Newcastle legend Alan Shearer has today insisted that England striker Michael Owen is happy on Tyneside.
The 27-year-old has once again found himself at the centre of speculation he could leave St James' Park next summer for as little as £6m - Manchester City have once again been linked with him - amid rumours of a bust-up with club boss Sam Allardyce over his fitness.
Allardyce, who saw Owen come off the bench to score in the 3-2 Premier League victory against Everton last Sunday eight days after hernia surgery, has been swift to dismiss both suggestions, while both the player and England manager Steve McClaren are adamant there is no row between the three parties.
And Shearer, who played a key role in persuading the former Liverpool and Real Madrid frontman to make his £17m (€24.3m) move to St James', has no doubts about his commitment to the black and white shirt.
He said: "He is very happy here. He loves the area - his family is here and his kids are at school.
"He cannot control what has been said, and he cannot come out every week. He's happy, and he should not have to do that.
"He's frustrated, but he's a tough lad. He will handle it, and he will score goals.
"I don't understand where the criticism's coming from. I don't understand how it's such a crime to first of all get back to playing for Newcastle. He came on and scored and did very well.
"He wants to play for England and I don't see the crime in that either."
Owen, who launched a passionate defence of his fight for fitness as the club versus country debate rumbled on last week, played 70 minutes of Saturday's 3-0 Euro 2008 qualifier victory over Estonia before being replaced by Frank Lampard, and showed little sign of any ill effects.
However, Wednesday's potentially pivotal clash with Russia on the controversial plastic surface at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium will provide a sterner test both of his readiness to perform at the highest level and England's credentials, and Shearer admits Allardyce will not be alone in keeping his fingers crossed until the final whistle.
He said: "I don't understand how at international level you can be asked to play on a plastic pitch.
"If we can come away with a point I think that's a great result.
"Every manager will have a concern, not just Sam, whether the players are playing on a plastic pitch or not.
"They just want the players back and ready for the weekend."
Owen will at least have two extra days to recover from his international exertions with Newcastle not due to face Tottenham at St James' until Monday evening.
He will hope for a similar return to that enjoyed by his former team-mate for club and country after he turned back the clock yesterday.
Shearer claimed a hat-trick in a 5-3 victory for a Duke of Northumberland XI over an Earl of Durham XI in the Prince's Trust Challenge Trophy.
He was joined for the charity game by the likes of Les Ferdinand, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley and Rob Lee as his side beat off the challenge of a team which included Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and old boys Kevin Ball and Gary Bennett.
Shearer, 37, said: "I was breathing a bit heavier than I was a few years ago, but it was great to be back.
"It was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. It was great scoring the goals - you never get fed up of scoring goals.
"I was lucky enough to be born with something that meant I could score goals, and I don't think you ever lose that."