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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 09:53 GMT
Owen Hargreaves column
Owen Hargreaves and his new manager at Bayern Munich, Ottmar Hitzfeld
By Owen Hargreaves
England and Bayern Munich midfielder

I made my comeback from injury last Friday after four-and-a-half months out with a broken leg.

I had not played any friendlies in the build-up so I didn't really know how I was going to feel.

BBC Sport columnist Owen Hargreaves
Physically, I'm still feeling it. It often takes it toll. It's very difficult when you have been out for so long.

In training, you can work hard and do certain things but you can never simulate a match atmosphere.

But I felt very good and the manager asked me at half-time if I could carry on. Usually when you come back you only plan on playing for 45 or 60 minutes.

I played the whole 90 minutes and preferred starting rather than coming on for the last 20 because when you sit on the bench it is difficult to get into the rhythm of the game, plus you are stiff from sitting and watching.

I was happy rather than nervous or anxious to be out there with my team-mates.

We lost, which was very disappointing, and I would have wanted to come back to a more positive experience but all in all it was just great to be back and come off the pitch healthy.

During a match my natural competitiveness takes over, especially when the team is losing, but I was careful at first.

Then, as the game progressed, I found myself playing my natural game more and more and throwing myself into challenges, which I think was good for me.

Physically, I'm still feeling it. It often takes its toll. It's very difficult when you have been out for so long.

A lot of times they say your injury heals without problem but everything else surrounding it - joints, ankles and back - need to get used to the rigours of playing again and that can be the greater problem.

Once England offered me the opportunity to play for them the decision made itself

Meanwhile, in the last week at Bayern we have had a change of manager at the club, with Ottmar Hitzfeld replacing Felix Magath.

It has a massive impact whenever you change managers and it's the first time in my career that we have changed coach in the middle of the season.

This is what happens at the big clubs when the results are not good enough.

Every manager brings his own philosophy and way of doing things but I think the most important thing is that the team plays well and that is why the change has been made.

Winning games is our goal for the coming weeks because we have lost two and drawn one of the last three matches - which is not up to our expectations.

I had Mr Hitzfeld as a manager for my first four seasons at Bayern and we won the Champions League with him in my first year in the senior squad.

The new manager is someone I know very well and I am optimistic that we will perform well in the coming weeks. Expectations are very high - and rightly so.

I'm on England duty now and travelled to join up with the squad on Sunday.

I spoke to the coach Steve McClaren on Saturday. He asked how the game went and I told him it was good but I was still physically a bit tired and sore.

That's why I am not going to play against Spain on Wednesday.

Man City's Joey Barton wins his first full England call-up
I think anytime anybody comes into the squad it's because they deserve an opportunity

On the subject of playing for England, it was great having Mr Eriksson as coach.

He had worked abroad and understood what a big club Bayern Munich are and that if I was playing regularly in the first team I was doing something right.

That was a big help and he was always a big believer in me, which was important.

In terms of proving myself, I think people just needed a chance to see me play and understand my game.

I had been playing at a high level for Bayern Munich for a long time and we had won a lot of things in terms of the Bundesliga, cups and the Champions League.

What I told myself, when there was criticism, was that it was just a case of getting the opportunity to play and presenting myself well.

I'm in Munich so I haven't really heard anything about any Joey Barton saga.

But I think anytime anybody comes into the England squad it's because they deserve an opportunity.

I remember when I received my first chance to play I felt so honoured and it's great.

Your family and club are very proud because it is very difficult. As a kid growing up you do invest a lot of time and energy and you have to forget about a lot of things if you want to make it to the top.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Hi Owen, I am writing because I am 17 and a keen footballer and am wondering whether it is too late to pursue a career as a professional footballer.
Mark, England

I don't think it's ever too late. A lot of times you see players who come through late on. If you are good you are good and people eventually see it. Sometimes it takes longer and you need a break.

The most important thing is that you enjoy playing and if it's what you really want to do then you have to focus all your energy and discipline on that. If you do those things and you have the talent as well then great things can be achieved.

Out of all the shirts you've swapped with opponents after a game which one is your favourite?
Aayesha, UK

That's a good question.

I don't tend to swap very often and if I do I pick out people I really admire. I swapped with Zinedine Zidane in the Champions League and also Becks. It was great to swap with them.

Who is the hardest player you have ever marked.
Ben Norman, England

The best player I have ever played against, for definite, would be Zidane. One player I played against in the Champions League when I was very young was Rui Costa and he was fantastic on the day.

One of the best players for me that I have trained or played with would be Paul Scholes. He is so lethal, such a great passer and is an incredible player.

Owen, can you tell me why no professional players wear the type of shinpad with ankle protection attached - surely this would help prevent knocks? They seem to just wear the simple slip down the front ones, which only cover the shin. Why is this?
Paul Kelly, England

I have seen some players wear the ankle section one but not very many.

Personally, I think it restricts the movement of your ankle. If the ball hits the wrong area then it is going to spray off and in top football the more mistakes you make the worse off you are.

You can't go round protecting every part of your body as football is a physical game.

  • Every week Owen will be answering a selection of your questions in his column. So, using the postform at the top of this column on the right, send us your questions and we will put some of them to the England international.



    Send Owen your questions using this form and read his answers to a selection of them next week
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    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


    SEE ALSO
    Hargreaves to miss England game
    05 Feb 07 |  Internationals
    Barton wins first England call-up
    02 Feb 07 |  Internationals


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