The hilarious (but also sad) decline of Michael Owen

It is not an exaggeration to say that Michael Owen was my childhood hero.

Perhaps this was because I was the sort of football fan growing up who watched my idols on TV rather than in the stands. If I was a full-blown Kopite I might have preferred Robbie Fowler or Steve McManaman, but I wasn’t, I was just a boy sitting in front of a TV mesmerised by one player and his phenomenal individual talent.

In many ways supporters like myself stole Owen from Liverpool fans. I belonged to a legion of fan-boys who adopted Owen without the slightest consideration towards the club he played for. Owen was always appreciated by Liverpool, although he never reached the ‘God’ like status of Fowler. Unlike Fowler, Owen’s most iconic moments were in an England shirt, he was known first and foremost as an England international rather than a Liverpool striker.

After David Beckham Owen was English football’s biggest commodity. He was a wind up monkey, a victim of his own incredible dullness and manipulated by the many corporations that retained him.

His premature genius was set free in the 1998 World Cup, he was just 18-years-old.

Owen’s rise to super stardom was something out of a video game, he was the FIFA avatar we have all imagined ourselves to be, although Owen was playing out the fantasy in real life, he was a professional footballer when the rest of us were studying for our A Levels or GCSE’s.

Sadly Owen wasn’t built to last, at 19 he ruptured his hamstring and his career would never be the same. He was still a great player, but Owen wasn’t just meant to be a great player, he was going to be the best player in the world.

Since retiring from football Owen has become a different version of himself; maybe he has become his real self? He was once a role model for the next generation of footballers; now he’s nothing more than a washed-up pro who was once taken seriously.

Occasionally Owen will remind us of his success on the field, he will tell us that he scored for Real Madrid in El Classico or that he won the Ballon D’Or.[1] But most depressing of all is the fact that Owen needs to convince people that he was a great player.

His career decline began at Newcastle United and since then he has become more and more insignificant. Now that he has retired, Owen is fighting to stay relevant; he has accidentally become everyone’s favourite footballing comic and his Twitter page reads something like a parody account. He’s no longer one of England’s greatest goal scorers; he’s just a bloke who’s only watched eight films in his entire life.[2]

Like many people, I have laughed along with Owen’s befuddlements over the past few years, the man is truly hilarious and his oblivion to it all makes him so much funnier. Owen is still the wind up monkey he once was although he doesn’t work quite as well as he used to.

Occasionally Owen will forget that he’s a footballing superstar and revert back to his true self, which is an incredibly dull man who says things like, “Christmas is underrated. Best day of the year by far.” It’s as though he’s commentating on his own life from the BT Sport commentary box.

Every Saturday lunchtime Owen unites a nation as the keyboard warriors of English football take to Twitter to express their abhorrence to Owen’s commentary. He’s often accused of stating the obvious, for example, in commentary Owen once said, “You need people who score goals, that’s how you win games.” Yes Michael this is true, I literally cannot argue with that. In fact to paraphrase Owen once more, it’s as simple as…simple.

Owen is like an old man who we respect on the inside but poke fun at because he’s defenceless. Maybe we degrade him because of his achievements or maybe it’s because of his fixation with horses? Either way, no matter how much Owen embarrasses himself it should never be forgotten just how good Owen was as a footballer.

England may never again produce a talent as raw as Michael Owen; he is a national treasure, a future knighthood recipient and one incredibly funny man.

[1] Otherwise known as the European Player of the Year in his day.

[2] Rocky, Heat, Ghost, Jurassic Park, Cool Runnings, Seabiscuit, Karate Kid and Forrest Gump.


About James Bayley

Email: Twitter hand: @BayleyJames

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