Rafa on Arsenal: “We have to beat them”

Liverpool face Arsenal this afternoon at Anfield aiming to prevent a whitewash. Liverpool lost to Arsenal at the Emirates in the reverse league fixture, and then lost twice in the space of a few days to crash out of the FA Cup and League Cup, both games played at Anfield.

Since then Arsenal have been knocked out of both the FA Cup and the Champions League, not to mention them being beaten in the Carling Cup final. Liverpool still have genuine hopes of going all the way in the Champions League, having reached the quarter-finals, but both sides are playing today to try and ensure they finish in the top four and book a place in the qualifiers for next season's tournament. As well as that, there's the pride involved in trying to finish above the other. "I think it's a really important game," says Reds boss Rafa Benitez, "We know we have to beat them because it's important we stay in the top four, and it would help in finishing third, which would be perfect. If Arsenal win, because they have a game in hand, they will have more possibilities. If we win, I think things will be closer but we'll still have to win more games."

Rafa is never happy with the lack of time he's given following international breaks, and he says he's going to have to work out which players are best equipped for today's match: "You know it's not easy to have all the players focused after an international break. We need to decide which players will be best prepared mentally for this game against Arsenal. We will select the best players in our opinion. It's always really bad to play important games when you cannot prepare properly during the week. It's frustrating but we will try to do our best."

So will the three defeats against the former Highbury side give Liverpool an extra boost today in going for the win? "I hope so," says the boss, "For me it's a motivation to beat Arsenal, and I think for the players it will be the same." He says he'll be reminding the players about those losses, "because I need to be sure the players know how important it is to win and how important it is to win against a top side."

Rafa will be hoping his captain Steven Gerrard leads his club team-mates today the way he did for his international team-mates in midweek. Gerrard scored twice as England finally managed to break down an Andorran side who weren't even willing to play for a draw, just to minimise the size of their defeat. He says of his skipper's performance: "It was really good. I was pleased to see him play well and score goals. He showed a lot of character." Liverpool have had their fair share of games against small clubs who just don't show any kind of ambition to win and Rafa hopes his own players will learn from how Gerrard handled this game in midweek: "It was important for the team to see this kind of play, to see the right kind of mentality for these types of games. He was saying: 'Give me the ball and I will do my best.'"

Rafa, speaking to liverpoolfc.tv, wouldn't reveal any details of injuries, although there are some minor concerns: "We have some players with kicks and others who are tired, but we need to wait until before kick-off, then we'll see." And he says Peter Crouch could be back in contention after his recent operation: "Yes, I think he's fit, he could be in the squad."

After the game comes Rafa's big meeting with the club's new owners. Last time he met them they'd just taken the majority shareholding over from David Moores, but they have now completed their takeover with just a handful of shares left out of their hands, all of which they are entitled to buy without opposition. Rafa has swapped emails and phone calls with them in recent weeks and already feels they see things pretty much the same. It's still important that their face-to-face meeting goes ahead though: "I think it's an important meeting – everyone is talking about this. I hope it will be a very positive meeting. I think they have experience in sport and also they are businessmen. I think they understand my ideas. In my opinion, we will be going in the same direction."
Rafa says this is one of the big reasons that ensured he turned down all interest from other clubs for his services: "The new owners say they want to go forward, they want to invest and they want to improve in all areas. That is the key for me in thinking about the future. I think we will have a lot of possibilities."

George Gillett and Tom Hicks will be at today's game which kicks off at 12.45pm UK time.

Continue reading Rafa on Arsenal: “We have to beat them”

Wrexham helped out by Bellamy

League Two club Wrexham have reportedly been given a boost thanks to the alleged antics of Craig Bellamy in Portugal recently.

Bellamy was fined by the club after an incident involving him, a golf club and John Arne Riise at a training camp was splashed across the press. The club never revealed any real details of what went on, although most of what was reported was greatly exaggerated. What they did do was announce that any players involved had been fined, and that those fines were to be donated to charity as requested by the players. It was also suggested by the club that the players actually paid higher fines than the club had imposed.

