Thursday, January 31, 2008
Liverpool fans are set for a revolutionary move to rescue their ailing club by launching their own bid to buy Liverpool FC.
Operating under the name Share Liverpool FC, the newly-formed group intend to follow Barcelona’s example by finding 100,000 supporters to buy out co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
For more info go to : http://www.setantasports.com/en/Sport/News/Football/2008/01/31/Prem-Liverpool-fans-to-buy-club/
Rafael Benitez put on the spot as late Mark Noble penalty adds to misery
Is this the way it will end for Rafael Benítez, with a bang and a whimper? The bang was Jamie Carragher’s crass connection with Fredrik Ljungberg that gave Mark Noble an opportunity to score the winning penalty that he embraced with aplomb. The whimper was Liverpool’s performance.
“Let’s talk about football,” Benítez had said before last night’s match. It proved a dangerous statement, given a result and display as bad as this. Poring over the club’s balance sheets would have been less painful.
The defeat, as the Liverpool manager noted, was down to a mistake by one of the club’s most reliable players as West Ham United broke on the counter-attack. But the foul was a direct consequence of Liverpool leaving too few players back, which was caused by their desperation to find a goal that should have been scored long before.
There was an iota of possibility that Liverpool might win when Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres finally tuned into the same wavelength late in the second half, but despite Benítez picking arguably his strongest available line-up, this was a team lacking cohesion, confidence and sustained threat; insipid not inventive. After their poor recent form, Liverpool needed tempo. They produced tedium.Benítez’s team were neither effective nor entertaining — a serious problem, given the change of climate at the club. With surgery on the finances apparently successful, the focus switches from the owners’ tactics to the manager’s. The key calculation is not the repayment of the club’s debts but how many points it will take to secure Champions League qualification.
Liverpool’s most recent victory in the league was on December 26, a sorry streak confirming that they are challengers not to Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea at the top, but to Everton and Aston Villa for that least attractive of prizes, fourth place.
True, West Ham are difficult opponents. Despite Alan Curbishley, the manager, pledging ambition, he opted for a formation that implied cautious prodding rather than concerted pressing. Curbishley calls it 4-3-3, which is putting a positive spin on it. Whatever, they are hard to break down.
The tactics showcased Carlton Cole’s ability to play as a lone striker as Franco Baldini, Fabio Capello’s assistant, watched from the stands. Cole has garnered some buzz in the run-up to the England squad announcement today, a remarkable achievement for a player derided as feckless by a large tranche of his club’s support a couple of months ago.
Hardly prolific, but an energetic physical presence in the Emile Heskey mould, Cole is one for the pragmatist more than the purist. Much like West Ham as a whole. It may be a welcome relief after the stress of last season, but they look certain to finish in mid-table safety. So they are a side that a team with Liverpool’s pretensions ought to overcome and needed to overcome.
The horror of defeat seemed such a distant possibility: injuries mean that West Ham are damned by faint predators. “We’re getting the most out of what we’ve got,” Curbishley said. “The run-in starts now — let’s see what we can do.”
Still, West Ham are as nervous in front of goal as an MP filling out an expenses claim. Their starting XI had mustered only 12 league goals between them. Cristiano Ronaldo had scored as many by Boxing Day. Liverpool? Even worse. All toil, no threat, they demonstrated as much killer instinct as a posse of pacifist vegans.
With West Ham going long and Liverpool going nowhere, the ball was not in danger of collecting many grass stains. But the contest gradually became more open. Harry Kewell kicked air from a menacing cross by Dirk Kuyt and Luís Boa Morte fluffed a decent opportunity 11 minutes after the break, shanking a shot pitifully wide when the ball dropped kindly on the edge of the six-yard box.
At least the pace of the contest picked up and Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres found more room. Lucas Leiva, a substitute, had a shot deflected wide, then put another effort past the post.
Inside the final 15 minutes, Lucas Neill thumped a shot wide, then Liverpool claimed a penalty after the ball appeared to strike the defender on the arm. With nine minutes left, Curbishley introduced Jonathan Spector, a defender, in place of Cole: the cue for a trickle of West Ham fans to flow towards home. But to everyone’s surprise, there would be an outcome that seems to edge Benítez closer to the exit.
West Ham United 1 (4-1-4-1): R Green – L Neill, A Ferdinand, M Upson, G McCartney – H Mullins – F Ljungberg, L Bowyer (sub: D Ashton, 57min), M Noble, L Boa Morte (sub: M Etherington, 57) – C Cole (sub: J Spector, 81).
Substitutes not used: R Wright, N Solano.
Goal: Noble, 90 pen.
Liverpool 0 (4-4-2): J M Reina – S Finnan, J Carragher, S Hyypia, F Aurélio – Y Benayoun (sub: R Babel, 72), S Gerrard, X Alonso, H Kewell (sub: Lucas Leiva, 61) – D Kuyt, F Torres.
Substitutes not used: C Itandje, P Crouch, M Skrtel.
Booked: Aurélio, Torres, Alonso.
Ref: Alan Wiley
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
LFC have have confirmed the sale of Momo Sissoko to Juventus.
Sissoko spent nearly three years at Anfield, arriving from Valencia in July 2005 and was compared with Patrick Vieira. Well he nearly did as his all-action style made him an Anfield favourite.
The 23-year-old was one of the star performers in the club's FA Cup final victory over West Ham in 2006.
However, two serious injuries – to his eye and shoulder – disrupted his current form. With new recruits such as Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leive, it was difficult to get a regular playing spot in the midfield but there's no doubting the quality he displayed in his first two seasons at Anfield.
Sissoko leaves the club after 86 appearances and a single goal – a 25-yard strike against Sunderland earlier this season.
We at MyRAWK bid you farewell and all the best in your undertakings at Juventus. Below is tribute to our giant, Momo Sissoko.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Also, all those wanting to contribute a piece please feel free to send in your thoughts, opinions, grouses or cheers to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it up at this site for you within 48 hours- MyRAWK ADMIN
Have a good read!
Reading in the Daily Mirror today of Stan Collymore's comments really got my nerve up. Listening to him spout on about how his former club LFC are a two trick pony and are crap without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.
Furthermore, he went on talking about how Manchester United would never have been in our situation and how we are paying over the odds for Javier Mascherano and our inability to attract decent players.
Well I really do not care about our former so called players like him, who played well for one season and after that, was shipped out to Aston Villa, the following season. He says how we play crap footy and under his reign we were at least exciting.
Every LFC fan knows we are struggling this season and sometimes the expected standard of play do not match with the quality of the players we have. But all this guy talk is rubbish! The only thing he found exciting was the women and booze in the local bars in Liverpool, he wasted his talent and along with the other so-called Spice Boys, living on the champagne charily lifestyles being rich and famous but rewarded us the FANS skint and trophyless seasons.
He is the typical self centered idiot who believes he was a true Liverpool Football Club player. HE WON SOD FOR US IF HE CANT REMEMBER, nothing of note and no push for the title, our best was a 3rd place finish and we have not any better since. How dare he says this team has done nothing compared to the one he was lucky to be chosen to play for.
STAN, WANNA SHOW US YOUR EUROPEAN CUP FINAL AND FA CUP WINNERS MEDAL???? How many times did he win the FA Cup, League Cup or get us to Wembley or Cardiff???? He says Carra couldn’t get into Man United team?? This guy is a PRICK! If he and others like Ruddock put their bodies on the line like Jamie did in Athens and Istanbul, we would of won major trophies with that team, instead they swan danced around like lords of the manor, without a bloody manor to their name, the guy has always riled me and now he is just a want be faker who blew his talent and now thinks because he played for LFC and gave us ONE good season, he can slag the rest of the lads off!
The well known story of Neil Ruddock of him and the rest of the spice boys playing a game of pass the pound coin around whilst playing matches and also where the loser pays the bar bill is scandalous. Fans are good paying money to see fat wankers who abuse their loyalty and at the same time to lining up their pockets conning the fans out of their money.
HEY FAT RUDDOCK how about you and dumbo Stan get fit, play well and bloody win something for us, for a change? DONT YOU DARE come back and pretend you're Liverpool legends! YOU'RE nothing but arse wipes on the sole of my shoe!
SHANKS would have died listening to the tales of those idiots like you cheating Liverpool fans out of a performance! “Never cheat the people” he said. Well those two certainly did. Not only did they cheat but robbed us LFC fans whilst their backs turned from us.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
DIC 'still intent' on Liverpool takeover
by Duncan Castles Sunday January 27, 2008 The Observer
Dubai International Capital remain intent on a takeover of Liverpool, regardless of their disappointment with the nature of the £350million refinancing deal with which the club's American owners have secured their immediate tenure there.
