Harry wasn’t so ‘Kewell’ after all

He’s had foot injuries, hamstring problems, groin strains, ankle injuries, thigh strains, back strains, the list is endless….. This Summer sees the end of Harry Kewell’s disappointing career at Liverpool. After 5 seasons of occasional moments of brillance, injuries galore, fans frustration and a bank balance to die for, Benitez finally confirmed last week that the Australian will not be offered a new deal at Anfield when his current contract expires at the end of the season. Such an outcome has been inevitable with Kewell having not featured for Liverpool since the FA Cup defeat to Barnsley in February.

Gerry wrote a fascinating article on the TIA Kopblog back in September ’07. Here, he described Kewell perfectly:

imageMy very first car was an 11yr old Mini. It was speckled with rust, was hand painted white and had a steering wheel so big, it belonged on a bus. As space was tight, back seat romances were difficult, but with the windows fully wound down, a willing and double-jointed partner, and a lot of luck, not impossible! Basically this car was a piece of crap, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me it was my pride and joy. Your first car is very like your first love, you never forget them but they are often destined to break your heart and this proved to be the case with my old Mini. I bought it cheaply, convinced that I had got myself a real bargain but I was penny-wise and pound-foolish because during the two years I owned it, it cost me an absolute fortune to keep it on the road.
Everything that could possibly go wrong with a car, went wrong with this one. Brakes, clutch, gears, exhaust, various electrical faults, wind screen wipers are just some of the items that broke on this car at least once. I was even driving into a heavy wind one night and the bloody bonnet blew off! I ended up spending so much money on this old banger that in hindsight it would have been cheaper for me to have bought a new car in the first place. And yet despite my frustration at the time, I still have fond memories of my adventures in that old Mini.
You may be wondering why I’ve opened this blog by reminiscing about my old car, and the reason is because I was reminded of it at the weekend when a friend of mine asked me what had become of Harry Kewell? The similarities are remarkable and I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed them before. Just like my old banger, Harry looked like a real bargain initially but ended up costing us a fortune and we’ve got nothing but frustration for our money.

The story of Kewell’s Anfield career: Injured in pre-season at Crewe

Harry Kewell joined Liverpool amid a wave of excitement in the Summer of 03 for 5 million. At Leeds, he was heralded as one of the brightest young talents with his deavastating pace, dribbling and spectacular goals. He became the youngest player to debut for the Australian national team when he played against Chile in April 1996, aged 17 years, 7 months. The 3 times Oceanic Player of the Year was voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 2000.

On signing for Liverpool, Harry Kewell looked destined for success. In his first season at Anfield, he scored eleven goals in 49 appearances, 9 of these goals came in the first half of the season. Kewell got off to a blazing start, but from then on, is a time Kewell and many Liverpool fans would like to forget…..

With the arrival of new boss Rafa Benitez in 2004, came numerous personnel changes at Anfield, Kewell still managed to grab one goal in 31 appearances in the 04/05 season. Kewell was out injured for alot the season , but managed to get himself back to full fitness declaring himself fit a few games before the League Cup final and managed to get himself into the starting line up in Cardiff, but broke down during the game and had to be taken off. Kewell fought the wrath of his injury towards the end of the season and achieved a starting place in the 2005 Champions League Final v AC Milan in Istanbul. However, Kewell only managed 23 minutes. With his side 1-0 down, Kewell withdrew, and was booed off by his own supporters. Later , it was revealed he had tore an adductor muscle….

Kewell celebrates his best LFC goal, a stunning volley v Spurs

Kewell’s form for Liverpool in the 05/06 season, showed glimpses of what he was truly capable of, scoring goals and plenty of assists. Many fans will remember his goal against Spurs as Liverpool recorded a 1-0 victory in January 06.

He will also be remembered for his goal against Everton where he grabbed the last goal in our 3-1 win ‘“ one of his best displays in a Liverpool jersey. Remember the FA Cup game v Manchester United, another mememorable performance from Kewell…..

However, faith again contrived against the winger as he was forced to withdraw (again…) from the FA Cup final in our victory over West Ham. Kewell only lasted 48th minutes due to abdominal pains. It was later confirmed he had torn a groin muscle, but… he was expected to be fit for the World Cup……!!

