Owen interests ex-boss Houllier

Reports coming from France suggest that Michael Owen may be offered an alternative method for his escape from Real Madrid – a move to France to play for his former Anfield boss Gerard Houllier.

Houllier is now manager of Lyon, and once the Michael Essien transfer to Chelsea is finalised he’ll have a massive transfer budget to play with, compared to what he had when he became the manager of the French Champions. Essien will sign for £26million subject to signing a medical.

Houllier said of Owen: "I get on well with Michael and I still have contact with him and his family."

Lyon signed John Carew in the summer, but were also interested in signing Milan Baros. Baros turned down the chance to play in France, a league he feels is not as good as either the English or Spanish leagues. Rumours are also rife that Houllier is going to be in touch with Liverpool about the possibility of signing Djibril Cisse. Cisse was signed for Liverpool by Houllier prior to his departure, although Cisse did not join immediately and Houllier never got the chance to work with him. It’s unlikely Liverpool would want to sell Cisse – and the player himself is settled in the North West and happy to be playing again after his injury last season.

Owen has his heart set on moving back to Anfield, and as long as Liverpool and Madrid can agree a suitable deal for the transfer, Owen will be wearing a Red shirt again by the end of the month. Owen is now in Denmark on duty with England. He’ll be on the bench for the friendly clash tomorrow night, alongside his friend and former Reds team-mate Jamie Carragher. Reds skipper Steven Gerrard will start the match.

There’s another Liverpool player on duty for England – goalkeeper Scott Carson starts tonight’s under-21 match against Denmark.
Continue reading Owen interests ex-boss Houllier

Baros ready to wave goodbye to Liverpool

Milan Baros is away on international duty with the Czech Republic this week, but when he returns to England on Thursday it could be for a medical with Aston Villa.

Baros will be lining up for the Czech team in their friendly against Sweden, a team he feels much more comfortable playing for. After being largely ignored by the man who signed him – Gerard Houllier – Baros was hoping for more chances under Rafael Benitez. The relationship between Baros and Benitez got off to a bad start when Benitez arrived at Anfield during the European Championships last summer. Benitez flew out to speak to Liverpool’s representatives in the England squad – Owen, Gerrard and Carragher – but did not go to see Baros. Baros sulked and asked why he wasn’t paid a visit.

As the season went on, Baros wasn’t used in the way he would have liked. He wanted to be played as a centre forward in every game, playing the full 90 minutes of as many of those games as possible. Used on the wing once or twice, used as a substitute regularly and also removed from the pitch with a fair amount of time still to play was what he got though, and he sulked all the more.

The one refreshing aspect of the frustration from Baros is that he’s not talked about leaving for more money, nor has he spoken of wanting to move to a "bigger" club. He wants to play football, pure and simple – or so he says.

The summer started with a move to Valencia falling through, and has progressed through interest from Lyon, Monaco and West Ham coming to nothing. Everton said they were interested but would never have been able to afford the wages for the top scorer in the European Championships, even if they could afford the fee. Schalke 04 came in for the player, claiming they could afford to pay him the wages he wanted – but couldn’t afford the transfer fee and the deal fell through. The one club linked throughout the summer were Aston Villa. Liverpool wanted £7million for the player, Villa refused to pay more than £6million for him. Now it seems that Villa have agreed a compromise fee with Liverpool, of £6.75million, and Baros could be signing this week.

Certainly Baros says he’s agreed his own terms with Villa – he says: "Villa increased their offer and we’ve come to an agreement on the financial front. But that doesn’t mean that it’s already a done deal. Villa are a quality club, and I don’t consider this a backward step at all. My situation will be better there."

So what stops it from being a done deal? Baros will be nervous about leaving the European Champions but will have a friend at Villa in his former mentor Patric Berger. The strikers hopes of playing for his boyhood heroes Barcelona will have to be put on hold for now, and playing in Spain does not seem to be an option at all. Spending a couple of days on international duty will give him the chance to mull the decision over.

Rafa Benitez has been criticised once too often by Baros, and Benitez, nice man though he is, won’t stand for the attitude shown by Baros. Baros has made his own bed, and now accepts that his Anfield days are over: "Everything leads me to believe that there’s nothing for it but to say my goodbyes to Liverpool. The manager has his own view of things and intends to focus on other players. Me, I have no intention of keeping the stands warm. It happens, that’s football. I’m not bitter."

Although he’s far from the finished article, Baros is an outstanding player. If a coach can get him to accept that he still needs to improve certain aspects of his game, Baros can become a world beater. David O’Leary proved he can handle difficult players during his time as Leeds boss, perhaps O’Leary will be the man to turn Baros into the finished article.
Continue reading Baros ready to wave goodbye to Liverpool

Gerrard wants Owen back at Anfield

Stevie and MikeMichael Owen’s potential return to the Premiership would be welcomed by Liverpool’s skipper Steven Gerrard – as long as it was to play for the Reds.

Although the press were put off the scent by carefully deflected answers from Rafa Benitez in recent weeks, the Spanish coach has finally had to admit that  he would like to bring Owen home. Whenever Rafa was asked prior to that, he would answer that his priority was a centre-back and a winger – but never denied  an interest in the player, despite what the newspapers were reporting.

The press have now worked out what is really happening – Owen and Liverpool would like to get together again. Owen has accepted his Madrid days are over and  has been looking to move back to Anfield since mid-way through last season. Liverpool are willing to bring him back, but are not willing to be ripped-off.  Madrid are wanting to sell, but are themselves not prepared to be ripped-off. Newcastle are getting in the way by making high bids for the player, which  plays into Madrid’s hands to a certain extent, as it gives them a little more bargaining power with the Reds.

As we’ve said previously though, Owen wants to play for Liverpool again. No other English club interests him enough for him to choose them over Liverpool. As  soon as Owen was made aware that he had a chance of joining Liverpool again, his mind was made up. Newcastle probably know they will never be able to tempt  Owen, and like a year ago when they "tried" to sign Wayne Rooney, know that they are not likely to have to actually find the cash for the bids they make.  This tactic keeps the fans on side, making it look like they have serious intentions, but Graeme Sounness will not be given anywhere near the amount of money  supposedly being offered for Owen to spend on alternatives.

Gerrard was speaking to the Liverpool Echo and when asked what he thought about Owen’s possible return he said: "It goes without saying I would love Michael  Owen back here and I think everyone at the club would love him back. Obviously it’s up to Real Madrid. He’s their player and they’ll decide if he can go, but  when I see Michael in the England squad this week I won’t even have to ask him where he’d like to be in a few weeks."

Gerrard and Owen were both products of Liverpool’s academy, as was Jamie Carragher, and all three are managed by the same agency. There’s no doubt the three  friends keep in touch.

Gerrard wants Owen to come back to Anfield, and certainly not to join another club. He said, "I’m waking up every morning, looking in the papers and hoping  to read he’s on his way here. Could you imagine him coming back to Anfield and scoring against us for another club? It would be a nightmare. Whoever signs  him guarantees themselves 20 goals and, in my opinion, the best striker in the league."

Continue reading Gerrard wants Owen back at Anfield

Betting news: Middlesborough v Liverpool

Liverpool’s new season continues with a visit to the Riverside stadium to face Middlesborough. Although this is Liverpool’s first league game of the season, it’s their sixth competitive match since they beat AC Milan in the final of the European Cup at the end of last season.

Coral and William Hill both believe Liverpool are slight favourites to win today’s game, the last Premiership game of the day and due to be shown on the Prem Plus channel in the UK.

  Home: 6/4 Draw: 9/4 Away: 11/8
 
Home: 7/4 Draw: 21/10 Away: 13/10

If you would like a free £10 bet with Coral, click the image above to be taken to a page which includes a special code. Key this code in when opening your account and you’ll be given a free bet.

Both sites offer a range of "in-game" betting.

Continue reading Betting news: Middlesborough v Liverpool

New Liverpool kit in the pipeline

After a lot of rumours have been circulating on the Internet, we now have confirmation from official sources that Liverpool will be issuing a new kit for the Champions League group stages – if they qualify.

Success for Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier will see the European Champions wearing the brand-new kit from the group stages onwards. The Reds are 3-1 up from the away first leg against CSKA Sofia, with the return to be played at Anfield on August 23rd.

This is the final hurdle in Liverpool’s six-game qualifying run, and although Liverpool are favourites to go through, the club would not show disrespect to their opponents by suggesting it’s a foregone conclusion. Once the Reds are through the new kit will be announced.

Liverpool’s plans to wear the European Cup "badge of honour" for all games seems to have gone by the wayside – the new badge will only be available on the new Champions League kit, and will not be sold separately. This goes against what we were told after the glory of Istanbul, when it was announced that the Reds would wear the badges for all games. 

We’ve not yet heard the official line on why the "badge of honour" won’t be worn, but it has been suggested that other Premiership clubs were unhappy about the Reds wearing this on their kits.

Although we have heard from official sources that the Reds will bring out a new kit, we’ve not been given any official word on what the new kit will look like. It will be Red, there’s no doubt about that as it will be a "home" kit, but other than that we have not been told any more.

The picture to the right is one that has been circulating, but may be a fake – so don’t be too critical just yet!

Continue reading New Liverpool kit in the pipeline

Rafa: I like Owen

Owen wants to come homeMichael Owen’s return to Anfield moved a little closer yesterday when Rafa Benitez answered questions on the striker in a little more detail than he had before. The Reds boss has not denied the Reds interest in the player in press conferences over recent weeks, but has instead tried to deflect the questions, saying he’s looking for a centre-back and a striker. In return most journalists chose to report his comments as a denial of interest.

If pushed further, Benitez would claim that he had a lot of strikers already – and then loaned out Anthony Le Tallec to Sunderland, and prepared to sell Milan Baros. With Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama Pongolle both out injured for some time, and having both missed pre-season, there’s not actually a lot of available strikers at the club at the moment. Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes both played well in midweek in the Champions League, scoring one and two goals respectively, but other than Baros the Reds had no other strikers available – new signing Peter Crouch is also injured.

Owen has made it known privately for some time now that he’d like to come home. And by home he means not just his mansion in North Wales, but the club he grew up at – Liverpool. Although Owen never made it known publicly, his friends and family were aware that he hadn’t enjoyed his time in Spain, even before last season ended.

Rafa was talking yesterday about how his new signing this summer were designed to improve his team’s Premiership chances. Last season was the first time in the club’s history where they had no player in double figures for scoring league goals. Michael Owen was always in double figures as a Liverpool player from his first full season in the team.

Yesterday Rafa said: "I am aware that Michael would like to come back. I don’t know if we can do something because we are waiting for a good offer for Milan Baros. But he is a good player and I like him. I never had any problems with him. He is a nice boy, a good professional and a very good player."

Liverpool have been holding out for £7million for the Czech striker, and have not received an offer of that amount so far. A compromise is on the cards though – Aston Villa have reportedly had a £6.5million bid accepted for the player, and although he’s in the Reds squad for today’s league opener against Middlesborough, he will be able to move down to the Midlands next week. This assumes that the player can agree personal terms with David O’Leary. The main concern for Baros during his time at Anfield has never been about money – when he’s complained it’s always been about his lack of first team opportunities. Reports say that Baros met Aston Villa executives in a hotel in Liverpool on Thursday night. Lyon and Monaco will now need to up their offers – and quickly – if they want to continue their interest in the player.

Benitez still stressed the importance of signing a centre-back and a right-winger, but expects to get them in before the transfer window closes. And if Baros is sold, that gives him more money to spend: "We have 20 more days and we expect to get them in by then. I could say yes or no about Owen, but we must receive a good offer for Baros before we can proceed."

Liverpool are being cautious in what they say about Owen because they don’t want Madrid to try and up the price for the player. Owen was sold for £8million plus Antonio Nunez one year ago. Liverpool have already sold Nunez and Real haven’t paid the full £8million yet for Owen. Liverpool also negotiated a year ago that they would get the first option on Owen if Madrid decided to sell the player. Manchester United may be interested in Owen, but Owen only has eyes for Liverpool. United have denied their interest in the player, interest that Madrid claimed had been shown. Madrid will stop at nothing to try and increase the price they receive for Owen, but as long as Owen and Liverpool play the game correctly, the England star will be back in a Red shirt before the end of the month, at a fee of less than £10million.

Rafa Benitez is looking forward to the new league season, and believes that Liverpool will improve now that Rafa and his assistant Paco Ayesteran have had a year to get acustomed to the English game: "It will be easier because of last season’s experience. I know the systems and tactics each team favour. You can get this from reports and watching videos, but when you’ve played against a team you always learn more. Of course, it’s always difficult no matter who you play, but because of my experiences in my first year, I think it should be a bit easier for us."

Continue reading Rafa: I like Owen

Spanish squad has strong Liverpool flavour

Fresh from scoring twice in Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over CSKA Sofia, Fernando Morientes today received the boost of a recall to the Spanish national squad. He will be joined in the squad by three of his Liverpool team-mates, meaning that Liverpool are the club with the most players in the squad.

New Reds keeper Pepe Reina and midfielders Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia are in the 22-man squad for the friendly next week against Uruguay. The game is to be played in the northern coastal city of Gijon.

Nando hasn’t played for Spain in almost a year. His last match was in September of last year when Spain played Bosnia in a World Cup qualifier. He then suffered from the politics at Real Madrid and rarely played before being signed by the Reds in January.  He has scored 24 times in 38 appearances for his national team.

Liverpool’s four representatives in the squad beats the three representatives each for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

The other strikers in the squad include his former colleague at Real Madrid, captain Raul. Spain have struggled to score goals recently – two goals in three games as a host of chances were wasted. Spain boss Aragones was delighted to see Morientes perform so well for the European Champions, and hopes that he can return to his previous form for his national team. He said: "Morientes has always performed well for the national team and he is an important player not just because of his ability to score goals but for his all-round play."

Aragones also claimed that his job would be easier if the four Liverpool players were still based in Spain: "It is positive that Spanish players have gone to teams like Liverpool. Getting to know another style of football is good for them, but I do wish they were all playing in important Spanish teams and getting games for them in the Champions League and UEFA Cup."

Full Squad:
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool)
Defenders: Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Sergio Ramos (Sevilla), Asier del Horno (Chelsea), Pablo Ibanez (Atletico Madrid), Juanito (Real Betis), Michel Salgado (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Ivan de la Pena (Espanyol), Joaquin (Real Betis), Xavi (Barcelona), Sergio (Deportivo Coruna), Albert Luque (Deportivo Coruna), Antonio Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Luis Garcia (Liverpool), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Vicente (Valencia)
Forwards: Raul (Real Madrid), Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid), Raul Tamudo (Espanyol), Fernando Morientes (Liverpool)

Continue reading Spanish squad has strong Liverpool flavour

Rafa happy to use Baros if needed

Liverpool’s third tie, and fifth game, of their Champions League defence kicks off tonight in Bulgaria against CSKA Sofia. Reds boss Rafa Benitez admits that tonights opponents are the toughest they’ve face so far this season: "We have a lot of respect for their abilities. You never know in football what can happen. The other two rounds turned out to be easier for us in the end, even though both our opponents played well. This team is stronger. They are compact and have a lot of pace. We must be careful."

Liverpool’s manager is not joined on this trip by the chairman and chief executive of the club, David Moores and Rick Parry. The two officials are reported to have stayed back in England to hammer out some deals for some new players, and to chase up progress on the sale of Milan Baros. The Reds move for Michael Owen is one piece of business that the pair will be hoping they can finalise this week, although Rafa himself is happy to use the full length of the transfer window to get his squad together for the new season.

That squad is limited at the moment, with injury meaning the Reds have only sent 17 recognised first team players to Bulgaria. Rafa may be forced to play Milan Baros due to the lack of strikers he has available tonight, although Baros will probably start on the bench and only be brought on in an absolute emergency.

If Baros does play tonight he’ll be cup-tied for both the Champions League and the UEFA Cup, thus reducing his value to those clubs who are in Europe. Rafa is hoping that Fernando Morientes, himself cup-tied last season for Liverpool’s campaign in Europe, strts to show his true qualities, beginning tonight. Rafa said: "I hope to see the best of Morientes in the next few months. When you see a player of his quality training as hard as he is doing, then you know he will score goals. He has good ability, is good in the air, can pass and can shoot with both feet. He maybe needs to improve with the pace of the game here and he knows that, but we need to start giving him more opportunities to score."  

After sending Le Tallec on loan to Sunderland last week, and with Peter Crouch joining long-term injured Pongolle and Mellor, Rafa’s striking options are limited, as he says: "We have Morientes, Baros and Cisse as our strikers for this game. The others are injured. I shall use the best players for winning. If I think I can manage the situation without playing Baros then I will do, but if I think he has to play, then he will do.

He continued: "My main idea is to win the game. It depends on the game and the situation as to whether we use Milan. I like Milan. He is a good player. But we need to use the money to buy players in other positions. It is not because we are disappointed with Milan. We need this money so we can look at other positions and improve them. We have six or seven strikers at the club and we know we can get money for one of them, so this is one thing we can do. It is like if you have three left backs at a club. You don’t need that many, so you can sell one if you want.
 
What Rafa was trying to put forward was that he will only buy or sell players for the right price. If Baros doesn’t attract the fee that the club think he is worth, then he won’t be going: "I read a lot of rumours about the situation and some clubs seem to be asking about taking the player on loan. We are not thinking about letting him out on loan. We will keep him if we don’t have a good enough offer." As for who Liverpool buy next, there’s no hint of any names from the manager, but he wants a new centre-back: "We will try to find a centre back good enough for us, with or without any money from a Baros sale. It’s just that if we have more money then it makes things easier. We are working with Zak Whitbread and we are happy with him, but we need another player in that position." Existing central-defender Sami Hyypia today announced that he’ll be signing a new contract tomorrow which will keep him at Anfield until 2008.

Rafa also pointed out that Liverpool’s early start to competitive action makes it difficult to get players they are interested in just yet, as clubs are still in the middle of their own pre-season preparations. He said: "It’s really difficult to sign the players we want at the moment. Our pre-season started a lot earlier than most clubs and that was a problem for us in terms of signing players. Some clubs are only deciding now what kind of signings they will need, but we have already been talking about it for three weeks. We still have three more weeks before the transfer deadline."

One signing that was more or less agreed before last season was for new goalkeeper Pepe Reina. With Jerzy Dudek suffering an awful elbow injury in training earlier in the week Rafa will be glad that the deal was all sealed so early. Reina himself believes that  tonight’s match against CSKA Sofia will be a tough one, but with the right belief he says that the Reds could go on and repeat their success in the European Cup: "Rafael Benítez has done some excellent work in European competition over the last few years and I see no reason why that can’t continue," said the former Villarreal player. He went on: "The manager wants to make an even bigger mark in the game by winning the Champions League again and with this group of players I believe we can do it. I believe in this team. We deserve to be called European champions. CSKA Sofia now stand in our way of reaching the group stage. The away game in Sofia is my biggest concern. It will be very difficult over there, so we will need to be very disciplined to go through. At this early stage of the season you just don’t know how dangerous these ties are going to be."
 
Reina also says he feels that he has already settled in at his new club, helped in many ways by his Spanish compatriates: "I feel very comfortable at the club. The rest of the Liverpool players have given me lots of support making me feel part of the group. I’m very happy that I chose to come here. Liverpool was always a club that appealed to me, even before they won the Champions League. This is one of Europe’s biggest clubs and the manager convinced me that his project is going to be huge. I also shared many conversations with Liverpool’s Spanish players, like Xabi, who all told me that I should sign for them."

Continue reading Rafa happy to use Baros if needed

Rafa pleads for justice for Michael Shields

Michael ShieldsAs Liverpool fan Michael Shields continues his captivity in a Bulgarian prison for a crime he did not commit, Liverpool’s manager Rafael Benitez has voiced his support for the teenager.

18-year-old Michael was on holiday in Bulgaria in May, a holiday he’d gone on in order to be able to get to the Champions League final in neighbouring Turkey. A few nights after the final Michael was asleep in his bed as Martin Georgiev was attacked viciously, hit over the head with a paving slab. Michael Shields was one of a number of English holidaymakers that Bulgarian police brought in for the attack, and Shields was wrongly identified as being involved. Graham Sankey has now admitted he carried out the attack, but his delay in owning up means that Bulgarian authorities are disinterested. They have got someone in prison and even though it is the wrong person, they are too embarrassed to admit that a) they had Sankey in custody but let him go, and b) their justice system is still full of the injustices of the communist era the country has only recently seen the end of. They didn’t even collect DNA samples from the weapon (the paving slab) used in the attack.

These political influences have clouded Michael’s chance of a fair trial. Rafa tried to point out that Michael is a human being and should have been treated like one. He said: "We must have justice. Everyone has the right to a fair trial. We must support someone because of this. It is not a political matter and it doesn’t matter which football team someone supports. This is about a human being. There must be a possibility of a fair trial."

Those Bulgarian authorities have the support of their own national media, who are billing the campaign in the UK as a mark of disrespect on their country. This is not the case – we just want to know why the Bulgarian authorities are unwilling to take action to make Sankey face the music in Bulgaria. They claim that Sankey has confessed to "another incident", not the one that sees Michael in prison. Which incident? This incident has never been mentioned previously. They won’t take steps to extradite Sankey. They haven’t taken DNA evidence. They haven’t even attempted to request that Bulgarian detectives make a trip to Britain to speak to Sankey. There’s a lot they could do, but they are burying their head in the sands trying to pretend that they haven’t made these huge mistakes. Their pride seems more important than justice.

Rafa in SofiaWhen Rafa arrived in Bulgaria for Liverpool’s Champions League qualifier tonight against CSKA Sofia, he was pressed by that Bulgarian media for his views on the case. The Spaniard again voiced his support for Michael, saying, "My problem in press conferences is usually that my English is not good enough but in this case my problem is I am a football coach and not an expert on European law. I will say though that we support Michael Shields’ family and we also support the family of Martin Georgiev. The question at the moment is one for the court to answer rather than me. I know our fans will be very friendly towards the Bulgarian fans and hopefully everyone will enjoy a good match. It is up to the court to decide what to do with Michael but we hope to see him back in England soon."

According to two supporters’ club leaders, Reds fans are boycotting tonight’s match in protest at the treatment of Michael. Liverpool FC have confirmed that just two to three hundred fans have arranged to travel. LIVERPOOL fans are snubbing tomorrow’s Champions League clash against CSKA Sofia in protest at Michael Shields’ 15-year jail sentence.

Only a few hundred supporters are making the trip to the Bulgarian capital tomorrow for the crucial third round qualifying match. Those that do travel have been urged to respect their opposition fans – who probably don’t realise the injustice of the trial thanks to the blinkered press in their country.

Les Lawson is chairman of the official Liverpool Supporters Club and he said: "It was ironic that we were paired with them in the draw, given what’s happened with Michael Shields. Some fans will go to Bulgaria as they love to follow the team everywhere they go, and I hope they behave sensibly, watch the game and protest in a peaceful manner. Let’s hope that justice prevails and Michael Shields is set free."

Richard Pedder is chairman of another branch of the supporters club and he said: "Behave yourself, watch what you do. But Liverpool fans are boisterous when they go away and I wouldn’t want them to change how they act."

Those fans that are making the trip are taking banners to be displayed inside the stadium pleading for justice for Michael. Whether the Bulgarian authorities will allow them to be displayed remains to be seen.
Continue reading Rafa pleads for justice for Michael Shields

Michael Shields’ dad pleads for dignity from travelling Reds

The campaign to free Michael Shields from prison in Bulgaria continues as Liverpool and their fans prepare for a trip to the country.

Feelings are strong amongst all Liverpool supporters – Michael insists he was sleeping in bed when Graham Sankey was carrying out a brutal attack on Martin Georgiev, in the Bulgarian Golden Sands resort. Even though Sankey has admitted to being the perpetrator of the attack, the Bulgarian authorities have shown complete lack of regard for the freedom of Michael. Sankey won’t travel to Bulgaria to face the music, but the Bulgarian authorities don’t seem to mind because they give the impression that Michael will do. The injustice in all of this is breathtaking, the lack of action from senior British politicians even more so. Tony Blair’s wife Cherie is a Liverpool fan – yet Blair has gone on holiday without passing any comment on Michael’s plight. Michael Howard, a Liverpool fan himself and leader of the Tory party, has also been deafeningly silent. Why? If the politicians have good reason not to help Michael, why not explain it to us?

For any Reds travelling out there, no matter how upset you are at the injustice, the best way to show the people of Bulgaria that their legal system has made a huge mistake is to show all of those watching just how friendy Liverpool fans are. Michael’s father, also called Michael, said: "What I ask and what I plead for is that Liverpool fans show dignity towards the fans of CSKA Sofia and the people of Bulgaria. This is about a football match between two great cities, two great clubs and two brilliant sets of supporters. This match isn’t about Michael Shields."

Speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Mr Shields also said: "Let’s make it a carnival atmosphere in Sofia and show the whole world what Liverpool supporters are really about and when the Sofia fans travel to Anfield in a fortnight’s time, let’s prove that we really are the best and friendliest fans in football. Let’s welcome the Bulgarian people to Liverpool with open arms and make them feel really welcome. We want both sets of fans to have a drink, have a laugh and enjoy themselves in a spirit of friendship."

He continued: "What’s happened in Bulgaria in May has tarnished the name of Liverpool fans but this is our chance to show everyone what Liverpool people are all about. Any trouble in Bulgaria when Liverpool travel away will make Michael’s situation worse."

And a final word for anyone travelling who cares about Michael: "If one fan gets into trouble then he is no friend of Michael. In fact, we wouldn’t want their name to be mentioned with Michael’s in the same sentence because that is not what he’s about. Please, please behave for Michael’s sake."

If you want to help Michael don’t forget to keep visiting the freemichaelshields.org website.

Continue reading Michael Shields’ dad pleads for dignity from travelling Reds