Stoke City: Michael Owen aiming to win starting place on merit
ENGLAND legend Michael Owen says he doesn’t expect to win a place in the Stoke City side on reputation alone.
The 32-year-old former European Footballer of the Year trained with his new team-mates for the first time yesterday after signing a one-year contract on a free transfer.
His arrival raises the possibility of him forming a Stoke City strike partnership with his former England team-mate Peter Crouch.
However, Owen says he will have to fight for a place among a forward department which also includes Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome.
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He says he’s delighted to link up with Crouch, but isn’t assuming he’ll be partnering him for the Potters.
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United striker said: “I know a couple of lads here from past experience, be that with England or different clubs. Peter is one of them.
“He has done fantastically well since he joined Stoke, but there are many strikers at the club so I am not expecting it to be an easy ride.
“I will have to work to play any part and I am prepared to do that.
“There are a lot of top players at the club. I am just going to hopefully fit in well with the squad and have a good season.”
Owen says his first task is to prove his fitness having missed Stoke’s pre-season campaign.
He only played four games for Manchester United last season, but was available for some of the games he missed.
The striker’s one-year contract is understood to include a basic wage of less than £20,000 a week, but heavily weighted towards appearances and goals.
He said: “I have done as much as I can at home and with a physio I know, so I come here in decent shape.
“I’ll obviously need to catch up a bit and we will be assessing me over the next couple of days, but first and foremost I am delighted to be here.
“Inevitably most players miss one or two games during the season, but if I can stay fit for the majority of the campaign then that’s got to be my personal goal.”
The striker, who is England’s fourth highest goalscorer with 40 goals in 89 appearances, says he is also looking forward to working with Tony Pulis.
He added: “I met the manager two or three months ago and we were singing from the same hymn sheet.
“I think it’s important to have a healthy respect for your manager and to understand what he wants. I feel I will get that here with Tony Pulis.
“We had a good chat, it’s just a shame it took a few months after that before I signed.
“But anyway I am here now and looking forward to it.”
Owen played for Manchester United at the Britannia last year and says he’s looking forward to having the Stoke fans on his side the next time he runs out at the stadium.
He added: “They don’t get 70,000 here, but it’s full every week, and pound-for-pound is definitely one of the noisiest in the country.”
Pulis has made it clear he wants Owen in his starting line-up if fully fit. He said: “Michael’s got the bit between his teeth and wants to play.
“He’s more than just an impact sub. We want Michael fit, in the team and playing regularly again.
“We’ll assess his fitness levels over the next three days and take it from there. It’s important we see what level he is at before we push him.
“But we believe, once he’s match fit, that he’ll prove he can still score goals in the Premier League.”