IT WAS a moment of magic which etched his name into Liverpool folklore.
Gary McAllister knows what it feels like to be a derby hero and Reds supporters have never allowed him to forget it.
Ten years have passed since the veteran midfielder famously stepped up to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Blues at Goodison.
Liverpool desperately needed maximum points to boost their hopes of Champions League qualification and McAllister delivered deep into stoppage time with a stunning 45-yard free-kick.
“I don’t think the memory of that moment will ever go away,” he said. “I’d had a free-kick from a similar position just a few minutes before that and a cross had caused them problems.
“Their keeper Paul Gerrard was anticipating that I would be aiming for the same spot – towards the big guys like Markus Babbel, Sami Hyypia and Emile Heskey.
“I could see him creeping towards that side of the goal so I decided to go for the other corner.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was in. As I ran off celebrating I just remember the joy etched on the faces of everyone connected to Liverpool – my team-mates, the coaching staff and the fans.”
That derby triumph in mid-April 2001 was the catalyst for a remarkable end to the campaign.
Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool won eight and drew one of their remaining nine games, adding the FA Cup and UEFA Cup to the League Cup they had lifted in February, and securing third place in the Premier League. It was a dream season for McAllister who had joined the Reds at the age of 35 on a free transfer the previous summer from Coventry City.
“For me personally, 2001 was a fairytale,” he said. “I was in the right place at the right time and I had to pinch myself to make sure it was really happening.
“After winning the League Cup we had the momentum and before long we were back at the Millennium Stadium again for the FA Cup final. Then it was a fantastic night in Dortmund against Alaves.
“Winning the three Cups was great but the big thing for Liverpool was getting back in the Champions League. That derby victory at Goodison was vitally important to helping us achieve that.”
McAllister relished the four Merseyside derbies he was involved in and believes victory at Goodison today could act as a launchpad for Kenny Dalglish’s side.
“They were fantastic games with all the build up and once you get on the pitch both sets of fans don’t let you down. The derbies are special and you have to enjoy the moment.
“That derby win in 2001 certainly inspired us and a win for Liverpool this weekend can do the same. A victory in the derby gives you that extra lift.”
McAllister expects Everton to make life difficult for the Reds but he’s hoping the visitors’ extra quality will shine through. The former Scotland international worked with Stewart Downing at Aston Villa and believes the winger could have a key role to play.
“A lot has been said about Everton’s lack of transfer activity but I still look at Everton and see a team with David Moyes’ stamp,” he added. “They are very well organised and tough to beat but there are more match-winners in the Liverpool side.
“Luis Suarez is a cracking player who is in great form and Stewart Downing is another fantastic player. It’s nice to see Stewart doing well. He’s versatile, his deliveries into the box are first class and he has a great shot on him with both feet.
“If you want to really establish yourself with the fans then producing in the derby is a great way to do it. I know from experience that if you get the winner the fans won’t ever let you forget it.”
Gary McAllister will return to Anfield on Friday, October 7 for the Treble Celebration Dinner. The former Reds midfielder and ex-assistant boss Phil Thompson are the special guests who will speak about that unforgettable 2000/01 campaign. Tickets priced £75 include a four-course meal, drink on arrival, a group photograph with the three trophies and entertainment, including impressionist Darren Farley. To book call 0151 263-7744 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org