Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughCan Michael Owen be Stoke’s fire? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Can Michael Owen be Stoke’s fire? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Can Michael Owen be Stoke’s fire?


After a lot of humming, harring and twitter updates, Michael Owen has signed and made his debut for Stoke city, but realistically what does he have to offer? I remember when in his final appearance for Newcastle he contributed a pitiful 6 touches in a full 90 minutes. I mocked his supposed predatory instincts. I had no inclination to believe he could cut it at the highest level anymore. What did I know? A comical brochure and a few months wait later, Fergie had snapped him up. After another very long summer as a free agent, Tony Pulis was all too eager to make Stoke City another football club playing in red and white for Owen to add to his footballing CV. I am not quick to lose sight of what Pulis may see in Owen. His goalscoring record is more than commendable, and includes an impressive 40 international goals for England. He has scored in several derbies, notably  producing the winner against Man city in injury time when at Manchester United. He was available for several games last season, even if he did not play, and Stoke have an abundance of tall strikers. Peter Crouch was one of several Stoke players to hail the signing, pointing out that he could link up with Owen to provide a deadly little and large partnership. He also stated it could reignite both players England prospects. He insists this is still possible despite both players being 31 and 32 respectively.

It is not rare for players who appear past their sell by date to keep delivering against the odds. Kevin Nolan, now 30, is a footballer not blessed with pace, yet has made a consistent habit of scoring goals by placing himself in the right areas of the pitch. If you compare Nolan to Owen, I think within this we can find the reasons behind the demise of Owen. Nolan thrives because of his physicality, ability to win headers, and ability to play “ugly” football. On the other hand, even if Owen remains fit every game of the season, he simply does not have the same type of physicality to rely on being in right place at the right time. Owen has a similar physicality to a player like Jermain Defoe, and has lost any semblance of pace. It is creditable that he’s taken a supposed 20k a week’s wages; even though I am sure it would not unduly concern Michael Owen’s financial position, to be able to offer his services for such a wage. The success of Owen is also dependant on how he is viewed. If he is seen as a similar signing to Henrik Larsson when he went to Manchester United for a 3 month spell, this move could work. If he is expected to rekindle Stoke’s forward line, as Crouch has suggested, then troubles could lay ahead. It also needs to be noted that Pulis has not succeeded in all his transfer gambles in the attacking department.  Tuncay was a cult figure on Teesside, who had a point to prove, in a similar way to Owen, after being written off as a spent force. The roll of the dice on playing him in Stoke’s forward line ended in a lacklustre return of goals on that occasion, and I expect Owen’s transfer to achieve the same result.

It must be said the timing of the move has to be questioned. Owen is aware the move should have been made a year ago, when he alongside Berbatov knew they would make little to no starts for Manchester United. It is easy for Michael Owen to talk the words, but Stoke are a team who graft for each point they earn. They show this, in particular, against the big guns, as they proved again by earning another valuable point against premier league champions, Man City.  Owen will have to eat a lot of humble pie and accept he’s not a pivotal figure. It has been a long time since Owen has been consistently scoring in a premier league environment, with 5 goals from 31 appearances at Man United. The premier league is a fast adapting environment and can cruelly chew and spit out strikers. It strikes even those who seemingly have pace and desire, such as David Ngog who never managed to suss out the premier League. In spite of this, I can’t blame Pulis for being nostalgic and looking for a deal. It has to considered though that when we say this “free” is no gamble, that isn’t correct. Ineffective players waste time and money. At a time when each premier league place is valued at £800,000, minimum, each place in the 25 man squads are so valuable. Stoke are dying for a consistent 15-20 goal a season striker and aiming to break into the top 10. Now whilst I accept finding strikers of that pedigree don’t come cheap, bringing Owen as a solution to this problem is like buying clothes in the January sales. It initially appears a great deal for a designer brand, but then as you look at your purchase you often realise it was least desirable item in the range. In the same way Michael Owen was a free agent on the disposables shelf for a reason. I would not be surprised if Owen has an initial bright spell, but expecting a player who has not flourished figure heading an attack for a long spell, to roll back time, is ambitious. Owen and Stoke both need this fix to work for different reasons and it could revitalise both. Although I must say that I can’t see Owen being a success at Stoke, as they don’t have the luxury of a cameo striker, in the same mode as Man United. Despite this, I am glad the move has happened, as, whether you like him or not, Owen draws in the attention of football fans .He will be a great re- addition to the premier league in some shape or form, just not in footballing terms.

Grant Miles