Robbie Earle: Owen's injury jinx is source of frustration for everyone
MICHAEL Owen has seen as much of Stoke City's treatment table as the pitch – but I'm convinced he's as frustrated about the situation as the fans are.
Injuries have restricted the former England striker to just four substitute appearances in a Stoke shirt which clearly isn't what City had in mind when Owen signed in a blaze of publicity at the start of September.
I hear some fans are wondering whether Owen is comfortable picking up his wages and working on his media career – but I just don't believe that is the case.
Owen's an astute guy and he's a regular on Twitter so will be well aware of the taunts that he's not busting a gut to play regular football.
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After all, that sort of criticism has dogged him since he chose to remain a squad player at Manchester United rather than having a chance of playing more regularly at a smaller club.
He's been a great player and won't want that legacy tainted by accusations that he hardly played in the final years of his career.
He won't want the sort of 'sicknote' tag that poor old Spurs and England winger Darren Anderton had to put up with during his career.
Stoke City fans will have seen most of Owen on Match of the Day lately, but I don't see his media work as a problem. It's not as though he's filming when he should be training so him being on the television makes no difference to him being fit to play.
When he does play, I'm going to be interested to see how he fits in at Stoke.
He's nearly 33 now and doesn't have the fantastic pace which helped make him such a threat.
He has remained a clinical finisher who makes the right decisions around the area, but he will have to rely more on his football intelligence now that same athleticism is no longer there.
It's not easy in the physical Premier League, but I felt in the summer that signing Owen was a gamble worth taking and he still has time to prove that.
The fact he didn't have a full pre-season because he didn't sign for Stoke until September clearly wasn't ideal.
Proper pre-season training with a club gives every player the foundation of fitness they rely on for the rest of the season. That's why players who are injured in pre-season find it so hard to catch up.
It's not going to be easy for Owen to get fit and stay fit because he has played so little football – in fact he hasn't started a game in 2012.
The trouble is, you get one injury and just as you feel you are recovering, it leads to another injury.
Maybe the fact that he played a hell of a lot so early in his career is also counting against him.
After all, he made his debut as a 17 year old for Liverpool and was quickly a Premier League regular.
Perhaps every footballer only has so many games in them, particularly at the top level.
I felt I got stronger when I got older, but I only moved from Port Vale and into the top flight with Wimbledon when I was 26. By the time Michael Owen was that age, he had been playing in the Premier League or La Liga for eight years.
That experience speaks volumes for his quality. Now I'm sure he's desperate to show fans what he can do.