Kewell declared himself fit for the World Cup ‘“ the first time Australia had qualified for the competition since 1974. Kewell played in their opening 3-1 win over Japan. The following game, he featured as a sub in the 0-2 loss v’s Brazil. He then scored the crucial goal v Croatia to guarantee his team a place in the last sixteen when the Aussies faced the Italians. However, Kewell was unable to face the Italians after being sidelined by an ailment first described as gout before the diagnosis was corrected to septic arthritis ‘“ a bacterial infection in the left leg.

The injury meant Kewell would only play 77 minutes for Liverpool the following 2006/07 campaign, with 33 of those minutes coming as a 2nd half subtitute in the 2007 Champions League final against AC Milan…… Before the final, on the 30th April, Kewell made his comeback after almost a year out of football, coming on as a 55th minute sub for the reserves against the Everton reserves. On the 5th May, he came on as a sub in the 2nd half of Liverpool’s match against Fulham at Craven Cottage, having not played for Liverpool since his substitution in the 05/06 FA Cup Final. He followed this up with another 2nd half sub in the last game v Arsenal. He then followed this up coming on as a sub for Bolo Zenden in the 2007 Champions League Final.

Benitez commented last season when asked about when he expected Kewell to return from injury and Benitez answered ‘œIt could be 2 weeks or it could be 2 months, you never know with Harry’. Kewell returned in the summer of 07, and managed to keep himself fit for all 4 of Australia’s games in the Asian Cup. However, before the 07/08 season started, he picked up another injury and has been injured for most of the season.

During happier times, celebrating a derby goal with Alonso in 2006

I think Rafa likes him a lot and that is why he has played him in important matches over the last three seasons even when he hasn’t been fully fit. He has picked up further injuries because he has been playing when he wasn’t fully fit. I think now Rafa has realised that he will only get the best out of Kewell and avoid further injuries if he’s 100% fit and that’s why he has used him sparingly so far this season. I don’t think he’s played poorly in any of the games he has started so far. This season could be his best if he keeps playing the way he is. All he needs is a few goals now. I hope he can stay fit now and I hope he gets a new contract.

Last March, Kewell was named captain of the Soceroo squad for their match against Singapore, but another injury forced him out of Australias goaless draw with China ‘“ a last minute withdrawal with a groin injury! Kewell has only managed fifteen games for Liverpool this season (with 8 starts in the Premiership). He’s only lasted the full 90 minutes 6 times out of those 15 games…

However, reports last week suggested that he turned down a contract because he wasn’t happy with the amount of money on offer…. Hopefully, the real reason was because he felt he wouldn’t be able to get back into the first team on a consistent basis. Benitez hinted that Kewell had turned down an offer to stay at the club on reduced wages: ‘œWe had tried to come to an agreement with the player and his agent, but this has not been possible, Kewell will leave at the end of his contract’ If these report are true and Benitez was willing to offer him another contract, and Harry turned it down for money reasons…. not only has Harry let Benitez and the coaches down but also the fans.

The club does not owe you anything, you owe the club! Rafa has put faith in you time and time again, and he has offered you a new contract, what many Liverpool fans would never have done in his position, and you reject it. I question what sort of fan you really are, you should play for free given how rich we’ve made you (given the fact you barely played!) the past few years! That may be harsh, but that is my opinion.

Benitez has shown a marked committement to Kewell. Under the Spaniards regime, he has featured in the finals of the Champions League (twice), the FA Cup and the League Cup…… Last Summer, Kewell commented on the manager…. ‘œIts very important to have a manager who believes in you, a lot of people doubted him (Benitez), but he stood by me which shows he has great faith in me and i just want to repay him for that’. Pity Kewell couldn’t keep to his word, isn’t it….!!

Kewell has played 18 games for Liverpool in the last 2 seasons, and has managed only 139 appearances in 5 years…… Kewell has picked up a fortune watching Liverpool from the sidelines. It has been reported that the cost of his stay at Liverpool has been £160,000 per game with him reportedly getting 76,000 a week…..

The love/ hate relationship between Kewell and Liverpool fans has never been more contrasting. From excitement among the Kop after Kewell turned down Man United, Chelsea and other big clubs to come here 5 years ago to sheer frustration due to his persistent injuries. A waste of talent or a waste of money, you decide…..

arrowDiscuss this article and Kewell’s career here