In Conversation: Gary McAllister
Liverpool’s Gary McAllister was in a reflective mood this week, as Kitbag.com caught up with the former Reds midfielder and first team coach at the club’s Anfield HQ.
In a special round table discussion with LFC kit partner New Balance, McAllister revealed his continued affinity with the current Liverpool players, despite losing his coaching role after only three months following the sacking of manager Brendan Rogers:
“I was just starting to get to know them, really”.
“But that’s football”.
Despite the disappointment of his dugout departure in October 2015, McAllister would remain at Anfield in an ambassadorial position, enabling the Merseysiders to benefit from his enduring connection with their passionate band of supporters.
While McAllister made less than 100 appearances for Liverpool, his two-year run at the twilight of his career coincided with one of the club’s greatest campaigns; with the likable Scotsman a driving force in securing a famous FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble.
Acclaimed as one of the players that truly rocked the Kop, McAllister would later carve out a managerial career with former clubs Coventry City and Leeds United, as well as a time in caretaker charge of then-Premier League outfit Aston Villa.
However, it is McAllister’s playing days that resonate most with the 59-cap international:
“I miss playing. I still dream of it. I miss the training, that togetherness, Monday to Friday”.
In a career that spanned nearly a quarter of a century, McAllister’s exploits on the field coincided with a period of huge transition, as the professional game transformed from its popular working class roots to the corporate juggernaut it is today.
However, despite a haul of medals that included an often-elusive English league title in 1992, some of the fondest memories shared in Wednesday’s round table discussion revolved around McAllister’s early years at Motherwell.
“We used to play at Hamilton and the dressing room would be half the size of this room”.
“You’d go in and it’d be 100 degrees”.
“There’d be salt in the tea and balls wouldn’t be pumped up…. every tactic ever!”
Retaining a nostalgia for these Lanarkshire derbies of yore, McAllister remains an astute character and has adapted effectively to embrace the modern game, speaking with enthusiasm about the club’s overseas fanbase and a particular Liverpool trip to the US.
“We trained at 8pm at night due to the heat – and there were 30,000 in the stadium”.
However, while former boss Rogers would embrace the heat of battle at Celtic Park later that night, McAllister was keen to stress he was in no rush to return to management himself:
“I miss working with good players… but not everything that goes with it”.
Landing at Filbert Street from Motherwell in August 1985, Gary McAllister made over 200 appearances for Leicester City, before making the move to Leeds United in 1990. Despite enduring a first relegation with the Foxes, a resurgence in the second tier saw McAllister help himself to 30 goals in three seasons, earning PFA Team of the Year plaudits along the way.
An integral member of the Leeds United midfield that helped the club clinch its last league title to date, McAllister’s goal in the opening win over Nottingham Forest set the tone for a truly milestone campaign. The following season saw the Scotsman hit the net against both Rangers and Stuttgart in the UEFA Champions League, while McAllister would also captain Leeds at a Wembley League Cup Final, fulfilling a reported career ambition in the process.
Scoring his first goal for Scotland at Hampden Park in a qualifying win over Switzerland, McAllister would represent his country at three major tournaments, starting with the 1992 European Championships in Sweden. The Scots would fail to get out of their group, but not before McAllister converted successfully from the spot in their 3-0 victory over the CIS.
Moving to Highfield Road for a £3m fee in the summer of 1996, McAllister would form part of one of Coventry City’s most entertaining sides in their history, seizing the captain’s armband as the Sky Blues continued their seemingly-annual Houdini heroics. McAllister would later return as player-manager and remains a popular figure with fans of the maligned Midlanders.
Only arriving at Anfield in his mid-30s, McAllister compensated for any lost time with a sparkling first season in Liverpool red. From a last-gasp free-kick that won a Merseyside derby to a dynamic display in the greatest UEFA Cup Final, McAllister made an indelible mark that landmark season and would be applauded from the field in his final LFC appearance. AC
- Leicester City by Action Images
- Leeds United by Nick Potts, Action Images
- Scotland by Action Images
- Coventry City by Alex Morton, Action Images
- Liverpool by Darren Walsh, Action Images