Reds expecting a bruising encounter

Liverpool’s visit to the Reebok stadium this lunchtime sees the Reds facing the team Rafa probably likes the least out of all those he’s faced in his time in this country. He’d not been in charge of the Reds long when he took his side to Bolton only to see them kicked off the park by a side he felt were more interested in kicking chunks out of his players than actually kicking the ball.

Liverpool lost that game, and only managed a draw the next year. This time round Rafa is sending his players out prepared for the worst as he aims to make it third time lucky at that ground. As well as preparing his players for the worst he’s asking today’s referee, Phil Dowd, to be ready to stop any attempts at stretching the rules of the game from the Trotters.

Rafa clearly loves his job, but he finds it hard to understand how Bolton got away with their methods against his sides two season running. He’s certainly got his players read for it, and whatever team he chooses you can expect it to include some of his tougher players: “I enjoy preparing my team for every game, but against Bolton you need to think about different things, not just winning the ball and keeping possession. In the end it is down to the players and how they face the task. I have analysed the goals we conceded there and some of things I saw surprised me. We must maintain our confidence. The first season was a surprise, but last season we were much better, but it will still be a difficult game.”

His plans seem to revolve around making sure that they aren’t kicked off the park whilst trying to take control of the game and playing their own brand of exciting flowing football: “It will be physical and we must match that, and then I hope we will be able to play our own style of football.”

As for tough players, he’s singled out a striker who’s well-used to being kicked and a midfielder who seems able to keep going regardless of how often he’s hacked in the legs by an opponent: “You handle it with strong character. This time we have a different sort of player -Peter Crouch, Momo Sissoko; people who can help us approach the game a different way. I am concentrating on winning our first away game of the season. But I know it will be a different sort of game.”
Rafa’s also worked out who Bolton remind him of: “They play a lot of long ball and fight for the ‘second ball’ and we must match that. It was not a surprise when I came to England and saw Bolton's style of football. In Spain we had seen plenty of Wimbledon games; they were very famous. So watching them meant we understood the way of some English clubs. It is simple. A long ball and then if you have luck you can win possession from the 'second ball'. It is as simple as that.”
Rafa’s dislike of the hoof and hope tactics is the dislike of someone who knows how the game should be played. Playing the Bolton way is going to bring success to teams, but the final factor in whether they will get success is that their luck must be in: “It is not tactical, sometimes it is just luck. You can be tall and strong and win the ball in the air, but after that it is luck.”
His message to the referee was quite simple: “For me I only want the referee to protect the people who want to play football. Goalkeepers are put under pressure. The first goal we conceded there last season was a foul on Pepe Reina. For me the rules are the same all over the world but sometimes the interpretation here is different. Referees have had a meeting after the first two weeks of the season to decide how things can be improved, and it is their duty to protect good players. It is always a big job for referees but we are confident playing against Bolton and if we cannot play our own football we must make sure we are as physical as they are.”
The words from Rafa could backfire of course, but he desperately wants those three points today: “We know we have not won away in the league this season and Bolton will be a difficult game, but I hope we can get our first away win there. The first time for me there it was very difficult and we lost. But last season we got a draw and fought hard. I hope this time around we can do even better. We always must improve on what we have done in the past.”
Liverpool have had three home games in a row, all victories, and he wants to carry this form on today. Of course this is the last game for a while as once again international fixtures interrupt the real stuff, so a win today is even more important: “Playing Bolton away is a big test, but if we can win there it will be a boost for us after winning our last three home games. We have a lot of respect for Bolton and we know it will be a very difficult day. When you analyse the two games we have played at the Reebok since I took over it is easy to see why we have had problems.”
One player who might find himself kept out of the starting eleven is Fabio Aurelio, simply because the physical nature of today’s game might not be something he’s ready for yet. The Brazilian admits that he’s already finding the game much tougher than he’s used to but says he’ll soon be up to speed: “I'm still adapting to the English style. It's much more physical and harder than I've been used to in either Spain or Brazil. Little by little I'm improving and feeling more comfortable within the group and on the pitch. I hope to reach my top level as soon as possible, but I know I haven't got there yet.”

Aurelio looked back on Wednesday’s win over Galatasaray and said that was a quite difficult match too, especially when the Turkish side started throwing everyone forward: “I had to concentrate a lot because there were a lot of midfielders attacking us and getting into the box. When I tried to cover players moving into the middle, it was a problem because it left a lot of space for their wingers. I know we conceded two goals, but overall I think we do have more solidity now than we had a few weeks ago. We're doing everything we need to in order to win three points.”

He continued: “Yes, we could have done without the tension at the end of the game in midweek, but we still did what we had to do to win, and we could also have scored more goals. We have far more confidence in everything we do, and we're also creating a lot of chances, which is the most difficult thing in football. We're playing much better now, but this is still the beginning of the season and there's lots of work to do.”
Hopefully his words will be true today too: “What's important is that we are getting the points when we need them.” Even though he’s likely to be replaced by John Arne Riise today he’ll still be working hard on improving in training and when he’s selected: “If you want to reach important targets, and win big trophies, you have to strive for perfection and there's still some way to go before we get that.”

Continue reading Reds expecting a bruising encounter

Crouch talks about rotation and that wonder-goal

Peter Crouch has been speaking to the media about his views on Rafa’s rotation policy and of course that goal against Galatasaray.

“I was particularly eager to prove a point having sat out the last few games, and I'd admit it has been frustrating. You want to be in the team, so when you get a chance you've got to grab it with both hands. Hopefully I’ve done that. It's been difficult because I felt I was playing well, but the manager likes to chop and change. He always said I'd play plenty of games, and he proved that by starting with me last night.

“It's hard to get your head around it when you're sitting on the bench, especially when you've not had it before, but we've a top, top manager who gets results playing this way, so you won't hear me complaining.

"Perhaps it's going to be even more of a challenge for me this season, but that keeps you hungry. He has certainly kept me on my toes and you can't go banging on his door if he is getting results. When you haven't played a game it keeps you fresh and ready for the next one. I have been out for a couple of weeks now and came in fresh for the game. Perhaps it's going to be even more of a challenge for me this season, but that keeps you hungry.

“I'm still not sure I'll play on Saturday, but the system works, so you can't fault it. Hopefully I've done enough, but we've a lot of good players here. You never know who's playing until the team is read out an hour before the game, so you just have to keep yourself ready and focused for when you will play. Even if you've missed four in a row, you still have to think you'll be playing in the next match. You have to be ready to play at any time and keep sharp in training and take your chance when it comes. You want to be playing every game but he keeps you hungry. You want to go out there when you do get a chance and be as fresh as you can.

“I try goals like that in training and they usually go over the bar. Any goal in front of The Kop is special, but particularly that one. I'd say it was the best of my career, and definitely the best for Liverpool. It's even better for it to be a winner in a Champions League game. People thought what on earth I was doing, but it has got us three points. Nine times out of 10 you try shots like that and they go over the bar, but thankfully that one has gone in the back of the net.

“The manager knows my character; I don't get carried away if ever I do anything good. My feet have always been on the ground and I've always shown that in my career. I've worked hard to get to this stage of my career and I'm not going to rest on my laurels now.”

Continue reading Crouch talks about rotation and that wonder-goal

Stadium news: £9m Regeneration grant approved

Another moment in Liverpool’s march towards their new stadium passed today, with a lot less fuss than many would have expected. Liverpool City Council were awarded the money they had applied for to carry out regeneration projects tied in with the new stadium, meaning that another potential obstacle to the ground being built has been overcome.

To cut a long story short, LFC proved they could afford to build their new stadium, and in return money was released to regenerate the surrounding area.

Liverpool FC haven’t asked for this funding, from the Objective One fund, rather it was asked for by the local council. Their use of the money is to improve and regenerate the area around both the existing and the new stadium, but to get that money the committee looking after the funds wanted to ensure that Liverpool FC could afford to do their bit for the cause. Liverpool’s estimated costs of £180m to build the new ground dwarf the £9m funding assured today, but that money is important for the local area. Without it the new stadium could in theory still be built, but planning conditions would then not have been met, and the improvements to the rest of Stanley Park could not have been carried out.

The fuss was expected by many because it was assumed that Liverpool would have to make a big announcement on investment before this £9m could be released. The deadline of the end-of-the-month was looming and some were trying to make out that Liverpool FC would struggle to prove they could afford the new ground. As we said earlier in the week though, Liverpool just had to prove they could raise the money one way or another and not necessarily show which method they had decided on. If Liverpool could prove that they could get a huge mortgage for the stadium if it came to it, then that was going to be enough proof for the committee. Whether a Kraft or a Morgan is waiting in the wings or not is irrelevant to today’s decision; the club proved they can build that ground one way or another and the funds were released.

