'Owen must be loyal to Utd'

LONDON - Michael Owen should show loyalty to Newcastle United, the Premier League club's chairman, Freddy Shepherd, said after a newspaper report suggested that the England striker could move on at the end of the season.

The former Liverpool player joined for R235million in 2005 after a frustrating spell at Real Madrid but has spent most of his time in the treatment room.

Owen has returned for Newcastle's last two matches, both defeats, after recovering from a serious knee injury sustained playing for England at the World Cup last year.

"Michael has two choices - he can come out and tell our fans he is happy here or I tell him none of the big four are interested because that's the case," Shepherd was quoted as saying in yesterday's Daily Express.

Shepherd was angry at a report in The Times earlier this week which said Owen could move to Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United for a cut price of R138million.

"These suggestions will not impress our fans after what has happened in the last couple of years," said Shepherd, who has still to name a replacement for manager Glenn Roeder who resigned last Sunday.

"This report was a very thinly-disguised attempt to flog Owen from under our feet, sourced very close to the player or those who look after him. The information must have come from there, not from our club," Shepherd said.

Owen played just 11 games for Newcastle last season after breaking a bone in his foot, though he recovered in time to represent England at the World Cup finals in Germany.

"The loyalty this club has shown him over the last two years, when he had injury problems in his first season and had missed virtually all of this season, deserves something in return," Shepherd said.

"He has had a serious injury and no-one, least of all one of the biggest clubs, is likely to take a risk at this stage. He has to prove to everyone, himself and Newcastle United included, that he is fully recovered and not about to break down," he said.

Sam Allardyce, who resigned as Bolton Wanderers manager last month, is the favourite to replace Roeder at St James' Park. - Reuters