Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Robbie Keane: Liverpool's New No. 7

Life has turn full circle for this boy-hood Red after initially turning down the chance to join Liverpool 14 years ago as a young teenager. He checks into Anfield with the 2nd highest transfer fee ever paid by the club (after Fernando "el nino" Torres) - £19 million (to increase to £20 million with add-on bonuses).

He will be assigned the no. 7 shirt made famous by the legendary Kevin Keegan and "King" Kenny Dalglish. Let's hope we see his trademark cart-wheeling, machine-gun firing goal celebrations at the Kop end.

Welcome home to your spiritual footballing home Robbie Keane. Let's hope the new no. 7 + no. 9 partnership will turn into the deadliest attacking combo in EPL.


Monday, July 28, 2008

The fighting philosophy of Bill Shankly

The fighting philosophy of Bill Shankly
In the first of our series of extracts from the Guardian book of football, Eric Todd talks to the legendary Liverpool manager - a players' man who has always been 'daft about fitba'

* Eric Todd
* The Guardian, Monday July 28 2008

Liverpool legend Bill Shankly celebrates in front of the club's fans. Photograph: PA

Like the state of holy matrimony, an interview with Bill Shankly, manager of Liverpool, is not to be entered lightly. There is an element of chance about them both; in neither is the course of events predictable. Shankly has to be heard to be appreciated. Like Jim Sims, that much-loved slow bowler for Middlesex in years gone by, he expresses himself through the corner of his mouth. There the comparison ends. Sims favoured the confidential drawl, Shankly fires his words as if with a Gatling gun. And he does not often miss.

Thirty years have passed since my first sight of Shankly playing at Deepdale in the company of the Beatties (not related), the O'Donnells (brothers), Jimmy Milne, Jimmy Dougal and Harry Holdcroft, that most handsome of goalkeepers. Even in those days Shankly was a busy, fussy character who always played with his palms turned outwards, creating the remote illusion of a sailing ship striving for that little extra help from the wind.

Now, now," protested Shankly, when I suggested that analogy. "It gave me strength. Did you notice too that I played on my toes all the time? Like a ballet dancer? That gave me strength in my calves, and I’ve still got it. Preston was only a small place - Jim Taylor, the North End chairman, called us a village team - but it was a fine club who believed in modern methods. I learned a great deal with Preston and I’ve always tried to pass on some of those lessons.

I was always daft about football. I went to Carlisle when I was 17 and a half, moved to Preston in 1933, and finished playing in 1949 when I went to Carlisle as their manager. They were a useful side but they haven’t had a great deal of ambition. But I had. So when I had the offer to take over at Grimsby because they ware struggling, I went and took less wages. From Grimsby I went to Workington, who were facing extermination. They offered me a bonus if I could save them. I got my bonus. Then I went as assistant to Andy Beattie at Huddersfield and, when he left, I took his place. I was made manager of Liverpool in 1959 and the rest you know. And by the by, I was never sacked in the whole of my life."

Shankly sipped his tea, long since cold, before he set off on a new theme. "People often ask me if
I ever made a mistake. Well, to my mind 'mistake' is a misused word, especially in football. For example, you might say it was a mistake for a club to buy such and such a player but that is not necessarily true. The player might not be able to settle down or to fit in. He might not suit his environment. Just bad luck. A footballer’s not like a hat or a coat that you can leave at a shop if it does not fit or suit you."

"Mind you, there are some managers
I’ve known who have gone about things the wrong way. The manager above all things should be solely responsible for the playing and training staffs and all tactics. He must be able to coach and to explain such basic things as how to kick a ball and how to pass it and control it. In other words, he must know what he's talking about. What good is it to go to a golf professional for lessons if he doesn’t know the game? The same with a football manager.

"Mind you,
I would not say the best players make the best managers, although I think that's been more the case in recent years - but a manager makes things so much harder for himself if he can't explain the game to his players. And even that's only half the battle. To get the best out of his men, the manager has to work to a tactical plan they understand which need not necessarily be the one he'd like himself. For instance, at Liverpool we have Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson, two of the best wingers in the game. They are as near to the old orthodox wingers as there are, so why should they be used in any other way? It would not be fair for one thing. Natural ability is far too precious to be messed about with."

