Sport Football Farewell Harry Kewell, we hardly knew you
Updated:

Farewell Harry Kewell, we hardly knew you

Harry Kewell
Getty
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

• Harry Kewell’s greatest hits… and that penalty shocker

As Neil Young sang, it’s better to burn out than fade away.

For Harry Kewell, it seems his quest to burn brightly one more time has meant his football career will fade to grey at the end of this A-League campaign with the Melbourne Heart.

Kewell’s dream of a third consecutive World Cup finals campaign is at an end, as is a career punctuated by moments of magic, madness and missed opportunity.

Harry Kewell was voted the most gifted footballer Australia has ever produced. Few would argue with that assessment.

Behind the facade of success, Leeds had spent itself into ruin in pursuit of glory. Kewell’s exit from the club remains an open wound in Yorkshire.

A prodigious childhood talent, Kewell left Australia as a 15-year-old to join English club Leeds United. It wasn’t long before he was in national colours, becoming the youngest ever Socceroo when he made his international debut against Chile in 1996.  

Kewell announced himself to the world when he scored his first goal for the Socceroos in Tehran against Iran in the first leg of Australia’s ill-fated World Cup qualifying play-off that ended in heartbreak at the MCG.

“That pace and spark up front was just what we needed,” said Steve Horvat, the former Socceroos defender who played with the teenage Kewell in Tehran.

“When he scored that goal it was just incredible. Over 100,000 people in the stadium watched as he made something from nothing and silenced them all.

“It’s a reminder it’s about ability not age and it’s exactly the philosophy Ange Postecolgou is pursuing.”

Getty
Harry Kewell during Australia’s heartbreaking second-leg draw against Iran in 1997. Photo: Getty

From the wreckage of that dreadful night in Melbourne, Australia’s golden generation rose, and Harry Kewell was the leading man.

The accolades flowed for the young Australian. He was the English PFA ‘s young player of the year in 1999-2000 and was named in the PFA’s team of the year.

Alongside fellow Socceroo Mark Viduka, Kewell rode a roller coaster of boom and bust with Leeds United. At times they were the Premier League’s most devastating double act, taking Leeds to the dizzying heights of a UEFA Champions League semi-final 2000-01.

Behind the facade of success, Leeds had spent itself into ruin in pursuit of glory. Kewell’s exit from the club remains an open wound in Yorkshire.

As Leeds began a fire sale of its assets to save the club, Kewell’s then manager Bernie Mandic’s ruthlessness ensured Kewell pocketed £4 million from the deal that saw him move to Liverpool while the ailing club collected just £3 million.

Leeds demanded a £7million fee, but Liverpool offered £5 million – with £2 million of that going to Mandic’s company, Max Sport, as a fee for work it claimed it had done for Leeds in Australia.

Then Leeds chairman Professor John McKenzie famously claimed Kewell “stabbed the Leeds fans in the back”. Former England star and pundit Gary Lineker wrote a column saying the Kewell transfer made him “feel ashamed of the game”. A libel case ensued which was settled out of court after the jury failed to reach a verdict, but Kewell’s reputation in the UK never recovered.

Liverpool was a cautionary tale of ‘being careful what you wish for’ for Harry Kewell.

Injury dogged his stay at Anfield. The low point should have been his crowning glory when he limped out of the now legendary Champions League Final win against AC Milan in Istanbul before half-time with an abductor injury.

From there, Kewell became one of football’s nomads. From Galatasaray in Turkey, a frustrating season with Melbourne Victory where he was in the social pages as much as he was on the pitch to the Middle East and then back to Melbourne in Heart colours.

Kewell was central to the Socceroos rise to prominence and figured in all the moments that mattered as they qualified for consecutive World Cup Finals in 2006 and 2010.

Supremely gifted with the sort of vision, pace and passing ability this Socceroos team is crying out for, he was seen as a solitary figure.

His late equaliser against Croatia in Stuttgart that saw Australia qualify for the knockout stage of Germany 2006 remains the high point of the Socceroos international status.

Any hope of one last shot at glory with the Socceroos ended with Ange Postecolglou’s arrival as the new boss looked to generation next.

For all his achievements Kewell remains an enigma.

Supremely gifted with the sort of vision, pace and passing ability this Socceroos team is crying out for, he was seen as a solitary figure.

Like Bradman, Freeman, Perkins or Cadel Evans that single-mindedness was his greatest asset.

As he says goodbye we stand and applaud.

Farewell Harry, we hardly knew you.

Comments
View Comments