Michael Owen has claimed there was a long list of England players who were paralyzed by fear when pulling on the England shirt.
Owen,who has played 89 times for his country, revealed he knew of international team-mates who were scared stiff of criticism of their performances and of being jeered by their own fans, with Owen stating this was the chief reason why the national team has been underwhelming in recent years.
“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. 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 your sat in your hotel room staring at four white walls for 10 hours a day for about three or four days,” said Owen.
Owen has refused to call an end to his international career and hopes to one day pull on the three lions kit once again. “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.”