Happy Birthday Gary McAllister: Liverpool and Leeds stalwart

December 25 is a special day for people all over the world, with Christmas Day being celebrated with gusto as these words light up your screen.

Although today marks the anniversary of a certain religious birthday, plenty of famous footballers are celebrating their annual milestones also.

One of the most distinguished is former Scotland midfielder Gary McAllister, who turns 49 today.

The now-retired playmaker was renowned for his extensive range of passing, movement off the ball and ability to get goals from midfield, and played in the English top flight for well over a decade.

McAllister started his footballing career for his hometown club Motherwell, impressing for the Fir Park club over the span of four years.

The attacking midfielder was soon signed up by Leicester City, and became an important member of the side in firstly Division 1 and then 2. His goalscoring record for a midfielder was excellent with the Foxes, and over the course of five seasons the scot netted over 50 goals.

A move to Leeds United in 1990 was to be the making of McAllister, who joined the newly promoted side and quickly formed a formidable midfield unit alongside Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary Speed. 1990 also marked the first time that the star would play for his country, making his debut against East Germany in a friendly.

After playing his part in leading the Elland Road club to fourth in their debut campaign back in the top flight, the 1991-92 season was one of the highlights of McAllister’s club career.

Alongside stars such as Eric Cantona and Lee Chapman, McAllister played a part in all 42 league games to see the Yorkshire club crowned as English champions for only the third time.

Gary McAllisterDespite winning the Charity Shield at the start of the following season, which was the first Premier League campaign, McAllister stayed with Leeds for a further four seasons but did not reach the heady heights of 1991-92 again.

A move to Coventry ensued, where the Scot would star over the course of four years. It was his final season in 1999-00, where McAllister scored 13 goals, that would convince Liverpool to make a surprise free transfer move for the midfielder.

At this stage, McAllister was 35 years old, and many questioned Gérard Houllier’s wisdom on taking a gamble on the veteran. However, the experienced midfielder produced some of his most memorable performances for the Anfield club in a massively successful spell.

In the 2000-01 campaign, the veteran was initially perceived as a fringe player, but ended up becoming an integral part of the Liverpool side that won three cup competitions; the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.

The Anfield side won their first European trophy in 17 years on a fateful night in Dortmund, beating Alavés 5-4 in a thriller in extra-time. 36-year-old McAllister played the whole 120 minutes, scoring one of his side’s goals and was named man of the match.

This momentous night came only four days after the ageing Scot played a key role in Liverpool beating Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup final. McAllister also played the full 90 minutes against European champions Bayern Munich in the resulting 2001 Super Cup, which the English side won 3-2. He also scored a penalty in the Charity shield against Manchester United on Liverpool’s way to a 2-1 win the following campaign.

McAllister only played two years with the Reds but is regarded by many members of the Kop as a cult hero. A defining moment that saw the Scot inked into the club’s folklore was a spectacular 94th minute free-kick effort in the Merseyside derby against Everton in April 2001, seeing the Reds snatch a thrilling game 3-2.

McAllister made 57 appearances for Scotland over the course of his playing career, netting five times. Unfortunately at international level his defining moment was a negative one, with his penalty miss against the auld enemy England in Euro 1996 sure to stay with him for the rest of his days.

A fantastic footballer that played the game in great spirit – happy birthday Gary McAllister.

I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City.I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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