Kewell wants to make up for Turkey

Harry Kewell limped out of the Champions League final in May less than half-way through the first half. That injury left him needing surgery, and delayed his start to the season. Not only that but it made him feel like he wasn’t able to take part in the celebrations of Liverpool becoming European Champions for a fifth time. Now, as a result of winning that title, the Reds are in Japan trying to win the title of World Champions, and Kewell is desperate to be a part of that attempt. He said yesterday: “It would mean a lot to me to try and help Liverpool win this title. Any game you are part of you want to win, but yes, I suppose more so after Istanbul. It was great to be part of the team that won the European Cup and it was a great team experience, but on a personal note it was a nightmare.”

Liverpool are in tomorrow’s final of the Club World Championship in Yokohama, against a São Paulo side that won’t be easy to beat by any means. The 27-year-old has already shown a little bit more of what he’s capable of during his recent appearances, and he feels the fact he’s no longer feeling pain with every minute of every game is the main reason why. Achilles, ankle, groin and back injuries – each condition on its own enough to put any player off their stride for a while – are just part of what Kewell has gone through. There’s talk that previous Reds manager Gerard Houllier forced him to play with injuries and made it even harder for him to get his form and fitness back.  Now Kewell is glad that going to work is all about playing the game, not chasing targets to get fit again: “To be honest, I’m just glad to be putting the year and a half I’ve had behind me and to be playing without any real pain. I can concentrate on enjoying my football again instead of just trying to get fit. There is a little bit still there, but we are working 24/7 and it is definitely going away. It is a massive relief. It is like three or four stone off my shoulders. It always goes through your mind when you have an injury that prolongs itself for over a year-and-a-half – you wonder if you are ever going to get back to your best. I had people behind me who gave me good advice and my family was very supportive as well. That helped keep my confidence up.”

For some Liverpool fans the jury is still out on Kewell, but for most there’s the understanding that he’s been struggling with those injuries. Accusations of greed can’t be levelled at a player who was a Red as child, and turned down offers to move to the likes of Manchester United for more money than he got from Liverpool.  When he was taken off in Istanbul he was booed by some fans, fans that were seeing their side losing and seeing a player going off for no apparent reason. He was an easy target for the blame that needed to be dished out at the time, although he didn’t hear any abuse at the time. He recalled: “There were things I couldn’t do because of the injury. I knew it, the manager knew it, and sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the team. To be on the biggest stage for club football and to have to come off after 20 minutes was horrible. I couldn’t really hear the booing but if people were doing that, then each to their own. If they knew the truth about the injury maybe they would think twice about it. I thought I was fighting fit but as soon as I stuck my leg out my whole adductor snapped. I felt it go and I looked down and I saw a big lump down there. I couldn’t move.”

He’s made his excuses; he’s got his reasons for his past form for Liverpool, now he has to prove that he’s the player he used to be. And Kewell feels he owes Rafael Benitez and the fans some payback now: “The fans knew throughout the whole season what I was going through. They knew at any time that the injury could have gone. I was picked in both the finals we played last season and that shows that the boss has a lot of confidence in me. He has given me the opportunities and it is time for me to repay him. There’s a great goal for me at the end of the season, with Australia having got to the World Cup and drawn Brazil. Before that we have a great competition to win here. Then there is the major one, the Premiership. It is not only us, the fans want to get close to Chelsea and succeed them.”