I forget I must just tell you about Denis Law. When I went to Huddersfield, I had charge of the reserves, and this wee boy of 15 was one of them. You would not have thought so to look at him but he had everything. He was fiery and he was talented and he was earmarked to be a star. He was to become one of the greatest players I ever set eyes on. Aye, he was that."

After this diversion Shankly picked up his management thread as if he had never left it. "As for me, if they're
not satisfied with me, they'll get rid of me. We have a responsibility to the people of Liverpool. There was a great potential at Anfield when I went there and I like to think I have helped to realise that potential. We have got to try and maintain the high standard we have set, keeping in line with other teams with ambition, and maybe winning the League Championship again. That would give us a record haul of eight league titles, one more than Manchester United and Arsenal."

Shankly is young enough to have expectations of seeing that day, successful enough to withstand those tribulations to which so many of his kind have succumbed, patient enough to go on making a living until he can retire and take Nessie, his long-suffering wife, on their first real holiday in 25 years. When they went to a football match during their honeymoon, Nessie had a hint of what was in store in the years ahead. "A wonderful, understanding woman," said Shankly, whose present idea of a holiday is to stay in bed until mid-morning.

He neither smokes nor drinks but sees no reason why others should not do so - in moderation - and he has a lively sense of humour, although he is not conscious of it. If he were asked to think of something funny, he would be a slow starter. He is, however, master of the "off the cuff" type of humour and frequently reduces his players and press conference to hysterics with asides he had meant to be taken seriously. The sayings of Shankly are as forthright and weighty as the sayings of Mao. In the streets around Anfield they are also much more respected.

Shankly is not impressed easily nor is he a willing subject for embarrassment. When he put through his own goal in Tom Finney's testimonial, he was no more remorseful than a lad caught pinching jam from the larder. Only once, perhaps, did he go close to blushing. He played in a game alongside Frank Soo of Stoke City and afterwards a Scottish selector among the crowd went up and put his arm round Shankly's shoulder. "Well done, Soo," he said. "You played a blinder." "He thought
I was the Chinese because of the way my hair was cut," explains Shankly, and his chuckle is that of a corncrake in search of a mate.

I think it would be an exaggeration to say that Shankly is regarded generally as a "popular" manager - except at Anfield, where the Kop acknowledges him to be omnipotent. He is not as aloof as he used to be but he is not easy to know, not easy to draw out. His conversation, like the man himself, is fitful. He speaks in Morse, as it were. But for all that he is, and always has been, among the genuinely dedicated managers and his success as a player and as a manager has been achieved the hard way. He has in his time made mistakes over transfers - that is my view, not his - but he covered them up effectively. Above all, Shankly is a players' man who knows that if he fights for them, they will fight for him. It seems a sound philosophy.

The Duke of Wellington is reported to have made sure personally that his troops - who did most of the work - had comfortable billets. Shankly subscribes to the same principles and now squeezes the duties of accommodation inspector into his already congested schedule.

Before I left him, Shankly summoned the manager of a hotel and gave him his instructions. "There'll be, eh, 17, in the party," he said. "So, eh, that'll be 17 fillet steaks –
I’ll let you know how we want them done when we arrive - with chips. For afterwards, eh, there'll be 17 fresh fruit salads and fresh cream. Right? Then for breakfast, eh ..." A players' man indeed.

** Part of the interview was editted by MyRAWK for the purposed of easy reading. To read the entire article in it's original uneditted form, kindly click on the The Guardian link on top.

Sir Bob Paisley: Humble man who never walked alone

Humble man who never walked alone
In an article originally published on 22/02/1996, Frank Keating reflects on Bob Paisley's funeral

* Frank Keating
* The Guardian, Monday July 28 2008

Good Bob Paisley was laid to rest in his parish churchyard yesterday as Liverpool supporters respected his family's request for privacy, and there were fewer than 100 gathered outside when the simple coffin, adorned with red and white roses, was carried into St Peter's, Woolton. There will be a more acclaiming memorial service in the city in the spring.

His widow Jessie, their three children and seven grand-children led the mourners, who included a number of players from Paisley's record-breaking teams as well as the four managers who succeeded him - Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Roy Evans.

Two of those, Fagan and Evans, would have been ruminating through moist eyes on the days when all the blazing red fires that were too hot for Europe were lit in the Anfield bootroom, which, legend has it, was instituted by the late Bill Shankly after he arrived to manage the dingy Second Division club at Christmas 1959 and kept on the two backroom boys from the previous regime, Fagan and Paisley.

