Kewell the underachiever knows his red-letter day is overdue

It was hardly a startling enough confession to warrant a drum roll - indeed, there are plenty on Merseyside who will tell you it barely merited a ham roll - but at least Harry Kewell's admission that "yes, I have underachieved at Liverpool" proves one thing.

It was hardly a startling enough confession to warrant a drum roll - indeed, there are plenty on Merseyside who will tell you it barely merited a ham roll - but at least Harry Kewell's admission that "yes, I have underachieved at Liverpool" proves one thing. It is that on this, the day he at last gets to show off his undoubted talents in what, bizarrely, is his first professional final, the Australian is feeling well up for it. And after a week when the 26-year-old's much-suspected commitment came under yet more scrutiny, this was no trifling soundbite.

"It is fair to say that Liverpool haven't seen the best of me yet, certainly not," he said as his diamond ring competed with his diamond earring to redirect the fluorescent lighting deep in the bowels of Anfield. "I know what I'm capable of and I'm quite sure that everyone else connected with the club is aware, too. I would just love to go out there and do it, because I know that I can. Why hasn't it happened for me yet? Well, you go to a different team and sometimes it doesn't work out straight away. Saying that, I started off well but then I hit a bit of a down patch."

"Not much Kop" would be the somewhat crueller assessment of the Liverpool faithful, who must have been burying disbelieving heads in shaking hands when, at the beginning of a week that could just frame their entire season, Rafael Benitez felt obliged to announce that he would be the one deciding when his player was fit for duty and not any of Kewell's "advisers", ie his agent, Bernie Mandic, or his national manager, Frank Farina.

"Just a mountain out of a molehill," claimed Kewell, dismissing the affair with a shrug. "Once again, people writing about things they know nothing about. My agent never once got involved, and all Farina said was that if I had surgery now I'd be available for the Confederations Cup. But he also said that I'm a Liverpool player and will do whatever my club most want me to do."

That's simple; surgery can wait. And in the meantime, what his club most want him to do is be the Harry Kewell they signed for £5m in the Elland Road "everything must go" sale 18 months ago. There have been flashes of that supreme left foot since, but that's all there has been, and when you have one of the Premiership's brightest lights in your grasp you expect more than the occasional flash. A persistent Achilles problem, not to mention his latest groin injury, which has kept him out for two months, would make it easy for Kewell to cry "injury" in his own defence, but refreshingly, and some might venture uncharacteristically, he is refusing to do so.

"I'm not blaming the injuries, no. You might be 100 per cent for the first game of the season, but from then on every player is carrying knocks. When you cross the white line you're declaring yourself 100 per cent fit, and although it is really frustrating that you aren't, but all the fans think you are, you've got to give it your best."

Except his manager is not expecting Harry's "A" game, just something approaching it. "We cannot talk about him being 100 per cent because he's been out for a couple of months," said Benitez, joining in on the applied mathematics. "But can he play? Sure, no problem. He played in Tuesday's Champions' League win against Bayer Leverkusen and played well. After all, 80 per cent of Harry Kewell is better than 130 per cent of me."

Such unerring faith is likely to manifest itself today in Kewell's placement on his favoured left wing, with the ever-flexible John Arne Riise being shifted into a defensive role. And with Fernando Morientes "a dream acquisition" in Kewell's eager eyes, you could almost see him drooling over the prospect of crossing that ball in for the towering Spaniard at the Welsh capital's citadel.

"It's a real asset that we've now got a big target man who can outjump a lot of defenders and head the ball," he said. "You can tell how good he is because when there were rumours he was coming here, almost every other club moved in to nab him. But it also shows how good a manager we've got, because to bring in a player of Fernando's quality in mid-season is phenomenal."

Indeed, for a player renowned for warbling the blues, it is surprising to find Kewell so intent on singing the praises of his leader. "If you look at my career you will see that I've had about six managers in the last four years. What I'd obviously like is a bit of stability and to work with the same manager for a while. But this season has been a revelation. Rafa's come in with new ideas, new tactics, new fitness programmes, new strength workouts - which is fantastic, because I love all that. He's brought in more than one or two good players, too, and if you ignore all the injuries we've had and look at the depth of our squad, there aren't many managers who wouldn't envy it."

Jose Mourinho, of course, is an exception, although Steven Gerrard is believed to be in his basket, never mind on his shopping list, and today may take him another step closer to the checkout. As a "one-club" boy who moved away from the team he had played for since a trainee, Kewell feels well qualified to discuss the dilemma. "Yeah, it's hard when you've been at a club for so long to make that decision. I grew up in Leeds and it was terribly difficult to leave. But everyone is entitled to make their own decisions and sometimes you need a change, a different atmosphere, a different challenge."

If that sounds as if Kewell is happy to show his team-mate the way south, he isn't. Before Tuesday's triumph, a Gerrardless Liverpool was so obviously a rudderless Liverpool, and Kewell admits he is relieved the omnipotent one is back to be everywhere in Cardiff. It's days like these Kewell signed up for at Anfield, ignoring reported offers from Old Trafford and, yes, Stamford Bridge when Roman Abramovich first arrived with his golden chequebook. And although he accepts "our main priority remains the Premiership", an indication of the importance Kewell is attaching to his first final is the sentimental fact that he has flown in his mother and father all the way from Sydney to witness it.

"The closest I've come to a major final before is that Champions' League semi-final with Leeds when we were beat by Valencia. It's going to be a fantastic game between two great sides; all guns blazing, go for it. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it. I haven't even been to the World Cup finals yet, so there's so much I haven't done, so much I haven't achieved. I think it's about time I started doing it."

He and Liverpool both.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape