A man that Liverpool fans will remember more than most.,this week ‘Forgotten Friday’ looks back on the career of Neil Mellor.
Mellor was thrown in at the deep end by Gerard Houllier in the 2002-2003 season as a relative unknown. He was a striker with a big presence and threw his weight around very effectively. He made an impression that season at Liverpool.
Mellor scored in their Worthington Cup semi-final first-leg at Sheffield United. They lost that game but they went on to win the second leg and defeat Manchester United in the final, giving Mellor a taste of success.
Mellor was given a start in their F.A Cup third round clash with Manchester City in the same season, showing that Houllier had faith in him. A lot of Liverpool’s strike force failed to deliver that season; Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Milan Baros and El-Hadji Diouf all struggled at times and Mellor was seen as a real prospect for the future.
Mellor certainly contributed to some of Livepool’s successes, particularly in the 2004-2005 season when Liverpool won the Champions League. His best moment of quality that year occurred in their Premier League clash with Arsenal at Anfield. Liverpool and Arsenal were tied at 1-1 when the ball broke to Mellor around twenty-five yards from goal. He hit a half-volley sweetly into the corner to secure a 2-1 victory. It was one of his finest moments in a Liverpool shirt.
Mellor’s most significant moment in a Liverpool jersey took place in their final group game of the 2004-2005 Champions League season against Olympiakos. Liverpool trailed 1-0 at half-time and needed to win by two clear goals to qualify for the knock-out stages. They won 3-1 and everybody will remember Steven Gerrard’s last minute screamer, but it is easy to forget that Mellor came on that night and helped Liverpool to play a more direct style.
After coming on, Mellor scored their second goal and set up Gerrard for the third with a great cushioned header. That was the game the set Liverpool on their way to Istanbul.
Mellor’s role in that historic comeback is something that is underrated and underestimated. He changed the way they attacked that night and played a part in the last two goals. He did not feature in the latter stages but played a big role in getting Liverpool there.
Injuries became a problem for Mellor soon after and he failed to feature regularly again for Liverpool after that season. He had a lot of trouble with his knees and failed to become a Liverpool regular again. In 2006 he moved to Preston North End. He also had a loan spell at West Ham during his time at Liverpool. While at Preston, he had a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday.
Mellor continued to struggle with injury and never reached his potential heights. He looked like a man who could be a hero of the Kop but in the end proved to be a ‘bit-part’ player in the second tier of English football. He announced his retirement in 2012 at the age of 29.
He is now a regular pundit and reporter on Gillette Soccer Saturday. He will be remembered quite well by Liverpool fans, but others may struggle to remember his career. He is a forgotten man of football but may stay in the spotlight through his current work with Sky Sports.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena