Michael Owen says players being hit by fear factor when turning out for England
Michael Owen believes England players are being hit by the fear factor when turning out for their country.
Last Updated: 10/10/12 9:09pm
Owen, who earned 89 caps between 1998 and 2008, revealed he knew of international team-mates who were scared of criticism of their performances and of being castigated by their own fans.
The 32-year-old felt that was a major reason why some players have not been able to 'express themselves' and have underperformed.
The Stoke striker said: "I've heard many people in the past leading up to England games or after England games talking about what the papers are going to say the next day about them, or how they're going to get booed.
"It's a very intense feeling playing for your country and I don't think people can express themselves, or I don't think people do express themselves, as well as they can or they do at club level.
"At that level, you feel loved, the fans are on your side, you're used to playing with the players week in, week out.
"All of a sudden, you go away with England and it's a little bit, 'As long as I do all right', 'I don't want to be criticised so much'.
"There's certainly a bit of fear.
"There would be players out there who play equally as well for England - or any national team - as they do for their clubs.
"But there are a long list of players that you think, 'why can't you play as well for England as you do for the clubs?'
"There's got to be a reason and I would say that fear certainly plays a part in that."
Owen revealed players feel the pressure of playing for the Three Lions, especially when it came to knockout football.
He added: "To the man in the street, it all looks very rosy. Everything looks pretty rosy about being a professional footballer in many ways.
"It ain't easy playing for England. The pressure of playing for England, the time spent away from your families, or whomever it might be, the tournaments.
"The fans would see you on an evening playing and then forget about you for the rest of the week.
"They're the times when you're sat in your hotel room staring at four white walls for 10 hours a day for about three or four days.
"It's a long, long stint and it's quite mentally draining."
Owen denied England meant less to players now than in the past and, despite his reservations, was still keen to add to his caps.
He joked: "Some people think I've retired from football full stop.
"I'd never do that, really. But I certainly don't go to bed thinking 'I'm going to be playing for England again'.
"It certainly would be a bonus. It would mean that I would need to get back on the pitch and rediscover my deadly goalscoring touch and everything else."