Sven Goran Eriksson's belief that Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen will require the No 9 and No 10 jerseys he has allocated to them for the World Cup took a small step towards validation yesterday when, just as the England coach had hoped, the Newcastle United forward completed the squad's first training session here on the Algarve.
Owen has not started a Premiership game since breaking a metatarsal at White Hart Lane on New Year's Eve, nor trained with the England squad since his match-winning performance against Argentina in Geneva six months ago. On the first day of England's training camp in Portugal, however, the 26-year-old strengthened Eriksson's conviction that he will have recovered from two foot operations in time for the finals in Germany by emerging unscathed from the scheduled work-out and impressing with his sharpness throughout the session.
The England striker, with 35 goals in 75 appearances for his country, arguably has more to prove in Portugal this week than any other member of Eriksson's squad. His debut season at St James' Park consisted of only 10 League starts and a fair return of seven goals, and he has a mere three fixtures to regain match fitness before the opening game of the World Cup finals against Paraguay on 10 June - the "B" international friendly with Belarus next Thursday plus the warm-up games against Hungary and Jamaica on 30 May and 3 June respectively.
On unveiling his 23-man squad for the World Cup on Monday last week Eriksson insisted that he had no concerns about Owen's physical condition - unlike his club manager, Glenn Roeder - but did believe that the striker was still psychologically scarred by the injury. Yesterday, however, the Newcastle forward declared: "If there was a game tomorrow I would want to play in it. I've been adjusting to having a pin in my foot but I'm raring to go."
Owen added: "As far as I'm concerned I'm in Portugal to take part in all of the training and even some extra sessions. My main focus this week is getting myself in peak condition ahead of the World Cup finals and I am still surprised to see people list me as a big doubt for the tournament."
Aside from the absent contingent of Rooney, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, the only players not to take part in the full training session yesterday were Jamie Carragher, Peter Crouch, Owen Hargreaves and the stand-by player Nigel Reo-Coker. All four were granted a rest day having been involved in competitive matches at the weekend while Jermaine Jenas and Luke Young, another of Eriksson's five reserves, had a light training session to ease their recovery from respective shin and ankle injuries.Reuse content