December 21st: The latest TBT Advent Calendar piece sees Jay Riley take a look back at his personal highlights of the brief, yet eventful Liverpool career of former number 21 Gary McAllister.
Gary McAllister – aka Gary Mac – will go down in Liverpudlian folklore for his contributions to the club despite the fact that he was only at Anfield for a short period of time. He was signed by Gerard Houllier in the summer of 2000 at the grand old age of 35 and featured for Liverpool in two seasons, making 87 appearances and scoring 9 goals, some which were very, very important one’s. Gary Mac played a big role in Liverpool’s treble cup winning season in 2001, and also helped the Reds qualify for the Champions League, something which many people often forget. McAllister was a penalty and free kick specialist, a great passer of the ball and a man who even at such an old age could dominate midfields which justifies his nickname “The Enforcer”.
It’s always great to look back at the highlights of the careers of successful ex-players, and in honour of our former number 21, here are my 5 favourite Gary Mac moments:
5. Gary McAllister signs for Liverpool – 1st July 2000
In July 2000, Gerard Houllier decided to bring this 35 year old Scotsman to Anfield on a Bosman transfer from Coventry City. It was a move that lead to more than a few raised eyebrows due to his age. However Houllier knew what he was doing and the experience that Gary Mac would bring to the Liverpool side and dressing room, both on and off the pitch was something the manager knew would be key to his side being successful.
4. Free kick against Coventry City – 28th April 2001
In April 2001, playing against his previous club Coventry City, McAllister scored a superb free kick to help give the Reds three vital points in the quest for Champions League qualification. Liverpool had struggled to break down Coventry that day, but took the lead thanks to Sami Hyypia in the 83rd minute. Liverpool expected a response from their opponents, but any hope of them earning a point was dashed when McAllister sent a free-kick beyond Chris Kirkland. Out of respect for his former employers, Gary didn’t celebrate the goal.
3. The ‘Barca Pen’ – 19th April 2001
Two weeks prior to this particular tie, Liverpool had drawn 0-0 away to Barcelona in the Nou Camp in the first leg of the UEFA Cup Semi Final. The second leg at Anfield was finely poised when the Reds were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half time after Patrick Kluivert inexplicably handled a McAllister corner from the right hand side. Up stepped McAllister, and in front of the fans at the Anfield Road End he swept the ball home as calm as you like, beating the then Barcelona keeper Pepe Reina to give Liverpool the lead. Liverpool managed to keep a clean sheet so ultimately it was McAllister’s penalty that was the difference in two tight games, and that penalty was enough to send Liverpool into the UEFA Cup Final.
2. The UEFA Cup Final – 16th May 2001
Thanks to the aforementioned penalty kick, Liverpool participated in an incredible UEFA Cup Final in Dortmund, Germany, against Spanish minnows Alaves. The game eventually ended 5-4 to The Reds after extra time when Delfi Geli put through his own net, via a McAllister free kick. The rules of the competition at the time meant that any goal scored in extra time counted as a ‘Golden Goal’ so that own goal ended the game and gave Liverpool the title. Prior to that free kick, Gary Mac had scored a penalty in the first half to put the Reds 3-1 up at the interval. He finished the game with 1 goal and 3 assists, a true man of the match performance.
1. ‘The Derby Goal’ – 16th April 2001
Last but not least, April 2001… again! It was the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park just three days before the Barcelona game mentioned earlier. The Reds were chasing a Champions League place while still competing in the FA Cup and UEFA Cup so the big games came thick and fast. An eventful and hard fought derby was heading for a 2-2 draw after Duncan Ferguson and a late David Unsworth penalty has cancelled out goals from Emile Heskey and Markus Babbel. However in the 94th minute, Liverpool were awarded a free kick after Gregory Vignal was fouled by Niclas Alexandersson. Despite McAllister moving the ball closer to the goal than where the foul took place, it was still too far for a strike at goal you might say, but not for this man! Most thought he was about to cross towards Sami Hyypia who he’d ushered to the other side of the box, however Gary Mac whipped a free kick past Paul Gerrard into the near corner to send the travelling Reds delirious and break the hearts of Liverpool’s neighbours.
Those were my favourite Gary Mac moments. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Gary was only at Liverpool for two seasons! but his impact during that time was massive.