For more info go to: source from http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,,2247768,00.html
Latest News from Liverpool FC South Africa supporters club website:
Exclusive by Chris Bascombe, News of the World
LIVERPOOL are praying a form of Merseyside GBH will come to their rescue — Gillett Backstabbing Hicks.Anfield co-owner George Gillett brought his feud with partner Tom Hicks to the fore by refusing to publicly back a £350million refinancing deal.Gillett signed up to the agreement before the February 5 deadline to protect his own investment — but privately he does not believe holding on to Liverpool is in the Americans' or the club's best interest.His son, Foster, left his office at Melwood two weeks ago and there are no plans for his return.It appeared Hicks had seen off the latest challenge from Dubai International Capital (DIC) by signing a debt-ridden agreement with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia.But takeover talks are continuing, with DIC not walking away as they sense the split between the owners leaves the door open for a £250m bid for the whole club — beginning with a fresh move to buy Hicks' share. For more information go to: http://liverpoolfc.co.za/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/1126051643/m/3071021974
BENITEZ WEIGHS UP AIMAR SWOOP
Jan 26 2008 by David Jones, Liverpool Echo
RAFA BENITEZ is weighing up a swoop for Argentinian playmaker Pablo Aimar.
The Liverpool boss is looking into the possibility of signing Aimar from Real Zaragoza after being alerted to his availability.
Benitez has managed Aimar previously when the pair worked together at Valencia – a time which Aimar openly admits was his most productive as a player.
For more information go to: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-fc/liverpool-fc-news/2008/01/26/benitez-weighs-up-aimar-swoop-100252-20397224/
Benitez - Masch will stay
Reds boss expects permanent deal
By Peter Fraser Last updated: 25th January 2008 Sky Sports UK
I don't know the exact position now but I talked to Mascherano and he wants to stay.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez believes the sale of Mohamed Sissoko will ensure Javier Mascherano remains at Anfield.
Mascherano is currently on loan on Merseyside and Benitez is desperate to secure the midfielder on a permanent deal during the January transfer window.
The Argentine's temporary deal expires at the end of the season and he could then leave Liverpool with a number of European clubs circling.
However, both Benitez and Mascherano have expressed a desire to extend the 23-year-old's stay and the Reds boss is confident Liverpool owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks will broker a deal.
For more information go to: http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11669_3078150,00.html
Latest Images of Liverpool FC's new stadium
Jan 25 2008 Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool have announced that Dallas-based architects HKS have been appointed to build their new Stanley Park stadium.
Pictures are at : http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-fc/liverpool-fc-news/2008/01/25/picture-gallery-images-of-liverpool-fc-s-new-stadium-64375-20394924/
KOP COMPLETES FINANCING PACKAGE
Paul Eaton 25 January 2008
Kop Football (Holdings) Limited ("Kop"), the owner of Liverpool Football Club (the "Club"), is pleased to announce the successful completion of a £350 million financing package.
In addition it is pleased to announce confirmation of the selection of the architectural firm HKS, Inc. as designer of the Club's new stadium at Stanley Park. The Financing Package Kop has secured a £350 million financing package, led by The Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia Bank NA, which replaces previous financing that had been due in February 2008. The new financing will meet all of the Club's current financial needs and includes facilities to support the commencement of construction for the new stadium at Stanley Park and to provide working capital for the Club and future player transfers.
For more information go to: http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/drilldown/N158586080125-1442.htm
Last Updated: 3:13am GMT 27/01/2008 from the Daily Telegraph
Rafael Benitez was finally able to sit comfortably in his seat on the hour, secure in the knowledge that the threat of the unthinkably humiliating had passed.
His Liverpool team had to come back twice against these part-timers from English football's sixth tier and only then, with a two-goal cushion, could he be certain of avoiding an unenviable entry in the annals of this competition.
Yossi Benayoun's hat-trick ultimately suppressed the Havant & Waterlooville uprising, but not before Liverpool had been subjected to one of the most embarrassing halves witnessed in this old arena of legends.
Liverpool, the most decorated club in the land, twice trailed in the extraordinary period and were reduced to the desperation of novices. Even without Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina, it was a performance of inexcusable ineptitude that defied credibility.
Martin Skrtel, their £6.5 million central defender, had a debut from hell. Goalkeeper Charles Itandje was an eccentric liability. The midfield was sterile, the attack impotent.
But to dwell on Liverpool's flaws is to do Havant an injustice. Richard Pacquette, scorer of their first goal, gave Benitez's defence a torrid afternoon and Mo Harkin put on a demonstration of guile and ingenuity that made a nonsense of the clubs' respective statuses. They harried, they chased, but they also played with purpose and had the courage to take the game to Liverpool from the start.
The FA Cup has undeniably been devalued in recent times as the financial rewards of the Premier League and Champions League have grown. Yet just one story such as Havant's makes it still worthwhile.
Their 6,000 fans and those who turned the directors' box into an extension of their enclosure, savoured every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
At the final whistle, the Havant players scurried to their opposition targets in red to collect their trophy shirts. A standing ovation from the Kop and every other corner of Anfield put a final gloss on their adventure.
Gracious it may have been. Relief it undoubtedly was. Peter Crouch's late goal flattered Liverpool but can have deceived no one.
Shaun Gale, the Havant manager, said: "To come to Anfield and give a performance of that magnitude makes me immensely proud. People laughed when we said we'd have a go at them here but we have created chances and scored goals.
"Liverpool obviously hit back and showed their class at the end but this has been fantastic for all of us. Not many non-League clubs could have done this.
"We could have been battered but we weren't. We played the game our way and didn't sit back. We could even have made it 4-3 and made it an amazing finish."
Benitez admitted in his programme notes that the Premier League title is now out of reach and he must have been visualising the headlines - and the memo from the club's co-owner, Tom Hicks - as calamity loomed.
He fidgeted and gesticulated as he patrolled the technical area, the angst etched in his face. But eventually Havant were broken down, Liverpool were through and their flirtation with catastrophe will mean nothing come fifth-round day.
The Liverpool manager said: "You have to give credit to them. They started well and scored and we had to work really hard and do a professional job.
"But I had confidence and we were much better in the second half. The FA Cup is like this. It's a fantastic competition. A team five divisions below us shows how good and amazing the cup is."
Any prospects of a fairytale might have been unimaginable after just three minutes. Benayoun somehow headed wide of a gaping goal from Jermaine Pennant's centre.
Havant served notice of their ambitions when Harkin and Alfie Potter combined to expose Skrtel's fragile nerves. Two minutes later the defender needlessly conceded the corner kick that yielded the opening goal.
Harkin delivered a regulation cross and Pacquette was more surprised than anyone in the stadium that he was left unattended to score with a simple header.
Even some of the home fans joined the applause for the unlikely, yet their mood changed to anxiety and exasperation as Liverpool fumbled and stumbled to exert a semblance of authority.
It could have been worse still for Liverpool. Itandje made a hash of attempting to repel another corner and was relieved Neil Sharp hooked over his bar.
Then, out of nothing, Liverpool were level. Ryan Babel played the ball to Lucas who curled a shot into the far top corner. Now, surely, sanity would be restored. Not a bit of it.
Steve Finnan lost control of the ball and Potter's shot took a deflection off the hapless Skrtel to beat Itandje again.
John Arne Riise had another unproductive effort before, approaching the break, Pennant fed Benayoun to claim a second equaliser and spare the team the derision of the crowd as they retreated the dressing room.
Liverpool turned up the tempo in the second half and Benayoun's second goal eased the apprehension of the gallery. Again Pennant was the provider, although Benayoun's turn and finish were of the calibre expected of a Premier League player.
Havant's central defender, Tom Jordan, had a header beaten out but Gerrard laid on the fifth for Crouch and dispelled any chance of a final twist to the tale.
Gale said: "Now we've got to produce that level in the Blue Square South and try to get this club promoted from our league."
Man of the match
Mo Harkin (Havant)
The most composed and creative player, particularly in that first half
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Skrtel, Hyypia (Carragher 84), Riise, Pennant, Mascherano (Gerrard 87), Lucas, Benayoun (Kuyt 72), Crouch, Babel.
Subs: Martin, Torres.
Goals: Lucas 27, Benayoun 44, 56, 59, Crouch 90.
Havant and W: Scriven, Smith, Jordan, Sharp, Warner (Taggart 40), Harkin, Wilkinson (Oatway 74), Collins, Potter, Pacquette (Slabber 57), Baptiste.
Subs: Steven Gregory, Taylor.
Goals: Pacquette 8, Skrtel 31 og.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Match Goal Highlights:
Thursday, January 24, 2008
With that in mind, we invite you to the regular MyRAWK Futsal outing @ Pan Global Club @ Jln Tandang, Petaling Jaya on Saturday, Jan 26th between 3-5pm.
For those that are coming, please be advised to wear your LFC jersey or something LFC related to play or something RED but not Man Utd RED!!
