NICK JACKSON: Owen deserves all tributes coming his way
11:00pm Friday 22nd March 2013 in Sport
TRIBUTES rightly abound for Michael Owen who announced his intention this week to hang up his boots at the end of season.
It comes as no surprise to me that the 33-year-old former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United man has decided to quit after failing to get into a Stoke City team which, in all fairness, plays a style of football that does not suit him.
Owen has had a few detractors over the years, but they are mainly partisan football fans who have got the hump because he’s either left their club, or taken too much interest for their liking in his second love – horse racing.
But the intelligent football fraternity – yes, one does actually exist – ranks Owen alongside Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer as one of the top four England finishers ever.
I would add Wanderers’ late, great Nat Lofthouse to that list because he had one of the best goals-per-game ratios for England.
Regardless of Owen’s under-achievement in his injury-plagued later years, he has given us some priceless moments as a footballer.
I never tire of seeing that goal he scored against Argentina at the France World Cup in 1998, or the hat-trick he scored for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England in their 5-1 thrashing of England in Munich in 2001.
The wonderful thing for Owen is that he has the demeanour to continue to earn one heck of a good living in his football afterlife – in the media, alongside the likes of Messrs Lineker, Alan Hansen and Shearer – if he so chooses.
My only disappointment is that he did not see fit to explore alternative footballing possibilities in the autumn of his career at a lower level.
I recall Kevin Keegan going to Second Division Newcastle after enjoying a brilliant career at Liverpool and Hamburg, who were a club with a big European tradition in the 1980s.
Owen has made no secret of his unwillingness to play for any club below the top level, but you wonder whether he could have had a positive “Keegan-esque” impact at a slightly lower level.
The player has his own reasons for not doing that, and, unlike some football fans, I believe he is entitled for his career decisions to be respected. Owen played bit parts for United when they won the title in 2010-11 and, regardless of what anyone else thinks, I’m delighted he got a medal.