Owen reveals England fear factor

Michael Owen claimed there was "a long list" of England players who were paralysed by fear when when turning out for their country.

Football News: England

Owen, who earned 89 caps between 1998 and 2008, revealed he knew of international team-mates who were scared stiff of criticism of their performances and of being jeered by their own fans.

The 32-year-old felt that was a major reason why England had underperformed in recent years.

Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge, the Stoke striker said: "I've heard many people in the past leading up to England games or after England games talking about what the papers are going to say the next day about them, or how they're going to get booed.

"It's a very intense feeling playing for your country and I don't think people can express themselves, or I don't think people do express themselves, as well as they can or they do at club level.

"At that level, you feel loved, the fans are on your side, you're used to playing with the players week in, week out.

"All of a sudden, you go away with England and it's a little bit, 'As long as I do all right', 'I don't want to be criticised so much'.

"There's certainly a bit of fear.

"There would be players out there who play equally as well for England - or any national team - as they do for their clubs.

"But there are a long list of players that you think, 'why can't you play as well for England as you do for the clubs?'

"There's got to be a reason and I would say that fear certainly plays a part in that."

He added: "To the man in the street, it all looks very rosy. Everything looks pretty rosy about being a professional footballer in many ways.

"It ain't easy playing for England. The pressure of playing for England, the time spent away from your families, or whomever it might be, the tournaments.

"The fans would see you on an evening playing and then forget about you for the rest of the week.

"They're the times when your sat in your hotel room staring at four white walls for 10 hours a day for about three or four days.

"It's a long, long stint and it's quite mentally draining."

Owen denied England meant less to players now than in the past and, despite his reservations, was still keen to add to his caps.

He joked: "Some people think I've retired from football full stop.

"I'd never do that, really. But I certainly don't go to bed thinking 'I'm going to be playing for England again'.

"It certainly would be a bonus. It would mean that I would need to get back on the pitch and rediscover my deadly goalscoring touch and everything else."

Meanwhile, Owen welcomed the opening of the National Football Centre at Burton, admitting he had been upset at the demise of the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall, where he had been a graduate.

He said: "It's great. We've got Wembley, which is a real iconic stadium, recently been completed.

"And now we've got another home in Burton.

"I think it's a huge, positive step for the English FA to have taken."

The 32-year-old also applauded the FA's decision to introduce a code of conduct for England players in the wake of the Ashley Cole Twitter row.

Owen, a prolific tweeter himself, added of Cole: "He came out straight away and apologised, did exactly the right thing in doing that.

"It's great for all concerned that it's obviously all been sorted now and Ashley can get on with playing for England, which is the most important thing to him and obviously the country."



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