The Greatest Transfers #9: The OAP

Welcome back to the latest edition of The Greatest Transfers where we take a look at some of the best Liverpool signings of all time as judged by me, meaning this list is not what you’d call gospel.

Anyway, we’re inside the top ten and one of the criteria I’ve been judging some of these signings on has been value for money. Hence the placings of Kuyt, Coutinho, and Hyypia in this list and for the high placing of this man on the list. Costing Liverpool absolutely nothing in the summer of 2000, he contributed much more than anyone ever expected and helped the club write history in an unforgettable season. That man was, of course, old Gary Mac himself, Gary McAllister.

The Scotsman was already a veteran of over 600 league games over 18 years when he arrived at Anfield as an evergreen 35-year-old. Having helped Leeds to the title in 1992 and helped keep Coventry in the Premier League for a few years, McAllister was undoubtedly a quality operator but many were questioning Gerard Houllier’s thought process to sign someone so old even if it was for nothing.

Fortunately, this was when Houllier had his head screwed on and knew what he was doing (the dodgy signings would arrive a couple of years later). As McAllister would explain later, he was sold on Liverpool by Houllier who explained that he needed an experienced head that could play in the big games and guide Liverpool’s young team when the going got tough. Talented youngsters like Gerrard, Owen, Heskey, and Murphy were great but had just bottled a top four finish the season previous at Bradford and the signing of McAllister was to aid them on and off the pitch.

Boy, did it work! Gary Mac was the perfect man at the perfect time with his ability to dictate play, bravery, and experience helping Liverpool through some tough and tiring games in the league, cups and Europe. He’d chip in with historic and vital goals too – the penalty against one Pepe Reina and Barcelona in the UEFA Cup semi final at Anfield to send us to Dortmund and THAT free-kick against Everton – as well as helping to develop some of the bright young things at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard would mention in his book that he’d very often dive into needless challenges and get sent off far too much and that it was advice from McAllister that would eventually lead to him calming himself down on the pitch. Houllier would hail McAllister too as his “most inspirational” signing and he was clearly not wrong. His finest night would be in that mad game in Dortmund where he ran the show from midfield and inspired us to that incredible 5-4 golden goal victory.

His second season would never truly live up to the hype of his first at the club but Mac still found the time to score in the Community Shield against Manchester United and play with some regularity and success. He would leave in 2002 to become player-manager at Coventry and he was serenaded with ironic chants of “what a waste of money” in his final game for Liverpool.

It speaks volumes about the impact of Gary McAllister at Liverpool that he is considered an absolute hero at the club despite making just 87 appearances and scoring nine times. His experience and quality were critical for a young Liverpool side looking to reach the top once again and it is perhaps telling that the season after his departure, the club struggled badly. For someone signed on a Bosman at 35, the return we got was nearly priceless.

Here’s THAT free-kick winner at Goodison for your enjoyment.

And here (just because I can) is the strangest YouTube montage I’ve ever found. It’s Gary McAllister at his finest to the sound of the Evolution theme song from WWE looping the same part (check out the slow-mo back heel at 1:30 too).