Hoddle acclaims ‘baby-faced’ assassin Owen as England’s finest

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FORMER England boss Glenn Hoddle hailed the career of “baby-faced assassin” Michael Owen and claimed he could go down as England’s finest finisher.

Owen confirmed yesterday that he would be retiring at the end of the season after Stoke City opted not to extend his contract.

The striker has always maintained he had no interest in dropping down the leagues and preferred instead to concentrate on a career in the media in addition to his growing horse racing empire.

Ultimately, Owen will be remembered as much for the injuries that have blighted the latter part of his career as the brilliance that characterised the start of it. However, Hoddle, who gave the Chester-born star his international debut in 1998 ahead of that brilliant World Cup goal against Argentina, feels Owen deserves a place amongst the very best England forwards.

“He is in the top four of our greatest ever finishers, along with Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer,” Hoddle said.

“Some might say he is at the top of that list.

“He was a baby-faced assassin. His finishing was amazing for a young man. He had that coolness in the penalty box. Some players get anxious but he seemed to get calmer and calmer.

“Michael also had that wonderful intelligence to make the right movement to stay onside. He must have been a nightmare to defend against.”

The first English player to win the European Footballer of the Year award since Kevin Keegan when he scooped the prize in 2001, Owen could hardly have made a more dramatic introduction to life on the international scene, slaloming through the Argentina defence before scoring one of the most memorable England goals.