Former Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister, who won the FA Cup with the Reds in 2001, discusses tomorrow’s FA Cup Final with Chelsea.
What are your plans for the future – would you like to get back into front-line management?
I still like to be involved. I still go to games and get excited about watching football. I enjoyed working under Gerard Houllier (at Aston Villa). He gave me a great opportunity to go and play for him at Liverpool when I was 35, and it was a successful couple of years. So when he asked me to be his assistant I knew he would respect my thoughts on the game, and that we were very much a team.
I enjoyed working under a very experienced manager in Gerard, but I also liked being my own man, as I was at Leeds United and Coventry City. When Gerard took ill, I took over for the final six or seven games at Villa last season and really enjoyed that too, because then the pressure is on you. When you have played at the level that I have played at, pressure is the thing you look forward to.
Your former club Liverpool are in the FA Cup final this weekend – what do you see as the keys to the game?
Well, obviously I am a bit biased, but I think the influence that Steven Gerrard has on the game is always big for Liverpool. Generally, when he plays well and is influential then Liverpool win. I think he is very key to Liverpool. He has helped win an FA Cup final for them in the past, against West Ham in 2006.
So Gerrard is very big for Liverpool, but their maverick forward Luis Suarez is very exciting. He is a player who can frustrate at times, as he can give the ball away too easily, but then at other times he is sublime. When it’s a cup-tie football and it’s tight, you just need someone with that little bit of inspiration and magic, and he can produce that.
Defensively I don’t think Liverpool have had much of a problem this season. Their goals against is as good as anybody in the league. But they have had a problem scoring goals.
I’ve been at Anfield a few times this season, and I have watched a lot of draws there against lesser teams. Against the bigger teams motivation hasn’t been a problem, they can always raise their game. But the problem has been against the so-called lesser teams. I think in perhaps three of the five draws I have seen at Anfield this season the opposition goalkeeper has won Man of the Match, so that tells you something right away.
What matters more to players – consistent league performances, or cup runs and opportunities to win silverware?
The way things are now, Liverpool could drift into the bottom half of the table, that’s a fact. That is the true reflection. I don’t think you can kid KennyDalglish. There are not many wiser men, as far as I’m concerned. But that is the barometer of where you’re at, where you finish in the league. The table doesn’t lie. At the end of 38 games it tells you a lot of things.
I also think that Kenny will be aware that the four big summer signings – Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam – have had a big ask to just come in and shine. I think the expectation level at Liverpool has surprised them. Next season’s going to be the big one for them.
Andy Carroll scored the winner in the semi-final – are there signs that Kenny Dalglish is starting to get the best out of him?
I have read things about how Kenny is starting to work out how Carroll operates. But I think the likely thing to have happened is that the penny has dropped for Carroll, and he has now figured out how to play for Liverpool. I think he has worked out that it maybe takes something a little bit different to shine there than at his previous team.
Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League final and are still fighting for a top-four finish – is there a danger that the mental and physical strain of those extra matches could eventually take its toll?
I suppose I can equate it to my time at Liverpool, though of course we were preparing for the UEFA Cup final rather than the Champions League. I can’t remember feeling tired at any point during the run-in. Like Chelsea, we were also chasing fourth place in the league, as well as looking ahead to two cup finals.
Chelsea have got a big squad with plenty of experience. They have great momentum at the moment, and their players will not be able to wait to play every game. So there will be no apprehension or tiredness or taking their eye off the ball, because every game is bigger than the one before.
I don’t want to be disrespectful to Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry, but they are not getting any younger. Each time they get to a final, they will appreciate that it could be their last chance to win a medal.
What are your memories of that FA Cup win in 2001?
As nice as it would have been to have won the Cup at Wembley, to win it at the Millennium Stadium was fantastic. It’s a great arena. It was against Arsenal, and we got battered the whole game before Michael (Owen) came up with two wonderful goals late on.
But that UEFA Cup final was even better. When we went 2-0 up, I thought we were going to win by five or six, and then Alaves came storming back. To this day I’m sure that, when we got that Golden Goal, two or three of our boys turned to walk back to the halfway line because they thought we were going to kick off again. I’m not going to name names and make them look stupid, but they may, or may not, have been Germans.
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