On behalf of Gary Ablett’s family the League Managers Association has confirmed that former Liverpool defender Gary passed away peacefully following a hard fought 16 month battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Liverpool Football Club announced that they were saddened to learn of the death of their former player.
After signing apprentice forms in 1983, Kenny Dalglish handed the Liverpool born defender a debut against Charlton in 1986. He replaced the injured Alan Hansen in a 0-0 draw against the Addicks.
Ablett played 147 times for Liverpool and scored one goal. Just like Peter Beardsley, Ablett crossed Stanley Park to join Everton after being deemed surplus to requirements by Graeme Souness.
Aigburth born Ablett’s only Liverpool goal came during a 3-0 win against Nottingham Forest in 1987/88. Linking with John Barnes on the left flank, he was part of the unstoppable Liverpool team that stormed the league title in 1987-88, losing the FA Cup Final to Wimbledon.
Although Liverpool lost out on the title after an unforgettable last game loss to Arsenal, Ablett was almost an ever present for Liverpool. He missed only three games, and played in the memorable 3-2 Merseyside FA Cup final win over city rivals Everton.
Ablett collected his second championship winner’s medal in 1989-90. After Dalglish’s resignation, Souness took over the reigns and as part of a mass cull, decided that Ablett was not part of his future Anfield blueprint. In 1992 Everton paid £750,000 to make Ablett a Bluenose.
After Paul Rideout’s winner ensured the Toffees 1995 FA Cup Final win over Manchester United, Ablett became the first player to lift the FA Cup with both Merseyside clubs.
He left Everton to play 100 games for Birmingham, before joining Wycombe Wanderers, Blackpool and the Long Island Rough Riders.
In 2002 Ablett took to coaching within the Everton youth set-up. Soon after, he replaced Paco Herrera as the coach of Liverpool Reserves. His side won the Premier Reserve League North in April 2008. In May 2008, Ablett’s boys beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Anfield to become national champions.
In 2009 he became manager at Stockport County.
Ian Rush told Sky Sports News: "We are absolutely gutted. Gary was a gentleman both on and off the pitch.
"When I received the news, I couldn't believe it. It's the start of a new year and it's terrible news. My heart goes out to all of his family."
Asked for his take on Ablett the player, Rush said: "Gary Ablett was a Steady Eddie player; he would never let you down. He was versatile, he could play left-back, centre-back, he even played in midfield.
"What you saw is what you got with Gary Ablett. Whoever he played for he always gave 100 per cent and that's very rare these days. In those days people used to just see him as a normal player, I think now he would be right up there because these players don't play anymore."
Rush added: "I played with him for quite a few years at Liverpool and he was the perfect gentleman. On the pitch he got stuck in, but he was a gentleman as well.
"Off the pitch, I don't think people realise how good a coach he was. I remember when he was with Liverpool reserves, when he was managing them, and he put his voice across in the right way. He wasn't a shouter or a raver, he put it in the right way and his knowledge of the game was getting better all of the time."
Former Liverpool star and Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso tweeted: "RIP Gary Ablett. Top guy, he will be sorely missed. My condolences to his family."
Speaking to the Liverpool FC website Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool manager said: "I gave Gary his debut and remember him scoring on his first start at Anfield against Nottingham Forest.
"He was a really good servant to the football club not only as a player, but also as reserve team coach.
"He served the club proudly and credibly. It's very sad for everybody."