THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

28 January ~ In light of the recent race row between Luis Suárez and Patrice Evra, today's FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Manchester United is expected to be played out in a particularly poisonous atmosphere. But there will be one potentially explosive ingredient missing, in the form of an injured Michael Owen. He is deeply disliked by the majority of Liverpool fans. Exactly why he is so unpopular is less well known. The fact that Owen plays for their most hated rivals doesn't endear him to the Liverpool fans. But considering the injury-plagued, bit-part role he has at Old Trafford, most Liverpool supporters are happy to see him on the United bench – as opposed to say, Karim Benzema or David Villa.

The true source of the anti-Owen sentiment can be traced back as far as St Etienne and the 1998 World Cup. Initially Liverpool fans were full of pride that "one of ours" could score one of the great World Cup goals, as he did for England's against Argentina. After returning to the club, however, it was soon evident that the nation's newest sensation was drunk on national adoration. From St Etienne on, he was England's Michael Owen and never Liverpool's.

Suddenly every post-game interview was dominated with references to an upcoming England game, no matter how important the one he had just played in for Liverpool was or how meaningless the England fixture. Owen would routinely rush himself back from injury to prove his fitness ahead of a pointless England friendly. He took considerably longer to return to Liverpool's first team when there was no forthcoming international match.

It soon became abundantly clear that Owen's major career goal was to eclipse Bobby Charlton's international goalscoring record of 49. He clearly thought this would cement his reputation as England's greatest-ever forward. Hindsight has shown him to be misguided. As Robbie Keane has since demonstrated with the Republic of Ireland, you don't need to be world class to reach a half-century of international goals. A willingness to turn up for games against San Marino, Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein will suffice.

Owen's obsession with England only explains part of the ill feeling. There is also the question of his personality. First came his covert attempts to oust crowd favourite Robbie Fowler by telling every interviewer he much preferred playing alongside non-scoring battering-ram Emile Heskey. His reasoning, one suspects, was that Fowler was both more popular with the fans and also a better all-round footballer.

When Liverpool sold Fowler to Leeds, Owen became the undisputed king of the club. And boy did he know it. Not content with influencing personnel and playing style, he procrastinated over signing a new contract, allowing it to run down to the point where Real Madrid were able to buy him for £8 million – a scandalous fee for a recent recipient of the European Player of the Year award. The fact that Owen had explicitly promised not to allow this scenario to occur made his actions all the more galling.

Any lingering doubts about where ambition and money came in the Owen pecking order were extinguished upon his return to English football. He chose to play for Newcastle United, a circus show at the time, over newly crowned European champions Liverpool. Unable to match Newcastle's wages, all Liverpool could offer was the chance to play Champions League football with a new manager. They went on to win that season's FA Cup, reach another European Cup final the following season and play Champions League football in every year of Rafa Benitez's reign, unlike Newcastle.

Herein lies the one saving grace of Owen – the amount of schadenfreude he affords Liverpool fans. His career has never reached the peaks it did at Anfield. While he was on the bench at the Bernabéu, Liverpool were busy winning the greatest prize in club football. Contrary to Owen's clearly held belief, it turned out he wasn't bigger than the club after all. Paul Cantwell

Comments (31)
Comment by grahamjohn678 2012-01-28 10:56:54

Liverpool are a cynical multinational and they can't complain if one of their most talented players acts as cynically as the club that nurtured him. I have no sympathy for you at all.

When you're next at The Hawthorns, I will happily discuss this comment with any of your fans, provided they are from from Merseyside. Unfortunately, the majority of your supporters are cynical glory hunters, who chose to support Liverpool because they are more successful than their local club.

Comment by PRB 2012-01-28 16:09:09

Every other teams fans would act in the same way, it's just a part of sport and it isn't limited to football.

So because I am not from Liverpool but have supported them since I was a little boy through my dad, it makes me a cynical glory hunter who choose to support the club because of their success over my local club Bangor in the Irish League? Or, is it okay because I don't live in England where you MUST support your home town team?

Comment by Liffrok 2012-01-28 18:32:39

...so if your dad had supported Brentford or Walsall, you'd have supported them would you?

Comment by PRB 2012-01-28 19:02:20

It's unlikely someone from Northern Ireland is going to support Brentford or Walsall. Actually it's unlikely anyone is unless they come from those respective towns so that comment is a bit silly. Had I been from one of those towns then possibly I would have.

