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Peter Grant rues ‘unbelievable’ Steven Gerrard in Liverpool FA Cup final – as Dunfermline aim to heap misery on Rangers

Grant v Gerrard
Grant v Gerrard

“Thanks for reminding me about that,” laughs Peter Grant, when asked about his most memorable professional encounter with Steven Gerrard.

The Dunfermline boss is being quizzed about the FA Cup final of 2006.

Grant was a pivotal member of Alan Pardew’s coaching staff at West Ham and, like everyone of an Irons’ persuasion, thought the trophy was heading back to London.

Until Gerrard stepped up.

The Liverpool captain — only in a deeper position because of fatigue and a niggling knock, Grant comments, ruefully — lashed home a 30-yard blockbuster to make it 3-3 in extra-time.

Like Olympiakos and Istanbul, it was one of those days which cemented Gerrard’s legacy. The Reds would go on to finish the job on penalties and Grant was left to consider what might have been.

“We had kept him quiet and felt he was struggling,” recalled Grant. “I don’t know if he had a slight calf injury or a bit of fatigue — it was a really tough game.

“Nevertheless, we had done our job well and then Yossi Benayoun goes to flick it to the edge of the box and misses it. Steven would usually be in the box, but he was further back in the pitch.

“He ran on, lashed it in and the rest is history. It was an unbelievable performance from a guy who did that so many times for Liverpool.”

Mission improbable

However, Grant has a little known unbeaten record to defend when Dunfermline visit Ibrox in the last-16 of the Premier Sports Cup.

He has crossed swords with Gerrard on one occasion as a coach — ‘he’ll not remember; you try not to remember the games you lose’ — when they were bosses of Fulham and Liverpool’s respective youth sides.

“We were part of an international tournament over in Basel, Switzerland,” he recalled. ‘We beat them 3-1 in the semi-final!” Suffice to say Dunfermline’s task is altogether more onerous tomorrow.

A despondent Gerrard watches Rangers lose out to Malmo
A despondent Gerrard watches Rangers lose out to Malmo

The Teddy Bears are a wounded animal following three successive defeats and, having watched their favourites ship three goals against Partick Thistle on Saturday, many Pars fans are fearing a backlash.

But Grant, as ebullient and positive as ever, points to his own career as evidence that Dunfermline can register their first triumph at Ibrox since 1972 — particularly in the form of Birmingham’s Carling Cup final win over Arsenal in 2011.

Grant was on Alex McLeish’s coaching staff and adds: “We were the major underdogs and weren’t expected to win — and we go out and beat Arsenal. That is the beauty of football. Favourites are there to be beaten.

“I also went into a play-off final with West Ham as massive favourites and we lost to Crystal Palace. Nothing is ever certain.”

Grant, front row, second from left, laps up the Birmingham celebrations
Grant, front row, second from left, laps up the Birmingham celebrations

Urging his players to lap up the occasion, Grant continued: “This is a game they should embrace and be excited by. What an opportunity to go and play in an arena like Ibrox and see if they can handle it.

“It’s a fantastic showcase for players — go and put in a performance of a lifetime and prove you can play on the biggest stage.”

‘Long, dark, lonely days’

Grant, a veteran of 483 appearances with Celtic as a player, also illustrated some empathy with Gerrard as he faces the scrutiny of media and supporters following their Champions League exit.

It is an Old Firm tale as old as time, he contends.

“You are the king of the castle one week, the you are not good enough two weeks later,” said the Pars boss. “That’s the fact of things up here and it’ll never change. I had it my whole career.

“That is the nature of the beast — and those are the pressure Steven will want to work under.

“Everyone is striving to be successful and win trophies and if you ask a manager whether they want to be at the top, challenging for championships and playing European games — of course they would.

“But the long, dark, lonely days come along with that.

“This doesn’t make them a bad team overnight. There is much more to come from Rangers — but let’s hope that starts after Friday.”

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