Michael Owen grateful for Stoke City ovation as he ends career
Michael Owen admitted there had been a lump in his throat as he ended his stellar career at St Mary's on Sunday.
The former Liverpool and England striker played the final 17 minutes of Stoke's 1-1 draw with Southampton but was unable to influence the result.
Both sets of fans chanted his name throughout the match and Owen revealed he had been touched by the send-off.
"I have hardly contributed for Stoke and for them to chant my name, was something else," he said.
"I want to thank the Stoke and Southampton fans.
"It has been mixed emotions, but I could not have wished for a better send off. It has been a great career. To bring it to a halt feels strange."
Owen received a standing ovation from all four corners of the ground as he left the field at the final whistle, calling time on a career that has taken him from Liverpool to Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke.
But Owen was certain now was the right time to walk away. "There was a lump in my throat but not a tear in my eye. I am pleased it is over in many ways now," he added.
"I didn't really have a change of heart. When you've been at the top, it is hard not to be there anymore. It is not enjoyable when you cannot influence a game anymore.
"I will stick to five-a-side games with my mates from now on."
Stoke manager Tony Pulis paid tribute to Owen, admitting that even though the 33-year-old had started just one league match for the club he had made a lasting impact.
"I thought the reception he got was fantastic," Pulis said.
"He has had a wonderful career and has been a top professional for this country. He has been fantastic around the place, despite us only having him for a year. We were always going to bring him on today and I am pleased with how it went for him."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino also stopped to recognise Owen's achievements. The pair famously came together during the 2002 World Cup match between England and Argentina, when Pochettino was adjudged to have fouled Owen for a penalty. The England striker later admitted he had dived to win the spot kick.
"Michael was one of the best footballers England has ever had and he thoroughly deserved the tribute he received today," Pochettino said.