Accrington Stanley star: The day I took on Liverpool in Champions League
CHRIS King is the envy of his Scouse team-mates at Accrington Stanley – having played in a dream Champions League tie at Anfield.
The Reds left-back lined up against Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Jose Reina for Welsh outfit TNS three years ago, just a couple of months after Liverpool beat AC Milan to become the European Cup champions.
Despite crashing 3-0 on the night, with Gerrard bagging a hat-trick, it was an experience King will never forget.
“It’s the biggest game I’ve ever played in,” said the 27-year-old. “Playing Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League – it doesn’t get any bigger. It was amazing.
“It was the draw everyone at TNS wanted, especially as Liverpool had just won the Champions League in Istanbul. We were all made up.
“Anfield was packed to the rafters. All their fans turned out because it was their first home game since winning it and they wanted to celebrate all over again.
“Liverpool put out their first team. They wanted to see us off so they could put their feet up and relax for the second leg!
“They had everyone playing – Reina, Carragher, Gerrard, Hyypia. It was a great side with great players.
“I was marking Darren Potter at left-back. After being run ragged for 70 minutes, they then decided to bring Djibril Cissé on! He’s rapid, but it was a great challenge.”
Liverpool eventually chalked up a 6-0 aggregate win over TNS, after beating the Welsh part-timers 3-0 in the second leg.
But that was to prove King’s second European outing against Premier League opposition, having faced Manchester City in the UEFA Cup in 2003.
The opening leg – in which City cantered to a 5-0 victory – was the first competitive match at the City of Manchester Stadium.
King said: “I can’t ever knock the European experience I had playing for TNS. That part of it was fantastic.
“Getting into Europe with a chance for big nights against Liverpool and Man City was a such a huge reward, especially with the teams you could get.
“You always want the big games. They are the games you play for in your life, and we went all over Europe.
“I’d also played in places like Sweden and Latvia and we were coming up against good teams.
“Last season, we went out on away goal to Ventspils of Latvia – that was the closest we came for a while to progressing through the Champions League.”
While extremely unlikely to enjoy any European action with Stanley, King is more than happy sacrificing the odd ‘big night’ with TNS for the English game.
After spending six seasons in the Welsh Premier League, the son of former Tranmere player Alan King admits he needed to move on.
King said: “Obviously, the English Football League is a better standard than the Welsh Premier League. You’re coming up against better teams, week in, week out.
“In England, you are playing at a higher tempo, and it’ll be good to play in front of bigger crowds. I’m really looking forward to that side of it.
“Looking at the fixture list, I can’t wait for the Carling Cup tie at Wolves. That’s a great draw for us so early in the season.”
King, who has played once at the Fraser Eagle Stadium, in a reserve team game for Southport, admits his father remains a big influence on his career.
And he is looking forward to making his dad proud when he wears Accrington’s red jersey.
“There was always an ambition to be a footballer,” he said. “But my dad never pushed me down that path. I was just always aware that I wanted to be a footballer.
“It’s good to have him to speak to.
“He comes to watch a lot of my game – so I’m quite lucky in that respect. I’m sure you’ll see him at Accrington this season, shouting at me during games!”