By Mark Sproule
Follow on twitter @MARKIESP
“I was desperate for us to win a cup for the first time in six years, but at the party afterwards I didn’t feel as if I’d played a role….naturally I congratulated the lads as much as I could and was happy for the club and the fans, but I wasn’t too bothered about my own medal. I could quite happily have thrown it to the supporters and left it in the crowd”. A disappointed Michael Owen, not after having played a bit part in Manchester United winning the league in 2011, no, this quote was ten years earlier after Liverpool beat Birmingham City on penalties in the then Worthington League Cup Final, with Michael having spent the final warming his posterior on the subs bench. As a young footballer a place on the subs bench did not sit well with Michael, though as his career has progressed he has become accustomed to the role.
Now, some ten years later Michael Owen having made nine league appearances as a substitute, and one league start, scoring one goal for Man United is tweeting “What a feeling! Been a while since I won something. Privileged to play with these players and under this manager. Could be a heavy night!!!” followed by “Thanks for all your support. Just need a Champions League medal now to complete the full set!”. Owen has played a total of 27 minutes in the Champions League, 2 appearances, no goals and I have more chance in playing in the final against Barcelona than he has. So unlikely as it seems for United to beat Barcelona, Owen would be quite happy to boast on twitter that he has a complete set of winners medals if the unthinkable happens on 28th May, my how times have changed. Empire of The Kop summed it up in a recent tweet when Antoine Zammit said Michael makes an “excellent cheerleader” for United.
So what has caused the sea change in this player who was adored and broke many Liverpool fans hearts in the Summer of 2004 when he left Anfield for the Bernabeu. Apart from the fact that he has “ sold his soul to the devil” and pulled on a Manchester United shirt, pardon the pun. Where did the Michael Owen of 2001 go, have his principles changed, or is he rightly clinging on to the chance of some success in the twilight of a career which went into free-fall the moment he drove through the Shankly gates for the last time in 2004. Michael has been goaded by our fans for leaving a season too early to go and “win things”, in turn missing out on a famous night in Istanbul and the Champions League medal he now covets. Owen’s spells at Madrid and Newcastle United in the following five years where littered with injury and a lack of trophies. Whilst there were times since he left when it looked like he might have made a prodigal return to Anfield, it was never right for Liverpool and in particular Rafael Benitez who doubted the players ability to stay injury free and perhaps also his commitment.
With the likes of Stoke, Everton and Bolton knocking at the door as Michael approached 30 years of age and Newcastle relegated to the Championship, Liverpool never came calling this time, yet Sir Alex Ferguson did. The rest as they say is history.
With Michaels bit-part Man U career now synonymous in United’s 19th League title win and his subsequent love of tweeting all things Man United, how will he be remembered when the dust has settled on his career. It is almost a surety he won’t be at Old Trafford next year and over two seasons with circa 29 league appearances and 4 goals for them I don’t think he’ll me making after-dinner speeches at Old Trafford or taking up an ambassadorial role like Neville in his later years. The sad thing is that after 297 appearances and 158 goals as a Liverpool player, and having won everything bar the EPL and CL, he’ll not be doing these things at Liverpool either, having well and truly burned his bridges with the club he signed for at 16 years of age. I am sure Michael won’t be on the bread line, having earned millions in his football career and with his subsequent interest in horse racing. Nevertheless, I am sure he would have like to have been affiliated to one club with a legendary status as their player. Not forgetting he is derided also at St James Park with Freddie Shepherd recently saying on Talksport that Owen was the worst deal he did in his tenure, due to his injury plagued spell there.
Owen complained in his autobiography of 2004 of a lack of love from the Kop versus that of Robbie Fowler, a working class local lad, as opposed to himself being a Chester boy. He may have felt that a bit watching from close quarters, but as far as I was concerned and millions of others, Owen was a Liverpool hero and one the finest goal scorers in our illustrious history.
Michael may hammer a further nail into his Liverpool coffin before long by signing for his boyhood love Everton in the Summer, not to worry though, the worst has already happened. I am sure even the great King Kenny isn’t brave enough to try and rebuild the bridges burned by Owen and Liverpool over the past two years. Sad, that one of the Liverpool greats from 1997-2004 will be remembered now for all the wrong reasons, as a traitor and a Manc.