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'Great' Owen deserves respect from all

TEAMtalk guest Tom McDermott believes striker Michael Owen has been a world-class English footballer and deserves total respect.

Last Updated: 19/03/13 at 14:11 Post Comment

Michael Owen: Has been a world-class English footballer

Michael Owen: Has been a world-class English footballer

When you compile a list of the best strikers in the world over the course of the last 30 years, Michael Owen's name will probably feature somewhere.

He was quick, fearless, a scorer of goals and a big game player.

He went abroad and performed at one of the biggest clubs in the world. He was, for a time, world class.

He was English. And, as English fans, we should be proud.

So, what do you think about when you hear the name Michael Owen? Consider it for a moment.

Is it that goal against Argentina during World Cup 1998? Is it his double for Liverpool against Arsenal in the FA Cup final in 2001? What about his hat-trick for England in Germany later that year? Or maybe it was his strike for Real Madrid against Barcelona in the Bernabeu? The red half of Manchester will remember fondly his winner in the Manchester derby for United against City in stoppage time. Or, more recently, many will reflect on his injury struggles.

I include the line about Owen's injuries because it adds to the man's status as one of English football's greats.

Owen has been criticised in recent years for his inability to hold down a regular starting role at Manchester United and more recently at Stoke City.

Rather than criticise him for this, it underlines the desire and commitment the man had for the game.

Owen doesn't need the money, he could have swapped the football pitch for more time with his horses a few years ago but the spirit which enabled him to enjoy so much success also prolonged his career despite the odds.

Owen scored his first goal for Liverpool on his debut against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in May 1997. It was significant because it was the business end of the season and there was plenty going on at other grounds around the country. But, when we heard that Michael Owen had scored for Liverpool that night, everyone realised that the youngster we had heard so much about had arrived.

The inevitable 'boy wonder' headlines followed, and a year later, in St Etienne during World Cup '98, Owen announced himself to the world.

His slalom type run through the Argentinian defence from halfway before clipping the ball over the out rushing Carlos Roa was not only a world-class and soon to be trademark piece of Owen magic, it was the first of a number of goals the player would score in big football matches across Europe.

Owen possessed the skill, temperament and ability to frighten the life out of defenders anywhere in his side's attacking third. He also combined that with a tactical understanding of how the game should be played which has meant that as his career has slowed down over recent years he has still been able to contribute to whichever side he has played for with important goals.

Throughout his career Owen scored in four major tournaments for England and is fourth on their all-time goal scoring list. He was voted the best player in Europe in 2001 and won the Ballon d'Or. Injury meant that he wasn't at his best during his spell at Newcastle but still managed to score 30 goals in 79 appearances.

In total he has scored over 200 career goals, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and the UEFA cup. He is still the youngest player to score 100 Premier League goals. You might not always have supported the teams Owen has represented but it's hard to question his quality.

I have highlighted a few of the defining moments from Owen's career but the one alternative Owen moment I would like to draw attention to occurred during England's group match against Argentina at World Cup 2002 which was held in South Korea and Japan.

The incident in question sums up Owen's willingness to win but also highlights a rare trait in the modern day player - honesty.

The game was billed as David Beckham's chance for revenge following his red card against the Argentinians four years earlier. During that encounter we witnessed not only Owen's wonder strike but Beckham's unforgettable red card after kicking out at Diego Simeone.

Just before half-time Owen won a penalty for England after being tripped by Mauricio Pochettino (yes, the current Southampton manager!). Beckham duly dispatched from the spot but Owen later admitted that he "could have stayed on my feet".

Looking back it was a bizarre statement from a man at the peak of his powers but one which increased his popularity at the time. Here was a great player, prepared to admit that he went down. Why should he say otherwise? It was part of the game wasn't it?

England went on to win the game and Beckham took all the headlines. Without Owen, though, Beckham's chance of revenge would have had to have to waited for another day.

The point is Owen has contributed so much in different ways to English football at home and abroad that it is hard to understand why he has faced so much criticism in recent years.

Owen had the bravery, skill and honesty to make it to the top but also knew when it was time to hang up his boots.

I'm sure there are a few players younger than Owen picking up a living today that should have retired.

In short, it's quite simple. Michael Owen has been a great, world-class English footballer, and for that deserves our respect.

Follow Tom McDermott on Twitter here

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