'HE IS THE MAN'

THE Toon Army turned out in force to welcome new hero Michael Owen to Newcastle United.

Thousands of fans filled the Sir John Hall stand at St James's Park yesterday as the 16m England striker was officially unveiled.

An estimated 15,000 fans roared "There's only one Michael Owen," as they paid homage to his decision to join the Magpies over former club Liverpool.

Barry Sharp, 29, of Ashington, Northumberland, beamed: "I could not be happier if it was raining beer.

"We have got two England legends now and a strike force to be feared."

On the way to the ground there was a buzz like that of a normal match day.

The Metro from South Shields to Newcastle was packed to the rafters, and it seemed every second person was wearing a Newcastle shirt with Owen's name on the back.

At St James's Park, adoring fans stood on tip toes and climbed on their seats just to catch a glimpse of the man they believe will be the saviour of Newcastle United.

A clearly overawed Owen told the fans: "I have never seen anything like it before in my life."

His wife Louise then afforded herself a wry smile as he attempted a traditional Geordie "Howay the lads," which was again met by mass cheering from the crowd.

The ex-Real Madrid striker then paraded in front of the delirious fans fully kitted out in the famous black and white strip.

He was carrying his two-year-old daughter Gemma Rose, who was also kitted out in a Newcastle strip.

Eighteen-year-old student Jeremy Hughes, of Westerhope, Newcastle, said: "He is the man.

"We have seen him score enough goals against us. Now it is time to see him score at St James's Park in a black and white shirt."

Tina Smith, 16, of Chopwell, Gateshead,said: "Owen is a Geordie!

"I hope he and his family will be very happy in the north east."

The biggest cheer of the day came when Owen told the fans he could guarantee them goals, something the team has struggled to achieve so far this season.

And maybe, just maybe, the sensational transfer will signal the turning point in Graeme Souness's turbulent reign as Newcastle boss.

Before leaving the ground, the crowd signed off by chanting "Souness, Souness, Souness".

By NICK WHITTEN

nick.whitten@northeast-press.co.uk