Rebuilding Owen Hargreaves With The Core X System

The shot dipped, swerved and sliced to perfection, hurtling 25 yards to find a square of net in the top corner that the diving goalkeeper’s outstretched glove couldn’t cover. The home crowd rose in frenzied celebration. But the goal scorer simply jogged away, eyes closed, hand covering his smiling mouth in disbelief. He turned and lowered his head in gratitude. This wasn’t merely a goal, it was the end of a three-year nightmare.

It had been 1,252 days since Owen Hargreaves, once considered the best midfielder in England, had scored. The hellish time in between was filled with injuries, failed comebacks and, finally, the humiliation of being cast off byManchester United. His once-glittering career seemed doomed. But on this innocuous afternoon in Manchester, during an expected Carling Cup walkover, a long-range goal announced his return, turning this once agonizingly frail star into the most unlikely comeback story.

The architect of Hargreaves’s revival is Alex McKechnie. With his white hair, confident gait and Johnny Cash fashion sense, the Glasgow native comes across as a guy who spends his time restoring expensive automobiles, which isn’t that far off. In fact, McKechnie has carved a niche restoring high-priced athletes. The all-star physiotherapist and director of sports science for the Toronto Raptors is a resurrector of careers: Shaq, Steve Nash and Jimmy Connors all swear by him.

In fact, it was this grapevine of injured athletes — in this case, former NHLer Paul Kariya — who referred Hargreaves to McKechnie. At that point, chronic tendonitis in his knees had all but scuttled the career of the best Canadian-born soccer player ever. “The problem was his sustainability,” McKechnie says, “his skill was never in question.”

By the time he was named England Player of the Year after the 2006 World Cup, the holding midfielder was widely recognized as the world’s best at his position. Canadian national team captain Kevin McKenna lauded him as the only player capable of marking Lionel Messi. His reputation was so stout, in fact, that following the 2006 World Cup, and with a hatful of German silverware to his credit — including four Bundesliga titles, three German cups and a Champions League crown — Hargreaves caught the eye of mighty Manchester United. It cost the club £17 million to buy him from Bayern Munich in 2007, but they got a lot more than they bargained for: a player with a host of hidden fragilities.

Hargreaves traces his injury troubles to a broken fibula suffered while playing a match for Munich in September 2006. While the bone healed, his muscles wasted away, and a quick return to the pitch strained the tendons in his knees. During training in early 2007, he says, his knee just popped. “Eventually there is a breakdown point,” says McKechnie. “It’s kind of like the water pipe at home that bursts. It was fine yesterday, but it burst today.”

Hargreaves played through the pain in his first year with United, winning Premiership and Champions League titles. But his condition worsened, and surgeries became necessary in December 2008 and January 2009 to repair the patellar tendons in both knees. His surgeon, world-renowned orthopedist Richard Steadman, said the tendons were the worst he’d seen in 35 years. In four seasons with United, Hargreaves made just 39 appearances. He seemed to spend as much time with Steadman in Vail, Colo., as he did with his team in Manchester, turning Hargreaves from a player with so much to give, into a man with nothing to lose. It was as if, Hargreaves says, he was made of “f—ing glass.”

A first comeback ended minutes into a Premier League match against Wolverhampton in November 2010, when a hamstring tear left him limping; a second was called off by a dislocated shoulder. Hargreaves had played just six minutes since 2008. Eventually the years of inactivity and false starts became too much. United stopped trying to salvage its investment and did not offer Hargreaves a contract after the 2010–11 season. He offered to play for free, but manager Sir Alex Ferguson chose to move on. At 30, Hargreaves was left without a future.

• • •

When three million people click on a YouTube video of a grown man in bike shorts, the subject usually lies low for a while. Not Hargreaves, who posted a series of now-infamous videos of himself, clad in spandex, hitting the gym and running sprint drills on the training ground. “That was entirely his idea,” McKechnie says of the videos, which he filmed in Vancouver this summer. “The basis was to review his training.”

The videos were intended for a physio in Europe (they were too big to email), but elicited snickers across the soccer world. For Hargreaves, the shame wasn’t in millions seeing him try to work his way back into soccer; it was that he’d been out of the game in the first place. “What he expected was to be able to leave the game under his terms,” McKechnie says.

When Hargreaves met McKechnie, he wasn’t anywhere near match fitness. “When I first saw Owen, he had already gone through fairly extensive rehab,” McKechnie says. “What was missing was the closing component. The marriage of rehab and performance training.”

So McKechnie — who, with his stocky frame and an energy that belies his age, looks more like a Las Vegas pit boss than a physiotherapist — introduced Hargreaves to his Core X System, an elastic device that links an athlete’s wrists and thighs together. It sounds awkward, but helps stabilize and hold one’s posture during specially tailored workouts.

Hargreaves relearned how to move, building core strength, balance and a new “neutral posture” for his body. It took months. “It is easy to walk away,” McKechnie says. “For Owen, retirement was never really an option.”

While hanging up his cleats for good was never in the cards, few predicted Hargreaves’s move to City. With few options, the next step seemed to be Major League Soccer — the Vancouver Whitecaps were interested — or a small club with limited funds looking for a name to sell shirts and play mentor. The idea of joining Manchester City was absurd: broken-down players don’t wash up with the world’s richest club. But in Hargreaves, City manager Roberto Mancini saw not only a top player available for free, but a chance to take a jab at his team’s fiercest rival.

Hargreaves signed a pay-as-you-play deal in August, becoming one of very few players to cross Manchester from one club to the other. To hardcore fans, such a defection is unthinkable. “It’s crazy to cross lines,” says Toronto FC defender — and Manchester native — Richard Eckersley, who began his career at United. “It’s part of the rivalry; you just don’t do it.”

Crossing lines is old hat to Hargreaves. Choosing to represent England back in 2000 earned him the enmity of supporters of the Canadian national team he abandoned. And he’s proving more than happy to set off old mates. Fresh off his first game, he stirred the pot by accusing his former team of treating him like a “guinea pig” during his injury-plagued United career.

Hargreaves aside, the Manchester rivalry is reaching a new fervour. United is the traditional powerhouse, but mega-rich City has built and bought a star-studded team to match, earning a nickname from Ferguson in the process: the “noisy neighbours.” Both are title contenders. It will all come to a head on Oct. 23 in the Manchester derby, a match Hargreaves could feature in. His debut for City in the Carling Cup — and the goal that punctuated it — has brought England’s one-time best player back to the big stage. And, if you ask McKechnie, Hargreaves is back for good. “I have no doubt that Owen Hargreaves will succeed again,” he says.

Stepping onto the pitch at Old Trafford would be the perfect next chapter in this improbable comeback. Manchester United was the home of Hargreaves’s injury nightmare; returning there with City could make it the site of his salvation.

Follow TFC and the Champions League with Twitter. I will update from training, on match day and whenever news breaks.

Click here to view the article: Rebuilding Owen Hargreaves

20 Comments

  1. Wigginton Kritzer July 8, 2012 Reply

    Awesome product and issue here. I am extremely satisfied with my CORE X SYSTEM ! Thanks so much and I am recommending to all my friends to purchase the CORE X SYSTEM. Please drop me an e-mail with any new workout DVD's you develop.

  2. Savastano Soldner July 9, 2012 Reply

    Magnificent items from you, man. The Core X System is the best, simple workout program I've seen or used! I'll keep coming back for more products. Guarantee everyone would benefit from your product!

  3. Nick Outlaw July 12, 2012 Reply

    Building a strong musculoskeletal system 3 dimensionally that is able to move effeciently in the transverse and frontal planes to maximize the sagital plane movements.......brilliant!! The CORE X SYSTEM does all this in one simple workout program. I am a professional fitness trainer and I would recommend the CORE X SYSTEM to all my fellow fitness trainers!

  4. Clair July 17, 2012 Reply

    I simply want to say I am very happy since purchasing the CORE X SYSTEM! I use it for 30 minutes 3 times a week and I've never gotten a better full body workout! It's simple to use and the workout is fun and energetic! You actually have a terrific product. I would recommend the Core X System to everybody, regardless of their age or level of physical fitness.

  5. Randy July 17, 2012 Reply

    I would tell anyone to order the COREXSYSTEM and see for yourself what it can do for you! My friends see the benefits that I've experienced in 5 months and they all say I look physically 10 years younger and fit! I'll say I was a little skeptical at first because it's so simple to use. But the workout is complete and I feel toned and like I've gotten a complete workout after each use. I've been using it 20 to 30 minutes 4 times a week. It's easy to fit into my schedule, I do it in my home. It's compact, you can take it with you anywhere, and you don't have to buy a bunch of other equipment like you do with other fitness and exercise programs that are out there! I'm amazed with the results I've gotten from the COREXSYSTEM! ABSOLUTELY no other product out there will give you these results. It's very gentle on my muscles and joints as well. Thank you COREXSYSTEM!!

  6. Personal Training Orange County August 12, 2012 Reply

    Woah this product is amazing! Fantastic workout! I use it with all my clients and they all love it because it's easy and they feel the results right away! I would recommend the CORE X SYSTEM to all my personal fitness trainer friends. For all those people hunting around for a simple, fun, easy and complete total body workout and fitness program this is it! Everyone can benefit from this product. So glad you were recommended to me! I'll always use the CORE X SYSTEM with my clients from now on. Everyone should try it. Thanks CORE X SYSTEM!

  7. Yoga Cape town August 12, 2012 Reply

    I"M a Yoga instructor and my clients are always asking me if there is something they can do along with their yoga that is a simple yet complete body workout. I discovered the CORE X SYSTEM through a colleague of mine and ever since I purchased the CORE X SYSTEM and have been using it, I recommend it to all my clients! Outstanding product!

  8. beginners golf driver August 14, 2012 Reply

    Excellent article! I discovered the CORE X SYSTEM through a golf buddy of mine who has been using the CORE X SYSTEM to improve his golf swing. I purchased the CORE X SYSTEM for myself about 3 months ago and I'm not only using it for my golf swing but also in my daily workout routine. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! In golf my accuracy has improved and I've added a good 25 to 30 yards in distance with my driver and fairway woods and at least 15 to 20 yards with my irons!! With my workout routine, since using the CORE X SYSTEM I feel stronger and fitter! I've lost about 12 pounds too! Thank you CORE X SYSTEM!

