England's 'riches' will mask Owen absence

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The Independent Online

The temporary absence of Michael Owen from the England squad is not a source of great concern for his team-mate Peter Crouch, who maintains that Steve McClaren's side have the striking "riches" to be able to cope.

The Newcastle United manager, Sam Allardyce, has set a date of 22 October "at the very earliest" for Owen's return from injury, thereby ruling the England striker out of the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers against Estonia and Russia. Allardyce added that Owen, who is likely to undergo surgery in Munich tomorrow, may have a stomach condition as well as a possible hernia and muscle tear.

However, Crouch said: "We have got strength in depth and I believe we have the players to come in and do more than a job. I was suspended for the first of the qualifiers and Emile Heskey came in from nowhere and did a fantastic job – before that he wasn't even in the squad so that shows strength.

"When we played away in Estonia [in June]," Crouch added, "me and Michael Owen played and both scored, we won 3-0 and that worked well. Now we have Andy Johnson, Wayne Rooney is fit and we have Jermain Defoe – we are rich in the striking department."

In which case, Owen's absence may be more troubling for his club, and Allardyce said: "The full picture is that he has not got a hernia but there may be a weakness in the stomach area which may have contributed to the abductor muscle tear.

"So while he is out for two or three weeks with that tear we are sending him to a specialist in Germany who will assess him and if there is any surgery needed to strengthen the area – not repair a hernia – that will be undertaken there.

"That should clear up both problems and allow Michael Owen to hopefully push on to play more games on a regular basis. For him and for us it's disappointing but we have to manage and get on with it."

Owen's return, if his recovery and rehabilitation goes to plan, will come on the Monday after the Russia game in Moscow. The visitors to St. James' Park are Tottenham. "He will be back for the first game after the England internationals at the very, very earliest," Allardyce said.

McClaren has been kept informed of Owen's situation and has been told the striker should not be rushed back for the qualifiers. Some believe Owen returned from a broken metatarsal too soon last year and that that contributed to his knee injury at the World Cup.

"He's more sensible than that now," Allardyce said of Owen, "and knows the consequences of coming back too early are so grave if you get re-injured – you can extend the period of recovery so that it's twice as long.

"Michael has had that many disappointments that he manages it very, very well. He's strong mentally and he deals with it and gets back to playing as soon as he possibly can."

Crouch added: "I have to concentrate on what I do best regardless of who I play with. If I am playing with Wayne Rooney, he likes to come and drop deep and receive the ball and I play a bit higher than I do if I am with Michael. I enjoy playing with both of them."

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