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Off The Record by Michael Owen with Paul Hayward

Release date: 23rd August, 2004
Publisher: Collins Willow

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £11.39
You Save: £7.6 (40%)
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Imagine, at the age of 18, being able to undertake one thing that takes around twenty seconds to complete successfully and which, as a result, provides you and your family with financial security for life. Michael Owen managed to do just that, a point he acknowledges early in his autobiography, Off the Record, when he says, "My story should probably have a line down the middle, drawn on 30 June 1998, the night England played ArgentinaÖin my first World Cup."

If a life can have just one defining moment, a clearly identifiable point at which absolutely everything changes, that night in St Etienne was it for young Michael when he scored one of the most amazing goals this writer has ever seen. As he progressed at pace, ball at feet, from the half way line, viewers instinctively drew closer to the television screen: "He's not going to score, is he? He is. He's gone round the last defender. Get out of the way, Scholes! Bang! My God, he's done it! The young boy has scored!"

It helps if your life's defining moment is seen live by a billion people and if it can confer a mixture of happiness, astonishment and admiration upon your audience.

"Before that day, I was an 18 year-old striker trying to establish himselfÖafter that date, I couldn'tÖget into my own home without it being a public event," says Owen. He doesn't complain, acknowledging instead that he can trace much of his subsequent good fortune to that goal. Owen strikes the reader as not being one of life's natural complainers; in this respect, the book adds a dimension to the footballer occasionally seen on the pitch, providing a literary insight into what makes him tick - a single mindedness which is the hallmark of the successful.

Nevertheless, his publishers would probably have preferred the text to have included the inside track on his move to Real Madrid.

Indeed, one of the book's most intriguing aspects is the search between the lines for hints that he knew his transfer to Spain was on the cards.

There a number of indications that he intended to stay at Liverpool: he had bought a house in the village of Northop for £2.3m and had moved in last September. Similarly, when he talks of his regular meetings with David Beckham, there is a sense of hesitancy: "I've never really asked for publicity because I don't want it" indicating that he was by no means convinced that he should join Madrid's galacticos. Significantly, in the book's final paragraph, Owen expresses delight at Steven Gerrard's decision to stay at Anfield.

Conversely, he talks of "the whole chemistry of the club" deteriorating under Gerard Houllier and "as the mood darkened," he says, "I felt low, fed up."

Liverpool supporters will find it odd that the club had asked Owen about signing a new contract at Christmas 2003, but did not arrange to discuss the matter formally until April 2004. Owen had already advised Liverpool that he would not 'do a Bosman' and walk out in 2005. He had shaken hands on this and was not going to go back on his word. The reader is left with the impression that Owen's Madrid transfer really did come out of the blue.

Now 24, Michael Owen has already enjoyed an eventful life - European Footballer of the Year, wonder goals and penalty shoot-outs. If he can pack as much into the next six years, the sequel to Off the Record will undoubtedly sell even better than his current literary effort.


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