Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Eriksson's Headache Is Major Tragedy for United

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Eriksson's Headache Is Major Tragedy for United

Article excerpt

Byline: By Luke Edwards

The loss of Michael Owen is clearly a major inconvenience for Sven-GUran Eriksson and England ( but it is an unmitigated disaster for Newcastle United.

While the rest of the country reflected on the fact the World Cup is over for England's most experienced current international goalscorer yesterday, Newcastle mourned the fact that for the second season running they are going to have to make do without their best player.

As England's supporters in Cologne and back home cheered the nation's progress in the competition and the point which ensured they would avoid a second round meeting with Germany in Munich, it is doubtful whether there was a single Newcastle fan among them.

For them, the match was nothing less than a tragedy from the moment Owen disappeared down the tunnel on a stretcher, hands clasped over his face as the pain in his right knee combined with the mental torture in his head that the tournament which should have been his party piece was over before it had ever really begun.

For Eriksson's England, there is the comfort of knowing that they have another 22 supposedly world-class players to fill in, but at Newcastle they know they will never be able to replace Owen's goal threat. For England, the future will probably be 4-5-1, for Newcastle the future looks bleak.

When Freddie Shepherd managed to lure Owen to Tyneside with the help of a hefty pay-check and the persuasive powers of Alan Shearer and Graeme Souness, United's chairman had pulled off one of the most remarkable transfer coups in English football. United knew they had not been Owen's first choice, but nobody cared.

The best out-and-out English goalscorer, and perhaps, world football had arrived. How long he would remain at the club may have been uncertain, but one thing was assured, when Owen played he would score.

In that respect, the former Liverpool striker has never disappointed, seven goals in 10 starts is a typically productive return from a player who has made goalscoring routine rather than an art form.

But those 10 starts have cost pounds 1.65m each and that does not take into account his reported pounds 115,000-a-week wage packet. Indeed, if there is a silver lining to this darkest of clouds for United it is the fact Owen's latest injury has come while on international duty and it is the Football Association's insurance company, rather than his club, which will pick up the bill.

Owen's injury, though, is still too raw; too horrific and tragic for financial issues to dominant. This was the year Owen had spent the last two ( ever since England crashed out of Euro 2004 in the quarter-finals ( looking forward too, but it will be one he will try to forget.

By the time the New Year arrives, Owen will have played just 30 minutes of Premiership football in 2006, managed less than two hours at the World Cup and scored just one goal in a friendly against Jamaica. …

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