Michael Owen announces his retirement

Posted by James Whittaker

Michael Owen today announced his retirement from football, leaving Stoke City as the final chapter in his long and successful career.

- Owen: A career in pictures Photo Gallery

Owen signing for Stoke was always a strange one and many fans, including myself, never saw a place for him in Tony Pulis' strict system - it was a move that smacked of Pulis' penchant for a 'name', with no thought as to how they would be used (see Crouch, Tuncay, Adam, Gudjohnsen, Berger)

While one could question the manager's intentions in signing a player seen more on the sides of a racetrack than a football pitch, the player's own motivation also came under scrutiny. Many criticised Owen for not moving earlier in the summer transfer window in order to get a full pre-season with his new team mates, something that would see him hit the ground running especially given his age and injury record. Instead he trained alone as the anticipated offers failed to materialise and his recent time spent with Stoke appeared to be the last throw of the dice on a career in the top flight.

It's hard to pinpoint just when Owen's star started to fade, his time at Newcastle saw Kevin Keegan use him in an unfamiliar link role between midfield and attack, such was his recognition of the striker's declining pace. This would appear to be the first tangible sign of Owen's career tailing off. It was after his time at Newcastle that his management team put together a 32-page dossier extolling the virtues of "The Athlete, the Ambassador, the Icon". That such an artefact was required to drum up interest in "one of the most successful and gifted strikers of his generation" was more significant than we perhaps appreciated at the time.

It was perhaps the concept of 'Michael Owen the brand' which attracted the club, if not the manager, to signing him. The chairman and his family could only benefit from the association as they look to further expand into foreign betting markets but even they must have been frustrated at seeing him spending more time on the Match of the Day sofa and Saturday night game shows than he ever did on the pitch for the Potters.

In the last few weeks Owen has cut a frustrated figure as he has been quick to point out his fitness through the media, indicating there is only one man who can tell us why he isn't playing. That man is Pulis, and to some his refusal to play someone of Owen's pedigree at a time when Stoke are one of the lowest scorers in all four divisions is bordering on professional negligence.

It's a shame that this is how Michael’s long and illustrious career will conclude, but this Stoke fan would like to wish him all the best in his retirement. I'm sure the player and fans alike will wonder at what might have been had he been given the chance to shine in Pulis' goal-shy team but given the proclamation that "his mental strength, powerful physique and natural sharpness should ensure his phenomenal goal scoring record should continue in virtually any tactical formation", it appears that Pulisball was a step too far.

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