Owen set to be snubbed by Capello again
Michael Owen's England career looks set to become another casualty of the turmoil at Newcastle when England manager Fabio Capello names a 23-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus tomorrow.
Owen was overlooked for the victories against Andorra and Croatia because he was battling for fitness.
But now, even though he is fully fit and has scored five goals in seven Newcastle matches this season, it seems he has yet to convince Capello that he is the nation's top striker.
The England manager is notorious for giving little away before he names his squad but he has chosen to watch Chelsea v Aston Villa on Sunday and send his assistant Franco Baldini to see the Everton v Newcastle match on Merseyside.
And Capello, whose plane was grounded by fog when he intended to run the rule over Owen a week and a half ago, hinted that the chaos at St James' Park was not the best preparation.
He said: "I saw him on TV. He's fit enough, but it is not a good moment for Newcastle.
"Sometimes a lot of the results of the club for which a player plays are not good for the confidence.
"I have to decide on 23 players. I do not decide out of sympathy or because I like or dislike players. I decide on who I think is the best player at the moment.
"You can play better if all the team play well. There are three players at Tottenham who are interesting for us but it is not a good moment for them.''
If that sounds as if Newcastle's trials have weighed against Owen then Capello's response when told of Owen's recent goal form was also a clue, as perhaps was his admission that Dutchman Marco van Basten and Ruud van Nistelrooy were the best centre forwards with whom he had worked.
"It is not enough only to score goals,'' said Capello. "It is very important but sometimes one player has not played for 89 minutes and he scores a goal, it is not enough.
"The goals are very important but it is not only the goals.''
The discussion was closed with the phrase "About Owen I have said enough,'' which probably said it all.
Or maybe he was just keen to talk about Theo Walcott, the hat-trick star against Croatia and one player who will, barring injury, certainly feature in his plans against Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Capello insists Walcott is now ready for a prolonged spell in the international side, saying it is quality and not age which counts.
The Italian revealed he always ensured four or five youth team players trained with the senior squad in his time with Real Madrid and AC Milan.
He even mentioned the name of Maradona as a player who was ready for senior action at 16, although he was quick to insist there was no intention to compare Walcott with the football legend.
It is clear, however, that Capello considers Walcott to have come of age and his Under 21 existence to be at an end, although he is equally determined that the 19-year-old Gunner should not be placed under any undue pressure.
Capello, who believes Walcott was too young play in the World Cup in 2006 but understood why Sven-Goran Eriksson took him, said: "Perhaps at that moment he was too young. But now he is ready. Every experience is important for a youngster if he is intelligent.
"After the game with Croatia I said the people will speak about the performance of Walcott. And all the people are waiting to see the same performance. It is not possible. We have to treat Walcott like the other players, normal players.
"Sometimes he will have a fantastic performance, sometimes a normal performance, sometimes not a good performance and sometimes I will substitute him, like other players.''
Capello also insisted he was unconcerned with the form of goalkeeper David James who recently let in 10 goals in two matches for Portsmouth.
And he applauded the form of Wigan's Emile Heskey as a "modern style'' old-fashioned centre forward.
But mainly, in the wake of the win against Croatia, he was intent on guarding against complacency.
He said: "We have to play like we did against Croatia, the same spirit, the same confidence. I want to see the same at Wembley. It is not important that Kazakhstan are not strong like Croatia.
"You have to play with concentration. Sometimes after one important game you lose the concentration. You feel you are strong, it is an easy game. This is the worst moment for the manager when players think it is an easy game. It is not.''