But, had he somehow supported say Nottingham Forest, Everton, Leeds or Aston Villa then yes I probably would be a fan of those teams, yes. A lot of people become fans of teams through their family line, especially when they don't live in England. Now, had I recently decided to support Chelsea or very recently decided to support Man City, then that might have been different.

Is it the case that because you support Liverpool and are not from Liverpool then you can't really be a fan? I now live in Canada and I know of many dedicated life long fans who will be bitterly disappointed.

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath II 2012-01-28 20:34:50

"As Robbie Keane has since demonstrated with the Republic of Ireland, you don't need to be world class to reach a half-century of international goals. A willingness to turn up for games against San Marino, Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein will suffice."

Silly comment, given that exactly five of Keane's 53 international goals were scored against those outfits.

Then again, "A willingness to turn up for, and score in, competitive internationals against Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, France, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Iran" wouldn't have had the same ring to it, though.

Comment by diggedy derek 2012-01-29 00:14:15

Can't put my finger on it, but this is an unusually small minded, personality focused and big club -centric piece for WSC.

Michael Owen, Liverpool.... tell me something we don't already know, please.

Comment by Kowalski 2012-01-29 09:17:58

It's nail on the head stuff

Comment by bangsection 2012-01-29 11:24:27

"It's unlikely someone from Northern Ireland is going to support Brentford or Walsall. Actually it's unlikely anyone is unless they come from those respective towns so that comment is a bit silly."

As the owner of South East Asia's largest chain of Walsall-themed sports bars I resent that comment. Each year tens of thousands of ex-pats and locals visit these establishments to enjoy the latest League One action or simply to meet like-minded people for whom the Saddlers have become a way of life.

In 2010, a personal appearance by Dean Keates drew a crowd of over 20,000 to our Singapore branch. Unfortunately, frustrated fans became restless and had to be dispersed by riot police.

Comment by heedmaster 2012-01-29 18:52:25

Many Newcastle fans, especially my wife and son, also share Paul Cantwell's views on Michael Owen. He spent most of his time on Tyneside in the treatment room, more interested in developing his horse racing interests than on playing football. His arrival was greeted with wild enthusiasm (by the media, at least) but it soon became apparent that he viewed Newcastle as a stepping stone to greater things - England, possibly, the Milanese clubs, maybe - and never really gave his all to Newcastle. Towards the end of his Toon 'career' he had probably given up hope of resurrecting his role as England's spearhead.
A potentially great career blighted by a failure to recognise that hard work as well as innate talent was what was required in the English game.

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2012-01-29 20:56:36

He's still banging on about playing for England before playing for United, these days too.

Comment by Alex Walker 2012-01-30 04:42:02

I seem to recall that it wasn't Owen that refused to return to Liverpool, but rather Liverpool refused to sign him. Newcastle offered £16.5 million, Liverpool baulked at that price. It was the transfer fee that was the issue, not personal terms.

I'll be honest, I thought that Owen did play better alongside Heskey than Fowler, despite Fowler being the better player. England managers seemed to agree, with Heskey racking up 62 caps whilst contributing just 7 goals, the same total Fowler managed in 26 games.

Comment by trickydicky 2012-01-30 10:38:32

Many Liverpool fans, me included, really do hate Michael Owen, but this article articulates it badly and makes us appear bitter. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but I never liked Owen as much as Fowler, even when he was at his peak. He never seemed as happy as Fowler when he scored. Sounds simplistic and petty but its true. Fowler also came across as much more of a team player than Owen. Also, Fowler was a very good, and in my opinion hugely underrated, all round footballer who didn't require a team to sit deep and play mind bendingly dull and predictable counter attacking football for him to prosper. Fowler was a technique, rather than physique, player, which I have always appreciated more being short of pace and physical presence myself. Owen relied on his pace, and Heskey, well, he relied on the generosity of a series of apparently blind managers. Also, whereas Fowler had to be thrown out of the club by a manager who had lost the plot, Owen jumped at the chance to leave the moment he thought his commercial interests could be better met elsewhere. We'd had a couple of tough seasons and insteaqd of digging in, like Gerrard, he took off, attempting to be Beckham. That he chose Newcastle over us on his return, and then signed for Man Utd just underlined what we already knew, that he is a horrible, slimy little loner only interested in himself. You can bet your life if Owen scored for United at Anfield he would run around and celebrate like it was the best thing on earth. Because for him it would be. That's why he is hated. We need not be bitter about it though. Since he left he has gone from being one of the most dangerous strikers on earth to an injury plagued nobody, and has lost his beloved England place. £8m seems like a decent deal now.

