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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Owen's return is made low-key......very.

Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0

The pre-match hype featured on Michael Owen's return to Liverpool. Owen made comments in a Times article relating to the reception he expected to receive, the quality of our strikers not guaranteeing 20 goals a season like Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and himself, and how the fans shouldn't take it personally if he were to celebrate scoring. "Liverpool don't really have a player who will guarantee them 20 goals a season in the way Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler or myself did. Even though it does not seem to be holding them back", said Owen. He has seven goals in eight appearances for Newcastle, 2 of which came against West Brom, 3 against West Ham, both away.

Graeme Souness returned to Liverpool himself, adding: ""Michael is an honest man and Liverpool was his first choice, but it wasn't to be. I'd like to think he will want to go back there and show them what they are missing........I'm sure he will get a fantastic reaction from the Liverpool supporters who are very, very special. They have a history of showing affection for former players who are nowhere near the stature of Michael Owen when they go back to Anfield. I don't think, I know, he will get a very special welcome. They remember him with great fondness."

Alan Shearer: "Michael makes Newcastle a much better team. I think that would apply to any team he was at, including Liverpool. He would improve any team he was playing in. That's proved by the number of goals he scores. He's a goal machine. Signing Michael was never going to be a gamble. You can never guarantee anything in football but, with him, you're just guaranteed goals. The chairman knew all about what Michael brings and that was why he was prepared to blow everybody else out of the water with his £16m bid."

So we messed up, we were not thinking correctly, didn't spend more than double what we sold Owen for to get him, allowed Newcastle to emerge and get his signature despite Owen saying he wanted to go there on loan if we were not interested, and now comes the day for us to rue in the aftermath of Owen's goals in defeat. Not.

Owen's article in the Times was merely a guidance brochure for Liverpool fans in the same way one finds the emergency procedures tucked in behind the plane seat in front. Owen scores and celebrates and we are expected to remain humble as he dances around the pitch in jubilation. Liverpool fans have further memories than that. We remember the goals he scored for us, no doubt, the movements, the runs, the nearlys', the almosts', we don't forget that, it would be very foolish to say so. We also remember when he was due to sit down and talk with new boss Rafael Benitez and then word came of interest from Real Madrid and then he was gone.

People may say Liverpool fans continue as if they expect no one to leave the club. Untrue, very. Players want to stay, good, if not and they want to leave, fair enough. We don't want anyone who wishes to leave staying and possibly spreading unhappiness to the others. This was realised with Owen and Rafael let him go, reluctantly. Remember, Owen wanted to leave, we never wanted him to go. He was said to be on the verge of signing for us until Real Madrid came in and clearly took advantage of the contractual wrangle that had Owen and Liverpool at a stalemate. We sold him for peanuts.

Liverpool fans do not blame him for leaving, for wanting to leave. We blame him for leaving in the manner that he did, after negotiations with the club which seemed to end with his signature for us, only for Real to step in, and this was after they had initially failed to attract Arsenal's Patrick Vieira. Let's make that much clear. Issues were made to make Liverpool Football Club the culprit for allowing Owen to leave. It was practically the same scenario with Steven Gerrard, until a dramatic U-turn occurred, for the better for Liverpool fans. Let's make that much clear.

People may say Liverpool fans don't show respect for past players. Untrue again, very. We have seen Ian Rush, Peter Beardsley, Kenny Dalglish when he took over from Kevin Keegan, John Barnes (all with Newcastle with Beardsley also visiting Anfield with Everton), Paul Walsh, to name a few. The only gripe we have with a former player was with Steve McManaman, enough said about that departure, ironically to Real Madrid too and he hardly fared well there himself. Owen was said to have received mixed reactions yesterday, but he would have got a bigger red carpet treatment than that he received when he arrived at St James' Park, had he left Liverpool on better terms.

I need not spell it out but in a nutshell he should have said he wants to leave, handed in a request, explained that he wished to seek honours that he felt he could achieve with another side, then the expected attempts to convince him otherwise, to no avail, eventually accept it and then negotiations with another club comes to the purchase. We accepted we were not looking good enough to be in a position to compete for honours, much less win them, at the time and for someone like Owen to want to go was very understandable. Just not under the circumstances that emerged in the end. No.

Owen is believed to have left us for glory in an instant after it was anticipated he was going to sign for us, endured a year on Real Madrid's bench (unjustly in my opinion) when Raul and Ronaldo were not scoring often enough, scored 16 goals which would justify being a regular first-teamer than a sub, realised his position at the Bernabeu was potentially hampering his chances for England in preparation for the World Cup in Germany and therefore seeked to play regular football, with no guarantees from Real, and he wanted to return home. All of this while we improved under our new manager, almost won the League Cup, achieved a dramatic victory against the odds in the Champions League, a record 5th time for a British side. Without a guaranteed 20-goals-a-season striker too.

Of course Owen would be pushed to comment on a special day for him but should have kept it more discreet, instead of commenting on our strikers, for one. It was an attempt to quiet our fans when he celebrates scoring but with the added comments from Shearer and Souness, it failed three-fold. Gary McAllister refrained from celebrating when he scored Liverpool's 2nd against Coventry at Highfield Road in a 0-2 victory in April 2001, and they respected him even more. Kevin Phillips scored for Aston Villa against Sunderland this season at The Stadium of Light, and did the same. They didn't make comments in papers before the game to appeal to the home fans, and Owen didn't need to either but I sense it was expected he would be hyped to show Liverpool what we had missed out on. Yet he and Shearer were hardly given a sniff, according to statistics with Liverpool practically rampaging for the majority of the match with the abundance of chances that both Shearer and Owen would have cherished being on the end of.

Rio Ferdinand said it best in his post-match interview, when asked about his scoring twice in one season so far, when he said it isn't fair to rely on the forwards to score goals and therefore good for others to score too. That way, there isn't so much reliance on a 20-goals-a-season striker.

The match therefore was quite a thrill, Peter Crouch proving that he doesn't have to be a striking striker to influence or aid Liverpool, his touch on Luis Garcia's ball came to Gerrard for our 1st, then his header at the near post was just about over the line for our 2nd. Shay Given was excellent in goal again and denied what could have been more goals for us. Replays show Nolberto Solano used his arm to prevent the ball going further in the box, which was missed. I thought Lee Bowyer would be shown just a yellow at best, seemed that kind of tackle. Crouch deserved his and should have held more coolness, though I sympathise with his feelings at the time. One or two reports suggest Crouch was lucky to remain on the pitch but shoving is a yellow card offence, not red, to clear any grey area. Gerrard was lucky not to get booked himself, Shearer too. Souness claims such a decision would happen away from home especially, which could explain why Shearer was not sent off against Arsenal at St James's.



Blogger Skippy said...

I was surprised to read Hansen predicting that Owen would get a good reception at Anfield.

Owen, was fantastic for the reds.However, the highlited passage in redsman's article is spot on. Liverpool fans will never forget, the way Owen left. The moment Real became interested, Owen could not wait to get on the plane to Spain.

Owen, could have been part of something very special, he could have been at Istanbul.

For a man who once said that all he cared about was winning trophies, then he goes to Newcastle. Owen will win nothing with the toons.

I also belive that the fans never saw Owen as one of their own, like they did with Fowler.

12/27/2005 6:30 pm

Blogger T said...

Very interesting article Redsman.
Until yesterday I didn't know there was general antipathy towards Owen from Pool fans.

Redsman, to clarify your POV, you would have had no problem if Owen simply put in a transfer request; but you have a problem with the fact that he entered into negotiations for a new contract and then jumped at the chance of joining Real when it became apparent that they wanted him. Is this right?

