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Michael Owen Exclusive: England icon talks to The Football Faithful

Michael Owen had some career. The youngest player to win a Premier League Golden Boot, and the last Englishman to have been crowned the Ballon d’Or winner.

Owen scored 150 Premier League goals and represented Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke during an illustrious career, while becoming the leading English forward of his era.

Just five players have ever scored more goals for England than Owen, who burst onto the scene as a teenager, before scoring goals at a rapid rate. In a career of highs and lows, Owen was the boy-wonder who terrified defences with electric pace.

 

This week, The Football Faithful sat down with Michael to discuss his career, in an event hosted by BoyleSports.

You won the Golden Boot at 18, and again at 19, do you think that’s something that will ever be repeated?

“It’s often something that people ask me, what’s your best achievement?

“I’ve had a lot of great moments in my career. There will be another English winner of the Ballon d’Or, it’s a rare thing but it has been done before and will happen again.

“There will be people that win a lot of the things that I did, and do a lot of the things I did. But I would be very surprised if there’s ever a two-time winner of the Golden Boot at that age.

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“The first half of those seasons I was 17 and 18, so I don’t think by the time someone reaches their 19th birthday that that will ever happen again.”

Do you think that achievement, or your career, gets the recognition it deserves?

“In terms of recognition, I’ve been asked that a lot recently. You won the Ballon d’Or and this and that. I don’t know, I suppose it’s a question for other people.

“I have my view on what I was like as a player. I probably don’t get recognised as much because I only had half a career when I was at the very top.

“If I had continued and sustained that then my numbers would have muscled me into all the conversations, if I wasn’t injured. I don’t know what other people think. I know what I think, what I was, but that’s for other people to have a good memory.”

2001 was a special year for Liverpool, with five trophies, and a season that made you a Ballon d’Or winner. What are your memories from that campaign?

“It felt like every two or three days we were playing another game. We had a great team spirit among us and some really good players, but it did feel as if we weren’t the best team in the country at the time.

“Manchester United were obviously very good, Arsenal were amazing. They were probably in their prime at that point, with Vieira, Henry, Pires and those of the world.

“To win all of those trophies and to beat the likes of Arsenal in the FA Cup final, it was just incredible. And then to continue into the next season, you still want to start the season winning the Community Shield, you want to win the Super Cup, beating the Champions League winners. We beat Bayern Munich in that.

“Five trophies in the space of about three months, it was just incredible. If I could have one season again, I’d go back to that one.”

You turned the FA Cup final around with two late goals, in a game Arsenal had been dominating…

“Well I do remember going into the game and I was in a rich vein of form at that time, I was scoring quite a lot of goals. It’s very rarely been a game in my life where I’ve not had a chance and I just remember the game, you’re right, they were certainly the best team. We didn’t have a chance all game with about 85 minutes gone.

“When you’re confident, and when you’ve been in a good run of form, you just believe. You just know that something’s going to happen, you will have a chance. And I did, I just thought there’s never been a game where I’ve not had at least half a chance. You will get one, just be ready.

“Then when the ball flew over my head, I just thought ‘I’ve got to spin, I’ve got to turn, I’ve got to get in a position where I think this ball will drop’. The ball was a little bit floaty from (Gary) McAllister, so I just turned and found the place I thought it was most likely to drop. I managed to keep it down and struck it beautifully into the bottom corner.

“I’ll never forget the feeling, jogging back to the halfway line knowing they’ve thrown everything at you. It’s almost like George Foreman against Muhammad Ali in The Rumble in the Jungle. He (Foreman) just threw everything at him for round after round and he (Ali) never threw a punch. Then all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye…

“I just remember jogging past their players, looking up at the scoreboard, looking at the time. Basically thinking, have I got time to score another? I genuinely, it sounds arrogant, but I genuinely knew that I was going to score again and thought that we were going to win it.

“Momentum’s a huge thing and when you throw everything at somebody and you’re still not winning at the end of it, it doesn’t half tire you more. We had a new lease of life and I just hoped that I’d get another chance, and I did a few seconds later…”

If you could score one goal again, would it be that one?

“I think so, yeah. For the feeling. You’ve got to put it into context. Young kids reading this would be like, FA Cup final? But the FA Cup final, for me, growing up was the biggest game in the world.

“I was mesmerised by it, the cameras on the coaches as you’re going up Wembley way. It was a day out for everyone. We used to have a barbecue in our back garden or whatever. It just felt like FA Cup final day was always sunny… the national anthem, everything about it.

“If you had said to me you could do one thing in your life, it would have been score the winner in the FA Cup final.

“Now, the Premier League’s got bigger, the Champions League’s got bigger, but at that time, that’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a football pitch.”

Your club form continued into the following season, and that night in Germany…

“I remember going into the game and we needed to win. Winning away in Germany was not something easily done but we had a good team.

“The problem was, they had beaten us in the last game, in the last at the old Wembley. So straight away, you’re thinking, if we can’t beat them at Wembley how are we going to do it in their own backyard?

“Then obviously the game got off to the worst possible start and we go one-nil down in the first few minutes. You do have a little bit of fear. You think, oh god, what if it’s 3-0? What if it’s 4-0?

“It’s humiliating. This game has been built up, your big rivals and all the rest of it. I do remember feeling that.

“But after that, there’s probably been a handful of games where I’ve felt the team are so in control. When you’re watching from the side, it’s difficult to gauge, but when you’re playing it’s different. I guess it’s like a boxer, within a round or two you know you’ve got someone’s measure, you’re getting to the punch quicker.

“It just felt like, today, we’re too good for them. We’re going to beat them. After 20 minutes it felt like we were just getting in all the time, it felt so good and it wasn’t a surprise.

“If you had said to me after 20-30 minutes, what’s the score going to be? I would have said we’re going to beat these well.”

Read – Iconic Performances: Michael Owen in Munich

See more – Iconic Duos: Heskey and Owen – Liverpool’s ‘big man, small man’ combo that inspired a cup treble

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