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath II 2012-01-30 11:13:35

"Also, whereas Fowler had to be thrown out of the club by a manager who had lost the plot, Owen jumped at the chance to leave the moment he thought his commercial interests could be better met elsewhere. "

Who in their right mind wouldn't have left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2004?

Does McManaman get this kind of treatment as well, having done exactly the same thing in 1999? Of course he doesn't.

Comment by bugblatter 2012-01-30 11:20:30

What exactly is wrong with wanting to play for England? It's a sad fact that fans of the big clubs these days put their own club's success ahead of England's. They'd rather see qualification to the Champions League than England winning the World Cup. Football league fans think differently and are proud of their players should they representing their country.

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2012-01-30 12:16:14

As the article appears to be on some moral high horse maybe it should have been on the embarrassing behaviour of Liverpool Football Club lately and the staggering booing of Evra on Saturday. It would certainly be more relevant than bitching about a player who left you seven years ago.

Comment by jameswba 2012-01-30 13:32:15

'.....the staggering booing of Evra on Saturday.' But apparently, booing a player because his accusation of racial abuse against one of yours was upheld is 'good-natured banter'.

Really, this has been a truly squalid few weeks in the history of Liverpool Football Club and dredging up old accusations of disloyalty against Michael Owen isn't going to change that.

Comment by jonmid 2012-01-30 14:41:42

I was talking to a liverpool supporting friend about this article and he said he was never bothered about Owen playing for England nor did he detect Owen putting England over Liverpool, although he dislikes Owen for being a mercenery and going to Newcastle over Liverpool

Comment by Guernican 2012-01-30 15:27:54

This article - presumably, although not necessarily, written by a Liverpool fan - says so much more about them as fans than it does about Owen as player.

Fundamentally, it comes down to love, right? Unrequited love. We loved you, Michael. We were willing to set you above all others. And you, it turned out, didn't love us as much, and so... we hate you. It's an entirely reasonable response. Assuming you're 4.

I have a reasonable number of intelligent, articulate and emotionally mature Scouse mates. It's a good thing too: read articles like this and you'd be excused for thinking that the red half of the city was populated entirely but desperate, squeaky, needy little toerags with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

Comment by Bill Poster 2012-01-30 15:38:41

The analogy with Beckham only partly holds. While it was obvious that Beckham was very interested in building his world-wide brand while still at Man United, he has since always spoken well of the team, the manager and his time there.

Owen has never spoken well of Liverpool, barely even mentioned the name.

Despite all the goals he scored and the success he brought (like winning the 2001 FA Cup Final by mugging Arsenal with 2 late goals), there were no chants for Owen, and his name was hardly ever sung by the crowd. He was of Liverpool, but he wasn't Liverpool.

I think I agree that this was forged in St Etienne in 1998 after THAT goal, he craved the world adoration and the wider stage that England gave him.

While I think he would have preferred to re-sign for Liverpool on his return to England, the Newcastle bid and the fact that he had engineered his cut price sale a year earlier to Read Madrid did for that. Why should Liverpool pay back more than twice his sale price. His own treachery came back to haunt him then.

Still, on the plus side, we do at least now have a chant for him: "Where were you in Istanbul..?"

Comment by Coral 2012-01-30 16:02:31

It is these sentences that rub me up the wrong way particularly

"It soon became abundantly clear that Owen's major career goal was to eclipse Bobby Charlton's international goalscoring record of 49" In what way? When he was rubbing his hands in his famous celebration after scoring for Liverpool or when he was banging them in the FA Cup?

"He clearly thought this would cement his reputation as England's greatest-ever forward." He clearly thought this? Or you think he clearly thought this? Not even just thought this but clearly, beyond all other doubt this is what he was thinking?

"his covert attempts to oust crowd favourite Robbie Fowler by telling every interviewer he much preferred playing alongside non-scoring battering-ram Emile Heskey. His reasoning, one suspects, was that Fowler was both more popular with the fans and also a better all-round footballer"

Think you missed a trick here. He scored most of his England goals when Heskey was playing alongside him, so clearly he said he liked Heskey more as it favoured his England career. Well it could be that or it could be having a big target man alongside to supply the ball and take the hits is more useful than a poacher whose only (but immense) talent is scoring goals.