For those coming, please confirm with:
Tony Q: +6012 257 7075
Will Tan: +6012 296 2680
In the coming weeks, 2 MyRAWK committee members or guests will pit their wills and wits against each other in a Head to Head discussion through their article on this blog. One will take on the roll of an optimist / loyalist while the other, a realist (pessimist or devil's advocate) .
First up this week, will be the discussion on Rafa: Should He Stay & Given More Time Or Should He Go? Jonno is the optimists / loyalist while Mark takes on the role of the devil's advocate.
Please leave your feedback and thoughts on the articles through the comments section and stay tuned for more MyRAWK Exclusive: Head to Head Discussions.
“Football fans are a fickle bunch” - this is the ultimate understatement of all time when it comes to football and supporting the club. When things are going great, winning games, getting to a final or wining a cup or two, the team is the best in the world, the manager is a master tactician and all other accolades one can think of.
However, lose a few games and suddenly it’s the manager’s fault - he has lost the plot, doesn’t understand English football or even doesn’t respect the competition. This is especially true this season, when expectations were running high all around. This was justified as Liverpool spent big in acquiring Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, Lucas Leiva, Sebastian Leto as well as other youngsters.
The media labeled Liverpool as a genuine title challenger, just like in the previous 18 seasons. When Liverpool thumped Derby 6 – 0 at home everyone sang praises of the team, the manager and went on about how great this season will be for the Reds. Liverpool was said to break the tripoly of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U and make it a truly exciting four-horse race. However, things went a little awry in October / November and the wheels seemed to fall off, all fingers pointed at Benitez, calling for his head. Should Rafa really be sacked for the display this season? The answer is no.
Why? Simply because he is in the middle of his rebuilding exercise in putting together an exciting team to genuinely challenge for top honours for years to come. He is modeling the Valencia approach where the play is tight while not allowing opponents time on the ball and how the team attacks and defends as a unit while overwhelming opponents on the pitch, leaving them in awe of what just hit them. When you are rebuilding there will be times when things don’t go your way, when players are unsure of what they are supposed to do, of who should be making the run or taking the shots.
It’s just like when zonal marking was first introduced, it was ridiculed in the media, as well as everyone with half a brain, but today it is one of the most successful methods of defending used by nearly every football team. With Zonal marking, which took two years for the players to get comfortable with, we have conceded the least goals in the league for years to come now. This is a far cry from the Roy Evans era when we were scoring for fun but could not defend to save our dear life, resulting in spectacular clashes that were high scoring yet not good for the heart.
When Rafa first came in, he had a short month to bring in his players and put his ideas across before the season started. Many would argue that the players are professionals who train together everyday who should be able to forge the understanding and adopt to the coaches’ idea. How can one expect 28 players to know where the other is going to run or what he is going to do with the ball all at high speed mind you, with a leather ball that can react very differently to the touches and strikes. If a simple thing such as baton passing in relay runs take months to develop the understanding, what about 28 players with a ball and different pitch conditions? On top of that, you have different opponents doing different thing trying to keep you out. The first season is always going to be a clearing of deadwood, bringing in players and at the same time getting his ideas across. Then the next would be bringing in his own players, getting them to play the way he wants them to and enhance this and challenge for honours. This takes five years, hence the five-year contract.
Rafa overachieved in winning the Champions League in his first season with a squad that was not his own. He was also faced with the possibility of his captain leaving. This has serious repercussions to the planning of the team. The second time around Rafa would’ve identify Gerrard’s replacement as well as other players he can bring in to enhance the squad before the skipper made the mother of all u turns in a move that delighted many supporters but throw the plan into limbo. Suddenly Rafa did not have more money to buy players and change the team around the way he wanted to.
Then he then came the third season where he was trying things, putting his ideas across with the players warming to his way of playing in controlling matches but struggle to score. The general consensus would be if we get a top class striker, we would be able to challenge. How wrong is that, when you take out a player and replace it with another, you are changing the element and the set up of the team.
Of course with the new owners coming in, many were excited that we finally had money to spend to finally bring back the glory days to Anfield. However, after a bright start, the team unexpectedly hit a low and many were calling for Rafa to be replaced. It also emerged that the owners were trying to rid of Rafa by talking to another person in view to take over. This has clearly affected the team with lots of half hearted display and inept performance being dished out, making the owner’s decision to talk to Klinsmann a right one.
Many of the pundits and fans thought that the fact that he had money to spend this season means that we should be challenging as he came out asking for money, the fact is that we spent 56.95M in buying players while bringing in 26.25M in our player sales, making the net spent this season at 30.7M, not even enough to buy Anderson & Nani who are effectively squad players for Man U. bearing in mind, in his 4 years at Liverpool, Rafa had spent a total of 149.1M in which 14 is for Djibril Cisse, a player he didn’t sign, all this while bringing in 65.43M in player sales, making his net spent 83.67M. take away the 14M for Cisse, the net spent would be much higher, at 69.67M at an average of 17.42m per season, not even enough to buy Owen Hargreaves. The total net spent for the top 4 clubs in the 4 years Rafa has been in charged are as follow (in Millions of GBP):
Another criticism of Rafa would be the way the team plays. Many are baffled by the set up of the team that is safety first before thinking about attacking. This is actually a pretty good tactic; it allows the team to absorb the play from opposition while looking for rooms to exploit in overwhelming them. Many of the naysayers are referring to the pass & move of the older days, but the thing is that pass & move football has been dead for 16 years now, it was killed by one of our greatest players who donned the Red shirt but an inept manager by buying duds. Rafa’s tactic is to allow the opposition to play, giving them the false sense that we are weak, in the process, tiring them out and take advantage of them towards the end.
The set up is aimed at taking full advantage of the pitch and qualities of the players we have, Gerrard for his tireless running, Alonso for his game reading and switch of play and Mascherano for his shackling of players while helping out the attack. It is the new way of playing football, a more modern way .
Many also didn’t like the deployment of Dirk Kuyt, who is a tireless worker. Most see him as someone who failed to score many a times and is a bit of a passenger to the team. However, it is his running that drags players wide and open up space for others to take advantage of. How many times we see him huffing and puffing closing the opposition down, defending from the top? This is the way that we should play where we constantly pressure the opposition, with subtle pressure that put doubt in opponent’s mind, ensuring we are always on top, even without the ball.
Others would argue that we are too defensive. It is not defensive, it is controlling the game. If you’re not building from behind, how are you to win matches? Building the team from the front will not ensure you score plenty of goals, but it sure would ensure you concede. This is why, most coaches not just Rafa, build the play from the back. In controlling the game, we could really hurt them where it hurts most, but this would require patience and slow build up, incurring most fan’s wrath for not being attacking minded enough.
Another favourite topic would be his rotation system. Rafa is not the only who rotates, but yet he gets the most flak, other managers rotates just as much if not more than Rafa but manages to get away with it. The idea of rotating is to rest players and at the same time give the others the much needed match fitness and understanding with one another. Rafa wants to mould the team like a well-oiled machine. On top of that, it will also ensure the players are fresh towards the end of the season where the games are coming thick and fast. Especially if we are to get to another final, the little extra bit is often the difference between winning and losing.
This season, there’s certainly more off field saga than before and it has also affected the performance of the team. How can players be expected to ignore the talk that goes on off the pitch? The uncertainty of their futures? With the possibility of a refinancing of 350M put to the club, it will certainly put more pressure to the players and at the same time, cause them to under perform. There are many instances where the team put out by Rafa should’ve beaten the opposition comfortably and the players did not step up to the mark when given the chances. Blaming the manager is just an easy way out when it is the players who are on the pitch battling it out.
If one is to call for Rafa’s head, who would replace him? How long would it be before the team gets up to mark again? Another four years? Wouldn’t that be unfair to Rafa who is half way there? Rather than sack him, why not give him the backing he clearly deserves and see what happens next season, when he’d be on his final year of the contract. The thing is that Man U almost made that mistake in 1990 in deciding Alex Ferguson’s future. The FA Cup win saved his job and look where he is now?
Another good example to is Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, he was given the time and more importantly, the faith to build his squad, with the management interfering, not less in thinking of sacking Rafa, it would only makes matters worse and make our beloved club a laughing stock in the footballing world.
Jonno "El Presidente" Jan 2008 ©
It has been near two long decades since the city of Liverpool has turned up in the thousands to see the league title being paraded around the streets. Gerard Houllier ignited what must have been merely a flickering ray of hope in the hearts of all Liverpool fans when he won 5 trophies in just one season. He however failed to deliver what all Liverpool fans must be longing for, the Premiership title. Under his tenure we came close at one point, finishing 2nd, just 7 points behind eventual Champions Arsenal. Expectations were high but we went on a free fall thereafter, finishing 19 and then 30 points behind the champions. It was the opinion of all involved with Liverpool Football Club and it’s fans that the gaffer had lost the plot. His negative brand of football became a bore to watch and, we became predictable.