By touching fluke this very day is published a biography, Shankly by Stephen F Kelly, which celebrates the founder of the feast. Kelly writes: "If there was any magic, it came from that small group who gathered within its four walls... all that came out of that bootroom was plain common sense."

And you can just picture it: a pot of tea on the hob, Shankly in his woolly cardie, Paisley in his slippers, Fagan and Ronnie Moran still in their tracksuits. "Young so-and-so didn't look too bright this morning," Paisley would mutter in his north-east vernacular. "Probably out too late last night," someone else would suggest. "Better have a word," Shankly would add. "Or give him a run in the reserve..."

Cosy little natters at elevenses which, in their way, girdled the globe - as pictures of yesterday's funeral will have. The Geordie adopted - and how! - by the Scousers knew he would be buried at St Peter's, which he and Jessie attended each Sunday for years. St Peter's! To the end he would tell of the finest night of his career, after Liverpool had won the first of their European Cups, soundly thrashing Borussia Mönchengladbach in Rome. The party afterwards was at the Holiday Inn, just down from St Peter's itself. It was the last of its type. It was still (just) the age of soccer's innocence then. The press were invited and the world and his wife were allowed to gatecrash so long as they were decked in red.

A number of the obits to Paisley mentioned that, however much the champagne bubbled, the beaming manager bursting out of his ill-fitting Burton's blue suit refused to take a drink, so he could "drink in the atmosphere and the achievement".

Well, true in fact but not in theory. Halfway through the do a big mitt gripped my arm fondly. "A Keating's a boy who should know," said Bob. "D'you think there's any chance of getting a bottle of Guinness round here?" I searched every nook. The St Peter's Holiday Inn did not stock Guinness. "Ah me," said Bob, "that means only me and the Pope up the road and Horace [Yates, the teetotal sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post] over there are the only three sober men in Rome tonight."

By then the joint was dancing. Lo and behold, they struck up the Gay Gordons. Paisley joined in one set with us, grin on full beam, then went to bed, a happy man, the very happiest of men. Before he pattered off to the lift to get into those favourite slippers he had said something passingly matter-of-fact and prophetic. No football club in those days was sponsored but the spivs were talking such revolution. "Sponsors?" Bob winced as we walked to the lift. "Sign up with them and they'll be picking the team for you inside a fortnight." And so it has come to pass. RIP.

Friday, July 25, 2008

RAWK Forum: This season’s Defence – an Attack , By yorkykopite

Liverpool have started every season under Rafa with a worse defence than their main rivals. There are several reasons why we haven’t put in a serious title bid in the last four seasons and most of them fall easily off the tongue – lack of money, injuries, lack of depth in the squad, off the field public suicide. But the main reason has been our defence.

I say this in full knowledge that Rafa’s teams have conceded fewer goals than Arsenal (three times) and Man Utd (once). I also know that Pepe Reina (deservedly) has won the Golden Gloves in his first two seasons here. But I’m not talking about blocking attacks, which we’ve been supremely good at. I’m talking about our relative inability to attack from the back. Unlike the other three we have been poor at creating plays from the defence. This season, hopefully, things will be very different. This season our defence might become an effective first line of attack.

The theory
There is, of course, an old-fashioned view in football that the prime job of the back-4 is to defend. If there’s anything left over after the opposition striker has been shimmied off the ball or the winger bundled into touch, then that’s very nice. But only in the sense that the packaging on a birthday present is very nice. You can do without it. Well, this idea may have been valid a few years ago in English football when a centre-back was judged purely on his ability to clear his lines and marshal the offside plan (Eye-Ore!), but not anymore. Today the job of the back-4 is to do both – to defend and attack. A successful back-4 has to be able defend and attack equally well and to switch between the two without pausing, taking a mental breather, or acquiring an alien mind-set. This means everybody. If a single part of the unit is not happy on the ball that simply increases the burden on the others and reduces the potency of the whole.

In the modern game defenders spend a longer time with the ball at their feet than anyone else in the team. It’s a crime if they can’t use that time to cause the opposition problems. A back-4 of Finnan-Carragher-Hyypia-Riise could be heroic in defence. It often was. But ask it to attack and you could almost see the thought-bubbles full of agonised question marks floating free from the players’ skulls.

