Sunday, June 17, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 14: Michael Owen


Voted in at number 14 in our '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series is former Anfield striking sensation Michael Owen.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Michael Owen

Years at Liverpool: 1996 to 2004
Position: Forward

Date-of-birth: 14/12/1979
Birthplace: Chester

Signed from: School (December 1996)

Games: 297
Goals: 158

Honours: FA Cup (2001), UEFA Cup (2001), League Cup (2001, 2003), FA Youth Cup (1996), Charity Shield (2001), Super Cup (2001)

A boy wonder for club and country, Michael Owen's emergence on the senior scene caused unprecedented ripples of excitement inside Anfield and provided hope for success-starved Liverpudlians who craved a return to the trophy-filled days of the seventies and eighties. His goals were instrumental in helping to briefly fend off those hunger pains but, as one of the most feared finishers in the game, his fame spread far beyond the confines of L4 and he was to sadly fly from the Liver Bird's nest in anti-climatic circumstances without sampling life at the top table in a red shirt. Owen first shot to prominence as a 16-year old in 1996 during the club's memorable run to a first FA Youth Cup triumph. He fired the young Reds to glory amid the glare of the television cameras and the Academy's best kept secret was out in the open. Those in the know had been well aware of the Chester-born striker's immense potential since he joined the Liverpool youth set-up aged 11. Blessed with pace to burn, breathtaking skill and an all-important predatory eye for goal, his talents were nurtured at the FA's School of Excellence in Lilleshall and he scored prolifically when rising meteorically through the Anfield ranks. His reward came in May 1997 when then boss Roy Evans pitched him into his first team debut against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. Having seen his side yet again fail to make any real impact on the title race, the boss could no longer resist the temptation to blood the precocious youngster, whose progress had set tongues wagging frantically. He was summonsed from the bench as a second half substitute and duly repaid his managers faith by registering the first of 158 goals for the Reds. Kopites had themselves a new hero and, with Robbie Fowler sidelined through injury, the boy Owen was chosen to lead the Liverpool forward line for much of the following season. He didn't disappoint and within months his burgeoning reputation was raised a few notches more when he made history by becoming England's youngest debutant of the last century. But while this was a proud moment for all at Anfield, there's a reflective school of thought among many Liverpool followers that the talented teenager's head was turned by events at international level, so much so that it eventually fuelled his desire to move abroad. English football's hottest prospect ended that season as joint top scorer in the Premier League and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year. Envious glances were being cast towards Anfield by all of the continent's top clubs and when Owen lit up the 1998 World Cup with a stunning solo effort against Argentina his star was shining brighter than ever. Thankfully, the level-headed Owen's twinkle-toed feet remained firmly on the ground and to the delight of all Liverpudlians he lived up to his superstar status in the years that followed. A clinically-taken hat-trick away to Newcastle in August 1998 proved his heroics at France '98 were no flash in the pan and he was to top the Liverpool goalscoring charts every season until his departure. His finest year was without doubt 2001 and his name will forever be associated with our dramatic FA Cup Final victory over Arsenal in Cardiff, his two late goals securing the second leg of the famous cup treble. Owen also netted in the Charity Shield and Super Cup victories that took Liverpool's amazing haul of silverware to five in just in a matter of months and ended the year by becoming the first British player in two decades to win the prestigious European Footballer of the Year award. In 2003 he was on the scoresheet in another Cup Final triumph as Liverpool defeated Manchester United to win the Worthington Cup but, despite these important goals, Owen strangely struggled to command the type of adulation from the crowd that was cascaded down on some of his less talented team-mates. His rapport with the Kop was not helped by ongoing speculation that he was reluctant to commit his long-term future to the club. Even the arrival of Rafael Benitez, as Gerard Houllier's successor, failed to persuade him and with just a year remaining on his contract he opted to test himself abroad and joined Real Madrid in an £8 million deal on the eve of the 2004/05 season. What followed in the ensuing campaign proved the grass isn't always greener on the other side and as the Reds celebrated Champions League success Owen was no doubt privately ruing his decision leave. It's no secret that he was desperate to return but it was not to be. The possibility of Michael Owen once again pulling on a Liverpool shirt now seems highly unlikely but his legendary status at Anfield is already assured. You only have to cast your mind back and remember the host of 'goal'den memories he left us with to be certain of that.

Sold to: Real Madrid (August 2004)

Claim to fame: Scoring twice in Cardiff to win the FA Cup against Arsenal in 2001

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