Newcastle boss Alan Shearer has told Michael Owen to provide the perfect response to sensational claims he is considering retirement by returning to his lethal best.
Tyneside woke this morning to speculation, vehemently denied by his representatives, that the 29-year-old striker could be ready to hang up his boots after struggling to rediscover his form since his latest injury.
Tough times: Michael Owen has struggled to capture his form of old after a torrid spell of injuries
Owen, who has not scored since the 2-2 draw with West Ham on January 10, was withdrawn during the 3-1 win over derby rivals Middlesbrough on Monday night with the score at 1-1, and could only look on as substitutes Obafemi Martins and Peter Lovenkrands secured three precious points.
However, he will be in the squad for tomorrow's potentially decisive Barclays Premier League clash with Fulham, and Shearer knows how best he can respond to his detractors.
He said: 'Go out and score goals. The player has always got the last opportunity to go out and do the business on the football pitch.
Old pals: Newcastle boss Alan Shearer insists Owen can get back to his best.
'He always as the chance to have the last laugh. My mind will never change with Michael Owen - if you give him chances, eventually he will score goals, I have no doubt about that.'
Asked about the retirement claims, Shearer revealed Owen had laughed them off.
He said: 'He doesn't need it, doesn't deserve it. The stories that are out this morning are totally ludicrous and totally untrue as far as he's concerned, and he has laughed them off.
'But Michael Owen is a big-name player and sometimes will attract headlines.'
Owen is out of contract at St James' Park at the end of the season and seems certain to seek pastures new, although should Shearer remain in charge, he might have a decision to make.
Wherever he plays his football, his former team-mate at both club and international level is convinced he has a future at Premier League level.
Shearer said: 'I am 100% certain he will have a future in the Premier League. But as to where that will be, here or elsewhere, that's for a discussion at the end of the season.'