Signed for £750,000 in January 1992, Gary Ablett arrived at Goodison after a long and successful career on the other side of Stanley Park with Liverpool. A title winner in 1988 and 1990 and part of the team that defeated Everton in the 1989 FA Cup Final, Ablett was an accomplished centre half and left back, though perhaps lacked the additional ruthlessness that may have brought full England honours to add to his England B and Under-21 caps.
Powerful in the air, he possessed a rare composure in possession
Tall and gaunt, perhaps lacking a little pace, Ablett was nevertheless powerful in the air and possessed a rare composure in possession. Occasionally concentration eluded him, never more traumatically so than when he conceded a comical own goal when Everton faced Wimbledon on the last day of the 1994/95 season, needing to win to avoid relegation.
As left back under Joe Royle he was part of the team that won the 1995 FA Cup, but the following season, after the arrival of Craig Short and Andy Hinchcliffe’s reversion to full back, he found opportunities more difficult to come by. After a loan spell at Howard Kendall’s Sheffield United, and past his thirtieth birthday, he was allowed to join Birmingham City in summer 1996, where he formed a central defensive pairing with former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce.
Following spells in the lower leagues and in the United States, Ablett turned to coaching. In 2002 he became Everton’s under-17 coach and over the subsequent four years held down roles within the Everton academy. In summer 2006 he returned to Anfield to become Liverpool’s reserve manager. Later there was a spell in charge of Stockport County and as Roy Keane’s assistant manager at Ipswich Town.
In 2010 Ablett was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The disease spread with devastating ferocity, but Ablett fought it bravely and in the public eye, raising awareness of all forms of cancer. He succumbed to the illness on the first day of 2012, uniting Merseyside in mourning. At his funeral at the Anglican cathedral a week later it was fitting that the service began with a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and concluded with the theme from Z-Cars.