Football: Owen on the spot as award winner

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The Independent Online
THE PRECOCIOUS England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen last night picked up his first piece of silverware as a footballer in the senior ranks when he was named as the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

It was the second time yesterday the spotlight had been turned on the 19-year-old whose formidable goalscoring talent was confirmed by his coruscating solo goal against Argentina in the World Cup - and this time he did not fluff his lines. Earlier in the day, the teenager's penalty miss for Liverpool against Wimbledon had cost the Merseysiders a point at Selhurst Park.

The heptathlete Denise Lewis, the European and Commonwealth gold medallist, was runner-up to Owen, and the wing-heeled Welshman Iwan Thomas - who claimed three gold medals in six weeks at major championships this summer - third in the voting.

Owen, whose mother could be seen shedding a tear at the ceremony, said: "I would like to say thanks to all the players and staff of England and Liverpool. Football is a team game, and without them this would not have been possible tonight.

"It has been a great year for me, and this has topped it off. It has been a great early birthday present."

It has been an astonishing 12 months for Owen, who ceases to be a teenager today. On 11 February, he became the youngest England international this century when he started a friendly international against Chile at Wembley. Four months later, he became the youngest England goalscorer when he scored against Morocco in Casablanca after being named in Glenn Hoddle's France 98 squad.

Double winners Arsenal won the Team of the Year award while Mark O'Meara took the Overseas Personality of the Year for winning the US Masters, Open Championship and the World Matchplay trophy.