By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
Physiotherapists up and down Britain have been plunged into crisis with the news that Michael Owen will finally retire from football at the end of the season. The former England international and current Stoke benchwarmer (33) has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the current campaign, no doubt to focus on his equine interests.
Owen made his debut for Liverpool towards the end of the 1996/97 season, going on to score 158 goals in 297 games for the Reds, also picking up the Ballon d’Or in 2001. At his best, he was a razor sharp striker, blessed with speed and goalscorers instinct. But apart from a handful of hugely memorable goals, we sadly didn’t see him at his best too often. With the exception of Movember.
Much of his last decade in the game has been blighted by injury and playing for Newcastle. He battled on courageously, never letting his fitness troubles get in the way of him accepting £100,000 a week to sit on the bench.
In 2009, he annoyed Liverpool fans even more than the time he left for Real Madrid when he joined the dark side over at Manchester United. The decision was about as popular as an insincere apology from The Sun on Merseyside, but paid dividends for Owen, ending up with one more Premier League winners’ medal than Steven Gerrard will ever have and more importantly, lining his pockets.
On Sky Sports News, former team-mate, Jason McAteer paid tribute, saying:
Michael Owen could make something out of nothing
For example, an innocuous thigh strain into four months sitting on the sofa eating Starburst.
A slightly distracted Sir Trevor Brooking was asked for his favourite Michael Owen memory on Sky Sports News:
eeem …. when he was a youngster … jinking through … emmmm …. leaving all those …. emmmmm …. South Americans in his …. emmmm …. wake
Is there any greater tribute in football than a semi-complete sentence from a knight of the realm?
Twitter reacted with an odd mix of tributes, vitriol and ‘about time’. There were also a lot of ‘I thought he retired years ago, guffaw, guffaw’ thigh-slappers too. Here’s some of the better ones. Don’t blame us, blame Twitter for not being that funny.
From the horse’s mouth:
Big day today. I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional footballer. Full statement here: http://t.co/FkH8Vjkm0G
— michael owen (@themichaelowen) March 19, 2013
Gary Lineker does the electronic equivalent of patting the empty space on the Match of the Day sofa:
Michael Owen to retire at the end of the season. One of England's greatest goal scorers, and a good bloke too. Wish him well.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 19, 2013
Rory McIlroy blows some e-kisses in Owen’s direction:
@themichaelowen you're a class act! Enjoy your retirement with your friends and family.
— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) March 19, 2013
He mustn’t have told his team-mates in advance judging by Asmir Begovic:
— Asmir Begovic (@asmir1) March 19, 2013
Nigel Martyn endured his fair share of ‘picking the ball out of the back of the net’ thanks to Owen’s sharp-shooting.
@themichaelowen great career , great player , scored too many against me ! Good luck in the future whatever you do .
— Nigel Martyn (@nmartyn25) March 19, 2013
The Flying Teapot shows no mercy:
Joey Barton puts down his Orwell anthology to pay tribute:
@themichaelowen far too early mate. If your injury free, you still have a lot to offer. Understand there is more to life. Sad to see you go.
— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) March 19, 2013
All aboard the Barton/Owen banter bus:
— michael owen (@themichaelowen) March 19, 2013
Weird Horse looks to Owen’s future
So happy to hear that Michael Owen is retiring. Now he can concentrate on feeding horses like myself and injuring himself tripping over hay
— Weird Horse (@WeirdHorse) March 19, 2013
Soon to be ex-teammate, Charlie Adam praises Owen through the medium of questionable grammar and weird hashtag:
— Charlie Adam (@Charlie26Adam) March 19, 2013
Former England cricketing captain, Michael Vaughan sets the groundwork for many a three-ball:
Congrats on a great career @themichaelowen .. 3 against the Germans will always live in the memory bank…. Well done
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 19, 2013
Former X Factor winner, Steve Brookstein comments for some reason:
I bet Piers Morgan will say something nice to michael owen claiming his abuse is just 'banter' and he has respect for him really. #knob
— steve brookstein (@stevebrookstein) March 19, 2013
Not enough random? This is what Eamonn Holmes thinks:
Hearing @themichaelowen is to retire from football. Big decision. Bravely made Blighted by injury . Still a legend. Good luck.
— Eamonn Holmes (@EamonnHolmes) March 19, 2013
Think there’s a lack of pretentiousness in all these tributes? It’s ok, here’s Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph over-analyzing the shit out of it:
Michael Owen's career was as much a victim of end of 4-4-2 and his limitations as a lone striker as injury/loss of form…
— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) March 19, 2013
Geordie-Oz combines a swear word and our favourite brass-wind instrument to question the claim:
— Geordie-Oz (@GeordieOz) March 19, 2013
And if the love-in is getting a bit irritating, here he is being a bit of a dick to a 13 year old.