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Michael Owen: Am I Supposed To Hate Him Now?

 Michael Owen: Am I Supposed To Hate Him Now?

As a Liverpool supporter I have a soft spot for Michael Owen.

Now, for the sake of full journalistic disclosure, I must admit I came to the party late. I’m an American who, seduced by the 2006 World Cup, went looking for an English club to support. Through the right mixture of Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch and a childhood Beatles obsession (I see that puzzled look on your face—more on all this in an upcoming article), I fell in love with Liverpool Football Club.

So while I cannot speak for scousers who were once swaddled in LFC nappies, I am completely torn over how to feel about Owen going to Manchester United.

When I first swooned for Liverpool, Michael Owen was already two seasons gone. He was at Newcastle, a side I could never bring myself to despise. I knew they hadn’t been a threat to Liverpool’s title hopes since the first time Kevin Keegan was behind the Magpie steering wheel—later, in 2007, I’d buy the DVD of the 1996 4-3 Liverpool-Newcastle classic to help cope with my first summer of PLW: Premier League Withdrawal. (Scandalously, this syndrome is not yet recognized by the World Psychiatric Association. I’ve written a letter.)

So with Owen at Newcastle and me inhaling every piece of media on Liverpool’s back-history I could find, I developed an affection for the wayward golden boy. I wanted him to do well. Wherever he was. As long as it wasn’t at Liverpool’s expense.

But now he’s off to Manchester United. The enemy. What’s a Red American to do? (During the McCarthy Era, American Liverpool supporters were persecuted for asking such a question. Both of them were blacklisted and forced to wear away kits only.) Anyway…

Michael Owen to Manchester United: it’s Johnny Damon leaving the Sox for the Yankees… It’s Marian Hossa leaving Pittsburgh for the Red Wings… It’s Patti Harrison leaving George for Eric Clapton… It’s Captain Ramius parking his Soviet nuclear sub in Penobscot Bay… It’s my freshman year girlfriend leaving me for the singer in my band… (my fault: I shouldn’t have let the prick write ballads…)

No no no. Those things were immediate. Those things were Ashley Cole.

Unlike the aforementioned coups of the sporting heart, the Owen move to Manchester has been softened from his time in Spain and Tyneside. It’s not a direct slight.

Reasons I don’t need to hate him:

-He already “sold out” to Real Madrid. He left Liverpool to chase Champions League glory with the Spanish giants. So his leaving relegated Newcastle to chase glory with the champs is anticlimactic at this point.

-Liverpool had the last laugh: they won the Champions League the season after he left. Sucker. Although this does ressurect my Hossa Pittsburgh/Red Wings comparison. (If only Liverpool had beaten Real Madrid instead of Milan in 2005…)

-He’s going to tear something by September anyway. The Premier League is too intense for Owen to get over his recurring injuries. He’ll split his time between the injury ward, the physio room and the bench.

-Some say he’d come back to Liverpool if he could. Rafa doesn’t want him. I can’t blame him for grabbing the opportunity at Old Trafford if Anfield’s doors are closed to him.

Honestly, this has to be the last big club who will ever want him. It’s like if I was a 45-year-old (roughly the equivalent to Owen’s age in football years—and, yes, Beckham looks great at 65) and I got the chance to date a gorgeous 21-year-old again. (Note: I’m not a rich footballer.) Even if we had nothing in common and our vast cultural differences imposed crippling, uncomfortable silences on our attempts to relate, I would have to tell myself: this has to be the last chance I’ll get to date a 21-year-old! Where’s the dilemma?

And there’s already a couple of United players I don’t completely hate. Maybe I haven’t been at it long enough, but I don’t hate Giggs (longstanding great player even if his award last year came from the old man sympathy vote) and I don’t hate Vidic (he’s brilliant. C’mon, who wouldn’t adopt Vidic in a heartbeat?)

The only real stinger will be if Owen scores against Liverpool. It will be beyond devastating if one of his goals decides the season or a cup result… Will he walk off the pitch, head down, like Dennis Law in 1974? Or will he thrust his hands in the air and circle the pitch like a madman? I don’t want to think about that one.

No. The likelihood of his windows of fitness lining up with such a pivotal moment seems miniscule. But you never know.

So until he single-handedly knocks Liverpool out of the title race, the FA Cup or the Champions League, I’m choosing not to hate Michael Owen.

I think.

Anyway, I’m not going to applaud his goals anymore. I look forward to ricochets off the bar and his face sinking at the sight of raised offsides flags. Those little moments will bring me joy. I mean, c’mon: It’s Manchester United.