The tradition
We know what it takes at Liverpool because we’ve had what it takes. We developed creative defences far earlier than anyone else in England. Cloughie’s teams – especially the Derby one – could be creative at the back but it was Liverpool who possessed a near-monopoly of defenders who took their offensive duties seriously. Thompson, Smith, Hughes, Lawrenson, Gillespie and – of course – the great Alan Hansen. Hansen often jokes today that he never crossed the half-way line. First of all that’s not true. Jocky sometimes carried the ball at high speed into the opposition penalty area where more often than not he’d bump into four or five unmarked attackers queuing up to shoot. But even in his later years, when the knees had gone, Hansen could still attack from the back. A skilful centre back, as Agger has repeatedly shown, doesn’t have to move a great distance with the ball to delete two opponents from the game and set up an attack. He just has to do it quickly.

On the wings, too, we’ve had entrepreneurial full-backs. Lawler, Nicol, Neal, the criminally underrated Lindsay and the long-lamented Rob Jones. Rolls-Royce footballers in unglamorous positions, they were key to whatever success the teams they played in enjoyed. What other right-back has turned up in open play in an inside-left position to put a team 1-0 ahead in the European Cup final? For that matter what other left-back has blasted his way into the penalty box to fire his team 1-0 ahead in a European Cup final? The answer to both, of course, is our full-backs, Zico and Barney – players of varying talent, I think, but both holding a similar belief that the team they played for was flexible and ingenious enough to cover for an inspired moment’s walkabout.

The inheritance
I admire what Rafa has achieved with our defence since 2004. Under Houllier the back-4 was valiant but it was not equipped for the modern game – especially in Europe. Even when Liverpool had the ball the defence was square! I mean, what better way than a square defence for saying to a colleague “for Christ’s sake don’t pass the thing to me”? Rafa changed all that. He staggered the defence when we had possession. He took an inadequate full-back and made the best centre-back stopper in the world out of Carragher. He freed up big Sam’s game and allowed him to try and work his way out of a problem rather than just whack the ball up the field all the time (something that Houllier seemed to have red-lined ever since Henchoz once screwed up at White Hart Lane). He made a European-Cup winner out of the lamentable Riise and he turned Finnan into the marauding right-back he’d once been at Fulham.

But it was still not enough. Not enough to win the league anyway. That back-4 made a great defence, but it was not an attack. Not by a long way.

The competition
I don’t want to dwell too much on the others. We can briefly admire them, especially the full backs. Evra, Clichy, Sagna, Ashley Cole (Christ, I said it) – all of them add such attacking dynamism to their teams. The centre backs too are, on the whole, quick with the ball and happy to have it at their feet. Carvalho, in particular, is a master at turning defensive play into an attacking play in a blink of an eye.

We saw in the Euros how some of the most eye-catching players were positioned at full-back. Boswinga, Zhirkov, Lahm, Ramos, even van Bronckhurst – all of them (apart from maybe Lahm) did well at the back. But mainly they did well in attack, stretching play, frequently getting beyond their own ‘wingers’, always looking to drive into the opposition half. I don’t know if it was Guus Hidddink who pioneered this style of full-back play but he certainly perfected it – at South Korea, PSV, and now Russia. And not one of his full backs, at any of these teams, was an established star.

The future
Clearly Rafa has made the full-back positions his priority over the summer. Both Degen and Dossena are meant to be attacking full backs with plenty of pace – men who think about the offensive side of their game as much as the defensive. Degen, it’s even been said by Dortmund fans, isn’t that much of a defender (something he seemed a bit too keen to prove against Lucerne) – a fact that Rafa seems uncharacteristically blasĂ© about at the moment. It’s possible, of course, that Degen will end up being Kuyt’s understudy on the right of midfield rather than a proper right-back, but I doubt it. It’s more likely that he and Arbeloa will be vying for the number 2 spot. Spain’s squad player versus Switzerland’s squad player. It ought to be no contest. We’ll see.

Dossena looks a safer bet and comes with a reputation for having elite pace. I like the sound of that. If Babel continues on the left hand side then we shall need a left full-back who can attack that area on the wing that Babel always vacates when he’s running with the ball. This is a great opportunity for the Italian lad. My guess is that a lot of opposition right-backs will have a wretched time against the Babel-Dossena combo this year. I’m a Fabio Aurelio fan. He sees passes, especially infield passes, that other full-backs fail to spot. But, as always with Fabio, he’s likely to prove more of a handful for the physicians than the footballers.

