Michael Owen has told ESPN FC he put his “body on the line” to help Alan Shearer save Newcastle United from relegation in 2008-09, but claims it would be ‘pointless’ to attempt to mend his broken friendship with his former England teammate following the pair’s public spat on social media this week.
Owen, speaking to ESPN FC in his first interview since the serialisation of his autobiography, “Reboot”, this week, has created headlines by going public on his feud with Shearer at the same time as admitting his regret at signing for Newcastle from Real Madrid in 2005.
Shearer, who was Owen’s Newcastle teammate prior to taking charge as caretaker-manager at the end of the 2008-09 season, responded on social media with a tweet criticising the former Liverpool and Manchester United forward’s contribution “whilst on £120,000-a-week” at St. James’ Park.
The rift has shocked many, but Owen remains unrepentant about his comments and has told ESPN FC that, rather than lack commitment to the Newcastle, he made himself available while not fully fit for the game at Aston Villa in which the team were relegated.
“If Alan Shearer has come to the conclusion that I didn’t fancy playing in the last game against Aston Villa because I was worried about getting injured and subsequently worried about my next move then, if that’s what’s in his head and that’s how he’s overcome his disappointment of not being a success as Newcastle manager, then that’s fine in a way,” Owen said.
“It’s almost like a grieving period and sometimes you’ve got to blame someone else.
“I’ve done it loads of times in my life. Do you think I’ve come off a pitch and said ‘I’ve been rubbish today, it’s all my fault?’ No way. You’ll never be a footballer if you’re like that.
“You think ‘well the right-back can’t pass for toffee, the midfielder is not creative enough, my strike partner is not seeing my run’, whatever you think.
“Very rarely if you’re right at the top of the game do you blame yourself.
“As I say, it’s a compliment to Alan Shearer. He’s had to find some way of not blaming himself, I guess, for what happened with Newcastle.
“But I find it hard that he’s come to the decision to blame me for it when I was hardly fit in the period he took over, and then I actually put my body on the line in the last game when really I was a week or two away from being fit from a groin injury.
“So I get it, I don’t agree with it. I don’t think that he will ever change his mind, change his view, so I almost think that bit is pointless.”
Owen and Shearer have both carved out careers in the media since calling time on their time inside the game, but their rift has endured.
And although Owen admits he has considered taking steps to end the feud, he concedes that their shared stubbornness remains a block to a reconciliation.
“I’ve often thought of it,” he said. “A few years ago, I knew I was going to be in the same room doing TV with him and I thought about speaking to him then.
“But he’s a strong personality and so am I. I’m not going to change his mind.
“To be honest, I’m pretty surprised it hasn’t come out before because we haven’t spoken for a long period of time now, sadly.
“We were big mates prior to him taking charge of Newcastle but that was the turning point really and since then we haven’t been big mates, let’s say.
“I know the reasons why, I’ve obviously said those in the book. He has his reasons and that’s where we are I guess.”
Despite focus on his relationship with Shearer and controversy caused by his comments about Newcastle, Owen said he has not been bruised by the headlines he has created this week.
“I don’t think any of it has hurt me,” Owen said. “Some of it has frustrated me and the way it frustrates is, if everyone reads the book, and hopefully everyone does, and they come to their own conclusion, and if in a week’s time, two weeks’ time, three weeks’ time everyone says, ‘oh that’s awful, that’s not accurate’ or whatever it is then that’s absolutely fine.
“Some people are having a go at me when it’s not even what I said and once they read it in the book they’ll think ‘wow, actually I get what he’s saying now.’
“But to get to the top of your profession you need to have unbelievable drive and confidence.
“One of the best things and the most important things you need is to be able to filter out anything that’s going to have a negative impact on your mind.”