Michael Owen: 'England has lost faith in national team'

By Ben SmithBBC Sport
England qualification not enough - Owen

Former England striker Michael Owen says he believes the country has lost faith in the national team.

Speaking at the Soccerex Conference in Manchester, the ex-Liverpool forward said consistent failures at major tournaments were to blame.

"Everyone in this room, the fans, us, we have all lost belief in the national team," the 34-year-old said.

"I don't think we will get that back until we do something significant at a major tournament."

Owen's England tournaments
1998 World CupScored against Romania and Argentina, but England were knocked out in second round
Euro 2000Scored once in three matches as England were knocked out at group stage
2002 World CupScored twice in knockout stages. England lost to Brazil in quarter-finals
Euro 2004Scored in quarter-final defeat to Portugal
2006 World CupEngland knocked out by Portugal in quarter-finals. Owen failed to score and suffered serious knee injury

Owen said that while the victory over Switzerland in Monday's Euro 2016 qualifier was encouraging, one result was not enough to turn the tide after this summer's early World Cup exit.

"It has been pretty poor for a while now," he added. "One good result doesn't just change that.

"But there were chinks of light there against Switzerland and the encouraging thing was [there were] players that will be around for many years to come."

Owen picked out Liverpool's Raheem Sterling and Everton's Ross Barkley as youngsters who could have a major long-term impact.

Raheem Sterling
Owen believes Raheem Sterling can be one of the "pivotal points in our team for years to come"

"Sterling could be absolutely exceptional and Ross Barkley could go right to the very top of the game," he said.

"I can see those two taking us quite far and being pivotal points in our team for years to come."

Owen, who scored 40 goals in 89 international appearances, does not believe English players need to go abroad to improve their technique, but did say the huge spending in the Premier League made it almost impossible for young players to break through into top-flight first teams.

"The only way you can make it is to go on loan, unless you are a freak of nature," Owen said.

England's remaining Euro 2016 qualifiers
San Marino (h) 9 October 2014; (a) 5 September 2015
Estonia (a) 12 October 2014; (h) 9 October 2015
Slovenia (h) 15 November 2014; (a) 14 June 2015
Lithuania (h) 27 March 2015; (a) 12 October 2015
Switzerland (h) 8 September 2015

"We want for nothing in this country. We have top coaches or we bring them in, we have fantastic facilities, we are financially the wealthiest football nation in the world, but if you are at a big club it is virtually impossible to go from youth team to first team, even if you are one of the greatest prospects in the world.

"If you are a young player at Man City, how are you going to replace Yaya Toure or Vincent Kompany in the first team?

"They have got no chance. There are no prospects for young players unless you are at a smaller club."

Owen believes the English football youth set-up works well until players reach their late teens.

"The England Under-17s just won the European Championship. The academies are great until you get to 17 or 18 and then what? There is no stepping stone," he added.

"I like the fact that FA chairman Greg Dyke is getting off his backside and trying to do something to get more English players in the Premier League.

"A lot of people won't like the B team idea but Real Madrid have got a B team. It is good that the FA are recognising there is a problem."