Hoping to return

Chris Kirkland has won just one England cap, against Greece in August 2006. That game netted his father £10,000 from a bet, placed when Kirkland was 11, that his son would represent his country before the age of 30, writes Andy Hampson.

Chris Kirkland is a former youth prodigy, once rated as one of England’s brightest goalkeeping prospects but his early career was ravaged by injuries. He failed to establish himself at Liverpool but is now re-emerging with another Barclays English Premier League club, Wigan Athletic.

Kirkland was born in the village of Barwell, Leicestershire, and began his career with Coventry City, then still in the EPL. He made his first-team debut at the age of 18 in a League Cup tie against Tranmere in September 1999 but it was his only appearance of that season.

He had to wait a whole year for his next chance, in another League Cup tie against Preston, but he made the most of the opportunity and went on to play another 26 times in the season. His progress continued the following season despite it proving a miserable campaign for Coventry, ending in relegation.

Kirkland’s emergence was one of the Sky Blues’ few bright spots but, not surprisingly, bigger clubs were quick to take notice and they were unable to keep him. Liverpool swooped in a GBP6 million deal in the summer of 2001. Yet, it was to prove a mixed blessing as Liverpool, remarkably, signed another goalkeeper the same day in Jerzy Dudek and it was the Poland number one who was given first chance.

Manager Gerard Houllier justified Kirkland’s signing as one for the future but in time the young Englishman was to find his Liverpool experience a frustrating one.

Dudek was the hero as Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League in the last of those seasons but new manager Rafael Benitez was unhappy with his inconsistency. It became obvious the Spaniard did not see Kirkland as the ideal replacement, however, as he brought in two more goalkeepers in Scott Carson and Jose Reina.

As a consequence Kirkland went on loan to West Brom for a season but endured another injury-hit campaign and made just 12 appearances. He moved on to Wigan in the summer of 2006, initially on a six-month loan deal but the move was soon made permanent.

He has since established himself as the Latics’ first choice and will be hoping to force his way back into the England set-up. He has won just one England cap, against Greece in August 2006. That game netted his father £10,000 from a bet, placed when Kirkland was 11, that his son would represent his country before the age of 30.

Kirkland is married to Leona, with whom he had a daughter in November 2006. Kirkland withdrew from the England squad for a friendly against Holland to attend the birth of his daughter.

Kirkland drives to training at Wigan’s Christopher Park in a sleek BMW X5 4.81SE.

Factfile Name: Chris Kirkland Position: Goalkeeper Club: Wigan DOB: 02-05-1981 England caps: 1 England goals: 0 England debut: v Greece, August 2006 Moment to remember

Years after first being tipped for England honours, Kirkland finally made his international debut against Greece in August 2006. It put behind him a number of near misses having been in previous squads or ruled out through injury. England won a one-sided match at Old Trafford 4-0.

Moment to forget

Kirkland suffered one of his most serious injuries when he collided with Crystal Palace’s Dele Adebola after just 22 minutes of an FA Cup tie in January 2003. He was carried off on a stretcher having suffered serious knee ligament damage and did not play again that season.

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