Michael Owen has hit back at those who are suggesting he has lost his appetite for football.
Owen’s love of horse racing is well known – and he admits the stables and physiotherapy business he part-owns take up chunks of his time – but he is adamant that football remains very much his number one interest and has used his own website to launch a self-defence of his priorities.
“People evolve,” the Stoke City forward says. “Long gone are the days when I have little else in my life other than football. I’m now happily married and have the small task of bringing up four children.
“Inevitably, taking on these responsibilities requires a certain amount of time and effort but does that necessarily mean I have taken my eye off the ball when it comes to plying my trade? Absolutely not!
“Why did I get the urge to justify my actions? Because it feels like a slur on my character and integrity to hear people questioning my desire. Nature has dictated I am no longer the player I once was. It’s got nothing to do with dedication, hunger or desire.
“Due to the nature of my injuries, I have had to reinvent myself and the way I play. No longer can I sprint 100 times in a game at lightning speed. I have had to adapt. But I believe my greatest achievement is to still be playing at the highest level after all the injuries.
“When the time comes to hang up my boots, I won’t be sitting around wondering what to do next. But, until then, I am as hungry as I’ve ever been to succeed in the game.”
Owen again seems likely to have to settle for substitute duty when Stoke visit his first club Liverpool on Sunday.