And then the centre backs. I think Rafa will soon have to make the hardest decision of his coaching career. We now have four excellent centre-backs – all of them with proven ability, all of them keen to play. No one likes to rotate centre-halves. It’s not done. Barring injuries, therefore, Rafa will probably end up with a consistent centre-back pairing for the league. Who will be in it?

I said earlier that “if a single part of the unit is not happy on the ball that simply increases the burden on the others and reduces the potency of the whole”. For that reason I would look to play Agger and Skrtel. For me they are the best centre backs we possess. They are both quick, decisive and positionally aware. They both recycle the ball quickly when they get it. They are the most attack-minded centre-back pairing we have and may quite easily turn out to be the best in the Premier League. They are also both at a stage in their careers where they will be wanting regular first-team football. Treading water at this point in their careers is no good at all – especially for Agger who’s already missed out on a whole season of football.

Agger’s ability to attack space with the ball is already famous. He knows it’s a crime to dawdle even if there’s bags of time, and he has the pace to make for a gap in the opposition’s front line if he’s invited in. He’s also the consummate ‘picture-changer’. If nothing appears on in front of him, Agger is happy to move a few yards with the ball (rapidly) to see whether the picture is different from somewhere else. That’s when gaps open up and that’s why Liverpool are able to build quickly from the back when Agger plays. Of course Agger and Skrtel have yet to play together. It’s possible that there’ll be absolutely no rapport between them. But that’s highly unlikely. My own guess is that Skrtel, because of his similar ability to move with the ball at his feet, will actually make things a lot easier for Agger – pretty much as Lawrenson made things easier for Hansen. When you get two centre backs who have the ability to carry the ball it doesn’t half make things difficult for the opposition attack. You can’t sit back and let them come on to you – as teams do with Carragher and Hyypia – because they’ll just keep coming forward at pace. Instead of the floated nothing-ball into a crowded forward area you’ll probably end up with an extra, unmarked, man joining the attack at high speed. That’s usually fatal.

Of course I feel like a regicide in relegating Carragher. Carragher is the King of the Kop. The player who has most defined Rafa’s first age at Anfield. But there are two reasons why he might not play such a prominent role in the second age. Firstly, he’s already playing to the maximum of his ability. He has been for several years. But with wear and tear – and let’s face it Carra has acquired a hell of a lot of it over the years – he’s now straining to keep in touch with the standards he’s set himself. Jamie is the sort of defender who, even at the peak of his powers, was all about stretching that extra impossible yard to nick the ball away or block a shot. Some of the blocks he produced echoed round the football world. Like the one against Robben in the first Semi at Anfield or the cramp-defying block in extra time in the Final. They were miraculous. But Jamie is all about driving the machine to the extreme – he was so good, at his peak, because he left nothing in reserve. So the question is ‘what happens when Carragher can no longer push himself to these physical limits?’ A long time ago a similar all-action defender, Emlyn Hughes, held the European Cup aloft twice in two years. Twelve months later a kid called Hansen had nicked his place. It happens.

The second reason why Jamie might lose his automatic spot is to do with the back-4 as an attacking unit. Jamie does dawdle on the ball when he gets it. He cannot run into the gaps and once he’s stopped he finds it difficult to start again. Rather than attack open space and dishevel the opposition Carra prefers to wait for Alonso or Mascherano to come back and start the attack themselves. This means we often start moves with 5 or 6 men already behind the ball. No wonder our wingers have such a thin time of it. No defender is better suited to a siege than Carragher. No question about that. When Liverpool are under the cosh for most of the match, defending deep, you want him in your side. But with the team – hopefully – playing more in the opponent’s half this season, and with a high line, his qualities are a bit less important.

And what of Sami? Until Skrtel found his groove I thought he was our best defender last season. But I don’t think Hyypia responds well to rotation either. He can take an age – sometimes 4 or 5 games – to get up to speed once he’s a missed a few. That’s no good for a centre back. You either give Sam the lion’s share of the games or you use him in an emergency.

