From free agent to a potential competitive Liverpool debut, Andy Lonergan could be set for a fairy-tale appearance at St Mary’s – but who exactly is the Reds’ latest ‘keeper on standby?
While the summer of 2018 saw Liverpool capture the signature of one of the world’s leading ‘keepers in Alisson, 2019 has been a different story altogether after a plethora of injuries could hand yet another ‘keeper a remarkable first-team appearance.
Adrian was the hero in his first start for Liverpool after stepping in for Alisson to help clinch the Super Cup in mid-week, before a bizarre ankle injury sustained by a pitch invader made it so Jurgen Klopp would have to consider his third choice stopper against Southampton.
There remains hope that Liverpool’s No.13 will recover in time, but Andy Lonergan could be handed a remarkable starting berth just days after signing on the dotted line on an emergency short-term deal.
Lonergan was present throughout the pre-season tour of the United States, but he remains somewhat of an unknown entity – so here’s a lowdown on everything Andy Lonergan.
Lonergan has been in the system for over 19-years and has found himself on the books at 13 clubs, amassing over 360 appearances in that time.
His career took flight with his boyhood club, Preston North End, where he worked his way through the youth ranks before being handed a professional contract ahead of the 2000/01 season.
A familiar foe in David Moyes was the man to hand Lonergan his debut in a League Cup meeting with Coventry City as a 16-year-old – and he would go on to be crowned the club’s Young Player of the Year in his debut season.
A combination of loan spells, which included Darlington, Blackpool, Wycombe and Swindon Town, and a myriad of injuries in his early years at Preston would ensure his time as the number one goalkeeper was limited at Deepdale.
But his last four seasons at the club, however, would see Lonergan become more of a permanent fixture between the sticks until his departure in 2011 after 228 appearances, 55 clean sheets and one miraculous goal scored from his own penalty area.
His exit from his boyhood club following their relegation to League One at the end of the 2010/11 season, however, would signal the start of his life as a journeyman goalkeeper.
Lonergan made a move, both permanent or on loan, seven times in eight years between 2011 and 2019 – excluding his recent signing at Liverpool.
The 35-year-old would spend two spells at Leeds United in 2011/12 and in 2017/18 while also signing for Fulham, Wolves, Bolton, Middlesbrough – where he failed to make a single appearance – and Rochdale.
The latter of which is where his last competitive appearance took place back in March during a short loan stint away from parent club Middlesbrough – who released him after at the conclusion of his one-year deal earlier in the summer.
Life Outside the Premier League
For all of Lonergan’s experience and transfers, however, he has never played a minute in the Premier League as the majority of his playing career has taken place at Championship level.
The Englishman, who is eligible to play for both England and the Republic of Ireland, has made a total of 345 Championship appearances, seven League One appearances as well as a further three in League Two – where he kept a combined 83 clean sheets.
It would be a remarkable feat for Lonergan who merely four months ago was lining up for Rochdale in the 3-1 win against Scunthorpe in League One in front of just 3,361 people.
Recent History with Liverpool
While Lonergan was a member of Liverpool’s travelling party during the pre-season tour of the United States, featuring in the 2-1 defeat against Sevilla at Fenway Park, and only recently signed a deal with the club – it is not the first time the two parties have crossed paths.
Lonergan played against Rafa Benitez’s Reds with Preston back in the 2008/09 season during the third round of the FA Cup at Deepdale.
The ‘keeper was unable to keep a clean sheet against Liverpool as both Albert Riera and Fernando Torres found the net – although Benitez’s side would only progress to the fourth round after failing to overcome Everton.
But it is at Bolton where Liverpool fans may have clearer memories of Lonergan as Brendan Rodgers’ outfit faced off against the Trotters in the 2014/15 FA Cup 4th round replay.
It would again see the Reds emerge as victors, as despite Bolton taking a second-half lead from the spot, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho would strike twice in the last four minutes to deny Lonergan a clean sheet and progress to the next round.
Another former Liverpool ‘keeper in Adam Bogdan took up the sticks for Bolton in the first meeting which ended in a stalemate, meaning Lonergan has never made an appearance at Anfield.
And while it wouldn’t be ideal, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility considering the injury curse which seems to have descended on Liverpool’s goalkeeping ranks throughout the summer so far.
Upon his signing, Klopp was quick to heap praise on the 35-year-old as he stated: “He’s a brilliant character, a really nice lad and helped us a lot in the pre-season and now we decided to work together with him.”
Although Klopp nor Lonergan would have foreseen a potential debut for the club at all at the start of the summer, let alone this early in the campaign, if called upon the Liverpool faithful will hope he will fare better standing with the Reds rather than against them.
With a Super Cup winners’ medal to his name without making an appearance, his first career honour, Lonergan will doubt feel ten feet tall and whether he finds himself in between the sticks at St Mary’s or not, he will only be better for the experience.