Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, believes the striker Michael Owen has the character to one day become a successful manager.
Owen has just returned to the Liverpool side after three months out injured, during which time his future at Anfield has been called into question. Liverpool will continue contract talks with their prized asset over the next couple of months, and Houllier admitted how impressed he is with Owen's "mental strength" and his ability to overcome constant public scrutiny. "He has had to handle so much, and does it well," he said. "One day the criticism is about his form and people were doubting his ability. Then it is about his personal life and private things, now it is about his contract. He is a very strong lad, very committed, very focused and will not let himself be distracted by anything apart from the game.
"I don't know whether one day Michael will become a manager, but he has got the mental strength to do it. He is very strong willed, very clear about what he is doing and does not let outside things bother him. He would need those strengths to be a manager. His enthusiasm and appetite for the game cannot be faulted, he looks forward only to matches."
Houllier has a full week of training to work on sharpening Owen's fitness and trying to get Jamie Carragher and Steve Finnan closer to a first-team return. That achieved, Houllier believes he can build further on the successive League wins last week, including victory away to Chelsea. He said: "The Chelsea result was a landmark. It could be the beginning of the turnaround. It was the type of performance that reminded me of two years ago when we started our final push for the three cups and the Champions' League spot. We have to go to Spurs now and keep this run going."
Sam Allardyce, the Bolton Wanderers manager, has enquired about taking Djimi Traoré on loan from Liverpool for the rest of the season. Traoré can play centre-back or left-back, and would act as cover for the injured Ricardo Gardner, who will miss the rest of the season with knee ligament damage, and Simon Charlton, who has a hamstring injury.