Liverpool’s Chief Executive Rick Parry was pleased that the committee had released the funds, emphasising how it was good for the citizens of this part of Liverpool, how it was an important part of Liverpool’s own plans: “The Committee’s decision is very good news for the people of North Liverpool. It’s another significant step forward in our plans for the building of a new stadium, which we have always seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole area.”

The £9m is part of a package totalling £24.6m for the regeneration of the area, in particular for refurbishments to Stanley Park – including a new lake – and the Gladstone Conservatory. A statement read that “Liverpool FC provided satisfactory evidence that the funding is available to it to build a new stadium and the award was made on that basis.” The work has to be completed by December 2008 under the terms of the agreement. Liverpool FC are also donating £5m towards that £24.6m, along with £8.9m from the Northwest Regional Development Agency and £1.7m from Liverpool City Council.

Flo Clucas has been very vocal in respect of this funding, giving the impression of someone agitated at a lack of action from the club. She’s the chair of the Objective One Project Selection Sub-Committee and gave Liverpool deadlines of her own prior to this weekend’s final deadline. She seems happy enough now though, saying: “This is a major step forward for the people of Anfield. It will underpin substantial investment by other partners whose commitment will help transform the neighbourhood. Jobs, training opportunities and major physical regeneration will build a momentum that we expect to be sustained over time.”

She told the Liverpool Echo that the money was approved based on assurances from the club that they had the money available. For some reason she felt it necessary to make a comment about having to give the money back if the stadium didn’t go ahead. She said: “The committee was assured that if we approve the Stanley Park restoration, the stadium will go ahead. It is a matter for the club to speak about the funding package. If the stadium does not take place, then this £9m will have to come back to Objective One.” Why there was any need for her to make those comments isn’t clear, but it does suggest that she still has doubts about what the club have told her. According to some reports, work to build the new stadium will get underway before the end of this year, so her doubts will be confirmed or otherwise fairly soon.

Continue reading Stadium news: £9m Regeneration grant approved

Reaction to Reds’ 3-2 win over Galatasaray

At 3-0 up Liverpool seriously did look to be finding it far too easy against Galatasaray in their Group C Champions League home clash. The third goal was scored by Peter Crouch and was the latest in what looks like being part of a special section of wonder goals on the end-of-season DVD. His overheard kick from Steve Finnan’s cross was outstanding, and follows on from wonder goals from Daniel Agger against West Ham, Xabi Alonso again Newcastle and John Arne Riise against Spurs.

A 3-0 scoreline is no guarantee of victory of course, and against opposition from Istanbul of all places Liverpool should have known that. With two goals scored by Galatasaray the game ended on a relieved note as far as Reds players and fans were concerned, but at least Crouch was able to look back on his wonder goal as part of a victory. Speaking afterwards the England international, who got two of the Reds goals, said: “It was a special moment for me to score that goal at the Kop end, I’d have to say it's the best of my Liverpool career so far.”

Somebody picked up recently on the stat of just how many games Liverpool have played without Rafa Benítez using the same names for two games in succession. The figure now stands at not far short of a hundred, but for some reason it’s only now that the media have decided to make it their topic of the month where Liverpool are involved. Along with “Steven Gerrard is unhappy at not being played in the centre” (or if they were being accurate, Stevie prefers to be played in the centre but will play wherever tactics dictate) the rotation policy is the source of most questions. Rafa has actually avoided rotating his attack in the last few games, meaning Crouch has had to make do with a place on the bench. And so the media had another one of Rafa's decisions to question. They question Rafa’s rotation policy, yet question his decision to stick with his strikers for a few games. Luckily Rafa doesn’t use the media for advice on selection. Crouch was asked how it felt to be on the bench, and no doubt disappointed the reporter when he said unsurprisingly that he’d rather be on the pitch but accepts being on the bench: “It's obviously frustrating to have been on the bench over recent games because you always want to play. But at a club this size you know you'll be out of the team every now and again and you just have to make sure you're ready when selected.”

Crouch said that maybe Liverpool decided at 3-0 that it was game over, forgetting the Istanbul rule: “I thought we played well in the first half tonight and then when we scored the third maybe we thought the game was over. Credit to them for coming back into it and it was a bit worrying at the end. The important thing is we've won the game and picked up the three points. That's what matters at the end of the night.”

Crouch believes that the 3-0 scoreline gave Liverpool a touch of complacency and they just couldn’t get back in control of the game: “It shouldn't have been that nervy, it was a confident 3-0 and we just wanted to see the game out. They're dangerous sides in the Champions League, if you step back and allow teams to come on to you. We worked so hard in the first half maybe it caused a lapse in the second half.”

Rafa said it wasn’t just Liverpool who thought it was all done at 3-0. Rafa’s view is that as Liverpool started to relax, so did Galatasaray who just decided to go for it and try and get one back: “It was a strange game. We started really well, playing at a high tempo with good crossing and scored some fantastic goals. We were well on top after just 20 minutes, but maybe we were thinking the job had been done, and then they started to cause us problems. Then we scored an amazing goal and after that they knew the game was finished and just threw men forward. They started to move forward when they were three down with nothing to lose. They attacked with lots of players and we had trouble controlling the game after that. That made it very difficult for us to control the ball.”

Rafa will learn a lot from that game, no doubt calling a few players in for some advice after he’s had a chance to watch the video of the match, but the important thing is that the Reds are now top of Group C, level on points with PSV: “At the end of a very difficult game we have three points and are top of the group. If we win our final two home games we should qualify. The positives were the amazing second goal by Crouch. When you see him score a goal like that – a fantastic hooked volley – then you understand his quality. His goal came from a good cross, good movement and the wonderful quality of Crouch. He's a great player.”

Rafa sounded relieved that the game had come to an end: “I am normally calm and trying to analyse the game in the closing minutes, but we were under pressure and it was very difficult, but we aim to continue to look forward to the next match and we are grateful for the three points.”

Rafa’s opposite number, Galatasaray coach Erik Gerets, talked about his team’s slow start to the game costing them the points: “We forgot to play football in the first half and seemed to be in awe of the way our opponents were playing. We were too impressed by the surroundings and the team we were facing. If you play like that with stars in your eyes, then you end up losing. If we had played in the first half like we did in the second it would have been a different story.”

He continued: “We went out in the second half and changed a couple of things, but then we made a big mistake for their third goal and it was only after that we started to play football. In that second period the team played so much better and attacked more and caused them many problems. We are unhappy tonight, but I think there is something positive to take out of way we played in the last 30 minutes. We could easily have scored more; we missed some late chances to equalise. Now we are crying and unhappy and I am angry that too many players made too many mistakes at crucial times to give them goals.”

The BBC have provided an audio interview on their website with Rafa – listen to it here: BBC Interview with Rafa Benitez.

Continue reading Reaction to Reds’ 3-2 win over Galatasaray

No rush for Reds investment

Liverpool are looking to move home and to do that they need to get some money from somewhere. They have a lot of options in front of them as to how they do it, but for now Chief Executive Rick Parry and Chairman (and majority shareholder) David Moores have not revealed at all which option they would prefer, let alone decide on the option they are to take.

One of those options is for investment into the club. It’s not the only option by any means, but if a suitable investor can be found then it’s probably the option that will be taken. The key word in that though is “suitable”. Moores and Parry are Reds and they don’t want to see the club suffer. If they are going to hand the club over to someone else then they want to look back with pride that they made the right choice. Parry has made it clear that Liverpool have to move to a new stadium, but he’s not going to talk publicly about the options open and which they will take.

His understandable unwillingness to show his hand has upset a few people who would like a nice public debate about the issue. Liverpool have an AGM where they reveal certain happenings, and they also have some legal obligations over revealing certain other events as they happen. Apart from that the club can keep things internal as much as they like. That’s where interested parties get upset – they want to have public slanging matches where they can say their piece and win some sympathy from onlookers.

The only way to achieve that is through the press, and despite being left with egg on their faces last week by their own sister paper, it seems the Liverpool Daily Post are still willing to be used by those wishing to put unnecessary pressure on the club. This week though the “Daily Post Correspondent” involved has managed to get the story onto the Independent website as well as the website.

The name of the reporter might be familiar to you – Paul Walker works for the Press Association and was responsible for judging two Peter Crouch goals as own goals last season. The Press Association’s decision is always taken by the betting companies as being the decision they pay out on, but both times those goals were later credited back to Crouch by the FA’s “dubious goals panel”. Ever since that I find it hard to read anything he writes without remembering how he was a big part of that anti-Crouch bandwagon last season.
His report on the financial situation at Anfield suggests that he’s been fed snippets of information by people involved in trying to invest at the club. Perhaps it’s Steve Morgan’s people who have been speaking to him, because the story revolves around a claim that LFC directors “are thought to have pressed potential buyer Steve Morgan to work with chairman David Moores for the good of the club”. It could be of course that Walker has spoken to other directors at the club rather than Morgan.

Walker also reports that Morgan “is understood to have said he is not interested in working with anyone else”. Morgan’s wife was memorably outspoken at a previous AGM, claiming that Moores wouldn’t speak to Morgan about the possibility of him investing. Morgan has made some odd moves in recent years, at one time even putting forward an idea of how he could take over the club. He looked at the books at one point though and then backed out of his plans – but now he’s back on the scene. Perhaps his wife is the “source close to Morgan” who has told Walker: “There are senior shareholders who want to see Morgan and Moores work together on the same board, but Morgan has not made another bid just yet and won't become involved with anyone else. He prefers to row his own boat on such things.”

There certainly does seem to be a lot animosity between Morgan and Moores. Moores isn’t in a position personally where he can buy Morgan out and keep him quiet. Morgan isn’t in a position where he can make Moores an offer he couldn’t refuse either. If they won’t work together then this stand-off is likely to continue until one of them decides their actions aren’t for the best of the club and steps aside. Morgan wants a seat on the board and in turn a bigger say in what goes on, but Moores won’t let that happen.

The articles also talk about 15,000 of unsold shares which Moores could release. The article says that those shares could bring in around £50m from Morgan, but it doesn’t say how much power that would give Morgan. And £50m i not enough to fund the stadium on its own, let alone guarantee funds for player purchases for the future.

Speculation about who else might want to buy into the club continues, with the latest links being a “Dubai investment fund” and “a southern-based consortium”. For an added bit of guessing games for fans the articles add “It is understood that a well-known figure with connections to Formula 1 racing is also involved with one of the parties.”

The urgency of finding cash by the end of the week is the key to both articles, but in reality Liverpool don’t need to prove as much as some reports would claim. The club aren’t sitting back waiting for someone to appear with money, but have no doubt got a list of options in order of preference. The club could get the money from the bank tomorrow if they wanted, albeit with certain securities added to it, but if possible they want to find better ways of raising the money. All Liverpool have to show to those with public grants is that they have the ability one way or another to raise the money, not which way they will finally choose to raise it.

Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, the small details don’t always make for good headlines, so expect a lot more to be said this week whilst very little is seen to actually happen. Investment will happen if and when everything is in place – but there really is no big rush.

Continue reading No rush for Reds investment

Bellamy: My Anfield dream hurts Toon

Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy said that it came as no surprise to hear venomous comments from Newcastle United after the clash midweek between the two sides. One-time Liverpool legend Terry McDermott, now a part of the Geordie’s coaching staff, was responsible for the attack, calling Bellamy “a little upstart” and adding: “Everywhere he has been he has been in bother and it is starting again at Liverpool.”

Bellamy says this was inevitable after the way he left Newcastle, and even more so now that he’s at a bigger club in Liverpool. He said: “There was always going to be something from Newcastle but it doesn't bother me, not at all. I was half expecting something because my being at Liverpool is hurting them.”

Bellamy was a Red as a child and suggested that him getting his lifelong dream might have added to Newcastle’s bitterness: “This is the club I have always wanted to play for and maybe there are people who are not too happy about that. I'm sure there are people there who don't want me to succeed here, because it reminds them every time.”

Bellamy left Newcastle after alleged rows behind the scenes with former manager Graeme Souness, rows that resulted in Newcastle having to accept a much-reduced fee for the player who Souness was refusing to use. Bellamy says that low transfer fee will be upsetting Newcastle all the more: “It was a ridiculously cheap fee I went to Blackburn for, it's not nice for me to be remembered for that. What was it, about £3.75m? That hurts. I know that but that is the game we play.”

