The first month of the 2006 calendar saw the mercurial Australian winger, Harry kewell take the honours in the TIA ‘˜Player of the Month’ award.
The Enigma, known as ‘œHarry, Harry Kewwwwwell’ to the kop faithful, has endured somewhat of a rollercoaster spell on Anfield since his much publicised move from Leeds Utd in the summer of 2003.
His debut season at Anfield was mixed. He settled in well and scored 11 goals but the second half of the season from January 2004 onwards he was playing through the pain barrier with an injured ankle.
His injuries seemed to linger and was often found wanting on the pitch but this would be down to him carrying multiple injuries and having to play continuously through the pain. Culminating in his most publicised breakdown during the 2005 champion’s league final against AC Milan in Istanbul where Kewell was forced off early with a torn groin. Many fans and journalists alike didn’t waste anytime in leaping to the attack of the boyhood Liverpool fan and doubting his commitment to the team. Recently during interviews has Kewell revealed how this angered him and forced him to question the support he had from those around him. Fortunately the close of the 2005 season saw Kewell able to go under the knife and finally let the surgeons take care of the niggling ankle, groin and hernia problems that he was still enduring.
The opening of the 2005-2006 season saw a new lease of life for Kewell as the summers operations had been reported as successful and now all that was needed was for the former Leeds hitman to gain fitness and hopefully, form, which used to see him terrorise premiership defences for the Yorkshire side.
January saw Kewell in his now regular slot on the left wing of the Liverpool attack having cemented his place in Benitez’ starting 11; he had begun to show glimpses of the magic which saw him as one of the premierships hotshots during his spell at Elland Road. Lighting up the left wing, swinging in dangerous crosses for the Liverpool front pair’¦’¦there were rumblings that Kewell might be starting to repay the faith that the club had shown in him during his torrid injury plagued spell with the club.
January saw a solid and hard fought comeback to gain a 2-2 draw with Bolton, a game in which previous Liverpool sides would’ve struggled to come back from a goal down once, let alone twice. This showed the fight and dogged determination that Benitez has installed within the dressing room. Next came the highly memorable, if somewhat coronary-inducing FA Cup round at Kenilworth Road against Mike Newell’s Luton side. This would highlight the reds fight and sheer grit to come from 3-1 to eventually run out 5-3 winners. The inspired substitution of Sinama-Pongolle who would net twice and Xabi Alonso’s brace’¦.one of which would be scored from within his own half in the closing minutes would put the tie to bed for the reds, with Kewell a constant threat and showing his continued confidence in running at defenders.
It would be in the next League match against Martin Jol’s up and coming Spurs side where Kewell would rubber stamp his resurgent march towards full form. Having caused merry hell down the spurs right wing for the majority of the game, and seeing spurs waste numerous chances to break the deadlock, it would be Kewell who would emerge with the smile as wide as the Mersey when the final whistle blew.
In the 58th minute Liverpool would break down the right wing with Steve Finnan allowed time to pick out his cross. It was swung deep into the far post, where none other than Kewell appeared and struck the sweetest left foot volley past the hapless Paul Robinson in front of the now Joyous Kop. Queue celebrations round Anfield that would no doubt be heard by Kewell’s own family thousands of miles away in Australia. There seemed to be a huge weight released from his shoulders as he previously superb performances in fixtures finally got the reward the deserved, with a goal out of the top drawer and emphasized the Australian still has the raw ability and skill to pull of some amazing moments of magic.The Reds would next travel to Old Trafford to take on the old enemy in a highly anticipated encounter which would eventually leave a sour taste in the mouths of reds fans everywhere. Having seen their team dominate the game, they would fall to an injury time header from England centre-back Rio Ferdinand. The performance of the team, especially the midfield was hard fought and no one could doubt and commitment from the men with the Liverbird on their chests. Kewell in particular picked up a knock to his head early on in a challenge which emphasized Kewell’s passion for the team and that he wasn’t scared to put himself on the line for the good of the team. A trait which has been seriously doubted by some fans and pundits alike.
The final game of the month would take the ‘œBenitez Boys’ to the south coast to take on Portsmouth in the FA Cup 4th round. A Scrappy but hard-fought display saw the reds see out a 2-1 victory. The game saw John Arne Riise stand in for Kewell on the left wing in order to give the Australian a rest during a busy fixture schedule for the reds, emphasizing once more how Benitez see’s Kewell as one of his most important squad members, now more than ever as the ongoing work permit problems with new boy Mark Gonzalez has meant that Kewell has a chance to make the left wing position his own. The win would set up a mouth watering tie in the next round at Anfield as the reds would seek to get some revenge on Manchester United, a game in which Harry’s form and re-found confidence in running at defences, will no doubt be clinical in what will be a magical afternoon in the North-West.