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Kevin Keegan
"He won't have to go through a heavy end-of-season domestic run-in"
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Kevin Keegan
talks about a new scheme to encourage disabled children to play football
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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 15:59 GMT
Owen injury could help England

Owen: Star of the last World Cup but struggling to make Euro 2000

Kevin Keegan believes Michael Owen's injury lay-off could work in England's favour for next summer's European Championships.

The England boss says Owen's enforced spell on the sidelines could keep him fresh for the tournament in June.

Fired up

"From an England point of view it might work to our advantage if he cannot play now but comes back in March or April and starts to get really fit by the start of May so he is firing on all cylinders by June and not finishing off a heavy season.

"That's my personal point of view as England coach but from a football fan's point of view you'd like him back as soon as possible because he is such an exciting talent."

Owen, who visited a Harley Street doctor on Tuesday, has not trained for 10 days after damaging his hamstring against Middlesbrough on 22 January.

He is likely to miss England's next game, a friendly against Argentina at Wembley on February 23.

Shearer: More goals than any other player in the English divisions this season
But Keegan indicated he would keep the door open for as long as possible for the Liverpool striker.

"The main concern should be that Michael Owen, whether he comes back next week or in two months, should be ready to go on and play the game he loves so much."

Keegan also had words of encouragement for fellow striker Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle striker has 25 goals this season but there are still those who question whether he is the international force he once was.

"At the start of the season people were writing him off, but he stands head and shoulders above even the best at the moment and that includes some of the great foreign players we've got in this country."

Keegan: German question
"He has answered his critics in the only way you can as a footballer, on the pitch."

England meet Portugal, Germany and Romania in the group stage of Euro 2000, which kicks off on June 10.

England must also face the Germans again four months later in the qualifying round for the 2002 World Cup.

Keegan said the England management had yet to decide on the four venues for the matches against Greece, Finland, Albania and Germany.

St James Park, Elland Road and Anfield are among the stadiums in the running for October 7 clash against Germany but Keegan hinted that the largest of them all, Old Trafford, may not necessarily be selected.

"Whatever happens it will not be decided by commercial reasons.

Advantage England

"Just because Old Trafford will have a capacity of nearly 70,000 by then, it will be taken to wherever myself and my staff and the players feel we can get the best advantage."

Keegan said he was confident Old Trafford's pitch problems would be resolved before Lancaster Gate decides which of the 10 Premiership grounds outside London will host the games.

The England coach was speaking at the launch of a new coaching scheme, Ability Counts, designed to encourage disabled children to play football.

"In this day and age we are always looking for excellence in football, but we should ask ourselves whether we are doing enough at the other end of the scale.

"There are children who will never play for England, never play for a club and never even play for their local club but who love the game of football," said Keegan.

"There is a lot of money in the game, and a lot of prestige. It is very important that clubs and players are seen to be giving something back so our kids can actually touch their heroes.

"That is my hope, that in the next ten years we can all get back to our grass roots."

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See also:
01 Feb 00 |  Football
Owen out until March
31 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Shearer returns to haunt Rovers
24 Jan 00 |  Sport
Keegan handed stadium decision
07 Dec 99 |  Football
England must face Germans
12 Dec 99 |  Football
England draw Germans again
12 Dec 99 |  Football
Euro 2000: The schedule