Matt Jansen. Michael Owen. Miles apart.

imageAs part as my ‘Miles Apart’ series, I am comparing footballers of similar ages, and how they’re careers can start so similar, yet take decisions (sometimes beyond their control) in entirely different directions.

This blog is comparing ex-Blackburn and Crystal Palace striker Matt Jansen, 35, once widely tipped to become England’s next great striker. With current Stoke City striker and ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid striker, Michael Owen, 33.

My first memories of Michael Owen are; watching Liverpool v Derby County on Sky, and seeing Owen personally destroy the Derby defence, beating them a resounding 4-0 in the process.
I also , as any England fan should, remember Owen’s World Cup goal against the Argentinian team (the one with Simeone and Batistuta).

In all honesty, I only remember Matt Jansen because of a computer game I had. UEFA Manager 2000 (the Football Manager of it’s day. Matt Jansen was the (Divison1/Championship’s) best striker, for Blackburn. He was rated a good 80. Only Dele Adebola and Andy Johnson were rated similar. Ironically, all three would go on to play for Crystal Palace in their careers.

Matt Jansen’s career had taken off, he was scoring profusely for Carlisle United, and was soon snapped up for £1m by then Premier League side Crystal Palace (turning down a move to Manchester United in the process).
After doing similar at Palace, he then moved to Blackburn for £4.1m, (once more turning Manchester United down), where he quickly became a club legend. His goal scoring record harking back to Blackburn’s SAS days, with Sutton and Shearer.

If you have read my Gazza blog, you will recall

for someone to take that away from him. Waking up one morning and realising his skills, pace and control was leaving him. Making him and older footballer, compared to the Beckham’s, Owen’s and Fowler’s that were starting to make big names for themselves. Gazza couldn’t understand that this was it

This was also a similar case for Matt Jansen, a man who turned down Sir Alex Ferguson more than once, and looked set to place himself in the England side for a long time.

In the summer of 2002 Jansen had a motorcycle accident in Rome, resulting in a short coma, and loss in all footballing attributes, meaning that his glittering early career would be difficult to rekindle.

As you probably know, Matt Jansen never rekindled his career, and has since journeyed around a number of clubs, attempting to bring back his glory days. He is currently with old Blackburn team-mate Garry Flitcroft at Northern Premier League side Chorley, where he has scored 11goals in 23games, whilst also coaching.

Yet, this is not just the end of Matt Jansen’s fall from success. He has had time with psychologists to cure his depression and illness. No one should mock this. I would agree, as would any football-loving lad, that for a successful football career to be taken away at such a young age, would destroy the strongest of minds.

Perhaps one day we will see Jansen back in the big time, maybe managing Blackburn?

I personally believe he is owed another chance. I here you say ‘but he’s a footballer he’ll have tonnes of money’. I say to you; footballers have a very short career, Jansen had an even shorter one. Yes he was Blackburn’s star striker, but that was before the £80,000 a week wages.

Jansen deserves a chance. I look forward to the day he returns.