Danny Higginbotham: Michael Owen's retirement will be welcomed by defenders
DEFENDERS up and down the country, especially those like me who played against him, will be sleeping a little easier now that Michael Owen is going to retire at the end of the season.
I mean that as a great compliment to him, of course, because he really has been one of the best strikers and goalscorers we've seen in the last 25 years.
He had something that scared the life out of us defenders – electrifying pace – and I saw that for myself quite a few times when playing against him down the years.
As a defender, you were in a terrible dilemma about how to deal with him.
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Get too tight and he could spin for a ball over the top and leave you for dead.
But drop off him too far and he could collect the ball, run at you, then end up scoring something like that wonder goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.
In other words, us poor defenders were damned if we did and damned if we didn't.
It's such a shame those injuries took their toll on his pace in the second half of his career.
There was that cruciate knee ligament injury at the 2006 World Cup, then there were the various hamstring injuries which so often hit the quicker players like Owen.
Personally, I still think he could score goals in the Premier League if he stayed fit and was given the chance next season.
That's because he's still got a good footballing brain to gain that half-a-yard, while his ability to finish is clearly still there.
I think his bravery was also overlooked by many because he could certainly handle himself when the going got tough out on the pitch.
But I do understand his decision to go now, it's just a pity he couldn't have played more for Stoke in his final season.
It was always going to be difficult to fit into Stoke's style of play because it relies so much on a big man up top and one behind him who decides if the game plan works because he is the team's fetcher and carrier.
As a person, I have to say he pretty much kept himself to himself in the Stoke dressing room while I was there.
There were certainly no airs or graces, no 'I'm the big man round here with all the records and caps'.
And when you look at his career, you didn't often see him in the papers making an idiot of himself.
That's why he was so respected by his fellow pros. That and the one or two goals he scored down the years.
SOMETHING has to be done to change the rules after that awful tackle by Wigan's Callum McManaman on Newcastle's Massadio Haidara.
Only then will common sense prevail and justice be done.
Perhaps we could follow rugby and have a system where one team can cite an opposition player.
No action can be taken against McManaman, it seems, because the referee's assistant says he saw it and didn't think it worthy of any action. Come again?
Nor could I understand Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, a former professional himself, coming out and describing it as a fair challenge.
They must be the only two people on the planet who don't think McManaman should have been punished.
Let's be clear, that challenge could have finished the lad's career and that's why players and fans alike are so upset.
But until we have a system where a panel can sit down and adjudicate such incidents on a Monday morning, we'll get other players getting off scot free.
I also think it would have done McManaman a favour if he'd served a ban.
He would then have returned from a suspension and the public would have taken the view that he'd had his medicine.
But now, he's likely to get a rough ride from fans because they think he's got away with murder.
And looking at that challenge again, that's very nearly what he did get away with.