Taken off The Telegraph on May 14, 1999
Author Steve McManaman

Talking Football: Steve McManaman

SO, farewell then, Steve McManaman. How strange to be writing that about myself, as I prepare for my last Liverpool game.

How do I feel? Well, mixed really. I've been at the club for 12 years, and when I leave behind all those memories, all that history, it will be a sad day in many ways. At the same time, I chose to leave because I decided to move on to new challenges, so I can hardly start getting all emotional and melancholy.

When I finally decided to join Real Madrid - after months of agonising, it has to be said - I knew there would be a mixed reaction from our supporters, and I expect nothing else at Anfield on Sunday.

I know how hard it is for the fans to see a long-serving player decide to leave. I can understand why they might get annoyed, and why some of them maybe turned against me a little. That's why it took me so long to make up my mind to go.

So it's not going to be a big emotional scene at Anfield, I know that. I remember the words of Kevin Keegan some months ago, when he told me how the fans had a go after he announced his decision to leave Liverpool in the 70s.

At the same time, I will be leaving behind a lot of friends among the players and staff, as well as my family, when I go to Spain.

I've built up a lot of relationships at the club. I look back, and I think that of all the players and even the coaching staff, I am the one who has probably had the longest unbroken spell.

Steve Staunton, Phil Thompson, Ron Yeats and Sammy Lee were all at Liverpool long before me, but they left and came back after I had joined. Strange really, but at the ripe old age of 27 I'm the old man around the place.

There have been days out at Wembley, cup final goals, wins over Everton, Manchester United, Auxerre and Newcastle. Then the emotion of Roy Evans going, Kenny Dalglish's astonishing announcement, Graeme Souness being taken into hospital for his heart by-pass operation.

I remember my first match almost as if it were yesterday. Dalglish had put me in the squad for quite a bit of the 1990-91 season, but I rarely got changed. Then I got changed, but never got off the bench.

Finally, in December, I was on the bench and he turned to me and barked: "Warm up." I knew then I was going on. It was against Sheffield United, and he just said to me: "Enjoy yourself." I sprinted on and spent the rest of the game chasing the ball like a 10-year-old, trying to get a kick.

Now, 360-odd senior games later, I'm leaving. In fact, it's probably over 500 games for Liverpool when you count reserves and friendlies.

That's why it will be a sad day tomorrow. There will be no more weird and wonderful haircuts from David James and Robbie Fowler, no more hotel rooms around the world shared with Robbie.

I'll miss the Liverpool lads, because they are a great bunch, but I will be back as much as possible to watch them. And I'll be willing them on too, hoping that they win the title next season. They deserve it.