PIANO MAN MATT'S PLAYING FINE TUNES
Focus on Blackburn’s FA Cup quarter-final at Liverpool And now he’s out to silence pal Jord
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.
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