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Country v club? It's a no brainer for single minded Michael

Brian Reade 13/10/2007

Back in May, Michael Owen was likening my good self to the most famous part of Sharon Stone's anatomy after I wrote the following:

 

"You should talk the talk about England Michael, when you've walked the walk with Newcastle. As it stands all you've done in two seasons is limp the limp."

 

Which made him want to leave me with a permanent limp, apparently.

 

The reason I wrote it was that Owen had just played his first 90 minutes for his club in 18 months, and instead of describing how great it felt to be repaying the Newcastle faithful, he was talking about how he'd "jump at the chance to play for my country," because "it's a fantastic honour."

 

It wasn't the first time Michael had yelled over the head of his club, when recovering from injury, to let the media know of his desperation to play for England. And, as he closes in on Bobby Charlton's all-time scoring record, it won't be his last. Which is up to Michael Owen.

 

He is very much his own man, and the country will benefit from his singleminded determination to show he is the world-class player he undoubtedly is, whenever he wears an England shirt.

 

But he can't have it both ways as he tried to do this week. He can't attack those Geordies who feel that after playing a mere handful of games for them in over two years, mainly due to a serious injury suffered on England duty, he should think solely of them.

 

They are bound to be resentful every time he races back to the England camp despite their club holding reservations about his fitness.

 

They are obviously going to feel, especially knowing how much they pay him, that he should be putting half-a-dozen club games under his belt before thinking about international duty.

 

And if Owen wants to know why, he should listen to his team-mate Joey Barton, who remarked this week that it's great to win a cap for your country, but after that you should focus on winning trophies for your club.

 

That is how most fans in northern cities think. There is no question where their loyalty lies. And they hope their players feel the same. It's why local heroes like Jamie Carragher, Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer, who ultimately put club before country, are held in such esteem.

 

Owen, born in a small town outside Chester, has never got into the mindset of such fanatics.

 

He says that when he scored against Argentina in France '98, Liverpool fans declared him an England property.

 

But he's wrong. They had seen this wonderboy come through the ranks and were immensely proud of him. He was one of them all right, and they let every England fan know it. But they grew to sense that, unlike Robbie Fowler, Owen had too much love for England. That if push came to shove he would be in two minds. And to a real fan, divided loyalty is a cardinal sin.

 

When their player plays for his country they believe he is on loan to that nation who are lucky to have him.

 

In an England fan's mind the player is lucky to be wearing their shirt, and they have every right to humiliate him if they feel he hasn't performed.

 

That's why fans have struggled with Owen's desire to bust more than a gut for his country.

 

Especially Newcastle fans who knew from the day he signed that he was only there because he'd been backed into a corner.

 

They've never felt truly loved by Owen, and his full-blown affair with England has only served to convince them that they got him on the rebound when his heart lay elsewhere.

 

Owen might not agree, but the Geordies believe he owes them a big debt. And they believe the best way to repay it would be to chase the goalscoring record Jackie Milburn set for them, not the one his nephew Bobby set for England.

 

And I'm sorry Michael, but they have every right to believe that.

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This is just more "ooo I can't think of anything interesting to write..... what is an easy target then" :lol:

I thought it was a pretty balanced view.

 

"Balanced" in the sense that he's tried to string it out to fill the required column inches, maybe.

 

 

It's just regurgitated shit stirring that actually says nothing.

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This is just more "ooo I can't think of anything interesting to write..... what is an easy target then" :lol:

I thought it was a pretty balanced view.

 

"Balanced" in the sense that he's tried to string it out to fill the required column inches, maybe.

 

 

It's just regurgitated shit stirring that actually says nothing.

No no no Fop, it says lots, it means nothing

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Northern footballers? Compare Gerrard to Joey 'one cap' Barton and that article makes no sense at all.

 

:lol: Where does it mention about Northern footballers? Northern cities yes, northern footballers, no.

 

I think it's a good article myself and, from what I've gathered from reading posts about England on here, pretty spot on with it's assumption of fans from Northern cities footballing bias.

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Northern footballers? Compare Gerrard to Joey 'one cap' Barton and that article makes no sense at all.

 

:lol: Where does it mention about Northern footballers? Northern cities yes, northern footballers, no.

 

I think it's a good article myself and, from what I've gathered from reading posts about England on here, pretty spot on with it's assumption of fans from Northern cities footballing bias.

 

The insinuation is that because Owen was born away from a northern city (not that Chester is that far from Liverpool anyway) he thinks differently from the northern fan, and because Joey Barton is a manc he has the 'northern attitude'. Well you can't get a more dyed in the wool northern football fan than Gerrard. It's pap.

