Michael Owen - Sinner Or Saint?
It's a long time since I saw an ex-Toon player return to St James' Park as hated as Michael Owen.
But former Toon striker Andy Cole also faced stick from the Toon Army when he returned in the Man Utd shirt, and he defends the former England international.
Owen joined Man Utd saying "I play better when I play for teams that win all the time!"
Oh yeah! He's right ... because he didn't put in a decent shift when we were relegated at Villa Park.
Andy Cole: "I've read a lot of criticism of Owen recently, chiefly his supposed lack of enthusiasm for football.
"Such abuse is nothing new; he was hammered by Newcastle United fans, accused of being a wage thief. I've played at Newcastle and if the fans are not happy they're not shy about it.
"There are two sides to every story. For Newcastle fans, their club were paying a fortune to someone who was always injured. You can almost understand their feelings, yet Owen didn't ask to be injured.
"To accuse him of lacking passion for football now is also wrong. He could have just stopped playing this summer. Plenty of players have retired before 32, Owen's current age.
"I wasn't surprised when he left Liverpool for Madrid because he wanted to win trophies. You don't win league titles at Liverpool.
"Owen lasted a season in Madrid. You need to be more than a goal-scorer there and Owen didn't learn Spanish, which was a mistake.
"Owen moved to Newcastle where he could have been revered. Instead, he was hit by injuries. He admitted that injury had robbed him some of his pace, so I was surprised when he joined Manchester United, especially as former Liverpool players don't tend to go down too well at Old Trafford.
"Sadly, he started just 18 games in three years, though he did come off the bench 34 times and scored a few notable goals. He wasn't a flop, he just didn't play anywhere as much as he would have hoped.
"Yet he still scored a last-minute winner in a Manchester derby, still scored a hat-trick in a Champions League match and still made the bench in a Champions League final over Dimitar Berbatov.
"There wasn't a queue of clubs waiting to sign him this summer when he left United.
"Clubs were nervous about his injury record, and his wages are not cheap either. He reduced his options by saying that he wanted to stay in England's north-west. Some saw that as a lack of passion.
"Nonsense. He wants to stay near his family and it's not like he hasn't proved that he can travel. Besides, there are lots of clubs within an hour of his home near Chester. He signed a pay-as-you-play deal with Stoke City this week.
"If Owen's fit then he'll score goals at Stoke. He and Peter Crouch may make a little and large foil for each other, though it will be interesting to see how Owen adjusts to Stoke's direct and physical approach which has been so effective for them.
"Stoke need to accommodate Owen's strengths and get the ball to his feet. Do that and he could prove his many doubters wrong."
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