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INTERVIEW: Hard work and dedication is really important

Gary Liddle on his 550 career appearances

30 January 2018

We spoke to defender Gary Liddle on Saturday evening shortly after he'd made his 550th career appearance in the home victory over Forest Green Rovers.

“The 550 appearances have absolutely flown by,” he said. “I think it’s been 11-and-a-half years, which averages out at 50 games a season, which is some going really.

"There’s been a bit of luck involved, because I haven’t really been injured, but there’s been a lot of hard work and dedication to go with it. I’ve also been lucky with managers because whichever club I’ve been at, they seem to have liked me and played me.

"I’m thrilled with it. It’s a good little milestone and hopefully there will be many more to come." 

“I do keep tabs on milestones like this," he admitted. "I’ve not long turned 31, so to play the number of games I have is great for me personally. I’ve loved every minute of it.

"I’ve played for some great clubs and in some amazing games, so there's plenty for me to look back on."

Most professional footballers will tell you they can remember their first ever senior game vividly, and that's no different for Liddle, who made his first run-out for Hartlepool United back in August 2006.

“I can still remember my debut," he told us. "It was Burnley away in the League Cup for Hartlepool and we won 1-0. Danny Wilson was the manager and he was the one who had brought me into the club.

"I’d just come back from a serious back injury and he took a chance on me at the time. It was a great day - but I never thought I would go on to make another 549 appearances after that."

“The best day of my career was when I was with Bradford and we played at Stamford Bridge," he recalled. "That was that famous FA Cup game where we won 4-2.

"I’ve played at Anfield as well, so I’ve been lucky enough to play at some great stadiums."

But have there been any periods when his enthusiasm for the game waned in any way?

“I’ve only really fallen out with the game through personal tragedy with family," he explained. "My sister went on holiday a year ago or so, and she suffered a life changing accident.

"Actually, it wasn’t really an accident. She had her drink laced with a chemical which caused kidney and liver damage, and also blindness. It put a completely different spin on life for me, because of what she went through. It was horrible at the time.

"It still makes me emotional now because it was a difficult time for the family, and it was hard to get through. We’re through it now, and she’s doing well, so we’re all able to look ahead again."

Having spoken emotionally about that incident, and the impact it had on his family, he confirmed that it had taught him a lot of lessons about being professional, but also about how life away from football has to be the priority. 

“I think the one thing I’ve learned during my career is that there are more important things than football," he commented. "You go through highs and lows in the game, whether you win 4-0 or lose 4-0, get man of the match or have a bad game, or anything that happens when you're out on the pitch.

"At the end of it you still have to go home, and I try to be the same however the game has gone. I think that’s been even more the case since I’ve had kids. I just refuse to let football affect me when I’m at home on my day off.

"I think that’s important. You’ve got to keep family life separate to football and I think that’s the main thing I’ve learned during my career." 

On players who influenced his career, he said: “Although I didn’t play with them, during my early career at Middlesbrough I trained a lot with Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu, and I loved the way they conducted themselves.

"Gareth was the club captain at the time, and to see how he worked and how he looked after himself was something I really admired. I’ve tried to model myself on that, and with the amount of games I’ve played since I’ve had to look after myself.

"I didn’t make my professional debut until I was 20, which is probably a little bit older than most, but I’d like to think I’ve worked as hard as Gareth did. 

“In terms of managers, Keith [Curle] has been a good manager for me. I obviously had him at Notts County and he was another who took a chance on me, because he didn’t know me at the time.

"I knew Colin West from my time at Hartlepool, so it was probably down to him that the gaffer took me to Notts County. I played well for him, which is probably why he brought me here as well. 

“I’ve been lucky with all of my managers. Even when managers have been sacked, and new ones have come in, they’ve all liked the way I’ve worked and to play me every week, as most have done, is something I’m proud of."

His move to Carlisle has seen him establish himself as part of solid defensive unit which has currently kept 13 clean sheets. This includes a run of three consecutive league shut-outs which has seen the Blues take seven points from nine in their last three games.

“I think it's fair to say it took me a while to settle here," he said. "When I came here from League One, where I’d spent ten consecutive seasons, I felt like I might have been trying too hard.

"I’ve simplified my game a little bit. I obviously had a bit of a spell out in the early part of this season and that gave me time to gather my thoughts.

“Since I got back into the team I’ve been on the right hand side of a back three, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my football. I think the clean sheet against Forest Green was our fourth in six games this year.

"We’ve got a great partnership going at the back and we’re getting the results to go with it at the moment." 

So does he have any advice for those lads who are setting off on the first steps of their career? 

“You don’t get to 550 career appearances completely through luck," he told us. "You’ve got to make sacrifices along the way. You’ve got to work hard and be dedicated ... but you do need a little bit of luck.

"I had a fairly serious spine injury when I was 19 or 20, which kept me out for a full year after I’d had the operation. I’ve got a few screws keeping that together, but thankfully I haven’t had any other serious injuries.  

“I think for any young lad starting out, the hard work is massive. It’s a bit of cliché, and a lot of players say it, but hard work and dedication is really important.

"People aim for the nights out and the money that comes with it, but if you work hard that will come by itself. It’s a long road but if you can do it you will reap all of the rewards." 

“There are hopefully many more games to come for me," he concluded. "To reach 550 as a 31-year-old is pleasing. Clint [Hill] got to 650 the other week, and I’ve got eight years on him, so we’ll see how many I can get!”

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