It must hurt Newcastle all the more when they look at Bellamy playing an important role up front for the Reds, when the player they took out of Liverpool’s grasp is languishing on the sidelines injured for the second season running. Liverpool had been set to sign Michael Owen back from Real Madrid in August 2005 but Newcastle’s bid of around £17m was far more than Liverpool were prepared to pay for the player they’d sold a year before for slightly more than £8m. There’s some strange kind of obsession at Newcastle with LFC who seem to be always interested in signing players we are looking at, and who also seem to have taken on plenty of ex-Reds over the years. For managers they’ve had Keegan, Souness and Dalglish not to mention Terry McDermott and others on the coaching staff. John Barnes brought his playing days to a close at St James’ park too.

Bellamy’s playing an important role but isn’t scoring, and that’s upsetting him right now: “That's the way it is at the moment, the ball keeps going the other side of the post or hitting it. It happens, but I have had times like this in my career before. I am maybe too excited to score. You want to do so well and you are snatching at chances, and when you do that as a forward you find the chances slip away.”

Craig feels that being in the Red shirt is putting extra pressure on himself as he wants to do even better for his all-time favourites: “In some ways it is different for me. It's the club I supported and there is an extra determination to do well. I'm putting extra pressure on myself, but then I always do that, it is how I play football. I demand high standards of myself and I don't worry about missing chances.”

Last season Peter Crouch was the subject of much abuse from the press as he went a long time without scoring his first goal, and that kind of coverage doesn’t help strikers. Bellamy has scored his first goal for the club, a Champions League goal, but no league goals yet. He doesn’t want the pressure of getting off the mark in the league to get to him: “The one thing I don't like is when anxiety creeps in and it affects my game a bit. That's something I can't handle. Probably that is how it is at the moment. Okay, the people around me are scoring and I feel the rest of my game is going all right, making runs, helping create chances for others, but at a club like Liverpool you are judged on goals, and that is one thing you want to achieve.”

Bellamy is confident that given enough that he’ll get a league goal soon though, given the quality of those players that are paid to set up chances for him: “The chances will come at a club like this because there are such good players around who will create them. I am still enjoying it all.”

Liverpool supporters are still enjoying Bellamy’s presence in the side and despite attempts by various people connected in some way with Newcastle he’s showing no signs of being the troublemaker they’d so much like him to be for us. 

Continue reading Bellamy: My Anfield dream hurts Toon

League Cup: Reading at home for Liverpool

The draw for the third round of the Carling Cup was held just before Liverpool kicked off today and the team who've won it the most were handed a home tie against Premiership new-boys Reading.

The third round sees the teams involved in European competition join the remaining sides from the league who had been involved earlier.

Full draw:

Wycombe v Doncaster
Sheffield United v Birmingham
Leicester v Aston Villa
Watford v Hull
Leeds v Southend
Chesterfield v West Ham
Notts County v Southampton
Newcastle v Portsmouth
Charlton v Bolton
Liverpool v Reading
West Brom v Arsenal
Port Vale v Norwich
Everton v Luton
MK Dons v Tottenham
Crewe v Manchester United
Blackburn v Chelsea

Ties will take place week commencing October 23rd.

Continue reading League Cup: Reading at home for Liverpool

Confirmed team – LFC v Spurs

Liverpool team for today's Premiership match against Spurs at Anfield:

Finnan, Agger, Hyypia, Riise,
Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko, Gonzalez,
Kuyt, Bellamy
Subs: Dudek, Aurelio, Crouch, Carragher, Garcia.

Changes are that Carra is "rested" for the game, replaced by Hyypia, Aurelio is replaced by fit-again Riise but Warnock isn't even in the squad. Also on the left-hand-side is another change- in comes Gonzalez for Garcia, so Gerrard should be back on his more familiar right-side of midfield.

Continue reading Confirmed team – LFC v Spurs

Rafa disputes McDermott’s Bellamy claims

Former Reds legend Terry McDermott clearly hasn’t got over his long-standing grudge against Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy. Speaking of an alleged incident in the tunnel after Wednesday night’s match between Liverpool and Newcastle, McDermott sounded remarkably bitter: “I was talking to the referee. It had nothing to do with anyone else and I take exception to little upstarts like him. I do not like it when people like to think they are bigger than clubs. When he was at Newcastle, he thought he was a big cheese. Everywhere he has been, he has been in bother – and it is all starting again at Liverpool. There was no need for it at all and he was 100% out of order.”

It seems it happened at a time when McDermott was seething at losing to the Reds in a way he thought was unjust. He was having a good moan at the referee about two penalties that were turned down when he claims Bellamy started mocking him: “I was upset that we had lost the game in the way that we did. We felt that at the start of the second half we should have had two stonewall penalties, something which was backed up by the TV replays and in the first instance by Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. I was talking to the referee at the edge of the tunnel when Bellamy appeared on the scene and suddenly started calling me names.”

Perhaps, if McDermott’s side of the story is to be believed, it’s Bellamy who has the grudge: “I thought he was just joking and I put my arm around him, but he kept on calling me names and that is when it all kicked off. I had my say and when he got to the top of the stairs, he started shouting at me again, but of course he had security guys around him.”

Bellamy left Newcastle after he became one of the many on the list of players who’ve fallen out with Graeme Souness. Ex-reds player and manager Souness was boss at St James’ at the time and as ever he wanted to make sure the media and the fans heard his version of events. Bellamy was painted in a very bad light, and McDermott joined in with comments that saw Bellamy’s family – still based on Tyneside – the subject of a lot of abuse. How much of what Souness and McDermott said back then is true we’ll probably never know, but if Bellamy did shout some abuse to McDermott it sounds like he had good reason. He’s also said to have refused to shake hands with McDermott, on Wednesday, but perhaps an apology in advance would have been in order from whoever is really in the wrong.

Continue reading Rafa disputes McDermott’s Bellamy claims

Prem: Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0

FA Barclays Premiership


2 – 0


(1 – 0)

25 J Reina
3 S Finnan
23 J Carragher
5 D Agger
12 F Aurelio
10 S Luis Garcia
14 X Alonso
22 M Sissoko
8 S Gerrard (M Gonzalez, 85)
17 C Bellamy
18 D Kuyt (P Crouch, 82)

12 S Harper
2 S Carr
26 P Ramage
18 C Moore
33 C Babayaro
16 J Milner (C N'Zogbia, 68)
17 S Parker
5 B Emre
11 D Duff
9 O Martins (G Rossi. 76)
23 S Ameobi (A Sibierski, 82)

1 J Dudek,
4 S Hyypia,
11 M Gonzalez,
15 P Crouch,
28 S Warnock
40 T Krul,
14 C N'Zogbia,
15 G Rossi,
20 A Sibierski,
22 N Butt

Garcia, 49.


Moore, 62.


Kuyt 29, Alonso 79.







Shots on target



Shots off








Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire)


Att: 43,754


Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez:  "It was funny because before Xabi decided to shoot
for goal I was ready to shout at him because Gerrard had made a good run down
the right side. I would have spoken to him about it, but after he scored I said
to him 'good, fantastic goal'. Xabi has got great vision and it was a great
goal. It didn't surprise me because he practices that in training a lot.

"It was good for me and the supporters to see the team
playing well, creating chances and scoring goals. It was good to keep a clean
sheet and if we keep clean sheets and continue to play good offensive football
then we will win a lot of games. I thought we deserved to win by more goals but
to win 2-0 as well as a very good performance was a good night for us. 

"Not only did we score two goals but we created a lot of
very clear chances. We have confidence in ourselves and we can improve. We
could have scored three or four goals and we deserved to win.

(On Dirk Kuyt opening his Liverpool
 "It is always important for a
new striker in a new country to score his first goal and that will give him and
the team a lot of confidence."

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder: "I feel let down
by Mark Halsey. I have had a chat with Mark and even Rafa Benitez believes it
was a penalty. He moves his hand sufficiently to block Shola's shot and that
was the turning point."

Dominic Fifield of
The Guardian:
"History repeated itself on Merseyside last night when, to a
chorus of "shoot" bellowed from the Kop, Liverpool's
season ignited. Some eight months since Xabi Alonso scored from inside his own
half in an FA Cup third-round tie at Luton
Town, the Spaniard
repeated the feat, gathering possession on the edge of the centre-circle and
looping a magnificent shot over a despairing Steve Harper and into the net."

Continue reading Prem: Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0