Owen Represents All That's Good in This Country .. Passion, Bravery and Modesty. Shayler Is All That's Lousy; A TALE OF TWO ENGLISHMEN...THE BEST AND THE WORST

By Parsons, Tony | The Mirror (London, England), July 2, 1998 | Go to article overview

Owen Represents All That's Good in This Country .. Passion, Bravery and Modesty. Shayler Is All That's Lousy; A TALE OF TWO ENGLISHMEN...THE BEST AND THE WORST


Parsons, Tony, The Mirror (London, England)


THE Lions roared and the world trembled for a few bright shining moments.

But in between the England braves arriving in France and their heartbreak departure, we saw two Englishmen who embodied the very best and the very worst of our nation.

One of them made you proud to be English. The other made you think that something is sick at the heart of this country.

Yesterday morning Michael Owen woke to discover he is famous.

It seems like only the day before yesterday when he was Robbie Fowler's fresh-faced understudy at Anfield.

Today, at an age when many of his contemporaries are still studying for their A-Levels, Owen's name is echoing around the world.

It wasn't just that incredible, unforgettable goal he scored against Argentina, a goal so beautiful that we will tell our grandchildren about it.

Owen - small, brave, brilliant Michael Owen - put fear on the faces of the Argentina defenders every time he got the ball.

He took them apart. For all their preening at the final whistle, the Argentinians will have nightmares about Michael Owen.

But if Owen represents all that is good about England - the passion, the creativity, the modesty, the bravery and the imagination that we sometimes take for granted - then there was another Englishman in France who embodied everything that is lousy about this country.

And I am NOT talking about Sad Spice, the petulant golden boy of Brylcream, Adidas and Old Trafford.

Yes, David Beckham may be a spoilt brat with more millions than common sense.

But let's not forget that he also showed flashes of footballing genius forged on the same dynamic play as Michael Owen.

Beckham will pay for his stupidity every time he steps on to an away ground next season.

But it wasn't David Beckham who shamed England in France.

It was James Shayler, the tattooed fat man of Marseille.

If Michael Owen was the personification of all that is good about England, then James Shayler was the personification of all that stinks in our schizophrenic nation.

You might not remember the name, but you will certainly remember James Shayler's ugly mug and his distended beer belly grotesquely displaying a tattoo of the flag of St George.

Shayler, 32, was the suburban soccer thug who blackened England's name in Marseille.

The violent fat boy who was dragged away by French cops after orchestrating much of the violence.

Could there be a greater contrast between two Englishmen than the contrast between Michael Owen and James Shayler?

Owen, a paragon of athleticism and fitness, his small frame lean and hard after years of training and denial. And Shayler, with his bloated gut and face like a mouldy lager spew.

Quiet, decent, inspirational Michael Owen, a true hero.

And belligerent, aggressive, shaven-headed James Shayler, a prize prat.

Brave young Michael Owen, who gave everything against Argentina.

And pink, porky Shayler, an obese coward who has somehow got it into his flea-sized brain that he represents England and all it stands for. …

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