Enter Rafa Benitez,
Progress in the Premier League
In his first season, we finished 5th accumulating 58 points, a whopping 37 points behind eventual winners Chelsea, which was worse than we fared the season before under Houllier when we finished 4th with 60 points, 30 behind winners, Arsenal. Fair play, it was only his first season in charge and he had to clear up the mess left behind by Houllier.
In his second season at the helm, we were much improved and finished 3rd with 82 points. We had closed the gap to eventual winners Chelsea, to just 9 points and finally, we looked as though we were moving in the right direction. Surely we were going to mount a serious challenge next season?
In his third season however, the adverse happened and although we still finished 3rd, we only managed to accumulate 68 points and finished 21 points behind Manchester United. This was masked of course by the fact that once again, The Mighty Reds had progressed to yet another European Final only to fall at the last hurdle to AC Milan, whom we had vanquished just 2 seasons prior. The irony is that although we played better this time round, we lost, after having been outplayed by AC Milan back in 2005 only to prevail after outstanding heroics from individuals such as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Didi Hamann and Jerzy Dudek.
This season, we find ourselves currently lying 5th with 50 points, 14 behind current leaders Manchester United albeit with 1 game in hand. We have 16 games left in the season and it is unlikely that we will see number 19 being paraded around Liverpool this season, given the kind of football we have been playing, and the situation regarding ownership. I will patiently wait until the end of the season to see where we finish but based on current form, we may again find ourselves finishing 20 points behind the eventual winners.
Statistically speaking anyway, we haven’t made any progress in the league.
Building a team
Though Rafa has had managerial experience prior to taking the helm at Valencia, he attained little success, notably in helping Segunda Divison side CF Extramadura gain promotion to the Primera Division only for them to be relegated after just 1 season at the top. Although he did win the Primera Division in his first attempt with the club, one has to note that he inherited a team brimming with potential from Hector Cuper. In the side were established internationals like Santiago Canizares, Roberto Ayala, Ruben Baraja, David Abelda and Pablo Aimar. He also made good use of Mista who went on to become top goalscorer for Valencia with 19 goals in the 2003 – 2004 campaign, and Curro Torres who became an established international. Rafa did also achieve European success when he guided Valencia to a 2-0 victory over Marseille in 2004, but this was a team that had in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons, reached not one but two Champions League finals. So the question is, do the runners-up in the Champions League have the caliber to take it “up a notch” and win Europe’s 2nd tier competition, the UEFA Cup? I’ll let you be the judge.
After having signed for Liverpool, Benitez found himself in a very similar position, inheriting an underperforming team featuring the likes of Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Dietmar Hamann, Harry Kewell, Steve Finnan and Sami Hyypia. Rafa had barely arrived when Owen was sold to Madrid but Gerrard, Carragher, Finann and Hyypia are still very much a part of his setup. He however also inherited fringe players like Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou that were simply, not up to mark.
Since becoming manager, Rafa has made 36 signings and sold 56 players (not including loan deals), with only Xabi Alonso, Daniel Agger, Momo Sissoko, Luis Garcia, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant, Pepe Reina, and Alvaro Arbeloa being regulars at some point. It is a sure thing that more will come and more will go with John Arne Riise, Dirk Kuyt and Momo Sissoko being likely casualties. Is the fact that so many players have come and gone a sign that Rafa doesn’t yet know what he’s looking for? Is it a sign that he isn’t good at spotting talent? Even I can spot a superstar like Fernando Torres and my managerial experience is limited only to the Championship Manager and Football Manager series. What makes us different is that he and his team should be able to spot talent and not just the end product after years of nurturing and development. Benitez was once famously quoted for saying, “I asked for a coffee table and they gave me a lampshade” at his time in Valencia, referring to the fact that the club was not signing the players he requested for. Is he now out buying coffee tables when we need lampshades? Just like how switching managers too often will be counterproductive as it takes time to build winning team, will switching players too often result in the same? It does affect a teams harmony and balance, does it not? Should players be given time, just like managers? If we are willing to give Rafa another few years at the helm, why not players like Momo Sissoko?
If there is one thing that most Liverpool fans agree on Rafa, is that he is a tactical genius. I mean this was the man who arguably inspired the comeback in Istanbul, or was it the fans singing away at halftime? Recognising the threat from Kaka, Rafa called on the defensive minded Dietmar Hamann in place of Steve Finnan. It worked! Hamann neutralized the threat from the Brazilian, allowing Steven Gerrard to wreak havoc in the AC Milan half. It must be said though the Steve Finnan did sustain an injury, which is the main reason he was taken off. The decision was forced upon Rafa and he only had to decide whom to bring on in his place; the hapless Josemi, Antonio Nunez, Djibril Cisse, Vladimir Smicer, Scott Carson or Didi Hamann. Then there was the selection of Harry Kewell that baffled Liverpool fans. This was the first of two European Cup finals that Kewell coincidentally recovered in time to be a part off. Some may question his methods domestically but it would seem that he has what it takes to beat Europe’s finest.
In the Premiership, Rafa seems to be struggling to find the right formula. We have yet to beat Man Utd in the league over 7 games. Not only that, we are still struggling to beat mid-table sides. This is where I raise questions over some baffling decisions that he has made. While I have nothing against rotating players, why is it Rafa seems intent on rotating tactics every time? We may moan about being a player or two away from being able to compete (isn’t this what we have been saying for some time now?), but in the likes of Sami Hyypia, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Steve Finnan, John Arne Riise, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel, Harry Kewell, Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch, Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin, we have 14 internationals, not to mention Jamie Carragher or Pepe Reina which will walk into the first teams of many clubs. Should we not be expected to at least beat the likes of Wigan, Birmingham and Reading? Instead, we almost lost to Luton Town despite fielding 9 internationals? While fans may argue that some of these players may not be all that good, surely they aren’t as poor as a vast majority of the players from mid-table sides??? Why do we need to adapt our tactics to our opposition? Why can’t we develop a solid system of play and have smaller clubs adapt to ours? As it is, our players look like strangers on the pitch and every pass made seems to take a lot of effort. How many times have we seen passes go astray, long balls played up into now man’s land, and players passing the ball in front of the opposition defence, clueless as to how to break them down? How much variation in team tactics do you see the other big sides adopt especially when playing smaller clubs? We should impose our brand of football on them and not have it the other way.
It may just be me but from what I’ve seen, our players look restricted when they are on the pitch. Being the tactician that he is, I fear Rafa looks at his players as pieces on a chessboard. I sense that the players are playing to very specific instructions and have little opportunity to fully express themselves on the pitch and therefore, impose themselves on the game.
I have been a supporter of Liverpool Football Club for the last 20 years of my life and I will continue to be one till the day of my demise. I will not however in blind faith, hope for happy days when I know something is amiss. Is it something that time will solve? Does the manger need more time? If so, how much time? Some fans suggest he be given until the end of next year but I have to ask these same fans if they honestly believe that our fortunes will change over just one season? If the trend of bringing in new players one season only to shaft them the next continues, how are the players going to be able to familiarise themselves with one another? Is he really a tactical genius or do we keep repeating it out of hope alone?
If anything, we Liverpool fans are somewhat guilty of living in the past. Sure, our past is what enriches our mighty club but we have to live in the present to secure a bright future, do we not? When problems arise, we need to address them with urgency and not hope that just because things turned out positively in the past, it will do so again. Fans today utter the words, “In Rafa we trust”. Most I’ve encountered however actually mean, “ In Rafa we hope”. To trust somebody, we need to know that the person in question can be counted on. We have both logical and emotional reasons to do so. So far, it would seem to be that many Liverpool supporters have strong emotional reason to do so, but very few I’ve encountered have logical ones. When asked what makes them think Rafa will bring us forward, they refer to Istanbul, the 2006 FA Cup Final, Athens, his record at Valencia, his tactical approach to the game but nothing on the present and nothing to justify why they call him a tactical genius. Sure there was Istanbul but what about the other 38 league games?
I do hope I am proven wrong this season. I do hope Rafa will wave his magical wand to bring our team out of its slump. I do hope he will deliver but I simply cannot blindly accept that he will without any evidence or justification.
To the more optimistic supporter, I ask you this, "What about Rafa makes you think that he is the man to bring home the elusive number 19?" "what makes you think you can trust him?"Mark Lee, Jan 2008 ©
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Source taken from Rival.net
Liverpool squandered the chance to move back into the top four as the Reds were held to a 2-2 draw by Aston Villa at Anfield.
Peter Crouch scored an 88th minute volley to rescue a point for the home side, who had been left shell shocked by Villa's two goals in three minutes midway through the second half.
Yossi Benayoun had given Liverpool a first half lead as the home fans protested against the club's American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
However, the Reds made to pay for missed chances as substitute Marlon Harewood hooked home an equaliser from close range for the home side.
