Stoke City striker Michael Owen says he can handle his critics.

But the ex-England striker is fuming at talk he has no passion for football any more and prefers horse racing.

He said: "Criticism has to be something you can take, otherwise you're pretty much doomed.

"However, one point annoyingly kept rearing its head that I haven't got the passion anymore, prefer horses and have other things in my life.

"It feels like a slur on my character and integrity to hear people questioning my desire.

"To reach the highs that I have been fortunate enough to reach in my career, one thing you cannot lack is desire.

"From the minute I could walk I've carried a football under my arm.

"I have loved the game of football as much as anyone. Nothing was handed to me. I had the desire to be the best and that certainly hasn't left me - and never will."