I’ve been reading the usual hateful messages about me playing for Man Utd.
Once again and for the avoidance of doubt:
I love @LFC and before every move since I left I tried to go back. It never happened and so I had to continue my career by signing for other clubs.
— michael owen (@themichaelowen) November 14, 2017
Michael Owen loves Liverpool FC. How do we know that? Because he’s put out a tweet declaring his love of the club as a result of receiving more online abuse because of his association to Manchester United.
That’s the end of that then … or is it? Nah. Of course not.
Does he love Liverpool FC? Well, we think he actually does. He might not be the most entertaining football personality but there’s no doubting that he is very proud to have played for Liverpool Football Club. He did, in fairness, try to return to the club a couple of times but if we are completely honest, we have never forgotten the way he exited the club. That whole ‘Will he, won’t he’ carry on dragged on for far too long with excuse after excuse being served up at the time while everyone knew he was going to jump ship. In the end, nervous Liverpool officials who were still hurting after losing Steve McManaman on a Bosman, were forced to sell and they pocketed a poxy £8million and Antonio Núñez who was about as useful as a toaster without a plug.
We were furious. Our fellow Liverpool fans were furious. Gerard Houllier was furious. Rafa Benitez was furious.
The suggestions were that Owen’s agent Tony Stephens of the SFX agency had engineered the move to Real Madrid behind Liverpool’s back. He had been conveniently absent on a protracted sabbatical. Fans were fed that Owen couldn’t respond to Liverpool’s contract offer at the time, which had reportedly been left on the table for around 8 months, because Stephens wasn’t around to deal with it. Yeah right. We were being mugged off.
Gérard Houllier was unable to tie Owen down before he was replaced by Benitez. This meant that neither manager was able to plan ahead because of the uncertainty surrounding Owen’s future.
In August 2004, KopTalk editor Duncan Oldham took a phone call from a former Liverpool player who was working with The Liverpool Echo. He informed the Big Man that a decision had been made by the club not to deploy Owen in Liverpool’s Champions League game against Graz AK that was coming up a few days later. Playing in that game would mean Owen would be cup tied and that would obviously prevent Real Madrid bidding for him. KopTalk ran an exclusive at the time and we all patiently waited for the game to come round to see the confirmed team. Owen’s omission would obviously be seen as the first real confirmation that the club was negotiating with the Spanish giants. Owen was named on the bench and was not used by Benitez in his first competitive fixture as the club’s new manager. Benitez offered a cryptic explanation for Owen being left out but everyone now knew that we were about to lose one of our best players.
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That long running drama soured Owen’s time at the club and yes it was awful watching him accept a transfer to Manchester United many years later. An unwritten rule was broken but if anyone was ever going to break it, it would be Owen. He just didn’t seem to have that connection with The Kop that the others did that came through the ranks. The locals didn’t love Owen like they loved Robbie Fowler for example. Think Club vs Country. Fowler was seen as being only focused about LFC where as Owen came across as being more bothered about England. Whether it was true or not, fans threw that suggestion around and still do so today when discussing the duo in the same sentence.
Some fans may recall Fowler’s training ground bust-up with Phil Thompson. That resulted in Fowler being dropped from the squad until he apologised. Fowler was banished from the 2001 Charity Shield victory against rivals Manchester United and was also left out of the squad for a 2-1 home win over West Ham. Owen put one past United and scored both goals against the Hammers and although he was scoring the goals, the Anfield faithful were instead chanting Fowler’s name despite him being sat in the Main Stand watching Owen in action below him. That said it all back then.
Fowler may have been known as God but we used to refer to Michael Owen as Saint Mike. There was no doubting his ability and his goals carried Liverpool for years. He was an outstanding player for Liverpool and despite making the switch to the enemy, we don’t think Owen should be stripped of his legendary status at Anfield. He may talk up United during his punditry but let’s not forget that he was close to Sir Alex from their mutual love of horse racing.
We can’t stand the fact that he turned out for United but neither could the majority of their fans who never accepted him. It was a bit like how we felt about Paul Ince. He may have worn the Liverpool shirt but he was still a Manc in our eyes despite his fallout with them. We turned a blind eye to Ince who did nothing for us so maybe we should turn a blind eye to Owen and make him an exception to the rule that a player should be disowned if they dare to play for United? Liverpool didn’t want him and professional footballers have to make career decisions that’s right for them whether we, the great unwashed, understand them or not. It’s football and while it doesn’t sit right with us, we are left with 2 options. Try and understand or disown.
Now employed as an international ambassador by Liverpool Football Club, some fans want to see him removed from that position. Close to 30,000 have signed a pointless petition calling for him to be binned all because he’s spoken favourably of United since his retirement. Referring to United as ‘We’ being his biggest crime to date. But what a plank. He has no need to try and hang on to that temporary association. It’s just pointless. He was never a big fish for them. They don’t care about him, never did, never will. He obviously doesn’t realise that but that’s Michael Owen’s world for you.
He’s simply not being the brightest bulb when it comes to speaking publicly about his time at United. Because he’s a club ambassador, anything ‘pro-United’ is going to be flagged up by hardcore Liverpool fans which is understandable.
Is he a Liverpool legend? Yes he is. That cannot be disputed. His goals in less than convincing Liverpool sides helped the Reds secure 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, 1 Charity Shield, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 UEFA Super Cup. He will never be loved like the likes of Fowler, Gerrard and Carragher but he made a significant contribution to Liverpool’s trophy haul and he always gave 1000% when on the pitch. This cannot be argued.
Is he an idiot? Yes he is, in terms of keeping the Anfield faithful happy today, but this is clearly because he’s proud to have played for 2 of the World’s most famous and successful clubs. However, the supporters of each don’t want to hear about the other. Owen’s not thick, he’s not slipping up with his words. His personality comes before the fans. Where as other Liverpool legends choose the words wisely when praising the enemy via the media, those who know Owen will say he just doesn’t think like the others. Signing for Manchester United proves that.
There’s a lot of bitterness in the world today, especially online where people want to be offended by anything and on behalf of everyone including those who are not even offended, but we can’t help but think that some of our supporters need to grow up. At the same time, Owen needs to think before he speaks if he doesn’t want to have to repeatedly defend himself.
We should remember Michael Owen for the happiness he gave us. All of those cup finals and the memories we have of them shouldn’t be erased from history.
You don’t have to respect or even like Owen but to try and strip him of any association to Liverpool Football Club is wrong. We understand the passion and the rivalry and yes it’s a tricky one because it gets our back up too but we still appreciate everything he did for us.
Owen may have been in bed with United for a short while but that relationship was nothing more than a slip of the finger. At Anfield he was loved and caressed. He needs to realise that. When he does, he might stop being so enthusiastic about a club that forgot about him the minute he walked out of the door.
We won’t forget the way he left the club, we won’t forget him turning out for the Mancs, but we’ll also never forget what he did for us.
He remains a Liverpool legend to us. We would never pull up any fan who chooses to think differently about him. We completely understand why they may think differently. However, like Michael Owen, life’s too short.