Big Sam hails improved Owen

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Sam Allardyce is confident Newcastle will see Michael Owen at his best next season.

It took Owen almost a year to work his way back to fitness after suffering a serious knee injury at the World Cup last summer.

He played just three games for The Magpies at the end of last term and Allardyce believes he is determined to make up for lost time.

The Newcastle manager has also paid tribute to Owen for emerging from his injury problems as a better person as well.

"Michael is relishing getting started next season," said Allardyce.

"I have listened to what Michael has said about all the long dark days he has experienced, about doing all that rehabilitation work on his own, about wondering how long it was going to take and about having to be patient.

"He has come through that difficult time and he has come through it not just a stronger player, but also a better person.

"When you have had a career-threatening injury like Michael has, it's a life-changing experience.

"But he has come out the other side and I am hoping both Michael and ourselves will see the benefits from that next season."

There has been speculation about the futures of both Owen and Obafemi Martins but Allardyce is optimistic he will retain their services.

With Mark Viduka also arriving from Middlesbrough and Shola Ameobi back to fitness, Allardyce is looking forward to having four top strikers at his disposal.

"To have Shola and Michael back from their injuries, to have signed Mark Viduka and to have Obafemi Martins in the squad gives me a potent and terrific strike force," he told the club's official website.

"I have got the strikers I want here and I'm looking forward to working with them.

"I just have to keep them fit."