My Story, by Michael Owen

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The Independent Culture

Wales rugby has a well deserved reputation for small-minded factionalism. Although England have recently proved themselves no slouches in this regard, the principality is still the benchmark, as this sour memoir demonstrates.

Michael Owen became the 1,000th player to be capped for Wales when called up to play against South Africa in 2002, and captained them seven times, notably in the Grand Slam-winning victory against Ireland in 2005, but feels he was worth far more than his 41 appearances for them.

Whose fault was it that he wasn't? Mostly everyone else, it seems. The forward observes of Steve Hansen, the coach who dropped him in 2003: "It was pretty clear he wasn't getting the best out of the players".

And he's happy to question the credentials of those selected in his place; overlooked against South Africa in 2007, he quotes the South Wales Echo: "If it is a straight choice between Michael Owen and Alix Popham, there is only one choice... [Owen] is a footballer who can bring others into the game... For every good thing [Popham] does, he does a bad thing and that is not right for the team."

Things didn't get any better with the Lions. Clive Woodward "was a real disappointment... there was no inspiration". This tactic of criticising management and then delving into his press cuttings to justify himself is repeated time and again, which has the effect of diminishing any valid criticisms he does make.

Injury finally ended his career at the age of 29 in 2010, and he has a final pop at Saracens for the way they treated him, despite the fact that they honoured his contract. Poor old Michael Owen, so often the only man in step in the squad. He may no longer be able to score points on the pitch, but he's more than made up for it here.

Published in hard back by John Blake £17.99