Stoke Focus – Has the Michael Owen gamble failed to pay off?

Michael Owen’s first start as a Stoke City player (and indeed his first competitive start for any club since November 2011) ended in quiet ignominy as he was replaced just after half-time of the Potters’ goalless FA Cup third round draw at Crystal Palace.

Although there were flashes of the old Michael Owen magic in the first half, particularly in combination with old England team-mate Peter Crouch, in truth it was very much a performance that has summed up Owen’s career at the Britannia to date: lethargic, lacking in pace and, ultimately, anonymous.

Owen’s display, coupled with rumours emanating that clubs in Australia are looking at the former England international for a potential move down under in January, suggests that the gamble Tony Pulis took in bringing him to the Potteries following his release from Manchester United in the summer looks to be ending in failure.

In fairness to the now 32-year-old, it is perhaps a little unfair to condemn his Stoke career simply on the basis of one performance. Indeed, throughout the years Owen has always needed a consistent run of games to get up to speed after suffering from injury, even at his electrifying best. Thus, to expect him to produce a sparkling performance on his maiden start for the club at his age and having barely played any football for 13 months due to injury was perhaps wishful thinking to say the least.

Indeed, it was not even that Owen played particularly badly. Quite simply, he just seemed off the pace, far too off the pace for someone to make an impact in Tony Pulis’ Stoke side. When you consider that the opposition was Championship side Crystal Palace, then that fact becomes even starker.

In truth, the decision to bring Owen to the club can hardly be seen as a huge “gamble” taken by Pulis. The Welshman already had four forwards at his disposal while Owen’s contract is said to be highly incentivised based on playing appearances, of which Owen has only made a limited amount due to a combination of first the form shown by the likes of Crouch, Jones and Jonathan Walters and then injury.

However, Pulis and Stoke supporters on the whole must begin to ask themselves: as much as they would like Michael Owen to succeed at the club, just what exactly does he bring to the table at this moment in time rather than a raft of publicity every time he so much as makes an appearance on the substitutes bench?

Considering the minimal losses involved, perhaps the powers that be at the Britannia would be best advised to sit Owen down and bring this rather unfortunate chapter to an end.

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