Oh we loved his baldy ‘ed – Henry Jackson recalls Gary McAllister’s LFC career.
Many were baffled by Gerard Houllier’s decision to bring the Scot to Anfield in the summer of 2000, particularly as he was about to turn 36 later in the year. He had been a terrific servant to Coventry City, as well as Leicester City, Leeds United and the Scotland national team, but he was never really considered top four quality.
As it turned out, McAllister became a hugely influential player in his two seasons at the club, both on and off the pitch.
He was absolutely superb in the cup treble-winning campaign of 2000/01, bringing experience and assurance to the midfield perhaps lacking before his arrival. At the time, Steven Gerrard was still a very young player, and he still cites McAllister as a major influence on him to this day. He taught him a level of professionalism that the current Reds skipper has maintained throughout his illustrious career.
During that season, McAllister clocked up 49 appearances despite his advancing years, and was hugely consistent. He scored seven goals, two of which he is most famous for.
His penalty in the UEFA Cup semi-final second leg against Barcelona at Anfield, which the sent the Reds through to face Alaves, was pretty memorable, but it was his derby-deciding goal on 16th April 2001 that turned him into a true Anfield legend.
With the game at Goodison Park tied at 2-2 deep into stoppage time, Liverpool won a free-kick 44 yards from goal. Everyone was expecting McAllister to deliver the ball into the box, but instead he bent an inch-perfect shot into Paul Gerrard’s near post. The Reds players, coaching staff and fans went absolutely wild, and it remains one of the greatest ever moments in a Merseyside derby.
The former Scotland international also played an influential role in two of the cup finals that year.
He was introduced as a substitute in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal, and his introduction helped turn the game on its head. His free-kick from out wide helped set up Michael Owen for the equaliser, before the young striker went on to win the game with a dramatic second.
In the UEFA Cup Final, meanwhile, it was the Scot’s ball in that led to Delfi Geli scoring the decisive ‘golden goal’ own goal in extra-time. McAllister was named Man of the Match in what was an epic 5-4 win, and he had a hand in four of Liverpool’s five goals – scoring the third from the spot.
Although his influence wasn’t quite on the same level in the 2001/02 season- the likes of Gerrard, Danny Murphy and Dietmar Hamann were generally considered first choice- he still made 39 apprearance in all competitions, scoring twice. One of those was a penalty in the 2-1 Charity Shield victory over Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium.
McAllister left the club in the summer of 2002 to take the player-manager job at Coventry, with Houllier describing him as his “most inspirational signing” during his six years as Liverpool manager.
The classy midfielder will always be remembered for THAT goal at Goodison Park 12 years ago, but his influence at Liverpool was far greater than just one memorable goal.