Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Michael Owen about to debut for Newcastle club

AP , LONDON

Newcastle fans are sure to give striker Michael Owen a big welcome today in his first game with the club.

Their team has played four times and is the only Premier League team without a goal -- lodged in 19th place with one point. Even last-place Sunderland, which has yet to earn a point, has scored twice.

Owen moved to Newcastle last week, joining from Real Madrid for ?17 million (25 million euros).

The high-profile deal, out of the spotlight during a week of World Cup qualifying, was one of several in late August when Spanish striker Albert Luque and winger Nolberto Solano also joined the club.

"Our season starts now," Newcastle captain Alan Shearer said Thursday, speaking alongside Owen. "Whatever has happened in the previous month or so, it's gone. We can't change that. Our season starts as of Saturday against Fulham."

Owen played in England's embarrassing 1-0 loss at Northern Ireland on Wednesday, and he'll be under pressure to produce. He became Madrid's fifth-choice striker when it signed Brazilian stars Robinho and Julio Baptista.

Owen had hoped to join his old club, Liverpool, which would have seen him debut in an eye-catching game at Tottenham. Instead, he will meet Fulham at St. James' Park.

In other games today, it's: Birmingham versus Charlton; Chelsea versus Sunderland; Everton versus Portsmouth; Manchester United versus Manchester City; West Brom versus Wigan; and Middlesbrough versus Arsenal.

On Sunday, Blackburn plays at Bolton with Aston Villa playing Monday night at West Ham.

Calling the Premier League "my league," Owen said he was glad to be back.

"It's where I really wanted to be," Owen said. "I look forward to kick-starting the Premiership campaign again on Saturday. I'm really excited about the whole occasion. Everyone in the England squad was even talking about it.

"We've got a big game on Saturday, and we could do with taking three points."

Shearer, the all-time leading scorer in the Premier League, figures Owen will carry the load this season.

"There's no doubt he can finish as top scorer, and I sincerely hope he does," Shearer said. "I would be more than happy is Michael were to take that away from me."

England and Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate picked Owen to score often at Newcastle. Woodgate played for Newcastle and Leeds in England.

"I am sure that he will score many goals for Newcastle and England at the World Cup," Woodgate told the Spanish newspaper Marca. "He knew that he was not going to play much and he had to leave. His transfer will be good for him. Newcastle are a great club, a sleeping giant who are going to wake up."

Chelsea leads the Premier League with a perfect 12 points in four games, and has not given up a goal. The Blues are followed by Manchester City (10), Charlton and Manchester United with nine, Bolton and Tottenham with seven, and Arsenal with six. Like Chelsea, Manchester United has yet to yield a goal.

At the bottom, Sunderland is without a point in four games, topped by Newcastle and Portsmouth with one.

While the individual spotlight is on Owen, the most glamorous showdown is the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Manchester City is unbeaten in 12 games and a surprising early season challenger to Chelsea.

Manchester United, under the new ownership of the Glazer family, is perfect in three games with new goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar keeping out opposition strikers.

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