Change of officials

One of today’s two linesmen, Peter Kirkup, has had to be replaced for today’s final after waking up with a stye in his eye. This affected his vision and he was replaced by a Premier League Select Group Assistant Referee, Ceri Richards.  The match referee was already a replacement after the powers-that-be decided original choice Mike Read lived too close to Anfield for comfort. Although they expected him to be impartial, they were worried about comments that might be made and so in stepped Alan Wiley.

Referee: Alan Wiley
Assistants: Ceri Richards and Darren Cann
Fourth Official: Phil Dowd
Continue reading Change of officials

FA Cup Final: Liverpool v West Ham teams

The great news for Liverpool is that Xabi Alonso has made it back from injury to take his place in the starting line-up today. The team is pretty much as expected, with Djibril Cisse getting the nod ahead of Fernando Morientes to partner Crouch up front.

West Ham are going to take a gamble on striker Dean Ashton and left midfielder Matthew Etherington, both get to start even though neither have been able to take part in training this week. Carl Fletcher takes the suspended Hayden Mullins’ midfield place.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko, Kewell, Crouch, Cisse

West Ham: Hislop, Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Fletcher, Etherington, Harewood, Ashton

Continue reading FA Cup Final: Liverpool v West Ham teams

Sami: Winning trophies is important

Sami Hyypia will be lining up against West Ham in Cardiff this afternoon longing for the chance to repeat the feelings he had five years ago when the Reds won the famous trophy against Arsenal. Liverpool came back from 1-0 down after looking to have been well and truly beaten and he looks back fondly: “When we won the Cup in 2001 in Cardiff it was one of the best days of my life. To be 1-0 down with Arsenal dominating the game and then to come back with two goals from Michael Owen, the second out of nowhere, was something very special.”

Today is Liverpool’s chance to make it two trophies for the season, following on from the Super Cup. Hyypia says: “It is certainly important for this club to win trophies every year, the fans expect that and we expect that of ourselves. This time last year we were preparing for the Champions League final, it is important for the future of the club that we play in such games. We have to keep going and keep looking to achieve things at this level.”

Sami recalls how last season could have been seen as a disappointment after a poor league campaign had the Reds not gone on to glory in Istanbul. This season he says that as much as they’d love to win the FA Cup the season wouldn’t be a failure without it: “Last season the Champions League final made our season, but this time around this game is not at that importance because we have played well and achieved something in the Premier League. The FA Cup would be a real bonus.”

Rafa has improved the squad and will aim to improve it again in the summer. Sami says the Reds have been much better this season than last: “We have improved on last season, when we had so many injuries. It was a pity to go out of the Champions League but you must realise you can’t win it every season. We are happy with the way things are going for us and the club, and we must keep this going.”

The season that started 10 months ago finally comes to an end, and Sami was asked if he felt Liverpool might be too tired for this game: “I don’t think so with one final to go. My legs will hold out for one more game. If you asked any of the lads how they felt, they would say ‘fine’ because everyone wants to play in the final.”

Rafa has made a point throughout the season of not letting the players dwell on how tired they might feel, and it seems he’s won that psychological battle: “It has been a long season, but because things have gone well the mental tiredness has not bothered us. That is more difficult to overcome than physical tiredness; any player will say they are okay now.”

Sami’s home country Finland didn’t qualify for the World Cup so unlike many of his team-mates he’ll be able to put his feet up for a while after today – a lot longer than he got last season: “I know I have a break after the final. Last season we had about three weeks off because of the early start to the season. I am a little jealous of the lads going to the World Cup, but I know I will have a longer holiday than them.”

Continue reading Sami: Winning trophies is important

Some facts and stats ahead of the final

If you are watching today’s game on television in the UK you’ll have a choice between Sky Sports and the BBC for your coverage. If you choose the BBC then you’ll have to listen to John Motson commentating on the fixture. He’ll talk from time to time about what’s happening on the pitch, especially if it’s action involving an England player, but will spend most of his time reeling off facts.

Here are some of the facts he’s likely to tell you about, usually during an exciting passage of play, as borrowed from the BBC’s sport website.
Continue reading Some facts and stats ahead of the final

Carra focussed on the final

It’s FA Cup final day and the team that won the first Cardiff FA Cup are aiming to be the last to win it there as well. So many great memories for Liverpool of appearances in Cardiff have been tarnished this week by the incredible double standards of the stadium manager and the local police force. Now the Reds must show on the field that good memories can be taken away from Cardiff. And the FA should ensure that August’s Charity Shield (its real name) is also taken away from Cardiff.

The Liverpool fans that have been able to get tickets for this game against West Ham will be in their usual good voice, perhaps a thousand voices short of the number that should be there, but two of the club’s biggest fans are going to be on the pitch. Vice-captain Jamie Carragher was talking to reporters in Liverpool before the players headed off on the coach, and he spoke about how his fellow local-born team-mate Steven Gerrard was fast becoming the best player Liverpool had ever had. Standing in Gerrard’s way of that title was the man that would be hard to shift by anyone, King Kenny Dalglish. Carra had been thinking about this after a bit of web-surfing: “I saw on one of the websites they were doing a poll on the 100 greatest Liverpool players, and in my opinion, Steven Gerrard is second only to Kenny Dalglish as the greatest to ever play for Liverpool.”

Quite some praise from Carra, but he doesn’t say it lightly: “There have been many world class players like Graeme Souness in his position, and the list is a long one at Liverpool, but for what Stevie’s achieved at such a young age, I can’t believe too many others were better. If he can win a few league titles, he may even go beyond Kenny. I don’t think there’s any better compliment I can pay to him than that, but he’s still younger now than Kenny was when he signed for Liverpool, so who knows what he can become?”

Continue reading Carra focussed on the final

Flo trains with old friends away from FA Cup squad

Liverpool’s young reserve striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle has gone back home to France to train with his former club Le Havre at the end of his loan spell at Blackburn. Rather than cause any upset in the first-team camp ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup final it looks like Pongolle is being kept away.

Flo had been a very slow starter at Anfield, despite his reputation, and many were disappointed to see him go on loan to Blackburn in January. He played an important part in getting Liverpool to tomorrow’s final with his scoring appearance against Luton in the third round, but comments he made before Blackburn’s visit to Goodison made sure he wouldn’t be quite as welcome in making a return to Anfield as he might have liked.

In words that seemed designed to upset Liverpool supporters, especially those who are based in Liverpool itself, Flo claimed there were more blues than Reds in the city. If he’d left Liverpool under a cloud then perhaps there would be some understanding, but at the time he was considered by Reds fans to be due to return for the new season. Then he said this: “I’ve been in this country for three years so I know all about the rivalry between Everton and Liverpool, but everywhere I go in Liverpool, the football fans I meet are all Everton fans. The bigger part of people in Liverpool all support Everton. Liverpool have fans in Europe and everywhere else, that’s why Anfield is always full. But when you go to Goodison, it is just full of Liverpool people. It is all Scousers.”

Some have tried to justify his words by saying his lack of English made them sound differently to what he’d intended. After a few months to put them right not a word of apology has been forthcoming, and it does look like an attempt to engineer a move away from Anfield. Leeds are now one club interested in signing him, although he’s not likely to get the wages he’d like at the former giants of Yorkshire football.

Continue reading Flo trains with old friends away from FA Cup squad

Ring of Fire is ready

Now’s the time to go across to the official Liverpool FC website and download a copy of the official Liverpool FC FA Cup song, ‘Ring of Fire ’.

There is already a serious case of misinformation being spread by the media about who “owns” Ring of Fire. The once proud music magazine NME has incorrectly reported on its website that the England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff was the first to use the song in a sporting sense. NME might be very good at predicting who’s going to be the next Kurt Cobain but they really seem to be lost when it comes to sport. As all Reds know, Ring of Fire was connected to Liverpool FC long before Flintoff played it in the England dressing room a couple of months ago. It’s hard to find out when it really started, but Carra and Gerrard’s rendition in Istanbul wasn’t its first appearance in a Red shirt.

If you download the song today you will be helping to make the song number one in the charts. For years to come Ring of Fire will be associated with Liverpool. If you don’t download it then you’ve only got yourself to blame if you hear it being sung by England fans wearing Manchester United or Chelsea shirts in the summer. You’ll also be helping a charity that means an awful lot to Liverpool fans.

Kenny Dalglish’s wife Marina set up the Marina Dalglish appeal in an attempt to raise funds for breast cancer treatment facilities in Liverpool, after she had herself recovered from breast cancer. The recent re-run of the 1986 FA Cup final was played for the benefit of this charity. Every single copy of this song that you download through LiverpoolFC.tv will be putting more funds into Marina’s appeal.

Even if you don’t like the song, download it. You’ll be helping charity and making sure the world knows who the song belongs to now. We think you will like it though – a lot of people who said they hated it are slowly coming to terms with the fact that they are walking around humming it. It’s an uplifting version of the song, and includes samples of Reds supporters singing the instrumental version.

Ian McCulloch himself is delighted to be a part of it, asked recently about the tune he explained how he thought it was something that really put a smile on the fans’ faces: “It cheers me up and I’ve said on previous interviews it cheers the crowd up. The amount of times during a match you can be laughing at something someone’s said and it’s more of the quick wittiness. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the song is or the chant, it’s just the quickness of it and it’s like one touch singing. It lifts the players obviously and it lifts our fans but it also makes the opposition feel like na, na, na, na, na! You know, that kind of mockery which is good as it gives you an edge in the game I suppose.”

Mac is genuinely pleased that he has become a part of Liverpool history himself now as lead singer on this track: “It’s mad and it makes me proud. Because I have been away it hasn’t really sunk in but I’m attached somehow to the club now officially for life and that’s a great thing, an honour.”

Top of the Pops is shown on a Sunday now, how good would it be to see this song played as the number one song, alongside footage of Steven Gerrard lifting the FA Cup the day before? Stevie and the boys are in charge of getting us the cup, but you are in charge of us getting the number one. Do your bit Reds fans.

The download is available via the internet, and UK residents have the additional option of buying it through their mobile phone. Full details here:  www.liverpoolfc.tv/ringoffire .

Continue reading Ring of Fire is ready

Changes in store over the summer

The silly season is underway in England now after the league season came to an end on Sunday. There’s still one game to play for Liverpool, and there’s a World Cup this summer too, but there is still too much time on the hands of newspaper journalists. They have too much time and too little to tell. So off we go with the annual full-on transfer rumour spectacular.

We will try and keep you up-to-date with anything we hear, excluding certain sources we’d never trust. A lot of the rumours wash over us for one reason or other – if you think we should pay attention to any particular rumour contact us

We’re pretty certain that Fabio Aurelio will be joining us this summer. He’s a defender, usually a left-back, Brazilian, 26 years old and currently playing for Valencia. He will be joining on a “Bosman” free transfer once his current deal officially expires later this summer.

Aurelio is going to be one of a number of new faces at the club by the time the new season kicks off. The Liverpool Echo’s Chris Bascombe believes there will be seven in all. We already know about Chilean left-winger Mark Gonzalez (assuming he finally gets a work permit or European passport) and 20-year-old Argentinean defender Gabriel Paletta. As if there aren’t enough left-sided players about there is talk that former captain Glenn Hysen’s son Tobias – a left-sided midfielder – has been catching the eye of the Reds scouts. Valued at somewhere between one and two million pounds, the Djurgarden star would be signed as a squad player with the potential to improve his game under the Anfield coaching staff.

Two possible options for the right side of midfield are being bandied about. One is Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has been one of the most expensive squad players in English football since his move to Chelsea. He was already said to be unhappy and looking for a way out, but his exclusion from the England World Cup squad has made the whispers grow louder. Talk of a £14million fee is probably guess-work, but Chelsea won’t want to lose too much on him if they are to sell him to one of their main rivals. It’s one of those football “secrets” that Liverpool were interested in buying him when Chelsea came along, and that his people practically begged Liverpool to buy him, but the Reds weren’t able or willing to match Chelsea’s offer. The other option for that side of the pitch would certainly be more affordable, and that is Birmingham winger Jermaine Pennant. There is no doubting the player’s talents, but his troubled past is something that may cause some reluctance from Anfield. The troubles seem to be behind him now, and with Birmingham relegated now they will be looking to offload some of their wage bill. That relegation cost Liverpool around £1.5m in what would have been the next payment from the Heskey transfer, but the rumour will not go away that a deal was already agreed between the Reds and Birmingham before their fate was known. Pennant is said to have been a childhood Liverpool supporter, but we’ve heard that before.

