Sammy joins Bolton as number 2

Former Liverpool player and coach, Sammy Lee has joined Bolton Wanderers today as assistant manager.

Bolton’s manager Sam Allardyce has been looking for a number two since his previous assistant, Phil Brown, took the job as manager at Derby Country earlier in the month.

Sammy scored a goal when he made his playing debut for Liverpool at the age of 19, the first of over 200 appearances for the club. After leaving Liverpool he had spells at QPR and Southampton and also played in Spain. He’s returning to Bolton now, as he also spent time playing for the Wanderers.

Sammy was a coach at Anfield for some time, and only left a year ago when he took on a full-time role at the FA. He’s been allowed by Bolton and the FA to continue as part of Eriksson’s England staff at least during next season.

Speaking today, Sammy said: "I’ve really enjoyed my time with The FA. There are so many tremendous people working there who are firmly committed to developing and improving every aspect of the game. However, the opportunity Sam Allardyce has offered me with Bolton is too good to ignore. Bolton are a club that have made incredible progress in recent years and it will be great to join them as they kick off their first ever European campaign."

Sammy continued: "I’m also delighted that I will be continuing my role with the England team as we continue our qualification matches for next year’s World Cup. I’d like to pay tribute to Bolton and The FA for allowing me the honour of maintaining my role with the national team."
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Make Poverty History – Reds show support

Reds supporting Make Poverty History CampaignLiverpool’s European Cup winning heroes got to stand on board another open-top bus yesterday. Five weeks ago they paraded through Liverpool to celebrate their victory in Istanbul, but yesterday they were publicising something more important.

A UK national newspaper has commissioned an open top bus to draw attention to the Make Poverty History campaign, which this weekend will hit the headlines in a big way with Live8 and the march to the G8 summit. The bus is en route to that summit, taking place in Edinburgh on Saturday.

On the bus sponsored by the Daily Mirror were captain Steven Gerrard and manager Rafa Benitez. Also on board were other Reds heroes, including Jamie Carragher, Fernando Morientes, Didi Hamann, Djibril Cisse, Xabi Alonso, Djimi Traore, Antonio Nunez and Josemi.

Speaking about the campaign, skipper Stevie said: "We made history by winning the European Cup for the fifth time in May but that means nothing in comparison with making poverty history. That would be absolutely unbelievable."

Jamie Carragher was glad to be able to do something for the cause, saying: "It’s just great to be involved in all of this. All the lads are delighted to support Live 8. The Daily Mirror bus is fantastic – and just the right colour. Good luck on your journey all the way to Edinburgh."

Although the campaign is designed to go on for the whole year, this weekend sees the real push for publicity. The Live 8 event includes concerts in numerous countries and comes almost 20 years since the original Live Aid. This time, instead of asking for money, the campaigners are asking for you to help. Much more about the campaign, the reasons for it, what you can do and latest news can be found on the following websites:

Live 8 Event – http://www.live8live.com/ – The international official web-site all about the Live 8 Event.
Make Poverty History – http://www.makepovertyhistory.org/ – The official UK website for the campaign.
The One Campaign – http://www.one.org/ –  The official US website for the campaign.



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Kirkland starts two-week trial at WBA

Chris KirklandLiverpool’s Chris Kirkland has arrived in the Midlands today to start a two-week trial with West Brom. The trial runs until July 15th and is more about assessing his fitness rather than his abilities.

If the trial works out then 24-year-old Chris will join the Baggies on loan until May 15th next year. The terms of the loan deal mean that Liverpool will not be able to recall Kirlkand at any time, according to the official West Brom website.

Kirkland joined Liverpool in 2001, costing £6million. He joined at the same time as Jerzy Dudek who’s been the first choice for much of Kirkland’s Anfield career. Kirkland is going to have to compete with Russell Hoult and Tomasz Kuszczak at the Hawthorns, with no guarantee of getting the number 1 spot from manager Bryan Robson. Robson said: "I’m trying to get good competition for places all the way through the squad. I thought Russell Hoult did a good, steady job for the club last year and we’ve got great competition in that area with these three goalkeepers."

