Kinnear leaps to defence of under-fire captain Owen

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The Independent Online

Joe Kinnear, the Newcastle United manager, has sprung to the defence of his captain, Michael Owen, insisting that the striker will be among the goals once again soon enough.

Owen came under criticism at the weekend after failing to muster a single shot on goal in last Saturday's 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough. However, amid a growing debate over the forward's form following his return from a groin injury, Kinnear has no doubts about his ability of his importance to the team.

"Yes, Michael had a quiet game by his high standards, but the coaching staff on the bench could see how hard he was working and we felt that he did a lot of unselfish running for the team," Kinnear said. "That was backed up when we had a look at the video after the game and studied each individual performance and saw what Owen had done.

"Our big regret at Middlesbrough on Saturday was that none of the chances we created came Michael's way," Kinnear added, "but that was not necessarily his fault. He kept running into goalscoring positions, but he just never got the ball, and that is something we have to work on."

If Kinnear and his staff want to work on the training pitch to address that and other situations – the Magpies have not scored in their last two games at Chelsea and Boro, but have not conceded either – he will hope progress is being made behind the scenes at the club, too.

Kinnear is due to meet Newcastle's managing director, Derek Llambias, later this week for the first time since his status as interim manager was removed, and will look to make progress on strengthening his squad during the transfer window next month.

Although Kinnear insisted he does not have to sell players before he can buy, a resolution of doubts over Owen's future will have a major say in what he is able to do.

The striker could leave on a Bosman free transfer next summer, and, with several clubs having been linked with moves for him, some believe Newcastle could cash in on him next month – something Kinnear is keen to avoid.

Kinnear is adamant he does not want to lose any of his current first-team squad during the forthcoming transfer window, and revealed after his appointment until the end of the season last Friday that he had been promised funds to strengthen the side, and that he, and not executive director (football) Dennis Wise, will have the final say on the club's targets.

But it remains to be seen just how far Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley, who has been forced to admit defeat in his efforts to push through a quick sale of the club he bought in May last year, is prepared to back Kinnear.

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