SOCCER-ENGLAND-OWEN:Owen blames Liverpool mismanagement for injury problems
(Reuters) - Former England striker Michael Owen has blamed mismanagement in his early days at Liverpool for the injuries that have blighted his career.
Writing on his website (www.michaelowen.com) on Friday, the Stoke City player also said he would not have had so many fitness worries if he had joined Liverpool's rivals Manchester United at a younger age.
Owen, who signed for Stoke in September but has made only four substitute appearances for the Premier League club, is sidelined with a hamstring injury, a problem that has followed him throughout his career.
"It is my genuine opinion I have become injury prone due to overplaying at a young age," he explained. "In my case I certainly feel like I played too much too soon.
"The problem as a young player is you want to play every week and therefore it has to be the responsibility of the manager to take the decision to rest young players thereby giving them the best chance of a long and injury-free career."
Owen burst on the scene in 1997, scoring on his debut for Liverpool as a 17-year-old, and was soon an established England international after netting one of the goals of the tournament against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.
Blessed with a remarkable turn of pace and a striker's eye for goal, Owen regularly topped the Premier League scoring charts. He said, however, that his speed also contributed to his injury woes.
Owen picked up his first serious hamstring injury in 1999 and spent the rest of his career battling to stay off the treatment table.
"When the time came to make my debut for Liverpool I was mentally ready," he added. "I hit the ground running and won the Premier League Golden Boot (as top scorer) in my first two seasons of first team football.
"Then, on a cold night in March 1999 at Elland Road (Leeds United's ground), my body made me pay for pushing it to the limit too often.
"My hamstring snapped in two and it was at that point that my ability to perform unimpeded was finished. It didn't have to be that way," said Owen.
"My rehabilitation was compromised due to our physio leaving the club that summer and not being replaced until the following season and with no regular medical care during such a critical time, a routine injury was destined to restrict me for the rest of my career."
Owen, who signed for Manchester United in 2009 after spells with Real Madrid and Newcastle United, said had he joined up with Old Trafford manager Alex Ferguson earlier in his career some of the injury problems could have been avoided.
"Only a couple of weeks ago I read with great interest an article that was written about me," he said.
"Alex had made some comments suggesting I would have been a better player had I been managed more effectively in the early part of my career. I have to agree with most of what he said except the usage of the word 'better'.
"In my opinion had I been managed differently I would have been at my best for longer as opposed to being a better player," said Owen.
"There is no doubt I would have won more honours had I signed for Manchester United as a youngster. I am pretty confident I would have been at the height of my powers over a longer period of time too."
Owen, who won an FA Cup, two League Cups and a UEFA Cup at Liverpool, made 216 league appearances for the club and scored 118 goals.
He is the Premier League's sixth highest scorer with 149 goals. Owen is also England's fourth highest scorer, having netted 40 times in 89 appearances. (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Tony Jimenez)