It was supposed to be the move that set Newcastle up for the future, the arrival of England’s best goalscorer at the time who was supposed to be waiting in the wings to take over from another former England great – Alan Shearer. But it never really worked out like that in the end and now Owen has become somewhat of a victim for the boo-boys of NUFC, a scapegoat for our decline as we slid out of the Premier League and, ultimately, a symbol of all that was wrong with Newcastle United as he walked away on a free transfer, drawing a line underneath this nasty chapter in his career.
Of course, we moved on, as did Michael Owen who now has a part-time job at Manchester United, but the legacy left behind still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of some Newcastle fans. In a sense, I feel that a lot of that is born purely out of frustration, after all it’s not everyday that thousands of fans turn out at the ground to catch a glimpse of the new signing is it? That is what we did, and with that came a sense of expectation that was left unfulfilled, and that sense of unfulfillment turn to anger and despair as we sat back and watched Owen on the sidelines for month after month.
When he was fit though, he did score goals, in fact he scored just shy of one goal for every two games he played in his time with us. The problem was getting him fit and keeping him fit. His record of 79 appearances in the four years he spent with us is probably testament to that fact. Again, another source of frustration for fans who wanted to see him play.
Then there is the financial angle of Michael Owen. There is no doubt about it, he was a drain on the clubs finances. It wasn’t so much the purchase price that was the problem, Shepherd offset that against all our future sponsorhip money, but what about the £125,000 in basic wages that he recieved each week for his four years at Newcastle? That £26 million had to come from somewhere.
As I said when I started off this article, it is very much raking over old ground, but it has kind of become a bit more relevant now as we know that we are likely to come up against him when he takes his place on the bench when Manchester United visit St James’ Park. I kind of don’t really mind him to be honest, although I understand that others may not feel the same as I do.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t his fault that he was offered so much money, and it wasn’t his fault that he spent so much time injured. We knew when we got him that he had a history of injuries, so when combined with our own horrendous record of injuries they you can hardly be surprised of the outcome. He never gave us any of the old “I love the club” patter, and he never strung us along and made it easy for us to tell that he would be off if we got relegated, what’s the problem with that?
What I did take umbridge with is when Kevin Keegan appointed him as captain, and I still can’t understand why that happened when there were better candidates in the team. Owen has been a great player, but it takes more than just a big name to be a leader on the pitch, and there were absolutely no signs of any leadership when we needed it from Owen.
For me, that is the most disappointing aspect of Michael Owen.