The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Dunlavy

Hin 1995. ARRY Kewell barks out a laugh when I ask if foot­ball has changed much since he ar­rived in the UK as a 16-year-old kid

“Just a bit, mate,” says the Aussie, who left his fam­ily be­hind in Sydney to forge a ca­reer that would even­tu­ally yield 274 Premier League ap­pear­ances, 56 in­ter­na­tional caps and a Cham­pi­ons League crown with Liver­pool.

“I made my de­but for Leeds at 17. Back then, I think Ge­orge Gra­ham just sent us to the park in pre-sea­son and told us to run. If you dropped out first, that was it – you got the sack!

“And look around you. We’re all walk­ing around star­ing at smart­phones. We’re all com­mu­ni­cat­ing with friends and fam­ily on­line. Peo­ple speak to real, live peo­ple a lot less.

“In those days, it was only the re­ally rich guys who had phones. I had to wait. For me, it was walk­ing down to the tele­phone booth, throw­ing some money in and call­ing home that way.”

Kewell, now 38, re­flects on his play­ing days with jus­ti­fi­able af­fec­tion.

As one of David O’Leary’s vaunted ‘ba­bies’, along­side Jonathan Woodgate and Alan Smith, Kewell won the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2000 and a year later helped Leeds to the semi-fi­nals of the Cham­pi­ons League.

Euro­pean glory at Liver­pool was fol­lowed by an FA Cup win in 2006, be­fore suc­cess­ful spells in Turkey, Qatar and Aus­tralia.


Few who watched Kewell ever ques­tioned his tal­ent: quick and pow­er­ful with a crack­er­jack left foot.

In 1999, Leeds re­port­edly re­buffed a £25m of­fer from In­ter Mi­lan for their young star­let. At the time, only one player – Christian Vieri – had cost more.

Yet fewer still had Kewell pegged as man­age­ment ma­te­rial.

Dur­ing four lack­lus­tre years at An­field, the winger’s at­ti­tude and fit­ness were reg­u­larly ques­tioned.

Ger­man su­per­star Michael Bal­lack was one of sev­eral pun­dits who pub­licly sug­gested Kewell was coast­ing, grown fat on wealth and celebrity. In re­al­ity, de­bil­i­tat­ing in­juries in­creas­ingly robbed Kewell of the abil­ity to sur­vive a fre­netic 50-game sea­son.

It wasn’t un­til a move to Galatasaray in 2008 that he was – in his own words – “re­born”, scor­ing 22 goals in 63 games.

“Did I have bad games? Yeah, ev­ery­body does,” he says. “I didn’t need any­body else to tell me that. But I played through in­juries. And when I played, I was full on. I was ul­tra-pro­fes­sional.

“My skin is that thick from the stick I took, but I never let it af­fect me. My first coach al­ways told me ‘Never be­lieve what peo­ple write about you. Never take any­thing to heart. The only per­son you have to im­press is your man­ager’. “And it’s true, isn’t it? As a player, if the man­ager is happy with the way you’re play­ing, you’re all good. I played more than 400 games for some of the best man­agers in the world, so I must have been do­ing some­thing right.” Kewell reels off the names of those coach­ing lu­mi­nar­ies. “Guus Hid­dink with Aus­tralia, Rafa Ben­itez and Ger­ard Houl­lier at Liver­pool, Ge­orge Gra­ham at Leeds. Terry Ven­ables was an ex­cel­lent man-man­ager. “But my favourite was prob­a­bly Frank Ri­jkaard at Galatasaray. He’d come from Barcelona and the way he saw foot­ball was amaz­ing. It was all about ex­press­ing your­self and the en­joy­ment.

“The way he con­ducted him­self, on and off the park, was ex­cel­lent. The way he com­mu­ni­cated with play­ers was per­fect. I loved my time there.”

Yet Kewell in­sists he will not be a mere clone of the Dutch mae­stro, or any other man­ager for that mat­ter.

“My play­ing style will be my own, one hun­dred per cent,” he adds. “I’m not here to repli­cate any­one.

“I’m not one of th­ese guys who took notes dur­ing train­ing ses­sions. And I’m not go­ing to say ‘Well, Ge­orge Gra­ham did this, so I’m go­ing to copy’.

“There are a lot of things out there that peo­ple say and do, but you’ve got to think ‘What’s best for me? What do I want?’ Yeah, I’m new to man­age­ment, but I’m pre­pared to throw my ideas up against any­body else’s.”

Kewell will en­cour­age his Craw­ley play­ers to chal­lenge his ideas, to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion. He wants them to think, not just to play.


“Every­one talks about team spirit and to­geth­er­ness,” he adds. “But what forges team spirit? Get­ting wins at the week­end. How do you get wins? By train­ing your play­ers. By mak­ing them bet­ter.

“There will be times when you are dom­i­nated and you’re go­ing to lose. But, as long as my play­ers feel con­fi­dent and can see what they’re do­ing, that’s what’ll make them happy.

“Play­ers just want to im­prove. They

don’t want to sit there and go through the mo­tions. And, if you can help them do that, they’ll want to help you.”

He also sees lit­tle value in pass­ing on his own ex­pe­ri­ences as a young player.

“Foot­ball evolves,” says Kewell. “So­ci­ety evolves. Every­thing changes. When I grew up, play­ers were very dif­fer­ent. Our in­ter­ests, the way we com­mu­ni­cated.

“So, I can’t just ap­ply my ex­pe­ri­ence to them and say ‘This is what I did, so this is what you need to do’. As a man­ager, you have to ad­just with the times.”

But can a Premier League star and na­tional icon ad­just to League Two?

Kewell’s only coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to date is a two-year stint with Wat­ford’s Un­der-23s, and the re­cent ex­am­ple of Teddy Sher­ing­ham’s fail­ure at Steve­nage looms large.

As in his play­ing days, Kewell is teak tough and bel­liger­ent when it comes to ad­dress­ing the doubters.

“At the end of the day, man­age­ment is all about re­sults,” he says. “So, what­ever peo­ple say, whether they think I’ve got the ex­pe­ri­ence, all that stuff, it doesn’t mat­ter. “If I go out there and get re­sults, I’ll stay in a job. If I don’t, I know what’s com­ing. I knew ex­actly what would hap­pen if I didn’t per­form as a player and I def­i­nitely know what’ll hap­pen if I don’t per­form as a man­ager. “So, you can say what you like. Is he ready, is he not ready? Has he got the ex­pe­ri­ence? I’ll go out there, play the way I want and we’ll see if it works. “And, if peo­ple want to give me stick, I’ll give as good as I get. If you want to be cheeky, I’ll give you a bit of cheek right back. That’s how I’ve al­ways been and it’s not go­ing to change now.”

NEW ROLE: Kewell in the tech­ni­cal area

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

DERBY DAY DAR­LING: Liver­pool’s Harry Kewell cel­e­brates scor­ing against Ever­ton. BOT­TOM: Frank Ri­jkaard ispired him dur­ing their time at Galatasaray

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