Not finished yet, Owen’s still got much more to give.

I’ll never forget the World Cup in 98. One main reason is because it was what opened my eyes to football. I had just turned six, unaware of the so-called beautiful game. I was ill from school one day and had to stay home, not knowing that it was the same day that England played Tunisia in the Group Stages. I was hooked immediately; I can vividly remember Paul Scholes grabbing a last minute goal in what ended a 2-0 victory for Glenn Hoddle’s men.

As the tournament progressed I found myself becoming more and more enchanted by this wonderful sporting event. The memory that runs deepest though is a goal I knew would be one of the finest I’d ever see. When Michael Owen picked the ball up against Argentina and went on to score that sensational solo effort, I had a new hero. 

That night in Saint-Etienne ended with the Three Lions going out on penalties. I cried myself to sleep; reliving David Batty’s failed spot-kick over and over again in my head.

Yet, the football bug had infected me and for the rest of the year I was constantly in the park, always pretending to be Owen. My position instantly became up-front and I practised for hours to be able to finish like the then Liverpool front-man.

Nearly thirteen years later and to this day, Owen is still my favourite player of all-time. That’s why nowadays the constant criticism the striker gets still annoys me to the point of sheer confusion.

Only yesterday I read a comment stating that Owen is overrated. Overrated? When was the last time he was even given a rating by anyone. Simply, this season at Manchester United, the former England forward has not had the chance, and frankly, it’s a waste. 

This week, Owen was linked to Derby County. Now, whilst that rumour is surely nonsense, a move away from Old Trafford is something I believe Owen needs if he is to prove himself to the doubters.

Not that he has anything to prove, his goal-record of just under a goal every two games speaks for itself, but the 31 year-old is such a determined character who wants nothing but to play week in, week out and is not the type of player to be happy sitting on the bench, taking his pay cheque.

Cue sarcastic sniggers from any Newcastle fans reading, but really, what exactly could Owen have done differently during his time at St. James’ Park? The man was constantly injured through no fault of his own and when he couldn’t save the Magpies from relegation, he left as a result of his contract expiring. Many say he didn’t repay the club after they stood by him through his injury troubles. Well if he didn’t care, then Owen wouldn’t have stayed the extra season he did, and under a chairman who once said he would happily “carry him back to Liverpool” himself, than the notion of the club wanting loyalty is quite hypocritical. Having left at the end of his contract, Owen felt his talents could still be offered at the highest level and he was right.

Owen is, and always will be, a predator. Given the chance, he’ll score. People always talk about him having lost “a yard of pace”. Well what may be lost in the legs, will never go in the mind and scoring a goal is something Owen knows better than most. His runs off-the-ball are world class. I challenge everyone to watch his movement during a match; it’s a lesson for all would-be strikers. Even in midweek against Schalke, Owen managed to time his run perfectly and find himself through on goal, before being stopped by a poor offside call. The time he was on the pitch? A mere 13 minutes.

I also draw your attention to last season, the Manchester derby. Who was keeping his head when everybody around him was losing their’s? Owen was, cleverly pulling away from the panicking City defence, staying onside when it was easy for lesser individuals to wander off, before the forward found space, took one touch and made his match-winning finish look easy. Let me remind you, that one-on-one came in the 96th minute of an intense derby, poised at 3-3, in-front of just over 75,000 fans. Not many watching would have kept their nerve.

One of my favourite goals I ever saw Owen score in the flesh was two seasons ago, against Portsmouth in a 3-0 victory for Newcastle. The striker stayed onside and somehow lifted the ball over David James as both the keeper and defender Sol Campbell came to challenge him. He ran away to the Sky Sports camera and I swear to this very day, he uttered the words “How the **** did I get that in?”

Because he’s a good striker, that’s how. This season has brought the emergence of Javier Hernandez, and the Mexican has really shone. It’s easy to draw comparisons between the two; both are clinical finishers with a born-instinct for goals. However, had Owen played the same amount of time as Hernandez this campaign, he would have scored equally as many goals.

The thing is, at United, Owen has the right team but the wrong time. As Owen’s second season at the Red Devils comes to an end, he is merely being used as an impact substitute when he could easily be a leading marksman for the majority of the sides in the Premier League. Obviously though, a good striker is useless without service and at United, Owen will never be short of opportunities to score. If he does move on in the summer, a team who are good at creating chances but not finishing them would be ideal for the Englishman.

So which club would be perfect? Well in my opinion, it’s Everton. David Moyes lacks one player from having a team ready to really push for European football again and that is a proven goalscorer at the highest level. Moyes’ team are certainly not lacking creativity, but have been starved of a prolific finisher this campaign. It could be time for Owen to return to the club perceived to be the one he supported as a boy and show everyone exactly what they’ve been missing.

This season, Owen has started a measly four games. How many goals has he scored in those starts? Three is your answer. Granted, they came against lower league sides in Southampton and Scunthorpe, but you can only score past what’s in-front of you.

Owen may well stay at United, and this year could be one that brings a first Premier League title and a Champions League medal into the forward’s trophy room. 

Yet I can’t help but think the talent is wasted, and should the move come in the summer, watch out next season for the lethal striker I have come to adore.

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