The Death of the Goal Hanger


After the recent-ish breaking news of the imminent retirement of Michael Owen, is it one of the final nails in the coffin of the “Poacher”?

Firstly, off the top of my head, I cannot think of any other player who is mainly a fox in the box, feeds off anything that is 6-12 yards out in the modern game. Maybe Chicarito of United but I feel his future lies with a more complete forward role.

Michael James Owen, wonder kid of the late 90’s, infamous for his ability to leave a defender for dead had the world at his feet aged 19. With 118 goals in 216 appearances for Liverpool, a move to the continent seemed a strange one in 2004 when he signed for Real Madrid, arriving in the pomp of the Galácticos, he would be tasked with competing against Raúl and Ronaldo for a striking position. As expected, he was used as a substitute for his Madrid career, and with his injury problems starting to creep in at the latter stages of his Liverpool career, he never really made the impact he did during his first stint in the Premier League, but with 18 goals in 41 games (15 of the 41 were starts) he had the highest goals to time played ratio in his first & last year in Spain.

In my eyes, this is where Owen attempted to adapt his game when he returned to the Great British shores and signed for Newcastle in August, 2005. But, during his time away, the English game had left Owen behind; when he left it was a 4-4-2 culture where strikers would feed off one another, Heskey to Owen as an England example and more 4-5-1 formations were introduced with Mourinho the pioneer of the system that is still popular 8 years on. Didier Drogba was the new sought after prospect instead of an Ian Rush. Teams wanted a big physical striker who’s all round game needed no little man to partner them and rely more on holding onto the ball to bring late runners from the midfield if needed. With the sale of van Nistelrooy a year later, which saw him score 150 goals in less than 200 appearances, it really did seem the decline in luxury front men had started. But at the start of his Newcastle career he was on fire, with 7 goals in his first 10 games and in November 2005, scoring 2 goals to secure a win against Argentina, he looked like he was back to the Owen of a few years prior.

Unfortunately, the injuries prevailed again and led to a huge string of calf & thigh strains, broken metatarsals, hernias and mumps (yes, he got mumps.) Arguably, his worst injury game in a game against Sweden, I remember recoiling in horror as he slips a ball inside to the midfield and his leg just gives way, and as a sufferer of a anterior cruciate ligament injury, I can whole heartedly sympathise with his pain, watching it again genuinely makes me shiver and I get a pain in my knee, so I understand. Newcastle’s investment in him, which cost around £40 million, had failed.

He earned his play as you play at United, bagging a Premier League winner’s medal he rightfully deserved, but not being a main factor which he clearly wanted, and majority of the England fans did. He’s now in the winter of his career and hopefully he can score some more goals to add to his already impressive tally that he has amassed over his long and unfortunately, unfulfilling career. With hopes of the fresh faced, explosive front man who seemed to really enjoy scoring against Argentina, he watched by as injuries dampened his ultimate weapon, his speed, which then led to him becoming a luxury poacher, but the English game had adapted without him, he didn’t have the speed anymore to keep up or the stature to lead the line on his own. With spikes of excellence towards the end of his career, he may have peaked too early and with him admitting recently that he felt a pop in him hamstring aged 19 and it not feeling right since, it resonates and makes you wonder what a career he could have had, albeit, rather impressive as it is.

Aaron Young @ThisNeedsAGoal


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