Michael Owen exploded onto the international stage at the 1998 FIFA World Cup scoring a goal which demonstrated the blistering pace that was his trademark and ensured he was one of the most feared strikers in the world at just 18 years of age.
Here’s Vinnie Jones to remind you of that special moment once again…
As a fan of Liverpool I was already excited about the young prospect in the mid-90s even at a time when there were no internet = no rumours . For any buzz to emanate from the club about a player, you knew they must be something special and Michael Owen had always been so.
Owen grew up in a football mad family near Chester the 4th son of Terry Owen an Everton graduate and Chester City striker. At eight, Owen was selected for the Deeside Area Primary School’s Under-11 team. At nine he was captain and at ten he had smashed Ian Rush‘s twenty-year record for the same team by scoring a record breaking 97 goals in a single season, improving on Rush’s record by 25 goals.
His pace and finishing offered the perfect combination and clubs soon took notice with Manchester United’s Brian Kidd making the first approach. However it was a ‘smashing letter’ from Liverpool legend and scout Steve Heighway that impressed young Michael and he was soon scoring for fun through the Liverpool ranks including helping them to their first FA Youth Cup win against a West Ham team that hadn’t lost in 24 consecutive games and boasted future England captains Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.
Karl-Heinz Riedle, who prior to joining Liverpool in the summer of 1997 had never heard of Owen, declared: “It’s unbelievable when you see him play to realise that he’s only 17,” he said. “He’s such a good player, so very quick and for his age he has excellent vision and awareness. He’s a great player already and in one or two years he will become a very great player.”
Once he signed a professional contract at 17 Owen quickly started banging in goals for Liverpool of all different shapes but it was his pace that ensured he was on the scoresheet regularly as evidenced in some of his earliest work…
His England debut followed and he was embraced and feared on the world stage in equal measure but then.
April 12, 1999: Owen tore a hamstring for the first time playing for Liverpool at Leeds. Aged 19, his blistering pace lost its throttle. “Getting that massive injury at Leeds has probably changed and shaped my whole career,” said Owen. “Since I was 19, I’ve been compromised. If I did that now, it would be surgically repaired like it’s brand new. I wouldn’t even know I had an injury. Back then you just let it go.
“I basically run on two hamstrings on my right leg and three on the other. I’m losing a third of the power. If I hadn’t done that, 90 per cent of the other injuries wouldn’t have happened. I would have been the all-time leading scorer for England.
A move to Real Madrid which he has admitted he felt sick about but couldn’t have any regrets meant he had to look on as Liverpool won the 2005 European Cup that year. An injury plagued return to the Premier League for Newcastle United frustrated all involved not least him. A controversial move to Liverpool’s greatest rivals Man United meant he won a Premier League medal but he is still paying for crossing the divide in the eyes of many Koppites, and in my view harshly and unfairly, he is still ranked No.14 in ‘100 Players That Shook The Kop’. He can still look back on his career medals, goal tally and European player of the year award as hugely successful if though something short of what he could have been capable of if he hadn’t lost his fearsome genuine pace at 19 years of age.
There is no official 100m time for Owen, though he has claimed 10.8s at U15 level it’s unrealistic when you consider the English schoolboys U15 record is currently held by sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis at 10.93s.
Genuine Pace thinks at is peak Owen could match anyone in football and probably win over 40m. Before his injury we’re certain that he would break the 11second barrier and on the track could have taken that to 10.95s.
UPDATE: Congratulations Michael on becoming Liverpool’s first official international ambassador.