Gary Ablett - a lovely man who will be sadly missed
Gary Ablett, who has died at the age of 46, had a career to be proud of and will always be guaranteed a unique place in Merseyside football history.
Ablett, who had suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma for 16 months, was the first - and still the only - player to have won the FA Cup with both Liverpool and Everton.
He will also be remembered by anyone who ever had personal dealings with him as one of the game's genuinely nice men, something that can be said too easily at times like this but in Ablett's case so true.
Even as recently as November, when he celebrated his 46th birthday, he was replying personally to Tweets sent to him by well-wishers with good humour and remarkable optimism given the seriousness of his condition.
Ablett won FA Cups with both Liverpool and Everton. Photo: Getty
Ablett was popular not just with his fellow professionals but also with the media. Always willing to chat in good times and bad and with a lovely line in self-deprecating humour, his death at such an early age will be widely mourned.
As his family come to terms with their loss, they can reflect on a man who had a playing career anyone would be proud of. They can also reflect on someone who, even though fiercely committed on the field of play, was a gentleman off it. A credit to himself and the game.
As a player he made his name in Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool team of the second half of the 80s, performing with versatility and distinction as a left-back and central defender in a team that contained such stellar talents as Alan Hansen, Ian Rush and the player-manager himself.
Ablett was in Liverpool's side that won the post-Hillsborough FA Cup Final against Everton in 1989 and also won the title twice at Anfield, only being denied a third success by Michael Thomas's famous final intervention of that 1989 season that took the crown to Arsenal.
Perhaps the most remarkable turn of his career came in January 1992, when he left Liverpool for Everton in a £750,000 deal, a gamble by then manager Howard Kendall given the nature of the deal but one which was ultimately fully justified.
I recall Kendall passionately defending his move and the player at the time, maybe realising that Ablett's arrival from Anfield would not necessarily be a cause for widespread rejoicing on the royal blue half of Merseyside.
It was a move inevitably regarded with suspicion and scepticism by many Everton supporters and yet in the contrary manner that often marks out football fans, they were very careful not to show it given the courage Ablett had shown in making the move.
They got fully behind Ablett and once again, particularly under Joe Royle, the faith reaped dividends. Royle wisely used Ablett's defensive solidity as a safety valve to release the attacking instincts of Andy Hinchliffe, always happier providing telling deliveries for the likes of Duncan Ferguson.
Ablett was crucial to a game-plan that saved Everton from what looked like certain relegation until Royle's arrival. Ablett duly took his place in history in May 1995 when he played in Everton's side when they beat Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley to claim the FA Cup.
He may not have enjoyed those successes again as he embarked on a nomadic conclusion to a playing career that included a spell at Long Island Rough Riders in America - but his standing in the game ensured Ablett would be in demand as a coach.
Ablett's year-long managerial career at Stockport County was unfulfilling, hard times with the club in administration, but he showed his quality working with and guiding young players for four years at Everton's academy before becoming reserve team coach at Liverpool in 2006 for a three-year spell.
Roy Keane knew enough about Ablett to take him to Ipswich Town as a member of his backroom team, which is where he was when he was taken ill in 2010.
Ablett was held in genuine affection throughout the game and the tributes pouring in from a Merseyside football community united in sadness by his death are an accurate measure of a lovely man and a fine footballer.