Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Michael Owen - The Striker I Shouldn't Like
Michael Owen announced earlier today that he is to retire from football at the end of the season. To be honest it's not surprising as he has been ravaged by injuries throughout his career and he has been making less and less of an impact in the limited game time he has had in recent years but it is still a sad day for football. I don't feel entirely comfortable saying that as everything about Owen's career should make me hate him but strangely I don't.
Owen played for five club sides throughout his career as well as having an excellent international career with England. At this point it might be useful to know that I am a Leeds United fan so it seems fairly obvious that I didn't appreciate his spells at Liverpool and Manchester United. I also hold a grudge against Newcastle as they were one of the teams who gained the most from scavenging amongst the wreckage of Leeds financial meltdown. His spell at Stoke may seem inoffensive but let's be honest nobody outside the Potteries likes Stoke. He also had a spell in La Liga with Real Madrid and yes you've guessed it, I have a soft spot for their biggest rivals, Barcelona. As if all that's not bad enough I am also a proud Irish man and at the risk of offending my readers, us Irish don't really like England. Hopefully, anyone who reads this will be mature enough to understand sporting rivalry and I don't think it's news to anyone that there's nothing us Celts love more than seeing England players readying themselves for a penalty shoot out.
I should maybe point out that I think a lot of the anti-English feeling is brought on by the media. As I see it the English media are the most over reactive bunch I've ever had the misfortune of experiencing. When it comes to major tournaments the media would treat a 1-0 win over San Marino as the greatest result of all time but once they suffer an often unlucky defeat to one of the top teams on penalties they instantly become failures and a national disgrace. It's not fair and the players deserve better but the media love nothing more than to build up their team just so they can get stuck in when it all goes wrong.
Getting back on topic, Owen's career has took him to what seems like a who's who of teams I don't like but I can't find it in myself not to like him. He comes across quite well in his media appearances which perhaps helps his cause but I think it's a case of the memories I have of his early career.
Many younger football fans will think of Owen as the guy who sat on the bench for Manchester United or as the guy who grew a fantastic moustache in aid of the Movember campaign but for the rest of us, Owen is the one who got away. In his early years Owen was an exceptional talent and it is sad that he and we were robbed of watching that talent grow into what should have been one of the best players in the world. Unfortunately the injuries took there toll and although there were flashes of genius he was never able to reach the peaks he did in his years at Liverpool.
Owen is the only Englishman in my lifetime to win the Ballon d'Or and his international record of 40 goals in 89 games is exceptional. If Owen had stayed free of injuries I have no doubt that he would have smashed Bobby Charlton's record as England's top goalscorer.
However, the biggest compliment I could give to Owen is that he is the only player in over twenty years of watching football that made me want England to win a match. I can remember sitting as a thirteen year old watching him score "that" goal in the 1998 World Cup against Argentina. He was breathtaking that night and it's rare to see a player play that way. With Alan Shearer providing the focal point of the English attack, Owen was able to drop deep. When he collected the ball he would set off at pace, taking players on and to this day it is still one of the best performances I've ever saw.
After the game when England had lost on penalties and I had finished sulking my dad said to me "I didn't know you were an England fan" and I replied "I'm not but I just wanted to see Michael Owen again in the next round." My dad said to me, "Sure the Premier League will be back soon and you can watch him every week" and I replied "Yeah but it won't be the same" and unfortunately it never was.