Michael Owen really does owe something to Newcastle United. The striker who has scored 40 goals in his international career has not yet signed a new deal, fueling speculation that he will be parting ways with the club when his contract ends in the summer. He has refused to assure fans that his long term future will be in the North East, saying that no decision will be made until the season is over, “I have informed them I do not want to make a decision about my future until that time.”
Manchester City has been tipped as a possible destination, as has the Emirates as Arsenal seek that finishing touch to their trademark build-up play. The romantics even suggest a return to home club Liverpool, admittedly an implausible outcome. The club has spent millions of pounds on securing the services of the ex-Liverpool poacher, yet the majority of his spell has seen him on the sidelines with long term injuries.
It has been widely reported that Michael Owen earns a whopping £120,000 a week salary. He signed a four-year deal on August 24, 2005, and since then he has made a mere 59 starts for the club in all competitions. Add the £17m that Newcastle dished out to Real Madrid, the figure comes to £39,320,000. A ridiculous figure. Since bringing Michael Owen to St James’s Park, it works out that the club have paid just over £666,440 per each start. Once again, it would appear that he owes the club something, no?
Often in his absence, and not enough in his company, Newcastle United have struggled miserably in the past four years. Without doubt, they have underperformed drastically as a club. Fans have expressed dismay at an inability to climb up the league, or even make any real progress in the cups. Neighbours and rivals Middlesbrough have played in a European final and won the League Cup in recent years; Newcastle haven’t even come close.
In the time he has spent at the club, Owen has been under a total of 5 managers: Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, and Joe Kinnear. During that stretch the club that has flattered to deceive the whole time Owen has been there, a club constantly in crisis with relegation worries, ownership chaos, and now the latest gaffer off sick after suffering a heart attack.
There is no doubt that conspiring events have not made the four years at Newcastle enjoyable for Michael Owen. At 29, Owen is at a club like no other he has experienced. He has spent his career at two of the most illustrious names in world football in Liverpool and Real Madrid. His time at Anfield was a real golden era for the striker. He was a pure goal scoring machine, banging in 118 in 216 games. A move to Spain saw 13 goals in a season where he was forced to play a peripheral role. Not a bad return when his time at Real Madrid often involved coming off the bench to net a goal.
His current club are in a completely different league. With most of his career enjoying the gloss of the Champions League and chasing trophies, it is now simply a case of league survival. Even as he approaches the twilight of his playing days, there can be little argument surrounding his ability.
Michael Owen will have doubts about the direction of his current club, most likely the reason for his refusal to commit to a new deal. Regardless, there’s always great optimism within the North East. The club is more than big enough to achieve great things, but Owen has been underwhelmed by the lack of progress within the club in the past four years.
It is important to note though, that the club are in no worse of a situation than when he first agreed to make the move. Owen was supposed to be the main man, the star player that could help make Newcastle’s dream happen; however Owen may bemoan the lack of this development, but equally his involvement, that catalyst, has also been missing.
He will have to show a great deal of patience if he stays, and he will be rightfully conscious that he is closing in on thirty years of age. However, hasn’t his club shown similar patience with him already over the duration of his current deal? Then there are the fans, who have had to endure the frustration of both. A lack of progress within their beloved club, and a lack of Michael Owen. The club has an admirable fan base, crowds of over 50,000 watching the team week in week out.
They, like the club, have been more than enduring of Owen’s long list of injuries. They’ve allowed him a platform from which to try and get his career on track and given him the support he’s needed. Is he right to reward such support and adoration by simply allowing his contract to filter out and depart for nothing? Surely they do not deserve that. The club that has stuck with him and continue to do so with his frustrating ligament problems, knee worries and frequent niggling strains. A club like Newcastle and its fans deserve some loyalty.
Michael Owen appears on the surface to be a nice guy. A professional who would have a great deal of gratitude for how the club has helped him in a tough period. He should respect the huge financial outlay that has been spent on making him a fans’ favourite and the goal scoring replacement for club legend, Alan Shearer. He should be grateful that they are offering him a new contract when he has featured so little since his arrival.
Having spent so long on the sidelines, having been paid such extortionate levels of money, it is time to really give something back to a great club. Michael Owen owes it to Newcastle and the tremendous support they’ve given him to secure Premiership safety for the club this season and bring them back to respectability.