It’s not time to write off Owen Hargreaves just yet
Owen Hargreaves is 31, a young man in his prime. He has enough money to last several lifetimes. No one can take away his 42 England caps, or his Champions League medal. So why is he playing for his future at Queens Park Rangers, on a shabby training ground beneath the Heathrow airport flight path?
Like many before him, Hargreaves has the selective memory of an athlete who refuses to believe he has been betrayed by his body. The pain of the past four years is negated by the promise of proving everyone wrong.
His unpaid trial at QPR is a no-brainer for both him and Mark Hughes, his prospective manager. Hargreaves gets a chance to impress an upwardly mobile club, QPR have a free look at a hungry player with huge experience. So what if logic dictates that he will not be around when Rangers attempt to build on last season’s last-day reprieve? Hope springs eternal.
Retirement is football’s equivalent of death and taxes. It is unavoidable. Ledley King was a medical miracle during his final years at Tottenham, and even he succumbed last month. The knee problems which have restricted Hargreaves to 338 minutes of football since appearing in the 2008 Champions League final are similarly acute.
No one has a harsh word to say about him. Sir Alex Ferguson paid Bayern Munich £17m because he was impressed by both his personal and professional qualities. He loved his work ethic, and his intelligence, but had little option to release him after four seasons spent largely in the treatment room.
Roberto Mancini calculated the percentages, but came to the same conclusion after a single season, which featured a solitary appearance as substitute in the Premier League. Hargreaves deserves praise for his perseverance, but he need not necessarily be lost to the game.
The tacit offer from the FA of being fast-tracked through the coaching system may well be his destiny. Hargreaves is good character, and a good communicator. The caps and cash will earn him respect from a new generation of players. Let’s not write him off, just yet.
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