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The Michael Owen Problem: A Liverpool Fan Reflects

[Editor’s note: I’ve been wondering how Liverpool fans feel about Michael Owen’s new career at Manchester United, so I asked regular Run of Play commenter and fervent Liverpool supporter George Brown to explain. Here’s what he had to say.]

Owen was back in the news. Owen got what Owen wanted; Owen wanted to be in the news. Owen says some pisswater comment about United being the biggest club in the world and Owen makes the news. Owen makes another grovelling platitude about his thoughtlessness in such a bold declaration and how Owen still respects Liverpool, which puts Owen in the news. This is not how Owen wanted it. Journalists sleep a little less easy at night. Journalists who renamed Rooney “Roo” so his name could fit into pun-based headlines more easily dream a little more fitfully at night.

See—these headlines jump out of inane papers, I smirk a Guardian reader’s little grin and read down. Owen was a national joke who burned out and looked set to fade away and Salford’s Cheshire-cat-grinning little bobbing, laughing hyenas loved it. Jungle Book cries and shrieking, snorting echoes of “rubbish” and “past it”—; cause, y’know… He was one of them. Little fucking scouser deserved his miserable end.

This is all fine y’know—it’s just one little aloof smirk from being forgotten. But we are hurting; Gerrard, Torres and Kuyt injured in one set of internationals and 5-0-3? No. See, fuck Owen — What do I feel about his transfer? I don’t care — Every Hollywood film with the one last shot at the bigtime for the aging hero has him as a hero, right? Guy’s one re-adaption away from being Clint freakin’ Eastwood. I only just stop short of wishing him well.

But we. We can’t have this—we are 40 000 dressed up in our red flags, big Bovver Boots to keep out that winter cold—because it’s arctic, each hateful chant just hangs in the air in that crystal air man—Smith in an ambulance and our taunts just hang there, mist spelling out each obscenity. See, every human in the world tells you a career-threatening injury is awful, and every person in Anfield offered their condolences. We though, we felt it, wanted it, wanted more. The crowd magnifies us—our glories and our hate, Smith and his unfortunate block were avatars. Smith was Uncle Sam, Checkpoint Charlie and the New Testament.

We’re tribal people, from genocide to some jibe about a stadium disaster. It dehumanises them, it turns us into this crowd standing down 30 miles of M62 just howling, bellowing and screaming until vocal chords tear. Can’t you see this? We just fucking BELONG! And that’s it—that missing thing from overly urbanised life, man. This is our religion, our race, our socially acceptable bigotry. Blues ride at the back of the bus. Owen was ours. Owen was ours and Owen isn’t really Owen. We do not recognise apostasy, only new converts. Ince had his Road to Damascus moment in similar circumstances, but that was to us. Ince was born again. Died elsewhere to be born again—Stalinist revisionism that hushes up criticisms of form, chants of “Fergie, Fergie sign him up.” Carlos who? It’s all part of this fevered thinking—wraps its wrathful tendrils around the brain and squeezes to blind with rage at conceding from an easy corner. Powers through the muscles. The strength of 12,000 in one stand. One collective thought. The strength of 12,000,000 dotted around the country, the collective urge to hurl the TV into the wall, to feel the strength of unity.

Truth is essentially majority opinion, and when we’re calm, it’s easy to rationally explain Owen’s weaknesses at great length. Lordy, have you seen his injury record? But Owen was never part of us. Owen was our flagship, but he never felt that wave of rage, pride and loss cresting in him. Maybe no professionals do, maybe it is just a job. JLB credit, LFC mortgage union. It is just a game. But we went back and painted Owen out of all those photos, gave the FA cup to Arsenal and called it a day.

See, Owen was never Fowler.

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The Michael Owen Problem: A Liverpool Fan Reflects

by George Brown · October 17, 2009

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