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Monday, 31 December, 2001, 00:07 GMT
McAllister claims sixth medal
Liverpool's Gary McAllister has been given an MBE in the New Year Honours - at the age of 37.
In 19 years as a professional before he arrived at Anfield, McAllister had won just two medals - with Motherwell in 1985 and with Leeds in 1992.
But the midfielder's 20th year as a professional saw him play an integral part in Liverpool's treble-winning success.
And in just over one season with Liverpool he went on to win five trophies.
So the MBE is his sixth medal he has received in less than a year.
Last season McAllister came on as a substitute in both the Worthington and the FA Cup finals and was on from the start in the Uefa Cup final win over Alaves.
This season he also played in Liverpool's Charity Shield and European Super Cup finals' triumphs.
"I feel it is more to mark what has been 20 years for me in the game," said McAllister of his MBE.
"I must thank all the teams I have played for.
"You don't do things on your own in this game and I have been lucky enough to play alongside great players that have only helped me progress.
McAllister was 37 on Christmas Day, and it is likely he will get a new one-year contract in the summer when his current deal runs out.
"How long can I keep going? I just don't know," said the midfielder.
"People tell me that at my age you can be going along nicely and suddenly the wheels fall off and you know it's all over."
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier had brought him to Anfield on a free transfer from Coventry in July 2000 to provide experience to his young players.
It was a masterstroke in man-management as McAllister himself acknowledged.
"I have to dedicate at least part of this award to Gerard.
"He gave me the chance to come to Liverpool at such an exciting time."
Born in Motherwell in 1964, McAllister had four years with his hometown club before joining Leicester for £150,000 in the summer of 1985.
Five years later, after 200-plus games, he moved to Leeds for £1m, with whom he won the championship.
A £3m move to Coventry followed in 1996 before that Bosman transfer to Liverpool.
Yet for McAllister, the best times were about to come as the opportunity to play in an emerging side gave him a new lease of life.
He scored a penalty winner against Barcelona in the Uefa Cup semi-final and a 40-yard free-kick that won the Merseyside derby against Everton.
But McAllister saved his very best for those two finals last May.
His appearance as substitute turned the FA Cup final, as much as Michael Owen's goals, after Liverpool had seemed to be heading for defeat against Arsenal.
Four days later he was on from the start against Alaves in the Uefa Cup final in Dortmund.
McAllister had a hand in four of the five Liverpool goals in a memorable 5-4 victory.
As well as a scoring a penalty, it was from his free-kick in the 117th minute that Alaves' Delfi Geli scored a golden own goal.
At the start of this season McAllister also scored a penalty in the Charity Shield win over Manchester United.
His success was even more remarkable when you consider his first few months at Anfield had been so difficult.
That was partly due to injury but also because his wife Denise was battling to overcome breast cancer.
As chemotherapy carried a risk to her unborn child, she refused the treatment, and waited two weeks until it was safe to induce the birth and baby Oliver was born safe and well.
She was then able to receive treatment and in remission attended the final in Dortmund.
McAllister won the Man of the Match award at that game.
He subsequently donated his prize money to two breast cancer charities - Christie's Hospital in Manchester and the MacMillan Trust.
That so much of Liverpool's success has been derived from McAllister's penalty expertise is poignant given the painful memory of his spot-kick miss for Scotland against England in Euro 96.
Even though a McAllister penalty took Scotland took to the 1998 World Cup finals, he became a persistent target of abuse for a section of the Tartan Army.
When Scotland lost 2-1 to the Czech Republic in 1999 and McAllister was incessantly jeered he announced his retirement from international football, having won 57 caps.
Like that other legendary Scot, Robert the Bruce, McAllister's gong then is a reward for never giving up in the face of enormous challenges.
"Sometimes I just smile at what has happened to me in the past year, it's hard to believe sometimes," he said.
"This award is the perfect end to a perfect year. I couldn't have asked for more."
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