MICHAEL Owen would not be the first star player to have wound up in the boardroom, yet being packed off 'upstairs' in his world is something entirely different from your average former professional footballer.

Up the staircase at the retired striker's state-of-the-art Manor House Stables is a quite magnificent owners' room, offering panoramic views over all 170 acres of lush Cheshire countryside that belongs to the yard. There are certainly worse places to start the day.

Owen, with his cheery smile and designer trainers, cuts a contented figure as he saunters in after first lot and who can blame him? New yearlings are arriving in the yard below, the winner's trophy for the Ayr Gold Cup sits regally on the bar and the team at Manor House could not be in better form. No wonder these are the days he cherishes most.

"My son goes to school halfway between here and my house, so it's so easy to drop him off, come here from 9am to 3pm and then pick him up and take him home. That's my perfect day," says the man who scored 'that' goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

Once a predator on the pitch for European heavyweights Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United and his country, Owen's role at Manor House is more akin to Ed Woodward behind the scenes at United or Tom Werner at Liverpool than the nippy number ten who was once worshipped on the terraces.

"From a business point of view I'm hands on," the 39-year-old tells the Racing Post. "I always relate it to football and would like to think I'm the chairman. I leave all the racing decisions to Tom Dascombe – I think you've got to be like that and in many ways my role is being his sounding board. Where can the boss turn to when he's got a problem? I like to think I've been there for him on many, many occasions.

"I have a big role to play with owners. I'm constantly trying to get to the races and am here to entertain them and I'm friends with a lot of them now.

"It's a corny thing to say but it's really a big family. I've owned horses elsewhere over the years but I'd like to think we do things a lot differently here. Of course we want results but if you come here you're part of the club as well."

Manor House is very much a Premier League outfit. Beautifully designed with not a blade of grass out of place, no expense has been spared, with airy barns, equine swimming pool and on-site veterinary facilities among the top-class facilities. Unsurprisingly, it has not been cheap for the man who had the vision when he first set eyes on what was once a cattle farm and then arable land before its conversion.

"We're talking double figures in millions from start to finish," says Owen when asked what it costs to create a place like Manor House. "And that's before you start talking about horses, which just spirals but this is what I like doing and I get a fix from it – I don't have to own the horses.

"I'm forever going to Chester and Haydock when I haven't even got a runner. I'm just there to support the runners from our yard and I feel like they're all mine. I guess it's the same for the trainer and, in my mind, I own 100 horses but obviously I don't from a financial point of view."

Owen's investment in racing may be at an eyewatering level but he has created something to be proud of at Manor House and, while it is easy to say when it is not your own money, it has been well spent. It has also brought him considerable success.

In terms of prize-money earned, the yard sits in the top 20 in Britain for 2019, which is all the more remarkable considering only training luminaries Aidan O'Brien and Sir Michael Stoute, along with Godolphin trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor, have made the same list fielding less runners than Dascombe has sent out from Manor House.

Owen is the first to recognise that Dascombe and business partner Andrew Black have played a significant role in elevating the yard to its current standing and, while in no other walk of life would these three have typically come together, it is a collaboration that undoubtedly works.

"We'd been going a few years and I decided this was going to get bigger and bigger, so I spoke to Tom about potentially taking over," says Owen, rewinding to 2009.

"He then introduced me to Andrew Black, who was the main owner at Tom's yard at the time. He wanted to have Andrew's blessing almost to take the job because he'd given Tom a good leg up.

"As we were talking it became apparent that he'd be interested in being part of Manor House, and there and then I got a new partner in the business and a new trainer.

"Andrew is the perfect partner to have. I have all the enthusiasm and the drive and he has a lot of brains. Again, it's a little bit like being a football chairman – it's all right buying the ground and the club but then you've got to buy the players every year and upgrade. I thought, going forward, if we want to mix it with the big boys I'm going to need someone's help with that.

"It's not a unique situation but myself and Bert [Black] own the business and Tom is the salaried trainer but a partner in the business as well. We give Tom free rein to train the horses how he wants."

Owen and Dascombe are quite the double act on their home turf, ribbing one another like best mates at school and there is no escape from the banter for their owners, who merrily roll up to the yard in their fast cars as the morning progresses.

"In terms of a personal relationship, we're big, big mates and that's everything I want," declares Owen. "I do this for fun and the worst thing I can imagine is to not get on with my trainer. He's so unique it's frightening – he's not on the level. Opposites attract and I'd like to think that's why we get on so well. Tom is either on the ceiling or on the floor. He lives to the extremes and we probably help each other.

"We're open to the public and encourage anyone and everyone to own horses here. It was tricky to start with as I think people thought it was a private training establishment. I think we've cracked it – we started the season with 100 horses and only four are mine and five or six are Andrew Black's – but I want to get the message out we're open to everyone."

There was certainly a feeling of community for Manor House's biggest success of the year so far, when Angel Alexander landed the £125,000-to-the-winner Ayr Gold Cup last month.

Three of the stable's most loyal supporters – Steve Mound, Keith Trowbridge and Peter Birbeck – along with Owen own the winner and, in many ways, their tetrad encapsulated the ethos the former footballer promotes at his yard and which saw him set up his own racing club last year.

"This season has just been amazing, topped off by Ayr," he says. "That was a great result for three very loyal friends of ours. I open the Racing Post most days and see where we are in the trainers' championship and pinch myself.