I’m excited by what lies ahead. I honestly don’t think that any of our other main rivals have such an obvious way of improving as we do. If the boys can inject more pace and adventure into our defensive unit then the whole team will begin to change character. If the ball gets recycled quicker then there will be more space and time for players like Babel and…..whoever ends up on the right-wing. But I don't want to fly that kuyt.

**This article was taken from yorkykopite's post in RAWK (click link to directly access into the forum pages). A big MyRAWK shout out to him for allowing us to reproduce his excellent post in our blog. Thanks mate! YNWA.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Live Pre-season Friendly Match On Astro - Supersport: Hertha Berlin vs Liverpool


Fellow Reds, pls take note of the live pre-season friendly against Hertha Berlin on Wednesday 23rd July morning at 1:40 am on Astro Supersports.

Catch it if you can!

**Editted: The match ended with a stalemate with Voronin missing a peno. One of the toughest pre-season match yet.


Pre-Season Friendly: Wisla Krakow 1 - 1 Liverpool

Wisla Krakow 1-1 Liverpool: Gerrard injury scare for Reds

By Ian Winrow - Sunday Mirror, 20/07/08

Steven Gerrard has returned home from Liverpool's pre-season training camp with a groin strain.

The news came after a frustrating week for boss Rafa Benitez, who has been reported to the Premier League by Spurs chief Daniel Levy after publicly declaring his interest in Robbie Keane.

But Benitez insisted the Gerrard injury was a minor hiccup - and remains confident he will land £20million target Keane.

Benitez said: "Steven doesn't have a serious problem but he can't train and we knew he wouldn't be available for this game. In a week he will be okay."

And he shrugged off Levy's comments by saying: "It seems you can talk to a club but you can't say the name. Hopefully next week we will have same new names here."

Without Gerrard, the Reds took a sixth-minute lead when Andriy Voronin converted Yossi Benayoun's cross. Krakow's Tomas Jirsik levelled six minutes later.

Match Highlights:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pre-season Friendly: Lucerne 1 vs Liverpool 2

FC Lucerne 1-2 Liverpool

By James Carroll - 16/07/2008 20:52

Liverpool's pre-season preparations continued with a 2-1 victory over FC Lucerne in Switzerland thanks to goals from Lucas Leiva and Andriy Voronin.

The Reds opened the scoring after ten minutes with a well worked goal.

17-year-old Spanish starlet Daniel Pacheco collected the ball on the edge of the box and slipped a fine pass through for Lucas, who stroked it first time past goalkeeper David Zibung.

However, Lucerne hit back moments later when Philipp Degen was beaten to a header at the back post and the ball bounced across the face of goal allowing Gavranovic to nod home with new signing Deigo Cavalieri stranded.

Liverpool's response was a positive one and, but for some good goalkeeping from Zibung, the Reds could have taken the lead much earlier than they did when Voronin netted a fine goal on 38 minutes.

Collecting the ball just outside the box, the much-margined Ukrainian striker clipped a sumptuous chip over the head of Zibung.

Voronin was handed a start by Rafa Benitez alongside Pacheco, with the youngster turning out another encouraging display.

In midfield, Lucas joined Damien Plessis, Sebastian Leto and Yossi Benayoun. Degen, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Emiliano Insua made up the back four with a first start for new £3m signing Cavalieri in goal.

Benitez made several changes at the break as the likes of Ryan Babel, Sami Hyypia, Martin Skrtel and Stephen Darby entered the fray but the pace of the game slowed considerably.

Liverpool continued to look threatening but failed to find a third goal as Dirk Kuyt and Javier Mascherano were given late introductions.

The Reds will continue to train in Switzerland ahead of Saturday's match with Polish champions Wisla Krakow.

* This short match report taken from ShanklyGates.co.uk

Goal Highlights & Interviews:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pre-season Friendly: Tranmere 0 vs Liverpool 1

Early test is unkind to spirited Tranmere

Jul 14 2008 by Nick Hilton, Liverpool Daily Post

CONVENTIONAL wisdom has it that the first date on the schedule of summer friendlies is not the ideal time for Tranmere to be playing sophisticated opposition like Liverpool.

It is too early in the pre-season programme for journeyman League One footballers to be sharp enough to live with a superior technical abilities of the Premiership stars.

Better to play Liverpool a few weeks down the line, to give them a more competitive game.