Comment by thesaturdayboy 2012-01-30 17:41:21

and people still wonder why the rest of the country think scousers have a chip on their shoulder

Comment by PRB 2012-01-30 22:58:04

bangsection: "As the owner of South East Asia's largest chain of Walsall-themed sports bars I resent that comment."

I apologize if it came off that way and it wasn't meant to be a shot at Walsall in and shape or form. What I meant was 'it's unlikely' someone from Northern Ireland is going to support them, not that nobody would. I only back that up with the knowledge that growing up I never met anyone who did support them or was ever likely to. I'm surprised at the widespread support you's do have though and find it impressive. It's good to hear.

Comment by reddybrek 2012-01-31 11:26:42

Ive been previously dismissed as a glory hunting cockney bastard on here before dont worry about it.

Such is the big club buggering capacity of this site that Im surprised this post saw the light of day.

WCS is too rad man. The mere utterance of Liverpool Football Club serves only to bind together the uber fans so lets stick it to the man by writing 5 paragraphs about the latest floodlight bulb to be changed at Ketterings ground. Revolution brothers!!

Anyway very good article. As a supporter of both Liverpool and England I always found the Owen bating unnecessary. Having won the Champions League is it then good form to rub Owens face in it?

Did Keegan get this treatment when returning to Anfield with other clubs?

Owen left for a bigger club but deteriorated badly and eventually ended up permanently on Utds treatment table. Its actually quite sad for a striker as good as any other that England has produced.

Mocking him at every opportunity leaves a bad taste in the mouth and makes the fans of Liverpool look childish. Even I can see that amid my cockerny knees up daan ere guv.

Comment by Coral 2012-01-31 16:26:58

Successful personification of most Liverpool fans as I see them: Check

Comment by spino11 2012-01-31 22:11:24

As I vaguely remember Owen's move to Real Madrid he said that he wanted to win some silverware (ie the Champions League). Then what happens when he leaves? Liverpool win it!
I suspect that Owen's problem was like Gerrard he gave the impression of Liverpool being the only team for him

Comment by spino11 2012-01-31 22:12:36

As I vaguely remember Owen's move to Real Madrid he said that he wanted to win some silverware (ie the Champions League). Then what happens when he leaves? Liverpool win it!
I suspect that Owen's problem was like Gerrard he gave the impression of Liverpool being the only team for him but events showed otherwise

Comment by madmickyf 2012-02-02 03:45:26

I don't know about Michael Owen but I definitely don't like Scousers of the red variety. You can blame King Kenny and his interminable moaning about the plastic pitch at Kenilworth Road.

Comment by trimleysven 2012-02-03 15:12:05

This is an astonishingly small-minded attack in a fairly inoffensive, if rather dull, player. I'm afraid it does rather reinforce the "chippy scouser" stereotype that so many subscribe to. You've done yourself, and you're club, no favours at all here...

Comment by howardwebb 2012-02-03 16:18:16

One thing missing in all these anglocentric comments is the fact that (alas) Owen is Welsh. All his early and present life is spent in the area of Hawarden,Flintshire (I played football against their Grammar School team when I was a teenager at Llangollen Grammar School).

Whenever Owen's name is mentioned in Wales, it tends to be accompanied with the Welsh word "bradwr" which means "traitor".

Comment by Alex Walker 2012-02-07 02:37:11

That's basically rubbish. He was born in Cheshire, to a Scouse father. He was a rabid Everton fan, who's favourite player was Gery Liniker.

He just happened to live in Wales. I spent a fair while living in Yorkshire, as well as going to school there. I'm still Lancastrian though.

Comment by enda_c 2012-02-07 20:32:22

Some good points made regarding Owen, but the air of seething resentment is toxic basically. Similar things could be said about Torres, Heskey, Keane, Morientes and are being said about Carroll now, even though he insists on still being on the team. In fact if one were to list all the current aspects of Liverpool FC that are overrated it would be the blog equiv of waiting for the entire population of China to walk past you. So Owen won't be respected in the same way as Growler, Stevie GBH or Dirk Kuyt. He'll just have to shoulder that burden, won't he

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