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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 14:26 GMT
Owen strikes back
Liverpool striker Michael Owen
Owen goes on the defensive
Liverpool striker Michael Owen has hit back at accusations of gambling by insisting: "I have nothing to be ashamed of".

And he was backed by Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who launched a passionate defence of his player.

Reports claimed that the England striker, using accounts registered in his father's name, had gambled on Premiership and Champions League matches, backing teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea.

The claims come in the same week that Owen was accused of squandering 30,000 on card games during England's World Cup campaign.

But the 23-year-old insisted: "I have done nothing wrong and I can't understand why people should think I have.

"I can't believe some of the hurtful allegations that have been thrown at me, especially as they are so obviously inaccurate.

"I would never deliberately do anything to embarrass my club, my country, myself and more importantly my family," he told the News of the World newspaper.

And Houllier said: ""People are trying to ruin his career and reputation, but he's like me, he took it as a laugh. I repeated to him, don't let them destroy you because you're stronger than that and you're bigger than that.

"In England it's common practice that when you have a player doing well for the national team, they want to ruin his career and ruin his reputation. It's a national sport in England.

"I'm glad he likes horses because you need to have a passion. You must be able to do something in life - in the same way that he has a passion for his game, the same way he trains hard, does everything right on and off the pitch.

"I do hope that the players have a passion for horses. I know some high profile managers that do, what's wrong with that?"

I feel sorry for Michael that he has been embarrassed into bringing this out into the open

Gordon Taylor

A spokesman for Owen's management company SFX admitted that the Liverpool striker's father had opened an offshore betting account, which Michael had used.

"Michael's father Terry has confirmed that he opened an offshore betting account and has also used this to place bets for friends and family, occasionally including Michael," he said.

FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said there would be no investigation into Owen's conduct.

"He was not betting on matches in which he had direct involvement or any influence over," Bevington said.

"As far as we are concerned Michael's conduct and attitude with England have always been exemplary."

And the PFA's Gordon Taylor leapt to Owen's defence on Monday.

He said: "I feel sorry for Michael that he has been embarrassed into bringing this out into the open. We need to be careful about what we are building our top sportsmen into."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 Former England captain Gary Lineker
"As the gambling is under control, it's okay"
 Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier
"It is not a problem for me"

English Premiership news
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Michael Owen's golden glow remains undiminishedBetter or worse
Michael Owen's golden image under scrutiny
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