Keegan - Owen is world class
Magpies manager hails under pressure striker
Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan insists that Michael Owen is still a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
The striker snatched a vital second-half equaliser for the Magpies in their 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Birmingham on Monday, his third goal for the club since Keegan returned to St James' Park.
His close-range effort cancelled out James McFadden's opener and, with England manager Fabio Capello watching from the stands, he will now hope to have done enough to force his way into the Italian's plans for the upcoming friendly against France.
The goal ended a five-game barren spell for Owen, but his manager believes that the former Liverpool and Real Madrid man is still one of the most natural finishers in the game.
"If any of you had seen us at Blackburn recently, we could be talking about Michael Owen now having eight or nine goals," he said.
"In that game, he had four great chances.
"But the one thing you know about Michael is that if you do create opportunities, he will normally stick them away. I'm more surprised if he misses than if he scores.
"He is a world-class player. Some people in this country might be losing a bit of faith but when you look at his statistics, even his record for Newcastle by anyone's standards is excellent.
"Michael has always got the chance to answer his critics on the football field and he is such a strong character that he will do that."
The point at St Andrews stretched Newcastle's winless streak to 13 games, eight of which have come under Keegan.
However, with Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins all deployed from the start, the Magpies boss is certainly doing everything in his power to ensure that the disappointing run comes to an end sooner rather than later.
"I played three up front. I didn't think we had too much to lose," Keegan said.
"When we went to Liverpool, we tried to limit them and I couldn't see where we would cause any problems. This time I felt we could cause problems for Birmingham and that was the case.
"I said at half-time, if we lose this game to a goal like that, without showing a bit more creativity, that I've picked the wrong side here.
"The second-half performance was more like what I expected from the team I put out. A lot of people showed the determination and character you need away from home.
"We had the momentum and were unlucky not to get the three points. Maik Taylor made a great save from Michael Owen but I know from having him at Fulham that he is capable of doing that."