Here our writers discuss the feud between the two former Newcastle United strikers, in our weekly feature TRENDING TOPIC.
As a player, Team Shearer or Team Owen?
MS: “Team Shearer! Shearer gave everything to Newcastle during his career at the club. Can the same be said for Owen?”
LK: “Come on now, is this really a question? Owen was a class act when he broke on the scene with Liverpool and England but for longevity, goals and quality Shearer is on a different planet. Owen threatened to get there, but injuries – and clearly a questionable attitude – meant he was nowhere near. Shearer wipes the floor with Owen off the field, too, when it comes to punditry. Former Newcastle striker Joe Allen described Owen as having as much character as a “flip flop.”
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Was it fair comment for Michael Owen to call his move to Newcastle a step downwards?
MS: “Owen left Real Madrid, one of the biggest clubs in the world, to join Newcastle, so it was a downward step in terms of club stature. Not even the most ardent fan could say that the two clubs are comparable. That said, he still joined a big club in the biggest league in the world. And, crucially, United still had ambition at the time, as underlined by his signing.”
LK: “On this Owen is right really – let’s be absolutely honest about it. Leaving Real Madrid for anywhere, bar maybe Barcelona, is a step downwards. For me that’s not really the issue – it’s the suggestion he never, ever wanted the move and then didn’t treat the club with due respect despite merrily picking up his “120 a week”, as Shearer said. You might not like the move, you may not be sold on it long-term, but the least you can do is give your all. It’s clear that was not the case with Owen.”
Newcastle United fans 'deluded'? Discuss…
MS: “This is a misconception. Newcastle fans don’t expect their team to be winning the league, but, equally, they don’t expect the club to be battling against relegation year in, year out. Most fans simply want the team to be competing in the top half of the Premier League, challenging for European football and pushing for a cup. Is that too much to ask of a club which can fill a 52,000-capacity stadium?”
LK: “That old chestnut. Newcastle fans have never been deluded. Ambitious, yes. Deluded, no. In recent years even their ambitious streak has been tempered massively at Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United. Fans just long to be set free from this anti-ambitious malaise that has taken over on Tyneside. If wanting to compete with Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Watford and others financially is deluded then you’ll have to count me in.”
Owen says Newcastle is only a big club because of the size of the stadium and fans - does he have a point?
MS: “The club hasn’t won a major trophy in 50 years, so if the size of a club is judged purely on silverware, then Owen has a point. However, the size and stature of a club, in my view, is judged on more than just silverware. The fanbase, stadium and history are all important, and if those are factored in, then, yes, Newcastle is a big club.”
LK: “The one thing I point towards when any fans rolls out this pathetic argument is history. Newcastle United have not won a trophy for since 1969, domestically 1955. They are still NINTH in England for trophies won with 11. That is remarkable. No matter how much people want to try and erase history – you can’t. The way I look at is there are four categories for defining a big club. There are big, successful clubs (eg Liverpool). Big, unsuccessful clubs (eg Newcastle). Small successful clubs (eg Bournemouth). And small, unsuccessful clubs (eg Sunderland *wink, wink*).”
Having been at Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United in his career - three heavyweights of world football - it seems strange Owen would use Newcastle as the topic to promote his new book. What do you think this says about the player's career?
MS: “That alone tells you that United is a big club. When Newcastle toured the USA a few years ago in pre-season, one publication over there referred to United as a “storied” club. I’d never really seen that word used to refer to a team, but it fits the club. Newcastle, wherever they are in the league, are talked about. That says it all.”
LK: “I agreed with Miles on this. Owen has gone in with the controversy factor because he knows people will read about Newcastle. Sky Sports show NUFC live more often than anyone else outside the ‘big six’ in the Premier League for a reason. Owen is just shamelessly tapping into that market. Also, it shows how much fans at his other ‘bigger’ clubs remember him fondly.”
Owen was Newcastle's record signing for more than a decade, was he worthy of that tag?
MS: “At the time, it looked good business. The Owen-Shearer partnership worked at international level, and it worked at Newcastle until he suffered the first of his injuries at the club. Owen’s signing generated a lot of excitement on Tyneside. Much was expected of him, and he delivered for a few, short months alongside Shearer. Sadly, the move turned into a very expensive mistake. To be a success at United, you need to give everything to the club.”
LK: “Not even close. He was one of the highest paid players in the country in a time when wages over £100k were very, very rare. His goals return and game played was not good enough and he did nothing to deserve the honour of wearing the club’s armband. Will go down as probably one of the worst signings ever made by United – and there have been some very bad ones, none more expensive as Owen, though.”