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Archive for April 2009

A Look At: Layton Maxwell

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Saturday, April 25, 2009 by Paul Grech

It is no secret that the big clubs tend to consider the League Cup as the ideal opportunity to give young players a chance. Sometimes, this is the stepping stone to bigger things but on most occasions these players never really progress beside that soltary appearance. So it is that you look at past line-ups and come across a number of by now unfamiliar names.

One such name is that of Layton Maxwell who made a rare appearance for Liverpool against Hull back in 1999 just a couple of months after signing professional forms with the club. Despite scoring a goal that night, he didn't really impress the management.

So, soon he left for Cardiff before moving on to Swansea and Mansfield. He didn't really settle there so eventually he moved back Wales were he has played for Barry, Rhyl, Carmarten, Bangor and Caernarforn.

We spoke to David Morgon, who is the manager at his current ETNO Aberaman AFC, spoke to us about Maxwell.

How has Layton been doing for ENTO Aberaman AFC?
Layton has settled well in to his role with the club and has at times showed why he was a former pro, his passing is superb and has geat vision.

What is his style of play?
Playmaker from the midle of the park, has put a bit of weight on now and his bulk does not allow the freedom around the park like he used to but a serious playmaker with great vision.

How aware is everyone that he played for Liverpool?
He has a player profile page in the match programme and has done a few interviews for local and welsh national press so true football fans know who he is and who he has played for.

Does the fact that he comes from Liverpool increase expectations on him?
there is a decree of expectation particularly from our supporters, the opposition also expect him to be above the normal run of the mill players.

Do you think that he will stay on for next season?
Who knows, Layton has had a couple of clubs recently and if we succeed in our ambition to get to the Welsh Premier we would certainly need his experiance.

Thanks to Dilwyn Pritchard at ETNO for making all of this possible.


A Look At: Behind the Back Page

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Thursday, April 23, 2009 by Paul Grech

Book Review: Behind the Back Page by Chris Davies

One the cover of this book there's a quote attributed to Ian Ridley where he discribes the author, Chris Davies, as being "a funny guy".

Such a comment would normally be the prelude to a long read without any laughs. Fortunately this isn't the case. Davies has met many interesting preople and certianly tells a good story. His puns - and this book is a constant stream of them - could get tiring but, strangely, they don't.

Sadly, the book doesn't live up to another promise that is made on the front cover, that this book will offer an insight to the life of a sports writer.

What we get is are the all too predictable complaints about the hardship of following teams to major tournaments or on their way there.

Indeed Davies does much to prove that the stereotype of the Englander abroad is still very much alive and kicking.

One moan after another about what seems to be petty things, no real desire to explore the countries where he's staying and much less any apetite for local food. Only towards the end of the book, in Barcelona, does he display an inking of appreciation to what he is seeing. Tellingly, he has gone freelance at this stage and is there to do an interview rather than cover a game.

What the book definitely doesn't do is explain Davies' character. How he came into sports journalism is only briefly touched upon and there's really no insight into what he feels whilst watching a game. Indeed, the actual talk about football could probably fit into a couple of pages.

Then there's his journeys to cover the Superbowl. Again we're left in the dark over how that came about or even whether he actually likes the game of American Football.

All of which leaves you a bit hollow. Davies has a talent for telling jokes and one more than one instance you'll find yourself chuckling at his stories.

Yet there isn't really a central theme. You can dip in and out of this book, chosing randomly the chapters you opt to read without really missing anything.

Ultimately, this is an easy and enjoyable read despite the shortcomings. Sadly, it is also a book that had the potential to be so much better but doesn't.


The Lad Can Play: Peter Gulacsi

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Thursday, April 16, 2009 by Paul Grech

Most of the time, rather than letting player go on loan to gain experience it seems as if Liverpool are sending them out into the wilderness.

Take Craig Lindfield, the FA Youth Cup winner who never seems to manage to get a game no matter where - and it is usually in Division Two - he gets sent to. Or Adam Hamill, who looked so good at Dunfermline, but has struggled to settle in at Southampton, Blackpool and now Barnsley.

