Owen concerned by England plight

The former Liverpool and Manchester United striker fears that the Three Lions do not have a deep enough talent pool, with youngsters not coming through as they used to
Former England striker Michael Owen is concerned about the future prospects of the national team.

Roy Hodgson's side are locked in an intense battle for World Cup 2014 qualification, with Moldova at home on  September 6 the first of four crucial games remaining to secure a trip to Brazil as they look to overhaul Montenegro's two-point lead in the standings.

The Three Lions, who must also face tough tests away in Ukraine and at home to Montenegro and Poland, have failed to progress beyond the last four of a major international tournament since their 1966 triumph and Owen is far from confident in the current side's talent reserves.

"England are not in a great position, although we still have some good players. I would have thought we will qualify for the World Cup," the ex-forward, who notched 40 goals in 89 international caps, told the press.

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"If we don't get beaten in the Ukraine, we should be OK but nobody thinks we are going to win the World Cup.

"People say we didn't perform in Germany in 2006 but we did have a good team. You look at the team now and you cannot see us winning the World Cup. We haven't got enough good players.

"Wayne Rooney is a world-class player. There is so much expectation on him in our national team because the dearth of quality is enormous. The pool of players you pick from is smaller because the world has changed. Nobody comes home from school, knocks on 10 doors and asks if they fancy a kickabout. I used to run home from school to get my ball.

"If you look to where the best young players are coming from, they tend to be from countries where football is seen as a way out, an escape. We will still produce players but whether we have the pool of players we need is debatable."

The recently retired Owen, whose last international game came in 2008, also discussed the dangers of young players being held back by clubs and failing to progress to first-team football during a vital stage of their development.

"Footballers need help in certain situations," he continued. "You see 19, 20-year-olds at a big club and you think: ‘What are you doing,faffing around?' because you have wasted three years of your career.

"You should be in a first team by the time you are 18 or 19. It is a dangerous age. There is such wastage there."