Early Doors

Forget about England, Owen

Early Doors

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Early Doors realises it talks about Michael Owen's chances of an England recall a lot. But then, so does Michael Owen.

Even when he's claiming not to talk about it, he's talking about it. Take yesterday's press conference ahead of Manchester United's game against CSKA Moscow.

Rather than blowing off yet another question about England, he took the opportunity to reiterate how little it means to him: "The last squad I was in was a year ago now. It's something other people talk about more than I think about.

"I don't go to bed thinking if I will play for England again."

Here are some more examples of Owen lying back and not thinking of England (in fact, one for each month since the end of last season.

June 2009 (via risible 'come and get me' brochure): "He is the sixth most capped England player and is determined that his performance in the 2009/10 season will earn him a place in Fabio Capello's 2010 FIFA World Cup squad."

July 2009: "I have never given up on England," said Owen. "I have been in every preliminary squad before it is pared down. I have had a letter every time. I know from that the manager is keeping an eye on me."

August 2009: "I've been in the preliminary squad quite a few times so not to make the final squad is always disappointing."

September 2009: "I am passionate as ever about extending my time with England. I'm not past it.''

October 2009: "I will always score goals and I have got the record to show that. I have proven that at World Cups before, but the last thing I want to do is start a campaign and say all the reasons why I could be or should be involved."

When Capello first left Owen out in 2008, it was seen as a statement of intent and a challenge: Nobody gets picked on reputation alone, so score some goals and prove you deserve to be here.

It was widely acknowledged that a fit Owen would start for England, and that as long as he avoided another long injury lay-off he would be back.

But his final months at Newcastle saw him benched by his old mate Alan Shearer as the Toon went down. Then Manchester United offered him an unlikely lifeline and the chance to get fully fit and play for a top team. And he still looks rubbish.

The problem is not that Owen is third choice at United - Emile Heskey is in the same position at Aston Villa and still gets a game - it is how very ordinary he is when he does get a game.

He looks ponderous, hesitant and lacks confidence. Not only has he lost his sharpness; his touch and eye for goal seem to have deserted him as well.

His stoppage-time miss against Blackburn was a case in point. A few years ago, people would have been left open-mouthed by Owen failing to convert that kind of chance, but on Saturday the crowd barely registered.

That last-gasp winner in the Manchester derby is a notable exception to all this, but it looks increasingly like a moment of Macheda-esque inspiration than the sort of predatory finishing expected of a top striker.

Certain great players are able to adapt their game to compensate for a loss of pace (Ryan Giggs, Luis Figo, even Alan Shearer).

Owen still plays in the same way he did when he was fast, looking to dash past the last man and latch on to through balls. But defenders are faster than they were 10 years ago, and Owen is not.

At this point, Capello's exclusion of Owen appears entirely logical, and the idea that he would start in South Africa is risible.

Here is a list of England-registered strikers Early Doors would take to the World Cup ahead of Michael Owen:

Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent, James Beattie, Andy Johnson, Carlton Cole, Kevin Davies, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey.

- - -

The birth of a child  is a beautiful moment, particularly for compulsive gamblers who can bet on Kai Rooney to play for England at 500/1.

For all the attempts to ridicule the name of Wayne and Coleen's first child (apparently it's a type of dog and a cocoa drink), it's hardly Brooklyn. Or Romeo. Or Cruz.

Early Doors would venture that the Rooneys' biggest crime was the addition of the middle name Wayne.

Not only does it jar somewhat with Kai's Pacific Rim mysticism, naming children after yourself either points to a total lack of imagination or supreme narcissism.

Of course Kai is a bit unusual, but it would be no less weird for a celebrity couple to give their kids a completely mundane name, like Barry or Roger.

At least, at three letters long, it gives Wayne a fighting chance of spelling it correctly.

And if you think it is weird, it doesn't even crack the top 10 most oddly named children of England squad members:

Luna Coco Patricia (Frank Lampard)

Lorenz and Tate (Rio Ferdinand)

Roderick, Pauline, Hector and Fabio (David James - does he also have kids called Kevin, Sven and Steve?)

Sancha Natasha: (Jermaine Jenas)

Jaydon Jean Claude (Wayne Bridge)

- - -

"I think it's a bit strong to say it was one of the worst decisions ever, but it's fair to say it was a mistake. You look at Anelka now - he was top scorer in the Premier League last season. It's in the past now, but it was probably something that never went our way." Jamie Carragher on Liverpool's decision not to sign Nicolas Anelka.

FOREIGN VIEW: Three Bulgarian league coaches have resigned following the weekend's fixtures, bringing the total number of managerial casualties to 13 since the season started in August.

Velizar Popov resigned as Cherno More Varna coach after they lost to Pirin Blagoevgrad and Ivan Marinov decided to leave Lokomotiv Plovdiv following their defeat by city rivals Botev.

Sliven's Diyan Petkov was the third coach to quit after his side were held to a 1-1 home draw by Beroe Stara Zagora.

Cherno More, however, refused to accept Popov's resignation and insisted he would stay in charge until the mid-season break starting in December.

COMING UP: Full coverage of every Champions League game this evening, including Manchester United v CSKA Moscow and Atletico Madrid v Chelsea.

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