Despite attempts by the TV pundits to try and cause some trouble for Steven Gerrard after Liverpool’s defeat of Newcastle, the Liverpool captain will not be facing any charges for his part in the events following Lee Bowyer’s red-card tackle on Xabi Alonso. An official announcement is yet to be made, but the FA met to discuss the match yesterday and feel there are no charges for Stevie to answer.
Bowyer’s tackle on Xabi enraged the Liverpool players, and Peter Crouch pushed Bowyer over, earning himself a yellow card. Alan Shearer and Steven Gerrard, as the two captains, were also raising hands to each other, and when Gerrard admitted after the game he should have acted differently the TV pundits seized on the opportunity to find him guilty.
However the FA have reviewed the video footage of the game and feel that the action taken by the referee, Mark Halsey, was adequate. They also had a hearing to consider an appeal by Lee Bowyer against his sending off, but it was not overturned, as a statement released on the official FA site explained: "Lee Bowyer’s claim for wrongful dismissal was rejected at a Disciplinary Commission hearing on Thursday. He will therefore serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect. Bowyer was sent off for serious foul play during Newcastle United’s Premier League match against Liverpool on 26 December."
Crouch’s yellow card means he could not have been charged with anything more – despite attempts by some to say he should have had his punishment increased. FIFA regulations don’t allow changes to be made under those circumstances, and Mark Halsey clearly demonstrated that Crouch was getting a yellow because he touched Bowyer in the chest.
In the same game Michael Owen made his return to Anfield for the first time as a player since he left for Real Madrid 18 months ago. A small minority of "supporters" felt it necessary to boo the former hero. In the main most Liverpool fans felt the actions of this minority gave the rest of the fans a bad name. Owen will go down in history as an Anfield legend; he’s never had a bad word to say against the club and had always been honest over his desire to one day play abroad. He was delighted to see the club win the European Cup.
He told close friends after the Anfield game that he felt like crying. Even if he didn’t expect to be cheered onto the field, he did not expect to be booed.
Michael’s disillusionment with things at Anfield started when Gerard Houllier was still in charge. He was given an opportunity to realise what was then his dream of continuing his career on the continent. It didn’t work out, nor did his chance of getting back to Anfield in the summer, thanks to Newcastle actually following through on their promise to make a big-name signing. Owen is still free to join Liverpool in the summer if both sides want it – but the booing may have put a stop to that.
There’s a lot of “ifs” and “buts” to resolve over the next six months before Michael Owen’s future is mapped out. Newcastle under Graeme Souness are not the type of team Owen will want to be associated with long-term. As passionate as the fans are, the reputation of Newcastle at the moment is epitomised by the scenes we saw last season of Dyer and Bowyer scrapping on the field. Not enough has changed yet at Newcastle to change this image, and until it does Owen is not likely to be willing to stick around – despite what he says.
Liverpool aren’t the only club aware of Owen’s buy-out clause. Jamie Carragher will have to work hard now to convince the legend that there is still a place in the hearts of the supporters for him at Anfield next season. The fact remains though that the vast majority of Liverpool supporters would love to have him back in the squad – and maybe now it’s time for Owen to start planning how he’s going to get here.