Michael Owen has
vowed to silence the critics calling for him to be axed by England after a
troubled start to his career with Real Madrid.
The 24-year-old's place in his national side is under serious threat for the
first time since he exploded on to the international stage with one of the
greatest World Cup goals of all time against Argentina at France '98.
Owen's lack of matches since moving to Real -- where he is only the fourth
choice striker -- and the emergence of Jermain Defoe as a rival for his position
have increased the chances that the former Liverpool striker could be dropped
for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Azerbaijan.
But Owen insisted he still believed he deserved to be Eriksson's line-up against
Wales at Old Trafford on Saturday, provided he recovers sufficiently from a back
strain in time.
"From things I have read, perhaps some people would prefer it if I was not
available, but I am as certain as ever that I can do a good job for my country -
and my club," Owen said in a column for The Times newspaper.
Owen admitted to being upset by the lack of support he had received in England
given his record of goalscoring for his country -- 27 goals in 63 games being
combined with a tendency to strike when it matters most.
"I have a record of scoring in big games and big tournaments. I am not a kid. I
am an experienced international."
The striker also dismissed suggestions that he owed his place in Eriksson's side
to the fact that he, like David Beckham, is one of the coach's alleged
"He selects me for what I can do for the team and not for any other reason,"
Owen insisted. "I have probably spoken to him three times outside of England
camps. No cosy meals, no cosy nights out.
"His loyalty to certain players is being portrayed as a weakness, but I think
the country would be more worried if he started chopping and changing and looked
Owen was due to miss England's first training session for the Wales match on
Tuesday but he said he was hopeful of being back in training by th end of the
Provided he can prove his fitness, Eriksson is widely expected to keep faith
with Owen and drop Defoe, who scored a superb goal in his full debut against
Poland last month, back to the bench.
Owen partnered Defoe in Poland but one of them has to make way following the
return to action of Wayne Rooney, who is an automatic choice after his
outstanding displays at Euro 2004.
Eriksson will also be making changes at the back and in midfield. Rio Ferdinand
and Sol Campbell are expected to resume their 2002 World Cup partnership in the
centre of defence following Ferdinand's return from his eight-month suspension
for missing a doping test and Campbell's recovery from an Achilles injury.
In midfield, Eriksson has lost Steven Gerrard and Wayne Bridge to injury. David
Beckham, Frank Lampard and Nicky Butt will occupy three of the midfield spots
but the troublesome berth on the left looks up for grabs with Owen Hargreaves,
Phil Neville and Joe Cole among the contenders.