Villa then took the lead in the 72nd minute when Olof Mellberg's shot took a wicked deflection off Fabio Aurelio and beat Pepe Reina.
Crouch came off the bench to save Liverpool's blushes but the Reds will know that this was an opportunity missed in the race for a top four finish.
Benitez opted to pair Fernando Torres with Dirk Kuyt in attack, in front of a midfield consisting of Benayoun, Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano and Harry Kewell.
Alvaro Arbeloa, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and Fabio Aurelio made up the back four with Reina between the sticks.
The players were greeted by banners and chants aimed at Gillett and Hicks, while fans also publically backed a proposed bid for the club from Dubai International Capital.
Benayoun struck an early chance over the crossbar while, at the other end, Aurelio was lucky when the Brazilian was robbed of possession by Craig Gardner but his low cross evaded Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The Reds took the lead in the 19th minute. Kuyt did well to turn on Gerrard's pass and slip a pass into the path of Benayoun's run, behind the Villa defence.
The Israeli's initial effort was blocked by goalkeeper Stuart Taylor but he reacted quickly to tuck away the rebound.
Kuyt was involved in Liverpool's next chance on 31 minutes when he set-up Aurelio but the full-backs shot was just wide.
Liverpool made a bright start to the second period as they looked for a second. Kuyt should have done better when a quick break resulted in Gerrard playing the Dutchman into space inside the box but his first touch was too heavy and it narrowed the angle resulting in his effort going over the crossbar.
Minutes later, Torres clipped a shot onto the roof of the net having been blocked by Taylor earlier.
The Villa 'keeper was forced to stop a low-drive from Kewell as the Reds piled on the pressure.
However, the visitors pulled level against the run of play on 69 minutes when Harewood acrobatically hooked Martin Laursen's header back across goal into the net from close range.
Martin O'Neill's team then stunned Anfield by taking the lead just three minutes later.
Ashley Young's cross found Mellberg, who as forward for a set-piece. His cross struck Aurelio and left Reina with no chance.
Benitez's response was to bring on Ryan Babel for Kewell, having already been forced to blood new signing Martin Skrtel for the injured Arbeloa in the build up to Villa's equaliser. Crouch soon followed for Benayoun.
The England international striker salvaged a point for Liverpool, with stoppage time looming, when he smashed the ball past Taylor from ten yards after Laursen had failed to deal with a set peice.
The result means that Liverpool have drawn their last four league matches and leave them trailing behind the league leaders by 14 points.
Afterwards Benitez was left to rue missed opportunities.
"We were controlling the game and creating all of the chances, but we needed to score the second goal to kill the game off," said the Liverpool manager.
"If we'd have scored the second goal I'm sure we'd have scored more because we were playing well.
"I told the players after the game that if you cant kill off the game you will give the other team hope and that was what happened. They we were waiting for a free kick and they scored from two set pieces.
"We had the chances to win, but we didn't take them and in the end you have to be happy because we could have lost."
Final Score: Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Skrtel), Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun (Crouch), Mascherano, Gerrard, Kewell (Babel), Kuyt, Torres. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Alonso.
Aston Villa: Taylor, Mellberg, Laursen, Davies, Bouma, Gardner (Harewood), Petrov, Reo-Coker, Young, Carew (Knight), Agbonlahor. Subs Not Used: Sorensen, Cahill, Osbourne.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
by Tony Barrett from the Liverpool Daily Post Jan 17 2008 sourced from
DURING an exhaustive search for investment in Liverpool Football Club Reds chief executive Rick Parry spoke of the need for any deal to be absolutely right.
“You can only sell the family silver once,” he famously remarked.
Today Liverpool are facing up to the previously unimaginable possibility of half of the family silver being sold for the second time in less than a year – if Tom Hicks is willing to sell.
DIC loom large on the Anfield horizon again.
After missing out to Hicks and George Gillett last time around Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum is understood to be ready to do everything in his power to ensure it does not happen again.
But despite being one of the richest men in the world Sheikh Mohammed does not use his immense wealth to pay over the odds for any business.
When he was beaten to the punch by Hicks and Gillett last February one of his most trusted aides told the world bluntly “we won’t overpay for assets”.
So, if a deal is to be struck, it must suit all parties.
DIC chief executive and self-confessed Liverpool fan Sameer Al Ansari intimated the investment vehicle’s interest in the club ended when Hicks and Gillett took control.
But in reality their interest has never really gone away.
In the autumn they entered into talks with Hicks and Gillett with a view to snapping up a minority share of between 10-20% - only for any potential deal to founder on the Americans’ £1bn valuation of the club.
Now they are looking at setting up a deal in which they would buy, at the very least, a 50% share in Liverpool.
A firm bid could be forthcoming within days.
It is undoubtedly decision time for Hicks and Gillett who thought they had seen off DIC’s interest once and for all when they paid £218.9m for Liverpool last February.
But since then plans to refinance their initial purchase and pay for the long-awaited new Anfield with a new loan running into hundreds of millions of pounds have been slowed down by the American credit crunch making borrowing money much more difficult than it was 12 months ago.
There has also been a reticence from honorary life president and former chairman David Moores and Parry to sign up to a refinancing package which will plunge the club into hundreds of millions of pounds of debt.
As progress has stalled DIC has stepped up its long-standing interest and it is now ready to pounce.
Their desire is understood to have been fuelled by speculation Moores is becoming increasingly minded he should have gone with DIC rather than Hicks and Gillett when both parties put forward rival bids last year.
The fact Liverpool fans displayed their displeasure with the way the club is being run by the American pair at Anfield on Tuesday night did not go unnoticed in Dubai.
Banners unfurled on the Kop during the FA Cup tie against Luton Town sent an SOS to DIC and there were several negative chants directed at Hicks and Gillett.
It could be that, like his fellow countryman, Man United owner Malcolm Glazer, Hicks is prepared to ride out any storm of controversy whipped up by unsettled fans.
But as a businessman of international repute, he will also be aware such naked negativity from his customers is not sustainable in the long term.
Liverpool’s very future is today on a knife edge.
The family silver could be up for grabs again.
Although it is still too early to tell whether it will eventually change hands, DIC are certainly ready to test the water.
more news stories from here:
1.Dubai International to make bid for Liverpool FC
2.Arabs refuse to play down talk of buying into Liverpool FC
3.Jamie Carragher: Off-field antics can't distract us in games
4.Liverpool ponder move to buy out Hicks
5.Owners insist Liverpool are not for sale
6.Power struggle rocks Anfield
7.Riise backing Rafa
Thursday, January 17, 2008
By David Bond at the Daily Telegraph Last Updated: 1:59am GMT 17/01/2008
Liverpool's American owners are edging closer to clinching a breakthrough refinancing deal with banks despite growing tensions between the club's joint chairmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
According to City sources, a £350 million deal with the Royal Bank of Scotland and American investment bank Wachovia could be announced early next week. It is understood lawyers for both sides are now working through the fine print of the funding package which, if confirmed, will come six weeks before an existing one-year loan used to finance the American takeover expires. Once concluded the Americans hope the deal will restore a sense of calm to Anfield after a period of extraordinary instability.
But the Daily Telegraph has learned that there remains deep uncertainty about the relationship between Hicks and Gillett, the two US sports entrepreneurs who bought Liverpool in a £220 million deal last February. And even if the refinancing deal is confirmed, insiders are worried about how much longer the partnership will last.
Gillett is deeply unhappy with his joint owner following his explosive remarks in which he confirmed that the pair had approached former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann about taking over from Rafa Benitez. Gillett has been seriously unsettled by the reaction.
He is understood to be all the more irritated as the Hicks gaffe came despite assurances from the Texan billionaire that he would stay silent until the club's future was more secure.
Gillett has also been reluctant to press ahead with the refinancing plans, fearing that the new structure will load too much debt on to the club's balance sheet. It is also known that Gillett, the less wealthy of the two men, has been struggling to meet the banks' demands to put up £75 million each of cash and personal guarantees.
At one stage the growing split threatened to plunge the club into a new takeover battle, just 12 months after the Americans squeezed out Dubai International Capital, the investment company of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
That remains a possibility, but any hopes DIC had of doing a deal with Gillett to buy out Hicks' 50 per cent holding appeared to be fading last night.
DIC are understood to be prepared to bide their time, believing that the relationship between Hicks and Gillett could be beyond repair and that the refinancing will only be a short-term measure.
Under the terms of the deal, around half of the £350 million of debt is to be placed on to Liverpool's books, partly to finance the start of work on the new £400 million stadium at Stanley Park and to refinance £20 million of loans for new players. The move is a reversal of the vow the Americans gave when they took control not to copy the approach taken by the Glazer family at Manchester United.
