Grip insists Owen injury 'not a worry'

April 4, 2006

England assistant coach Tord Grip 'hopes and thinks' Michael Owen will be fit for the World Cup and claims 'it is not a big worry' if the striker only plays one more game for Newcastle this season.

The 26-year-old striker, who has been out of action since breaking a bone in his foot against Tottenham in December, had feared his hopes of recovering in time to be included in Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad for Germany had been dashed when he was told he needed another operation.

But Grip and the England coaching staff are confident the former Real Madrid man is back on track.

Eriksson's right-hand man said: 'We all hope and think that Michael will be ready.

'He is naturally a very fit boy and, of course, has a fantastic record when it comes to World Cups.'

Grip, who was answering questions from England fans, added: 'Sven and Michael have spoken regularly over the last few weeks.

'Sven has also spoken to the staff at Newcastle.'

Owen may not be fit until Newcastle's final game of the season, against Chelsea on May 7, and England's provisional squad is named a day later.

But Grip said 'That is not a big worry, I must say. The worry is if he gets a reaction after his first game.

'He is a proven goalscorer and you always need that in a team. It would have been ideal if he had played some games, but Michael's not worried.

'David Beckham was still injured when he came with us in 2002. Michael will be fit when we get together

'He will be in full training, for perhaps two or three weeks, before his first game back and will play matches in training.'

Grip revealed there was still time for players around the fringes of the squad to impress with the likes of Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent still hopeful of securing their place.

But he would only say: 'We have seen these players all season and they have all scored goals and done well for their clubs.

'I can't give away too many secrets now and Sven already has a good idea of who he sees being in the squad but in football you just never know.

'What we can say is that we are fully aware of how everyone is playing.'

Grip was also confident that England have the players 'to deal' with Ronaldinho should the brilliant Brazilian stand in their way again this summer.

The Barcelona forward scored the winner when England were knocked out of the last World Cup, and Grip conceded he remains the most dangerous player Eriksson's side could face in Germany.

'He is a world-class player, I like his approach,' he said. 'He loves his football, which is great for all the kids too. The World Cup is about taking football all over the globe and his approach to the game is something that children can enjoy and learn from.

'Having said that, I'm confident that, if we come up against Brazil, we have the players to deal with him.'

Grip was also asked what part he thought members of the current England squad might play in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

'Of the current team, there are so many that are still able to play,' he said.

'(Wayne) Rooney, (Rio) Ferdinand, (Steven) Gerrard, both Coles (Joe and Ashley), (Paul) Robinson and I'm sure Michael (Owen) will still be there too. He's still only 26 so the base will be very experienced.

'In terms of players that will come through between now and then, I think (Theo) Walcott could be one, Anton Ferdinand another, (Aaron) Lennon, too, and (Nigel) Reo-Coker is also another with lots of potential.'