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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 April 2007, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
No Owen agenda, insists Shepherd
Michael Owen
Owen was injured playing for England last summer
Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has no intention of trying to prevent Michael Owen playing for England.

But as the 27-year-old closes in on a return to fitness after missing the whole of the season, Shepherd is adamant Owen will not be rushed back.

"It is not a case of anyone wanting to stop Michael Owen playing for England," said Shepherd.

"The crucial point is that we have to make sure that when he does come back, he is perfectly fit and nothing less."

England play a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia in June - and Shepherd had previously suggested he could take out an injunction to prevent Owen from playing.

We cannot afford to take the risk of what happened last season happening again

Freddy Shepherd

But writing in the match programme ahead of Newcastle's game with Chelsea on Sunday, Shepherd added: "Inevitably, media interest has focused on when Michael will play again.

"The question has just as inevitably arisen as to whether and when he will be able to play for England in the summer.

"We cannot afford to take the risk of what happened last season happening again this time around.

"We have had huge support from the fans on this issue between ourselves and the FA, but we are merely fighting for what we believe we are rightfully entitled to.

"Nobody will be happier than me when Michael is back in action and banging in the goals again.

"But it will only happen when the time is right for both him and Newcastle United."

The Magpies want compensation from the FA for the knee injury Owen striker suffered at the 2006 World Cup.

"We have not been paid a penny by the FA for Owen's recuperation bill," said Shepherd.

"They cut him loose as soon as he was put on the plane home, despite it costing us well over 150,000.

"They even told us to get the money off Fifa when it was clearly the FA's responsibility as he was in their care and control."

Owen ruptured his anterior cruciate knee ligament against Sweden in the third match of the group stages with England.

The striker has not played since, although a recent outing for the reserves suggests he could play for Newcastle before the end of the season - theoretically making him available for England's friendly with Brazil on 1 June and the Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia on 6 June.

SEE ALSO
Magpies threaten FA with Owen ban
15 Apr 07 |  Newcastle United
Owen scores on return from injury
11 Apr 07 |  Newcastle United
Newcastle warn England over Owen
26 Mar 07 |  Newcastle United
Confidence boost for striker Owen
16 Nov 06 |  Newcastle United
Newcastle to be paid Owen damages
21 Jun 06 |  Newcastle United
Sweden 2-2 England
20 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006


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