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Joey Barton a Manc?! :lol:

 

He played for City since he was 15 so he might aswell be. Otherwise it makes the article look even more ridiculous doesn't it?

 

Well done for trying to come out of that well.

 

Momentary memory failure granted, but like I said, it makes the article look worse if you can apparently switch allegiance between Liverpool and Manchester but on no account care for England because you're northern.

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Only just got round to reading this last night. Very good piece from the most recent Sunday Times by the consistently excellent Hugh McIlvanney:

 

Country boy at heart

 

There is no doubt which of the two sides will rally greater popular support when the best one can do is flourish a contract while the other is waving aloft the banner of St George. Anybody who so much as wonders how Michael Owen’s eagerness to be in the England starting lineup at Wembley yesterday (barely a fortnight after having groin surgery) might impinge on his long-term obligations to Newcastle United must expect to feel the heat of the patriotic indignation spontaneously ignited in the nation’s sports pages by the merest hint of debate over club-or-country priorities. That cliched response cannot, however, obscure the intriguing elements of a case that rises above the tedious norms of football politics to register with many as a small but compelling drama of conscience.

 

Of course, it doesn’t register that way with Owen. The whole conflict-of-interest controversy is, he asserts vehemently, an invention. Last week he went further and angrily dismissed any questioning of his decision to play against Estonia as nothing other than insulting provocation. The facts, he insisted, left no basis whatsoever for believing that his swift return to action carried undue risk for club employers who have already had to endure massive deprivation of his services because of an injury he suffered while in the national colours at the 2006 World Cup finals.

 

In his view, by the time Newcastle met Everton last Sunday he was fully fit and could have coped with the entire match instead of sitting with the substitutes until the 74th minute. Though Owen’s abbreviated contribution included heading what proved to be the winning goal, his manager, Sam Allardyce, adhered to the opinion that it had been too early in the recovery to expose him to the full hour and a half, and Allardyce added the suggestion that England, too, would be well advised to grant their key goal-scorer a gradual reintroduction to the intensity of Euro 2008 qualifying matches.

 

It was then that Owen revealed how determined he is to resist any efforts by Newcastle to influence his thinking about turning out for his country. Asked if he would be inclined to take it easy on international duty, he said: “Not at all. No doubt the manager from this club will say that and maybe the fans will say that but if I had to look after myself I wouldn’t have made myself available today.”

 

The essence of that statement is totally unexceptionable. But the question posed was a peculiar one. Everybody accepts that a professional footballer who declares himself ready to play can never allow the idea of restricting his commitment to enter his head. If there is “nursing” to be done, patently it is the responsibility of the coach, who can limit the player’s time on the field.

 

So the significant part of Owen’s answer wasn’t the stuff about not taking it easy on himself but the gratuitously undiplomatic references to the Newcastle manager and the club’s supporters. He could have made the point about his own attitude without mentioning them but went out of his way to do so. The impression was of a man defiantly resolved to meet his critics in the northeast head-on.

 

Some will applaud his words for their independence and frankness. But can we be surprised if the Newcastle fans, Tyneside’s persecuted multitude, complain that his sense of being in debt to them is less than it should be? In their eyes the scale of that debt is formidable. Since joining Newcastle in August 2005 for a fee reported as £16m, Owen has made 21 appearances in 26 months and played just 24½ hours of football. That he has scored 10 goals simply underlines what might have been. Obviously, it is the player who deserves most sympathy. Physical problems have robbed him of substantial swathes of his career (that ravaging of a knee in Germany in June 2006 took away virtually all of the following season). But we must feel for the followers of Newcastle, too.

 

The majority of them weren’t born when their team last collected a major trophy in English football, the FA Cup in 1955. Owen’s arrival was never going to spread a blaze of optimism among them, since they knew there was no heavyweight competition for his signature and that for him the magnetism of St James’ Park had to be mainly financial. But it is sad to see the little flame of encouragement he created now guttering towards extinction amid the suspicion that Newcastle’s demands are markedly lower on his agenda than those of England. His denials of that claim are fierce and it is self-evident that committing himself enthusiastically to the national team needn’t mean a dilution of his allegiance to his club. Yet it might be said he wouldn’t be human if the discrepancy in satisfaction between his international and his club experiences (which have produced memorable highs without ever, even at Liverpool, promising the status of a legend) did not build up a pervasive realisation that his impact on the lore of football will be governed by what he has done and may do with England.

 

How could the glorious prospect of passing Sir Bobby Charlton’s record aggregate of 49 goals for the country fail to stir Owen’s spirit more than the vista of slog that confronts him at Newcastle? But there is still that matter of the debt. He could at least acknowledge it more graciously than he did last week.

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