Gary McAllister on the best night of his career and why Liverpool didn’t win the title under Gerard Houllier

on 21.02.2016

Former Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister believes the Reds’ 2001 UEFA Cup Final win over Alaves was the greatest night of his career.

MONACO, FRANCE - Friday, August 24, 2001: Liverpool's Gary McAllister (left), Robbie Fowler (centre) and Jamie Carragher (right) with the UEFA Super Cup trophy after beating Bayern Munich 3-2 at the Stade Louis II in Monaco. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Speaking to football journalist Graham Hunter on ‘The Big Interview’, McAllister relived his two years at Anfield.

The Scot arrived in the summer of 2000 and admits he felt he had to really impress the Liverpool players because of his advancing years.

“When I got the phone call from my agent I thought it was a wind up,” says McAllister.

“He said that Gerard Houllier was in the process of shaking off the Spice Boys image – something I never actually bought into – and wanted to bring in a senior player.

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“He wanted someone who could bring something different from a Monday to a Friday and lead by example with the way you train.

“From minute one of training, I wanted to prove to the players that I could still play, despite being 35 or 36. I wanted to be up in the top two or three players during pre-season.

“There were former players like (Kenny) Dalglish, (Graeme) Souness, (Alan) Hansen and Steve Nicol who I felt I couldn’t let down.

“I think it worked, and I got the respect that was needed.”

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - Monday, July 20, 2015: Liverpool's first team coach Gary McAllister and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders during a preseason friendly match against Adelaide United at the Adelaide Oval on day eight of the club's preseason tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

McAllister, who rejoined the club as first-team coach last summer and now has an ambassadorial role at Anfield, says one of his greatest disappointments was not starting the 2001 FA Cup Final – coming on a second-half substitute on the day.

“All the English players wanted to play in the FA Cup Final and all the foreigners wanted to play in the UEFA Cup final,” he explained.

“I got told an hour and a half before the final against Arsenal that I wasn’t playing, and I think I’d scored in four games in a row before it. It hurt.

“It was sweetened when Michael (Owen) scored two late goals and we won the cup, and Gerard told me I’d be starting against Alaves in the UEFA Cup Final.

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On the topic of Alaves and the UEFA Cup in general, ‘Gary Mac’ spoke about his match-winning penalty against Barcelona in the semi-final second-leg at Anfield, and his career highlight in the final in Dortmund.

“There was a bit of shenanigans before the penalty,” he added.

“(Carles) Puyol was ranting in Spanish, and although I couldn’t understand it, it was clearly not nice what he was saying.

ROME, ITALY - Thursday, February 15, 2001: Liverpool's team line up before the UEFA Cup 4th Round 1st Leg match against AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Back row L-R: Sander Westerveld, Dietmar Hamann, Markus Babbel, Gary McAllister, Stephane Henchoz, Christian Ziege. Front row L-R: Sami Hyypia, captain Robbie Fowler, Nicky Barmby, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“When I scored, my first instinct was to look for him and swing a clenched fist at him.

“There hasn’t been a better night for me in football than Alaves.

“I was involved in goals, scored a goal, was given Man of the Match and was presented with the award by Johan Cruyff. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

“When we went 2-0 up I thought we were going to win by five or six, and then Gerard made us protect what we had rather than being cavalier.

“It’s the one little thing against him, and the reason I think we didn’t win the league at Liverpool. We were cruising, but Alaves were suddenly back in it because of that. We were rocking.

“After the golden goal (McAllister’s free-kick led to Delfi Geli heading the ball into his own net) four or five of our boys, including Sami Hyypia, Markus Babbel and Didi Hamann, ran back to the centre circle because they thought the game was still playing, but I knew we’d won.

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“We couldn’t celebrate because we had a vital game at The Valley against Charlton, in which winning would see us qualify for the Champions League.”

Liverpool won that game 4-0 to complete a sensational season, winning three trophies and finishing third to clinch Champions League qualification for the first time: “It was a good trip back from The Valley!”


