Michael Owen, the England and Real Madrid forward, has launched a fearsome critique of Kevin Keegan's managerial acumen, claiming that he began to "really resent" Keegan during Euro 2000 and was "scarred" by the experience.
"I know Keegan didn't have much confidence in me,Kevin tried to make training fun but I didn't enjoy it when he was in charge. I assume the manager had conveyed to his staff what he thought of me – and plainly it wasn't complimentary. If I did one tiny thing wrong, there would be a rush of critical comment."
Owen's frustrations centred around Keegan's belief that he could change the striker, making him operate more with his back to goal, rather than exploiting Owen's obvious strength as a pacey forward who relished the ball played in front of him. This came to a head before the Romania tie at Euro 2000.
"In training all week Keegan had kept me behind, playing balls into me and telling me what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to hold the ball up and link play more."
Owen continued: "A team meeting was called to discuss the Romanians and Keegan set off on a 20-minute lecture about me. `Michael if I was any other manager you would not be playing tomorrow. You've got to improve or we'll have to change.' Ten minutes into the game and I could see three substitute strikers warming up and my desperation to impress the manager was turning to anger.
"I really started to resent him – not as a man but as a manager. With a quarter of an hour gone, I thought: `Sod him, I'm playing my own game. I know I'm good.' Then I scored and the relief was immense. I just wanted to make a gesture to Keegan that said: `I told you so.' It was a dark phase in my career and, yes, it scarred me."