Confident Kolinko says Owen is past his best

By Gordon Tynan
Saturday 25 January 2003 01:00

If Michael Owen needs any inspiration for tomorrow's FA Cup tie away to Crystal Palace, he need look no further than Alex Kolinko. In a remarkable act of hubris, the Palace goalkeeper saw fit to go on record yesterday with his apparent belief that Owen is a striker in decline.

Two years ago, the Eagles coped comfortably with the England international to win a Worthington Cup semi-final first leg 2-1 at Selhurst Park, and Kolinko appears to be convinced his new-look Palace defence will do so again this weekend.

"I don't think he's as good a player as he was two years ago," the Latvian international said. "You have good times and bad times and it's hard for him at the moment. Tony Popovic, Kit Symons and Hayden Mullins are good players and I think Mullins is ready for the Premiership."

The 27-year-old, who is only Palace's first choice because Matt Clarke is injured, added: "Liverpool are strong in every position, but we think we have a chance." Owen may beg to differ, especially when he reads Kolinko's words.

Elsewhere, Barry Davies will take up his position behind the microphone at Highbury for Arsenal's tie with Farnborough Town unconvinced that the Cup can recapture its former glory – but with a possible solution.

"Bolton and Sunderland proved in the third round that Premier League survival meant more to them and their supporters responded by not turning up, which was sad.

"The FA Cup has a bit of a fight on its hands in these days of commercialism. I am not convinced it will fully come back to the fore unless the winners are given an extra European prize. I know the winners go into the Uefa Cup and I guess it doesn't make much sense to offer a Champions' League place – but maybe that's what it needs."

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