The rest is to be secured against Liverpool's parent company Kop Holdings. Having blocked attempts to load all the debt on to the club last year, former chairman David Moores, who remains a director, and chief executive Rick Parry, are uneasy about how the borrowing will be serviced, with interest payments of £30 million a year.
How sound is the Hicks/Gillett relationship?
The Jurgen Klinsmann gaffe has placed extra strain on a partnership already cracking over the £350m refinancing.
How much of the £350m debt will be placed on the club?
About half, with the rest on parent company Kop Football - with interest of £30m a year.
What happens if Gillett decides to pull out of the bank deal?
He could look to bring in Dubai International Capital and try to force out Hicks.
Will DIC give up on their plans to own Liverpool?
No. They will bide their time but a quick deal is unlikely if Hicks strengthens his grip.
What does the bank deal mean for Rafa Benitez?
It looks like a question of when, not if, the Spaniard leaves.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Gerrard hat-trick in 5-0 FA Cup rout of lowly Luton relieves pressure on Liverpool manager as American owners consider selling up
By Ian Herbert Published: 16 January 2008 The Independant
It takes something extraordinary at Anfield to upstage perhaps Liverpool's most beloved player, entering through a guard of honour to captain the side with his young son in his arms. But such is the wrath that Tom Hicks, Liverpool's co-owner, has incurred by revealing that he had a replacement lined up for Rafael Benitez that Jamie Carragher, marking his 500th appearance for the club by leading them to a 5-0 win over Luton in their FA Cup third-round replay, became a secondary consideration for the supporters here last night.
Benitez would not be drawn on how humiliated he has been by Hicks' comments about Jürgen Klinsmann – an "impressive man" as the American described the German on Liverpool's own website – but the size of the smile he wore revealed everything he felt about the crowd and his players, after a full-strength Liverpool delivered a ruthless five-goal riposte to Hicks. "The supporters here are amazing, always, so I was pleased and you don't need to say anything because they are fantastic," Benitez said. "I know you must ask about this but I prefer to enjoy today because we won 5-0."
Steven Gerrard, whose second-half hat-trick secured the win, said it was time to focus on the team, not the manager. "It's important that the headlines are about football and what's on the pitch," he said.
It was a night when everyone seemed to have investors in mind. Kevin Blackwell, who says he will quit on 9 February because Luton's administrators keep selling his players without telling him, learned second hand, just before kick-off, that TV presenter Nick Owen – as improbable a football club owner in his way as Hicks and George Gillett at Anfield – has made a financial loan which gives him exclusive rights to negotiate for Luton's purchase over the next six weeks. Blackwell did not say he would now reconsider, but in a statement implored that "whoever takes over" the club to look after it.
Hicks' statement had reverberated all day around Anfield where there is a feeling of bafflement at the highest level as to why Hicks had elected to go public on his California meeting with Klinsmann. The banners at the Anfield Road End expressed the fans' feelings: "Dubai SOS, Yanks Out" read one, a plea which might conceivably be answered if the Dubai Investment Company's daily conversations with Anfield yield results. "GH and RP [Gillett, Hicks and Rick Parry] Lies" claimed another, although Liverpool's chief executive is as frustrated as anyone by the current mess here.
Benitez just calmly leaned forward in the dug-out and raised a right hand to all corners of the ground as his name thundered around it. He could not afford any foul-ups on a night like this and fielded a full strength side – though he cited the six-day wait until Aston Villa's arrival as his reasons for doing so.
For 45 minutes, even this line-up – with Peter Crouch partnering Fernando Torres up front – struggled to convert. Torres fired over after Gerrard had teed him up, Crouch twice laid the ball back when something more direct would have done and Ryan Babel came closest when his curled effort from the left struck the base of the post. But the resistance was led by one Don Hutchison – revelling in a huge central defensive workload against a side for whom he played 50 times between 1990 and 1994 – who blocked and tackled Liverpool into a state of frustration and gave Luton their chant of the night for Benitez. "Sacked in the morning, you're getting sacked in the morning."
The game was up when Hutchison, for once, lacked the legs to stop Babel running past him on to Torres' perfectly weighted pass on the stroke of half-time and the Dutchman struck the ball beyond the despairing dive of Dean Brill into the far left-hand corner of the net.
Carragher's son, James, might have selected Torres' name for the jersey he wore last night ("He was given a choice of Gerrard, Carragher or Torres. No lad chooses a defender around here," his father said with a sigh) but this was Gerrard's show. First he headed home from close range after Crouch had flicked back a header from Jermaine Pennant's cross. Gerrard had supplied the corner from which Sami Hyypia headed a third (though Luton defender Matthew Spring helped it on its way), before scoring his second by racing on to a ball delivered to him in two touches by Torres and placing it past Brill.
The hat-trick, only Gerrard's second and Liverpool's first in the FA Cup since Stan Collymore's against Rochdale in 1996, was a viciously swerving 30-yard strike. The rendition of "Walk on" and yet more "Rafael" chants in the game's closing moments had particular resonance. Benitez, for whom Swansea or Havant and Waterlooville are next up in the Cup, might well conclude that humiliations like this week's can have a curious habit of strengthening your hand.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Itandje; Riise, Hyypia, Carragher, Arbeloa; Pennant, Gerrard (Lucas, 73), Alonso, Babel; Crouch (Kuyt, 65), Torres (Aurelio, 73). Substitutes not used: Martin, Kewell.
Luton Town (4-4-2): Brill; Keane, Hutchison, Goodall, Jackson; Bell (McVeigh, 73), Spring, Robinson (O'Leary, 69), Currie; Andrew (Furlong, 69), Talbot. Substitutes not used: Parkin, Emanuel.
Referee: P Walton (Northants)
Goal Match Highlights
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Liverpool Daily Post
FANS reacted angrily last night after Liverpool FC owner Tom Hicks confirmed he and George Gillett had secretly held a meeting with Jurgen Klinsmann to line the German up as the next manager of the club.
Internet forums were awash with comments from furious fans, many demanding the pair end their involvement with the club.
Hicks yesterday insisted the talks with Klinsmann would not have resulted in the sacking of Rafael Benitez, and that it was just “an insurance” policy in case Benitez switched his allegiances or failed to deliver the club into the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
But fans said the admission of the meeting, held at Hicks’s second home in California, had critically undermined the Spaniard. It also emerged a deal was almost reached with Dubai International Capital, who were rival bidders at the time Hicks and Gillett bought the club.
The talks in the autumn had been over DIC acquiring a minority share of 15%, but broke down over the valuation of the club, with the Americans understood to be hoping for £150m for that stake. Yesterday, the Daily Post reported how DIC may be poised to make a new offer for the club as the American owners try to refinance the debt they took on when buying Liverpool.
Last night, the LFC official supporters club called on the owners to offer the Spaniard a five-year contract and agree to sign Javier Mascherano as a symbol of their commitment to the manager.
Les Lawson, secretary of the Merseyside branch, said: “I just can’t believe what’s going on.
“The only way to win the trust of the fans back is to offer Rafa a five-year contract and give him the money to hire Javier Mascherano.”
On a forum, one typical fan wrote: “They're obviously trying to force Rafa out. They swept into Liverpool with a lot of Razz-a-Mattaz but haven't delivered on anything they promised.”
Yesterday, the club’s website had a statement from Hicks in which he admitted that himself and co-owner Gillett had sounded out the German, unveiled last week as the new manger at Bayern Munich, about taking over at Anfield if Benitez left the club.
Mr Hicks said: “In November, when it appeared we were in danger of not advancing in the Champions League, weren’t playing well in our Premier League matches, and Rafa and we were having communication issues over the January transfer window, George and I met with Jurgen Klinsmann to learn as much as we could about English and European football.
“He is a very impressive man. We attempted to negotiate an option, as an insurance policy, to have him become our manager in the event Rafa decided to leave our club for Real Madrid or other clubs that were rumoured in the UK press, or in case our communication spiralled out of control for some reason.
“After George and I had our long and productive meeting with Rafa following the Man United match, we put all of our issues behind us and received Rafa’s commitment that he wanted to stay with Liverpool.
“We never reached agreement on an option with Jurgen, and we are both pleased for him that he has a great opportunity to return to Germany and coach a great club team. Rafa has both of our support, and our communication has greatly improved.”
He said Foster Gillett, chief executive Rick Parry and Rafa were now having regular meetings at Melwood on Monday mornings to prevent any future problems.
Please feel free to air your views on the comments space.
