Gary McAllister's praise for his friend and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard

27 November 2009 07:00
Gary McAllister

THE scene was familiar: two men, stood on the touchline before an important Liverpool game, speaking animatedly about what the night might hold in store.

On one side, was the master, passing on his wisdom, offering reassurance and giving pointers whenever possible; on the other was the apprentice, listening intently and hanging off every word.

Gary McAllister and Steven Gerrard may have ceased to be team-mates in the summer of 2002 but, to see them interacting in Budapest's Ferenc Puskas Stadium, it was just like old times on Tuesday evening.

Gerrard has never made any secret of the esteem in which he holds McAllister, a man whose class, guile and goalscoring ability made him an Anfield legend, and during the early part of his career, would frequently pick the Scot's brains.

On away trips, the only seat Gerrard wanted on the team coach was the one next to McAllister and such habits clearly die hard, judging by the way the skipper made a beeline for his great friend before the Champions League clash with Debrecen.

Respect in this relationship, however, is mutual; McAllister has charted Gerrard's progress from promising novice to midfield thoroughbred with great pride but had to do a double take when one statistic was put to him this week.

When he strides out at Goodison Park on Sunday, Gerrard will represent Liverpool for the 499th time, an achievement which - in a day and age when players swap clubs at a dizzying pace - his mentor stresses should not be taken lightly.

'It's a great testament to him,' said McAllister. 'When I look at players like Stevie and Carra, as well as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Manchester United, you can't help but have the greatest respect.

'When you play for Liverpool, every game you are expected to produce your very best in must win games and the pressure is always on you. So it's a fantastic achievement to get to that record, particularly with him and Carra both being local lads.

'It was clear to see he had talent from word go. I've watched him develop and he just keeps getting better; his decision making is getting better and he is still improving.

'That comes from playing important games in the Champions League and Premier League and being a leading player for England. Gerard Houllier started him off on the right so he could learn his trade away from the hurly-burly in the middle.

'But it was pretty clear his best position was always going to be in the centre. Of course he could still be effective on the right as he is in his position behind Torres but, first and foremost, he's just an outstanding midfielder.'

Source: Liverpool_Echo

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