All entries for Friday 17 July 2009

July 17, 2009

Michael Owen and THAT Transfer

Michael Owen and THAT Transfer

I have always felt a mixture of gentle envy and sorrow for Michael Owen. The gentle envy is based on the fact that I am the same age as him, and looked a bit like him if I decided to smother my hair with wet hair gel. I also talked a bit like him, seemed to think like him, and I wish that I had played football like him for the top teams in the UK and Europe. My sadness is based on recognising that it did not seem that long ago that he was being lauded as the next great thing in British football.

In true British style, we dumped our expectations on his young shoulders and expected that his eye-catching goals would take Liverpool back to their domineering best in English football, and guarantee a trophy to the national team that would end that wait since 1966. Michael Owen was the next big thing in English football in 1999

We are now in 2009, and it seems that Owen is regarded as damaged goods. It is as if Newcastle were flogging a 1998 TV in the football marketplace, with the promise that this chunky TV had ‘ground breaking’ ‘Nicam Digital Stereo’ whilst the rest of us were caring about today’s ‘High Definition’ screens.

The great footballing public seems to be divided in their predictions that Michael Owen will have an Indian summer or a bleak winter at Old Trafford. Having become a Manchester United player, Owen would be back in the eye of a daily media storm that swirls around Old Trafford. If there ever could be a hint that Owen was back into his injury nightmare, the knives would be sharpened for Owen, Alex Ferguson, as well as the whole Old Trafford dynasty.

It was also interesting to read that Michael Owen would be playing at a club, whose manager apparently admitted that he was a second choice in the transfer market bartering. It is difficult to tell whether this remark was another example of Ferguson’s mind games and deft knack at reverse psychology. However the whole story could be easily turned into a 9pm drama on ITV1 because it contains everything including happiness, rejection as well as the possibility of ultimate redemption against all odds. A lot of viewers would be crying in their armchairs at ‘The Owen Story,’ or would they?

From my perspective, there has not been much a reaction. There has been some anger amongst the fans on Merseyside that one of their former stars has landed with their hated rivals at the other end of the East Lancs Road. Owen allegedly did not know what the fuss was about in the red half of Liverpool, which is always a good line to stir up the message boards but some fans seemed nonplussed. They wondered whether Owen had ever actually been a Liverpool fan, and previous speculation has linked Owen’s football interest at a variety of clubs around the north west of England including Everton, Tranmere and Chester City.

Following Newcastle’s relegation in May, the Michael Owen package came with a lot of baggage that we mostly linked to the decline of one of the most iconic clubs that used to grace the Premier League. His bemused expression at Villa Park on the last day of last season demonstrated that relegation was a new emotion for him. As of mid July, the transfer of Owen to Manchester United ranks as the most surprising of the summer. For most of the summer, Michael Owen was being marketed like a club 18-30 holiday with Hull and Stoke lined up to be his next destination, before punditry, management or ultimate obscurity.

Regardless whether he has an executive pad in Cheshire, knew how to drive a helicopter, appeared in a brochure for executive penthouses in Dubai and liked a flutter on the horses, you sensed that Owen still had to have his daily football fix. Why else would he still want to play, despite having amassed a small financial fortune? Having gained a transfer to one of the world’s biggest football clubs, my reaction was supportive. From the jaws of oblivion, Michael Owen has snatched a potentially career-saving victory. I would never want to see a footballing professional (or any other worker) end his career in a miserable decline and frequent hospital treatment.

This transfer is a gamble for Manchester United, but despite assurances from Old Trafford, more questions are proposed than are answered. This situation will be welcoming for the newspaper column writers, the phoneins and the pub bores, but where does the transfer leave Manchester United and Michael Owen? How is the front line going to line up? Should we expect a United side to line up with Rooney in a slightly withdrawn role in front of Berbatov and Owen?

The questions do not end there. Will Manchester United play with two strikers who have shown to be generally anonymous if they do not get the pinpointed service from the midfield? Will Owen slip back into a never-ending injury nightmare? Will Michael Owen ever play for England again? Will Manchester United be pilloried for gambling on this former England great? Will earnest discussions be undertaken about whether Ferguson has ‘lost it’ and the great days at Old Trafford are coming to an end?

For the sake of a football professional, who would have played in my school football team, if he had grown up in deepest Essex, I wish the best of luck for Michael Owen at Manchester United. I hope that his career gets the jump-start that it needs, but a lot of questions will need to be answered during the season.


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