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47 Responses to Michael Owen: Am I Supposed To Hate Him Now?

  1. CA_backpacker says:

    As a fellow American, we shouldn’t be as bothered by players switching clubs, and often to rivals, as it is par-for-the-course in US sports like NBA and NFL with free-agency. And your “reasons not to hate Owen” are all spot-on. Personally, any anger I felt towards Owen are when he initally abandoned us in the first place to join Real, as I think even better things would have happened for the Reds if he stayed. But what happened since, his injuries and complete lack of success, has been punishment enough. And who knows, if Owen was still on the squad, would we have gone out and gotten Torres? I’d rather have El Nino over Owen even in his prime, any day of the year.

    That said, I will say I am a bit disappointed Rafa didn’t explore getting Owen, if he was on fire-sale of a free transfer and low base mostly-incentive salary. Yeah, he’s a “risk”, but not much of one when Sir Alex got him for the change found under his car seat.

    At this point, I’ll save my hatred for MUFC as a whole, and just fold Owen as a small part into that. :-)

    • Ethan Armstrong says:

      Owen on the free would have been tempting for sure. I think Rafa’s take must be something like: “Hey, you left us. Who needs you.” Oh well.

      Love the last line of your comment, CA. Now, I wish I’d ended the article with something like that.

  2. kiefer says:

    Im a scouser an i think its terrible, he is gonna play good for them i can feel it and he will probly score past us this season. We always knew he was unloyal he was an evertonian who played for Liverpool and he tried to see his contract out with us and leave on the free! I hope hes awful there to be honest but i guess its a good thing for us in the World Cup next year if he rediscovers goal scoring form

  3. Gaz says:

    Nice post. I feel similarly.

    I LIKE Michael Owen and would love to see him back on the England squad. Even on the club level, I want him to do well…. it just stings a little that it’s United where he may do so.

    I still think, though, that is such a long-shot that he’ll even be fit and / or back to form ever again.

    As far as scoring for United against Liverpool? I don’t even want to think about it. :)

    • mm says:

      bigger YAWN

    • mm says:

      it’s my prerogative to comment. i won’t stoop so low and tell you not to comment.

      • The Gaffer says:

        mm,

        You have every right to post a comment, but please try to add more value than just saying ‘yawn’ or similar comments.

        Instead of adding yawn comments, feel free to write your own article on the topic and submit it to me for consideration to be added to EPL Talk. You can reach me at thegaffer[at]epltalk[dot]com

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

        • MM says:

          Gaffer-
          ‘yawns’ are appropriate for articles about “why i love or hate”. i know there are feelings involved for football and any other sports, religion, etc. , and “hate” may not be real hate here, but hate is stated multiple times in this article, inciting further hate. i’ve read prior posts about hate on this site and don’t see you commenting on them.
          so ‘yawn’. enjoy the sport, a player can go anywhere they choose, and someone should not incite hate.

          • The Gaffer says:

            C’mon. The author’s intention was not to incite hate. There are different degrees of hate. This one was very playful. Even if you disagree with the article, the least you can do is offer a better critical analysis than to repeatedly use the word ‘yawn’ over and over again.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

  4. NHFC says:

    Sour grapes!!!

    But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night :)

    Rafa “closed the door on Owen”? Is it because he opera it for Fowler? (who came in his prime)
    Rafa would sign Ian Rush on a free transfer if he could!

    Scousers know that they are well knocked off their perch for some time now, and this coming season it becomes official. If on top of that Owen knocks a few in at anfield, then it will be THAT much sweeter!

  5. Spenser says:

    Ethan, you’re the man! Your trail to finding Liverpool Football Club sounds exactly like mine! I played soccer in high school and due to the 2006 World Cup and the Euro 2008 I started to fall in love with the international game. The initial spark to Liverpool was just like yours, my obsession with Beatles in high school. That’s what started it, and I just started to delve into the history of the club and do my utmost to support it from the states.

    I’ve bought the eSeason ticket, Official Membership, the first of many replica shirts, and a few other random LFC bits of gear from scouring the web.

    As far as Owen…I’ve read Stevie G’s book and know how much he admires Owen and loved playing with him so it’s hard for me to hate him too much either way, plus I”ve seen some of the beautiful goals he scored for Liverpool and England. Good luck, I say, just don’t score against LFC.

    Cheers from Texas

  6. therapy2004 says:

    SCUM. End of.