Bellamy asked that at least some of his fine be donated to Wrexham who are struggling at the bottom of League Two. Liverpool FC have strong relationships with Wrexham, using their Racecourse Ground for reserve games and also playing a pre-season fixture there last summer. In fact Bellamy made his Reds debut in that pre-season game after signing from Blackburn.

Bellamy’s money has helped Wrexham pay for three loan deals: Hartlepool forward Mike Proctor, Port Vale centre-back Richard Walker, and also Carlisle’s former under-21 goalkeeper Anthony Williams.

The three were all signed in time for last week’s loan deadline and played in the club’s 1-0 win away to Bristol Rovers.

All three joined the Racecourse club just before last Thursday's deadline for loan deals in the Football League, and all played in last Saturday's crucial 1-0 away win at Bristol Rovers.

No details have been revealed of the sums of money involved, but already Bellamy’s contribution has helped Wrexham in their fight to avoid dropping into the Conference.

Continue reading Wrexham helped out by Bellamy

Some Football Culture for Reds

Liverpool poet Dave Kirby
has brought out a new collection of verse dedicated to our club. His last
published work was a project he co-wrote with Nicky Allt called "Kop Stories".
This was a huge success, completely selling out and helping out both Zoë's
Place and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign thanks to their kind offer to
donate all proceeds in that direction.

Dave has since become a well-liked member of the
after-dinner circuit and as a result has written enough new material for the
new book, called "Football Culture".

As Dave says on his website – http://www.footballculture.co.uk/
the words "poet", "poetry" and "poems" scare most supporters off – until they
actually hear the work. Dave says: "For me one of the best parts of doing an
LFC night is seeing the horrified expressions on the faces of a footy audience
when the M.C. announces that there's a poet coming on. Honest…it's as though
they've just been told that Gary Neville is the guest speaker."

Dave says he sympathises with those who fill with dread,
because "over the years academics have hijacked poetry and taken it over the
hills and far away until eventually it disappeared up its own orifice."

He says that this is unfortunate: "Like any other form of
writing, poetry can work for anyone if it tells them about their own lives or
gives them something that they can identify with or relate to."

We've all looked back at old clips of matches, or photos taken
of celebrations, and felt that tingling sensation as we are taken back to that
sweet moment, and Dave says his poems do much the same thing: "I use it solely
as a means of communication; capturing an emotion, a moment in time or an
observation and then sharing it in a voice that people can understand."

And those horrified faces he sees as he's introduced are
usually converted by the end of his after-dinner turn: "At most LFC nights people
always ask me the same question: ‘Where can we get your stuff?' That's why I had to get this
book sorted."

You can order the book through Dave's site using PayPal, it
costs just £4.99 + £2.50 p&p. Alternatively you can pick a copy up in
person at either the HJC shop on Walton Breck Road or at Bookworm on Telegraph
Way in Kirkby.

Donations are being made from the proceeds to both the HJC
and to Zoë's Place, so as well as being a bit of culture to add to your
collection of LFC memorabilia it's a project that's helping good causes.

Some of the titles of the pieces in the book:

Football Culture
The Old Boy's Pen
Platform 9
Jester's Hats
One Night In May
The Pilgrimage
The Storm
A Tale Of Two Kensingtons
Dispute That One Mourinho
A Lad From Huyton
The Justice Bell
Impunity For The Guilty
Beckham's Foot
An Innocent Lad
A Kopite's CV

Continue reading Some Football Culture for Reds

“Hunting Dog” Carra “one of the best”

Jamie Carragher may be finding himself regularly overlooked by England boss Steve McLaren, but the boss who matters has once again hailed Carra as "one of the best".

Liverpool's vice captain will need to be at his best tomorrow for the visit of Arsenal who are looking to make it four wins in four meetings this season.

Rafa says one of the keys to Carra's success is that he is not prepared to relax and assume he's done enough, either on the pitch or on the training ground: "For me Jamie is one of the best defenders in Europe," said Rafa, "He is always focused on the game, always trying to learn. That is the key for me because each season he improves a little bit."

Carra's attitude at Melwood has ensured he's seen by Rafa as one of his most vital players: "He is always listening and that is one of the reasons he can keep improving. It is the same every training session, always working hard, always trying to improve."

