‘Well done, he’s 13’ – Neville Southall’s brilliantly sarcastic put down of Michael Owen is still the best thing on the internet April 2, 2021 – Posted in: Soccer
Remember when those fans thought a game was all over seconds before it actually was? Football’s greatest moments are only as good as the words used to describe them.
For example, Michael Owen’s tame effort from point-blank range against a child is nothing without Neville Southall telling him: ‘Well done, he’s 13’. It ought to be up there with ‘Remember the Name’ and ‘AgueROOOOO’.
Let’s run through the context which makes this all so special. In 1999, Owen was a total sensation. Think Erling Haaland, just as socially-awkward, but perhaps even bigger. Every England fan had him on the back of their shirt, regardless of which club they supported.
After that miraculous goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup, followed by a Premier League Golden Boot, the only logical step was to start smashing in goals against kids at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium on BBC2.
His ‘Soccer Skills’ programme taught aspiring footballers everywhere that the secret to scoring goals was removing the entire defence, putting a 13-year-old in an full-size goal, and hitting the ball really hard.
But the real trick was to maintain the illusion that what you’re doing is seriously cool and impressive by celebrating like it was the FA Cup final.
We’ve all been in that horribly awkward scenario playing football with kids, unsure of just how many shots to let in or miss before they realise what’s really happening.
It’s not an exact science by any means, but Owen’s approach of trying his absolute hardest and laughing at the child is certainly unconventional.
“I just love volleying – poor old Jamie has no chance,” Owen chuckles, after smacking one of his 22 consecutive volleys at Brazilian Soccer School student Jamie Hutchinson from no less than six yards out.
It was a truly ruthless display of finishing, racking up more goals than his real-life Stoke career in 40 seconds and showing utter disregard for everything, including ‘poor, old’ Jamie’s hopes and dreams.
“Being the goalkeeper on a programme headlined by a striker wasn’t exactly ideal for me,” Jamie said in 2016.
“It was made clear that it wouldn’t make good filming if the goalkeeper was saving all the shots taken by the other kids after they had been coached by Michael.”
But in order to keep the child-sized cat in the bag, Jamie was given some coaching of his own, in the interest of balance and fairness.
Anyone who follows Southall on Twitter knows the legendary Everton and Wales goalkeeper isn’t afraid of standing up for the little guy, albeit more metaphorically these days.
At one point, it even appeared as though the big man’s inspiration was working. “You’ve stood up… and it’s hit yer. That’s class,” he tells Jamie after a rare save.
But blissfully unaware of the goalkeeper’s prolonged torture and Southall’s clearly-extinguishing patience, Owen takes his mockery to new levels with a dink over the little man from 25 yards, followed by a double-thumb point at the name on the back of his shirt.
And then it happened. The moment the cat finally left the bag and the illusion crumbled before our cringing eyes.
Owen nonchalantly curls an effort nowhere near the corner yet still past Jamie’s outstretched arm and, true to form, shouts ‘GEEEET IN THERE!’
To which Southall responds: “Well done, he’s 13.”
It perfectly captured the feeling of a bewildered nation – and his sarcastic comment still does the rounds on social media 22 years on.
Aston Villa used the clip to great effect after beating Liverpool’s youngest ever side 5-0 in the League Cup quarter-final in 2019.
But what of our protagonists? Owen won the Ballon d’Or for grown-up footballers two years later, Southall thrust himself back into top-flight action with Bradford just months afterwards, while Jamie eventually gave up hopes of becoming a goalkeeper and turned to plumbing.
In fairness, Micah Richards was the only notable graduate of that Brazilian Soccer School, which turned out to be nothing more than a Simon Clifford vanity project – a match made in heaven for Owen’s ‘Soccer Skills’.
“I would 100 per cent love to film it again, with a pair of gloves that actually fit and me being able to touch the crossbar,” Jamie said in 2017. “Hopefully there’d be a better outcome…”