Sunday, 19 May 2013

Michael Owen, Jaime Carragher, David Beckham

After this weekend, we will bid goodbye to 3 players who had graced the Barclays Premier League and had very different contrasting fortunes throughout their playing careers. With the retirement of these 3 players, this is almost at the end of England’s Golden Generation.

Let’s just start with Michael Owen. He would have been considered a legend if he had not been plague by so many injuries throughout his career. Bursting out into Liverpool FC’s first team at a tender age of 17, he captured the imagination of the Liverpool hopefuls with his speed and strike accuracy. He gave Liverpool a new lease of life with his breathtaking speed and youthfulness when Robbie Fowler was constantly injured and out of form, and Ian Rush making his own last lap of glory. He would provide the Reds with important goals and soon find himself into the England fold.
Going into the World Cup in 1998, at age 19 years old and facing favourites Argentina, he would go on to score a memorable goal to out himself in the centre of attraction. Alas, England would bow out to Argentina in that game through penalties and some blame a certain David Beckham, who is also retiring this season. Owen would went on to score more goals for England and one of the more memorable matches would be a hat-trick scored against old foes, Germany. It was a 5-1 whitewash. 

Coming back to Liverpool, Owen did managed push Liverpool to become genuine title contenders but their luck and inconsistency would always cost them dearly at the end. They did managed to win a treble in 2001, winning the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup. But this treble will not be considered the greatest achievement compared to what Manchester United had done in 1999. Probably looking out to achieve more glory, Owen made a surprise transfer to Real Madrid in 2003.
Among the scores of superstars in Real, Owen would constantly find himself on the bench. But once he came on, he would almost guarantee a goal. His strike rate also never dwindled even from playing off the bench. However after one season and unable to prove himself, he went back to England and signed for Newcastle United. He had just simply wanted to have more playing time but that was also where his past injuries came back to haunt him. He was constantly injured and found himself on the treatment table rather than even on the bench and you can actually feel that his luck has finally run out. Even when he was playing, he was never the same player again.

After 5 disastrous years at Newcastle, Sir Alex Ferguson would surprisingly sign him at Manchester United. Although the Anfield Kop were displeased, everyone would know that Owen will not be able conjure that kind of skills that he was once famed for. He became a bit part player at Man Utd, rotating between cup games and an occasional league game, and also managed to finally win a League Championship medal which the glory that he is truly craving for. Even from not playing that much, Owen would also find himself on the treatment table rather than on the pitch. Finally he would sign for Stoke City at the start of this season. Without making any waves, he finally announced his retirement at the end of the season. 

At a fairly young age of 34, Michael Owen could have achieved much more if he had been fit. But then he had also managed to achieve his personal glory along the way even though it may not be at the best possible scenario. His former team mate, Jaime Carragher, will also be bowing out after this weekend. If Michael Owen was lucky early and struggling towards the end, Carragher is the opposite numberat Liverpool.

When Carragher started out his career, he was a left back. being a Liverpool supporter myself, I always cringes when I see him in action. he was so mistake prone and being a slow defender, he was always the weak link among the back four to be exploited. Against a back drop of spice boys and superstars like Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Jaime Rednap and Ian Rush, Carragher would always be part of the number in the team. Nothing fanciful, just going about to get the job done.

His no nonsense approach soon found himself in a favourable position when Rafael Benitez came along. Installed in the centre of defence, his direct approach of simply to clear away each and every ball endeared himself to the Anfield faithful. He would throw himself into any scenario just to keep the ball away from his goal, and when the need arised, he would also pop up at the opposite end to try and contribute a goal with his towering frame. With his single minded approach towards his beloved club, he had also retired early from international duty just to focus on Liverpool. 

Having won FA Cup, League Cup, and even the holy grail of European clubs, the UEFA Champions League, his greatest regret is not to have won the Barclays Premier League, having come so close on a few occasions. However he will still be remembered as one of the legends in Liverpool after this weekend, and he had shown a lot of other players, the true meaning of a loyal servant. Believe in hardwork, success will definitely come.

From  the high to low of Michael Owen, and the low to high of Jaime Carragher, one cannot imagine how David Beckham managed to keep his own footballing profile so high up throughout 2 decades of footballing career. Whenever there's mention of England, David Beckham's name will definitely pop up, and that is the power of his branding.

Coming through the ranks of Manchester United's academy, he rose to fame together with the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers. His claim to fame would be his audacious halfway line shot aganst Wimbledon that went into goal, and his impeccable ability to deliver crosses straight for his strikers, and did I mention his free kick ability, where he had almost single handedly brought England into the World Cup.

With his fame in football, couple with his good looks, he also hooked up with Posh Spice, Victoria Adams, of the then popular pop girl group, Spice Girls. when 2 good looking people come together, their fame rose even higher, and brought their profiles into areas never conquered before. Beckham would go on to become a fashionista of sorts, with his constantly changing hairstyles and dress sense, which would also influence most of his fans to imitate, while Victoria would constantly be seen on football stadiums rather than concert halls or runways.

Since winning the treble with Manchester United in 1999, his relationship with Alex Ferguson also started to deteriorate and he eventually left for Real Madrid a few seasons later. Unlike Michael Owen, Beckham was always on the first 11 and was constantly playing with the Zidane, Figo, Raul, Ronaldo in the team, making his name stand alongside the who's who in the footballing legend. He also won the Spanish League in his last season with Real. With constant speculation that he would make his way back to England then, either to Arsenal, Chelsea or back to Manchester Utd, he did the impossible move to LA Galaxy, to play in the Major League Soccer in USA. 

It was a calculated move as he enabled his popstar wife to be close to the Hollywood, while he can further his brand name in the USA. His skills and exploits may not have lighted the MLS, but his name itself throughout the 6 years he had been there, it definitely brought more attention and and marketing aspects to them. 

Beckham's international scene also seemed like a fairytale story with sometimes a twist. Gaining his first cap in 1996, he would gain international fame and hate from all England when his kick out against Argentina, earned him a straight red card where England eventually bowed out of the World Cup in 1998. He would also gain his redemption when he was given the captain arm band and his free kick against Greece brought them into the 2002 edition. While he had been hero at times for England, his untimely injuries during the Finals would also throw up lots of questions like what if he hadn't been injured. His growing influence also made the world known of certain medical terms like metatarsals, which is some bone in the leg which he broke and made the term famous.

Beckham would eventually went to to represent England on 115 occasions, and towards his waning playing levels in the US, he would also loan himself to AC Milan, just to remain competitive for England's selection. His desire to help England has never waned and he was even considered for a place in the Team Britain for the 2012 Olympics. But his dream of playing in the Olympics in London was never fulfilled. 

Since ending his 6 year affair with LA Galaxy, Beckham would make a surprise half season move to PSG. the surprise element of it was donating all his income from PSG to charity. At the age of 38, he still managed to represent PSG in the Champions League, and even won their domestic league title. David Beckham has definitely done enough to make sure his name will be remembered throughout the years and always synonymous with football.

As we say goodbye to these 3 players after this weekend, I'm sure a couple more of the players from these generation will be stepping down in the coming few seasons. However, I'm just wondering if there will be another breed of players in the mould of these 3 players who can truly light up the footballing stratosphere, especially for England. Probably another new generation of the Golden Generation, where things truly can happen!

Ciao 7, 8, 10, 18, 23, 32 (numbers that they had won in the past) 

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