Should England give them a wide berth?

After good performances against the giants of World football that are Birmingham City and Leeds United respectively, there are calls in some quarters for Manchester United’s Michael Owen and Manchester City’s Owen Hargreaves to be reinstated to the England team. Should England look to return these experienced players to the fold, or do they need to forget players of the past and move forward?

Owen Hargreaves has suffered from horrendous injury problems over the last three seasons. He made his return to the game in Manchester City’s Carling Cup victory over Birmingham, scoring a screamer and playing 57 minutes, and all of a sudden he is England’s saviour and should be returned to the international side.

There is no doubting Hargreaves’ ability, and his flexibility as a box to box midfielder is what England have been lacking in the midfield, but thoughts of a recall seem premature. He was England’s best player at the 2006 World Cup, and has experience at the highest international level, but he has a long way to go before we can realistically begin to talk up a recall to the squad. He needs to look after himself both physically and mentally, and start playing regularly for Manchester City, which considering the options they have at the club will be a tough ask. Playing 50 odd minutes in three seasons highlights that this discussion is a little premature, and it is yet another example of the ridiculous hype that characterises the coverage of football in the media of late.

Another suffering from being over-hyped in the media in recent weeks is Michael Owen. He scored twice against Leeds United, also in the Carling Cup, and came off the bench against Stoke, and suddenly the discussion on his return to the England set up has been fired up again.

There is no doubt over Owen’s natural finishing ability, his excellent stike rate is indicative of that, but he simply doesn’t play regularly enough for his club to be considered a good option for England. He plays very few games at Manchester United, finding himself at the back of the line in their long list of quality striking options. Unfortunately, it seems as if he has sacrificed his England career, at the expense of his move to United. It has been one year since he started a Premier League game, and having played little part in England’s Euro 2012 qualification campaign, it is unlikely that Capello would pick him again.

The only logical reason that this debate is now occurring is because of England’s dearth of quality up the field, obviously Wayne Rooney is a shoo-in, but the other options are average at best. We have seen the likes of Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent tried out, and any side that regularly uses Emile Heskey and even considers calling up Jay Bothroyd is clearly lacking options. Michael Owen isn’t any worse than these players, but it is just whether he plays enough to warrant selection. To risk a squad place on someone so injury prone would also be of concern.

The current media debate over these two players, is indicative of the media circus and hype currently surrounding football. It is ludicrous to suggest that on the basis of a couple of Carling Cup games either should return to the England fold. Both Hargreaves and Owen need game and training time, at their best neither should be beyond consideration, but we are a long way from that point.

There are players now ahead of them in the England set-up and bright young talent like Jack Wilshere, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck are the future of the England side, and must be selected ahead of the likes of Owen and Hargreaves. Perhaps it is time for England to stop looking back, and start looking forward. Capello needs to put his faith in the players who are going to be there over the next decade or so, and the media needs to stop looking back to players whose best international days are behind them.

Do you think Hargreaves and Owen should return to the England set-up? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below, or follow me on Twitter @LaurenRutter for more comment and debate.
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