Stoke City: Michael Owen is up there with best ever Premier League strikers: Delap
SO how good is Michael Owen? Who better to ask than a player who has faced all the best Premier League strikers of his generation.
Rory Delap is far too modest to start name-dropping for the sake of it. However, when asked how highly he rates Owen, he is able to call on a list of seriously impressive opponents... as befits a player who first appeared in the Premier League 14 years ago.
Delap said: “In terms of goalscorers, Michael Owen is up there with Robbie Fowler and Alan Shearer, and I would put Ruud van Nistelrooy into that category as well.
“Shearer could score any type of goal while Owen and Fowler could pop up and nick a goal out of nothing.
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“That sort of natural talent is hard to coach into someone.
“You might not see Robbie Fowler for large parts of the game, but he could still score two or three goals against you.
“I remember playing for Carlisle against Fowler in a youth-team game with Liverpool.
“He scored six goals. Thanks to him we all had to come in for extra training on Sunday morning.
“As for Michael Owen, he is so incredibly sharp. You think you are safe and are showing him away from goal, but then he can turn and score from nowhere. There aren’t too many players with that ability.
“Also, there was his pace off the mark. He was up to full speed off a couple of strides.”
That electric pace may have gone, but Delap says that doesn’t stop Owen being a quality player and a superb goalscorer.
He added: “He has always been a yard ahead of people with his brain, not just his pace.
“He’s a natural goalscorer and players don’t lose that. They might lose a yard of pace, but that natural instinct to score goals will still be there.”
Delap also expects the former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United striker to help the club off the pitch, in the same way that Owen’s fellow England striker Peter Crouch has.
Delap explained: “Michael has been at big clubs all his career and bringing that experience into the dressing room can only help.
“It’s getting that winning mentality that all the big clubs have.
“Teams at the bottom of the table still want to win, of course they do. But it is a case sometimes of working out how to win.”
Owen, let’s not forget, was one of seven players to arrive during the transfer window – along with Jamie Ness, Michael Kightly, Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu, Steven Nzonzi and Charlie Adam.
In particular, the £4m signing of midfield playmaker Adam from Liverpool has raised the prospect of Stoke adapting their direct game.
Delap believes signing players of Adam’s quality will mean City gradually changing the way they play.
He said: “Charlie is well known for his passing and got the side going when he came on against Wigan.
“He helped us keep the ball better which, without doubt, we have struggled with a little bit.
“If we can do that then we can only become a better side.”
Let’s be clear, that’s not a criticism by Delap of the up and at ‘em style City employed to win promotion and survive in the Premier League.
He said: “If we had tried to out-pass teams in our first couple of years in the Premier then we would have been relegated without any doubt.
“We had to play to our strengths which were to get forward and pick up the pieces.
“Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it is effective.
“Also, there’s no way in that first year or two that we’d have got people like Crouchy or Charlie Adam to the club.
“But as the club progresses people like that are going to come in.”
Owen becomes the biggest star Stoke have signed in their Premier League project, so City can expect plenty of shirt sales featuring his name and the number 10.
Inheriting Ricardo Fuller’s shirt number would not have been easy for any run of the mill striker.
Delap added: “Ric’s a legend here and rightly so, but
hopefully Michael Owen can fill Ric’s boots.”
Delap chuckles after hearing himself say this sentence, as he appreciates how strange it might sound to a non-Stoke City fan who never saw Fuller at his best.
Delap was being entirely serious though, and we know exactly what he means. He adds: “If anyone can follow Ric, it’s a big-name player like him.”