Pulis delays Owen return

Tony Pulis
Tony Pulis says Michael Owen needs a couple more weeks of training to regain full fitness. Photo: PA

Michael Owen's hopes of receiving a welcome birthday present from Stoke manager Tony Pulis have been put on hold.

Owen declared himself "raring to go" after coming through 70 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday in a bid to step up his fitness after struggling with groin and hamstring niggles.

Ahead of Saturday's visit of Everton to the Britannia Stadium, there was the prospect of Owen making his first appearance for Stoke since October 27, the last of his four substitute outings since joining the club at the start of September.

But ahead of the former England striker's 33rd birthday tomorrow, Pulis says Owen still needs at least another week of fitness work and another reserve outing before he can be thrown into the first team.

Pulis said: "Michael did smashing on Tuesday, came through 70 minutes, but he needs more work on the training ground, a bit more strength

"He needs another couple of weeks of full training, another game or two first before we chuck him back in.

"That's because every time we've tried to get him in there he has broken down, and maybe that's because we've tried to push him a little bit."

Pulis, meanwhile, has reacted with scepticism to the prospect of netting being erected at football grounds around the country.

The idea was suggested by Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor in the wake of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand being hit by an object thrown from the crowd in Sunday's derby victory at Manchester City.

Pulis said: "There were 50-odd thousand people there and we had a mindless few who caused a problem.

"All the time it's about finding a balance because I thought it was a fantastic game, soured by a couple of incidents off the pitch, which was disappointing.

"But netting? I'm not sure that's the right way of doing it.

"With the cameras and monitoring we have at grounds today, these people will hopefully be found and then banned from football for the rest of their lives.

"If you do that, it's a great deterrent to stop these people from doing it again."