Eriksson, Kelleher & calls to Xabi Alonso – A Liverpool Legend prepares for Anfield return

Ahead of his return to Anfield this week, treble Cup-winning goalkeeper Sander Westerveld was on good form as he discussed Xabi Alonso, Caoimhin Kelleher and more with This Is Anfield.

On Saturday, Westerveld will run onto the Anfield turf to play against his boyhood rivals, Ajax, as he features in goal for Liverpool Legends.

Currently, the goalkeeper who occupies the space between those posts is Kelleher, who, like Westerveld, knows what it takes to win trophies.

In recent weeks, he has hit top form at exactly the right time for Liverpool, and Westerveld explained what makes the backup goalkeeper’s form even more impressive.

“Goalkeeper, it’s a difficult position, especially if you’re the reserve goalkeeper,” the 49-year-old told This Is Anfield.

“It’s so difficult for Caoimhin to come in and sit on the bench for like 10 games in a row then, suddenly, boom, play the games.

“That shows how good he is, because you need a mental state to perform, and you will be better by playing as well. You need a couple of games to feel and get that rhythm.”

Westerveld himself had to deal with not always being first choice in his career. After playing 61 of Liverpool’s 63 matches in 2000/01, he found himself left out of the team the following season.


On the phone to Alonso

Xabi Alonso, Liverpool Legends, Anfield (PA / Alamy Photo)

The arrival of Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland meant Westerveld moved on to Real Sociedad, where he was a key part of a side that finished just two points behind champions Real Madrid in 2002/03.

During his time in San Sebastian he encountered a young Alonso, with whom he played 76 matches for La Real, before the Spaniard’s move to Liverpool in August 2004.

Twenty years later, the former midfielder is on the brink of an incredible Bundesliga title win as Bayer Leverkusen manager, and is the favourite to replace Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season.

Westerveld said he is still in contact and half-joked that he “might have” been on the phone, “pushing him” to move back to Merseyside.

Despite Alonso now showing incredible talent as a manager, Westerveld admitted that he didn’t immediately stand out as a future coach in comparison to Dutch legends like Clarence Seedorf, Frank de Boer and Mark van Bommel.

“I could see he was a special player, the way he saw passes and saw opportunities in the games,” Westerveld said.

“But it was just a little bit too early to see him as a coach or even as the world-class player he was.”


Why Liverpool is different

Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, UEFA Cup 2001 (Jon Buckle/EMPICS Sport)

As well as Liverpool and Sociedad, Westerveld played for nine other clubs – including Everton – but insisted Liverpool is “the most special club” he has played for.

Speaking about what make the Reds different, he said: “I don’t think you see many clubs like this in the world.

“It’s every season, something is there that shows how big Liverpool is and what Liverpool is standing for.

“Also, the work the LFC Foundation are doing, giving back to the society in Liverpool. This year I think we helped more than a 120,000 people.”

In a nice line for a man not speaking his native language, Westerveld added: “You’ll Never Walk Alone is a phrase for Liverpool, has been made for Liverpool and it’s everything Liverpool is made of.”


Back at Anfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 26, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Sander Westerveld during the pre-match warm-up before the LFC Foundation friendly match between Liverpool FC Legends and FC Barcelona Legends at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As mentioned, Westerveld is returning to Anfield on March 23 to play for the Legends team against Ajax.

In the Liverpool dugout will be lifelong supporter and legendary manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

After the Swede announced he was terminally ill in January, the club got in touch to offer Eriksson the opportunity.

The former England manager told the Telegraph in 2010 that it was his “dream” to manage the Reds, before adding: “Liverpool will always hold a special place in my heart.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 4, 2008: Manchester City's manager Sven Goran-Eriksson during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Westerveld revealed he was “one of the first ones who said ‘hey, bring him on’,” then said: “Liverpool is such a special club and I wasn’t surprised they made this gesture to bring him in.

“It’s typical Red family and the family Liverpool is.”

The Legends games are always a good opportunity to see the Liverpool FC community coming together to watch some old heroes, but more importantly raise money for the LFC Foundation.

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