Michael Owen’s Last Chance
July 18, 2012 in Premier League
Munich, 1st September 2001. Juxtaposed with the violence that was to come ten days after that date, the joy I felt at the time was unbound. Germany 1, England 5. It was a result that shocked almost everyone and brought Sven Goran-Eriksson almost legendary status at the time. So did his front two. Emile Heskey and hat-trick hero Michael Owen instantly became the future, the pairing that would lead our country to international glory!
Almost eleven years on and both are now free agents. Even more shocking is the fact that both are laughing stocks, the butt of many a joke on this site and I’m sure many others.
Heskey’s fall from grace is perhaps less exceptional – once a really good prospect at Leicester City, he never lived up to that potential. He has since eked out a very good living for himself and has had a reasonable career. It is far from his fault that England have not produced a good enough big man to replace him and he has been asked to play up front far too many times for England.
Owen, on the other hand, has seemingly been able to let go of those heights his talent promised when he burst onto the scene. He announced himself to the world stage with an incredible goal against Argentina in the France 1998 World Cup; dancing through the midfield using his blistering pace, he took the ball right off of Paul Scholes’s magical right foot and slotted the ball high into the corner of the net. Although that game ended in tears, Owen had become a world star.
Like Heskey, they were heights he never really reached again. Leaving his first club, Liverpool, he failed to sparkle at Real Madrid and only made fifteen starts while at the club. He returned to England with Newcastle, and injuries hindered his time there. Upon leaving Newcastle, though, he refused to settle for a mid-table club. Instead, he put together an infamous 34-page brochure which proclaimed that “were it not for an unhappy spell at Real Madrid and two injury-scarred years at Newcastle, he would be spoken about in the same breath as Torres and Ronaldo and valued in the priceless figures that only match-winning goalscorers ever justify”. It was a move that reeked of desperation, but ultimately, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to take a punt on the once-great striker.
The move to Manchester United again failed to give Owen any game time, and aside from a memorable match-winning goal against upstart neighbours Manchester City, his time there has been far from successful. He has been credited with spending more time talking with Ferguson about their mutual passion for horse-racing than threatening to ever get his footballing career back out of the gates.
It has now got to the point where he will never be remembered as a great England striker, and now, the general consensus is that he should perhaps find more modest climes and settle down into the role of the mediocre striker everyone is convinced he is.
He has hardly been gracious about it though.
Taking to Twitter, he has dismissed reports of him settling for a Championship club. “Not being disrespectful when saying I wouldn’t play in the Championship. Always said I wouldn’t drop down the leagues like some have done. After playing for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Man Utd and England, I don’t think I would enjoy that football.”
Now, as a fan of football in general, I regularly go and see games of all levels, and the Championship has seen some excellent teams in recent years, with Swansea City and Blackpool being prime examples. However, Owen has seemed to ignore this and I hope it is not to his detriment. He is now 32 and it would be difficult to imagine him signing another worthwhile contract after this one. If his eyes are too big for his stomach, he may end up once again sitting on the bench. He needs to choose a club in which he can get back to doing what he does best, which is scoring goals, if he is to save an already tarnished career.
Owen has said it himself, again taking to Twitter to voice his thoughts, “Getting closer to finding a new club. Had a good deal of interest but just need to pick right!” Stoke, Reading, QPR and boyhood club Everton have been sounded out as potential suitors and it is important that he isn’t too greedy, preferably looking for playing time rather than a pay packet.
If he can choose right, then he will have a few more seasons to prove that one night in Munich and a goal in St. Etienne aren’t all he will be remembered for. It would be a shame if he doesn’t.