The 6ft 6inch stopper made a promising start to his professional career at Highfield Road under the guidance of veteran Sky Blues keeper Steve Ogrizovic. He soon impressed Coventry City manager Gordan Strachan who gave the young 18 year old his debut in the first team back in 1999 and by the end of the 2000-01 season he was voted Players Player of the year award.
The impressive form convinced his boyhood team Liverpool to part with £6m for his services which at the time made him the most expensive goalkeeper in British transfer history, at just 20 years old. Once at Anfield, the young Kirkwood would start as understudy to Polish No 1 Jerzy Duduk but after a loss in form, Gerard Houllier handed the new arrival a spell in the first team which he took with both hands by keeping six clean sheets in 14 appearances before injury struck. His five years as a red we’re blighted with a catalogue of injuries which resulted in him being sold to Wigan Athletic in 2006 for £2.5m after a successful loan period.
During his time at the JJB Stadium, Kirkham won his one and only cap for England against Greece in a friendly match which earned his dad a nice £10k pay out from the bookies. He would soon be recognised once again as the Players, Player of the year in his first full season. He went on to make 122 appearances for the Latics before injury stalled his career once again.
Before retiring in 2016, the talented keeper spent three years at Hillsborough for Sheffield Wednesday and a season at Deepdale for Preston North End before handing up his gloves. Without the injuries it’s a matter of what could have been for this imposing stopper.
90 seconds, 11 Q&A with Chris Kirkland:-
1) Childhood team growing up? The mighty reds, Liverpool FC.
2) First pair of football boots owned? A pair of classic Mitre boots.
3) Did you have a nickname in the dressing room and how did you get it? ‘Kirky’ for obvious reasons.
4) Favourite teammate? Republic of Ireland International winger Kevin Kilbane during our time at Wigan Athletic.
5) Toughest opponent? Portugal and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo. Unplayable.
6) Which player do you wish you’d had the chance to play with? I would have loved to have played in a team containing Virgil van Dijk marshalling the backline. A colossus.
7) Favourite football shirt you’ve played in? My first Liverpool shirt.
8) Best stadium for atmosphere? Has to be Anfield. Playing in front of the Spion Kop was special.
9) Biggest influence on your career? Coventry City legend Steve ‘Oggy’ Ogrizovic.
10) Most prized possessions from your playing days? My Liverpool debut shirt.
11) What keeps you busy these days? I’m an ambassador for the LFC Foundation. I also support an Mental Health charity called Walkings Brilliant.