Owens adheres to veterans strategy

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The Independent Football

John Owens, the manager of England's semi-professional international team, has been obliged to defend his policy of picking veteran players as he prepares for a busy week of trial matches.

John Owens, the manager of England's semi-professional international team, has been obliged to defend his policy of picking veteran players as he prepares for a busy week of trial matches.

Owens has named three Football Association squads drawn from Nationwide Conference clubs for next week's fixtures against representative sides from the three Conference feeder leagues. He will watch his selections in action against the UniBond XI at Lancaster on Monday, the Dr Martens XI at Crawley the following evening and the Ryman XI at Boreham Wood on Wednesday and will keep in mind players from all six teams when he picks his England squad for the spring programme of friendlies.

The FA squad to face the UniBond League includes Southport's former Liverpool midfielder Mike Marsh and the Chester centre-half Paul Beesley, once of Sheffield United. Owens has also hinted he may pick the UniBond squad's most famous player: Worksop's Chris Waddle, the former Newcastle winger, who may become the first man since England's caretaker coach, Peter Taylor, to win a semi-professional cap for his country after playing for the full national side.

Tuesday's FA squad includes the Dagenham & Redbridge midfielder Mark Brennan, who played for England's Under-21 side 13 years ago when with Ipswich. The FA party picked for Wednesday's match includes two of Forest Green Rovers' veterans: the 41-year-old former Aston Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink and another former Ipswich man, Stuart Slater.

The three squads also contain exciting youngsters, such as Yeovil's Barrington Belgrave and Ryan Spencer of Hayes, but they are outnumbered by more experienced men. However, Owens maintains that his priorities are picking a side to win international matches and choosing the best players on merit. "If that means including older players, then I will pick them," he insists.

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