Michael James Owen (born 14 December 1979 in Chester) used to be one of the world’s best strikers but these days he’s a perennially injured forlorn character.
Owen grew up in a part of the world where you’re not from Wales but you kind of are. As a result, he had to regularly reject calls from the Welsh national side as a child in order to represent England.
Liverpool pounced to sign Owen at the age of 14, beating competition from Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, who routinely sign all school children of that age just in case they turn out to be any good.
It proved to be a fantastic decision as Owen, in spite of being small and conversationally inert, was really very good at scoring goals in football matches.
The pocket predator racked up the honours at Liverpool, a club whose recent future has been based on a policy of underachievement, lifting the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and securing the European Footballer of the Year award.
Owen capped a stellar 2001 by clinching the coveted prize of Best Player from Chester and the surrounding area, beating off stiff comeptition from such names as Lee Woodyatt and Rob Hulse.
In 2004, Owen surprised fans and pundits by signing for Real Madrid, citing the ease of getting there on low-cost airline Ryanair as a decisive factor.
After a slow start, Owen received harsh criticism from the knowledgeable Bernabeu fans.
Things turned around after an adjustment period and the diminutive dynamo netted 13 goals, topping La Liga’s chart for goals per minute. However, the knowledgeable Bernabeu fans gave him a hard time, claiming that Owen, like every other player past and present wasn’t good enough for the club.
Fed up with life in the sunny climate of Spain playing for one of the most decorated and prestigious clubs in the world, Owen understandably decided to sign for Newcastle United.
The fans at St James’ Park greeted Owen’s arrival with hysteria but quickly grew tired of him after four years of varying injuries and called for the return of Kevin Keegan up front in his place.
After leaving Newcastle as a free agent, Owen was amazingly offered a contract by Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and somehow passed a medical.
Owen was England’s youngest debutant when he started his first senior game in 1998 and he made his name at World Cup 1998 when he scored an incredible goal against Argentina.
The titchy star dodged round two swarthy Argentine defenders, weaved in and out of puddles of South American sweat and blasted home from the edge of the box.
It was obviously all in vain as England made their routine heartbreaking exit on penalties but Owen won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in spite of his lack of any discernible personality.
Nobody remembers the 2002 World Cup but the 2006 World Cup wasn’t quite as successful. Owen was clearly injured but was selected to play against Sweden where he did the ligaments in his knee. It looked like he was doing a silly walk as he slowly lowered himself to the ground on his limp leg.
The injury left unpopular bank Northern Rock, who sponsor Newcastle United, red-faced as they had launched an expensive advertising campaign with pictures of Owen and the slogan: “Make sure you bring him home in one piece.”
Owen came home a hobbling wreck who was never the same again and Northern Rock collapsed financially, although that was quite a long time later and possibly unrelated.
Off the pitch
Owen is the poster boy for gambling addiction but despite losses that would cripple any normal person he still had enough money to buy a whole street for his family – Austen Close in Ewloe.
A keen helicopter pilot, Owen used to fly himself to training but was banned from doing so by Newcastle United after Joey Barton cut Jose Enrique’s head clean off while landing his chopper last season.
Rather than having a surname, Michael Owen has two first names, just like Cameron Jerome.
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