Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Owen to Face First World Cup Test

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Owen to Face First World Cup Test

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

Michael Owen will put his World Cup ambitions to the test this evening when he starts his first game since he suffered the foot problem which dogged his maiden campaign at St James's Park.

The Newcastle striker will captain an England B side against Belarus at the Madejski Stadium and, given the concerns which have surrounded the 26-year-old since he fractured a bone in his foot at Tottenham on New Year's Day, his participation in Reading will come as a major relief for followers of both his country and his club.

Given Wayne Rooney's continuing troubles with a similar metatarsal injury, all eyes will be focused firmly on Owen when he returns to action in Berkshire tonight.

United's pounds 17m signing from Real Madrid has played just once this year but, having complained of foot pain following his 29-minute appearance as a substitute against Birmingham on April 29, a crunching tackle from John Terry in training yesterday all but convinced Owen his six-month injury battle was finally at an end.

"John hit me with a tackle. He normally bursts in. But I've known all along I would be ready," said Owen, who is expected to play for 45 minutes tonight. "The only time I've had a little bit of doubt was when the surgeon rang me up and said: 'I think you should have another operation' in February or March.

"That was probably when I had my main bit of doubt but I've always known that I'd be fit.

"I don't think that I've lost a bit of my touch. I know where the goal is and I've been scoring a few and playing well.

"We've done plenty of fitness tests and all the results have been more positive than before previous tournaments."

It is not only those with the interests of the Three Lions at heart who will be keeping a close eye on the striker's fortunes. Glenn Roeder will also monitor the performance of the player he will build his quest for success at St James's Park around next season. …

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