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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Mellor dreams of new glories
By Paul Fletcher

Neil Mellor scored a spectacular goal against Arsenal
I have been unlucky but I am positive and believe I will come through the other side

Neil Mellor
Neil Mellor had already started to feel the pain in his knees when he struck Liverpool's spectacular winner against Arsenal in the final minute of their Premiership match in November 2004.

The young striker, then just turned 22, smashed the ball past Jens Lehmann with a right-foot volley from 30 yards.

Mellor scored a crucial goal against Olympiakos shortly afterwards as Liverpool sneaked through their group in the Champions League.

He seemed to be on the cusp of making a real breakthrough at Anfield but the pain turned out to be tendonitis in both knees and surgery followed.

An operation in March 2005 sidelined him for 11 months and left Mellor a frustrated spectator as Liverpool beat AC Milan to win the European Cup.

Mellor was fit by January 2006 and joined Wigan on loan in January, scoring the winner on his debut against Middlesbrough.

Unfortunately a new injury curtailed his spell with the Latics after three games. It turned out he had a cracked bone in both knees that required more surgery.

"The injury problems I have suffered have always been with my knees, but not one specific problem, a series of different ones," Mellor told BBC Sport.

He was still recovering from surgery in the summer when Preston paid 500,000 for him in August.

Mellor had really enjoyed working learning from Steve Heighway and his team at the Liverpool Academy - he credits them with teaching him about so much more than football - but he knew it was time to leave.

NEIL MELLOR
Born: Sheffield, November 1982
Clubs: Liverpool 2002-2006, West Ham 2003-2004 (loan), Wigan 2005 (loan), Preston 2006-

"I think any player that leaves Liverpool knows it is a really difficult decision," added Mellor.

"But there are so many internationals at the club that I would struggle to break back into the side.

"I wanted a fresh challenge and Preston boss Paul Simpson seemed really positive and made me feel wanted.

"Liverpool said they wanted me to go to the right sort of club. Simpson spoke to Liverpool and assured them he would not rush me back from my knee. That really convinced me."

Mellor was closing in on fitness at Preston, anxious to press his claim for a first-team place, when he sustained a heavy bang flush on his knee in a friendly against Bolton.

A clean-up operation on Saturday will delay his Preston debut by a further three-to-four weeks.

It is a frustrating story for a player desperate for a sustained run of first-team football.

But Mellor, who has recently become a father for the first time, is far from downcast and astutely places his latest setback in a wider context.

Neil Mellor scored on his debut for Wigan
Preston have been absolutely flying and I am desperate to be involved

Neil Mellor

"I have just been really unlucky but I have been positive," said Mellor, who is the son of former Manchester City favourite Ian.

"This latest injury will only be a couple of steps back before I can go forward again so that is why I'm not too worried about it."

While he has been battling injury since his move to Deepdale, Preston have been climbing the Championship table.

They have not lost since he signed in late August and now find themselves in the heady position of second.

"They have been absolutely flying and I am desperate to be involved," said the Sheffield-born striker.

"The goal against Arsenal was a special moment - as a young lad at Liverpool it was great for me.

"When I can get fit again I feel that I can certainly emulate a moment like that and be remembered for other things in my career."

Mellor was supposed to receive a Champions League medal after Liverpool's victory over AC Milan.

There were 25 allocated to the club by Uefa but some medals went missing and Mellor, along with the likes of Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Stephen Warnock, never received one.

"There were a few spare AC Milan ones. They did not seem too keen on them so I have one at home," added Mellor.

Mellor is just hoping that by May next year he will have another medal, this one signifying Preston's promotion to the Premiership.

And more than anything he wants to play a full part in the process.

SEE ALSO
Mellor set for specialist visit
13 Oct 06 |  Preston
Preston swoop for striker Mellor
30 Aug 06 |  Preston
Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal
28 Nov 04 |  Premiership


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