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Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Owen shrugs off fitness fears
By Pete Lansley at England's training camp in Burnham Beeches.
Michael Owen reckons the injury problems that hampered Liverpool's season could help him reproduce his explosive France '98 form in the Euro finals.
Persistent hamstring problems robbed Liverpool of their leading scorer for a third of a season in which a lack of goals cost them a place in the Champions League.
Until the run-in from April, he had only completed six games for club and country.
"I have played 30 games," he said. "I have not played 60 like some people or 50. I am going into the finals fresher than most people because I have not played all season.
"If I had played one game at the end and missed 10 beforehand then you could doubt my fitness.
"I don't see risk," he added. "I would prefer to have played 50 games this year, and every game for Liverpool, but from a selfish point of view for playing for England, this is probably better prepararation for playing in these championships.
"I have played in a tournament like this before. So I don't see any problem at all."
Owen, 20, said the German specialist he had visited last week, Hans Muller-Wolfhart, reported that his hamstring - and associated lower-back - problems revealed a "100% improvement" from his early-season inspection.
Owen revealed the squad were looking forward to the upcoming games against Brazil and the Ukraine.
"These friendlies are very important and I hope I can play in at least one of these two games - and show people they have nothing to worry about.
"They are important not just for me but for the whole team to try and get as much confidence as possible, to try and get a blend and some awareness of the people playing with you.
"It would help if we can play well in these games as part of the build-up to the first Euro 2000 match with Portugal - although we would settle for losing them all and winning the European championships instead.
"But, while people might be looking at my fitness, I can assure them that the hamstring problems are behind me. I feel fantastic. I have not felt better than this for age.
"If people think I am lying then I would say to them `just watch me in training and judge for yourselves.' There is no risk involved in taking me to the finals.
"Getting over the psychological side of things, thinking `has the problem gone?' was probably the worst part of it for me.
"But I have played the last 10 games of the season, got more and more confident each time, and I feel mentally fine now and physically I have always felt fine."
Kevin Keegan, who has to assess the fitness of Fowler and Andy Cole - who has a recurrent toe injury - this week, is adamant Owen will be totally ready for the European Championships.
"I saw him at Bradford," said the England coach of Liverpool's final Premiership game a fortnight ago, "and his pace was electric. I have already had a chat with him.
"There is absolutely no problem with Michael Owen. He will not be treated any differently to any other player.
"All of these guys, some of them more than others, are trying to play for a place in the 22, so they are not going to hold anything back."
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