Jermaine McGillvary will feel at home when England run out at Anfield

first_img“They all supported Liverpool, and it was definitely because of the John Barnes thing,” says McGillvary, who will win his 16th Test cap as England look to secure a series victory against the Kiwis. “All my uncles loved him, what with him being such a high‑profile black player at that time. They were young men growing up themselves and they adored him. They watched Liverpool because of him.“Off the back of it, I started watching Liverpool with them. For all my family he was a role model; they idolised John, and I idolised them, so it stuck with me.”It has stuck with McGillvary all the way to the present day. Though he is as passionate and proud of his Huddersfield roots as anyone you are likely to meet, there is a twinkle in McGillvary’s eye when discussion turns to him playing at Anfield – an opportunity that passed him by two years ago. Sam Tomkins still has ‘plenty of rugby left’ as England face Kiwis at Anfield Rugby league features Share on LinkedIn Since you’re here… Support The Guardian Twitter For all of England’s squad, the bright lights and big stage Liverpool and Anfield provide makes Sunday’s second Test against New Zealand extra special. There is, however, one member of Wayne Bennett’s squad in particular who can testify to the importance one of world football’s biggest clubs has played on his and his family’s life over the past 30 years.Jermaine McGillvary is not afraid to admit he was an impressionable child when he was growing up in Bradley – a working-class area of Huddersfield – in the 1990s. His shared a modest-sized house in the town with as many as nine family members, including several uncles who, in a family of Grenadian descent, had one particular black role model they looked up to in their youth. Share on WhatsApp Share on Twitter … we have a small favour to ask. 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Read more Pinterest Facebook He did not make his Super League debut until the age of 22, after formative spells in the lower leagues with Barrow and Batley; but McGillvary is now widely regarded as one of the best wingers in the world after playing an integral part in England’s run to the World Cup final.He made his debut for the national side in 2015, fearing then his time may have passed. “I couldn’t even dream of playing professional rugby league, let alone for England, and here I am,” he says.“This is the dream of so many players that couldn’t make it this far, so how can you not be happy? I had to wait too long for my international debut I felt, but it’s very rare you get to pull this shirt on regularly. You need to cherish every moment.”As a straight-talking Yorkshireman, McGillvary is also adamant that England’s players have an extra item on their agenda this autumn. Victory on Sunday would secure the series with a game to spare, which is no mean feat against a side who managed to defeat the all‑conquering Australians two weeks ago, before flying to England. Share via Email Topics Read more The Observer New Zealand rugby league I started watching Liverpool with my family. They idolised John Barnes Reuse this content Share on Facebook The NRL is still regarded as the gold standard for club rugby by some distance but McGillvary believes that should England manage to beat the Kiwis – without big names such as Sam Burgess, too – then it may soften the Antipodean approach towards the northern hemisphere.“For us to win a series against a team of NRL superstars, that will send out a statement that while people always see the negatives in Super League, there is a lot of quality,” he says. “Maybe it’ll help the competition take off. All we want to do as players is grow the game, and I don’t think we get enough credit in this country. Let’s get our players put on a pedestal like the NRL’s superstars.“I don’t think we, as English people, big our competition and our game up enough. We’re always trying to compare ourselves to Australia, aren’t we? Let’s celebrate what we’re good at. We need to keep acknowledging that because this team is in a good place.“As for me, who would have thought 10 years ago I would be here? It’s as exciting today as it was when I made my debut.” McGillvary touches down for England in their World Cup semi-final victory over Tonga. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images England rugby league team England missed out on the chance to play at Anfield in 2016 when they failed to reach the Four Nations final but since then the national side have been on an upward curve. Last year’s appearance in the World Cup final has been followed up with June’s 36-18 victory against New Zealand in Denver and then the 18‑16 success at Hull last Saturday in the opening Test of the three‑ match series. This England side, as their coach insisted last week, are one the nation can truly be proud of.“To get that opportunity to walk out there, it would just be a dream come true,” the 30-year‑old says of Anfield. “I did a promo with James Milner and Danny Ings about the Four Nations so to miss out on getting there was gutting. But that heartache gave this group inspiration to improve and we’ve made up for it since then.”McGillvary has made up for lost time in his own playing career. It was not until his late teens that his close friend Leroy Cudjoe, now a long-time Huddersfield team-mate, forced him to give rugby league a go. At that time, McGillvary was working night shifts in a hardware store. Share on Messenger Share on Pinterest The more England beat New Zealand, the less they fear NRL playerslast_img read more