McClaren names Owen, Ashton in England squad

Last updated at 17:27 05 October 2007

Michael Owen has been promised a starting spot for England next Saturday - but Steve McClaren maintains no risks will be taken with the Newcastle forward.

Owen has made a staggeringly speedy return from stomach surgery and was able to play a part in training with Sam Allardyce's men this morning.

Michael Owen

Newcastle are optimistic Owen will be available for Sunday's Barclays Premier League encounter with Everton at St James' Park, an unthinkable prospect only a week ago.

Yet, even if the 27-year-old, who is now one of only four players to hit the 40-goal mark for England, does not make it on to the pitch, McClaren still expects him to report for national duty on Tuesday lunchtime.

And, if he proves his fitness ahead of next weekend's Euro 2008 Wembley date with Estonia, Owen will be in.

"If he is fit, he will play," said McClaren.

John Terry in mask

"Two or three weeks ago, it seemed impossible but the situation is Michael's operation went well, he has been training with his physio all week and is training with Newcastle today and tomorrow.

"They will assess him and it is up to them what they do with him. Hopefully he comes through and hopefully he plays on Sunday but even if he doesn't he will join us on Tuesday."

Although Allardyce has stressed he wants Owen to feature for Newcastle before he should consider appearing in an England shirt, McClaren is eager to play down any club versus country conflict.

The two managers have spoken regularly this week and their relationship remains cordial.

"I spoke to Sam this morning," said McClaren. "The club versus country issue is something that is blown up quite a lot. I have a great relationship with Sam.

"Newcastle fans should not be worried. They should be delighted he has come back so quickly.

"We will take no risk with the player but it will be our decision whether to play him or not."

Having been so cagey about his team selection for Estonia, especially in light of Frank Lampard's return, McClaren's decision to go public with his desire for Owen to play offers an indication of how important the former Liverpool man is to England's chances of reaching next summer's Finals.

Owen has scored more international goals than the rest of England's seven-strong strikeforce put together and the fact Lampard is second top scorer in the squad with 13, emphasises how much McClaren will rely on his senior front-man.

It was Owen's two goals against Russia last month which helped put the Three Lions on course for Austria and Switzerland next summer and his strikes in the previous wins over Israel and Estonia helped end a long-running barren spell which placed a huge question mark over England's qualification hopes.

"He has proved how important he is over the games he has played for us," Said McClaren.

"His goals have won us games. That is what we have been missing for quite a while."

With Owen Hargreaves, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Michael Carrick all ruled out on fitness grounds, there were no major surprises in McClaren's 27-man squad.

Jonathan Woodgate and Aaron Lennon were omitted but are sure to come into contention should McClaren suffer the usual glut of injuries over the weekend, while Lampard was picked after consultation with Chelsea and the player, who confirmed he is set to figure against Bolton on Sunday.

Also included was West Ham's Dean Ashton, who is finally set to put 14 months of misery behind him on the England front.

Ashton was part of McClaren's first squad as coach, for the friendly against Greece in August 2006.

The 23-year-old's dreams of making his debut were shattered by a broken ankle suffered in training which has required two operations and ruled him out for the entire season.

Ashton has cemented his comeback in fine style for the Hammers this term and McClaren is delighted to welcome him back into the fold.

"I was sick when Dean got the injury and he has always been in our thoughts since then," said McClaren. "He has come through so much and shown great character to reach this point.

"He has improved every game that he has played and his form is good enough to warrant him being in the squad."

Goalkeepers: Paul Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur), David James (Portsmouth), Scott Carson (Aston Villa)

Defenders: Wes Brown (Manchester United), Sol Campbell (Portsmouth), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Everton), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Nicky Shorey (Reading), Phil Neville (Everton), Micah Richards (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Shaun Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Darren Bentley (Blackburn Rovers), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough)

Forwards: Michael Owen (Newcastle United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Alan Smith (Newcastle United), Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Andy Johnson (Everton), Dean Ashton (West Ham United).

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now