Keegan backs Owen to fight way back into England reckoning

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan, has backed Michael Owen to win 100 caps for England despite not featuring in new manager Fabio Capello's first game.

The 28-year-old striker did not even make it on to the field as a substitute in Wednesday night's 2-1 victory over Switzerland, prompting speculation that Capello will deny Owen the exalted status he has enjoyed under previous national coaches.

But Keegan, who also championed David Beckham's cause after he was denied a 100th cap for his country, is confident that his £17m man can make his century.

Keegan said: "Michael probably publicly will say, 'New manager, these things happen'. But privately, he will be disappointed because he has lost the chance to get his 89th cap.

"He is going to get 100 caps for England, which was the other big talking point, with David Beckham.

"Michael has got 40 goals in that time. He is a trail-blazer as far as goalscoring goes for England. Yes, he will be disappointed, but Michael is very mature and he is a realist.

"He knows that he is probably not going to play every game, and at the start of a new regime managers will want to look at the whole squad. He will know Michael, and he won't have known some of the others as well, so maybe he used that opportunity to look at them."

Keegan will hope Owen dispels his disappointment to help Newcastle secure a first league win in nine attempts, when they head for Aston Villa today, although he insists that the striker has nothing to prove to anyone.

Keegan said: "Your form for your club does make a difference, but with people like Michael Owen, his record is there.

"You know if he is fit and he is scoring goals for his club, he is going to take that into the international arena because he has done it 40 times already. The cream always rises to the top, so Michael will be back.

"I know when I was left out of the England squad by Bobby Robson, I scored four goals at Rotherham in the next game.

"I am not saying Michael is going to score four, but that's the sort of reaction you will get from people like Michael Owen. All their lives, they have proved people wrong."