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(2009-10-25 11:15:27)


分类: 它山之石

深度欧文【卫报】 深度欧文

Michael Owen braced for Kop fury after bridging the great red divide


It is Nantes-Atlantique airport, February 2002. Manchester United's players are queueing by passport control, waiting to board their plane after a Champions League tie at the Stade de la Beaujoire. Four of them are talking about Steven Gerrard. They have heard he was injured, possibly seriously, in a goalless draw against Galatasaray at Anfield. One of the players deadpans that it might be a broken neck and there is laughter. "Shame it wasn't Michael Owen," another volunteers. More laughter.


The story is worth retelling if only to remind ourselves how football will never lose its unerring ability to conjure up the unexpected. You think you have seen it all, you think there is nothing left to surprise you, and then you try to picture the scene as the bus carrying United's players inches its way into Anfield on Sunday, surrounded by police motorcycles, and Owen is among those looking out through the smoked-out windows, wondering what awaits him in his first game back at the stadium where, in the words of Gerrard, he established himself as "the best striker in the history of Liverpool Football Club".


Owen, lest it be forgotten, was with Liverpool from the age of 13 to 24, scoring 158 goals in the process. He was Merseyside's original baby-faced assassin, long before the assassin-faced baby otherwise known as the 16-year-old Wayne Rooney broke through at Everton. "Michael was as much a part of Liverpool as the Kop and the Shankly Gates," Gerrard would recall in his autobiography.


Yet Owen, five years after leaving Anfield, is now part of a club that Gerrard was "taught to loathe". An act of disloyalty or simply a good career move? Or maybe a bit of both? There are rights and wrongs about both ends to the argument, but the only certainty is that Owen should be braced for a hostile reception when he walks out beneath the "This is Anfield" sign he used to tap for good luck.


Will it bother him? "Everyone wants to be liked but I don't think so," his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said . "He played for Liverpool for over a decade and the goals he scored for them mark him down as one of their best-ever strikers. Only Ian Rush [and Roger Hunt and Billy Liddell] got more. That should stand him in good stead with the Liverpool fans but it will be interesting to see what reaction he gets. Paul Ince got a bad reception from our fans when he joined Liverpool; Michael may well get that again. But I don't think it will bother him. He's got the experience to handle it."


Owen is certainly a sturdy enough character not to be unsettled by a crowd's hostility. And he has been back to Anfield before, as a Newcastle player, and was booed on that occasion too – not as viciously, perhaps, as the vitriol that will inevitably be heard on Sunday, but boos all the same. It is strange that he could be so unloved, when his feats for Liverpool included almost single-handedly winning the 2001 FA Cup final. But at Anfield it was always Robbie Fowler who was known as "God". There was a perception among the fans that Owen was never quite one of them, despite being best friends with Jamie Carragher. His name was never one of the first to be chanted, if at all.


Behind the scenes there is still irritation about how he handled his departure and, subsequently, Rafael Benítez's attempts to re-sign him from Real Madrid. Benítez was asked about it today and, in that pointed way of his, replied: "Each person decides what he wants to do. We are really happy with [Fernando] Torres."


At United, meanwhile, not even a 97th-minute winner against Manchester City has persuaded the fans to chant Owen's name yet. Tomorrow, you might imagine, would be a good place to start, but don't count on it. Instead, United's fans are more concerned about smuggling beach balls into the away stands. Or celebrating the Kop's banner when Ferguson took them to Merseyside after his first league title: "Au revoir Cantona come back when you've won 18." The Red News fanzine has even been giving away a Cantona face-mask.

同样在曼联,对曼城97分钟的绝杀也没有让欧文成为球迷的最爱。明天,你可以想想,那是一个很好的起点。曼联球迷们可能会担心扔过来气球。利物浦球迷在曼联获得第一个联赛冠军之后来到安菲尔德高唱“你们拿到第18个冠军的时候坎通纳再回来。”Red News杂志甚至已经分发了坎通纳的面具。

"I think many Reds put Owen's signing down to the ways of modern football, where nothing really can surprise anymore," its writer Pete Shaw explains. "A bit of indigestion, then you swallow it down and just accept it. As one Red said after his goal against City: 'I suppose this means Owen isn't a shit anymore?' That doesn't mean United fans will be singing his name to the rafters – though he was well received when coming off against Bolton last week – but we just deal with it. It would drive you round the bend thinking about his past too much."

“我想很多球迷会认为欧文的转会是现代足球的一部分,没什么是不可能的。”作家Pete Shaw这样说。“可能很难,但你还得接受。一个球迷在他打进曼城进球之后说:‘我想这意味着欧文不再是一坨屎了?’这不意味着曼联球迷会高唱欧文的名字,虽然在上周对博尔顿的比赛后他已经被球迷们接受。但我们得接受。这会让你想起很多过去的事情。”

Ferguson certainly did not regard Owen's links with Liverpool as a concern when it came to signing him in the summer. "It was never mentioned. I never even thought about it. I made my mind up about Michael and there was no negotiation. He was desperate to come. It was so simple – a half-an-hour meeting and everything was concluded.


"He wanted to be back at a top club and to have European football again and it was definitely the right thing to do [signing him]. There is no one better at holding the line in the last third of the field."


As for Owen himself, he has deliberately said little this week other than to clarify that he does not feel like he has been disloyal to his first club. He does not intend, however, to copy the modern-day practice of choosing not to celebrate should he score against his former employers. And if he gets his wish perhaps the United supporters will decide to cut him some slack.


"If he scores the winner on Sunday, at the Kop end, nearly all will be forgiven," Shaw says.



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