Pulis takes pressure off Owen
Tony Pulis is mindful of putting too much pressure on Michael Owen and has stressed he is just one of several options Stoke have in attack.
The Potters completed the capture of Owen, who had been a free agent after his release over the summer by Manchester United, last week on a one-year deal and he could be set for his debut in Saturday's Premier League visit of Manchester City. The 32-year-old striker, dogged by a catalogue of injury problems throughout his career, says he feels in good enough condition to feature and he will be assessed by Pulis ahead of kick-off. While fitness is likely be a key factor in how much game time Owen gets at Stoke, he is arguably one of the biggest names ever to join the Staffordshire club and there will be a considerable sense of anticipation among Potters fans about what he might deliver.
The weight of expectation on the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle frontman is something Pulis wants to try to ease, and the manager has been keen to emphasise that Owen is very much part of a group of forwards in his squad. "I think by bringing Michael in now, we have got different options," Pulis said. "We'll see how it goes - I don't want to put too much pressure on him. "I just want him to come and enjoy his football and get fit and sharp again at a club where he knows if he plays well, he will have an opportunity." Pulis also has Peter Crouch, Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome and Mamady Sidibe - who has not been included in Stoke's Premier League squad and might go out on loan - to call upon up front. Of those, Walters and Jerome can also play out wide, but the flanks are another well-stocked department for the Potters and Walters has said this week he will "relish the challenge" of trying to keep his place in the team.
Owen has been given the number 10 shirt Pulis says he "kept" for him even though "loads of people wanted it", and there has been plenty of talk about him potentially being paired with Crouch, who he played alongside for England. But Owen does not want to make any assumptions about what lies in store. "I've played with Peter Crouch a number of times and we have always done well together - that's for all to see," Owen said. "But it would be disrespectful to say I am looking forward to playing with Peter. "There's obviously a lot of good strikers here and there's nothing in my contract to say I'm starting every game. I have got no divine right to do so."
Owen, who only made four first-team appearances for United last season, feels he has something to prove after his stop-start three-year stint with the Red Devils and admits he is on something of a mission at Stoke. "That's a very good way of putting it - that's how I feel," Owen said. "I have a lot to prove. There will be a lot of people hoping for me to do well, not because they support Stoke, but they want me to do well. Inevitably you'll get doom-mongers. "I want to prove I can stand the rigours of a full season. From the club's point of view that's a slight risk. We all like to think it's a risk worth taking."
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