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Archive for October 2011

Reserves Let Down

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Thursday, October 20, 2011 by Paul Grech


No games won and no points on the table, this has been a dismal start to the season for Liverpool's reserves team.  Or, rather, that  would be conclusion if you fail to look at the most significant column, that for games played, the one that shows that this week's defeat at Newcastle was only their second game of the season.

Ten weeks into the 2011/12 season and they've played only two games.  It is a fact that is so astounding that it bears repeating.

If it weren't for the involvement in the NextGen series, these players would have spent virtually all of the past three months training.  This at a crucial stage of their career when they need games in order to progress.  It is a ridiculous and frustration situation, one that has been dragging on for a long number of years which would indicate a lack of desire to do anything to fix it.

Rather than fostered, players' development is being stunted.

The current bandwagon seems to dictates looking at Barcelona as the standard bearers for what is good about football.  This, therefore, might easily seem like a lazy comparison but it has to be pointed out that Barcelona and Real Madrid's second teams have played eight games and this despite their leagues staring almost a month after the English does.  Is there anyone willing to look and listen to this, though?


Why Walking Alone Is Not A Good Idea

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Thursday, October 13, 2011 by Paul Grech

A year after becoming the heroes who saved Liverpool from financial armageddon, Fenway Sports Group opted to to become the villains of the day. Not necessarily in the eyes of Liverpool fans but certainly in those of the rest of the football world. Sooner or later, one of the big clubs was going to start making noises about the splitting of television rights. That much has been inevitable ever since the Premier League's creation and the rapid commercialisation of the game that followed. The recent case where a pub landlady won the right to buy the sports service from another country's provider - and the possibility of a decrease in the overseas revenues that it threatens to bring about - simply accellerated this. Yet it is still disappointing that Liverpool were the ones to do so. There's no escaping that the club is being greedy, that it doesn't really care about the fate of the rest of English football and those are not the kind of principles you want your club to admit to. It is, undoubtedly, an egotistical stance. And inevitably there will be those who defend it. The belief that winning is the only thing that matters - regardless of how that win is achieved - is so prevalent that there will be those who will see this as a good team. Who cares if Bolton struggle as long as Liverpool get more money? What's most important is that there are the finances in place to buy more players because that is how you ensure that you're among the best. That is the sort of reaction that Ayre tried to encourage when mentioning the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid who have the power to negotiate their own deals and therefore the potential to earn more. Liverpool need to be in a position to make more money if it wants to compete with them. Of course, it is important to have a team that is capable of challenging. But this is not the way to go about it. Not least because Ayre's argument is actually flawed. His reasoning is that foreign fans only want to watch specific clubs. Well, as a foreign fan I don't agree. I want to see Liverpool on television every time they play, that much is obvious. But I also enjoy watching other teams play and in the model that Ayre is proposing the likelihood is that I won't be able to do that. What would happen is that the top six clubs would be able to negotiate their own deals whilst the rest negotiate a collective deal. So far, so good even if it will mean a smaller pot of revenue to be shared against the bulk of the teams making up the league. Yet what that would also mean is that in each country the rights to the Premiership would be split among two or more providers. Meaning that if I want to keep watching the number of games that I do today I would have to take out two or more subscriptions. Would that happen? Of course not: who would be willing to pay that much money? I'd either drop my interest or else look for cheaper alternatives like going to watch games at some pub or else turning to the internet. Eventually, the television channels will realise that there isn't enough money to be made out of such deals and back out of them. And the clubs pushing for such a model would find themselves with a dead goose and no golden eggs.


Sports Book Chat: Joe Fagan Biography Co-Author Mark Platt

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Monday, October 10, 2011 by Paul Grech


Despite achieving an unprecedented treble in his first season in charge, Joe Fagan remains something of a marginalised figure in Liverpool's history.  For many his success was down to the team he inherited from Bob Paisley whereas his work in the backroom staff is often overlooked. 

A much more truthful picture of Fagan's role both as a coach and as a manager is presented by the recent biography titled Joe Fagan: A Reluctant Champion. We spoke to Mark Platt, one of the book's co-authors,about the story behind this book and the experience of writing it.

How was the idea to write this book born?  And how did you get involved?
The idea stems from a show I produced for LFC TV (my full-time job) about Joe back in 2007. It was called ‘No Ordinary Joe’ and during its production I got to know two of Joe’s sons Stephen and Michael. We got talking about the fact he was such an unsung figure and that there’d never been a book written about him. With the family’s blessing I then pressed ahead with putting this right. Not long afterwards I met Joe’s grandson Andrew, a journalist based in London. He too was planning on writing a similar book so we decided to work together.

What was your role in the writing of this book?
I probably did more of the research but the workload was split pretty evenly and together we carried out interviews with many of Joe’s ex-colleagues and former Liverpool players, and then pieced everything together.

What was the process like?  How long did it take to write and was it a difficult book to write?
I’d be lying if I said it was easy. With me based in Liverpool and Andrew in London it was difficult at times but we got together as often as we could and spoke regularly over the phone and via email. Writing a biography of a person who is no longer with us is always going to be a complex project, especially someone who before he became manager kept himself very much out of the public eye. Piecing together Joe’s early life was certainly a challenge because not much was known about him. His time at Liverpool was little easier as I like to think I have sufficient knowledge of this and there was no shortage of people who worked with him and for him willing to cooperate.

Why did you feel that it was important that there was a book about Joe Fagan?
Like I said earlier he was such an unsung figure but the role he played in Liverpool’s success of the sixties, seventies and eighties can never be underestimated. Everyone knows about Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, there have been countless books written about these – and rightly so – but Joe’s role was just as important.

Did you yourself ever get to meet Joe? 
I did briefly. It was at Melwood one day back in the mid-1990s. I was working for a magazine called XTRA Time and I was at the training ground to interview one of the players when I spotted Joe. At the time I was also working on a feature about the treble-winning season, it must have been 1994 and the tenth anniversary, so I approached Joe and asked if I could interview him. He kindly declined the offer and typically said ‘thanks son but no-one will want to hear what I want to say, it’s the players you want to speak to, they were the ones who deserve the credit.’ While disappointed not to have got an interview with I totally respected his decision. He was such a private man and wanted to stay very much in the background.

A lot of research has evidently gone into it.  How was that?  Was it difficult to choose what to put in and what to leave out?
The research was extensive but it really was a labour of love and I enjoyed every minute of it. When I set out on the project I feared that there might not be enough material but I couldn’t have been more wrong. To be honest there wasn’t much stuff that had to be left out and I hope the readers agree that the end product is a very comprehensive overview of Joe’s life and career.

The diaries that Joe used to keep are at the heart of this book.  What did it feel like reading them?  Was it tough to choose what to leave out?
Yes, this is where we had to be a bit more selective about what to include and not to include. It was fascinating to flick through the diaries and it really gave you sense of what it must have been like to be in the bootroom all those years ago. The diaries provided Joe with a voice in the book and this helps us paint a much clearer picture of what must have been going through his mind, which I feel was vitally important to the book. The diaries aren’t reproduced in full as a lot of entries in them are quite repetitive when it come to training routines and tactics, but I’m sure his private thoughts on certain players, situations and matches will be of great interest to the fans.

What amazes me from the snippets that you've included in the book is how simple those diary entries were yet, at the same time, what depth of thought and analysis they contained.  It was as if he could take a complex issue and strip away the frills until the basic concept remained.  That for me is a true mark of genius.  Don't know if I've explained myself well enough and, at the same time, don't know whether you agree or not?
I totally agree. Where Joe and his bootroom colleagues were concerned simplicity was the key and this common sense approach to the day-to-day running of the football club was what made Liverpool so special.

Was there anything that surprised you as you were writing this?
I always knew Joe was a highly respected figure but from the interviews we carried out I’d say he was held in even greater esteem than I thought. Every person we approached to be interviewed about the book was more than willing to co-operate and no-one had a bad word to say about him.

Do you think that Joe is appreciated enough both by Liverpool supporters and by the general footballing world?
I’d say he’s appreciated by the Liverpool fans, hopefully even more so after they’ve read this book, but beyond the confines of Anfield I don’t think people know that much about him. Yes he guided Liverpool to the treble in 1984 but his stint in management was so short that football fans in general quickly forgot about him.

How gut wrenching was it to write the Heysel part?
I was only twelve in 1985 and watched it all unfold on TV. That was gut-wrenching at the time and writing the chapter on it brought everything flooding back. In fact, it hit home even more so. It was a tragedy that so easily could have been avoided. For the 39 people who lost their lives it was such a tragic and unnecessary waste of life and, of course, a sad, sad way for Joe to bow out of the game he loved.

What's next for you?
On a day-to-day basis I’ll carry on in my full-time job as a producer for LFC TV, the club’s television channel, but I’ve got plenty of ideas for future books and in my spare time at the moment I’m working on one with the original ‘Supersub’, Liverpool legend David Fairclough. It’s still early days on that so no news yet on when that will be published but hopefully it won’t be too long.

You can read our review of Joe Fagan: A Reluctant Champion here.  Mark Platt can be followed on Twitter as can, obviously, A Liverpool Thing.