For more stories on this, view other dailies from the UK at these sites:
1) Public discord not the Liverpool way- Liverpool Daily Post
2) Rafael Benitez on borrowed time at Liverpool – Daily Telegraph
3) Rush: We will become a laughing stock - Lancashire Evening Post
4) Rafa Benitez vows to stay and fight for future at Liverpool- Liverpool Daily Post
5) Benitez on the brink- Daily Mirror
6) Benitez happy at Liverpool – Sky Sports
7) MARK LAWRENSON: Owners’ doubts on Benitez could unsettle star players - Liverpool Daily Post
Remember tomorrow's game on ESPN 812 @ 3:55AM, Wed Jan 16 FA CUP 3rd Round Replay: LFC VS Luton
Monday, January 14, 2008
Jan 14 2008 by Alan Weston, Liverpool Daily Post
FRESH rumours were circulating last night that an Arab investment group is poised to swoop on Liverpool FC if the club’s American owners continue to experience difficulties in refinancing £350m of debt.
MyRAWK Admin : Hopefully for the good of Anfield of tomorrow if this is true. And maybe this time, the club will be with someone who genuinely loves the club!
It is understood Dubai Inter- national Capital (DIC) are close to lodging an offer to buy out Tom Hicks and George Gillett, probably for about £500m.
If correct, it would be a remarkable turnaround for DIC, owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed, who were bid rivals at the time Hicks and Gillett bought the club a year ago, and shows they have not given up hope of taking control at Anfield.
But the rumours – which could see Liverpool FC changing hands for the second time in a year – were strongly denied by sources at the club.
It is understood the US pair have been attempting to trans-fer the debt used to buy the club, for which they are per- sonally liable and which is due to be repaid at the end of February, on to the club itself but have encountered difficul- ties because of the current global credit squeeze.
If DIC is successful, it is claimed, the outfit led by Liverpool supporter Sameer Al Ansari would invest heavily in the new stadium at Stanley Park and the playing squad.
DIC were extremely close to buying Liverpool last February, only to lose when Hicks and Gillett joined forces.
The latter paid £174.1m for a 100% shareholding, also agreeing to take on the club’s then debt of £44.8m. The purchase, however, was funded solely with borrowed money. Hicks and Gillett’s loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland swelled to £350m as it was used to fund several high-profile summer transfers, development work and architect’s plans for the 60,000-seat stadium in Stanley Park.
Hicks and Gillett declined to comment last night.
A meeting in New York last week saw architects HKS and AFL present new competing stadium designs, seen as vital for the club to increase revenue to allow it to compete with Man Utd and Arsenal.
But an expected decision at the end of last week has been delayed for around two weeks.
Middle East sources say DIC remain keenly interested in buying Liverpool.
- sourced from AnfieldRoad.com
"Before some of you start chanting 'Off with his head', have a read below before placing any judgement.- MyRAWK Admin"
Rafa’s first match after that argument with the owners, referred to later by Hicks as “The Rift”, was the trip to Newcastle. At that stage Liverpool were still unbeaten and then-Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce was starting to come under fire for poor results, but with the turmoil going on behind the scenes nobody could be sure how the manager and his players would react. Rafa stood on the touchline in a tracksuit and white trainers, a noticeable contrast to his suit - he was being a coach instead of a manager, he was humorously showing the owners that he was concentrating on that side of things, as ordered.
Liverpool won the game 3-0, although pundits were looking for victims not heroes, so rather than there being praise for Rafa the emphasis was on knocking the former Bolton manager Allardyce. Liverpool could have won even more convincingly, had the referee seen the Newcastle keeper Shay Given handle outside the area for what would have been a red card. This result was a significant one for another reason - Liverpool had won after an international break, something they’d struggled to do more often than not, even earlier this season.
The following day Chris Bascombe, a confidant of Rafa and others at the club, formerly of the Echo but now at the News of the World, reported that the owners had already decided to sack the boss. Their plans had been made well before the outburst at the pre-match press conference for that Newcastle game, and had no relationship to results on the field. Rafa had spoken to them after the Arsenal game, on the 28th of October and had told them of his plans for the next transfer window. It was only in the days before the Newcastle game that he realised his plans were being blocked, and that his future was unlikely to be at Anfield after the summer. It wasn’t just Bascombe reporting this either, the story was coming from various directions, the owners wanted to sack the best manager the club had seen since Kenny Dalglish, pretty much because they didn’t like him.
Next for the Reds was a visit from FC Porto to Anfield. It was the first home match since the owners’ plans to sack the boss had hit the headlines, and thousands of Liverpool fans marched to show their support for the boss. It was an important fixture too - after managing only one point from the first three games, Liverpool had got the Champions League campaign back on track by beating Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield, a win achieved despite Fernando Torres being out injured. They needed to win this match too, and did so with a few goals to spare in the end. It wasn’t always looking that way though - the scores were level at 1-1 until Torres got his second of the night with just 12 minutes left. The game ended 4-1 and Liverpool’s Champions League future was in their own hands. Although a draw might be enough in the final game against Marseille, depending on the result in the other match, a win would guarantee them being in the competition in the New Year.
First of all it was back to the league, and on the 2nd of December the Reds played host to Bolton, who had recently changed manager. Another high-scoring game from the Reds ended 4-0. It was a convincing display, taking Liverpool to third in the league, with more points at that stage in the season than they had achieved in 16 of their 18 league-title winning seasons. The future was looking good, but the doubts about what the situation was off-the-field would not go away.
There had still been no denial from the owners about their alleged plans to sack Rafa. Not a word. Yet denials of any reports that in any way suggested the owners had fallen out with each other or were suffering the pinch financially were issued without delay, either as official statements or as quotes from Rick Parry to the Echo or BBC.
On the 8th of December Liverpool faced Reading. Rafa knew that the owners were waiting for an excuse to sack him. Despite Rafa always talking about only concentrating on one game at a time, the spectre of that final Champions League group game in three days was surely figuring high in his worries. He didn’t want to risk Sami Hyypia for this league game, so Jack Hobbs started in the centre of defence. Probably concerned about the youngster being exposed he also chose to utilise two defensive midfielders, Javier Mascherano and the no-longer “Boss” Momo Sissoko. On paper it looked like a 4-3-3, with Voronin, Crouch and Torres up front, but often became 4-5-1 with Voronin and Crouch finding themselves out wide and out of place. Torres was taken off after 60 minutes; despite his denials Rafa was clearly thinking ahead to the game that he knew he had to win in France.
Rafa got a lot of criticism for that defeat - the first of the season - and one of the reasons for that was his substitution of Torres with 30 minutes to go and with the score only at 2-1. He’d thrown the towel in according to many, especially when with nearly twenty minutes to go and the score now at 3-1 he took the captain off too. He claimed that the players still on the pitch were capable of getting back into the game, but who could blame him for prioritising the Champions League ahead of this league game? One defeat in the league is barely grounds for the owners to sack him and to have any chance of the fans supporting them in the decision. But going out of the Champions League before Christmas might just be enough to cover up the fact their decision was made without consideration of results on the field.
George Gillett was now on his way to Europe. Both owners had said they would be at the Manchester United game, and that they would speak to the manager ahead of that game. Gillett actually wanted to take in the Marseille game too and was there in France to see the Reds qualify in style for the knockout phases. Gerrard got the early goal, knocking the rebound in from his saved penalty, Torres scored yet another goal and even Kuyt got on the scoresheet. Ryan Babel rounded it all off, Liverpool won 4-0. Unfortunately they only finished second in the group, but they were through, and Rafa’s job was a little safer.
Rafa returned to England, hoping to finally get a chance to talk to the owners about what had been happening, why things had changed since that Arsenal game. George Gillett was due to appear live on TalkSport radio, but backed out late in the day. Perhaps Hicks had warned him against speaking live in case he let anything slip. However, despite those talks being considered of utmost importance to Rafa and the club’s supporters, the owners decided there was still no hurry, and they’d speak to him after the match.
Worried about his future, nervous about what he would be told, Rafa was expected to prepare his team for one of the biggest games in the calendar. Manchester United are rivals because of the rivalry between the two cities, and also of course because of the fact that the Reds have to finish higher than them if they want to win the league. The owners were happy to let Rafa deal with that extra pressure, happy to let him suffer. They got Rick Parry to deny a report that the stadium plans had been ditched, but did nothing whatsoever to reassure the manager. The team suffered as a result. It was far from an entertaining match, and like the previous season United seemed happy to sit back and play for a draw, hoping to snatch a goal against the run of play. And like the previous season United got that goal, in this case a lucky deflection. The difference between the two seasons was that there was no time left in the game for the Reds to pull one back last time round, this time the goal had come just before half-time. But Rafa was unable to rally his troops, to help them to raise their games, and the match ended in a defeat. A demoralised Rafa was then finally granted an audience with the owners. Owners who had still not managed to refinance the bridging loan they’d taken out with RBS, a loan they had said at the end of October would be in place within 30 days. Owners who would admit the following day that the plans for the new stadium had been ditched after all. “Downgraded”, said Rick Parry to the Echo, although the official website was forced to change his quotes so that this word was replaced with “different”.
