FA Cup Final offers redemption time for Kewell

Tonight’s (Saturday) FA Cup Final will be redemption time for Harry Kewell, a time to shed the memories of a personally sour European Champions League final last May in Turkey.

Tonight-s (Saturday) FA Cup Final will be redemption time for Harry Kewell, a time to shed the memories of a personally sour European Champions League final last May in Turkey.

That night in Turkey was a glorious night for Liverpool as they secured the European Champions League title after an amazing comeback against AC Milan.

But for Kewell, the taste of victory was left somewhat sour after he tore his abductor muscle (groin) after just 20 minutes and in the process copped a fair spray from the Liverpool fans at the ground as he limped off.

Kewell will become just the fourth Australian to grace an FA Cup final when they play West Ham at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. He follows on from Joe Marston (1954), Craig Johnston (1986 & 1988) and Tim Cahill (2004).

The fact he is there is largely thanks to the faith of his manager Rafael Benitez and Kewell has the chance to really show Liverpool fans that he really is one of them and that he belongs at this club, whom he supported as a boy growing up in Sydney-s west.

For after that European Champions League final, Kewell-s footballing career appeared to be on very shaky grounds.

The very nature of his injury had many doubting he would be able to make it back to his Leeds United days, where he terrorised Premier League defences week after week and scored the odd spectacular goal.

But not only that, the Liverpool fans were against him. He was booed off the pitch that night in Turkey by Liverpool fans, as they didn-t believe he had the commitment or desire for the game, which for English supporters are two things they pride most in players.

To be fair to Kewell, his selection in the starting line-up was a surprise to most, as he had been playing with the injury and had been out of action leading up to the game.

However with Australia-s English-based physio Les Gelis and Strength and Conditioning coach Anthony Crea, assisting Liverpool medical staff in his rehabilitation, Kewell-s progress and return to the park for the 2005-06 season gained momentum.

Boudewijn Zenden-s arrival meant he was down the pecking order, but in Kewell-s case it was always a work in progress and getting him back to a level where he could play consistently.

After finally getting back to the training paddock, Kewell suddenly found himself back in the first team after a season-ending injury to Zenden. It was a slow start and the fans were still not convinced, but Kewell-s performances were improving, especially in the lead up to Australia-s most important matches in four years, the World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay.

His performance in the second leg of those qualifiers, saw several Kewell ‘moments of magic-, including terrific build up play that led to Australia-s goal on the night. You knew his confidence was restored when he stepped up to coolly slot home Australia-s opening penalty in the shootout.

From that moment on, any self doubts he may have had disappeared.

Since then he has blossomed and slowly and surely those doubting Liverpool fans are now warming to him, especially with he being an integral member of a winning team that narrowly missed out on automatic Champions League place and that reached the FA Cup, beating the likes of Chelsea on the way.

His form in the semi final win over Chelsea should have been enough to convince fans of his value to the squad, although towards the end, he strained his groin again, which placed his participation in this match into doubt.

However a full game for Liverpool in its final Premier League game, eased those fears and unless Benitez has a sudden change of heart, Kewell should find himself starting on the left side of midfield and be a key attacking weapon for the Reds.

Emulating one of his Liverpool heroes in Johnston will be something Kewell will be aiming to do, and while not one the dwell on the past, you sense if he can play an influential game for Liverpool and they get a win, Kewell will feel a great sense of redemption and satisfaction.