Monday 22 June ~
The first day of Wimbledon marks the beginning of two months when football isn’t an automatic choice for backpage headlines. Unless Andy Murray falls in the first round and Australia cruise to victory in the first three Test matches (the second of these certainly a scenario we should not discount) then fans of transfer tittle-tattle and the managerial merry-go-round will have to wade through countless pages of jingoism and vague xenophobia before finding out that Kevin Nolan may or may not be going to Blackburn. And they say summer isn’t the same in a non-World Cup year.
This leaves two strikers who at different times could command half a sport section each for their achievements now scrabbling for a move to save their careers while being largely ignored by clubs and the public alike. Michael Owen and Andriy Shevchenko are both former winners of the Ballon d’Or, both at times arguably the greatest goalscorers in the world and both today featured in slightly bleak stories of them trying to reignite their careers.
Shevchenko, it is easy to forget, plays for Chelsea. Having spent last season on loan at AC Milan (where he delivered an uninspiring two goals in nine games) he is now supposedly hoping that the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti will help him finally prove his worth at Stamford Bridge. Though in telling the Corriere dello Sport “on 9 July I will join Chelsea in pre-season training, then we will see what happens” you do feel he not may believe he will be picking up the golden boot next May. At least Shevchenko can blame his fall from grace on age, at 32 he is past his best and he will surely not be too disappointed that his reputation gained in previous years sees clubs like Roma still interested in signing him.
The same cannot be said of Michael Owen, who at 29 should be at his peak but today finds himself a Championship player being linked with a move to Hull City. Whether it is through injuries or a string of bad career decisions Owen has managed to ruin any reputation he ever acquired, to the point where his management company apparently recently sent a brochure to potential buyers to remind them of his achievements. Never slow to push his face into the papers, Phil Brown has admitted his interest has been pricked, though surely moving to a club that won one game after Christmas and is managed by a man who sang karaoke on the pitch to celebrate staying up is even beyond Owen’s misguided decision making. Josh Widdicombe