  7. Joaq says:

    Great post. I really dig the fans really scrutinizing their own loyalties. I honestly do find it pretty interesting.

    In my own U-N-I-T-E-D influenced opinion, (had to put that in there) I’d say, Go on and hate him. If he were a United cult hero and left to play for the enemy, (YSB’s) I’d have to say I’d despise him. I despise Pool way more than City because City is like a little yappy dog, loud bark but not a real threat.

    If Wazza (my favorite) went to Pool, God, I don’t even want to think about that but I’d have to say I’d wish Vidic to break his damn leg the first time United and Pool met while Waz was wearing that ridiculous shirt that has a mythical bird on it (no offense). I understand the money that is thrown at these footballers but please, don’t leave your dignity at the door.

    Bottom line, if I were a Scouse fan, I’d hate the little b*stard, but if he went to any other club, I’d say live and let die (You like that Beatles reference while talking about Liverpool, Ethan? I’m pretty clever for a United supporter HAHA).

  8. Well – I’m a United fan. So I wish the best for him. But I think its hard when a beloved player leaves a club, even if they don’t go to the sworn enemy. I wish Ronnie the best but I don’t think I’ll start tuning into matches at the Bernabéu just for him. I’ve lost the love for Tevez so while I hope he’ll be happy wherever he goes, I don’t particularly wish him all of the success in the world. I’ve said for awhile there are a few players I’d follow wherever they go – supporting them but never another club – much in the way I feel like Chelsea fans would John Terry. I would follow Wayne Rooney. (Despite what anyone else thinks of him) I’d follow Giggsy and Scholesy. Vidic is quickly rising to the list and I’d wish the best to Rio.

    What is it that Nick Hornby wrote? It was about the club meaning more to the fans because they’ll always be there longer. He wondered- Where were the players twenty years ago? Where will some of them be in twenty years- in two years? No matter where they end up its the fans that stay. I’m not saying that I agree in all cases but its a valid argument. And so sometimes a Michael Owen goes from Liverpool and ends up at Manchester United. Its just the nature of the beast.

  9. Spenser says:

    Joaq, I’d say City is going to become a bit more than a yapping dog this season. I think they’ll be after United blood with a vengeance, especially with the likes of (hopefully) Tevez and Eto’o.

  10. PaulC says:

    I didn’t think it bothered me when he signed, but when I saw the picture of him in the ManUre jersey, it made me nauseous.
    Every goal he scores for ManUre will impact our chance to win the title.
    That’s tough to swallow.
    Of course, fair play to him, ManUre v. Hull, no brainer. Stories are saying after Slur Alex called him he called Liverpool to see if that would drum up interest. It didn’t and he took his best option, as he always does.
    Owen was always more about him, and about his England chances than Liverpool though, and that’s why he was never fully endeared by The Kop.
    His comment that he took the offer “without a second thought” rankled me though. May be the truth, but he didn’t have to say it.
    Oh well, he’ll pop a groin or a hammy or a metatarsal in the second week anway.

    • Ethan Armstrong says:

      Paul,

      I wrestled with using that picture or not. It made me queasy as well. But it fit the piece perfectly so I popped an antacid and went with it .

  11. Gregg says:

    Owen sucks (aside from his freak goal in 98) and irks me in the peculiar way that only overrated English twats like $tevie Me and Wayne Rooney can do, but was way more hateable when he played for Liverpool. And guess what, he was an Everton supporter anyway, so a true Red would hate him regardless.

    • g. says:

      You claim Stevie G is overrated, Zidane called him one of the top three players in the world, your opion or his….hmmm sooo difficult to decide! Also several Liverpool players have been Everton supporters as kids, like Robbie Fowler, called “God” by the Kop, so your “true Red” comment is equally well wide of the mark. Finally I would suggest if anyone feels someone is more “hateable” because they play for another team then they are not only misinformed but also sadly misguided.

  12. NHFC says:

    “Stories are saying after Slur Alex called him he called Liverpool to see if that would drum up interest. It didn’t and he took his best option, as he always does”

    haha

    I guess what they say about scousers is more true than I thought :)

  13. Mark Flint says:

    Living through my first summer of PLW. Hard to pick a team though when your an ocean away from the action and rabid fan bases. Everyone here knows Yankee fans are fair weather. Not sure who the posers are in the EPL. Newcastle fans seem like the real deal, but we can’t get Championship league in the US.

    • Ethan Armstrong says:

      Mark,

      Setanta USA shows some Championship matches. Hopefully the technology gets better and we’ll eventually enjoy high quality webcasts of any game we want. It is difficult though for the time being.