"We've smashed the £1 million barrier, we've had big winners, we've kept our owners happy at our local tracks and, while we've not had a Royal Ascot winner this season, we've had four in the past. It's staggering really for a yard of our size – I think we're punching above our weight more than anyone."

With his 70 days a year broadcasting on football and a wide variety of commercial arrangements, Owen is still very much a public figure. He would rather his horses make the headlines nowadays but is not immune to the media spotlight by any means.

The recent release of his autobiography certainly brought him back into focus, but even after a degree of negativity he has no regrets about "setting the record straight" in print.

"I think it's good to have an opinion and good to be very honest, which is what I am in the book," he explains. "A lot of people have read the book and think it's great.

"I know some people will think 'why do you need to come out and say anything' but I've had a career that's created a lot of opinions and half of it has just been made up. No-one knows the truth about transfers and things like that, so I think the main thing I wanted to do was get that stuff off my chest and, if you're going to do a book, you might as well be honest."

The hardest part of the process, according to Owen, was when the book was serialised. What he explains in detail in his book started to lose context as the headlines became more extreme and the fallout left the author winded.

"I had two days with a crash helmet on – I hated it," he recalls. "I knew it was coming, because I've been involved in it all my life and it was that sinking feeling all over again. People taking three words out of a 20-word sentence and then taking it totally out of context.

"It's not only printing the headline, people then actually start having radio debates about something that was out of context in the first place and they're arguing about something you never said. You're thinking, 'this is escalating and I didn't even say that' and now we're arguing about it as if it's gospel, so the whole serialisation process was pretty painful. Once we got that out of the way and people started to read the book it went full circle and became positive again."

A spin-off of those headlines was a short but spiky Twitter exchange with former strike partner Alan Shearer, but for Owen's money there is not a word in the book he would change.

He says: "There were a few people that made the headlines from it I guess. David Beckham did but all I said was that in the World Cup he made a mistake that probably contributed to us not progressing against Argentina. Who knows if we'd have won with 11 men or not but of course he made a mistake. Everyone knows kicking someone right in front of the referee is a mistake. But by just saying that, all of a sudden 'Beckham cost us the World Cup' is a headline on the back pages.

"So everything got taken out of context but I was just open and honest and I'd say all the same things again. I'm so comfortable with what I said, even if it did make the headlines."

The parallels between professional footballers and thoroughbred racehorses, both trained to the minute to peak in high-intensity competition, are endless and considering he had to manage a cocktail of injuries throughout his career, Owen is blessed with an uncommon insight into what his team of equine stars have to contend with.

"I think it's why I love racing so much if I'm honest," he says, considering the crossover between the two sports. "Getting to know the animal and listening to John Gosden discussing them in my early 20s was a thrill.

"Then I had my own place and could watch the training and listen to Tom. Going to the vet room and watching what they were doing and just understanding the whole training regime was brilliant.

"Probably more than Tom, the vet or anyone, I can relate to what a horse feels like going into the race or coming out of it, with the adrenaline and the fatigue. I always had that to relate to."

Football remains intrinsic to Owen but it is patently obvious that Manor House is where he has found solace, even if he could never fully enjoy it while he was still playing.

"When I was halfway through my career I decided to buy Manor House, build it and invest for the future," says the father of three girls and one boy. "Half the world would say 'fair play Michael, that's savvy' but the cynical side and most of the football side, said it meant I'd taken my eye off the ball.

"I was always putting on a front and and distancing myself from racing to show people I was still committed to football. I shouldn't have had to feel like that – I was committed to every team I played for. Some you play well for, some you play badly for and that's just life but I've never ever regretted this place for one minute."

He continues: "I love my life, work and what I do on TV, but it's here that I'm in my element. When I drive down that drive and see everything in front of me I'm buzzing. I'm proud of every step of the way."

It is probably a little unfair to ask for the highlight of a remarkable voyage but his response to such a request is as emphatic as his goal-scoring record.

"I'll never have anything like Brown Panther again," he says without hesitation. "It's probably likely that I'll have another Group 1 winner but I can't ever reach the heights of him. I was there the day after he was born and named him straight away. I named his mum after we won the treble [Treble Heights] and you can't have something you're so attached to like that happen again.

"You can't have a horse that runs in a Melbourne Cup, Breeders' Cup, in Dubai, Ireland and Royal Ascot. He literally took me to every corner of the globe. Name another horse that does that? I don't care if you say Frankel. Of course Frankel was a better horse but he couldn't give me the pleasure Brown Panther did. I'm not defeatist but there will never be another horse who pulls my heartstrings like he does."

It is for all the same reasons that just raced from Owen's mouth, that Brown Panther's demise when bidding for back-to-back wins in the 2015 Irish St Leger has to be his lowest point.

"After the Irish St Leger he was going to go to Champions Day and then that was his lot, he was going to be packed off to stud," he continues.

"It was all sorted and I was looking at mares to give him a start and that's the real sad thing. I'd have been buzzing to have all his sons and daughters trained here, so that was a nightmare."

Perhaps it is because he has experienced Brown Panther that owning horses in his own right is no longer a priority. That is not to say his love for racing has or ever will wane in the slightest, but the focus has changed.

"I've no real ambition," he concludes. "If I won the Derby tomorrow . . . and what? We'd party for god knows how long but I'm not going to then shut up shop.

"The dream is for Manor House to keep on flourishing, keep on winning big races and keep on enticing owners to have horses here. There will be no cut off – the dream is for this place to be part of my life forever."