Kirkland’s father will be hoping that this loan move enables his son to make it back into the England squad and then onto the pitch for his country – he stands to be paid out on a substantial bet made many years ago should his son play for England. He did make eight under-21 appearances, but with Liverpool signing the current under-21 keeper Scott Carson and about to sign Jose Reina, Kirkland would be one of four top-quality keepers at the club this coming season.

Robson feels that Kirkland will be able to prove to the Premiership just how good he is during the loan move: "Chris Kirkland is a top quality keeper who forced his way into the England squad and was then just a bit unlucky with injuries. The medical staff we’ve spoken to are confident Chris shouldn’t have any ongoing problems after the operation he had on his back." Robson was referring to the surgery Kirkland had that kept him out for most of last season – it was to cure a long-standing back problem which was just one of many, unconnected, injuries he’d been unfortunate to suffer. As well as the back injury he had ankle and wrist injuries, and even had to have metal plates inserted into one of his fingers after breaking it. Robson hopes that’s the end of the player’s bad luck: "Hopefully he can stay away from injuries and get back to the form that got him his reputation."

Another Liverpool goalkeeper, Patrice Luzi, has returned to Melwood despite being released by Liverpool at the end of the season. He had an unsuccessful trial in Belgium and has otherwise been unable to find another club. Luzi is therefore entitled to remain a Liverpool player and collect his reportedly high wages until he finds somewhere else to play – and Liverpool want him to turn up for training until does. Another player that’s looking for a club is Gregory Vignal. Vignal spent last season on loan at Rangers but turned down a permanent move. He’s reportedly an unpopular figure with the rest of the Liverpool squad, in particular the reserves, and is not likely to be a part of Rafa Benitez’s plans.
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Gerrard’s contract talks begin

As reported earlier in the week, Liverpool have started the talks with Steven Gerrard’s representatives about a new contract. Although he’s still got two years to go on his current deal, both sides are keen to resolve the future. Gerrard spent a whole season under the cloud of speculation about his future and admitted that he wants his future to be sorted before the new season starts. Gerrard’s agent Struan Marshall also represents Jamie Carragher and he met Liverpool’s Chief Executive Rick Parry yesterday. Parry described talks as "constructive".

Speculation over Gerrard’s future will increase on July 13th, when Liverpool play TNS in the Champions League qualifier. Liverpool won’t want to cup-tie the captain if he is going to leave, so that game will become the centre of attention for all the speculation over Gerrard’s future. Last season Liverpool left Michael Owen on the bench for a Champions League qualifier, and by the time of the second leg he’d signed for Real Madrid.

Owen himself had a difficult first year in Madrid, although his fortunes improved for the latter part of the season as he earned a regular place in the starting line-up. Speculation that he was going to return to England has been in and out of the papers during the close season. There is reportedly a deal between Liverpool and Madrid giving the Reds first refusal on the player should he wish to return to England, and both Manchester United and Chelsea have been strongly linked with moves to buy the England striker. Some papers were even claiming that Owen had been house hunting near to Chelsea’s training ground. Now Madrid have publically stated that Owen won’t be leavingt the club. Their director of football, Arrigo Sacchi, has said: "Owen is not for sale because he is part of our coach Wanderley Luxemburgo’s plans. Chelsea have not been in touch with us to make an offer for him, or in recent times for any of our players. Some of the things written about who is coming to, and who is leaving Real Madrid, are almost as incredible as science fiction."

Recently-married Owen has himself said he wants to stay – as long as he’s wanted by Madrid – and it looks like he’s going to get his wish. Sacchi continued: "Owen has not told us he is unhappy or that he wants to leave and that is what really matters to us, not what stories appear in the press. He has signed a contract and he is a very professional player. Since I have been at Madrid I have never heard him complain – not even when he was not in the first team and, like all players, wanted to play more minutes."

The stories linking Liverpool to Bolton’s Stelios Giannakopoulos seem to have originated from an interest by Rafael Benitez in the player during negotiations over the departure of El Hadji Diouf. Now Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce is saying he wants the Greek star to stay and sign a new contract. The player is 30 years old and has a year left on his current deal, but the imminent arrival at Anfield of Bolo Zenden means that Benitez is less likely to move for a player that is valued at around £1million.

Liverpool’s pre-season plans have had to be amended due to the early start to their Champions League defence, and they are going to start off with a game in North Wales. Liverpool will visit Wrexham on July 9th at the ground that will be the venue for their second-leg clash against TNS. The Racecourse Ground has also been used by Liverpool for their reserve matches.

Liverpool’s heavy fixture list could see them decide against competing in FIFA’s World Club tournament in December. Liverpool, as European Champions, are entitled to enter as semi-finalists, but the rules of the tournament actually state that entry is not mandatory. The tournament features champions of all the world’s football confederations compete, so clearly it would devalue the competition somewhat if Liverpool did not take part. FIFA president Sepp Blatter, perhaps not fully aware of the optional nature of a club’s entry, said that Liverpool will be playing: "We have regulations. The winner of the Champions League is automatically qualified and I have no doubt they will play." There hasn’t been any official comment on the matter from Anfield, and it may be that they are waiting to see whether they get through the qualifying rounds of the Champions League before making a decision.
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Zenden could be Reds’ first summer signing

ZendenMiddlesborough midfielder Bolo Zenden could become a new Liverpool player by the end of the week or early next week. The Dutch international officially becomes a free agent on July 1st and looks set to sign for the European Champions as soon as he is technically allowed to. The Bosman ruling differs slightly for moves within the same country so Zenden wasn’t allowed to personally open talks during January as he would have done for a move overseas. None of this of course stops Liverpool discussing matters with his agents – and as Zenden’s personal manager is his father then talks are reported to be quite advanced. Without naming a future team for his son, Pierre Zenden said, "We expect to announce something early next week”.

It’s also been reported that Luis Figo is still talking to Liverpool about a possible move. The Real Madrid player would be available on a free transfer, but the club and the player are still some way apart on wage demands, with Figo reportedly looking for £90,000 per week.

The contract negotiations between Liverpool and the representatives of captain Steven Gerrard are set to start today (Wedneday) with Gerrard’s weekly wage expected to be around £75,000. Gerrard’s agent, Struan Marshall of SFX, was booked in to meet with Liverpool’s Chief Executive Rick Parry. Despite stories in the media that hint at Gerrard considering a move to Spain, the captain is expected to come to an agreement to continue playing for the club he’s supported all his life. It is however the job of his agents to try and find the best deal for their player, however their own interests are probably their biggest concern, and they’d probably make more money if Gerrard did join Real Madrid.

José Manuel Reina, is another name expected to be announced as Liverpool player within the next seven days. The Villarreal keeper had drawn interest from Arsenal but prefers a move to Anfield where he’d become the number 1 keeper. The transfer fee is expected to be around £6 million although it is still subject to a medical.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez has been given a sizeable amount of money to spend this summer, but feels that Liverpool’s poor league form means he needs to make a sizeable amount of changes. He’ll continue pressing Southampton and Feyenoord for Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt, and is also looking for players to strengthen his defence. Milan Baros’ decision not to leave after Valencia changed their minds about buying him means Benitez has a little less to spend than he would have liked.

Still strong links suggesting that Liverpool want to sign Greek winger Stelios Giannakopoulos, from Bolton Wanderers. His contract is relatively short at Bolton which means they won’t take a chance on him leaving on a free, but Sam Allardyce does want to keep him as he prepares for their UEFA Cup campaign.
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Bruno off to join Vladi

Bruno CheyrouLiverpool’s midfielder Bruno Cheyrou has joined French side Bordeaux in a 12-month loan deal.He’ll be joining up with former Red and hero of Istanbul Vladimir Smicer. Smicer signed for Bordeaux shortly after Liverpool’s Champions League victory over AC Milan.

Cheyrou, 27, was signed from Lille by Gerard Houllier three years ago. He spent one of those three years, last season, on loan to another French side, Marseille, but was rarely selected by the coach in what became a frustrating season for the central midfielder. His career at Anfield wasn’t helped by a foot injury that kept him out for half of the 2003-04 season but the player himself admitted that he found the pace and physical aspect of the English Premiership too much for him.

He did briefly make the French squad and is hoping that his move to Bordeaux will resurrect his international career. There is an option for him to sign permanently for Bordeaux at the end of the loan period.
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Reports: Liverpool in for Govou

Liverpool’s return to training yesterday was made without any new players joining the squad. The Reds are looking to improve their squad after Rafa Benitez stated towards the end of last season that Liverpool’s performances in the league were unacceptable. However  partly due to the later end to the Spanish season many of Benitez’s targets are not yet available to sign – too many decision makers are on holiday.

Two signings that Benitez was reportedly aiming to make that weren’t from Spain were for the strikers Peter Crouch of Southampton and Feyenoord’s Dirk Kuyt. The asking price for both players is higher than Benitez is willing to pay according to reports. Kuyt is valued at £10m by his club and Harry Redknapp doesn’t want to lose Crouch, even at the £6m fee that’s been quoted.

With this in mind the news has been circulating that the Reds are going to raid the French champions Lyon for their striker Sidney Govou. Lyon’s Chairman Jean-Michel Aulas said yesterday that he’d given permission to the player to look for another club, after he’d helped the club on their way to a fourth successive title last season. He scored 8 times in 36 appearances and Aulas said: "Sidney’s being won over by the idea of staying, but we gave him the option of leaving after all he’d done for us at the end of last season. It’s just that he hasn’t had any concrete offers yet."

All of this seems a little odd – Govou’s contract runs until 2008 and Lyon have just failed in a bid to sign Milan Baros. Instead current Lyon boss Gerard Houllier, has signed his long-term target when at Anfield John Carew from Valencia. As ever at this time of year many stories are circulated deliberately to fire warning shots to players and clubs that are dragging their heels over possible deals.

Still no official word on the signing of Jose Reina, who is reportedly about to move to Anfield for £8million. Reports say that Chris Kirkland missed training yesterday in order to attend for fitness checks with West Bromwich Albion. West Brom want to sign the player on a 12-month loan, but boss Bryan Robson wants to ensure he’s fit enough. Kirkland has been at Anfield for four years since being signed by Gerard Houllier for £6m, and has only made 45 appearances. However he was the understudy to Jerzy Dudek for most of that time, and his low number of appearances is not all down to injury.

Kirkland’s agent Chris Gordon said last week in response to a link with Celtic: "Chris feels Albion and the Premiership is the place to be. It is an exciting opportunity for him at Albion. They will get a top quality goalkeeper. He wants to show he is fit again and is ready to establish himself in the Premiership and as an England player. The World Cup finals next year are very much in his mind. The medical will hold no fears for Chris. He feels fantastic and has real confidence in his back for the first time in ages."
Continue reading Reports: Liverpool in for Govou

Venue for qualifier 2nd leg announced

According to the official Total Network Solutions  FC website, the second leg of the Champions League 1st round qualifier will be played at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground.

Various options had been mentioned by the club but in the end they have decided to stick with ground they’d already nominated before the draw was made. The ground holds 10,000 fans in seats (the standing area cannot be used in UEFA fixtures) and is also the home venue for Liverpool’s own reserve matches.

The ground was used by TNS when they played Osters IF of Sweden in a UEFA Cup game.

The general manager of TNS, Ian Williams, told the official TNS site: "We have always been very well looked after by the Wrexham officials and we are looking forward to entertaining Liverpool there next month. It is the most convenient choice for both sets of supporters and we are hoping for a full-house."

The date and time of the game hasn’t yet been announced as TNS continue discussion with TV companies, but it must be played on either the 19th or 20th of July. TNS fans are being asked to attend their club’s pre-season friendly at home to Glentoran in order to be able to get a voucher for priority tickets for the qualifying match.

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Still waiting for the TNS decision

Confusion all round this evening as Liverpool’s official website contradicted many other websites over the date of Liverpool’s first competitive match of the season. The match in question is the first leg of the Champions League first qualifying round against Welsh champions TNS. The match was due to be played on Tuesday or Wednesday the 12th or 13th of July. The Liverpool website says the Wednesday, whereas other sites are reporting the Tuesday. Either way the game will be a 7:45pm kick-off.

