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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Mental strength helped my comeback - Owen

Michael Owen has revealed the inner mental strength which drove him on to regain the form which made him England's deadliest finisher of the modern era.

Owen has constantly had to deal with doubts over whether he would recover fully from the knee ligament injury sustained against Sweden in the 2006 World Cup.

It has been a long, hard road back to full sharpness for the Newcastle striker.

But any fears were dispelled with Owen's performances in the two Euro 2008 qualifiers with Israel and Russia which brought him three goals and a successful renewal of his partnership with Emile Heskey.

His double strike against the Russians means Owen has become only the fourth player to score 40 goals for his country after Jimmy Greaves, Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.

Owen said: 'Did I ever doubt I would come back? No, never. I'm very strong mentally. There might be a lot of people who've got a lot more skill than me - but not many people who are as mentally as strong as me.

'When it comes to beating long-term injuries or lack of form or criticism, I've got a thicker skin than anyone. I never doubted I'd be back.

'I went to see the best surgeon in the world (Colorado-based Dr Richard Steadman). I had the best rehabilitation you could ever ask for and between my ears is the willpower and a strong mind to come back better than ever.

'I don't think anyone can say I've come back worse than before.'

Owen is full of praise for the contribution of Heskey, whose deft flick set him up for the second decisive goal against the Russians.

He said: 'Emile has played really well. He has come back from a long time out of the England team. In both games he played particularly well.

'A standing ovation in both games when he came off said it all. I'm really pleased for him.

'I don't think anyone becomes a bad player overnight no matter what people say - but everyone knows what it is like with England.

'If you have a couple of bad results it's `Bring in the new guard' and then if you have a couple of bad results it's `Go back to the older players'.'

Owen is excited about what lies ahead for England if they finally live up to the expectations of the nation and perform on a consistent basis.

He said: 'Hopefully there are good times ahead with England. There are a good group of players. We knew that despite what anyone said.

'It's been difficult proving that. We've been proving it far too infrequently really but those two games with Israel and Russia have been encouraging.

'If we can keep progressing like that we're on to a good thing.'