Michael Owen feels fit and ready to play for Stoke


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The Independent Football

Michael Owen has conceded he may have been better off leaving Manchester United earlier than he did, and having now joined Stoke, has hinted he is looking to finish his career with the Potters.

The Staffordshire club last week completed the signing of former England striker Owen, a free agent after his release over the summer by United, on a one-year deal.

The 32-year-old was reported to have had various potential suitors over the past few months, with there being talk at one point of a possible return to his first club Liverpool.

Owen today confirmed there had been different interested parties but would not name any of them specifically beyond Stoke, who he said he had been keen to join since speaking to Potters boss Tony Pulis earlier in the summer.

Talking at a press conference this morning, Owen said: "I spoke to the manager here a few months ago, so I knew there was a strong possibility that I would come here and I'll blame him for not making it happen so soon!

"I'm not sure why, but it just dragged on. I was eager to sign straight away.

"There were things I'm not quite sure about that meant there was a delay, but that's all in the past now, I'm here and I'm excited to start."

Owen revealed his first contact with Stoke came before he signed for United in 2009.

He played a very much bit-part, albeit often injury-affected role during his three seasons with the Red Devils and having made only four first-team appearances for them in 2011-12 - the last coming in November - he accepts he might have been better off departing Old Trafford a year earlier.

"I was on the bench a lot of the time, but then when the manager says 'you have a big role to play and we want you to stay for another year', it was great to hear that from someone like Sir Alex Ferguson," Owen said.

"In hindsight, probably with that extra year, it might have been better if I had moved in many ways."

Overall, though, Owen insists he made the right decision to sign for United and feels the same about joining Stoke.

The frontman is confident he still has plenty to offer and made reference this morning to his desire to finish his playing days on a "real high".

He said: "There were a couple of Premier League teams that showed interest, but this is a team on the up, I know the manager and a few of the players and it meant I didn't have to move my family as well.

"There were loads of things that ticked the boxes and I'm sure I've made the right decision.

"I want to perform and I want to finish my career on a real high. I'm still only 32 and I still feel as if I have a lot left in me.

"I've always scored goals no matter what team I have been in, so as long as I can stay fit and healthy, then I'm sure I can do that here at Stoke."

Owen has had a catalogue of injury problems during his career and spent most of the summer training alone.

He says he is feeling fit and ready to play, but it remains to be seen whether or not he will be handed his Stoke debut in Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium.

"I feel as if I am fit enough to take part in a game," Owen added.

Pulis was keeping an open mind on the matter, although he emphasised that he had been pleased with what Owen had demonstrated so far fitness-wise.

Asked if he felt he could use Owen straight away in a game, the manager said: "It is too early to say yet. We have got two more days."

Reflecting on the signing more generally, Pulis said: "We are very pleased to have got him.

"What we've got to do is get him as fit as we possibly can as quick as we can and hopefully he has a free run at trying to get in the team and stay in the team.

"We always wanted to do this, and Michael knew that, but we wanted to do it at the right time and not in a situation where if there were other clubs that got involved, figures would start going through the roof. We weren't going to be involved in that."

Meanwhile, Stoke have confirmed that midfielder Michael Tonge has joined npower Championship side Leeds on a three-month loan deal.