Michael Owen says England ‘fear factor’ has gone under Gareth Southgate and tips Euro 2020 glory for Three Lions
Michael Owen believes that the fear that came with playing for England during his time has gone under Gareth Southgate, as he backed the Three Lions for major tournament glory next summer.
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United striker was part of England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’, which consistently underperformed at tournaments, but he believes the current squad have all the tools to triumph at the European Championship.
During Owen’s international career, which ran from 1998 to 2008, the media scrutiny was intense when England inevitably crashed out of tournaments early.
From David Beckham’s red card against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup to Wayne Rooney’s sending off against Portugal in 2006, there was always a scapegoat.
Owen joined White and Jordan on talkSPORT on Wednesday to reflect on England’s past failings and speak about the current side under Southgate.
He claimed there is a different feeling around the Three Lions now and praised the current manager for helping to create a better atmosphere among the players and fanbase.
The iconic striker, who netted 40 goals in 89 games for his country, opined: “This team probably hasn’t got the amazing names like Lampard, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Rooney, Beckham, Scholes. However, it has got a much better environment.
“I think players enjoy playing for the national team much more now. Gareth Southgate has created that and they have got a better manager in him than maybe my time with England.
“We play a better system that suits us nowadays, there is a much better camaraderie around the place and there is a bit less expectation.
“I think there’s a much better feeling among the players and the whole country. What has surrounded the national team back then wasn’t very pleasant.
“I got off the pitch sometimes and got on the back of the bus and the conversation sometimes was ‘I’m going to have a three in the paper tomorrow, or I’m going to have an effigy burnt of me, or I’m going to have a turnip on my head’.
“It was almost a fear factor and get out of this game scot-free and not be blamed. God help us if I’m the one who misses the penalty. It doesn’t feel like that anymore.
“You hear of all the things Gareth Southgate is doing behind the scenes and in the last World Cup when the team went up to take penalties, our team was much further up the pitch. When a player missed the penalty there would also be a player to break from that group to put an arm around him.
“That is the loneliest walk from the halfway line and just those little instances like that, it’s not just happened – Southgate has worked on those things.”
In 2018, Southgate became the first England manager to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup since Sir Bobby Robson in 1990.
While results have been mixed over the past two years, Owen is convinced England stand a great chance of glory at Euro 2020, which has been pushed back to next year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked if England can win the tournament, he said: “I certainly do. I think we’ve got a great chance. It couldn’t have fallen any better for us, it’s basically a home competition with nearly all our games at Wembley bar one.
“We’ve got a massive advantage there and we have players that are young and energetic and looks like they got a great camaraderie between themselves.
“They’ve got a manager I think we can all be proud of. We’ve been down lots of different routes with the England manager. We’ve had Italians and Swedes but we’ve found one on our doorstep who actually understands it and is very proud to be the England manager.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good ingredients. Of course, you always need players. We can talk about managers, good facilities and this and that but at the end of the day you need top players to win a top competition.
“We’d love another couple of world class players if we were being greedy but we have got the basis.”
Listen to England against Iceland tonight live on talkSPORT, kick-off 7.45pm