Then there’s more confusion over the rules for the where the return leg can be played. The regulations published by UEFA state that the home team’s games should be played in their own country if possible, but that UEFA are able to sanction games to be played outside of the home team’s country. An unnamed UEFA spokesman has said something different though. This spokesman said: "The match has to be played in the territory where the club comes from. The match has to be played in the territory where the club comes from. Moving this match to Everton is simply not possible."

It was also announced that TNS must make their decision known tomorrow.

The Millennium Stadium was previously listed as another alternative, but the manager of the stadium says it just doesn’t look possible to stage it there, thanks to a large-scale Jehova’s Witness meeting and a rock concert. Paul Sergeant said: "We have the REM concert on 10 July and then the International Watchtower Convention on 15, 16 and 17 July. That doesn’t leave much time to bring in a pitch for either the 19th or 20th."

The date for this second leg, which does seem most likely to be played at Wrexham’s Racecourse ground now, has yet to be finalised, as TNS try to negotiate a TV deal. Qualifying rounds of the European Cup are not governed by the agreement for the main competition, which means the home club get to negotiate independently for coverage.

Liverpool’s players returned for pre-season training today, although they’ve not had much time to put weight on or to let their fitness slide. Just 33 days ago they were playing in the final of the Champions League, and some players have had international commitments since then.

Still no official word on Jose Reina joining or Chris Kirkland moving out on loan, but one new face has been announced for the Reds – but not a new player. Liverpool’s problems with injuries last season were the worst in a long time and the new member of staff is a fitness coach. Enrique Sanz will be assistant to Paco Ayesteran, himself Liverpool’s assistant manager, and speaking to Marca he revealed that he’d been grilled by Benitez just before being asked to move to Anfield from his current club Hercules: "I was speaking with Benitez and he bombarded me with questions. The following day they proposed the move to me. I would be the right hand man for Ayestaran in the first team, and to prepare the reserve team." 
Continue reading Still waiting for the TNS decision

TNS to decide location for second leg

TNS are set to make a decision today on where they wish to play their "home" leg against Liverpool in the forthcoming Champions League qualifiers. A number of ideas have been put forward, but all of these have pros and cons.

The Millennium Stadium may be too big for the game – when TNS moved their European game against Manchester City to Cardiff they only attracted 12,000 fans. Wrexham may be too small – the Racecourse ground holds around 10,000 fans in seated areas (standing areas are not permitted for use in European fixtures). Their own ground does not meet UEFA regulations and certainly be too small in any case – TNS are hoping to get a great cash boost from the tie.

Goodison Park is another option but this has been met with opposition from many Evertonians. They feel the sight of Liverpool fans celebrating last season’s Champions League success in their ground would be unpalateable. There had been a suggestion that they might want to turn up to cheer on TNS, but the general feeling seems to be that they’d rather pretend the game wasn’t being played. Additionally the ground is not yet ready for the new season.

The game doesn’t have to be played in Wales – the rules allow for the game to be played in another country if UEFA agree to it. This opens up more option for TNS if they want to explore them – including the likes of the Reebok Stadium in Bolton.

A decision is expected later today.

The following is extracted from UEFA’s Champions League regulations:

"3.10 All matches must be played in all-seater stadiums. The use of temporary stands is not authorised. Benches, whether concrete, metal, wooden or plastic, topped or not with wooden slats, etc., are not acceptable (see the provisions of the UEFA Binding Safety and Security Instructions).

3.11 In principle, as from the group stage, a club must play all its matches in the UEFA Champions League at one and the same ground. Matches may be played either on the ground of the home club or on another ground in the same or another city within the territory of its national association, or, if so decided by the UEFA Administration and/or the UEFA Organs for the Administration of Justice, in the territory of another UEFA member association. In principle, venues are approved only if direct international flights and/or charter flights are able to land within an acceptable distance of the venue in the country of the club concerned. If the match is being played in another city or country, the venue is subject to the approval of the UEFA Administration."
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