Five Reasons Why Michael Owen Will Flop as a Football Pundit
Michael Owen’s sudden career change took many by surprise when he was announced as the co-commentator of BT’s new football team—and it’s a decision he will come to regret.
The ex-England striker will lead a new-look line-up alongside David Ginola, Steve McManaman, David James and Owen Hargreaves.
But, it's Owen who will be the face of BT’s new sports team, and great things are expected.
It seems a strange gamble by the newest rival to Sky Sports, especially with their apparent ability to hand-pick the very best talent available.
Here are five reasons why he will be a flop…
Very few ex-footballers can go straight from the pitch and into the commentary box without substantial media training.
Even the likes of Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville were eased into their specific roles (over 12-18 months) with plenty of behind-the-scenes work and the occasional on-air appearance.
However, Owen is playing catch-up after only being confirmed on May 9.
There is a rather funny clip of the striker commentating on his own goals during some much-needed practice, but don’t expect clear, concise, polished analysis from the start.
That inexperience may be endearing to many; however, the hardened critic and passionate sports fan may well become tired of constant mistakes that will surely be evident in his rookie season.
4. Monotone Voice
The job of a commentator is to inject as much passion and colour as humanly possible.
The process of watching the game and not seeing the person talking make these requirements even more important.
Andy Gray, Martin Tyler and Ian Darke are three of the very best at doing this, and have subsequently earned cult status along with a band of loyal followers.
I’m not saying Owen should be at that level, but if his appearances on BBC’s Match of the Day are anything to judge by, the new station could have a major problem.
Owen has a distinctly monotone voice that is very difficult to change.
There’s not a lot of depth or vocal clarity and I’m sure it’s something the 33-year-old will be working hard on behind the scenes.
Of course, there should be improvements made, but nervousness and mistakes can and will lead to Owen reverting to the tone he is most comfortable with—and that’s not a good thing.
3. Sitting on the Fence
Although a lot of the job will be descriptive, Owen must be confident enough to give forceful opinions in order to be interesting.
To do this, he may need to be controversial and say exactly what he’s thinking.
He’s there to give an insight from a player’s perspective, but I fear Owen may be compromised if a big incident unfolds in a game.
The striker has just retired and I don’t think he’ll be able to really go to town on a decision or a player should the situation require it.
Garry Neville is perfect at doing this and isn’t afraid to say what he sees, even if it offends someone along the way—just ask David Luiz.
That’s the way you need to be in order to have a long career in the industry.
I hope Owen goes down the same line, but I fear he’ll play it safe—and that will be a big mistake.
2. New Channel
BT Sport is taking a huge £1 billion gamble (via Reuters) in trying to go toe-to-toe with Sky Sports.
The last time a company tried to compete with Mr Rupert Murdoch, it didn’t end well—c’est la vie, Setanta Sports.
There seems to be more money and a better model for success at BT, but it’s still a big ask to challenge such a superpower.
A lot will depend on subscriptions, which are currently being reported at the one million mark (via The Guardian).
But that will need to increase substantially over time if they are to keep bidding for high-profile games.
It will be interesting to see how the channel has grown in five years' time... or if it’s still being broadcast at all.
If it isn’t, Mr Owen's second career could be very similar to his current playing status—retired!
Just how serious Owen is about his new role is open to debate.
He has also expressed his desire to start his own football agency (via The Guardian), which will take a lot of time and effort, should his wish come true.
Owen’s love of racehorses is very well-documented and now his playing career has come to a close, expect the ex-Manchester United striker to spend increased time in the stables and at the track.
Can he balance all these demands and still give total commitment to BT Sport?
It seems highly unlikely.
And if things start to go sour for Owen, they’ll go sour very quickly. Fans can be very damning with their opinions, especially when they’re paying good money for a particular quality of service.
And would Owen fight tooth and nail should criticism come his way?
Probably not: he doesn’t need the money, and there will be plenty of other opportunities on the horizon should he decide to walk away.