Gary McAllister MBE was one of the most influential yet under-rated players in Liverpool’s recent history. The only time I saw Gary Mac live was after his retirement. It was during his appearance in Carra’s testimonial last summer against Everton. Upon his introduction the fans instantly broke into song....
(Sung to the tune of Alouette)
“Oh Gary Macca, Gary Gary Macca,
“Gary Macca, Gary Gary Mac
“Oh we love yer baldy 'ead (Oh we love yer baldy 'ead)
“Yer Baldy 'ead (Yer Baldy 'ead)
“You're Gary Mac, (You're Gary Mac)”...
Then “Shooot!” we bellowed at his every touch. It was obvious that Gary Mac was still a hugely popular figure at Anfield.
The man from Newarthill, Motherwell, was a throwback to the old days – a slightly built and elegant midfielder that pulled the midfield strings with crisp passing and robotic vision. Macca played an intelligent game and also packed an explosive shot.
Aged 35, Macca arrived at Anfield on a Bosman free in 2001. Though his ability was never in doubt, many questioned Gerard Houllier’s judgement in bringing in a player that was seen to be enjoying an Indian summer in what was very much the twilight of his career. The “Enforcer” proved all the doubters wrong with two splendid seasons culminating in the Scot forcing himself into Liverpool’s hall of fame.
Macca was hugely influential as Liverpool picked up the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup. A dead ball expert and inspired proponent of free kicks, Macca’s influence was central to Liverpool’s style of play. His influence, professionalism and authority were also great examples for Liverpool youngsters Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
Macca had arrived at Anfield with a proven pedigree - 57 caps for bonny Scotland and five goals. He’d skippered his country and Leeds United at Wembley in the League Cup Final of 1996. It was at Leeds that Macca became part of the famous quartet of Strachan, Batty and Speed that captured the League Championship for Leeds in 1991-92.
Throughout his career the midfield schemer possessed the uncanny ability to dominate and control the pace of the game. He was similar to legendary Celtic Skipper Paul McStay, another one of my all time favourites and one who I wish had worn the Red of Liverpool.
His finest career moment was when he scored in Dortmund as Liverpool defeated Alaves 5-4 to lift the UEFA Cup in 2001. Macca was rightfully awarded the Man of the Match and it was his extra time free kick that was deflected in for Liverpool’s Golden Goal winner.
Despite this perhaps his most memorable football moment was when he scored that 44 yard free kick in the Mersey Derby at Goodison Park.
Macca’s golden streak continued as he netted a charity shield winner against Manchester United during the season’s curtain raiser.
Houllier singled out Macca as his ‘most inspirational signing’ and proclaimed that had Liverpool had him ten years earlier they would have won the Premier League.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.