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|Mellor: I won't celebrate if I score against Liverpool!|
[b]I won't celebrate if I score against Liverpool! Split loyalties for 'Gerd' Mellor[/b]
By Chris Wheeler
Last updated at 12:17 AM on 03rd January 2009
He might just give a little nod in the direction of his old friend Jamie Carragher but there will be no celebration if Neil Mellor scores to help Preston knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup on Saturday.
He has too much respect for a club where he spent seven years working his way through the ranks, too strong a relationship with their supporters to contemplate anything like that.
So much so, there was a time when Mellor wondered if he would even be able to line up against the famous red shirts.
He will discover just how it feels for the first time when Rafa Benitez takes his side to Deepdale for a hazardous third-round tie.
For 26-year-old Mellor, a determination to do his job and score for Preston sits awkwardly with how he will react if he succeeds.
[color=Blue]"Will I celebrate if I score? No way. Not at all,"[/color] promised Mellor, who has already hit eight goals for Preston this season.
"Obviously it is something I am desperate to do on a personal and professional level.
[color=Blue]"Anyone who scores against Liverpool would be made up. But if I do score, there is no way I’ll celebrate. That’s for sure.[/color]
[color=Blue]"I’d be pleased for myself but I’d show respect to the club and the fans.[/color]
[color=Blue]"I learned everything I know at Liverpool and had some great times there. It would be disrespectful for me to celebrate scoring against them.[/color]
[color=Blue]"I’d love to score and for Preston to win but I’d settle for grabbing a couple in a 2-2 draw and take them back to Anfield."[/color]
That isn’t to say Mellor would not find a quiet moment to rib Carragher.
He said: "I’d love to score against him again.
"Jamie’s the life and soul down there. In training he was always winding me up saying I wouldn't score past him and I'd give him a little nod when there was a minute to go because I usually had."
Mellor experienced some famous highs in a Liverpool shirt, most notably his 30-yard winner against Arsenal in front of the Kop in November 2004, and Champions League heroics against Olympiakos just weeks later when he came off the bench to point Benitez’s side towards glory in Istanbul later that season by scoring one goal and setting up another for Steven Gerrard.
The Liverpool fans immediately took to a player who had emerged through the youth system and the club magazine nicknamed him ‘Gerd Mellor’.
But there were also lows, in particular the knee problems that led to an early departure from Anfield in the summer of 2006 and could have ended his career.
Mellor needed six operations to cure tendinitis but has now gone two years without further surgery.
"There was a very dark time when I thought my career was over," he said.
"But I stayed positive and those positive times against Olympiakos and Arsenal gave me the belief that I could come back and achieve certain things again in my career."
The FA Cup also brought mixed fortunes. His first Cup tie was also the last at Maine Road where his dad Ian used to play for Manchester City, the club Neil grew up supporting before switching his allegiance to Anfield.
He came on as a substitute in the humbling defeat to Burnley four years ago, but was injured (and cup-tied following a loan spell at Wigan) when Liverpool lifted the Cup the following season with an epic win over West Ham in Cardiff.
"With Liverpool we had that many trips to Cardiff and more often than not we tended to stay down there," said Mellor.
"But with Rafa we flew straight back and had our parties in Liverpool. It was to share it with the people.
"The plane was rocking and when we got to the restaurant we were upstairs looking down and all the fans were made up for us.
"The FA Cup was on the dance floor and probably got knocked a bit after midnight!
"To me, growing up a young English lad, the FA Cup means so much.
Nowadays, with the amount of foreign players coming into the game they don't understand how special it is to the English people and fans."
Born in Sheffield, Mellor was what you would call an adopted Scouser.
There is no accent but his affinity for the city is clear.
"Before I signed the club didn’t mean that much to me but it means everything now," he said.
"A lot of people can’t believe I don’t sound Scouse. I live in Liverpool, I love the city and the people.
'I’ve bonded really well with them.
"I often wondered if I ever wanted to play against Liverpool in my career.
"Obviously I enjoyed my time there but did I ever want to face them as an opponent?"
Saturday evening will bring answers but no celebrations.
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