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By ESPN Staff

Eriksson orders Owen out of testimonial

Sven-Goran Eriksson has ordered Michael Owen not to play in Alan Shearer's testimonial match at St James' Park on Thursday.

After struggling to recover from the fractured metatarsal he suffered at Tottenham on New Year's Eve, Owen had hoped to use the clash with Celtic to sharpen up his match fitness.

But, after spending so long on the sidelines and requiring a second operation to try and correct the problem, Eriksson is refusing to risk the Newcastle striker in the benefit game.

'I have told Michael he cannot play on Thursday,' confirmed Eriksson.

'It would be the worst thing in the world if he was to break down in a testimonial game.'

Instead, Owen will captain England B in the encounter with Belarus at Reading on May 25 before hopefully being involved in the Old Trafford friendlies against Hungary and Jamaica prior to Eriksson's 23-man squad departing for Germany on June 4.

Under such circumstances, it seems to be asking a lot of Owen to be fully fit for England's opening Group B encounter with Paraguay on June 10 especially after he reported some soreness immediately after a recent substitute appearance against Birmingham.

Stand-in Magpies boss Glenn Roeder promptly left Owen out of yesterday's win over Chelsea completely, although Eriksson was not too concerned about that particular absence.

'Michael could have played on Sunday,' revealed the England coach.

'I have no doubt he will be fit by the time the World Cup comes around but I don't know how match fit he will be.'

Rather worryingly, Eriksson suggested part of Owen's problem may be as much mental as physical, which does not bode well for the rest of the summer.

'It might be psychological,' admitted the Swede.

'Knowing Michael Owen, he will be thinking about the World Cup and wanting to take part in it.'

But, even with Wayne Rooney injured, Eriksson insisted he has never contemplated leaving Owen out of his squad.

'We are talking about Michael Owen weeks before the World Cup finals,' said Eriksson.

'Not picking him now means not putting him on the FIFA list next Monday. That would be crazy.

'I have until June 9 to make changes if I have any problems and want to change things so I have put Michael on the list and that is it.'