Owen honest about loss of England form

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The Independent Online

Another game, another blank. Not that Michael Owen is worried about it. Much.

Another game, another blank. Not that Michael Owen is worried about it. Much.

"It bothers me," the Liverpool striker admitted yesterday after his fourth goalless match in succession, his longest international drought in two years. "There is always something missing when the team wins but you haven't scored. If you don't feel like that you will never reach the top. Part of you is ecstatic but five per cent thinks 'ooh, you haven't scored'."

Such honesty is refreshing, especially after years of listening to Alan Shearer insist: "It's not about me, it's about the team. As long as we win I'm happy whoever scores." No one believed Shearer. Not that he or Owen are selfish players. It is just they are goalscorers whose contribution to the team is measured first and foremost by their goals. By themselves as well as the wider public. Goals feed their confidence and the indifferent first touch Owen is currently displaying, and his decision to chip the Croatian goalkeeper when clear on Monday, can be directly attributed to a lack of self-belief.

"I like the responsibility of scoring goals," added Owen. "In my position I've got to score or create goals." Fortunately for England he is doing the latter, especially for Wayne Rooney.

Owen and Rooney first played together for 10 minutes at the end of the victory in Liechtenstein in March last year. They then started the following match against Turkey but had spent three hours in tandem before finally producing a goal between them, in Macedonia in September. That began a run during which they have scored nine goals in just over eight hours on the pitch together, a decent return. Rooney has scored seven of these, Owen two.

"I feel the partnership is working very well," said Owen. "I've managed to create a lot of space for him. But he's such an intelligent player anyone can play with him.

"His emergence takes some pressure off me but I want to score goals as well. If we are both scoring it would be very good. I've scored in three tournaments before so I know I can do it. Just the sooner the better. It's not that I'm playing badly. I'm not giving balls away and missing big chances though I had a decent one against Croatia which I chipped over.

"I did start slowly against France but I'm feeling sharper and my all-round game is improving. The next step is to score a goal."

The one person who does not judge Owen by his goals is the one who picks the team. Sven Goran Eriksson said: "Michael is not a worry for me. He started slowly but has played better each game. He has set up goals in the last two games and he will score in this tournament."

Eriksson was rewarded on Monday after placing similar confidence in Paul Scholes rediscovering his scoring touch. Now it is Owen's turn. Failure to do so would result in his longest run without a goal since breaking into the England team six years ago. He was 18 then, and fearless. It is not just Rooney's goals that Owen envies.

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