Michael Owen: Corporate Boy Scout Of A Footballer

Why does nobody but Michael Owen and various people at the FA/BBC love Michael Owen? Despite what the TV tells us, people really don't seem to like him...

Last Updated: 19/03/13 at 14:00 Post Comment

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The difference is jarring. As the office TVs spew out highlights of Michael Owen goals, tributes from former teammates and texts/tweets from football fans declaring him a #legend as Owen himself gently weeps, my computer displays e-mails and comments trickling in from Football365 readers.

I hear that he is retiring to pursue a television career after his charismatic appearance on Celebrity Family Fortunes...' - Lori Peri.

The saddest thing about Owen's retirement is the inevitable appointment to the MOTD team and coverage team of the next big tournament. I can hardly wait - Alex Tristram, Gooner.

So is Tony Pulis going to head down to the local park to find a tramp to replace Michael Owen? Sitting on benches - that is what Owen does right? - Graham Simons, Gooner but with Scouse roots so hates the guy, Norf London.

Never, in the field of human history, has any contributed less to a club for so long, as Michael Owen at United - Chris MUFC.

Those four e-mails have not been selected for their vitriol or even chosen at random; those were the first four e-mails to be sent to theeditor@football365.com on Tuesday morning when the news was announced. Yes, we attract the cynical. Yes, we attract the sneery. But it's impossible to escape the notion that England's Michael Owen is little loved by England.

Owen claims that he "shook the world in his day" and yet many among you would laugh rather than nod at that boast. When former BBC man James Pearce tweeted that he was a 'gentleman, family man, role model' (and #legend, of course), the difference between the establishment and the majority of cynics on our Twitter feed became clear. Owen is a player admired by the Match of the Day 'say what you see' generation (perfect, as that his surely his destiny) but not by many beyond. He's a corporate boy scout of a footballer.

But surely everyone loves a boy scout; so why isn't Owen loved? Is it something inherent in his style of play? Pure finishers are rarely loved in the same way as creators and dribblers. And pure finishers that over-rely on pace even less so. The phrase 'he'd be nothing if he wasn't quick' is a ridiculous but familiar barb to aim at the likes of Theo Walcott. Nobody really loves Darren Bent or Jermain Defoe because they 'just score goals'. Owen 'just scores goals' and 'he'd be nothing if he wasn't quick'. It's not a combination that creates heroes.

Is it because he doesn't have a loyal band of club fans to jump to his defence? While players like Ryan Giggs, Alan Shearer and Steven Gerrard may have attracted plenty of opprobrium, they have at least one set of loyal fans who will defend them to the hilt. Leaving Liverpool did not endear him to a set of supporters who always preferred Robbie Fowler, Newcastle fans seethe at the mention of his name despite his weak attempt at an 'Howay the lads' greeting at his unveiling, Manchester United fans are largely baffled by Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to gift him three years and a title winner's medal and Stoke fans are just plain baffled.

Is it his sense of self-worth? This is the man who endorsed a 32-page brochure advertising his own talents, dismissed any notion that he could possibly follow Ian Wright and Andy Cole in playing lower down the football leagues, picked three of his own goals as his best memories of three years at United and said he'd "given up trying to understand" Fabio Capello's decision not to recall him for England when he barely playing, never mind scoring, for United. He shook the world in his day, you know.

Is it his sheer dullness? A sample tweet from @themichaelowen reads 'The Masters Snooker Final is on today. In between football matches I will defo channel hop to watch a bit. I love a bit of snooker!'. But of course we knew that already as he had a snooker table flown out to Madrid. You should also know that Owen does not watch films because they're 'not real'. When the FA say they hope Owen 'can share his experience with our younger players in the future', you can't help feeling sorry for those younger footballers.

Bizarrely, it quite often seems to be his injuries - the one thing which is surely beyond his control. This culminated in Stoke boss Tony Pulis' admission in December that he was injured by a cold draught in the gym. He has not played 90 minutes of a Premier League game since November 2009. We do tend to have little sympathy for the afflicted - Darren Anderton, Emile Heskey and Abou Diaby among those mocked for their fragility - but perhaps the equation is more about injury + big wages + self-worth = disdain.

Whatever the reason, there are few people not wearing suits who will mourn the official end of Owen's career, whatever they try to tell us on Sky Sports News.

Sarah Winterburn

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