Bruce says Pennant’s troubles are behind him – Pennant ready for Europe

Jermaine Pennant’s former boss, Birmingham manager Steve Bruce, says that he expects the young winger to shake off the remnants of his troublesome reputation now he’s at the beginning of his career at Liverpool FC.

Speaking to BBC Five Live, Bruce said: “Jermaine’s ability has never been in question. He just needs to sort out the other side of his life – and is making big inroads on doing that. He is in a good environment at Liverpool. He knows he has got to behave and grow up very quickly. It’s a big club and there will be people in the dressing room who will pull him into line if need be.”

Bruce says Pennant’s behaviour is often a result of the influence of those around him, suggesting that at Anfield his behaviour might improve further. “Jermaine is a good kid, who is easily influenced. He seems to be everyone’s kicking block. I had many rows with him but never wanted to get rid of him. I always knew he had talent.”

Pennant’s debut for Liverpool came in Saturday’s friendly defeat against Kaiserslautern, where Pennant was involved in both of Liverpool’s goals. As happy as he was with his own performance after coming from the bench, he’s desperate for the season proper to get under way, and especially looking forward to playing Europe: “As a player you cannot ask for more than playing in the Champions League and it is something that really excites me. I am happy with the way my debut went. I want to learn from the good players that are around me.”

Luis Garcia was only able to play a short time in the game due to suffering a neck injury, something that Rafa Benítez says he’ll be bearing in mind before choosing his teams for future games. It’s unlikely that we’ll see Pepe Reina in midfield again though. Rafa said Garcia’s injury was an existing one, aggravated during the game: “We must be careful with the rest of the players after what happened to Luis. He has a neck injury and has been complaining of a sore neck in training three days ago. The most important thing now is that we keep the rest of the players fit.”
Continue reading Bruce says Pennant’s troubles are behind him – Pennant ready for Europe

Pepe is settled in Liverpool and confident of more success

Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina has revealed he’s so happy at Anfield that he’s hoping to start talks next year on extending his current deal, which still has three years left to run.

Back with the Liverpool squad again after a busy summer he says he and his new wife are loving life in the North West: “Next year we’ll start talking about another deal. I am so settled – I recharged my batteries on holiday in Majorca and Ibiza with my wife after we got married on May 19. We are both happy in Liverpool and would love to stay longer.”

One of the reasons he’s so happy with life in this country is because he’s happy with the club he’s playing his football for – and the manager is turning that team into something special according to Reina: “For me, Benítez does not need money to make a champion team. He builds teams without spending a fortune. He did it at Valencia and now he is doing it at Liverpool.”

He reveals how people in his homeland just didn’t expect Rafa to have such success: “It was a big shock to everyone in Spain when Valencia won the title, because they did not have as much money as Barcelona and Real Madrid. He took a normal team and made it into the best in the country. There is a lot of belief at Liverpool that he can do the same again. The advantage we have is Rafa Benítez. He’s one of the best managers in football.”

Pepe picked up his second winners medal since joining the Reds after he’d helped the team to a penalty shoot-out win over West Ham in Cardiff, but he wants bigger prizes now: “Winning the FA Cup was a good achievement, but this time we have to win the most important titles – the Premiership or the Champions League.”

To win that title of course means overtaking Chelsea and Manchester United to improve on last season’s third place, something Pepe feels can be done: “It was impossible to compete with Chelsea last season because they had almost two teams. But we closed the gap last season and this time we believe it is possible to catch them and beat them.”
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LFC v FCK will be live on TV in UK tomorrow

After announcing they’d be showing the friendly between Liverpool and FC Kaiserslautern, Eurosport then said that they’d not be showing it after all.

Well now it’s back on again.

The game will be shown on “Eurosport UK”, Sky channel 410 tomorrow afternoon, kick off 4.30pm BST.

The game is also being shown by the European flavours of the Eurosport channel for those Reds based in mainland Europe.

Any issues with rights now seem to have been resolved.

Continue reading LFC v FCK will be live on TV in UK tomorrow

Rafa: “Unacceptable” to play in Israel right now

Reds boss Rafa Benítez insists that it is unacceptable for Liverpool to be forced to play football in war-torn Israel. Liverpool were drawn against Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League third qualifying round, but UEFA have not yet made a decision on whether to switch the away leg. Maccabi Haifa say they want to play the game at their usual venue for European games, 90 km away in Tel Aviv. Understandably, Liverpool are worried about the safety and security of players and supporters.

Speaking to the official Liverpool FC website, Rafa said that things weren’t as bad in Israel when he was in charge at Valencia and a tie against the same opposition was moved: “It’s a crazy situation and totally unacceptable to even think about us going over there at this time. A few years back when I was with Valencia we were drawn to play Maccabi Haifa in a UEFA Cup tie and the match was switched to Cyprus. The situation then was nowhere near as bad as it is now. Valencia also had a European game in the Ukraine on the day the twin towers were attacked in America and I can remember the confusion that caused with the players on their mobile phones constantly to their families who were wondering when we’d be getting back. It’s impossible to prepare for a game in these circumstances.”
For Rafa, there’s no question about it – the idea of playing the tie in Israel shouldn’t even be under consideration: “There is no way we should be going to Israel to play a game of football at this time. It’s crazy to even consider it. UEFA cannot put anyone at risk. The situation is very clear in my mind. I feel sad for the people over there at the moment because it’s a terrible time for them, but we have to put the security and safety of everyone involved before anything else and that means we cannot travel there. It would be impossible to concentrate on the game.”
UEFA seemed in no rush earlier to deal with the issue, but Rafa says it’s best for all that they don’t delay any longer: “UEFA need to make a decision quickly because there will be lots of our supporters wanting to know what is happening.”

Maccabi Haifa’s president, Jacob Shachar, said that playing the game in Tel Aviv would be acceptable, saying it was quiet out there: “Our European games are usually played in Tel Aviv so let’s hope that things will be quiet in this area and we will be able to host Liverpool there. It’s an unpleasant situation in Israel, but it’s quiet in Tel Aviv. We would like to host the match in our city, Haifa, but that is impossible, so we would hope to host the game in the centre of the country in Tel Aviv.”

He continued: “I can understand if Liverpool would have concerns, but it is something UEFA will think about – and Liverpool do have many supporters in Israel and of course Ronny Rosenthal played for our club.”

UEFA spokesman Rob Faulkner said that for now there would be no decision from UEFA and so as things stand, the game will be played in Tel Aviv: “We can’t answer where the game will be played at this moment. We have asked the Israel FA to provide us with assurances and we have to keep monitoring the situation. At the moment, as it stands, any of the matches that take place in Israel are played in the Tel Aviv area but we are waiting for more information from the Israel FA before we can make a further decision.”

Continue reading Rafa: “Unacceptable” to play in Israel right now

Reds want neutral venue for CL clash

UEFA say that if there are doubts about the safety of Liverpool’s staff and supporters for the second leg of their Champions League qualifier, the venue will be changed. Liverpool were drawn against Isreali champions Maccabi Haifa this morning, but UEFA say that with there still being almost four weeks until the game takes place there’s time to keep an eye on the situation. They will be consulting the Isreali FA for their assessment too.

Liverpool club secretary Bryce Morrison was Liverpool’s representative at the draw, and was involved in discussions with Maccabi Haifa over the tie. Their suggestion was for the tie to be played in Tel Aviv, which they assured Liverpool would be a safe destination. Morrison seemed unimpressed when interviewed by Sky Sports on the issue, but said the club would of course need to make further checks on the situation. His view was that with little over three weeks to go the matter needed resolving as soon as possible.

Asked if the game should be moved to Cyrpus, he said he didn’t think that would really be suitable: “I don’t think Cyprus is an option with regards the number of people who are trying to come out of Lebanon and arriving in Cyprus. As things stand, we’d very much prefer to see the game played on neutral territory, other than Cyprus.”

Morrison was then due to meet with UEFA officials, but stressed that the matter also needed to be discussed with “the office”, as there were many issues to be considered.

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Rafa will rest English lads, but Spaniards can expect a game

Liverpool’s third pre-season fixture is to take place in tiny Liechtenstein and should see the first appearances of Liverpool’s summer preparations for some of the returning World Cup stars.

Rafa’s not expecting to make use of the English players yet though, saying he’ll stick mainly with those players already seen in pre-season, along with short run-outs for the Spaniards who ended their World Cup campaigns slightly earlier. He’s enjoying seeing all of his players in training together at the Swiss training camp too. He says they seem eager to get going again: “We will see with all the squad together in Switzerland how they work. When you’ve been out, sometimes you switch off but watching the players this week, they look like they want to start again. They have seen the new boys and will be really, really excited for next season.”

Unlike last season with the enforced early start to the season, Rafa doesn’t need to rush his players into anything yet: “They will need some time and the idea is to use the majority of players we have used in the first two games this weekend. Maybe we’ll play the Spanish players because they arrived a little bit earlier, but the English players will play at the end of the training camp.”

It’s a chance for everyone to get to know each other too says Rafa, especially him and his coaches: “Always in pre-season you need to think about how the players work and know their games. They are working really, really hard but it is really difficult because we haven’t had the players who played in the World Cup, they are just arriving now.”

So tomorrow should see Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia and first choice goalkeeper Pepe Reina getting a run-out, in that 4.30pm fixture against German side FC Kaiserslautern.  Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Peter Crouch and another goalkeeper, Scott Carson are going to have to wait until next week.

Rafa also hopes to give new boy Jermaine Pennant an appearance in the game, although his lack of time getting to know his team-mates could see him held back for now.

Pennant’s former chairman, Birmingham’s David Gold, has been receiving a lot of stick for letting both Pennant and former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey be sold during the close season. He’s tried to defend himself to the press today, saying the offers were too good to refuse. Gold told PA Sport: “People have to be realistic. How did they expect us to keep hold of Jermaine Pennant. Did they want us to chain him to the fence? It can’t be done. Be realistic. Once Liverpool came up with the package they did, and it was the chance for Jermaine to join one of the greatest clubs in the world, you can’t say no.”

He also revealed how there were a lot of different attempts by Liverpool to get Pennant at a lower fee than the one that was finally accepted: “We said no to £3.5million, we said no to £5million, we were still fighting at £6million. But then you are talking about holding the kid back. He has the chance to double his wages, to play European football. People can huff and puff as much as they like about Jermaine leaving but if they were in our position, they would have had no alternative but to do the deal.”

Now Gold says the money from the new Liverpool signing and the sale of the old Liverpool player will be used to help get Birmingham back into the top flight: “We’ve got £13million for Emile Heskey and Jermaine Pennant. You could make a case for keeping them if you were talking about £6million. You can’t make a case to keep them when it is £13million. Money will be made available to invest into new blood because the plan was never to sell Emile or Jermaine.”
Continue reading Rafa will rest English lads, but Spaniards can expect a game

Reds face trip to Isreal in CL qualifiers

The draw for the third qualifying round of the Champions League has taken place and 2005 winners Liverpool have been paired with Isreali champions Maccabi Haifa.

The first legs are to be played on the 8th and 9th of August, with the return two weeks later on the 22nd or 23rd.

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Pennant: LFC move is a “dream come true”

Jermaine Pennant was rumoured long ago to be joining Liverpool, and at the same time was it was often claimed he used to be a “childhood Red”. Trouble is, that’s what we always seem to hear when a new player is linked with us. This summer it seems these things really are true. Craig Bellamy was a Red as a kid, and so was Jermaine, as he told the official Liverpool FC website after signing for the club this afternoon.

