John Arne Riise, Liverpool's Champions League-winning full-back renowned for his pace and powerful left foot, has now added an FA Cup to his kitty. After suffering a slump in form and confidence for two years, he has rediscovered himself under manager Rafael Benitez, writes ANDY HAMPSON.

John Arne Riise, the Champions League-winning full-back or winger renowned for his pace and powerful left foot, has now added an FA Cup to his kitty when his club Liverpool defeated West Ham in an exciting final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Interestingly, Norwegian Riise joined Liverpool in 2001, a few months after Liverpool had last won the FA Cup, and ever since he has proved an important member of the side both defensively and in attack. Riise was born in Molde in Norway and began his football career with Aalesunds. He moved to French League side Monaco as a 17-year-old in 1998 and spent three seasons in the Principality. He made 44 league appearances and won a Ligue 1 title in 2000. By this time Liverpool's French manager Gerard Houllier had become aware of his progress and took him to Anfield in a GBP4.6million deal in the summer of 2001. Liverpool were on a high at the time having won a cup treble in 2000-01 but Riise slotted straight into the side and made his debut in the Charity Shield win over Manchester United. He followed up with his first Liverpool goal in the European Super Cup match — on his old ground at Monaco — against Bayern Munich. His rampaging runs down the left flank soon caught the eye and his impressive Liverpool start continued with a fine solo goal against fierce rivals Everton in September. He ended his first season at the club with 10 goals.

Such had been the impact of his first year on Merseyside that the following campaigns were relatively disappointing by comparison. His form dipped at times and he could not cement a regular place at the back or in midfield. The 2002-03 and 2003-04 campaigns were not among Riise's most memorable, even though they included a League Cup triumph. His form tailed off in 2003 and he went through the whole of the 2003-04 season without scoring a goal.

All that changed after the arrival of Rafael Benitez in 2004. Riise's form and confidence were restored and he became a vital member of the side that stunned Europe by progressing to and winning the Champions League final in May 2005. He was the only Liverpool player to miss in the penalty shoot-out that secured the Cup but he nonetheless played a major part. He also scored a spectacular first-minute goal in the Carling Cup final defeat by Chelsea. He again scored against Chelsea in this season's FA Cup semi-final but this time finished on the winning side. Internationally, Riise has risen through the Norway under-age teams and established himself in the senior side during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. He has been a first choice ever since.

Riise recently divorced from his wife Guri Havnevik after just one year's marriage. They have a daughter together, Ariana. Riise recently described himself as single and concentrating on his football. He made tabloid headlines in his homeland, however, when it was alleged he had sent the same text message — describing the recipient as cute and sexy and saying that he was hoping for a date — to a number of Norwegian celebrity women. One newspaper even made the story into a cartoon strip. Riise has refused to discuss the matter.

Liverpool striker Peter Crouch was recently asked which of his team-mates had the best car. His reply, after just a short pause, was Riise. He owns a smart red Ferrari F340 and had the cameras clicking when he arrived at a Norwegian TV studio in it to make a guest appearance in the comedy programme `Hos Martin'.

Position: Defender Club: Liverpool D.O.B.: 24/09/80 Norway Caps: 51 Norway Goals: 5 Norway Debut: v Iceland, February 2000 Moment to remember: Riise struck two fine early goals against Ipswich on the final day of the 2001-02 season. Liverpool had needed o win to secure second place in the Premier League and Riise's brace put them on course for a 5-0 success. His most emphatic Liverpool goal, however, was a thunderbolt free-kick against Manchester United in November 2001 that secured him hero status.

Moment to forget: Riise managed to beat his own goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek with a spectacular header in a 2-0 defeat by Southampton in January 2002. The Reds had hoped to move up into second place in the Premier League but all hopes of that were dashed when Riise, soon after being introduced as a substitute, managed to divert a Marian Pahars cross into his own net from distance.


"Maybe it's my biggest, bravest, boldest gamble. If you take a 17-yearold boy to the World Cup of course you cannot be sure. The feeling is that he is ready for it. I don't think he will be nervous or feel the pressure."

- England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson on his shock decision to call up Arsenal's Theo Walcott for the World Cup even though he has not played a first-team match for Arsenal. "I haven't seen him play live. I've seen him maybe three times in training"

- Eriksson admits he has not seen Walcott play.

"He was doing his theory test for his driving exam and his dad was waiting for him in a local car park. His dad came out sprinting from the car to tell him the great news before he was accosted by an Arsenal fan. His dad had received a phone call from the FA and also heard it on the radio in the car"

- Theo Walcott's agent Colin Gordon on how the 17-year-old heard about his shock call-up.

"I just wanted to get away from things. We went home, switched off all the televisions and played World Cup Monopoly"

- Walcott on how he celebrated his England call-up.

"I remember the (World Cup) stickers. I used to collect them when I was about nine and show them to the kids at school. I met Michael Owen when I was about 10 when I was a ballboy at Stamford Bridge, so that was special because he was my hero"

- Walcott again.

"The boys have indicated they favour Shirley more than myself and certainly more than (assistant manager) Peter Grant. We are both sweating a bit"

- West Ham manager Alan Pardew on the success of tea lady Shirley Austin, who gave the team-talk ahead of the final Premiership match of the season against Tottenham after winning a tipping competition with the manager.

"I said to the lads `you only sing at the end' _ and we were singing at the end"

- Striker Thierry Henry on Arsenal's final-day qualification for the Champions League after many commentators had predicted Tottenham would finish fourth in the league.

"I'm still having goose bubbles."

- Arsenal's German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann during the celebrations staged to mark the closure of Highbury. "In a war, if you are going to fight the Germans and you haven't any generals you don't ask them if you can borrow one because they have four."

- Former England manager Terry Venables on his opposition to foreign coaches taking over the national team.

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