Michael Owen's missed opportunity

The Manchester United striker's Twitter messages failed to live up to the expectations they had hinted at.

Michael Owen, of Manchester United, left, did not get a warm reception on his return to Newcastle.
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The well-publicised Twitter outburst this week by the Manchester United striker Michael Owen was similar to his football career: it started out with great promise but failed to live up to expectations.

After United's 0-0 draw away to his former club, Newcastle United, Owen used his one-month-old Twitter account - which had previously showcased some predictably bland chit-chat about golf and shopping trips - to bemoan the booing of the home fans.

"Knew I would get booed as that is what a lot of fans do," wrote Owen, "but if they knew the facts then they may have a different opinion."

Hello, what was this? Was the poster boy of media-trained dullness about to say something interesting?

Was he about to lift the lid on his unsatisfactory time at Newcastle, in which he appeared to take £110,000 (Dh660,00) per week for lying on the treatment room table, occasionally recovering to play for England, then reject an improved contract offer and waltz off to Manchester United while the Magpies slipped further into the mire, and were later relegated?

Were we about to witness the Twitter equivalent of the boy wonder's spectacular solo goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup?

Erm, no.

When the respected English sports journalist Oliver Holt tweeted to ask what these mysterious "facts" were, Owen stonewalled him.

"I try to answer most questions Ollie but can't be [bothered] being a back-page story so some things don't need to be said!"

So, there you go. There is a very good reason why Owen left Newcastle in the manner he did - a reason which would entirely exonerate him from accusations of greed and self-interest - and he could tell us all right now with a few taps on his iPad. But he cannot be bothered.

He went on to explain that footballers' remarks are often sensationalised, which is why players no longer trust the media. He then piously regretted that it was the fans who suffer.

But which is worse: to report genuine quotes and pick out the most interesting one - for that is what Owen means by "sensationalising", while newspapers, including those he has written for, call it "journalism" - or to subtly malign other people with veiled slurs, then feign ennui when further explanation is requested?

What does he mean by "facts"? Who was at fault, if not him? The Newcastle board? The manager? The medical staff? The tea lady?

We do not know. Perhaps we will never know, at least not until he releases another autobiography. It is funny how an expensive book deal can loosen a player's tongue and realise that, actually, being a back-page story is not always so bad, that maybe you can be bothered after all.

As well as the failure to live up to massive expectations, another hallmark of Owen's career has been his ability to play the innocent.

Even in his Twitter exchange, he remains polite and apparently good-natured while subtly damning those unspecified villains at Newcastle.

So perhaps I was wrong to compare his Twitter outburst to that wonder goal against Argentina in 1998.

A better comparison would be the angel-faced Owen's earlier contribution to the same match, when he won a dubious penalty, converted by Alan Shearer.

Perhaps one day Owen will tell us how he went down so easily after minimal contact by Argentinian defender Robert Ayala. If he can be bothered, of course.

Liverpool have signed up with a shirt manufacturer with an unorthodox name

At present the only people in Liverpool with “Warrior” written on their shirts are the poor unfortunate “egg-chasers”, aka Rugby League fans, from nearby Wigan.

From the start of the 2012 Premier League season, however, every new shirt on the Kop will be branded with the word.

Liverpool FC have signed a shirt deal with Warrior, a subsidiary of the American firm New Balance, to make their famous red jerseys for their players to wear.

Fans will be saddened to lose their long association with Adidas, a brand which has always seemed cooler than the relentlessly corporate Nike swoosh.

They may be even sadder to see their beloved three stripes replaced by an unknown brand.

Remember that sinking feeling when your mum returned from the shops and said: “I was about to buy those trainers you wanted when I saw these, which were basically the same thing but much cheaper!”?

And they may be sadder still when they learn that Warrior is synonymous in the United States with the sport of lacrosse, which may well be a ferociously violent man’s game across the Atlantic, but in the United Kingdom still conjures images of St Trinian’s schoolgirls.As they mourn their loss, however, the same fans may be cheered to know that Warrior has agreed to pay £25 million (Dh150m) per year to Liverpool, which beats the £23.3m currently paid by Nike to Manchester United.

In other words, they are swapping three vertical stripes for the single one which runs through a dollar sign.

If the cash helps Liverpool to start winning again, the fans will get used to the change.

It has been so long since they won the league, they have to ask those poor egg-chasers from Wigan what it feels like.

As my Liverpool-supporting friend said: “They can sell the Liver Bird to McDonalds for nuggets if it means we start winning something again!”