Asked how happy he was to be at Anfield he explained that the love of the most successful team in England was a family thing: “I’ve dreamt about this since I was a little boy so to actually be here and to be able to wear a Liverpool shirt and play at Anfield is a dream come true. My family have always supported Liverpool and I grew up watching videos of them on the television. My grandad and grandma came here in the seventies and I think Liverpool must have caught their eyes. The love of the club has spread through the family ever since.”
The first player Jermaine idolised was also a winger, John “Digger” Barnes, but later he was most in awe of a player he’ll now be teammates with: “I actually got my first Liverpool kit when I was about four years of age. John Barnes was my idol when I first started watching Liverpool but then as I got older I loved Robbie Fowler. I always wanted to come to Liverpool. This is the only club I would have wanted to sign for. There’s always a doubt in your mind as to whether or not it will happen because you don’t know if the clubs will agree a transfer fee but I just stayed positive and believed it would happen for me. It was only yesterday when I found out the deal was on and that it was going to happen. I don’t think it has sunk in yet and it probably won’t until I’m out in Switzerland with the lads training in a Liverpool jersey.”

Liverpool’s squad are in Switzerland for their now-traditional summer training camp and it will be a big boost to Rafa that he’s got most of his deals now done in time for the players to get to know their new teammates. Liverpool are still looking for one more striker to boost the squad, but those already in the training camp are no doubt looking forward to seeing Pennant create more chances for them, something he’s looking forward to doing: “I want to do what I’m good at which is getting past players down the line and getting plenty of quality crosses into the box. Crouchie is a great target man and of course I’ll be looking to make the service into the box as good as possible. I’m sure he’s looking forward to it as well. I just want to work hard and improve as much as I can to play an important role for the team.”

As for actually speaking to Rafa, well he’s not done much at all yet: “I’ve only had a quick conversation with him on the telephone but I’ll be meeting up with him in Switzerland later and I’m sure we’ll talk a lot more.”
The following statement is important for any new signing to say, but you feel Pennant really does mean it: “This is the best club in the country and the best club to be at”, he said. “So if I can’t do it here then I won’t be able to do it anywhere. I’ve still got a long career ahead of me because I’m still young, but hopefully I’ll enjoy all my good times here. I was away in Mauritius with my girlfriend when the Champions League final was on and I watched it along with a load of other Liverpool fans on the big screen in my hotel. When we went 3-0 down I just went back to my room feeling really disappointed. A bit later I put the match on again and saw it was 3-3. I couldn’t believe it and started jumping all over the bed.”

Read the full interview on the official site.

Continue reading Pennant: LFC move is a “dream come true”

Official: Pennant signs for Liverpool – 4 year deal

{mosimage}Liverpool’s official website has confirmed that winger Jermaine Pennant is now a Liverpool player. The statement on the website reads:

Paul Eaton 26 July 2006

Liverpool have today completed the signing of Jermaine Pennant from Birmingham on a four year contract.
The 23 year old right sided midfielder officially put pen to paper on his Anfield deal this afternoon after completing a medical.
He will fly out to Switzerland to join up with his new team-mates at their week long training camp.
Pennant’s arrival marks the end of manager Rafael Benitez’s long search to bring in a right winger and he could make his Reds’ debut against Kaiserslautern this weekend.
Pennant started his career with Notts County before moving to Arsenal for £2 million in 1999. He was unable to hold down a regular place in Arsene Wenger’s first team and had loan spells with Watford, Leeds United and Birmingham before completing a permanent move to St Andrews last summer.
He becomes Rafael Benitez’s fifth signing of the summer following the arrivals of Craig Bellamy, Mark Gonzalez, Fabio Aurelio and Gabriel Paletta.
Pennant will wear the number 16 shirt at Anfield.”

Welcome to Anfield Jermaine.

Continue reading Official: Pennant signs for Liverpool – 4 year deal