Michael Owen has claimed there was 'a long list' of England players who were paralysed by fear when when turning out for their country.
Owen, who earned 89 caps between 1998 and 2008, revealed he knew of international team-mates who were scared stiff of criticism of their performances and of being jeered by their own fans. The 32-year-old felt that was a major reason why England had underperformed in recent years.
Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge, 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."
He added: "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 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."