In an exclusive three part series, City legend Gary Owen continues to answers questions from worldwide VMC Forum members. Part Two kicks off with Gary’s views on the MCFC Academy…
GARY OWEN CITY FACT FILE:
St Helens, Lancashire. 7th July 1958
Arrived at City from Manchester Boys
Saturday, 20th March 1976 in a 3-2 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers (Age: 17)
124 League and Cup apps (+2 as sub), 24 goals
ENGLAND U21 CAREER:
22 apps, 4 goals
1. What way forward do you see for City’s Academy now that Jim Cassell has a global ADUG role and Brian Kidd’s role has changed?
‘I think Jim was saddened to leave the Academy in Manchester, but he understood why he had to move abroad. What he and his team have done for the MCFC Academy should go down in history. No other Academy has done as well as ours. I don’t think many supporters fully understand the work Jim and his team have done for Manchester City, not only in providing first team international players but also in bringing in a lot of money for the club in players who have been sold on.
‘Jim knows that he is the man best qualified to open up Academies in the Middle East, America and other places the club plan to target. He has left the Academy in Manchester in good hands. It was Jim’s choice who came in to take over from him and he has now got stuck into his global role which will be an important one as football is no longer about bringing in lads from Longsight and Audenshaw and the centre of Manchester. If you want your club to stay at the top, you have to not only have the greatest scouting network to bring established world players in but also a great worldwide Academy network. Rightly or wrongly, ever big club in the world is now trying to do that.’
2. Dedryck Boyata has made a breakthrough into the first team recently. Do you think Mancio is looking to give more debuts this season, or does the signing of 33-year-old Patrick Vieira mark an emphasis on experience for the remainder of the campaign?
‘Boyata was spotted playing in a youth tournament in the Isle of Man and the potential was seen in him. Not only did he come over to City, but his Mum, Dad and family came over to settle in with him. Mancini has also given starts to midfielder Abdisilam Ibrahim and defender Greg Cunningham showing that despite the money that has been spent, if a young player is good enough, he will get his chance.
‘Ibrahim has a good touch, a good engine and a good build. The only thing lacking is experience. If you could put Vieira’s experience into Ibrahim’s legs, bingo, you’ve got the player!’
3. Who’s your favorite current City player and why?
‘On his day, Stephen Ireland. Sometimes I don’t know where his head is. He seems to be the type of player that if content and nothing is concerning him, he can find a pass, he can score a goal, he can create something out of nothing.
‘As a former midfield player, I look at Stephen. I can see that he can put a tackle in when needed and get forward and see the openings. Not every player can do that. I think that his frustration since he’s been at City is that he’s never been allowed to play in his favourite position in the centre of midfield where he can play the ball left and right and play balls through. He’s been asked to play out of position to accommodate other players that I believe he is better equipped than to play in that position.’
4. Gary, do you like the new crest, or should we go back to the rose?
‘I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like a lot of change. I like how the badge was and remember it from the first day I went to the club. I felt proud to put that shirt on. But the new crest, new stadiums, the new way of how football is being played and the kick off times, it’s all changing. I know the club was operating with best business interests at heart for merchandising and branding, but I would have asked the supporters for their say before making any decisions.
‘Our new owners have since made a priority of connecting with the fans. They get fans to present the player of the month award for example. It’s more interactive and it is again showing that City is a caring club. Getting our players out again to visiting supporters club branches is great yet completely alien to a lot of our foreign players. Be good to see Adebayor, Tevez and Garrido out together at Prestwich. They’d think they were in a war zone!!’
5. What about outside of professional competition? Ever score a real cracker as a kid or something that inspired you to push yourself to play professionally?
‘I don’t mean this to sound condescending but I scored more goals as a kid than you could swing a cat at. For a lot of the time as a schoolboy I played up front as a striker or wide left before settling into midfield. One season I scored 63 goals with us often beating teams 10 or 11-1 and I scored 7. But a lot of the goals I scored were from free kicks which also proved to be the case when I became a professional. I took all the corners and free kicks from schoolboy level through to the first team. I’ve taken penalties in every team I’ve played for.
‘As an aside, I can only remember missing two penalties professionally. One when I sent Paul Bradshaw the wrong way when he was at Wolves and myself at West Brom. It hit the post. The second time was for West Brom at Norwich with those low stands. It was throwing it down with rain. As I went up to hit it, my foot went from underneath me. I went backwards on to my backside and ballooned the ball over the stand and into the river behind!!’
6. What made you follow a career in the media?
‘I sort of fell into it really. Peter Barnes was working for Piccadilly Radio and asked me to step in for him during a holiday absence. The feedback was great within a week and when Peter returned I was asked to stay on with him. When Peter decided to pull out I continued and was head hunted by Century Radio, part of the Capital Radio group. I worked with them for almost seven years which incurred ‘The Legends Football Phone In’ with Graeme Sharp (Everton), Mickey Thomas (United) and Alan Kennedy (Liverpool).
