Michael Owen injury woes not in his mind, says Stoke City boss Tony Pulis
TONY Pulis has poured cold water on any talk of Michael Owen's injury problems being all in his mind.
The former England striker is missing for a second week running after failing to shake off a minor hamstring injury ahead of today's clash with QPR at the Britannia Stadium (3pm).
Pulis knows such lay-offs will trigger whispers about Owen's fragile mentality after his well-publicised injury problems in recent years.
But he insists Owen's body, not his mind, is letting him down as he struggles to get his Stoke career going after only playing for a total of around 70 minutes during four substitute appearances to date.
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"I don't think Michael would say it's psychological, but he's protective, and rightly so," said Pulis, pictured.
"We're hoping Michael will be fit, not this week, but next week. He's hurt his hamstring, but he might be able to play against West Ham.
"It's been frustrating getting him injured because he's physically in good order.
"But we knew this might be a stop-start campaign for him, especially at the beginning."
He revealed that Stoke's medical team are working overtime to improve Owen's general posture so as to avoid the niggly muscular injuries halting his current progress.
"It's more to do with his posture than anything else – they work very hard on that. That affects the hamstring, the calves, the groin, the lot.
"It's all about the alignment of his back and his spine, making sure everything's in place.
"We believe there's a lot of problems that you get in muscular injuries and the source is your spine not being in line.
"The lads are working on loads of stuff that Michael's really thrown himself into.
"We're hoping that when we do get him through that initial period that he will remain fit.
"He's right into the treatment, he comes in every day and gets sorted out by the lads."
But he acknowledged Owen was still haunted by the prospect of another serious injury developing from the kind of hamstring strain he has at present.
"The problem is that if it does go," said Pulis, "then Michael is so, so nervous about it being a long-term injury. He's on tenterhooks a bit."
He admitted Owen was sorely missed when Stoke were chasing an equaliser at Norwich last week.
"I'd have brought him on for the last 20 minutes against Norwich, I'll tell you that now.
"We were really in the ascendency. With the possession we had on Saturday and the amount of balls we were getting into the box, we needed someone around Crouchy who can get on the end of stuff."
Matthew Etherington's return to the starting line-up is the one definite change as Stoke chase a second league win of the season against QPR.