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By ESPN Staff

Your verdict: Angry Owen?

So Michael Owen appears set to copy David Beckham by walking away from the SFX sports agency this summer, seemingly in protest at comments from the company's chief, who suggested the England marksman would quit Liverpool unless they reached the Champions League.

If Owen was unimpressed with the thinly-veiled threat it left Gerard Houllier seething, the Frenchman argued the club would be a lot closer to achieving Champions League football had it not been for injuries to his star striker.

Elsewhere, Leeds folk hero/ ruffian par excellence, Alan Smith, has been handed a two match ban for his bottle throwing/ park keeper impression in the Carling Cup match against Manchester United last year.

And Manchester United continue to infuriate you, be it for apparent player poaching or Rio-supporting.

  • Email with your thoughts.

  • Houllier must go at the end of the season for the good of the club, for him to blame the absence of one player (Owen) for the club's poor league performance is a clear indication that he has lost the managerial plot.

    It does not make sense to depend on one player to achieve a pathetic 4th place in the league. Houllier needs to start taking blame for the team's poor performances. He is delusional if he think Liverpool will qualify the Champions League if they continue playing the way they are.

    Abubakr Saban, Cape Town South Africa

    Liverpool and Houllier seem, from a perfectly unbiased point of view (I'm a Coventry supporter), far too dependant on Owen. Yes he is a brilliant player and a natural goalscorer, but since his absence Liverpool have done nothing. You cannot expect to seriously challenge in the Champions League if all your expectations are based on one player.


    Excuses, excuses. Now it is only Owen's injury between Liverpool and a Champions League spot. I seem to recall we were already detached from the top three before Owen was injured and during our woeful season last year he was almost an ever present.

    If indeed a shortage of strikers is our problem then how did this arise. We have £21million worth of strikers available. Heskey spent most of last season playing in midfield where Diouf now also finds himself. Bad performances are greeted with 'The lads played with great heart' and every rare victory is the dawning of a new era. Enough.

    I do not know why, but when Houllier and his coaching staff assemble 11 expensive and skilled players into a team the whole is always less than the sum of the parts.

    It is disappointing that an intelligent man such as Houllier should spend his time rationalising and attempting to justify woeful team performances from such a highly skilled squad when there can only be one man responsible. We the fans can see it, half the board can see it. Time for the other half to wake up.

    David Robson

    How can Houllier blame the absence of Owen and other players for Liverpool's demise this season? Was it not Houllier that said at the start of the season that he had a 'squad' good enough for the title? A 'squad' means that if one player is not available, there are other able replacements available.

    It is sad that this is the first time, in my time as a Liverpool fan, that 4th place is set as a target. We should be fighting for the league till the end, but we were already out of it by October. Is this the decline of a once proud football club? We will soon see the likes of Owen and Gerrard leaving for greener pastures, while Liverpool cannot attract star names anymore.

    Roger Niken

    I'm really fed up with the criticism of the size and quality of the Liverpool squad. Have they really examined the size of Liverpool's injury list?

    Look at the facts: At one point of the season, Liverpool were without the services of Owen, Baros, Kewell, Carragher, Hamann, Henchoz, Finnan and even Cheyrou and Diao. Based on that list, what if Man Utd had injuries to Van Nistelrooy, Scholes, Giggs, Keane, Ferdinand, Brown and Silvestre?

    Can the so-called critics honestly say Man Utd wouldn't struggle if those players weren't available - especially Van Nistelrooy. Or if Arsenal were without just Henry and Pires... just how would they cope?

    So don't simply just criticize Houllier and demand he leaves because I don't think any manager could have done any better in Houllier's situation. I, for one, am 100% behind Houllier and the Liverpool squad and I believe Houllier's still the best man for the job.

    Snake 313, Brunei

    Lets face it, Houllier bought some big duds in the last couple of seasons - how often have all these guys played?

    Owen is out - so what? With the amount of money he has spent he cant blame mediocrity on one player.

    I say go now and give Thommo time to settle in and lets assault the title next season!

    Arthur, South Africa

    Liverpool's problems are all down to attitude, and Gerard Houllier's attitude is just not positive enough.

    Bill Shankly always stated Liverpool wanted to win the League championship every year, it was their bread and butter. When they occasionally failed, they came second and picked up silverware elsewhere. Houllier continues to aim low, at fourth, so when he fails Liverpool fall into fifth.

    Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish all aimed for the top, believing it was Liverpool's rightful place, as do Ferguson and Wenger with United and Arsenal. On his current record, Houllier does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as these multi-title winning giants, as he is just a cup poacher.

    Luck wins cups, as Liverpool's 2001 treble proved - a penalty shoot out to beat Birmingham, a golden own goal against Alaves and Michael Owen's individual magic after being outplayed by Arsenal.

    You need self belief and consistency, not just luck to win the Premiership. Gerard Houllier should either aim for number one or aim for the exit.

    Alan Naylor, Australia

    Michael Owen is such a gifted player he should be playing in a team thriving for success, a team playing regularly in the Champions league.

    He is not a spoilt brat, he is a honest player. These days I believe players are misrepresented through their so called agents. The agents are only with them for there own gain, not the welfare of the player.

    It is not Owen's fault that Houllier has bought players who have not played to their best. To be honest Houllier has bought bad players, his choice has not been for the better of the team. He has not structured his signings in building a well balanced team, is Owen to fault, NO.

    One more point, not only do Liverpool need Owen so do England.

    Michael O'Connell, USA

    Owen or no Owen I think Mr. Houllier has just run out of ideas. Like lots of people have said already, the manager always claims he has a good squad and my simple understanding of that is that the "team" is capable and not Owen alone.

    Perhaps its high time the manager started acknowledging that some of his investments have failed to yield anything to the club. Why does he not let them go and get some good players that would get him the results, that is if he still have ideas to coach a team like Liverpool.

    The end pain comes to us supporters because 14 years is a hell of a long period without a title....lets act and not find excuses.

    Kho, Blantyre Malawi

  • Two match ban for Leeds Utd's Alan Smith

    Alan Smith chucks a bottle into the crowd, hits a lady in the head = 2 match ban, no fine.

    Eric Cantona kicks a racist taunting fan = 9 month ban, 120 hours community service, heavy fine.
    Jaap Stam tests positive for a banned substance = 5 month ban.
    Rio Ferdinand takes a drug test 30 hours late but passes = 8 month ban, £50,000.

    Football is becoming as silly as the legal system, for me these equations just don't add up. Can anyone else balance them?

    Adam Sydney, Australia

    Alan Smith is an absolute legend. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and a club like Leeds could do with 11 of him on the pitch to drag them out of the mess they are in.

    Fair enough, he tends to over do it from time to time, but when you are in a scrap, you have to knuckle down and get on with it. Take the fight out of Smith and you take the fight out of Leeds. Do this and they are dead and buried.

    Seymour Sharkey, Beeston

  • Giggs slams FA over Riogate

    Ryan Giggs says the punishment the Football Association handed out to his teammate Rio Ferdinand was 'ridiculous'. Will the FA stand for this insult? Will they censure Giggsy? Will they let this bringing of the game into disrepute go unanswered?

    The FA are a cowardly lot, but damned determined to stay that way! You just can't fault them for their dogged determination. It takes all the bravery they can muster to be so cowardly.

    You think cowardice is easy? Just you try it. The FA have been doing it for so long the game is almost completely beneath disrepute - so there! Watch Ryan Giggs get away with it. Just you watch.

    Jim Prunier

    So Ryan Giggs believes some players are above the rules. Sorry, Ryan, Ferdinand got what he deserved. Maybe now you, and all other professional players, will wake up and take notice.

    No one is above the rules, no matter what team they play for.

    Chris, Ontario

    As many would have observed, the Rio saga should be put to rest. A verdict has been given by the English FA, regardless of it being fair or not, EIGHT months was what they felt as a just punishment.

    Tommy Tang

    Okay enough is enough! Lets deal with the facts here this is getting stupid now. Rio missed his test, sure he should be punished for that. He passed the test some 36 hrs later, this should tell these idiots he wasn't taking any banned substances.

    It appears now that FIFA (Sepp Blatter in Particular) and the WADA are desperate in their attempts to create more out of this. What are their motives?

    Tony L

    Whilst it is perfectly correct that Rio Ferdinand has been punished for missing his drugs test, it is totally unacceptable that a player that has never had a positive doping test should receive a ban longer than those who had been tested for both steroids and recreational drugs.

    A one or two month ban and a fine of up to 2 weeks pay would have been more appropriate, and certainly strong enough to deter other players from trying to dodge a doping test.

    Andy Bright, Alaska (formally from the UK).

  • Manchester United player poaching?

    It's time that UEFA punish Man Utd for using illegal approaches to tap up other players. They think they can get away with it, all because they are a big club. Blaming Robben's parents is a pathetic way to divert the attention.

    UEFA should fine Man Utd, and should they continue, ban them from the European market for a few years. Maybe Roman can come in with a large bid and snap up Robben, just to spite Fergie. What's the use of laws when one club can do whatever they like?

    Kevin, Malaysia

    It seems to me that too many players are getting away with mercenary tactics in order to facilitate a transfer to major clubs. They should at least show enough loyalty to finish out a season with their current club, before asking for a big money transfer.

    In fact, the player should be sanctioned and not allowed to play until the following season, if the club can prove they were forced to sell a player, mid-season, against their will.

    Until such a rule comes into force, even holding out through transfer windows will become near impossibilities for small clubs with star players. Also it would take away the need for transfer windows, as all a club would have to do is state their desire to hold onto the player for the rest of the season.

    Andy Bright

    It looks like football has simply become another corporate job to most footballers these days. The highest salary offer and a player's loyalty vanishes.

    Saha plays for a great club and is a valued player? at Manchester United he would simply be another Diego Forlan and would probably end up making good friends with him? as they sit on the bench together.

    Louis, stay were you are and enjoy being an indispensable member of the team.

    Michael Leek

    I think it's plain crazy to suggest a punishment for Manchester United just because they seem to be tapping players up by 'deliberating unsettling' them. If that is the reason that United should be punished, then clubs like Real Madrid should have been punished many times over. Has anyone forget how Real Madrid got Zidane and Beckham?

    Also, I think it's mad to even think that Ryan Giggs should be charged for making the comments about Rio Ferdinand. Bringing the game into disrepute? You're having a laugh mate.

    A certain manager for a North London club has been doing it for seasons and he gets away accusing the FA for having one set of rules for his club and another set for other clubs. How about all the managers who accuse referees as idiots? Aren't they bringing the game into disrepute?

    Furthermore after reading the anti-dope agency dude speaking out his a**e, I think he needs to get his head examined. I mean, if Jaap Stam only gets a 5-month ban for testing positive in a drugs test, why should Rio Ferdinand get any longer than that for missing one (and subsequently tested negative)?

    I don't deny that Rio deserves a punishment, but to ask for a longer ban is simply madness at its maximum. 8 months are long enough and just watch England go out of Euro 2004 in the group stage as a result of the 'independent' board of inquiry at the FA.


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