Byline: By GRAHAM CLUTTON
Twelve months ago Michael Owen was thumbing his personal scrapbook for the pictorial evidence of the day he spent chasing former Cardiff City striker Robert Earnshaw around on a local parks football pitch when they were younger.
How times change.
Tonight, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the young man who began this season with an injury which could have threatened his very presence in the Dragons side, let alone Wales, will lead the British Lions in their warm-up Test against Argentina.
It has been one of those Roy of the Rovers stories. Only for football, read rugby, for Roy, read Michael and for Rovers, read the Valleys.
The rise, as they say, has been meteoric. From those hilarious football days on the fields of Pontyclun, where Owen and best friend and fellow Lion Gethin Jenkins kicked anything that moved, it has been a catalogue of intrigue and entertainment, of unbridled joy and unprecedented success.
For the record, and Owen and Jenkins will hold up their hands and admit as much.
Earnie gave the pair a real runaround on that Sunday afternoon in Pontyclun when their paths crossed.
Striking in those days for GE, a little-known Sunday outfit from the outskirts of Caerphilly, Earnshaw was targeted by the midfield maestros as the one to watch.
Jenkins recalls how Owen warned him of the diminutive force.
'We were a pretty good double act at that time,' smiled Jenkins. 'If anyone managed to get around me, they ran straight into Michael!
'Most of the time it was pretty messy, but Earnshaw was a bit better than us and as hard as we tried, we couldn't even get close.
'In the end he scored a couple, or maybe five! We had to go back to the drawing board. We tried, but couldn't catch him.'
Owen and Jenkins were prodigious sports talents at school, with Owen showing his leadership skills by taking on the captaincy of the football, rugby and cricket teams, before realising that his size and stature was probably best suited to full time egg-chasing.
Together the pair moved on to Pontypridd RFC where they once again struck up a wonderful forward partnership - Gethin in the front row and Michael at the back end.
Despite their rapid progression at Sardis Road, they never once forgot their roots and continued to turn out for Pontyclun at football, until the choice had to be made. …