Wednesday 20 September 2017

Noone ready to raise roof against his Anfield heroes

Nick Szczepanik

released by Liverpool at 11, Craig Noone ended up working as a roofer on Steven Gerrard's house while playing non-league football.

Tonight the Brighton winger, a lifelong Reds fan who still refers to Kenny Dalglish's men as "we" finally shares a pitch with his heroes as Liverpool visit the Amex Stadium in the Carling Cup third round.

Noone was in the away end at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Liverpool lost 4-0 to Tottenham, only partly on a scouting trip.

"(Martin) Skrtel was playing right-back and I was thinking, 'am I going to play against him?', and then he got sent off. Another part of me was watching as a fan, cheering and singing Liverpool songs," he said. "It was disappointing, I don't think we started very well, Liverpool."

Steve McManaman was an early idol and influence, but another famed Liverpool wide player broke his heart after three years with the club.

"Steve Heighway was the one that released me. It was a horrible time for me, but I know Stevie quite well and every time I've bumped into him since, he's told me, 'well done,' and to keep going and I'll get to where I want to be.

"Games like this show how far I've come. I've proved a bit of a point by playing in the Championship, but I'm not going to settle for where I am. I'm only going to get better under the manager here (Gus Poyet)."

Noone (23) is also learning Spanish so that he can pick the brains of Vicente, recently signed by Poyet from Valencia. So far he has only asked him about former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, but it exemplifies that work ethic that took Noone back to the professional game via Skelmersdale, Burscough and Southport, where his life intersected with Gerrard's.

"He was getting a conversion done on the back of his house and I was working on it. I was there from 8.0 and saw him going off to training and back at 1.0 and I was thinking, 'I hope I get the chance to do that one day.'

"When I was working there I dreamed of playing against him, and now it's happening it's a bit surreal. Alan Navarro is a Scouser too and he's been saying he wants Gerrard's shirt, so we'll be fighting for it at the end if he plays."

Noone joined Brighton from Plymouth Argyle in January and has been one of Poyet's most consistent performers as the League One champions have continued where they left off last season.

Tonight he will be watched by 20 family and friends, including his former boss as a roofer. "We tested ourselves against Sunderland (beaten 1-0 in the second round), but this is going to be totally different. We're just going to play our normal game and see if we can be successful."

The Liverpool captain is expected to make his return to action tonight after a six-month lay-off, while Charlie Adam and Skrtel serve one-match bans after red cards at the weekend.

Daniel Agger could be out for up to four weeks after fracturing a rib in Sunday's 4-0 defeat at Tottenham. The Dane sustained the injury when he fell heavily in the first half. (© Independent News Service)

Brighton v Liverpool,

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