WE FEATURE A FORMER MAGPIE WHO WENT FROM MEADOW LANE TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GLORY
Steve Finnan is the holder of a remarkable statistic - he is the only player to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, the top five tiers of English league football and La Liga.
He is perhaps best known for his spell with Liverpool when he won the Champions League in 2005, however the Irishman spent the best part of two and a half seasons at Meadow Lane at the beginning of his career.
Born in Limerick, Finnan's journey to the pinnacle of European football was long and arduous. His departure from Ireland was for Chelmsford where he began playing in Wimbledon's youth set-up. His first club was not a particularly glamorous team as his footballing story began with Welling United in 1993. The sixteen-year-old spent two seasons in the Conference before being signed by Birmingham City for £100,000 in 1995. Finnan only managed fifteen appearances for the second-tier side before he was sent out on loan to Notts County.
His step down to English football's third tier proved to be a learning curve for Finnan. He bedded himself into the team following his arrival in the March of 1996 where he was a mainstay of the side toward the tail end of the season
The Magpies had a successful campaign which saw them finish fourth and enter the play-offs. Finnan scored in the semi- final first-leg and helped the side reach the final against Bradford City - unfortunately, County were defeated, and Finnan returned to Birmingham from his loan spell.
Three months into the 1996-97 campaign, Finnan had made only three appearances for The Blues and an offer was accepted from Notts County. He returned to Meadow Lane on a permanent transfer for £300,000.
The aim was to go one step further than the previous campaign and achieve promotion. However, the season that followed was a disaster for the club as they finished bottom and were relegated to the Third Division.
In his first full season at the club Finnan was an ever-present in a dominant side that created County history. Finnan was a pivotal part of a team that broke countless records, as The Magpies stormed to the league title. Sam Allardyce's team won the league at the earliest ever date (28th March 1998) and by the largest amount of points (19).
Steve's performances had not gone unnoticed and Fulham Manager Kevin Keegan pounced to secure his signature in November 1998 for £600,000. He went on to spend five seasons at Craven Cottage and won two league titles during his spell with The Cottagers.
Liverpool was the next giant step for Finnan's climb up the football ladder in June 2003. His first season was a struggle for form and a place in Gérard Houllier's Liverpool side. However, the following summer saw the start of Rafael Benitez's reign and provided Finnan a fresh opportunity to impress. His consistency became key once again as he played in 99 of the club's 114 Premier League games between August 2004 and May 2007.
His second season at Anfield will certainly be his best remembered as he was part of the Champions League winning side in the dramatic final in Istanbul. Finnan was substituted off at half-time due to an injury and was replaced by Dietmar Hamann as The Reds went on to claim the hallowed trophy. He was also part of the 2006 FA Cup winning side and the 2007 team that lost the Champions League Final to AC Milan.
Finnan lost his place in the side to Álvaro Arbeloa and left Liverpool in September 2008. The remaining years of his career were spent with Espanyol and Portsmouth, before he retired in 2010
Steve also made 53 appearances for the Republic of Ireland and represented them in the 2002 World Cup.
In over 600 career appearances Steve Finnan established himself as one of the most dependable defenders English football has seen and his record is one that is unlikely to ever be surpassed.