‘It was a phenomenally successful 5 nights a week programme. The station picked up a third of it’s audience level with that one hour show. Furthermore, as I commentated with City home and away on such a regular basis, I then found myself in demand from numerous media outlets for comment and analysis. I suppose I was close to the club and seen the highs and lows across three divisions. To an extent it all happened by accident!
‘But as it happens, everything has it’s life and my business life was becoming more and more successful which was increasingly taking up my time. When all is said and done, the business I have built up is the priority, 24/7. With the media work I find that you can step in and step out.
‘I found I wasn’t able to continue with the Legends phone in and it disbanded not long afterwards. I still get asked whether or not it will make a comeback.’
7. Do you think that the Academy Coaches should hold summer teaching workshops with local school/weekend coaches to help further develop Manchester’s youth indirectly and build up the pool of local talent?
‘City are already in action on this front with Associated Coaches on a weekly basis alongside City In The Community (CITC led by Alex Williams), not only in the summer. The Academy Coaches are professional coaches and in the close season are already preparing for the next one. If anything we pioneered this at City and not a lot of clubs do it in and around the Manchester area.’
8. Gary, be honest, do you think that Michael Robinson and Barry Silkman for yourself and Peter Barnes was a fair swop?
‘In a word, no! I’d be interested to see a poll to that effect on Vital Manchester City. If the result contradicts my judgement then maybe myself and Barnsey have been flattering ourselves down the years! Michael Robinson is a nice enough guy but he is better doing what he does now working in Spain as a TV presenter. Barry Silkman is a football agent. In my opinion, Robinson was the better of the two players and Silkman was in the right place at the right time because of Malcolm Allison but should never have been a player for Manchester City.’
9. In your opinion, what was the best goal you ever scored professionally?
‘I’ve scored excellent dribbled goals for West Brom and half volleys for City, but there is one that stands out because Brian Clough waited for me to come off the pitch and said ‘Good goal young man, I don’t know what our goalkeeper was doing.’
‘We’d had a free kick on the edge of the box against Forest and I actually sent the keeper the wrong way off that free kick! I’d shaped to whip it around the wall but disguised it with my left foot and whipped it over. He tried to get an extra yard on me and was left flat footed.
‘Yet if I had to pick a best goal, it would have to be the first one you ever score. That’s the one you remember better than any. Mine was against West Ham not long after I broke into the City team…
‘In training, I always used to chip Joe Corrigan. He’d come out six yards off his line and I’d chip him. He used to chase me all over saying ‘You’d never do that in a game, would you?!’
‘I can remember the ball coming in against West Ham at the Platt Lane end of Maine Road. I recall the presence of their centre half Tommy Taylor and the ball coming on to my left foot. At that moment I just saw Mervyn Day creep off his line and I hit it like a sand wedge. A bit of back spin on it and it went over the top of him. Both Mervyn and the ball ended up nestled in the back of the net.
‘I remember Joe Corrigan coming up alongside me at half time as we went down the tunnel saying ‘You’d never do that in a game, would you?!’
10.Concentrating upon the actual game of football itself and ignoring the off-field changes, over the years do you feel it has become a better sport, or do you feel it needs to return to the grittiness that once was?
‘The pitches are better, the equipment, the training facilities and the travel are better. Everything is better for you as a professional footballer. The other side of the coin is that strikers get their enjoyment from scoring goals. Midfielders get their enjoyment from tackling, creating and scoring goals and defenders get their enjoyment from tackling and stopping goals. But the way football is going at this moment in time, defenders are not allowed to tackle and strikers and defenders are not allowed to jump for a ball.
‘I don’t know how anybody can jump for a ball without using leverage, which is their arms. Of course, there’s a difference in using your arms to get up there and not jumping and swinging an arm to hit an opponent. As for tackling, we all know what a hard, fair tackle is, but even that is becoming stopped. If you tackle now and your momentum takes you through and you catch somebody, you can be sent off. The authorites are trying to make it a non body contact sport.
‘Of course anyone who knows football does not want people badly injured by challenges that are going to injure people, but what they do want to see is a strong, hard game where men are playing in it who don’t want to lose and you see some commitment from both sets of players. Combined with inconsistent referees and rules like are players active or not active when the ball is played in, we need to take the doubt out of everything. You are either offside or you are not. Stoke’s Abdoulaye Faye was sent off against City recently, then of course Emmanuel Adebayor. On another day, with another ref, they would have been booked!
‘In conclusion, we have better facilities for paying supporters and a terrific set up for players. The downside is that the rules of the game are making it less exciting and players are increasingly coming off the pitch with as clean a kit as when they walked out there. We need common sense.’
Very many thanks and respect to Gary for this tremendous interview. Stay tuned with VMC for Part Three which follows next week! If you missed Part One, you’ll find the link below!
VMC Link: Exclusive: VMC Meets Gary Owen Part One
As well as being a widely respected, successful media personality and commentator, Gary is the Managing Director of GTC Management, one of the UKs leading independent utility procurement brokers.
To find out more go to:
GTC Management: ‘Reducing Costs,Saving Time and Providing Peace of Mind’
Interview copyright Vital Manchester City, Gary Owen and The Vital Football Network 2010.
A Play As We Dream Production.
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