Striker Michael Owen insists he is ready to play a full part in England's UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifiers against Estonia and Russia as Steve McClaren's side look to continue their recent good run in Group E.
Raring to go
The 27-year-old scored on his return for Newcastle United FC as a substitute in victory against Everton FC on Sunday following a double hernia operation and was quick to dismiss lingering doubts about his fitness. "I no longer have the injury," he said. "I trained on Friday and Saturday with the team and was available to play for Newcastle on Sunday. The manager [Sam Allardyce] decided to put me on the bench, but I came on for a quarter of an hour, and felt fine and I am fit as we speak here now."
Owen's availability is a huge boost for England who produced their best performance under McClaren in the 3-0 victory against Russia at Wembley last month. Owen scored twice to add to his strike in the 3-0 victory against Israel four days earlier, results that have transformed England's prospects in the section. Injury to Emile Heskey, who partnered Owen against Russia, means the former Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF striker will link up with Wayne Rooney in attack at Wembley on Saturday. "Obviously people talk about how well Emile Heskey did last month and we have a good partnership, that's well documented. But me and Wayne have done well together as well ... hopefully that can continue."
Owen added: "I don't think I've lost anything since my injuries, if anything I've come back and have been scoring more frequently and playing even better. Wayne has obviously had a couple of injuries as well but he's been playing his way back into form in the last few games for Man United as well. Hopefully we have two in-form strikers available to play and do well."
Owen has scored 40 goals in 85 appearances for England and is closing in on Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time scoring record of 49 goals. "It's at the back of my mind, but seeing as on average I score about four international goals a year, it might take me another two and a bit years to achieve it," Owen said. After nine games Croatia lead the group with 23 points, three more than England with Russia in third on 18.
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