Even Paul Anderson who enjoyed such an impressive season at Swansea last year was guided into joining Nottingham Forest where he has struggled to make much of an impact at a club hounded by relegation.

Peter Gulacsi could easily have added to that list. Of all places that could have been chosen for the young Hungarian keeper to make his senior debut Liverpool opted for Hereford, a club set for relegation from Division One.

The reason for such a choice - if there really was one - probably was that of testing his strength of character. Games at reserve team level are testing to a very limited degree so, while he consistently looked good for Gary Ablett's team, there remained a question mark as to whether he could handle the added pressure of competitive football.

Within his first ninety minutes at Hereford, he had answered those doubts as a penalty save and a series of top class stops ensured that his new side beat Leeds.

That performance set the (high) marker for Gulacsi and he has rarely strayed below it. Whilst Hereford have struggled for results and relegation seems now an inevitability, Gulacsi has been consistently excellent. So much that when a minor injury made his presence doubtful at a recent game against Hartlepool, this generated a semi-panicked reaction.

“To say that he has been doing pretty well is an understatement!” say Martin Watson of Hereford fan site Bulls News. “He has single handedly stopped us from being repeatedly embarrassed throughout his twelve games so far.”

“He's conceded 21 goals in those games; any bog-standard League One keeper would have let in 40. He pulls off, on average, two or three top class saves every game.”

Such performances confirm Gulacsi’s reputation – he was chosen as the best goalkeeper at last summer’s European Under 19 championships – and could ensure that Diego Cavallieri’s stay at Anfield as back-up keeper might be short lived. Yet, for that to happen he will have to bulk up his experience with a further loan period next season. With a destination that is unlikely to be Hereford.

“We'd love him to be here next season, but when Coventry reserve team boss Steve Orgizovic was seen at Scunthorpe (in the away end) we expect him to be snapped up by someone higher up for next season.”

Interested in Liverpool's young players? Read more of our Lad Can Play features here. Or else, follow us on Twitter.


Good Game Bad Game [vs Chelsea]

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009 by Paul Grech

If you know your history, that which really matters, you'll know that this had happened before. When Liverpool lost heavily (5-1) to Ajax in the sixties, Shankly's quips convinced the fans that the tie could be turned around in the second leg.

Rafael Benitez is as different to Shankly as you are likely to get, but his track record gave fans confidence that Liverpool could still go through despite losing 3-1 at home.

And, for forty five minutes, it looked as if they could really do it. Then came those two Chelsea goals within six minutes and the tie had swung out of Liverpool's grasp.

As, disappointing as this defeat is - and you have to keep things into perspective given what happened twenty years ago today - there's nothing to be disheartened about. Scoring four times against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was a show of strength even if the end result didn't go Liverpool's way.

Above all, there is the pride in a set of players that kept believing until the end. There were plenty of mistakes, but not one player can be accused of not giving his utmost.

Now there's nothing to do but try to win all the remaining league games and wait to see what happens. Not an easy task but with this team you can feel that it is possible.

Good Game
A fabulously crafted free kick put Liverpool ahead as Fabio Aurelio partially atoned to a disappointing first leg. It isn't something that has been pointed elsewhere but the feeling is that this is a player who absolutely loves the club.

It might not have been his greatest game but Javier Mascherano showed what Liverpool had missed at Anfield as he gave the midfield added strength.

Thanks to him, Xabi Alonso could advance more his position as he bossed the midfield, constany trying to find gaps in Chelsea's defence. My man of the match.

A well taken goal was the highlight of a game that didn't always go too well for Dirk Kuyt but who, as always, kept trying and got more right than wrong.

So too did Yossi Benayoun who blew hot and cold in the opening minutes before settling down. Apart from Gerrard, no player has done so well in this second half of the season as Benayoun who has developed into a top class midfielder who can trouble any defence. Chelsea, like many others, couldn't really get a grip on him.

He's got his critics (many of them) and was awful at Anfield last week yet, playing in a role that is more akin to what he used to fill at Gremio, Lucas Leiva was actually quite good. He'll be lucky if he gets credited for the goal but he truly deserved it.

Bad Game
Pepe Reina
made a mess on the first goals which, much like Riise's own goal last season, gave Chelsea an unmerited edge.

Just as happened at Anfield, Martin Skrtel couldn't get a grip of Didier Drogba who absolutely tormented him throughout. Had it been my choice, I'd have gone for Daniel Agger, a feeling that was strenghtened as the match progressed.

As with Skrtel, this won't go down as one of Jamie Carragher's finest games as he too let Drogba get to him.

Alvaro Arbeloa didn't do anything massively wrong yet seemed too tense and gave away too many free kicks in dangerous areas.

It might seem harsh to say that this was a bad game by Fernando Torres but he has set himself such high standards that it is impossible not to conclude that he should have done better.

Substituitions
Albert Riera came on and set up the fourth goals so there isnlt much that you could say about him other than that he had a positive impact. So too did David N'Gog in the ten minutes that he was on the pitch, winning a fair share of loose balls. Ryan Babel wasn't really on long enough to be able to judge him.


A Touch of Class from Blackburn

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Monday, April 13, 2009 by Paul Grech

On the pitch, Blackburn were thoroughly outclassed last Saturday but off it they have set themselves a very high standard. Before the game kicked off, Stephen Warnock placed a bouquet of flowers in memory of the 96 who died at Hillsborough. As I said, class.


Spreading the Word: Radio Show on Hillsborough Disaster

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Thursday, April 09, 2009 by Paul Grech

There seems to be a real upsurge of national interest in the Hillsbrough disaster with a number of documentaries focusing on this tragedy, not least the one on the History channel that is to be screened on the day of the anniversary.

The BBC is also getting in the act, even if only on the radio, with a show to be aired next Sunday on BBC Radio 4 at 11:15am with a repeat on the 17th of April at 9am. Hopefully, all this will lead to greater knowledge on what happened on the day as well as a shift in the wheels of justice:

This is an extract from the press release on the show:

"In the second programme of the award-winning Radio 4 series The Reunion, Sue MacGregor is joined by five people who were involved in the Hillsborough disaster, which resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool football fans.

The fans died as the result of a terrace crush at an FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, 20 years ago, on 15 April 1989.

The tragedy at Hillsborough was the worst spectator disaster in the history of British sport and resulted in widespread change in the design and safety of British sports stadia.

The fatal terrace crush at the Sheffield Wednesday ground was ostensibly caused by a human tide of fans being swept along a sloping tunnel onto two already full "pens" which were blocked to the side and front by perimeter fencing. Fans at the front were crushed or trampled.

Sue MacGregor is joined by Jenni Hicks, who went to the game with her husband, Trevor, and teenage daughters Victoria, 19, and Sarah, 15, who both died. "We went as a family but came back a couple," recalls Jenni.

Another mother, Margaret Aspinall, vice chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, lost her 18-year-old son, James, who was attending his first Liverpool away game.

Colin Moneypenny, who survived the crush, describes the "utter chaos" of being "carried off my feet for 30 to 40ft" along the Leppings Lane tunnel to within 10ft of the front perimeter fence.

Paramedic Tony Edwards was in the first vehicle to treat injured fans on the pitch. He still suffers feelings of trauma and guilt for driving away instead of staying to help others.

Dr Rogan Taylor was chairman of the Football Supporters Association at the time of Hillsborough and is now a professor at the University of Liverpool's Football Research Centre.

Presenter: Sue MacGregor CBE

Producer: Chris Green

The Reunion is a Whistledown. production for BBC Radio 4"


Spreading the Word: Fields of Anfield Road

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009 by Paul Grech

Liverpool's results over these past few weeks have given fans that most priceless of gifts: hope.

Hope that Liverpool can win the league. Hope that this team can play the kind of attractive football which is in line with the club's legacy. Hope, above all, that things are indeed getting better.

Yet hope is something that the campaigners for justice over Hillsborough have little of. The recent ruling by the European Court of Human Right in Anne Williams' case extinguished one of the final legal avenues available, a real knock for those fighting to see that those who were guilty for mishandling the policing on the day will finally be brought to justice.

And it is in order to keep that hope alive that fans should buy the Fields of Anfield Road CD that was launched yesterday where any money generated will go directly to the Hillsborough Family Support Group. That it is a highly evocative song with brilliant lyrics helps make the purchase all the more worthwhile.


Good Game Bad Game [vs Fulham]

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Sunday, April 05, 2009 by Paul Grech

For the first time in the five years that Rafael Benitez has been in charge, Liverpool went into the weekend before a Champions League quarter final thinking that this, rather than the midweek clash, was the must win game. If anyone still doubts whether progress has been registered this year, then that simple fact underlines just how much Liverpool have moved forward.

Not that anyone was thinking of progress for most of the match which, for long stretches, looked like leaving Liverpool once again thinking of what could have been. Then up stepped Yossi Benayoun to score a goal that swept away the doubts over his commitment following his decision to play for his national team.

This result means that Liverpool keep up the pressure at the top. Whatever happens, all the remaining games have to be won for the challenge to be kept alive till the end.

Good Game
Rarely troubled, Pepe Reina’s handling was impeccable as he kept another clean sheet. Just as with Reina, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel didn’t have that much to do although Andy Johnson always tries that little bit harder against Liverpool. Not that this did him much good on this occasion. Alvaro Arbeloa was quite subdued throughout the game but overall he didn’t do anything particularly bad.

The star of the defensive line, however, was young Emiliano Insua. Good and strong in his tackles, he gave Liverpool another dimension when he moved forward. Intelligent in his link up play, his ability to get the ball across no matter how much space he has is impressive. One of the best players on the pitch.

The much maligned Lucas came in for Javier Mascherano and did a decent job in keeping Danny Murphy subdued. For most of the first half, Fulham seemed baffled by the inclusion of Andrea Dossena at left wing but the Italian did extremely well in the first half before fading away in the second. Hit two crossbars which, on another day, would have certainly led to two goals apart from forcing Shwarzer to a great save in the opening minutes. Improving.

Whilst it is easy for players to lose composure on days like this, the fantastic Xabi Alonso kept tight control whatever was happening, spraying accurate passes irrespective of distance. Unlucky not to have scored and my man of the match.

Whatever the situation, you can always rely on Steven Gerrard to keep on trying and that is what happened on this occasion even if his passing wasn’t always the most lucid. The same applies to Fernando Torres who came close to scoring but on occasions looked as if he was showboating.

Bad Game
Surprisingly, the player who looked the most tired of all those who came back from international duty was Dirk Kuyt. Overall, he simply didn’t give Liverpool enough width and his decision making was off. Rarely substituted, the fact that he was taken off says a lot.

Substitutes
Contrary to many other occasions Ryan Babbel came on and actually looked like he was interested. Daniel Agger was thrown on simply to eat up a couple of minutes but Yossi Benayoun came on to give Liverpool that added dash of creativity did so in the finest manner possible: scoring the winner.


Fine Debut for Liverpool Youngster

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009 by Paul Grech

Martin Kelly made his debut on loan at Huddersfield yesterday, and it seems that things went pretty well despite being asked to be played in the unusual (for him) position of left back.

Huddersfield manager Lee Clark certainly was impressed, going on to tell the club's official site that:

"Tonight was capped off by one of the best debuts I have seen from Martin Kelly, who wasn't even playing in his proper position. I have just told him that we are looking forward to seeing him in his normal role if that is how he performs in an unnatural position. I think he is enjoying playing football and I will have to work on my Spanish very quickly so that I can ask Mr. Benitez for a season-long loan next term if he carries on in a similar vain.

They are the avenues we are exploring - we want to try and loan some special talents like Martin from the Premiership. If they can help us along the way, all the better for us."