Carra's abilities to organise his team-mates are well-known, and Rafa also appreciates the way he can rely on Jamie to pick up any new tactics he has in mind: "He reminds me of a hunting dog – when I want something specific done in defence he is very willing to learn. As a defender he is someone you do not want to play against, to have marking you."

Continue reading “Hunting Dog” Carra “one of the best”

Rafa on Dirk, Dan and the new owners

Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez has been speaking about how well Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger have settled into the game, why he still wants to improve his squad and how he feels about the new owners of the most successful side in English history.

He explained how he could tell before signing him that Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt would be ideally-suited to life in the Premiership: “We had confidence because of watching him working during the games but also training and how he could score goals, we knew that he could be a good player for English football. The physical approach that he has to each game is really important for him.”

Rafa also spoke of how one of Dirk’s dreams came true when he was signed by the Reds: “When I was talking with him trying to bring him here he always said the same to me, that he was a Liverpool supporter. I have a friend of mine who was his team mate and he said to me that Kuyt was always watching the Premiership and Liverpool was his target.”

Rafa was asked why he felt that players from Scandinavia, such as Daniel Agger, manage to adapt so quickly to the English game: “I think that the mentality is similar, the weather and daily life is similar. I know from experience that Spanish people have more problems, the Latinos because of the sun, the weather. We for example go to bed at midnight whereas here you maybe go to bed at 10pm. So I think because day to day life is similar that is a reason, but also because Daniel Agger is very, professional he’s very, very focused in his career, very well prepared for every game. These things help because if you have a player who is 21 years old thinking about girls and cars and things like that then maybe it would be more difficult for him to settle down, but he’s very, very focused on football.”

Perhaps that “girls and cars” comment was a warning to any of the current crop of youngsters that are hoping for a chance to break into the first team. Rafa expects a professional attitude at pretty much all times.

The boss also confirmed that he is still not happy with his squad. He says it’s better than last season’s squad, but still some way short of being at the level he wants: “I said before when we started this season that I was happy because we had a better squad than last season. I think that it is true that you always want to improve; maybe you think you are better but also the other teams are improving. We are close but I think we need to do more things if we want to be closer and if we want to be contenders.”

Rafa is fairly confident that the new owners, George Gillette Jr and Tom Hicks, will help him to achieve those improvements and help put the Reds back into contention finally for league title number 19. He likes their approach so far: “I think it’s very positive. I hope that they will try to do the best for the club because when you want to buy a club and you want to invest big money it means that you want to be successful and that you want to win everything. It’s very positive, I think that can be really good for us.”

Rafa’s recent confirmation that he’s sticking around was a huge relief to worried Liverpool supporters who were concerned Real Madrid’s overtures would be too hard to ignore. Now Rafa’s thinking that with new ownership there’s a possibility of becoming an even bigger part of Liverpool’s history: “If everything is going in the right direction I think it can be a very good time for all of the people involved. I am really happy here and everything is okay. And I think it can be a very good opportunity for doing something for the history.”

Football, or soccer as they like to call it, has always been a minority sport in the USA, but with Gillett and Hicks becoming the latest US owners of a premiership side it does seem that the game is gathering pace across the pond. For many Americans it has been seen as a game for girls or younger children but there are signs it is changing. Rafa believes it is possible for it to become a much bigger game over there than it is now: “I’m sure that football in America will improve if they decide to improve and they have everything they need for improving. Some years ago I was in America for ten days at Davis University at a camp giving some football lessons and you could see 100 kids playing football with passion. I think that it will be better. Also they have a lot of Latin Americans and they like football and I think each year they will have more people playing football because they also have this influence.”

Continue reading Rafa on Dirk, Dan and the new owners

No losses for Reds on international duty (almost)

Reds striker Craig Bellamy played the full 90 minutes for Wales last night as they beat San Marino at the Millennium Stadium. Just 15,000 fans saw the 3-0 win.

