are working hard to improve speed across all BBC comment services. Thanks for your patience.

  • Comment number 87.

    If Beckham can make a comeback at his age there's always a chance for Owen. Bring on the old guard.

    I do agree with previous comments about how Owen should be moving clubs in the summer. He needs to be playing in Europe for a club that has a world class medical centre.

    Wonder if he'll ever end up back at Liverpool...

  • Comment number 88.

    Hi Phil,

    Not quite sure if these stats are 100%, but they are close.
    Can we agree Owen's best days where as a Liverpool player?
    During that time, he very rarely scored a premier league goal, whilst we were losing. (compare that to Torres)
    We won only 50% of our league matches when he was paired with Heskey.
    (a partnership the England manager may use if Owen is picked)
    He never scored 20 premier league goals in one season.
    In most of those seasons, he scored hat-tricks, take those goals away from the season tally and his record is poor in comparison to some, ie Henry, Torres, Shearer. (he was our penalty taker as well).
    Can I ask how many penalties and hat-tricks he has scored for England?
    It would probably make his tally something like 30 in 85 games, nearly 1 in 3? Not quite as prolific as you would lead us to believe.
    Also how many winners in big games did he score for england? (the memorable ones were in games we ended up losing ie. argentina, brazil)

  • Comment number 89.

    Got to hand it to you Phil you've managed to create a huge blog out of nothing but pure supposition. Capello has never said never again will he play Owen.
    I'll put it to you simply, if Owen stays fit and starts scoring goals he'll get his chance.

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • Comment number 91.

    I am a massive fan of MO. He can do everything but jump 9ft and score a thumpin header.. but he can score goals with his head if (foolishly) left unmarked.

    I hope he gets fit and I hope he moves away from NU, If he can get a manager that can give him the games.. he will score and Fabio Capello will call on him. 40 goals in 89 games says enough for me. Rooney is a forward, owen is a striker.. he is the one (as repeatedly mentioned in the comments) that you want when the ball drops in the six yard box.

    Aside from Shearer, has there been a better striker for england in the last 30 years?

  • Comment number 92.

    Yo Phil McNulty, what do you think of Michael Owen and also what do you think of Dubai Sport City??

  • Comment number 93.

    You cannot pick Owen when he isn't even making the Newcastle starting XI at the moment, and has hardly played at all for months.

    Capello is more than correct in picking players that have shown form week in week out. As with dropping Lampard before, he will always pick what he considers to be his 'best team' based upon picking the players in the 'best form'.

    Owen requires a team to be built to the way he plays, whenever a system hasn't worked to his liking, he hasn't scored goals. Liverpool got shot of him, as did Real, he is a difficult player to slot into a team.

    What all the pundits and experts need to ask themselves is 'why is he at Newcastle United'? Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, even Villa, Everton etc. even Man City are not interested in signing what we are told is still a 'world class striker'? Why is that???

  • Comment number 94.

    There's an old saying that many a pundit uses, don't try and force players to fit your system, find the players that fit the system. Rooney fits Cappellos tactical plans, Owen doesn't, to bring in Owen means using another set of plans, and based on previous England performances they can't generally adapt to such changes, (Owen admitted this himself) Cappello has managed to get Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard playing together, however you can't straight swap Rooney for Owen, so putting owen back in the mix could have a bad effect on the Gerrard-Lampard pairing, as it has before! Does it not strike anyone else as odd that Gerrard and Lampard play better together without Owen on the pitch?

  • Comment number 95.

    Send me an application form, I'd happily sit there moderating all day! Only took me 15 minutes to read everything so we'll have to negotiate the salary :) You guys must have a lot of fag breaks!

  • Comment number 96.

    Even an 85% fit Michael Owen would get into my squad ahead of Bent and Defoe. It's not just the quantity of England goals he's scored but the quality of opposition; Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, Portugal....the only great team he hasn't scored against is Spain.

    He and Rooney are still our only 2 world class forwards, to freeze him out completely wuold be a mistake in my opinion.

    As a reply to those who said his move to Real was a failure by the way, his goals to games ratio there was phenomenal. Real fans were appalled that he was not used more and gutted that he was allowed to leave so soon.

  • Comment number 97.

    the first post is incorrect beckham went to la on a bosman and hence partly why he was dropped by capello.

    you have to say capello has always been both single minded and consistant in that players, whoever they are, need to be playing regularly. Foster is the only exception but when you look at the quality of english goalkeepers in the premiership you can't blame him for that.

    the discussion then is when owen plays regularly will he make the squad - personally i'd have him in. The more important point is is will owen ever be fit enough to play on a regular basis and reclaim some form - i don't think so.

  • Comment number 98.

    I agree 100% with "CantTackleWontTackle"...Phil, you talk from the perspective of personal 'bias/admiration', 'wanting' and not the stead fast hard tactical approach that matters right now for the England squad. Let ego's get bruised but don't let ego's get in the way of Englands revival.

    Capello is pragmatic and proven in his selection. If Owen did a Beckham and rebounded with passion and determination to get back in the squad...I'd be banging on myself about him needing to be back in the team. But one person would already be waaaay ahead of us all in this thinking...and that would be Capello himself.

    I like Owen...He is a big match player but you can't pick him on personal sentiment and 'hope' ahead of the rest of the england strikers...especially as he is injury prone, hasn't been playing regularly and needs to prove himself again to warrent a call up.

    To pick him on your phylosophy phil is to go back to the Wally with a Brolly era where players were picked on reputation rather than current form. Let him prove himself again and make a point of changing Capello's mind. If Owen doesn't rise to the challenge then he doesn't deserve a call up. Players can learn alot from OLD MAN BECKHAM...

  • Comment number 99.

    Owen has always needed 5 or 6 matches after returning from injury before he fully regains his goal scoring sharpeness. He's not going to get that this season so won't play for England any time soon. Too many injuries could mean he never plays again for the national side, a great shame but realistic. Yes he's got a fantastic record but when Capello has watched him play for Newcastle he's not played well so what is the manager supposed to do. Problem, as highlighted by others, is that England just don't have world class strikers, even Rooney can't be classed as a striker when compared to the likes of Torres (plus he has a nasty habit of getting in to trouble with refs). A fit, sharp Owen is a must but don't hold your breath on the fit part.
    As for Owen's move to Real, thought he was pushed & there was no effort from Liverpool to re-sign him when he left Spain!!!!

  • Comment number 100.

    This is a simple case of a player being selected if he is consistently on form for his club. Unfortunately for Owen consistency is something which has eluded him for several years now.

    I for one sincerely hope that he finds that form again because on his day he is a world class finisher and a threat to any international defence.


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