Skipper, I agree that the Toon is not the right club for an ambitious professional like Owen. But Madrid wanted to sell and the Pool didn't want him back at the price Madrid wanted.... so he became stalemated into a move to the North-East to satisfy his desire to be a consistent starter.

I felt sorry for him yesterday because I could sense huge regret in his demeanour that he was not part of the Pool team looking so good under Benitez. Its as if playing against Liverpool in the Newcastle shirt bought home to him how low he had fallen against his own expectations of where he should be.

Personally, I'm with Stevie G in finding it hard to accept that Owen should be jeered or perceived badly by Pool fans. He represented the club superbly during his time at the club; scored loads of goals including crucial cup final goals (in particular stealing from Arsenal the FA Cup in 2001!); and would be back at the Pool if he had his choice. But maybe as a non-Pool fan its easy to think this way?...

12/27/2005 9:39 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I sense that Owen will never be forgotten, it's just the forgiven part is somewhat hazy to predict. We were ready to succumb to Gerrard leaving only to hear Liverpool were being blamed and this was after he had said nothing would come between him and signing for the club and how could he not sign after the Champs League final. There isn't a Liverpool fan who wouldn't understand the talent of Gerrard and Owen, to name two, wanting to leave to gain a bigger guarantee of honours, that is to be expected. Any reasonable player would do that and any reasonable fan would appreciate it too. But a player should certainly not give any indication whatsoever that they are considering signing, as if it is just a matter of agreeing terms, and THEN go and agree terms elsewhere and sign.

If one wants to leave and is determined to, OK. If one wants to stay and is equally determined, good. There is no middle section, and certainly not wanting to sign and then going, that's raising high hopes for the fans. To reiterate, I find it bizarre Owen remained mainly on the bench at Real, despite scoring well, and he experienced a harsh period at Madrid that couldn't be thought of in the Premiership. Was it down to a zealous attitude to English players, where David Beckham is the exception because he is, or was, a huge commodity and to have him on the bench would have immensely upset the fans and disrupt the harmony of support at the Bernabeu? I say this after citing McManaman's time there and Owen's. There is hardly a club that would entertain Owen on the bench for so long, particularly after scoring well coming off it.

In all honesty, Owen wanted, or indeed wants, to re-join Liverpool as the potential is now greater under Benitez and after the Champs League win, but in no way could it be considered good for the club's finances to pay more than double that which we released him for and Real Madrid were not prepared to let him go for less than £10-12m, despite having left him on the bench so often.

I wonder Owen would have wanted to come back to Liverpool if we hadn't changed for the better. Remember the vibes were released from Spain that he wanted to return to the Premiership and the big three at the time were not interested. As has been said before, and again by Skippy, Owen left Liverpool to guarantee honours and has ended up joining Newcastle, who were in the relegation zone at the time, having not scored much less won a game.

I have no disrespect for Newcastle nor any other team, but Newcastle's current potential is unlikely to gain the kind of honours Owen seeked previously, but he was guaranteed regular first-team appearances and that's the crux of his signing, in time for the World Cup 2006. With the chance of Alan Shearer playing for another season continuing to be dismissed by the former England skipper, Owen could find his prowess for goals being hampered once more when he remains the sole target man upfront.


12/27/2005 9:53 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

T, I wrote my comment without yours having been published at the time but I agree with all you had said. If Owen were to raise Newcastle to high heights, that is fantastic for him, the club and the fans. Some may say we, or I, have sour grapes because we don't have Owen but I stand by the club's decision not to break the bank for him. We have said one player is not bigger than the club and we stand by it. It's better to spend little and cultivate players into good potential for the club than to break the bank for one, makes better economical sense, otherwise Benitez would be jeered at for spending so much like his predecessor. And besides, such spending isn't really a forte of Benitez.


12/27/2005 9:59 pm

Blogger SKG said...

I wasn't that bothered when Owen left Liverpool, and I wasn't that bothered when Newcastle signed him. There are better strikers out there anyway.

12/28/2005 9:24 am


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