SAM INKSON...Eight years apart
AMONG the 89,000 strong Wembley crowd watching Liverpool and Chelsea wrestle for FA Cup glory on the weekend was Sam Inkson.
His name means little to local football fans these days, but wind the clock back eight years when a chance meeting with an Aussie film crew saw the then 11-year-old Liverpool lad score a plum role in a DVD tracking the meteoric rise of Harry Kewell.
Today Cool World (2004) is a somewhat naff glimpse into the hype surrounding the footballer’s much vaunted - and ultimately ill-fated - move to Anfield. But for Inkson, now a fulltime actor and occasional college student with a gift for stand-up, his first professional gig was never about the propaganda.
“I’d been going to Liverpool football matches since I was four and I already knew about Harry from his time at Leeds,” he told Australian FourFourTwo.
“Even at that age I knew what a fantastic player he was, so working on the DVD was brilliant.
“I got to spend about two days with him in his house at Leeds and there’s a scene at the end where we’re kicking a ball back and forth.
“For me to be playing football with a Liverpool player was just fantastic. You have to understand, for us it’s like a religion.”
One minute he was the Christmas crocodile in the school nativity play, the next he was checking out fast cars with one of the brightest stars in the Premier League galaxy. Then there was that ‘pinch me’ moment when he joined the film crew at the home of former Leeds legend and manager Eddie Gray.
“I remember ringing me cousin from the house and saying, ‘guess where I am,’ then passing the phone to Eddie Gray to speak to him,” he said.
“That whole three weeks of filming I was sort of living the dream. It’s one of those things where you can’t really believe what’s happening.”
As a young scouser he was the ideal choice to channel the wide-eyed wonderment the production needed. It was the convergence of boyhood dreams – the kid from Smithfield made good and the self-confessed ‘ultimate Reds fan’ with an accent straight out of Penny Lane.
It wasn’t to last of course. Kewell would leave Liverpool, Inkson never could.
“I always looked out for him, defended him, he weren’t just another player to me,” Inkson said of the Aussie superstar.
“I obviously admired him a bit more than some of the other players in the squad but towards the end he had to move on. He was starting to lose the fans the longer he stayed.”
It’s a well told story: despite a solid first season with the Reds – when he finished joint second best goal scorer – and a return to form in the third, Kewell’s time at Merseyside was cruelled by injury.
In the 2005 EUFA Champions League final, injured and substituted, he was booed from the field by his own fans. His low point arguably the club’s finest, clawing back a 3-0 half-time deficit against Milan to win the game in a penalty shootout.
Inkson recalls the game well: crying at half time with despair, crying at the end with elation. It was just a taste, he said, of the Reds of old, the title-winning heavyweights of the 70s and 80s his Dad often talked about, which had all but passed into footballing folklore.
Despite wearing the iconic No 7, Kewell never came close to securing legendary status at Anfield. In 2008 he moved to the Turkish Super Lig before returning home to much fanfare last year.
“I actually know more about Harry’s career now that he’s back in Australia than I did of his time at Galatasaray,” Inkson said.
“There’s a sports programme over here in the UK called Soccer AM and they have a segment called I’m an A-League celebrity – get me out of here!
“They started it off with Robbie Fowler when he was in the A-League and now they’ve carried it on with Harry Kewell. They show the highlights of every Victory game.”
‘Highlights’ might be over-reaching given the Melbourne club’s poor season. Then again Liverpool has been less than compelling. Putting aside the League Cup win that ended a six-year trophy drought, and last Saturday’s FA Cup final appearance (a 2-1 loss to Chelsea), it has been a disappointing campaign.
Inkson has never spoken to Kewell since filming finished but after all these years he wouldn’t mind catching up with the veteran Socceroo if the opportunity arose. What would they talk about? Liverpool of course.
“Yeah, it would be good to speak to him again and obviously get his account on how he thought he went at Liverpool and see what he makes of the club at the moment,” he said.
And maybe get an answer to the question that has nagged Australian football fans for years. “So what’s it like being Harry Kewell?” Inkson asks in Cool World. For just three weeks in 2004 he got a tantalising glimpse.