McClaren gives morale booster with Owen visit

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The Independent Football

The England manager, Steve McClaren, paid a visit yesterday to Newcastle and checked up on the injured striker Michael Owen as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.

The former Middlesbrough manager was at the Magpies' training headquarters in Benton after asking his manager, Glenn Roeder, if he could visit. Roeder's men take on Reading at St James' Park tonight once again hampered by injuries as they attempt to drag themselves out of the bottom three.

Speaking before heading for the training ground, McClaren said he would use his visit to check up on Owen's progress as he continues his recovery from knee surgery, as well as some of the club's other Englishmen.

He said: "I am looking forward to seeing Michael and hearing from him at first hand just how much progress he is making from his knee injury. The Newcastle medical people have already told me he is showing a lot of courage and determination in the way he is going about his comeback.

"Obviously I am looking forward to the day when Michael is back with us with England, but the most important thing is for him to pull that black and white shirt on again.

"The same applies to Kieron Dyer. I have been a fan of his from the days when I was coach at Manchester United, and I am still a fan. I cannot praise him enough for the way he has fought back from all his problems and the professionalism and strength of character he has shown.

"Kieron Dyer does not need to impress me, but I know what he wants most and that is to be playing regularly again for Newcastle. Scott Parker is Scott Parker, and every team needs a player like him. He has a great will to win and is a leader on the pitch. He is very much in my plans."

Despite the Magpies' crippling injury problems McClaren has tipped them to start climbing up the Premiership table.

"I know Glenn Roeder is busy preparing for an important game with Reading tomorrow night and he has as many injuries as I have ever seen at a football club. But when I asked him if I could come and meet him and his players, he could not agree quickly enough.

"I really believe Glenn has done an amazing job in getting Newcastle to the top of that hard group in the Uefa Cup, and when you take into consideration he has done it with all those injuries, it is really a fantastic and incredible achievement. Now I am 100 per cent confident that Newcastle's League form will turn around.

"Funnily enough at the moment, Newcastle are repeating what we did at Middlesbrough last season.

"At this time, we were not doing that well in the League, but we turned it round and got to the semi-final of the FA Cup and the final of the Uefa Cup.

"Nothing would please me more than to see Glenn and Newcastle go one better than we did. What I like about the current situation at Newcastle is that no one is complaining about their injuries. They just get on with it."

Meanwhile, the Sheffield United captain, Chris Morgan, led by example as his club recorded back-to-back wins last week and his reward is top spot in the week's Actim Index.

The 29-year-old scored the equaliser in the Blades' 2-1 win over Charlton, having also played a key role in the 1-0 win at Watford last Tuesday. The centre-back scored 77 in the Actim Index, the official ratings system of the Premiership. He was one of two Sheffield United players in the week's top 10 - the match-winner Keith Gillespie is the other - while it was also a good week for the controversial characters Joey Barton and Craig Bellamy.

The Manchester City midfielder, who was fined by the Football Association after dropping his shorts after a game at Everton earlier this season, was second in the week's standings with 52. The Liverpool striker Bellamy, who last week was cleared of assault charges, responded with two goals in the 4-0 away win over Wigan to score 50.

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