Thank You Harry

Harry Kewell, thank you!

I feel like I have written countless words about Harry Kewell over the years. Certainly it’s fair to say that as good as Kewell was, he wasn’t always loved and has been vexed by more than a few, but the truth, in my opinion – Kewell is our greatest contribution to world football.

Sure, Tim Cahill may be the one the kids adore, the one they all want to emulate, but that’s because many of the current generation simply don’t remember Kewell at his peak.

At his peak, he was a glorious footballing talent who played on the biggest stages. The fact he is an FA Cup and UEFA Champions League winner speaks volumes.

Now 18 years after he made his Socceroos debut he is hanging up the boots and Australian football will be poorer for it, but greater for his contribution.

The fitting farewell would have been a World Cup appearance in Brazil, but it hasn’t eventuated.

Sad, given the national jersey, despite what some would consider his aversion to it at times is where some of his greatest moments came, indeed it’s where Australia came to know a fresh-faced 17-year-old with a mop-top, as he made his debut against Chile and later on scored two of Australia’s three goals in a soul-destroying away goals loss to Iran as the Socceroos fell at the final hurdle before France 98.

Sadly that two-legged shock would be remembered more for the efforts of serial pest Peter Hoare for tearing down the net, but something else was apparent.

Harry Kewell had arrived.

It was years before we went and qualified for the World Cup and we would falter again at the final hurdle to Uruguay in Montevideo before redemption came four years later and Kewell took centre stage in the match before calmly slotting a crucial penalty in the winning shoot out as Australia celebrated.

During that period he had taken the English Premier League by storm, part of a young and to those new to the game now shockingly solvent Leeds United took on all comers.

His teammates Mark Viduka, Lee Bowyer and Alan Smith would all become household names but all bar Viduka would succumb to crippling injuries or off-field issues later in their careers.

Also Leeds teammates of Kewell’s were former England keeper Paul Robinson, Dutch star Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and England defenders Jonathan Woodgate and a young Rio Ferdinand, but for the most part Kewell was the star and one of the goals he scored there still fills EPL highlight reels.

From there it was to Liverpool where he experienced the highest of highs (Champions League and FA Cup triumphs) and the lowest of lows, the constant and allegedly mismanaged injuries to his hamstring and groin.

The time at Anfield was hard, but he was picked up by Turkish giants Galatasaray in a move that saw scorn heaped upon him by Leeds fans who were irate he could sign with them, after two Leeds fans were killed in riots involving Galatasaray supporters while Kewell was a Leeds player.

Kewell would later state his wearing of the 19 jersey at Galatasaray (his original Leeds squad number) was his way of trying to start the healing process.

Back on the national front Kewell continued to be a regular and enjoyed a stellar World Cup in 2006 scoring the goal that put the Socceroos into the Round of 16, with a draw against Croatia. It was arguably his most memorable moment in the green and gold and a far better way to finish a World Cup than he did in 2010 when controversially sent off against Ghana for ‘handling’ the ball on the goal line.

For Kewell it was a career of immense highs and some miserable lows inflicted upon him by a deteriorating body and the poor decisions of others, including now former Socceroos manager Holger Osieck, whose double standard selection policy saw Lucas Neill play in his team but not Kewell.

It’s sad to see him finish a glittering career in a Melbourne Heart side who aren’t even destined to play A-League finals, but for those who can get there I urge you to, if not at least take a look at some of his finer moments ranked below.

As I once wrote about Kewell – “Form is temporary, class is permanent. And in that regard Harry has always been our greatest.”

5. The penalty v Uruguay: Kewell steps up and calmly slots his goal

4. Screamer for Leeds United: Watch the goal, it’s a cracker

3. Kewell v Iran: A teenage Harry lights up the world with his skills.

2. European Champion: Kewell lifts the Cup with Liverpool

1. Hello Rd of 16: Kewell sends Australia through to play Italy

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