No one likes Michael Owen. Manchester United fans don’t like him, Newcastle fans don’t like him; What about Liverpool – The club where he scored over a hundred goals, played his best football and won trophies? They dislike him the most.
The rest? Well not content to have just a handful of teams dislike him, the former England striker decided to give commentary a try and in doing so made everyone else recoil at the sound of his voice.
The overwhelming reaction to Michael Owen’s voice is one of anger. A lot of anger. People cannot stand him. The main point of contention is that he represents everything that a commentator shouldn’t be. His job is to make football on television a more immersive and exciting experience.
The role of analyst is to us an ‘insider’ view on the game. They are positioned in order to provide nuggets of information mere mortals may have missed. To highlight the subtle, off the ball runs not visible to the untrained eye or the thought process behind a back three rather than a flat back four.
Michael does none of that. He should be able to tell us plebs what it’s like to dine at the elite table that is top class football. Instead we get someone who has experienced everything there is to experience in football but appears to know nothing about the game. Or at least he does’t care enough to tell us.
Michael speaks as if Roy Walker himself is prompting him from behind with a fully loaded revolver shaped like Mr.Chips he must say-what-he-sees at all times. He once pointed out how it was unlikely Everton would get anything from the game during a Merseyside derby. The score was 4-0 to Liverpool. Nothing is too obvious.
It is easy to forget that Michael played the game at an incredibly high level. He won the Ballon D’or at a time when Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane were in their prime.
His successful career is one thing that contributes to the pungent smugness that flows effortlessly through our screens like a freshly made cartoon pie baked in order to lure Bugs Bunny to an untimely end. His work consistently reflects this, bringing nothing interesting to the table and not offering anything of substance.
It shows in every lazy cliché, every wrong statistic and every infuriatingly obvious observation. He is nowhere near the universally respected quality of neither Sky’s two-headed analytical Neville-Carragher monster, nor so the off-the-rails to be endearing like much of RTE’s coverage.
For Michael, this match is for him. Anyone else can make up their own mind. No effort, no semblance of preparation just nothingness. He just turns up, watches the match and manages to infuriate millions. And he gets paid a lot of money to do it.
His disregard for accuracy was beautifully captured when he remarked how he couldn’t recall Tim Krul having to make a single save in a match against Manchester United. He made this observation as boldly as Barack Obama declaring “We got him” despite the fact that Krul had been forced to make eight saves at that point.
However, after researching Michael the overwhelming emotion I feel is pity. What else could you feel for a man that has only ever seen five movies? (Jurassic Park, Rocky, Heat, Cool Runnings and Ghost, in case you were wondering)
Despite being only 35, he seems to have been born 73-years-old. He already references “his day”, which given his age is still very much the present. He gives the impression of a man who just enjoys getting a free ticket to the week’s big game, having to utter mindless nonsense for the entire 90 minutes is a mere inconvenience.
An interview with The Guardian at the beginning of last season allowed for a window into the frighteningly tedious life he leads. Asked what music he listens to on the way to a match he said
I don’t listen to anything. I don’t know why, but the car’s always been my own quiet space… I’m just happy with my thoughts. What keeps him up at night? I don’t really worry about much. When I sleep I don’t have any worries.
He represents the worst of football’s increasing detachment from its fans. Nowadays you have to pay substantial amounts of money to watch football on BTsport, therefore you are paying substantial amounts of money to listen to Michael Owen. Think about for a second.
I think at this point everyone is in agreement that Michael is terrible at his job. So why are we continually subjected to him? The only logical conclusion is that BT is well aware of how millions of football fans collectively shudder when they hear his voice and encourage the attention.
Owen’s commentary is so painful it trends on twitter, Paddy Power’s marketing department couldn’t have created a better Alan Partridge-David Brent hybrid to endlessly mock.
Maybe one day a promising young player will tear his hamstring in the same explosive way Michael did back in his prime and we will get a thoughtful, emotional monologue about how this injury can affect young man’s dreams.
We will hear how the many injuries took their toll, how it leads to a life of despair and turmoil, following by a heroic redemption just like Michael’s life. But we won’t, because that would be interesting. Michael will make a quip about how he will now have more time to practice his short game, or watch the 4.20 at Epsom.
It is also sad that a once great player such as Michael Owen is the butt of the joke at this stage. With BT’s desperation to become the new sporting behemoth on our screens they must surely realise that the majority of people watching find listening to his commentary akin to being stuck in a lift with someone who has farted. We’re staying with it until we get where we’re going, but it is intensely unpleasant.