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Rival supporters join in chorus for Owen's fleeting swansong

There were no tears, no guard of honour, no captain's armband and virtually no game time, but Michael Owen was eventually given the standing ovation he deserved.

It said as much about how little was riding on Southampton's final-day encounter with Stoke City as it did about Owen that the biggest reaction of the match came when he entered and left the field for the last time. Nevertheless, that could not take away the fact that, for two fleeting moments in the eyes of the 30,000 at St Mary's, the 33-year-old was once again the 18-year-old who shook the world, with club allegiances cast aside to acclaim the man who once carried England's hopes.

In between came a 16-minute cameo that served as a reminder just why Owen has called it a day. One half-chance but nothing to demonstrate the instincts that saw the striker harvest 150 goals in the Premier League.

"The Stoke fans were singing my name right the way through the game and, in many ways, I didn't deserve that," Owen said. "I've not contributed so much this season to them. And for them to appreciate me, it was pretty special.

"It was something I'll never forget."

For a while, Stoke manager Tony Pulis looked intent on spoiling Owen's farewell, starting Peter Crouch and even bringing on Cameron Jerome ahead of the former England star. That would have been a sick joke, rather like the one that saw Kenwyne Jones left at home after his brick-throwing reaction to finding a pig's head in his locker.

A Stoke head made headlines for the right reasons when Crouch nodded in Geoff Cameron's cross two minutes into the second half. Southampton replied when Asmir Begovic produced a fine stop from Steven Davis, but straight to the feet of Ricky Lambert, who showed all the instincts of Owen in his pomp to fire home the rebound. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent