Apart from the Essien saga, the only other big story of this transfer season is perhaps the return of Michael Owen to the Premiership. It’s been a somewhat curious affair though. While Michael was begging and pleading to be taken back by Liverpool, with everyone there seemingly very keen, Benitez, the Liverpool manager wouldn’t go back on his decision to dump him. I’ve always wondered why Michael ever contemplated returning to Liverpool under Benitez’s management when it was obvious that his original sale to Real Madrid wasn’t only a tactical decision.
Benitez likes to feel comfortable wherever he goes; he hates the idea of having players (especially local boys) taking the centre stage away from him. People may not realize this, but that was exactly the reason he massively imported Spaniards, offloaded Owen and actually wanted Gerrard to move on; but the latter’s last minute change of mind over the Chelsea move ruptured his plan. No one should believe his public yarn that he wants Gerrard to stay. He would have preferred taking the money and building a team around Xabi Alonso. So, it was a little dispiriting to watch Michael grovel in an attempt to return there. Thank God he’s made the right decision finally by joining Newcastle instead.
Despite the fact that he cannot dribble or make his own goals, I rate Michael Owen highly as a finisher. I wouldn’t have minded him joining Chelsea, but obviously our style of play has no room for his kind of striker. He cannot play the lone striker’s role up front and he doesn’t have the height to cause opponents concern in set-piece situations. But at Newcastle, playing off a Shearer or a Luque will be right up his alley and his acquisition may finally bring out the best in the very rich Newcastle midfield, if only injury will spare them. The signing of Parker and Emre particularly is a visionary move by Souness, but they’ll need others to pull their weight. If we really must be honest, Newcastle’s problem isn’t really that they do not have the players to take them higher; their problem is that not everyone is pulling their weight in that team.
The acquisition of Michael Owen should be the beginning of introspection in that team. The manager should take a hard look at himself and understand that he’s dealing with adults. A confrontational approach to management does not breed trust or respect; Souness will have to let go some of the anger he can barely hide at times. He’s got to build a team with other professionals who just happen to be players, not children.
Another pivotal character is Alan Shearer. I’ve never known a player so powerful in a club like Shearer. I don’t know what role he’s been playing in all the upheaval at Newcastle over the years, but it is clear from the sacking of Gullit and Robson and now this Owen negotiation that he’s more than a player there. Of course, in the eyes of Geordies he does no wrong, which really is a good thing if only he can use such love and confidence selflessly on behalf of the club he loves. I would expect him to dedicate the remaining one year of his playing career to ensure that the Newcastle dressing room is sorted and that everyone pulls in the same direction with the manager.
Most neutral fans want Newcastle to do well, but in my case, not at the expense of my beloved Chelsea. Angel Michael or not, I look forward to celebrating our six points from our two League encounters this season.