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  1. Our senior team lacks real leaders at the moment. How I wish we can time-transport the Gary of 2001 back to lead our team now.

  2. Cannot recall the excuses about to many games and tiredness back then

    on another subject i do think Klopp is missing a trick and not playing a few players that should be playing and the odd one out of position
    Take ward whats he got to do to get a game?
    And i really do think a world class manager should have sussed out Mingolet by now i have
    The solution is obvious play mingolet in his proper position i would love to see the lad playing as a striker i mean come on if he could cause half the panic in the oppositions area that he does in ours every time the balls anywhere near the box it could save us millions on a new striker

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    • While I think you’re being a bit harsh on Mignolet (he’s clearly not world class but he does make incredible saves on occasion), I am totally confused as to why we bothered bringing Ward back if he was going to get the cup games to prove himself. We might as well have left him getting experience and game time in Scotland.

      • thats easy to answer:
        he doesn’t trust Bodgan.
        which means if Mings get injured we’d have only Bodgan klopp surely doesn’t want that to happen so he brought back Ward as back up.

        • Which I understand, but if you’re playing a mostly-second-string team in the FA Cup, why not play Ward? He’s had rave reviews in Scotland and deserves more than just sitting on the bench in those games. I’m not suggesting he should be getting PL action but at least some of the cups.

          • Bringing ward back as been a complete waste of time he would have been better off staying at aberdeen

          • He should be getting PL action along with the rest of the kids. This season is a write off thanks to Moreno Sturridge Milner Lallana Henderson Lovren Sakho Mignolet, so why not blood the kids for next year – it will give them vital experience and let us have a good look at them. Could save the club millions and prioritise the transfer kitty on 1 or 2 top strikers.

        • Very easy to work out, yet you see this comment so often on here. I dunno why everyone’s so mystified. If it continues next season, I’ll join them.

      • No Joke Migs has prob cost us about 12-15 points this season….add that up to our exisiting points that we have right now and see how much better we would be doing if he did his job more efficiently.

        Good saves but if you saw the Hull keeper against Arsenal in comparison they are very week buy other goalie standards.

        JMO…….Apart from the points thing that fact :(

  3. One of those transfers that I initially thought ‘McAllister?’ then ‘Gary McAllister?’ then a few minutes later ‘we actually need someone like him’ Insipred.

    • I think this was one of those lessons for me as a fan. I thought he was old and coming from a lesser team, and wouldn’t add anything to our squad. I think he’s one of the reasons why I value getting the right player in rather than necessarily a “marquee” signing.

        • I agree, but the FSG “philosophy” doesn’t seem to allow for buying players with experience who will then have little sell on value later on. I personally wouldn’t give a crap if that meant we got regular CL qualification and a league title or two while they were with us…

          • Wow…Good question..
            One of the top of my head is JT, I dont like him but but I cant allow my emotion to get in the way of decsion making. Maybe for a year or so, It would help Matip intergrate so much.
            It would have to be a MF, Hmmmm….
            Yaya. Imagine what the Toure brothers would bring to the dressing room aswell. I think both JT and YT are out of contract next season and have a wealth of experience, could create a good part to the spine, both leaders. The more Im thinking about it, it doesnt seem that bad.
            Im obviously biased towards my opioions…but Im always prepared listen, which I’lll ignore and tell you all Im right ;)
            Im going to need more time for some more.
            Can anyone add to this ?
            This question should be an article.
            I really like this question. For me it provides an element of fun.
            Nice One John.

          • John Terry is a great shout. Ya Ya also. I suspect they will be looking for one more big payday (Wages) though. I really cant think of anyone else.

          • Yep, cant see them coming on the cheap. I cant think, maybe Alonso, Im clutching at straws now…

          • The obvious one would be Stevie, not as a box to box player or DM though. The big one would be Mascherano, but maybe he is still a little young to fall in to the category.

