The former striker’s new book has created plenty of headlines and he can’t understand the fuss over playing for two of England’s biggest rivals
Michael Owen admits he has been left bemused by the daily abuse he receives on social media from Liverpool fans over his decision to join their rivals Manchester United in 2009, after comparing his move to a supermarket worker switching from Tesco to Sainsbury’s.
Speaking to Goal as he promoted his much-discussed autobiography in Dublin, ex-Liverpool striker Owen rejected suggestions that he let down his former club’s fans when he signed for United, as he suggests blinkered football supporters need to appreciate how players view transfers.
“Football has been a job. A very special job and a privileged job, but it has been still a job for the players and the managers involved in it,” said Owen.
“Obviously, fans who have a real passion for their club don’t see it in that light and that’s where the problems can start, especially in an age when social media gives people access to reach you.
“Fans never change their colours and we all understand that. It has been their life, it has been their passion, but they will change jobs from time to time in their careers and they don’t see that as betraying their former employer.
“These people who criticise you probably make similar moves in their careers. They might move from Barclays Bank to Lloyds Bank or from Sainsbury’s to Tesco’s and they are not accused of being disloyal.
“If a footballer moves from their club, these same people have a very different view. They accuse the soccer professional of lacking loyalty, of being a mercenary…. and yet the reality has been, this has been someone moving from one job to another, often with the aim of bettering themselves professionally and to look after their family.
“If you get a promotion in most jobs, you will get a pat on the back and people will congratulate you, but you are often all those unpleasant words I just mentioned if you leave one football club and join another. It’s madness, but it will always be the case.”
Owen went on to insist he was not concerned by the controversy created by the release of his autobiography, with his very public spat with former Newcastle team-mate Alan Shearer dominating the headlines in recent days.
“The serialisation in one of the newspapers wasn’t pleasant because that created headlines insinuating some things I didn’t even say,” added Owen.
“I had my crash helmet on for a couple of days. It was quite painful to read the stories that were written about me and hear the radio phone-ins speculating on what they thought I’d said before the book has even been released.
“A lot of what was written was not necessarily representative of what I said, but the last few days have been very positive after people actually read what has been in the book and not what the headlines claimed I said.
“Now it’s all out there and I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. After reading the comments in context, people are agreeing with a lot of what I said, but I understand how this process works.
Article continues below
“You need the serialisation to get people talking, a few words here and there are lifted and it sparks debate, even if it might not be actually what has been written in the book.
“I guess you need the publicity to get people interested in the book, but it has been galling when you are listening to radio chat shows and they are talking about something you never even said and taking it out of context.”
Michael Owen: Reboot, published by Reach Sport, has been on sale now. Digital and audiobook also available.