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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 3, 2007

Heskey recall was not at the bequest of Owen

England coach Steve McClaren spoke to Michael Owen after his matchwinning performance for Newcastle on Saturday - but the name of Emile Heskey was never mentioned.

McClaren sprung a major surprise yesterday when he recalled Heskey to international duty for the first time in three years as he seeks a solution to his massive goalscoring problems ahead of this week's Euro 2008 qualifier with Israel.

Owen's most prolific period as an England player came with Heskey as his partner, notably in Munich during the early days of Sven-Goran Eriksson's reign when he scored a hat-trick in the sensational 5-1 win over Germany, and the inclusion of Heskey - who also found the net that night - was perhaps understandable.

However, McClaren has privately distanced himself from any suggestion Owen had effectively sanctioned Heskey's recall.

It is understood that while McClaren congratulated Owen on his performance at St James' Park when he fired a late winner against Wigan, the decision to bring Heskey back into the fold was the coach's decision alone.

However, now it is has been made, it is entirely possible that Heskey will start at Wembley on Saturday.

Wigan striker Heskey earned the last of his 43 caps against France in the Euro 2004 finals, while his previous call-up was for the matches with Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland in March 2005.

With Wayne Rooney injured and Peter Crouch suspended for the game with Israel, Heskey now finds himself back in the spotlight.

'Emile is a player with a lot of international experience and has played many times with Michael Owen in the past,' McClaren told the Football Association's official website.

'He has been in good form for Wigan this season. He played very well against Sunderland recently and I saw him play well against Newcastle on Saturday.

'While he has been out of the squad for a few years, I have spoken with (Wigan manager) Chris Hutchings who has been hugely impressed with him and I think he deserves to be recalled.

'We need his experience at this time.'

Owen played off a big target man in the 1-0 win over Wigan on Saturday - initially Mark Viduka in the first half and Shola Ameobi in the second - and that may have led to McClaren's call for Heskey.

With two goals in his last two games, including a headed winner over the Latics, Owen is certainly back on form and fit again following his long lay-off with a knee injury.

'I've watched him in the last couple of games, and he looks very sharp,' added McClaren. 'He is going to be a massive player up front for us over the next two games.

'We are looking at what partnership and system will get the best out of Michael Owen.

'It was very interesting to see he played with (Mark) Viduka, then at half-time (Shola) Ameobi came on - another big guy, a target man playing off him.

'It was interesting he had that during the week as well (in the Carling Cup win over Barnsley).

'So we're looking at different options. Unfortunately, we are missing Crouchy for this game, but we've got him for the second.

'So we're looking at the best permutations for Michael Owen, but also to score goals from other areas.'

With no Rooney, David Beckham and Kieron Dyer, and with Frank Lampard all but ruled out with a thigh injury, these are taxing times for McLaren.

However, he concedes he is thriving on the pressure, adding: 'It's a disappointment because you are losing your best players.

'Last week I had a certain team in mind and a certain way of playing, and then we lost David (Beckham) so it changed.

'Then we've another way of playing, but we lose Frank Lampard, so it changes the emphasis. It changes your thinking.

'It's one of the problems every manager and coach has, that sometimes you have to change plans.

'But that's a coach's job. That's what I relish about it.

'I don't want to be missing my best players, but you have to cope and find a way to win. That's the key.'