          • Both went through my head, and for the very same reasons I didnt post. It seems like Im cheating now, but Stevie as a player coach…

          • Toxic in the dressing room, always on at the ref, dozens of reasons why not. Cba thinking about it much, I feel sick.

          • Toxic? Im unaware of that. Always on the ref, not the worse thing. Dozens of reasons? Im just judging them on the pitch.

          • Terry was the main protagonist that was the reason they didn’t play for Maureen last season, also what got rid of Rafa, he bedded Wayne Bridge’s wife (& rumoured others), basically any scandal that surfaced at Chelski, Terry was likely involved in.

          • Im just aware of Bridge’s wife, it takes two to tango.
            Sadly that sort of thing happens everywhere. Not playing for Maureen was probably due to him not getting a contract.

          • I watched the Bundesliga round-up last night & Saloman Kalou is playing really well for Shalke. Could be worth a look, but not sure Shalke would wanna do business after we nicked Matip.

  4. Yes Houllier had his faults but he delivered trophies and CL places. What a night in Dortmund that was. As was Barcelona and Arsenal in Cardiff. We had a good CL run the following season until Houllier did the opposite to what McAllister is saying and went cavalier against Leverkusen in the quarter final, taking off Didi Hamann whilst winning the tie and cost us the game! Football eh?

    Funny Rafa made sort of the same mistake in Istanbul leaving Hamann out, but luckily bringing him on changed the game and we went on to win the CL.

    Great times. What Liverpool FC is all about. Winning trophies. The little holidays away. The celebrations.

    I think that’s what people who backed that clown Rodgers just don’t understand.

  5. Maybe I’m looking too much into it, but I would think that a site like this with so many great supportive followers, that you would do a LEGEND and I believe I’m understating that, the justice of going over what you wrote and getting his fecking name correctly!!, its GERRARD!

    No respect.

  6. Houllier did well, but falling out with Robbie and not signing Anelka on a permanent basis, instead of which he purchased El hadji Diouf and Saif Diao on the back of a World Cup was not the smartest moves he made.

  7. Houllier changed our entire culture and modernized the club. Loved the city as well. Used to be a teacher at that dodgy school in Walton. What was it called?

  8. Let’s be honest, that treble could easily have been a 0.
    I remember speaking to a knowledgeable French guy soon after Houllier arrived at LFC and clearly recall him warning me to not get carried away as the frenchman at Arsenal is a far superior manager. He even likened his style to Howard Wilkinson. The team that finished 2nd in the Prem was actually managed by Phil Thompson, while Houllier was recovering from heart surgery. He was very lucky to have a Gerrard,Cara and Owen coming through as well. Having said that, he did modernise LFC from the days of Fowler mugging his manager off and Ruddock eating Mars bars in the dressing room.

    • No doubt about it everything we won that season we won the hard way, played off the park in the FA Cup Final to be honest, still not sure how we salvaged a win in the League Cup Final and the UEFA Cup final against Alaves was pure pantomime, the super cup and the charity shield however were the icing on the cake and I don’t have a problem winning anything the hard way, I’d take the drama if we bring home the Cap One Cup and dare I say it the Europa as well this season…

  9. My only regret about Gary Mac was that we didn’t sign him earlier when he was in his prime he ticked all the boxes of being a classic Liverpool type of player….Watching him in his heyday at Leeds I never understood why we never went in for him.

    Still better late than never i suppose and when we eventually signed him in the twilight of his career he still had a lot to offer and gave us 2 great years
    a model pro and great player wish we had someone like him now.

  10. What a season! I remember expecting people to be shocked after signing Gary Mac but it was just like nah we should have signed him ages ago. I also remember people saying Stevie was the first “real” Liverpool midfielder we’d had since the eighties even then. How they right they were about both. They’re a knowledgable lot our crowd. Don’t believe everything you read on social media.

  11. Gary Mac, nothing but pure class.

    And one of my best derby memories is that winning free kick at Goodison in the 94th minute. Houllier’s best signing besides Didi Hamman (imho).

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