Football: Owen makes another crisp pounds 500,000

Even on a day off, the nation's favourite teenager can add noughts to his bank balance by smiling and saying `cheese'.

OSTENSIBLY, IT was Michael Owen's day off, a day he might once have spent knocking around anonymously with his mates in the Welsh village where he lives or venturing into nearby Chester to stock up his wardrobe. The nation's favourite 18-year-old is discovering fast, however, that acquiring the status of international celebrity means putting more and more of your life in someone else's hands.

Thus Owen spent yesterday's precious allocation of resting time eating crisps and posing with a waxwork dummy of Gary Lineker, transported from Madame Tussauds because Lineker himself could not make it. It was all part of the deal his management company has struck with Walker's which will, it is said, add another pounds 500,000 to the bank balance of an already wealthy young man.

Owen, charming, fresh and boy-next-door wholesome, is an advertising man's dream. And since this summer's World Cup finals he has become a commercial phenomenon. In three months he has been approached with more than 400 endorsement proposals and it was little wonder that the President of Walker's, sitting alongside him as the arrangement was unveiled at the National Sports Centre at Lilleshall, looked pleased. Along with Umbro and Tissot watches, the Walker's offer is one of only three he has taken up.

"Michael's appeal is much the same as Gary's," Martin Glenn said. "He is not just a great footballer but a personality with an appeal to all ages. And, like Gary, he looks the kind of person who would eat crisps."

Owen said that he was delighted to be associated with Walker's and recalled that Gary Lineker was his boyhood idol, even though he played for Everton. And he tried not to look embarrassed when the President announced that cheese and onion flavour was to be renamed "Cheese `n' Owen".

Then, ensuring that the day was not merely a money making exercise, he went off to lend his support to the England Under-15 squad, who were training for tonight's match in Wrexham. The Walker's people, meanwhile, talked about their sponsorship of the Football Association's Charter for Quality.

All of this was crammed into a couple of hours, in accordance with the wishes of his club and his family that he does not suffer from over-exposure. "It is essential that he is allowed, first and foremost, to concentrate on his football," his manager, Birmingham-based Tony Stephens, said.

"It's the kind of thing you expect to have to do," Owen said. "And, in any case, it will not involve too many days so I will not be distracted from playing football.

"My life has changed since the World Cup. I can't go out without being recognised but, when I was a boy supporting Everton, I'd point to players in the street so I'm not complaining. I knew if I was successful I would have to live with the attention and I'm enjoying it."

Life has changed on the field, too, after the extraordinary success of his first full season in a Liverpool shirt, in which he scored 23 goals, followed by France 98 and the sensational strike against Argentina that set the world talking, all vestiges of anonymity have been torn away.

"It is definitely harder," he said. "Last season I was still a bit of an unknown quantity but defenders are starting to think they can get my measure now and I'm having to work out other ways of getting the better of them. After you have had a successful first season it is on how you do in the following six months that you are really judged. I'm fortunate in that I've made a fairly good start to this season. If I'd gone six or seven games without scoring then people might have started to ask questions but I've got five goals and my performances have been good. Hopefully, things will continue that way."

Back at Anfield, Owen still amazes even those closest to him. His appetite for playing remains as sharp as ever, despite the demands upon his physical and mental resilience made by going from a competitive domestic season into a World Cup and back again without any real opportunity for recharging batteries.

"They have told me that if I feel I need a rest I should say so but I can honestly say I don't feel jaded at all," he said. The return to fitness of Robbie Fowler might have something to do with that, although Owen insists he is untroubled by the competition between himself, Fowler and Karl-Heinz Riedle for two forward places.

He even says he would accept being left out by rotation, if that was what Roy Evans and Gerhard Houllier wished.

Somehow, in his case, one suspects his omission from the Liverpool side is about as likely as Walker's deciding they have picked the wrong man.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own