But picking and choosing dates isn’t an option for Tranmere when they have waited more than a decade to fix up a friendly with neighbours who happen to be one of the most illustrious clubs in the world.

Rovers had 15,000 reasons to be grateful for the visit of Rafael Benitez’s team in the form of the largest attendance at Prenton Park in more than four years.

The 90 minutes of football also had its specific advantages for Tranmere’s preparations for the new campaign.

Building fitness levels and stamina is a priority at this stage of the summer – and an afternoon of chasing while Liverpool pinged the ball around Prenton Park like pinball made for a demanding and valuable work out.

Tranmere had to run their socks off, to the extent that manager Ronnie Moore reckoned they would have “slept like babies” on Saturday night.

There were times, particularly in the first half, when the difference in class between the two teams was obvious.

No matter that Benitez fielded a mixture of first-team, fringe, reserve team players and new signings. Every man in a red shirt enjoyed a command over the ball that did not come so easily to the home players.

Rovers won’t have to cope with opposition with this level of technical finesse whoever they play over the course of the League One campaign that begins next month.

Tranmere were able to make a game of it thanks to hard running, doughty defending and finishing from the visitors that did that match up to their slick approach play.

Goalkeeper Danny Coyne made several sharp saves and was beaten by an exceptional strike from Yossi Benayoun for the 43rd minute goal.

Tranmere, testing out a 4-3-3 formation, left the midfield players with plenty of work to do and created only a thin ration of chances themselves.

Even so they had a near miss when Andrew Taylor’s 45th minute free-kick clipped the left-hand post and they created a clear opportunity on 77 minutes when Taylor’s cross from the left was headed over from close range by substitute Craig Curran.

An equaliser would have flattered Rovers but no-one was taking the scoreline too seriously.

Prenton Park has never boasted a larger attendance for a pre-season friendly, nor had a crowd that behaved quite like this one.

The signature of the afternoon was the excited babble of thousands of youngsters in Liverpool replica shirts making the most of a rare chance to see their heroes in the flesh at a fraction of Premiership prices. They did not know about match rules or etiquette, and probably did not care.

So when Steven Gerard made his first appearance of the afternoon, warming up on the touchline early in the second half as he prepared to join the action as a substitute, scores of young boys and girls in the paddock left their seats and scampered to the front in pursuit of an autograph.

A few minutes from the end the England midfielder provided a treat for spectators young and old – a pass played instinctively with the back of the heel through a crowded area that found its target 15 yards away with perfect weight and accuracy.

The performances of the summer’s new faces were of greatest interest to the Tranmere fans.

Early impressions are not always reliable but a lot of good solid work was done at right-back by trialist John Curtis.

The former Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and QPR player’s experience was evident and his fitness levels had benefited from training with Rovers on a trial basis for the past fortnight.

The three players signed last week look have some ground to make up fitness wise.

Irish midfielder George O’Callaghan, signed from Cork City, worked busily during the first hour before a little fatigue set in.

Edrissa Sonko found few opportunities to attack the Liverpool penalty area after joining the action as a 55th minute substitute for Chris Shuker.

Gareth Edds kept largely to a defensive midfield station before giving way to Adnan Ahmed on 67 minutes.

And Bas Savage, a 55th minute substitute for Ian Moore, showed he has a neat touch on the ball for a tall target man but did not have the opportunity to use his height to advantage inside the Liverpool box.

No-one one did more to counter the red tide of possession than midfielder Steve Jennings and Taylor’s contribution at left back took the eye.

But Rovers fans are already familiar with the quality of two of last season’s best performers.

Video Highlights: Benayoun's Stunner!

He's big, He was Red, His feet sticks out the bed!

All the best to our favourite bean pole down south! Just make sure you score all your goals against the rest of the EPL clubs and not us.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Downloaded Site for Liverpool FC fixtures 2008/2009


We at Malaysian RED and WHITE KOPties continue to serve all Liverpool FC fans especially those in Malaysia. With that in mind, we always continue to serve in the best interest of all Liverpool FC fans and in accordance to the traditions of Anfield and the KOP.

We would like to announce that it is now possible to download the Liverpool FC match fixtures 2008/2009 for (outlook,yahoo, google, lotus and mac). Please go to this site and follow the instructions laid out in the website for downloading the match fixtures http://www.addadate.com/liverpool/index.html.