It’s not always good to be back home

UNSURPRISINGLY given their club’s record there, few Newcastle players have many fond memories of Anfield.

UNSURPRISINGLY given their club’s record there, few Newcastle players have many fond memories of Anfield.

Alan Smith suffered a horrendous broken leg there which signaled the beginning of the end of his Manchester United career, but for most of his colleagues the pain has been of a less physical and more frequent nature.

The big exception is Michael Owen. As a product of the Reds academy it should come as little surprise that the boyhood Everton fan has warm feelings for the home of their nearest rivals. But Owen used to particularly love it when the Magpies were in town.

The striker’s record is outstanding against his current club wherever they play – in 13 games for Liverpool he scored 14 times against United, including two hat-tricks.

His tormenting of those of a black-and-white persuasion started at an early age, scoring one of the extra-time goals in a 2-0 League Cup quarter-final win at St James’s Park in only his second game against United, and continued throughout his career on Merseyside.

He shared his goals equally home and away scoring eight in eight at Anfield, including a hat-trick in 2001, the first of consecutive 3-0 wins for the hosts.

It was Owen whose goal was responsible for keeping Newcastle out of the Champions League in 2004, sowing the seeds for Sir Bobby Robson’s departure early the next season.

For Owen, a goal in front of the Kop was the perfect way to sign off before joining Real Madrid that summer. For Newcastle it was typical of the years of anguish he had caused them.

Sadly for United, he has turned out just once at his old Anfield stomping ground in black-and-white stripes, powerless to prevent a 2-0 defeat. That, though, has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm about a return.

“It’ll be good,” he said. “It really is awful when you get beat and we lost 2-0 at Anfield last time. If you get a result at your old club it’s always nice and then you can meet old friends knowing you got something out of it.

“You don’t want to be putting your head down and sliding out a side door to get back on the coach.”

STUART RAYNER

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David Whetstone
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Graeme Whitfield
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Mark Douglas
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Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer