Freddy Shepherd defends Owen signing

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The Independent Football

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has hit back at claims that he should never have signed Michael Owen.

The out-of-contract, 29-year-old former England international will leave the club for free next week, four years after arriving in a £17m move which made headlines around the world.

However, injuries have limited him to just 79 appearances and critics insist his spell on Tyneside has been nothing short of disastrous.

But Shepherd, the man who brokered a deal he believed would rival the capture of Alan Shearer nine years earlier, remains defiant.

He told the Evening Chronicle: "Hindsight is a great management tool - everybody's wise after the event.

"It's very easy for people to say signing Michael Owen was a disaster, but everybody said it was a fantastic deal at the time.

"There were no dissenters back then. The clamour for him to sign was immense, and I didn't hear any complaints from the thousands who turned up to welcome him on the day he arrived."

Hull and Stoke are the only two clubs to have publicly confirmed their interest in signing Owen, who is desperate to resurrect his international career after falling out of favour with England boss Fabio Capello.

But Shepherd is adamant no-one could have foreseen the two serious injuries which have blighted his time on Tyneside.

He said: "At the time we signed him, his goals-per-game stats were about the best in the business and his pedigree second to none.

"Plus, he had had no career-threatening injuries and we had his fitness stringently checked out, as Real Madrid had a year before.

"Yes, things didn't turn out anything like we hoped and expected they would. But nobody - and I mean nobody - saw it coming."