Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock has described why he fell out of love with the club.
Warnock was part of the Liverpool squad who reached the Champions League final in 2005, featuring in four games en route to Istanbul.
But now – in an exclusive interview with Goal – he has described how an administrative mistake meant he thought he was going to be involved in the match-day squad, and then the victory bus left the airport without him and other fringe players.
“My opinion of the club changed,” said the defender who left Liverpool in 2007 for Blackburn. “When I hear Istanbul described as the greatest night in Liverpool’s history, it leaves a bit of a sour taste.
“I was supposed to be in the squad. The squad used to be put up on the board at Melwood, a squad of 18, and a couple of days before Istanbul the squad went up and I’m on the list. I’ve never got changed so quickly in my life! I got a shower, got in the car and was on the phone to everyone telling them: ‘I’m going to Istanbul, in the squad for a Champions League final!’ I was over the moon.
“Then about two hours later I get a phone call from Pako saying they’d made a mistake on the list, and that Josemi was in instead of me. I couldn’t believe it.”
Warnock then described how himself and other fringe players were left out of the post-victory celebrations, forced to watch the parade on TV after the bus had left the airport before the arrival of their plane.
“That was unforgivable,” he says. “I can remember watching it on Sky Sports News and thinking: ‘What’s going on?!’ A couple of lads did their own thing, got taxis and caught up to the bus and got on, but the rest of us just went home. We got a half-hearted ‘sorry’ when we went back to training after the summer and that was it.
“For me, that night spelt the end of my career at Liverpool, because of the way I was treated. It changed my opinion of the club because there are a host of people who could have handled things better. We may not have played, but we were part of that squad and should have been treated as such.
“For Rafa, during that season it was all about ‘the squad’ and everyone was in it together. Then after Istanbul, it became almost as if those 18 players had won the Champions League alone. When really others had played their part. Mellor had, Pongolle had, Le Tallec had, Scott Carson had.
“It wasn’t just me who felt that way. I know Neil Mellor and Sinama-Pongolle felt the same. It’s sad that a night like that can be tainted over something that could have been handled much better.”
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