Fo­cus on Black­burn’s FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal at Liver­pool And now he’s out to si­lence pal Jord

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR­GET AN­FIELD – if Matt Kilgallon’s dad had got his way, the Black­burn Rovers cen­tre-half would have been walk­ing out at the Al­bert Hall.

And in­stead of a shirt, shorts and shin­pads, the 31-year-old would have been decked out in top and tails.

Yes, Kilgallon may look like a rough, tough cen­tre-half. But the man who will to­day at­tempt to pre­vent Ra­heem Ster­ling and Daniel Stur­ridge mak­ing sweet mu­sic for Liver­pool is also an ac­com­plished pi­anist whose reper­toire in­cludes Chopin and Bach.

“It was some­thing my dad wanted me to do,” ex­plains the for­mer Leeds, Sh­effield United and Sun­der­land de­fender. “You know what young lads are like – they’re ba­si­cally a pain in the arse. I had my foot­ball but he wanted me to do some­thing else to keep me out of trou­ble when I wasn’t play­ing.

“I took to it, which was pretty weird be­cause I was a proper lads’ lad. One minute I’d be kick­ing peo­ple and ban­ter­ing with the boys, the next I’d be sat up straight play­ing clas­si­cal mu­sic.

“I did the grades. I think I got to level four and one of my big re­grets is not car­ry­ing it on. But I got to 13 or 14, started pay­ing at­ten­tion to girls and sud­denly the pi­ano wasn’t cool any­more.

“Even so, I still bang a few tunes out ev­ery now and then when I’ve had a cou­ple. A bit of Bach, and The En­ter­tainer is al­ways a clas­sic. Alou­ette… and if it’s any­one’s birth­day I’ll knock Happy Birth­day out!”


What about We are the Cham­pi­ons af­ter victory at An­field in to­day’s FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal? “That would be nice,” he adds. “If we do it, maybe I’ll roll a pi­ano onto the pitch and get the party started.”

For Kilgallon, ev­ery day is a party af­ter three wasted years at Sun­der­land. Signed by Steve Bruce in 2010, he barely fig­ured from the off and even­tu­ally made just 23 Pre­mier League ap­pear­ances.

“We’d all love a crys­tal ball,” he says. “And in hind­sight, I wouldn’t have gone. But you have to re­mem­ber that Steve Bruce is a leg­end of a cen­tre-half and that was a big draw. You’re also talk­ing a big club who get gates of 45,000 ev­ery week. I’ve got no re­grets – I just wish I could have shown them what I’m re­ally about.”

Kilgallon also wit­nessed first-hand the crazed reign of Paolo Di Canio, and was part of the ‘Casino­gate’ scan­dal that saw team-mate Phil Bard­s­ley ban­ished from the squad af­ter be­ing pic­tured ly­ing in a pile of £50 notes.

“It was ab­so­lutely noth­ing,” in­sists Kilgallon. “You know what it’s like. If you’re at the casino or down at the races, you col­lect your win­nings and (Kilgallon bran­dishes an imag­i­nary wad) say to your mates ‘I’ve just won £100 here.’ That’s all Bardo did, but un­for­tu­nately some­body took a pic­ture at that ex­act mo­ment.

“Ev­ery­thing was very in­tense un­der Paolo. From the train­ing to the time you ar­rived, ev­ery­thing was al­most mil­i­tary. You couldn’t take short­cuts. Even things as silly as tak­ing short­cuts round a cone in the warm-up. Paolo didn’t miss a trick.

“That’s his way, but it’s nice to play here un­der a guy like Gary Bowyer. He treats peo­ple as in­di­vid­u­als and he recog­nises older play­ers can’t train the same way as

the younger ones. He’ll come to see you and say ‘Lis­ten, you’ve played a lot of games, why don’t you step out to­day?’ He’s very good at that kind of thing.”

He also en­gi­neers a good Cup run, with vic­to­ries over Pre­mier League sides Swansea and Stoke leav­ing Rovers just one game from Wem­b­ley.


Of course, that game is against a Liver­pool side who have lost just once in 18 games and in Jor­dan Hen­der­son pos­sess one of the Pre­mier League’s most in-form stars. Mocked as a flop af­ter a £20m move from Sun­der­land in 2011, the 24-year-old is now revered as the new Steven Ger­rard – as Kilgallon al­ways pre­dicted.

“I re­mem­ber him comimg through as a kid and you could see then how good he was,” says Kilgallon. “He’d al­ways played in teams way above his years.

“His vi­sion, his pass­ing. He was fit as a butcher’s dog. You watch him for Liver­pool and he’s still the same – he’s up and down the pitch at An­field for 90 min­utes.

“I heard Alex Fer­gu­son say he didn’t run prop­erly but you grow into your body don’t you? Ev­ery­one looks a bit awk­ward and lanky when they’re 17 years old.Now he’s filled out, he’s ma­tured and he’s re­ally cracked on. I’d say he’s their best player at the minute.”

So will the pair share a bit of pre-match ban­ter? “No, we don’t keep in touch,” he adds. “He was a lot younger than me so he had dif­fer­ent friends. I don’t think it would have done his street cred much good knock­ing about with the old fo­geys!”

Yet even with Hen­der­son, Stur­ridge and the rest of Liver­pool’s su­per stars, Kilgallon says last month’s 4-1 win over Stoke has given ev­ery­one be­lief.

“Ob­vi­ously you have to re­spect that it’s Liver­pool and they’re Pre­mier League, but we know we’re not far off that level,” he said. “When we went 1-0 down against Stoke, we didn’t go ‘Oh this could be 3-0, let’s go for dam­age lim­i­ta­tion’. We cracked on and it could have been more. That just shows our to­geth­er­ness and we’ll take that to An­field.” And if the An­field MC loses his copy of

You’ll Never Walk Alone, he knows who to turn to.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

KEY MAN: Matt Kilgallon fires in a shot at goal for Black­burn FAR LEFT: Matt Kilgallon play­ing for old club Sun­der­land LEFT: His exBlack Cats team-mate Jor­dan Hen­der­son in ac­tion for Liver­pool

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