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Steve McMANAMAN; Action never stops for Kop star chasing glittering prizes.

Laid-back Steve McManaman will approach the most critical phase of his career in typically relaxed mood.

Nothing and no-one seems to bother the easy-going Scouser.

And it's just as well, because over the next three weeks his season will reach the sort of knee-trembling climax that would make many players wilt with apprehension.

This is McManaman's hectic schedule for club and country:

The European Cup Winners' Cup semi-final second leg against Paris St Germain at Anfield on Thursday.

England's must-win World Cup qualifier against Georgia at Wembley the following Wednesday.

Then come the nerve-jangling final three games of Liverpool's pursuit of their first League title for seven years - against Spurs, Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday.

Next up - provided they come through this Thursday of course - will be the Cup Winners' Cup Final in Rotterdam on May 14.

And even then it won't be over for the 25-year-old, who will be wanted by Glenn Hoddle for this summer's controversial international tournament in June.

All this for a man who has played football virtually non-

stop for two years. But McManaman is a remarkable athlete and shows no sign of burn-out - either mental or physical. If he's got any energy left, he'll need it for the talks Liverpool are planning this summer to negotiate a new contract with with one of their most valuable players. McManaman, still with two years left on his current deal, reckons the pressures are far worse for the managers anyway. He says: "Pressure? What pressure. There are always going to be things that get you down, but in comparison to a manager, the players have got it relatively easy. "All we have got to do is go out there and play. A manager seems to have a thousand jobs these days, doesn't he? "From buying and selling players to contract talks, to going abroad to scout, to dealing with the media. "If Kevin Keegan thought all that was affecting him outside the game, his relationship with his family or whatever, then his was the only natural decision to take. "Fortunately, being a footballer and being a manager are entirely different jobs. It's definitely a lot worse being the gaffer." Don't mistake for one moment, however, that McManaman is a free-wheeling, footballing cavalier who doesn't care. If there's one thing that does make him bristle it is suggestions that he and his team-mates - once described as the Anfield brat pack - are happy to be under-achievers. He says: "Of course I care. I want to win everything with Liverpool and England just the same as the fans do. I want to achieve exactly what they want and they just have to believe me on that. "If I can still have a laugh and a joke after being beaten, that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed by what's happened, but I can't change my nature. "I'm pretty laid back off the pitch. If I get kicked, I just get up and get on with it." Apart from his philosophical nature, McManaman is blessed with the heart, lungs and legs of a thoroughbred racehorse. He's got the courage and stamina of a Red Rum coupled with the pace of a Shergar. Add his eye-blinking skills and you've got a pretty formidable opponent. Lawrie McMenemy, who handed him his first Under-21 cap before he had even played a first team game for Liverpool, once looked at his wiry frame and joked: "I've seen more fat on a chip." But that frame is built for the demands of the modern-game. Just take a look at McManaman's appearance record. He's already close to clocking up 300 games for Liverpool in just six seasons - that's an average of around 50 a campaign. And his remarkable resistance to injuries means he's missed just THREE games in the last three years. He runs more miles on the pitch than any other player yet comes off hardly in a sweat. It's no surprise then to learn he was a schoolboy cross-country champion. He says: "I can run all day. Running has never been a problem for me. "I'm told I once beat Curtis Robb in my school days and I went along to a Liverpool Harriers training session once. But football's always been my first love." The man who makes Liverpool tick is having to get used to some special attention. But he even makes light of the man-markers who seem to be shadowing his every step this season. "It doesn't bother me. When these guys disregard the ball and follow me about, it's quite funny, actually. "They spend so much time running next to me that I end up nattering with them, talking about any old rubbish. "You have to put them off any way you can - even if it's by boring them stupid!" If McManaman has one weakness it's his finishing - and he knows it. Boss Roy Evans believes he should get between 15 and 20 goals a season from the chances he gets. Ironically, his best tally is still the 11 he hit in his very first full season, 1991-92. And he has yet to open his account for England after 18 appearances. He admits: "People say that finishing is my big weakness and if there's a part of my game that I need to improve then yes, that would be it. I know more than anybody that I should perhaps get more goals and it certainly isn't something I'm complacent ab out. "I practice hard every day in training on my shooting. "In fact, I'm probably better at scoring goals than Robbie Fowler on the training ground. "But once we get into the real match action, Robbie has that killer instinct which all good strikers need, whereas I don't get as many goals as I should. "I'd love to score more and I'm working on it. But actually I'd prefer to blame Robbie for the criticism! If he wasn't so sharp, I wouldn't look so bad!" Evans already rates Macca as "priceless". And If he can add a regular goal touch to his all-round game, he would undoubtedly be a world-beater.

FACT FILE Born: Liverpool, February 11, 1972. Height: 5ft 11. Weight: 10st 6lb. Club supported: Everton. hero: Duncan Mackenzie. FIRST CLUB: Joined Liverpool on schoolboy forms at 15. First job: To clean John Barnes boots. Signed professional: February, 1990. Debut: December 1990 (came on as sub for Peter Beardsley in 2-1 win over Oldham). First goal: August, 1991 (Man City 2, Liverpool 1.) Man of the match: 1992 FA Cup Final (Liverpool 2, Sunderland 0.); 1995 Coca-Cola Cup Final (Liverpool 2, Bolton 1 and he scored both goals). England Under-21 debut: December, 1990 England 0, Wales 0. England debut: November, 1994 (England 1, Nigeria 0 sub for Robert Lee). England caps: 16. Goals: 0. Liverpool record: 1990-91: Played 6 (all as sub). Goals 0. 1091-92: Played 51 (4 as sub). Goals 11. 1992-93: Played 40 (4 as sub). Goals: 7. 1993-94: Played 34 (2 as sub), Goals: 2. 1994-95: Played 55. Goals 9. 1995-96: Played 53: Goals 11: This season: Played 43. Goals 9 (up till April 12). How they stand after first leg of Euro semi-finals UEFA Cup Tenerife 1 Schalke 0 Internazionale 3 Monaco 1 Second-leg matches to be played April 22. EUROPEAN CUP Ajax 1 Juventus 2 Borussia Dortmund 1 Manchester United 0 Second-leg matches to be played April 23. Cup-winners' Cup Paris St Germain 3 Liverpool 0 Barcelona 1 Fiorentina 1 Second-leg matches to be played April 24.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Tanner, Richard
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 21, 1997
Words:1247
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