Steve McClaren cannot believe his luck in the way Michael Owen has dramatically returned to form.
There have been many doubters that Owen would ever return to his previous form after those two terrible injuries Michael has had during his time at Newcastle.
This doubt was witnessed by not one club willing to bid the release clause fee of â‚¤9M for him this summer.
Michael Owen – â‚¤9M now looks so cheap for the England star but that’s water under the bridge
Michael’s return to form will not only benefit England but also Newcastle as Owen in all likelihood will become fitter than he’s ever been in his career under Sam Allardyce’s new fitness regime there. Indeed, Owen did not just score 3 goals for England but looked a much better all-round player than in the past â€“ and his work-rate was first class.
Let’s take a look at what a thankful Steve McClaren said after the England game last night.
â€œI mentioned weeks ago that you should never write off Michael Owen because he is always going to be so important for us.â€ â€œHe has scored in his last four games. Heâ€™s fitter, sharper and itâ€™s not just his goals that were so impressive tonight.â€
â€œHeâ€™s dropping in, linking up and working hard. Heâ€™s a very good player at this moment in time and the partnership with Heskey has really worked in the last two games.â€
â€œEmile has been out of the England scene for the last three years and everyone wondered whether he would come back and play for us again.â€ â€œBut he has come back and shown everyone what he can do.â€
â€œEmile had an excellent game against Israel on Saturday and the big test was to turn in that same level of performance again tonight. He has done that – a few players have.â€ â€œAnd thatâ€™s what we need to do if weâ€™re going to succeed in the big tournaments – to play consistently and win games on the bounce.â€
If England can get a victory at home to Estonia and at least a draw in Moscow in the return with Russia next month, they will need just one point from their last game, at home to unbeaten Croatia in November, to qualify for next yearâ€™s finals. That’s certainly now a good possibility and we expect McClaren to start the next game with an unchanged England side – barring any injuries. Whether he will or not we think will send a crucial message to his squad.
â€œSix points from these two games were vital when we joined up 10 days ago. I said to the players that it didnâ€™t matter how we got them. I would have settled for a couple of scrappy 1-0s.â€ â€œBut the performances we have put in against Israel and Russia are what have really pleased me.â€
â€œIâ€™m greatly satisfied with what Iâ€™ve seen. For me, that is how England should play.â€ â€œWeâ€™ve set a marker. Now weâ€™ve got to maintain that standard.â€
McClaren then acknowledged he will have a number of selection problems when the likes of Rooney, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves are all available again.
Steve went on:
â€œFor now we will just celebrate this win and enjoy the performance.â€ â€œIâ€™m very happy with the way the squad has been over the last 10 days.â€â€œItâ€™s a very internal thing between myself, the players and the staff. It wasnâ€™t just Emileâ€™s partnership with Michael which pleased me.â€ â€œGareth Barry has done well and Stevie G, Micah Richards did well along with Shaun Wright-Phillips.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve got good things going on all over the pitch.â€ â€œIt was very important to get off to a good start and to capitalize on it with an early goal. There were spells in the game when we werenâ€™t dominant, when we were poor and started to lose our grip.â€
“So weâ€™ll keep our feet on the ground because weâ€™ve still got three games to go and we know we can still get better.â€
Steve McClaren now needs to be strong in his team selection and keep the same team for the next game. Bringing back the more established players isn’t sending the right message to the England players – that they all have to fight for the England shirt. It also says that their inclusion is based on how they play for England and not just how they play for their clubs.
If any of the England players doesn’t like that message -tough luck.