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McAllister: Indian summer at Anfield

A player who has followed the path of so many others before him and attempted to make a name for himself in management - somewhat unsuccessfully - McAllister's contribution during his playing days to the Premier League cannot be overstated.

A highly-respected professional, the Scottish international oozed class and his passing skills were some of the best ever seen in the league. He made nearly 700 appearances for his five clubs throughout a 21-year career but is probably best remembered for his two-year stint with Liverpool when, in an Indian summer for the 35-year-old, he made a massive impact at Anfield after being signed on a free transfer in July 2000.

McAllister began his career in his native Scotland with Motherwell. As a young midfielder, he made an impression on the side and his performance in a losing cause in the 1985 Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic gained him acclaim. It was enough to persuade Leicester City boss Gordon Milne to sign him that August and he joined the Foxes for a fee of £250,000 with team-mate Ally Mauchlen.

It would be at Filbert Street that he came to prominence alongside the likes of Alan Smith in the late 80s. Despite relegation in 1987, his skill on the ball and accurate passing ability made him stand out as an attacking force and, as a playmaker, he began to attract the attention of the First Division. He played just over 200 times for Leicester in a five-year spell, but it was clear that he was destined for other things.

Turning down the chance to work with Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, McAllister moved to Clough's nemesis Leeds United in 1990. Making an instant impact, his partnership with Gordon Strachan in Leeds' first season back in the top flight saw the club rise to fourth and the next season, alongside Eric Cantona, he was the driving force behind their title win of 1991-92.

With the newly-branded Premier League now in force in England, though, Leeds failed to capitalise on their success the following year. McAllister continued to be a focal point for the club's creativity - most notably from his deadly free-kicks - but the defending champions finished an embarrassing 17th in the league.

Still, McAllister captained the club during the mid-90s and his professionalism and leadership on the pitch won him rave reviews. While he did not pick up another winners' medal during his time at Elland Road, he fulfilled a lifetime ambition by leading his side out at Wembley in the League Cup final of 1996 - albeit one they lost 3-0 to Aston Villa.

Wembley would not be a happy hunting ground for the midfielder that year, as he missed a penalty in the group stages at Euro '96 before England cruised to a 2-0 win. He had been part of the Scotland squad at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, but did not play, and in 1996 missed out on the knockout stages again as the Netherlands pipped them on goal difference.

In July, McAllister moved to Coventry City for £3 million. His time at the club, playing for Ron Atkinson and then under former Leeds team-mate Strachan, began badly and they were forced to pull off one of the greatest relegation escapes in history in 1997. Indeed, their 30-year stay in the top flight looked under threat up until the final day of the season when they beat Tottenham and Sunderland and Middlesbrough both lost. Dion Dublin took the headlines for his goal haul, but it was McAllister who was pulling the strings in the centre of the park and his experience was a vital part in turning the club around.

The Scot's form helped to keep Coventry in the top flight the following season and they went on to claim their highest ever finish in the top flight - 11th. While they were not able to hit the same heights for the rest of his time there, McAllister won over the City fans, but his international career came to an end, as a knee injury ruined his chances of representing his country at another World Cup in 1998. Having led his country to France, it was a bitter blow and he chose to leave the Sky Blues on a Bosman free transfer at the end of the 1999-2000 season with his career beginning to peter out.

Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier seized the opportunity to sign the 35-year-old for nothing and (Sami Hyypia excepted), it was probably his best signing for the club. Making an instant impact on the side, McAllister played an instrumental role in the run to the Cup Treble of 2000-01 and, more importantly, the club's first qualification for the Champions League. Houllier would describe him as his "most inspirational signing".

Despite being sent off on his full Liverpool debut against Arsenal, he was born again during his first season at Anfield and established himself in the first team with a series of impressive displays and important goals. An outstanding free-kick taker, McAllister made his name towards the end of the season scoring five goals in five games and was vital in both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup finals.

Picking up five trophies in 2001, he was man-of-the-match against Deportivo Alavés in Dortmund in one of the great UEFA Cup finals of all-time - netting a penalty and sending in the free-kick from which Alaves' Delfi Geli scored a golden own goal to give the Reds the title with a 5-4 win - while his super-sub appearance in Cardiff helped swing the FA Cup final in the favour of Liverpool when all looked lost against Arsenal.

The following season, Liverpool finished second behind Arsenal in the Premier League, but his career was coming to an end and he made the decision to step into management (albeit as a player-manager first) with his old side Coventry at the end of the 2001-02 season. Receiving a standing ovation from the Kop, despite only being at the club for two years, his impact on the Reds has seen him hailed as an Anfield favourite.

As a manager, McAllister has failed to catch the eye since his retirement and resigned from his first position at Coventry to spend more time with his wife, Denise, who sadly died from breast cancer in 2006.

He returned to the game in January 2008 with another of his former clubs, Leeds, and after initially impressing, he was sacked following a poor run of results that included losing in the FA Cup to non-league side Histon. Linked with a number of jobs, including the vacant Scotland position, he is now looking for a more solid role in the game and if he could have half the impact he had at Liverpool during his managerial career, he would be some boss.


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