Does Michael Owen have an England future?

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Players don’t clean boots any more. Me and John [Terry] always complain that they should be cleaning boots because being told off by Julian Dicks was a great learning curve for me.” – Frank Lampard.

Runner-up: “It’s a very great tragedy. We are all conscious that this is something very difficult and I want to send a message of solidarity. It’s a very serious situation, very difficult for us and also for the world of football because it is not the first time that it has happened. After the game I spoke with Didier Drogba, my brother – Kolo Toure – and the coach. It’s all very difficult because they are Ivory Coast supporters and we know them very well. Behind the victory was a tragedy. We have to go as far as we can in this competition for all the people who died.” – Yaya Toure.

Today’s overview: Having met the press yesterday, the fifth estate today reports on Frank Lampard’s new role for England. The fiercest debate however is reserved for Michael Owen, with the hacks split on whether the Newcastle striker has an international future.

The most informative article of the day comes from Glenn Moore who looks at the potential winners of the 2010 World Cup. “The last World Cup outside the traditional environs, Japan/Korea 2002, produced unexpected semi-finalists in Turkey and South Korea, but two old hands in the final, Brazil and Germany. So expect a surprise passage to the last four, at which point, in theory, anything can happen; but for one of the usual suspects to be lifting a 5kg lump of solid gold under African skies on 11 July 2010.”

Dominic Fifield notices how Lampard is now responsible for playing in a deep-lying central midfield for his country. “A goal-scoring phenomenon and talisman he may remain at club level but, with England, he has fallen back in with the troops.” Noticing the same tactical changes, Alan Smith comments “in finding a way to successfully fit Gerrard and Lampard into the same line-up, Capello has actually changed both their roles rather than just one. He has effectively ignored what goes on at club level.”

On who will play up-front for England, Kevin McCarra educates his readers by explaining why Peter Crouch is not a target man. “He never looks as if trading blows with a centre-half is his idea of sport. Indeed, Crouch has far more of the poacher about him than the bruiser.”

A discussion of Michael Owen’s England future is debated four-ways this Tuesday.

Compassionately, James Lawton offers Owen sympathy. “Even if Owen has in recent years reacted more bitterly than most to the discrediting of his mythic ‘golden generation’, it is surely true that he deserved a more generous requiem than the one so brutally administered by the England manager.” Owen needs to follow David Beckham’s example and take rejection on the chin, bounce back and prove his critics wrong.”

But even if Owen can return into the England fold, Alan Smith argues the striker will be relegated to a cameo role. “At best, I think he sees the little predator as nothing more than a substitute, someone who might grab a goal in the last 20 minutes. And let’s face it, you would still trust Owen to do that above any of his rivals.”

The harshest critic is Ian Wright in The Sun. “Michael has got the rest of his life to concentrate on horse racing — something which we all know he loves — but football should surely be his priority… I know he’s had a rotten run with injuries over the years but I don’t think he’s showing enough desire… I wish Michael’s attitude was like Rooney’s.”

Rob Kelly rips into Stuart Downing. “What is the point of Downing? He looks like a sixth form geography student who has somehow wandered onto the left wing. Ashley Young’s form may have trailed off in recent weeks, but he must be a better bet. Kirsty Young would be a better bet, come to think of it.” The Daily Mail also write on Downing, claiming the Boro winger will 100% move from the Riverside to Spurs this summer. “[Boro] will finally cave in and offload Downing, 24, at the end of the season. He is expected to cost in the region of £12million.”

Jonathan Wilson picks out his star for Ukraine, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. “He reads a game well, has tremendous stamina, passes the ball accurately over long distances and, when he breaks forward from his holding position in front of the back four, has a ferocious shot.”

Ahead of Ireland’s match in Italy that brings back famous memories of USA ’94,he Irish have always expected too much, too soon, ever since Jack Charlton and his ‘Boys in Green’ opened their eyes to the bigger picture… Beat that? Well, they can’t. Not yet, perhaps not for years to come.”

Changing gears, Henry Winter reports on new fears of the impact of drugs on footballers. “Of the 104 players dope-tested at Euro 2008, 42 per cent revealed to Uefa doctors that they had taken non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the previous three months. Recent research suggests NSAIDs can lead to heart and kidney problems… the widespread consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs should not lead to hysterical headlines, but legitimate fears persist. [John] Terry could end up in a wheelchair while even those of his team-mates taking NSAIDs must be made aware of the ‘side-effect risks,’ according to Uefa.”

Newcastle remain in turmoil, Louise Taylor reporting on the unlikelihood of Joe Kinnear returning to manage the Toon with speculation mounting that Dennis Wise will assume temporary reigns of the job. Claiming all the top stars are on the chopping block, worse news is delivered by Simon Bird who claims “Newcastle are desperate to slash their £73million wage bill – and if they get relegated up to 11 of the biggest earners are sure to be axed, or released.”

From left-field, Henry Winter rants against rumours linking Cristiano Ronaldo with Real Madrid. “United to Barcelona makes more sense: class acts such as Lionel Messi led by an outstanding young coach in Pep Guardiola. But joining Real? Legendary club, lousy time.”

Keeping with mooted transfers, the Daily Mail scribble that “Rafa Benitez is being linked with a £12million summer move for Samuel Eto’o after the Barcelona striker refused to commit himself to the Nou Camp beyond a contract that runs out at the end of next season.” The price is inflated if Anthony Kastrinakis is to be believed, who claims Eto’o will cost £18 million.

Lastly, David Kelly sits down with James Richardson to discuss Italian football. “In an age of obeisance and obsequiousness, Richardson’s ability to talk without condescension and with intelligence presents a breath of fresh air; at least in his territory, although he admits to a sneaking regard for the RTE football panel.”