So Michael Owen’s career at Stoke City will come to an end at the end of this season after the former England international announced his decision to retire from professional football.
The cynics may say that Owen’s announcement comes courtesy of the well-documented suggestions that the Potters had already decided not to extend his contract at the Britannia. In truth it is no surprise. Frankly, seven appearances for the club and one goal, coming as a late consolation in a 3-1 defeat at Swansea, suggest that the gamble taken by Tony Pulis on Owen was a failed one.
The 33-year-old certainly did not cost the club too much in terms of wages, with his contract being firmly based on the number of appearances made, a tally that was hampered due to a combination of injuries, Pulis’ preference for the likes of Peter Crouch, Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome and Jonathan Walters, and Owen’s own rather anonymous showings when he did make an appearance in a Stoke shirt.
However, when the former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United striker’s signing was announced by an ecstatic Pulis in the early days of the season, his capture was portrayed as a coup for the club and a signal of just how much the Potters had progressed in recent seasons.
Of course, no one expected Owen to roll back the years at the Britannia and displace either Crouch or Walters, who until recently were seen as untouchables not just by the manager but by the club’s supporters. However, the thought of a man who had once set the world alight at the 1998 World Cup, before going onto score 40 goals for his country, signing at Stoke was rightly seen as a token of the job Pulis had done in lifting the club from the depths of the Championship into an established Premier League force.
After all, this was a man who was coming from Manchester United. Yes, he may not have been a regular at Old Trafford but Owen had always claimed that any move he would make would be to a club that he felt was capable of challenging towards the upper echelons of the league.
That Owen failed is perhaps no fault of his own. Turning 33 last December, the Chester-born striker was evidently coming to the end of a career that has been ravaged by injuries in recent years, robbing him of almost every attribute that made him one of the most feared strikers in the world in his day.
However, would it have hurt Pulis to have given Owen more of a chance when the striker had managed to regain fitness? Certainly, the Potters have struggled for goals this season but on so many occasions when Owen has been on the bench, the likes of Jerome, Jones and even midfielders such as Dean Whitehead have been preferred than a man regarded as one of the best finishes of the country.
Thus, the Britannia will bid farewell to Owen at the end of the season but really, the supporters might feel his spell as a Stoke player barely even got started.
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