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Archive for February 2007

One To Watch: Andres Iniesta


Wednesday, February 21, 2007 by

At last Liverpool have a reason to be grateful to England. For, if the national side’s shambolic showing against Spain earlier this month proved anything it was that in Andres Iniesta they – and Barcelona – have a midfielder who is every bit as skilful as Spanish football’s more heralded stars.

Not that Rafael Benitez would have needed any telling of Iniesta’s abilities but it will have certainly been beneficial for the likes of Gerrard and Carragher to experience first hand what he is capable of doing. With so much talk focusing on Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Deco, it is easy to underestimate a player like Iniesta.

After all, many have made that mistake and it is quite understandable. Iniesta is a frail and pale looking player who doesn’t look as if he poses any threats. Yet his immaculate passing and all round awareness have won him a pivotal role in Barcelona’s midfield. He is, after all, keeping Xabi Alonso out of Spain’s midfield.

Whilst the skills of Ronaldinho are always bound to attract the publicity, it is Iniesta’s constant prompting that keeps the side ticking. He is the one who marshals everything from midfield, and any gaps will be exploited.

Given Iniesta’s presence, the availability of Momo Sissoko will be vital for Liverpool. The Malian midfielder will have to close Iniesta down as quickly as possible if his side are to avoid being taken apart by the silent Spanish master.

England, Your England


Saturday, February 10, 2007 by

After one of the most abject England performances of the past ten years, some are looking for alibis. One of these is Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson, who saw it fit to point his finger at Liverpool. His justification is that managers like Rafael Benitez don’t give young English players a chance contrary to what McLaren did at Middlesbrough.

No one can contest the validity of Boro’s youth system, or the quality of the players coming through, even though it is hard to identify a player who could force himself into Liverpool’s first team on a regular basis.

Yet the stakes between the two clubs are massively different: Liverpool expect to win honours regularly, not hope for an occasional success once every hundred years.

Most fans would prefer it if that happened with a whole team of home grown players but the reality is that it isn’t going to happen. The decisions Benitez takes and the players he uses aren’t aimed at strengthening England but at ensuring that puts Liverpool in the best possible situation to win games.

And, after all, why should Liverpool be bothered with England? More pertinently, when has England ever done anything for Liverpool? It has taken the Premier League more than a week to decide whether Javier Mascherano can play for Liverpool. This after UEFA accepted that the transfer could go through.

Not to forget the shabby manner with which the Football Association treated Liverpool two years ago when the Champions League was won. If it was for them, Liverpool wouldn’t have been allowed to defend their title.

As things stand, the only interest Liverpool should have in England games is to see that none of the players get back with an injury.

The Quite Man's Moment


Friday, February 09, 2007 by

I wouldn't want to be David Moores for anything in the world. A strange thing to say and not one that I would normally contemplate about a millionaire who has just pocketed £88 million. Yet money, to paraphrase some pop band from Liverpool, can't buy you not only love but in Moores case, serenity.

For, despite George Gillet Jr's and Tom Hicks' soundbite friendly comments, the weight of the decision he has just taken and the potential implications if he has got it wrong is not an easy one for him to bear.

Ultimately, however, he can find comfort in the fact that it was the only way forward. As Moores himself admitted, he'd have gladly funded the new stadium himself if he had the means. Sadly for him, despite his wealth he had to turn to someone with deeper pockets in order to do so. That it took so long to come to a decision might have antagonised some, and the split with DIC could have been handled better, but no one more than him knew the magnitude of what he was about to do.

Moores, despite his wealth, is essentially a Kopite who knows how important football is for the fans. He was always ill at ease with the financially driven nature of modern football, an old fashioned chairman struggling to cope with the world that had ironically enough been kick-started by Rick Parry the man he chose as his CEO in 1992.

It was that sense of unease that held Liverpool back whilst Manchester United exploited their status as one of the most popular clubs around the globe whilst Arsenal ruthlessly decided to leave their historic home to move to a new and, crucially, more lucrative new stadium.

Commercially, Moores has held Liverpool back but that has to be the only blemish - if it is to be considered as such - in his CV. Otherwise he has always stuck by his managers, bought the players they wanted and shied away from interfering. Perhaps a more ruthless chairman might have gotten rid of Graeme Souness and Roy Evans earlier, or would have avoided becoming so close to Gerard Houllier. Yet, if being loyal and honourable are faults, then I don't want to be right.

Let's not, however, be overly romantic and forget that Moores has plenty of critics among the fans: just a few days ago he was being viciously attacked for 'scaring' the DIC away thanks to his 'amateurish' approach. And it's a safe bet that as soon as something is perceived as going wrong with the new owners, Moores will the one being blamed.

My overall feeling at the takeover is one of relief that the whole thing is over. Of course, there is the hope that Gilett and Hicks will keep their word and safeguard the club's legacy, that the move to the new ground is done with class and put in place the resources needed to be successful on the pitch. In that order.

Yet I find it hard to share - and understand - the sense of elation that I have come across in many Liverpool fans. Having spent the past four years mocking Chelsea for buying their success, there are plenty who have quickly embraced the new owners simply because they feel we'll now be in a position to buy any player that takes Benitez's liking.

'Outstanding' Youngster Continues to Impress


Sunday, February 04, 2007 by

On a day where Liverpool's inability to play on the wings was one of the more frustrating

aspects of the Merseyside derby, loanee winger Adam Hammill made a start for Dunfermline and supplied the cross that led to the game's solitary goal which saw the Pars knock out holders Hearts from the Scottish cup.

By most accounts, it was a superb performance by the Liverpool youngster who was described as 'outstanding' by the Guardian and voted the man of the match by virtually every major paper.

Even more interesting are the fans' comments on the forum. One supporter, Ronnie Wutherspone, said "Hammill's performance in a Pars jersey today was one of the best I've seen in 25+ years of watching the team. I couldn't believe how many times he seemed to have overrun it or been blocked out and would suddenly appear with the ball and multiple Yambos trailing in his wake.

That their first choice full-back was subbed, and the sub was then petrified to get caught 1-on-1 by him, says it all."

Another, Larbert Par, opined that "He was absolutely magnificent,scintilating performance.Saw off 2 Hearts full backs and gave the Jambos the runaround all day. I'm confident he'll be a Liverpool regular in a couple of years and a future England player if he keeps playing like that.The only way Hearts could stop him was to bring him down, but he kept getting up,continued to look for the ball and run at them again."

Apart some worrying comparisons with Istvan Kozma, virtually all fans have been full of priase with some describing him as being a'different class', 'born entertainer' as well as 'beating players for fun'.