Football: Lightning Owen `is no diver'

MICHAEL OWEN has been defended against accusations of diving by the Port Vale centre-back he tormented in Liverpool's FA Cup third round victory.

Liverpool's teen sensation was booed by Vale fans who claimed he made a meal of a penalty area challenge during the 3-0 win, but Vale's Paul Beesley insists it was only the England player's phenomenal speed which made it look like a dive. The 33-year-old Port Vale defender came up against Owen for the first time in his career, and the Liverpool-born Beesley hopes it does not happen again. He said: "If I had to face him every week, I'd be grey. He doesn't dive, he's just so damned quick it looks that way."

Owen won the penalty, scored it himself, and created the third for Robbie Fowler in a dazzling display of lightning-fast football.

Beesley, who boasts a solid career during which he has played for Wigan, Leeds, Manchester City, Sheffield United and Leyton Orient, said he had encountered no one like Owen. "Up until Sunday, I'd managed to miss playing against him," he said. "I will probably be old and grey when the next chance comes around, and it will be too early."

Owen's team-mate, Patrik Berger, has revealed that Liverpool's re-discovered form could be down to their manager Gerard Houllier's tough new regime. The Czech international midfielder says that since Roy Evans departed the new team of Houllier and the old Anfield stalwart Phil Thompson have imposed a stringent code of discipline.

Liverpool players, who once gained a reputation as the game's Spice Boys, have been banned from using mobile phones at the training ground, have had a new diet imposed on them and have to stay in a hotel the night before home matches. Berger, who almost left Liverpool before Houllier resurrected his Anfield career, said: "There have been a lot of small disciplinary changes. I don't know how the other players feel, but they're professional footballers. They have to do what they are told. Some players may not like it, but that's tough."

Berger, who played for Borussia Dortmund before moving to Anfield, admits the new approach is the reason for improved results. He added: "The discipline in Dortmund was far stricter than in this country. That's starting to happen now because the continental trainers are tightening up on discipline. There's a different mentality and upbringing over here. It's not what I was used to in Germany and the Czech Republic, it's far easier."

Liverpool have jumped from 12th in the FA Carling Premiership to seventh with consecutive Premiership victories over Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and carried their rich vein of form into the new year with Sunday's FA Cup third round win 3-0 at Port Vale.

The Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, yesterday admitted his side were missing Dwight Yorke, the striker they sold to Manchester United, but backed Paul Merson to fill the void as the Premiership title race gathers pace.

Merson is back in training at the club's Bodymoor Heath training complex after having an injection to ease the back problem he has been suffering for the past three months. Gregory is hoping to play in reserve matches over the next nine days to confirm his fitness for the televised match against Everton on 18 January.

Gregory said: "We are still missing Dwight Yorke at times. There have been quite a few occasions with us this season which would have been ideal for Dwight. There were times last year when Dwight won us matches away from home when we were under the cosh, times when he kept the ball and created situations at the other end of the pitch.

"Paul Merson is very similar. He can do the same sort of thing. He has got a bit more guile than some - and we are going to need him. You never know with back problems what can happen. They are so delicate and any one of us can be struck down by a back problem at any time. But he seems okay."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower