This weekend will see Michael Owen bow out of football.
When he announced his retirement it didn’t really come as a surprise. As his football career went on the injuries became a greater part of it to the point that when you look back it is safe to say that Liverpool were fortunate enough to receive the best of his services.
It’s interesting that Owen, when looking back immediately after his announcement, suggested that he was over used by us in the early part of his career and that, as a result, he paid the price physically in his later years. Many would see this as sour grapes, an ungrateful swipe at a club that gave him the chance to make it big and to go and achieve and possess everything he has now. A club with whom he won the majority of his honours, collectively and individually.
Owen made his debut for us at he age of 17 against Wimbledon. Surely then “burn out” would have been achieved earlier, say in his late twenties, it wasn’t? Surely at that age it would have been hard to hold Owen back, use him sparingly, both player and club wanted to play as much as possible. Perhaps it was just Owen, some players are more prone to injuries than others? In The Guardian last month he said
“muscle injuries are another family trait. My farther suffered from them as a player and my brothers have been plagued by them too. It is bad luck in many ways, but some would say it is the price you pay for being quick.”
Perhaps we did learn a lesson as seen when we limited Steven Gerrard’s appearances in his early years However, to suggest Owen was some human resource forced to performance against his will when he wasn’t fit to seems hard to believe.
Perhaps Owen’s ire is born of the fact that after selling him to Real Madrid for a bargain price we wouldn’t, despite having opportunities to do so on more than one occasion, take him back? (see links at the bottom of this page) I’d be reading between the lines but surely it was folly for him to go to Spain so soon? Jamie Carragher, his closest friend at Liverpool, tried to dissuade him
“Liverpool had just signed Djibril Cisse and Milan Baros had returned from Euro 2004 as the winner of the Golden Boot. Michael felt the time was right to pursue a fresh challenge. I told him he was making a mistake, that Madrid were a football club rife with politics and he wouldn’t play. They had Raul and Ronaldo, who always played, and to be a success at Madrid, you had to be more than just a goalscorer but Michael wouldn’t be moved. He thought he was the best and would become a success in Spain”
Fantastic timing as under Rafa (well done last night by the way), we were about to embark a very productive run in the Champions league. Whilst Owen flitted in and out of the side Madrid side nine months later his old club, with many of his old team mates, lifted the very trophy he had probably decided to leave us for. Was this was a warning against impatience or, if you are being really harsh, greed? Whatever the case Istanbul was a Liverpool performance and milestone that, given his contribution to our football over the years, deserved Owen’s presence, I bet Baros and Cisse couldn’t believe their luck just as much as Owen was cursing his?
Instead Owen ended up at a series of clubs but I wonder if he still couldn’t get over leaving Liverpool. They say you always hurt the one love and he did that by eventually joining The Mancs (see link at the bottom of this page) If Owen had any hopes about rejoining us they were now gone, dead in the water.
Owen had yet to hang up his boots when he announced his retirement but it didn’t stop the from press writing about his career as soon as his plans became public. Many of his football “obituaries” seem to skate over his time with us in preference to his England career. By rights he should be England’s record scorer by now however injuries did for him plus the fact that recent managers, despite his record, seemed to favour others.
Two England incidents in particular are recalled, the goal against Argentina in the1998 World Cup and the hat trick in Munich against Germany. Although both were golden moments for me my magic Michael moment was the smash and grab in the 2001 Cup final against Arsenal. We looked to be beaten on that sunny day 1-0 and very much second best. However, with seven minutes to go, Owen popped up with two goals to single handedly snatch the trophy, I still can’t work out how he managed to thread that shot between David Seaman’s outstretched glove and his left hand post for the winner!
Because of the Mancs issue many Red’s fans will balk at praising Owen too much. He won’t be held in the same affection as say Robbie Fowler however, I can forgive he’s from Chester my home town and I watched his dad play at the old Sealand Road. He might not have had Robbie’s cock sure “one of the lads” panache, Suarez’s “pantomime villain”, loveliness Torres’ strutting ruthlessness and Rush’s clinical, razor sharp, execution however, his record amongst all these striking heroes, past and present can hold its head high. Owen recently said
‘…. would I change anything if I could rewind the clock? Not a chance.’
Maybe but the sad fact is it could have been so much better…. for Owen and for us?
Links to other Owen posts