      As The Gaffer mentioned recently, Bill Simmons wrote a good article about looking for a team in 2006. Like me, Simmons wanted more after watching the World Cup.

      Also, I highly recommend Chuck Culpepper’s book: Bloody Confused.

      Both these American writers were taking interest in the Premier League around the time I got hooked so I have a particular fondness for their thoughts on the matter.

  14. dkptiger says:

    how disappointed are you going to be when you find out the beatles (those who actually care about football in the slightest) supported everton, not liverpool. not to try and catch you out, but you either arent that big of a beatles fan, or you just took the opportunity to support a big club. either way, those who mentioned thats how they became liverpool fans need to change the record.

    as for the article, i feel that once a club legend, always a club legend. so the real question is was he ever a legend at liverpool. that is not up to me since i dont support them. as for him turning to the enemy late in his career, this is different than a direct transfer. owen is just going home with the best looking girl he can find at the bar when he is pissed drunk and desperate. lucky for him, the girl aint half bad :)

    • Ethan Armstrong says:

      dkptiger,

      I said “through… a childhood Beatles obsession” not “because I saw Ringo’s Ron Yeats tattoo…” And at age seven I wasn’t reading that deeply into “For You Blue”. That part of it came from being enamored by scouse-ness before I knew what a scouser was. I’ll get more in depth about coming to the Premier League as an outsider in tomorrow’s article.

      I like your “best looking girl” comparison. Similar to what I was thinking with the 45-year-old-dating-a-21-year-old bit.

    • Deano says:

      Sadly to say but sir Paul macca is a red, Ringo is a red… John would never say and I have no idea about Harrison :. For the Owen scene, I hope the little shit gets his leg snapped off :@ Once my Hero, now nothing but Judas scum.

  15. g. says:

    As Anfield born and bred, literally, and one of the “mind yer car mister” mafia from age 7, who as a nipper met Shanks when as we were playing footie we saw him going to the dentist and all rushed over yelling “Mr Shankly, Mr Shaaaankllly!” and he came over and signed my football, I think I qualify for the LFC “nappies” title. :-) All I can say is Mikey Owen gave everything when he played for us, has forever since I think regretted leaving us, has tried several times to come back but Rafa has refused to sign him for whatever reasons, as is his right as manager. Owen has been offered a fantastic chance at a time when he was being widely written off by many of those now claim it’s a masterstroke by SAF. He’s no traitor, he’s a professional footballer, and I wish him all the best, EXCEPT when he plays us of course!

  16. Dave says:

    Let me just say as an American supporting Newcastle my opinion differs slightly. ;)

    Incidentally, at this point I am trying to figure out just how one follows a Championship side outside of the occasional random weekly game on Setanta US.

  17. steve says:

    You have supported Liverpool since 2006!? of course you don’t have any negative feelings towards him, you weren’t even around to know what he meant to the club! the guy was an anfield hero, but after this move its hard to they him in this light again! we won’t forget what he did for the club but because of this move he is scum!

  18. edgar says:

    Great article! Good comment United Amanda. Please stop with the American references to the EPL people! This is EPL talk, rite? Chuck Culpepper’s book: Bloody Confused, Sucks! Don’t buy it. If you just want a great football read, check out Nick Hornby’s: Fever Pitch. Great book. Bought it and couldn’t put it down until i finished it! As a United supporter, i don’t know where i stand on the Owen issue. At first i thought: Surely its just a rumor. Then i saw the presentation. As i said before, if Owen is healthy enough to only score in a United vs Liverpool match, that would be worth it! If a United boy were to leave for Liverpool, i’d be ticked! Gabriele Henzie almost did. Then Fergie sold him to Madrid. Hahaha! On the bench at the Bernabeau, bench nice and warm. Then we got Evra, wow! that was a great move! Though i can’t say much, Rio came to us from Leeds. He even admitted he hated Untied, cuz they won everything. I bet he hates all the medals he’s won at United. Not! Tevez is bitter, that’s why he’s joining City. Can’t say i blame him though, i would have loved to see Tevez stay at United. City might be a little dog with a loud bark, but i have to be honest, the bark is getting louder. I would have hated Van Nistelrooy, or Ronaldo had they joined Liverpool, but at least they joined another league. I’m hoping we get Real Madrid next season sometime in Champions League and we thump them!

    • Thanks! I’ve already blogged my thoughts on Owen at my site but I think it might be a good move in signing him.

