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Owen for England? You're taking the Michael!

Thursday 22nd September 2011
After Michael Owen scored a brace against Leeds United in Tuesday night's Carling Cup 3rd Round tie at Elland Road, talk and debate has been circulating online and in print, that Michael Owen should be recalled to the England set up, more than 3 years after his last international appearance.

Many of the people backing Owen include some of the biggest sports journalists in the country, but while Michael Owen has been an excellent player at both club and country, with a distinguished career, in my opinion, he shouldn't be eyeing a return in an England shirt.

Firstly, I'm not sure why such experienced reporters are calling for a recall after one decent performance against a (on the night) fairly average Leeds United side. His first goal was a decent finish, even if it he did scuff it through the defenders legs and the spin on the ball took it onto the post and in. His second goal was better, striking with his right foot hard into the top corner of the goal.
It seems the same has happened with Owen Hargreaves who got on the score sheet for Manchester City in midweek. All of a sudden he too is worthy of an England recall. Journalists are saying “on his day, he's the best defensive midfield player in the country.” I won't argue with that, as he's performed at the pinnacle of European and World football, but seriously, how often is Owen Hargreaves having one of those days? In his last two seasons for Manchester United, he played just 11 minutes of first team football.

I read one reporter say he could “name 20 English strikers better than Michael Owen.” While I wouldn't go as far as saying he is 21st in the England pecking order, the fact is, he could be 6th or 7th in the pecking order, and he still wouldn't play. England currently have Wayne Rooney and Darren Bent, the best two English strikers at club level. Then there is Jermaine Defoe, Bobby Zamora and Gabriel Agbonglahor who are all finding form early on this season and are hitting the back of the net. In addition to that, there is Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll, who could both be future stars for England in the years to come, as well as fringe strikers like Peter Crouch.

In my opinion, Michael Owen is behind all of those players, simply because they have all be in and around the England squad since Owen won his most recent cap, back in March 2008.

All of the players mentioned play regularly at club level in the Premier League. Owen finds himself 5th in the pecking order at his club, behind Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov and Welbeck. He also hasn't started a league game in over a year, and he was subbed at half time.

There has been plenty of talk, especially in the aftermath of England's abysmal World Cup campaign is South Africa for Fabio Capello to pick his team based on form rather than surname. Big name stars like Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand and Terry have very little time left at international level. They were the so called ‘golden generation' who, through Capello's backward tactics have managed to retain their place in the international set up, despite the fact there have been younger, very able replacements available who perform just as well at club level (Jack Wilshere, Gary Cahill and Michael Dawson to name a few).

Owen isn't even in the group of big stars walking on their last international legs. Yes, Owen has a tremendous goal scoring record (218 goals in 465 games, averaging 0.46 goals per game), and has netted 40 times in 89 games for his country including that memorable hattrick against Germany, but it is an even bigger backward step than selecting the likes of Ferdinand and Gerrard. In the same way that those players are not the future of England, neither is Michael Owen.

 
 

Above all those things, Fabio Capello doesn't appear to be a fan of Owen. Even when he was playing more regularly for Manchester United in the 2009/2010 season, it still wasn't enough to earn him a recall.

I have to say, one thing that I read fairly often was “he could still do a job for England.” But what is the point in someone who can “do a job”? We need match winners, game changers and young blood. The likes of Rooney and Bent, along with potential future stars like Carroll and Sturridge are those types of players. These young stars need to be playing for England ahead of Euro 2012, where England will surely be aiming to regain some pride after their, at times, very substandard tournament performances in the last decade.

After a glittering career, that really did spark into life with that goal against Argentina, at footballs top table, Michael Owen's best days are now sadly behind him. No doubt he is a good finisher, and he will probably never lose those poachers instincts, but the facts are he is struggling to make the United bench, and that won't change any time soon, if ever. I'm sure like any footballer they aspire to be back representing their country, but for 'fox in the box' Michael Owen, a return to the England set up is something he isn't really used to; a long shot.

Written by James Bolton

Follow me on Twitter - @Bolton0301
James Bolton

Total articles: 29

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