For Liverpool supporters, 2005 will always be a year to remember, for one night in particular. That night is of course the Champions League final, in Istanbul on May 25th, when Liverpool won their fifth European Cup.
For Harry Kewell, the happiness of now being the owner of a Champions League winner’s medal is tarnished with the despair he felt as he suffered another injury so soon after getting out of the treatment room. Looking back at a difficult year, he said: "I wouldn’t say it has been a long 12 months, I would say that it has been a dreadful 12 months. The lowest point was definitely May 25. The Champions League final. Walking off the pitch."
Kewell was forced to walk off the pitch in agony, his game over and with surgery to look forward to before he’d be able to play again. It was hard for him to take, he was determined going into the game to help Liverpool to victory: "I was up for the game, I was feeling good, I thought I was fighting fit but as soon as I stuck my leg out my whole adductor snapped. I couldn’t move. To be on the biggest stage for club football in the world and to have to come off after 20 minutes was horrible."
Some Liverpool fans have got it into their heads that Kewell is only at Anfield for money and is happy to sit on the bench. Those Liverpool fans have it wrong – Kewell turned down more money from clubs like Manchester United. He turned them down to because he wanted to be a Red. He’d supported Liverpool as a child, and now his chance had come to play for them. Injuries meant his chances to impress were limited, and then he was often expected to play when far from fit by the previous regime at Anfield. Still those Liverpool fans unhappy with Kewell, and unhappy with the scoreline at the time, felt for some obscure reason that booing their own player would help the team. By half-time the Reds team were getting the support that inspired them to their comeback, the singing at half-time despite being 3-0 down. As for the booing, Kewell says he didn’t know about it until later, but this must have played on his mind through his summer of surgery and recovery: "I couldn’t really hear the booing. I went out there to do a job and if people were doing that, then each to their own. Everyone has their own opinion but if they knew the true facts about the injury, then maybe they would think twice about it. People can say what they like about me. It doesn’t bother me."
Kewell may be putting a brave face on things, but whatever he says he needs support from his own club’s fans. Thankfully those close to him were supportive: "My family and friends were brilliant while I was injured. My wife has been fantastic because she has been the one who has had to deal with me for the last year." His wife is former Emmerdale actress Sheree Murphy. No longer in the soap, Mrs Kewell has just been revealed as one of the contestants for the next series of "I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!". This means she’ll be leaving their two kids, Taylor and Ruby, back in England with Harry as she flies off down under.
At least Kewell feels he can rely on the Liverpool boss to support him. Benitez has worked hard to get to the root of Harry’s injury troubles, sending him off to Spain to see a specialist he was familiar with himself, and Kewell has a lot of respect for the man: "The manager at Liverpool, Rafael Benitez, has been brilliant, too. To show confidence in me, by starting me in the Champions League final, when everyone was turning around and saying, ‘What are you doing?’, showed great confidence."
Kewell played ninety minutes for Australia’s World Cup play-off in Uruguay on Saturday, although for some strange reason the left-footed player was played on the right wing as Australia were beaten 1-0. The second leg is in and Kewell feels that this gives them a chance to turn the result back into their favour: "It will be a big boost playing the last leg in Sydney, not just for the whole Australian team but especially for the Sydney boys. We have not played a World Cup play-off in Sydney in a long while. Wednesday is going to be something special. Qualification would mean a lot. I want to have played in at least one World Cup before I retire. Many of my friends have been to a World Cup and they say that there is nothing else like it. To be part of that would be something special."
If the match ends 1-0 on Wednesday, there’s a chance of penalties. According to Kewell, the Socceroos will have no shortage of volunteers to take one if that’s how it pans out, including himself: "I think I will have to fight a few people first to get in the line. We have a lot of confident boys in our squad. We have to have, not just 11 men on the park, but the entire squad need to be generals on Wednesday … This has to be a real team effort."
The Aussie coach, Dutchman Guus Hiddink will be manager of Australia for the last time if they don’t go through. His agent said, "On Thursday morning Guus will either be preparing for the World Cup or his contract will be finished. It is as simple as that."