      Also, I agree with you and wouldn’t recommend reading Bloody Confused. I’d obviously recommend Fever Pitch since I referenced it – but I’d also suggest Football Against the Enemy.

  19. sara says:

    I really like the way you think…it is just like i do! I`m a huge Liverpool fan(since I was 11 and now I`m 19) and oh. the reason why I started to support Liverpool was Michael Owen. I felt so down when he went to Madrid( we still don`t know the real reason why), but when he came to Newcaslte I was thinking:” he still has a chance to come back”. I was the gladest person on earth when Gerrard and Carragher made a campaign to bring him back, but Rafa didn`t want him….Then a few weeks ago the same thing happened , Big players wanted him back, even Torres was backing him, Rafa once again didn`t say a word… Now my heart hurts when I imagine how easily Michael could be wearing the Liverpool T-shirt , but…
    I don`t blame him because he is in the last few years of his career. It`s the last time for him to be back on top form, otherwise all his brilliant years will go wasting…
    Even though Man Utd is the team i most hate, I still love Michael and will always do so, at least I know Rooney is overly happy(he was always his idol:D)

  20. eric cantona says:

    dearest Ethan,

    you ‘love’ Liverpool? you might ‘hate’ Owen for going to United?. a fan since ’06? and they say most Manchester United fans are plastic. good lord.

    • Adam El says:

      With a user name as eric cantona, i begin to fink you probably supported leeds and once recieving the news eric had moved to united, followed him into old tw*tford?

  21. Tyson says:

    I once read Liverpool fans hate United more than they love Liverpool and it seems true everytime I read the comments coming from a Liverpool fan.

    I suppose its what happens when you haven’t won your domestic league for 20 years. As a United fan I’ve never had to experience that but I think this rivalry is childish end of the day the real talk is settled on the pitch.

    Rafa Benitez is a child minded moron who babbled on the entire last season and then ended up with egg in his face as all the crap he talked came back to haunt him when Liverpool again had nothing to show for at the end of the season.

    Theres nothing wrong with wishing Owen well. Putting aside shallow rivalries its important to support a man trying to revitalise his career.

    Not to mention when Owen was at Liverpool they never won the Premier League. If United win the PL once or twice it would add a nice accolade to Owens career.

    If Michael Owen had played for United the last 2 years he would have got more accolades in those 2 years alone than during his entire Liverpool career.

    He’s nearing what may be the end of his career and hes playing for the best club hes ever played for. It’s really a no brainer taking a step up from worse to better. I’m willing to wager he adds more accolades to his these 2 years than his entire Liverpool career.

  22. pd says:

    I never have an issue when trying to deal with the one’s that got away… Its becoming to common in sport.

    But a side not about the Beatles. None of them ever came out as a supporter of either team. In fact they probably had little time for football. But when they where coming up a nice tidbit to know about the teams is that typically Roman Catholics supported Everton, and Protestants supported Liverpool. So following that logic Paul and George where raised Catholic. And Paul was photographed attending the 1968 FA Cup final Everton V WBA. Ringo probably supports Tranmere Rovers, just cause he’s Ringo. and John probably thought it was all just a waste of time except the famous Monty Python Football match, Greece V Germany Philosophers.

  23. anton says:

    haters.

  24. scouse says:

    i feel sorry fro owen
    i utterly despise him now hes worn that disgusting shirt!
    cant ever foguve him.
    fowler left (not his choise) but he would NEVER have even thought about the scum for second. owen had RUINED his legacy in football
    liverpool – now hated
    real – thought of as second rate
    newcastle – hated
    scum – dont care
    england fc- liked
    not much of a legacy for someone who was and should have been a great if u ask me. He could have joined anyone else and at least had a solid legacy at liverpool for forever. Now he wont be fondly remembered by anyone club hes been at.
    poor choice dude : (

  25. pblifceire says:

    owen was a die hard liverpool player and i show him no respect for the move to united……disgraceful…..

  26. krithika says:

    Benitez missed a chance of re-signing a wonderful player…i dont know why people often criticize owen..cum on guys owen is also a human being and he has the right to take some decisions on his own so stop callin him a betrayer of liverpool or judas.even i’m a fan of liverpool..but we have to understand that he’s a player and he’s got the right to leave the club for his own career building..even we people will leave our present company incase if we get a highly paid job or a better opportunity ryt..same applies with owen..he left liverpool as he thought that he can shine better in other club and he also needs a change right,whats wrong in that??…stop criticizing him it is very stupid to insult the golden boy and hero of england football team..love you owen..god bless you!!

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