Sadness as Gary Ablett dies aged 46

FORMER Liverpool and Everton defender Gary Ablett died on New Year’s Day at the age of 46. His death came twenty years to the day since his last game for Liverpool, a club he’d joined straight from school in 1982. That last game for the Reds was at home to Sheffield United, a 2-1 win for a side, now managed by Graeme Souness, was a shadow of the one he’d made his debut for five years previously and with which he’d won two league winners medals and one FA Cup winners medal. His last away game for the Reds was a few days earlier across the park at what was about to become his new home. That game ended 1-1, Ablett playing at left-back in place of the injured Rob Burrows in a back four that also included a young Rob Jones, Mark Wright and Liverpool’s goalscorer Nicky Tanner. In all Ablett played 147 times for Liverpool, 109 in the League. Souness accepted a £750,000 offer for Ablett from Howard Kendall, in his second stint as Everton manager, and in January 1992 the defender became the second Red to cross the park in the space of six months, following Peter Beardsley who’d made the switch in the previous August. Ablett went on to win the FA Cup with Everton in 1995, becoming the first player to do so with both Merseyside clubs. His winners medal for Liverpool came in the emotional 1989 final against what would become his future club. He spent four years at Everton, making 128 league appearances, before moving to Birmingham where he would stay for three years and 104 league games. After his playing days were over Aigburth-born Gary moved into coaching and returned to Everton to take charge of the blues’ under-17 side. He spent four years working at Everton’s Academy before being offered the opportunity to make the reverse of the trip he’d made as a player to become Liverpool’s reserve team coach in 2006. He led the Reds’ reserves side to the Premier Reserve League North title in 2008, an honour that was followed by the national title after a play-off win against Aston Villa, winners of the southern version of the title that season. By the end of the 2009 season Liverpool began changes to the structure of the reserves and academy set-ups and one of many announcements to be made was that Gary Ablett was leaving the club. Two months later he took over as first-team manager of Stockport County but he arrived at a time when the club were in administration and facing an uncertain future. He left at the end of that first season, his departure coinciding with Stockport getting new owners. His time as a first-team manager may not have been successful but his abilities as part of a club’s coaching staff were recognised by Ipswich Town and then-manager Roy Keane who snapped him up within a month of him leaving Stockport. Yet just one month later came the shock news that he was ill and fighting cancer. He’d contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. Keane confirmed the news at the time: “Gary was taken ill at the training ground and taken to hospital. He is getting the very best of treatment.” He fought the illness for 16 months, but sadly the fight came to an end on Sunday, New Year’s Day. Just a few days before he was to lose that battle an ill-informed article in the Daily Mirror described him as a “traitor” for his move across the park – something he was never seen as by Liverpool fans. Fans of both clubs have nothing but respect for him and those fortunate enough to have known him have nothing but praise for him. Fans of both clubs can look back fondly on Gary’s part in some happy times on the field and silverware for the trophy rooms – but his attitude off the pitch was a big part of what endeared him to people across Merseyside. I heard the news this morning in a recording studio with ten other Liverpool fans, recording a podcast. The news came after half an hour of lively debate where the eleven participants were queuing up to air their views and where at times it had been difficult for the host to keep them talking one at a time. When the news was announced the studio fell into stunned silence, words were just too hard to find. What can you say about such a great man dying so young? The sad news came in a statement from the League Managers’ Association, which said: “On behalf of Gary Ablett’s family the LMA has today confirmed that Gary passed away peacefully last night following a hard fought 16-month battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Respected throughout the game by players, coaches and managers alike Gary will be sadly missed. The LMA’s thoughts and condolences are with Gary’s wife Jacqueline and children.” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was Liverpool manager for the biggest part of Gary’s Anfield playing career. He said today: “It’s a sad, sad day for his family and everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club. Obviously he had a long battle and I’m sure it was a lot of suffering and a lot of pain for him, but the only thing you can say is at least he won’t be suffering any longer. “I gave Gary his debut and remember him scoring on his first start at Anfield against Nottingham Forest. He was a really good servant to the football club not only as a player, but also as reserve team coach. He served the club proudly and credibly. It’s very sad for everybody.” Everton manager David Moyes expressed his condolences too: “It is so, so sad about Gary, he was a regular visitor here to Finch Farm over the last six months and he was a lovely man, well-liked by everyone.” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said: “First and foremost he was a really good guy, a terrific servant to the club as player and as a coach. It’s a really sad day for everyone at Liverpool, but the people who matter most are his family and our thoughts are with them. I only worked with Gary in certain sessions, but I could see straight away that he was a very good coach. “He was a top guy and a top professional in the way he went about his work. He was enthusiastic and all the players who worked under him for the reserves and the first team certainly learned a lot off him.” Former Liverpool captain Alan Hansen was also shocked and saddened at the news: “He was a lovely guy and he was quite unassuming and everyone loved him. “It is such a shock even though we knew he was ill. I texted him on December 7 to go and see him and have a cup of tea and he texted back to say he had a doctor’s appointment but wished me a merry Christmas and said he would see me in the new year. Then we get the news and we are absolutely stunned and cannot believe this has happened.” What made the news more shocking for many was that there was a sense Gary was getting better and was winning his battle. Hansen said: “Talking to two or three ex-Liverpool players we are all distraught because we all thought he was fine and recovering. To die at 46 years of age is absolutely tragic. Each and every one of us is stunned by the news. He came into the dressing room when Liverpool had one of the great teams and he was right in there because he was a top-class player as well. “If he had joined Liverpool in the late 70s or early 80s he would have been a permanent fixture. He was a dedicated, consummate professional but he was right at the top of the tree. I had a couple of great centre-back partnerships at Liverpool and he was as good as anything. “I played with him when he was on the left-side of defence and he made it really easy for me and as soon as he stepped into the Liverpool side I knew he was a top-class player.” Gary will be missed by fans of both Merseyside clubs as well as fans of other clubs he played for; he’ll be missed by football. But most of all he’ll be missed by his family and his friends and it’s them who our thoughts are with tonight.

View the full story here: Anfield Road

A news article on 2012-01-02 19:08:23 from: Anfield Road

This news item has been reproduced from today’s media. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of Kop That.

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