MICHAEL Owen, the youngest player to be capped by England this century, may have played less than 50 games for Liverpool, but he is seriously being touted as one of the potential stars of the 1998 World Cup finals. The 18-year-old striker surpassed by 124 days the 32-year record of Manchester United's Duncan Edwards when he played in the 2-0 defeat by Chile at Wembley in February. Owen failed to continue a record which had seen him score at every level he had played for England, but his electric pace and precocious skills lit up an otherwise dismal England performance. Owen, the son of a former professional footballer, had barely started school when England last reached the finals in Italy in 1990 but his remarkable maturity and outstanding talent have catapulted him to early stardom. And as far as England manager Glenn Hoddle is concerned: if he's good enough, then he is old enough. 'He's got the right temperament and he's shown no signs that he can't handle it,' says Hoddle. 'I'm putting no pressure on the boy. He is in good form, he's been called up by his country but if he doesn't make the World Cup squad he's got another 10 years of going to World Cups and European Championships. 'I don't want to put that burden on him now. I just want him to go out and express himself as he has done since he started playing football.' Owen began the 1997/98 season as a virtual unknown, but after four months he was installed by the bookmakers as favourite to finish the season as the Premier League's top scorer. Owen says he has never had anything but total confidence in his ability, but admits to being surprised by the speed of his rise to fame. 'It's all come so quickly,' he said. 'At the start of the season I never thought it would happen so soon. But I always hoped it would, that I would become an international player, and now I've got to handle it as normally as possible. 'I'm confident in my ability to do well, and I certainly don't think age comes into it ? as the manager said, if you're good enough, you're old enough.' Meanwhile, across Liverpool, Everton manager Howard Kendall has hit out at the growing speculation about his job . Kendall, who returned from a holiday in Spain on Monday, has had talks with chairman Peter Johnson but claimed they were 'amicable and helpful' and that he knew nothing about a reported split in the Everton board of directors over his future. He said: 'I have had more talks with the chairman, yes, but they were to discuss our plans for the future on the playing side. 'My job wasn't discussed and if there are people on the board who want me out, I know nothing about them. 'I find it very disappointing that after all the euphoria of the day we avoided relegation at the end of the season, I have to read on holiday about my future. 'I was aware while I was away of what was being written, and that is very disappointing.'