  9. Brian Boslick September 2, 2012 Reply

    Hello! I'm a Soccer Dad who coaches my sons team. I saw the YouTube videos of Owen Hargreaves training with the CORE X SYSTEM and decided to order one for myself and give it a try. After personally using the CORE X SYSTEM for 2 months I was not only amazed with the noticeable improvement in strength and physical fitness I experienced but also the improvement in agility and coordination. I ordered 10 more units for my sons team and we use it at the beginning of each practice. WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT I'VE SEEN IN ALL OF MY PLAYERS! I'd recommend the CORE X SYSTEM to anyone out there coaching at any level!

  10. elliptical exercise trainer-Colleen September 9, 2012 Reply

    I've been a certified personal fitness trainer now for 12 years. I've used all types of fitness programs with my clients. Since being introduced to the Core X System and seeing the results that I personally received, I now ONLY use the Core X System with my clients. I get nothing but positive feedback from my clients regarding the Core X System and the results that they have experienced. No matter what their level of ability, they ALL LOVE IT ! Rather it's weight lose, strengthening and toning, or rehabing, all my clients have experienced huge results! Thank you Core X System! I'll never use anything else! I'm extremely pleased!

  11. Elizabeth September 11, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the CORE X SYSTEM. I am a health and wellness freak and about 7 months ago I started working out with the CORE X SYSTEM. As well as being a great all around strengthening and fitness workout I get the best Ab workout I've ever gotten! It's like Paul Kariya says in his testimonial....the CORE X SYSTEM is THE BEST abdominal strengthening program out there by far! My Abs look great! I'm always getting compliments on them at the gym. I'm always asked how I got them that way and I always say by using the CORE X SYSTEM. I'm 42 years old and in the best shape of my life thanks to the CORE X SYSTEM. Thanks Guys!

  12. Lyman Cardiel September 18, 2012 Reply

    My wife and I read the reviews through "Jenny Review on Health and Fitness", and "SHVOONG World Wide Reviews" on the CORE X SYSTEM and because of their favorable reviews I decided to purchase the CORE X SYSTEM. I agree with them 100%! The CORE X SYSTEM is the best home workout equipment and program. I've ever used. I'm a health freak and so is my wife. We both have been using the CORE X SYSTEM now for 7 months and have never been in better shape. We are both EXTREMELY pleased with the CORE X SYSTEM and have recommended it to all our friends. After using it you fell toned, fit, and like you got a complete overall body workout in just 30 minutes. Perfect workout for the home or gym and with my busy schedule it's easy to fit in a workout 3 to 4 times a week.

  13. Sally September 19, 2012 Reply

    Hey my name is Sally and I'm a firm believer in the CORE X SYSTEM. My personal trainer started me using it 3 months ago. I've already seen major results! I've lost 14 lbs and I am more toned than I have been in 10 years. My husband loves it! He says I'm sexier than ever! Thank you!

  14. Anwesen kaufen September 21, 2012 Reply

    Thank you for the writeup. I follow Owen Hargreaves career and once I saw him working with the CORE X SYSTEM and Alex McKechnie, I decided to purchase a unit. I cannot begin to tell you what improvement I've had in coordination skills, endurance, and over strength. I've been using the CORE X SYSTEM now for 8 months. I've been working out for 15 years and I've incorporated it into my regular workout routine for 20 minutes each time and I've never gotten such great results! With everything I've tried my body has never been as toned as it is now since using the CORE X SYSTEM. Six pack and all! Thank you CORE X SYSTEM, you made me a believer!

  15. essex uk/personal trainer October 13, 2012 Reply

    Remarkable things here. I am so glad I found your product. A fellow trainer recommended you to me and after using your system I've purchased 4 more CORE X SYSTEMS. It will work great with my clients. I will recommend the CORE X SYSTEM to all my future clients!

    • corex October 23, 2012 Reply

      The CORE X SYSTEM will work great for your clients. It is a great addition to your fitness programs!

  16. Straughter October 23, 2012 Reply

    Like it! I will come to this site to find out more and recommend it to all my customers!

  17. Camille October 27, 2012 Reply

    Hello there, You have done an incredible job with the CORE X SYSTEM. I will certainly personally recommend it to my friends. I'm sure they will benefit from the CORE X SYSTEM as much as I have. I was amazed at how quickly I saw results!

  18. Bruce October 29, 2012 Reply

    Absolutely a magnificent workout! I wish I'd known about the CORE X SYSTEM years ago. I've been using it now for about 8 months and it's not only improved my results from working out I notice a difference in my daily activities. Much more energy throughout the day! I start each morning with it!

  19. Golf Fanatic April 10, 2013 Reply

    Oh my goodness! Impressive workout! I use the Core X System routinely. It has helped me get in great physical shape and most importantly for me helped me get more distance in my golf shots and cut strokes off my score. Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *