Former professional footballer Michael Owen has caused much consternation among many Newcastle United fans with comments made in his most recent autobiography. In giving it the title of ‘Reboot’ is he referring to himself starting afresh? Starting afresh from what I hear no one ask? Is he meaning it in the sense of a computer (machine) rebooting and therefore seeing himself as the machine? The man as machine? Has he been reading Hobbes and Descartes then? Did they inspire his work? Given the excerpts of it published in the Mirror this week I’m almost certain that’s not the case.

Michael is so critical of Newcastle United, its fans and club legend Alan Shearer that the book it seems may well be less about his achievements and life-philosophy and more about the people he blames for his time as a professional footballer ending with 8 appearances at Tony Pulis’s Stoke City in 2013.

And oh boy does he go hard on those he feels are responsible for his career as a world class player nosediving from the age of 24 in 2004 when he left Liverpool for Real Madrid. The summer of 2004 was the one in which Rafa Benitez arrived at Liverpool and he said of the Owen situation, “I was very happy with Michael and I wanted him to stay. The problem was he only had a year left on his contract. Real Madrid started talking with his agent and in the end it was an impossible situation to control.”

Indeed, Michael himself said “I was in America on a pre-season tour when my phone rang with the news. My agent told me that Real Madrid had been in touch and wanted to sign me. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” It would appear that he chose to laugh and went to Real Madrid despite Liverpool being his club.

After one season in Madrid, where he achieved a decent level of success in notching 14 goals in La Liga, it never really worked out as quickly and perfectly as he might have envisaged and injuries meant that, according to an article El Español, he never won over the fans.

This is the point at which Newcastle United comes into the story. We already knew before Michael’s words were published in the Daily Mirror’s serialisation of his opus that he couldn’t stand being at Newcastle. We knew that he never wanted to sign for us and that he had always wanted to return to Liverpool, his boyhood club who he left for Real Madrid, and that Newcastle was the only club desperate enough to lay-out huge money on someone who even by that point was the very definition of injury-prone. Liverpool and Rafa didn’t want him back because, guess what? If they did, they’d have signed him.

Newcastle were always going to struggle under Graeme Souness and had been appalling since a 2-1 defeat at Bolton on October 31st in 2004. The start to season 2005/06 had been miserable up to Michael’s home debut versus Fulham. Prior to this match the club had played 4, scored 0, conceded 6 and had gained 1 point. Shepherd had made a huge mistake in sacking Sir Bobby Robson and had made an even bigger one in bringing in supposed hardman and now paid controversialist Souness as his replacement to supposedly sort out the dressing room. We all know how that went (goodbye Jermaine Jenas, hello Amady Faye). Shepherd was desperate and Newcastle smashed their transfer fee to bring in an unwanted by any of the ‘big clubs’ Owen for £16.5 million, paying him a ridiculous at the time £120,000 for the horrible job he had to accept.

He arrived to huge crowds at his unveiling as we all thought we’d signed a world class player who, along with the other talents in the side such as Shearer and Dyer, would mean we’d have enough quality to be ok even with Souness’s ineptitude. During his 4 injury-laden years at United Michael scored 26 goals in 70 games, meaning an average of 6.5 goals per season from an average of 17.5 appearances. During his time at St James’, United finished 7th, 13th, 12th and 18th. Now, obviously the injuries were unfortunate and the Club’s league positions weren’t all down to him but you’d like to think that given his pitiful contribution for such an incredible amount of financial gain he’d be a little bit more humble and introspective when he looked back at his years on Tyneside.

However, instead he wrote in his book (no doubt with an eye on making as much money as possible from sales of it) that, due to the fact Liverpool didn’t want him, his only options of either staying at Real Madrid or going and earning £120,000 per week at Newcastle, were ‘a dagger in the heart’ and options ‘neither of which I particularly fancied’. I’m crying inside.

He chose to go to Newcastle, a ‘step down’ from Real Madrid. We’re quite aware, Michael, that we’re not so much a step down from Real but more like being chucked into the Mariana Trench in concrete shoes. However, you still could’ve stayed at Real. You chose to sign for lil’ ol’ Newcastle, the Club that isn’t very big and thinks it’s 10% bigger than what it is. Quick question, what metrics did you use to calculate this 10%?

Michael also states in his latest tome that, ‘This kind of blind delusion is especially true of Newcastle United – which, as I reach for the nearest tin hat, is only a big club in the sense that it has a lot of fans and a big stadium. They’re historically not successful off the pitch, in fact quite the opposite mostly. And they’ve never really won much on it in recent times’ The second to last sentence is testament to the obvious talent of the publisher’s editing team. It doesn’t really mean anything if you analyse it for a minute or so.

Michael Owen earned £24,960,000 in wages in 4 years at Newcastle. Michael Owen played 79 times for Newcastle United. That works out at £351,549 per match played. When Newcastle fans sang what a waste of money to him at Watford Michael Owen’s reaction should not have been ‘I don’t need to justify myself to f ****** Newcastle fans’, it should have been ‘maybe they’re right’.

Post-Newcastle the ex-Liverpool striker who apparently never wanted to leave Anfield, was a boyhood fan and always imagined himself as a one-club man, signed for Manchester United. He managed to refer to Liverpool’s most hated rivals as ‘we’ whilst talking on BT Sport in 2016. At the time he was employed as an ambassador for Liverpool.

Norman Riley