Forward who dazzled for Liverpool and England says reaction to his announced retirement left him 'emotionally gone'
Michael Owen will retire in May with a feeling of immense pride but also a sense of what might have been had injuries not deprived him of his pace. He has revealed that a hamstring injury suffered at the age of 19 "compromised" the rest of his career.
In a blog on his decision to hang up his boots the former England forward also acknowledged that things have not worked out as planned at Stoke City this season. He described the unexpected emotion involved in announcing his retirement and announced plans to combine media work with representing young players in an advisory capacity.
"The representation of players is an area I believe I can excel in," said the striker, who confirmed that he enjoyed his happiest years at Liverpool. "I propose to set up Michael Owen Management Limited focusing on guiding young players through their careers and offering them advice at every juncture of what can be a career full of pitfalls. I have seen so many horror stories during my own career. I feel genuinely excited by the opportunity of guiding some of our best talent through their formative years and beyond."
Then there is the media, where he is in negotiations with several broadcasters. "At times during my career it has been difficult to express an opinion for a variety of reasons," he said. "Close family and friends always tell me I am very opinionated so it will be nice to be able to express my views."
Despite his excitement about the future, Owen's declaration that his football career was eight weeks from ending hit him harder than expected. "For some reason I thought it would be easy," he said. "I assumed the announcement would be simple. What followed caught me totally by surprise.
"It started with a text from my sister. It was the last thing I was expecting as I had presumed that my nearest and dearest were already hardened to my decision. A text from my best mate was followed by one from my Dad. I had emotionally gone! For a couple of hours even the slightest thing would set me off. I headed off to see my parents. They were still in their bed clothes at 2.30pm glued to Sky Sports News. My Mum's eyes were swollen from all the crying. What I thought would be a day of celebration was getting worse by the minute. The realisation had set in, after a lifetime of dedication and pleasure that football had afforded us, it was all about to end."
Owen knew time was running out before Christmas. "I signed for Stoke with every intention of playing more football than in recent seasons," he said. "It hasn't transpired. Yes, I've had a couple of small muscle injuries but it would be wrong to blame my lack of action on fitness. I have been available for a higher percentage of games this season than in my previous two. It just hasn't happened and the simple fact is, it is either the manager's opinion that I am not good enough to get into the team or that I don't fit into the system that we adopt. That is an opinion that I accepted a long time ago and I totally respect."
With alternative Premier League offers next season looking "remote" Owen considered moving abroad but decided that, with four children in school, he did not want to uproot his young family.
It is not as if he is short on football memories. "It was at Liverpool where I felt most at home," wrote the man who also played for Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United and scored 40 goals in 89 appearances for England.
After mentioning that in the future he intends to "set the record straight" regarding "certain chapters" of his subsequent career, Owen offered an evocative analysis of its highlights.
"I have two overriding emotions," he said. "The first is a sense of pride at not only what I achieved but how I achieved it. Winning virtually every trophy at club level is the stuff of dreams but in amongst all that there were some incredible days. Making my England debut having just turned 18 before heading to the World Cup where I would score 'That Goal'.
"Further international glory followed in the shape of a hat-trick in Munich. In that same year we won five trophies at Liverpool, with the highlight undoubtedly scoring a brace in the FA Cup final to snatch the trophy from Arsenal's grasp. Collecting the European Footballer of the Year award at the end of that season was an amazing feeling and that trophy takes pride of place at home! Adrenalin rushes like scoring in a 4-2 Clásico win for Real Madrid, not to mention the winner in a 4-3 Manchester derby victory, have given me memories to last a lifetime.
"The second emotion that lives with me is a sense of 'what might have been' had injuries not robbed me of my most lethal weapon – speed. Many of my highlights were early on in my career and I can only wonder what more I would have achieved had my body been able to withstand the demands that I was making of it. I was almost too quick. My hamstring gave way in an away game at Leeds at the tender age of 19 and from that moment on my career as a professional footballer was compromised.
"I actually take great pride in the fact that, even when not fully fit, I still competed at the very highest level playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world. I have no doubt that, had I not suffered those 'pace-depriving' injuries, I would be sat here now with a sack full of awards and a long list of records. However, how can I really have any regrets!
"I retire in the knowledge that everybody knows where they were when 'That Goal' nestled into the top corner of the Argentinians' net!"