After the meeting Rafa walked out tight-lipped. Rick Parry said the following day - indirectly through one of his friends at BBC Sport - that Rafa had been told not to discuss club policy in public again. Gillett spoke at an ex-players party about liking Rafa, and a statement was released claiming everything was positive. It was also on this day that the first mention of Jurgen Klinsmann was made as a possible replacement for Rafael Benitez, but this link came from a source not renowned for being on the money when it comes to Liverpool matters. As such it was largely ignored by Reds.
And there was still no denial that they’d made plans to sack Rafa. Perhaps the biggest and most-repeated allegation against the owners since the season began, and there was still no denial. Rafa had to pretend everything was now fine, regardless of his true feelings, because the owners had told him so.
A defeat against Chelsea in the Carling Cup soon followed on the 19th of December, although Chelsea put out a much stronger side than the Reds, and it looked like it was going to be a bleak Christmas with the next team to be faced being Portsmouth, something of a bogey team for Liverpool and one that had already taken two points off the Reds earlier in the season. But Liverpool showed some true character and beat the South Coast side 4-1.
The next day came more links with the owners and Klinsmann. DIC were again being touted as potential saviours of the club, if they could buy out owners who had miscalculated what they needed to do to run a football club. One of those miscalculations was the possible hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann to replace Rafa from the summer, a name that made many Liverpool fans shudder almost as much as that of the loathed Jose Mourinho. Nobody expected the club to deny the latest claims Rafa was heading for the sack, but it was a surprise that Parry wasn’t wheeled out to deny the possibility of DIC stepping in to buy the club from the struggling owners.
Perhaps the PR machine was on holiday, as everything went quiet until Boxing Day. That’s when the Reds managed another victory - 2-1 over Derby County. Christmas was looking promising for the Reds.
The usual phone-in and forum critics weren’t happy of course. Liverpool had gone ahead against County but were pegged back to 1-1 in the middle of the second half. It was looking like a draw until Gerrard got a winner in the last minute. The critics got their knives out and added more pressure to Rafa’s already full plate.
They got more of their wishes on the 30th - Liverpool travelled to Manchester City to face a team intent on not losing. City defended well, Liverpool made a lot of chances, but none went in. The game ended 0-0, and the critics had now forgotten about the last two wins. They forgot again the day after the New Year when the Reds drew their first game of 2008. This was at home to Wigan Athletic, and finished 1-1, after a defensive blunder let Wigan equalise. Steve Bruce has been a thorn in Liverpool’s side as Birmingham manager for years, except for a 7-0 cup win, and had already managed a draw as Birmingham’s boss at Anfield earlier in the season. After benefitting from a mistake there was no way his side were going to let Liverpool back into the game.
The transfer window was now open of course, but very little was being said about Liverpool’s plans. Javier Mascherano had made a plea before the Wigan game to be allowed to stay at Anfield, but said that if the owners did not act soon it would be difficult for him to stay. It wasn’t just Mascherano being put under pressure by the owners’ inability to sort out their finances.
Still no denial from the owners about Rafa’s future, and on the following Sunday all the papers reported that Rafa was telling friends he was expecting the axe; he was a “dead man walking” according to one paper. This was the morning of the Luton game, the FA Cup match. These games are never easy, especially away on difficult pitches, with one team treating it like a cup final and the other not quite sure how to treat it. Numerous top-flight teams had either gone out or been held in the other games in the 3rd round. And on top of this came the blast of headlines that Rafa himself had been saying he expected to be fired. The following day Rafa strenuously denied the stories had come from him, explaining that the press had spoken to him privately after the last press conference, but that none of what they said had come from him. He was still trying hard to follow orders and not discuss club policy in public.
Liverpool were lacklustre against Luton. Rafa’s preparations not helped, his team not exactly inspired, by headlines again saying he was on his way. And again, no word from Rafa’s bosses that any of this was nonsense. Liverpool struggled throughout the game, went 1-0 up against the run of play, then let Luton equalise with an own-goal. More criticism for Rafa, but no support from above. The claims that Klinsmann had been lined up continued, although some Liverpool-related journalists said this talk had come from outside Anfield, it had come from others in football.
On the following Friday, 11th January, there was a chance to see some positives. Jurgen Klinsmann had accepted the job of coaching Bayern Munich from next season. He was quoted as having said he had received no offers from England, but whether that was in response to offers from the English national side or from clubs in England was never really clear. Surely this was good news; perhaps the links to him weren’t as strong as had been feared. But shortly afterwards, and from various sources, came reports that he’d not just been asked about the Liverpool job, but had been made a “detailed offer”.
And this was the headlines Rafa had to face on the morning of the Middlesbrough game. Reporters contacted Liverpool the night before this game to ask them for a comment on the claims that this offer had been made. The club declined. No denial, and let’s face it, being asked directly about something like this, how difficult would it be to deny if it had not been true? No denial - even when asked - strongly implies that the owners had offered Klinsmann the job. How is Rafa expected to work under these conditions? Or is that the idea? If he walks, they’ll save £6m in compensation. What isn’t clear is how recently Klinsmann turned down this offer, or who might be next on the list. But this offer was known about for some time, and the link wasn’t going away. The only way it would was if Klinsmann refused the offer, and it looks like a life under Laurel and Hardy did not appeal to the German that was hardly well-liked at Anfield anyway.
More reports in the Sunday papers following on from the Middlesbrough defeat suggested Liverpool were again on the verge of being taken over by DIC. The new owners can’t - according to most reports - get the finance on the terms they want. They don’t want to put a penny of their own money into the club or its purchase - they want it all to be financed by loans that are secured on the club. The club will pay the interest on the loan, as well as paying it back. At least one of the two owners refuses to put down what is effectively a deposit on that loan.
It seems that the owners are becoming resigned to having to give the club up, but they are fighting to do this and still come out with a profit. DIC don’t want to take the club over just to make the two Americans richer though, and won’t pay a silly price for the club. They’ll have to pay more than they planned to a year ago, but the feeling is growing that they are willing to do this. Whether their plans would include extra funds for team building, and which of the four different stadium plans they’d most likely go for remains to be seen if their takeover happens. But Liverpool fans in the main would value honesty quite high in the list of requirement s from future owners, something the current duo seem to avoid quite often.
It’s also still possible that they’ll find a way to finance their loans. It may be that the final offers on the table from the banks are better for them than any final offer from DIC. Certainly they aren’t concerned about the future of the club, but if keeping the club is more profitable than selling it then they’ll not sell, assuming they can keep their personal risks to a minimum.
Unfortunately this uncertainty, added to their mistreatment of a manager who is still closer to winning the league than he should be - given the budget he has compared to his rivals - means that this season is fast becoming a write-off. Rafa’s love for club and the city is a genuine one, but faced with the threats he’s had, he must already be starting to come to terms with the idea of working somewhere else. A new manager would mean the start of another four to five years of rebuilding, as Rafa’s players are replaced by the new mans’ players, and with little extra funding in place to improve on his squad. But the owners have already lost the support of the fans, and that’s something they’ll struggle to win back. Fans will expect any new manager to do markedly better than Rafa, and to do it at speed. There’ll be no patience from supporters for five-year plans, not if Rafa leaves under these circumstances.
Just recently Rafa has been getting more criticism from those fans who take pleasure in complaining, and those fans who always expect instant success. But now more of the fair-minded fans have started to join in too, feeling they’ve now seen the light they saw when Gerard Houllier’s reign was coming to an end. But in reality Rafa is still improving, even if not as fast as they’d like. The last four games have been drawn, but the last two of those came under some of the darkest of those black clouds the club has been sitting under of late. Yesterday’s draw wasn’t the end of the world, and wasn’t a bad result at all considering the stories in the press that morning. Liverpool moved up a place to fourth, and are no further from the top than they were that morning. An opportunity was missed to close the gap, but the gap remains 12 points with a game in hand.
The owners wanted Rafa out before a ball had even been kicked this season. They made offers to coaches who had never managed at club level. They promised a stadium they couldn’t afford, and they now want out, taking a profit with them. Their takeover saw shareholders paid around £1000 more per share than they would have under DIC. The owners didn’t pay that. The loan did. They never took a great risk themselves, and are now fighting to make sure there’s no risk whatsoever on their own assets. All of those thousand pounds per share came out of those loans. They’re now trying to sell the club for a profit, and selling it at £500m should ensure that. And all that without putting a penny of their own money in.
What’s important now is that supporters don’t lose sight of how close Rafa has been getting to winning things. He wasn’t supported financially in the summer in the way he expected to be, and has been treated like something Hicks stood in on his Dallas ranch for most of this season. He deserves better, and it’s important he gets the support of the fans, even through these bad times, until the owners finally accept they are the ones we want to see the back of. If their first-choice replacement was Jurgen Klinsmann, failed national coach who played all his competitive fixtures at home, and has never managed a club anywhere, imagine how poor their second or third choice might be.
Support the manager, give him some time, and don’t let the owners hound him out.