Guillem Balague, Spanish journalist, Liverpool supporter and friend of Rafael Benítez hinted in a recent interview with The Liverpool Way fanzine that Rafa was looking for two new full-backs. Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise have done a great job this season of course, but Rafa likes to have cover.  Aurelio looks set to be the cover for the left-back position, but has Rafa got someone up his sleeve for the right? Other rumours are rife that Jan Kromkamp is unhappy at Anfield and wants to go back to Holland. This of course leads to rumours of part-exchange deals with Dutch players.

Which other Liverpool players are to go out remains to be seen. Chris Kirkland knows he isn’t wanted by Rafa and now has to wait and see what offers come up for him, but Jerzy Dudek won’t want another season on the bench. Scott Carson has earned himself a place in the England standby squad after his performances on loan with Sheffield Wednesday this season, but if Dudek does leave Carson will be needed back at Anfield next season as understudy to Pepe Reina.

Up front Robbie Fowler has just secured a new 12-month deal, but what is going to happen to Cisse and Morientes? Both players claim they want to stay, but this remains to be seen.

Expect a full summer of stories and rumours, and expect an extra burst of these as the stars of this summer’s World Cup emerge, before the final surge as the weeks tick down to the August 31st deadline. All this will start in earnest after this Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Continue reading Changes in store over the summer

Don’t let them steal our Ring of Fire

Liverpool’s success in Istanbul just under a year ago brings back countless memories, and one of those is the rendition of “Ring of Fire” by the lads as they celebrated on the pitch. There are numerous stories about how the song became part of Reds’ massive repetoire of songs, one of which must be true, but that part can stay shrouded in mystery. It is our song. Johnny Cash lent it to us, nobody else. It’s time the world found out that we have it on permanent loan.

Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen fame is a Red and he’s joined forces with Tim Speed and Apollo 440 to form the Boot Room Allstars for their own rendition of Ring of Fire. It is available to download from today, exclusively from the official club site. It is LFC’s official FA Cup song for 2006.

Some of you will no doubt download it without any questions (you can’t buy a physical copy of it, so downloading is the only way to get hold of it). Others will refuse, saying it’s an insult to the original copy sung by our fans, or an insult to the original sung by Mr Cash. Maybe they just don’t like it. You might even be tempted to hunt out a copy of it for an illegal download – but that’s wrong, and even more wrong when you consider that the proceeds from this download go to charity – the Marina Dalglish appeal.

Worryingly, there have been incidents of fans of other sports teams performing this tune. The England cricket team are one example, and there’s no doubt that the England football team will try and tag onto it this summer. It isn’t their song though – it’s ours. Time we proved it. Liverpool FC have registered themselves with the people at the Top 40 (not JK and Joel, the people behind the scenes). If enough of you buy it, from anywhere in the world, you’ll get it to number one. It doesn’t take as many sales as it used to do to get a record to the top of the British charts, but this is no time for complacency.

Even if you don’t like the song, by downloading it you are making sure nobody else can claim it. And you can always bring out your own version any time after next week.

Keep checking the official site for the link to buy the track, and then buy it. You’ll be doing Marina Dalglish’s appeal a hell of a lot of good, and you’ll be making sure the world knows Ring of Fire is ours. Don’t let them take it away.

If you want to listen to what it sounds like, there’s a sample of Ring of Fire on the official site. You can also hear it on the Ian McCulloch MySpace site.

Listen to it, hum it, BUY IT.

Continue reading Don’t let them steal our Ring of Fire

Stevie is a dad again

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and his partner Alex Curran today become proud parents for the second time. Alex, 23, gave birth to their second daughter at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

Their daughter is to be called Lexie, and was 7lb 6oz when born this morning. Her sister is 27-month-old Lilly-Ella. Gerrard said: “We are both absolutely delighted.”

Congratulations to the family on their new arrival from us here at AnfieldRoad.com.
Continue reading Stevie is a dad again