Kewell thanks loyal Rafa

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Rejuvenated Liverpool star Harry Kewell has paid tribute to Rafa Benitez for keeping faith with him during his injury problems.

The Australian has struggled to live up to expectations since his move from Leeds to Liverpool three seasons ago.

Kewell saw last term blighted by injury, but he has now earned a regular run in the side after returning to fitness.

The left-sided winger is now beginning to show Liverpool fans glimpses of his old Leeds form and Kewell has put it down to the unswerving loyalty of Benitez and the Liverpool coaching staff.

Kewell netted his first goal in 13 months earlier this month in the win over Tottenham and the Australian international was delighted to be finally back on the scoresheet.

"It feels great and it is something I've looked forward to and it was just nice to be on the end of it," said Kewell of his goal.

"I never lost confidence because the manager has been my biggest supporter within the club.

"A lot of people criticised me over the last year and a bit saying my heart is not in it and this and that but he's always backed me 110 percent.

"It just goes to prove that with him playing me now that he has a lot of confidence in me which I'm really grateful for.

"I did need a lot of it especially from the club because they all knew what I was going through. It was a difficult injury to get over and it was important I had the full support of my club, which I did.

"I kind of just forgot about it [the criticism], concentrated on myself getting fit. People were going to say things about me whether they knew the truth or not and at end of day there was no sweat off my back you know.

"I was always going to play again but wondering if I was ever going to play to the level I knew I could play at I did question myself halfway through the injury.

"It was hard and very difficult for me to think is this pain ever going to go away? But again I had the doctor, my medical staff and even the Australian medical staff were helping me saying I have got to persist with this and I have got to do this."

Kewell admitted going off injured in last season's UEFA Champions League final left him at his lowest ebb after tearing his groin early in the first half of the victory over Milan.

"The manager told me I was playing the biggest game of my life. Then 20 minutes in going for a tackle the groin snapped. It was horrible.

"The game was mixed emotions for me as on a personal level it was a nightmare. It was something I wanted to be part of on a personal level and I felt I hadn't contributed, but the team did fantastic and I was so proud of the team."

Kewell is hoping his injury problems are finally behind him and he is excited at the prospect of playing in this summer's World Cup finals.

"I don't want to think about the past. I wake up every morning and just look forward now because it is the best thing for me to do," added Kewell.

"I have had such a horrible last year and I am looking forward to a great tournament [World Cup] coming up and it is all rosy for me at the moment."