James Lawton: Giving Kewell chance to atone is not as hair-raising as it sounds

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What price a starring role for Harry Kewell at Anfield tonight? It is an idea no doubt guaranteed to provoke a mixture of grim mirth and disbelief in many corners of the ground and the nation.

When he came on at Stamford Bridge last week - with a hairnet containing his locks - he was scarcely greeted as an example of the gladiatorial spirit that Steven Gerrard now claims to have taken hold in the Liverpool dressing-room.

However, be sure that the man who inherited him, perhaps with some disbelief, the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, is enough of a football man to consider a significant role for the disaffected Australian. If Kewell has become a symbol of waste at the top of the English game, his talent is still beyond dispute. For a little while at Leeds under David O'Leary, Kewell was an authentic star. Playing wide on the left, far the best position for him to exploit his tremendous ability on the ball and his capacity to send in perfect crosses, he was a nightmare for even the most competent of right-backs.

One big reason for his decline was the granting to him of a free role. There is no such thing as a free role in football. There is always an effective chore to be performed beyond your own duties. Maybe some are excepted. As a defensive element, Jimmy Greaves was perhaps the last word in irrelevance. But Greaves was Greaves, arguably the greatest single threat to a defence in the history of English football.

Now, with nothing to lose but his status as one of the ultimate non-achievers in today's game, Kewell might just get the chance of redemption tonight. It helps his prospects that a simple and, on the basis of last week's game, probably beneficial change, could accommodate his return. Benitez would merely have to move John Arne Riise to left-back in place of the often alarming Djimi Traoré. In effect it would be one gamble replacing another. After all, it's not a bad rule that, if in doubt, talent is generally the best option.

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