It was 2003, the days before the X Factor and The Only Way Is Essex, when Twitter was consigned to the birds and when West Ham United had been relegated from the English Premier League.
It was also when our then manager Glenn Roeder said “I’m of the same opinion as Gérard Houllier. He’s an excellent prospect and he’s come in here on a year’s loan.” He was, of course, talking about young Liverpool striker Neil Mellor. Neil Mellor came to West Ham with a handful of matches for the Liverpool first team but a prolific goal scoring record for their reserves.
However West Ham never saw the best of him, despite scoring a brace against Crystal Palace in late September he failed to hit the back of the net again in the league that season. Glenn Roeder’s sacking and subsequent manager Alan Pardew’s protracted appointment didn’t help matters and he was soon back in the Liverpool reserves. However in the 2004-5 season, Mellor was given his break in the Liverpool first team and he took it well.
He scored the match winner from 30 yards against Arsenal at Anfield and also helped Liverpool to progress to Champions League knock out stages with a goal and an assist in a crucial game against Olympiacos. Fortune didn’t favour him and he was ruled out for the rest of the league season missing out on Liverpool’s Champions League win in Istanbul. Further knee injuries hampered his progress in the first team and he was eventually loaned to Wigan and then signed for Preston North End permanently in August 2006.
Injuries quickly took their toll and in December 2011; a knee injury sustained following a tackle by Milton Keynes striker Jabo Ibehre resulted in Mellor being forced into announcing his retirement on May 9, 2012 aged 29. Following a number of injuryhit seasons he amassed 38 goals in 130 league matches at the Deepdale stadium. His career was beset by injuries but following an unremarkable loan with West Ham many would not have seen him returning to Liverpool and playing such a large part in their success in the mid 2000’s
It reminds you that a football career can be a cruel temptress and Mellor will know that more than most.