Football has a way of screwing with time. I know this because of one simple fact: I’m older than Michael Owen. Insane isn’t it? How could this have happened? I was only a teenager when he started gleefully rubbing his hands together on my telly. It’s just not right.
I didn’t used to like Michael Owen, not because footballing by-laws explicitly requested he was referred to by his full name in its entirety (although that probably didn’t help), and not necessarily because he played for Liverpool (although that definitely didn’t help), my dislike of him was mainly down to him keeping Andy Cole out of the England team. Andy Cole was more than capable of keeping himself out of the England team, thank you very much, Michael!
I remember, such was my antipathy, arguing that he’d taken the ball off Scholesy’s foot when he’d scored THAT goal against Argentina, and it was exactly that that had cost us the game, because obviously things would have turned out different if he hadn’t: his selfishness had changed the course of the match. I would sometimes begrudgingly admit he was a bit quicker than most and he could finish, granted, but all of his goals tended to look exactly the same, I mean couldn’t he have injected a bit of personality into his act? As for his left leg, why did he even bother with it? He should have been doing the honest thing and donating it to medical science, it was just taking up valuable space on an already overcrowded planet. What?! I’m a dick sometimes *Who said sometimes sarcastically?*
He left Liverpool and, unsurprisingly, my opinion of him thawed. At Real he was no longer the overly self-assertive middle-class kid, he was vulnerable. I admired the tenacity of the move and now he was team mates with our Becks, so was afforded some vicarious love by association (besides Becks could never handle all the love I had for him in one sitting). That vulnerability, that to me was now palpably stamped across his face (having been rubber-stamped by him being on first name terms with the members of the medical profession) made him more human. This was the kind of player I could get behind. He didn’t shy away from responsibility, he took risks and all the while he was deeply concerned, doubting himself physically and mentally, but facing it head on, and not only that, he was still succeeding. As a footballer you don’t tend to have much choice but to plough on with such a relatively short career, but you can certainly choose easier paths.
When his step-dad, Alan “Alan Shearer” Shearer convinced him to join Newcastle, I was pleased to have him back in the Prem. I ached for him to do well. Unfortunately his body ached under the pressure and simply refused to cut him any slack. He’d been regarded as one of the best English front men of his generation and, such is their wont, the press were sharpening their winkle pickers. But he just wouldn’t have it.
Happenstance brought him here … and why not? With self-titled marketing brochure under one arm and a copy of the Racing Post under the other, sporting sports socks with sports sandals (sorry that’s complete conjecture I made that bit up, painting pictures with words. I bet he does wear sports socks with sports sandals though), Michael Owen quickly bedded in, quite literally, and I was made up.
It’s reasonable to assert that Michael Owen’s United career has been a non-starter. The goal against City being the only real contribution of note. Although, I’d like to think his presence in the dressing room would have had a positive effect on our youthful squad. For the most part the naysayers can claim a cheap victory. Personally, just having him around, one of the golden generation, one of the players I’ve grown up with, a player I’ve grown to admire from afar, up close, was curiously exciting. Yes, there’s the Twitter-LOLS and yes, there’s his medical and wage bills to pick up: I’m by no stretch insinuating I’d pull up a chopped log and sit around a camp fire with him exchanging stories. Neither am I suggesting we should retire the number 7 shirt in his honour. My point is, it’s Michael Owen and against my better judgement, that it’s Michael Owen, The Michael Owen, was always enough for me.
His time at United can perhaps best be described as one man’s vaguely conceivable against-all-odds story with the fairy tale ending, that got left in its dust jacket. We were supposed to be his one last big job before he was being turned to glue. Maybe we’re the job before the one last big job? I hope so. For me it was a pleasure, albeit a guilty one. And I still wouldn’t mind checking his birth certificate against mine.