Meanwhile, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was playing for England against Andorra, and scored twice as England won 3-0. The England team are under pressure as ever and were booed off the pitch by supporters expecting an 8-0 win. Possession stats were nearly 80-20 in England's favour, with Andorra failing to have a single shot at goal, but England struggled to break their defensive opponents down. After the game Gerrard sounded downhearted, despite his own personal performance: "The first half was one of the most difficult 45 minutes I have ever experienced in an England shirt," he said. "We had to show a lot of character after half-time. We only got on top when they were tired. The fans expected six points from the two games; there's been a lot of pressure. Of course, you can hear it but we had to show a lot of character after half-time. It's not as easy as going out and running over teams but eventually we did. It is not draining but it was difficult."

That game was played in Barcelona at the Olympic Stadium, whilst the Spanish national side were playing in Palma. Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso played the last 11 minutes of the 1-0 win over Iceland. Former Reds striker Fernando Morientes was out of the game in the first half due to a dislocated shoulder sustained when he collided with a post. The Spanish doctor says Nando will be out of the forthcoming Champions League clashes with Chelsea.

Liverpool's full-backs were also on duty last night: John Arne Riise played in Norway's 2-2 draw with Turkey and Steve Finnan in Ireland's 1-0 win over Slovakia. Striker Dirk Kuyt had chances to put Holland ahead in their game in Slovenia, but in the end a deflected goal from Giovanni van Bronckhorst gave the Dutch their 1-0 win.

Rafael Benitez will be pleased that there were no reported injuries last night to his players, and now has to work hard to get them ready for the lunchtime kick-off against Arsenal this Saturday. Rafa has had problems preparing his players for league games after international fixtures in the past, with practically no time to train ahead of the games.

Update: Earlier today we missed out Daniel Agger's friendly appearance for Denmark in their 1-0 win over Germany. And one Red was on the losing side last night after all – Sami Hyypia's Finland lost 1-0 in Azerbaijan in their Euro 2008 qualifier..

Continue reading No losses for Reds on international duty (almost)

Liverpool FC takeover is complete

Liverpool football club are now officially owned by US duo Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The American duo have now bought 98.6% of the club’s shares, meaning that under stock exchange rules they can buy the rest of the shares at the previously offered price-per-share. Any shareholders who were holding back are no longer able to hold onto those shares.

With just 1.4% of shares remaining it seems all of the well-known shareholders have now sold their shares. This includes Steve Morgan, the former Redrow chief and thorn-in-the-side to previous owner David Moores.

The American duo have already put the new stadium building on hold until the plans have been reviewed. They want to try and increase the capacity of the new ground above the previously planned 60,000.

* Apologies for the recent lack of updates to the site. Our current hosts have found that this site has been having a major impact on other sites hosted on the same servers as this one, and so we have agreed to move to a dedicated server. Once the move has been completed we hope to be able to start making more regular updates.

Continue reading Liverpool FC takeover is complete

The HJC Cup 2007

Details for the HJC Cup have been updated. The venue for the games will now be PlayFootball in Crosby, and the start time is an hour earlier, first match planned for 11am.

HJC Cup logo The 2007 HJC Cup is set to take place on Saturday May 12th, the weekend of the last league game of the season. Hopefully there'll still be one big game to play after that in Greece.

The tournament couldn't really be for a better cause as far as Liverpool fans are concerned – the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Full details follow, as provided by the organisers, and there's also a dedicated site for the event – www.hjccup.co.uk.

5th Annual HJC Cup Five-A-Side Tournament – Saturday 12th May 2007

Yep, it's that time of year again. Get yer girly shinpads out, dust down those mullets, and get yer tight little shorts out for the girls (especially Redmandave). LFC's last game of the season is against Charlton on Sunday 13th May @ 3pm (to be confirmed) so, as a fitting finale, the HJC Cup takes to the pitch again.

We know that some people might be disappointed that this year's tournament clashes with the Eurovision Song Contest (I know I am), but here are the results of the HJC Jury….

New Venue: PlayFootball,
Drummond Road, Crosby, L23 9YP. Website .

Saturday 12th May 2007

New Time: First match K.O. @ 11am (to be confirmed) Arrival by 10.30am please.

Entry fee:
£100 per TEAM inc. £30 non-refundable deposit to be paid before Saturday 5th May. Squads should
ideally consist of 7 players to include rolling subs.

Each team must nominate a team captain, who is then responsible for registering their team.

The Prize: This year, the winning team will not only be presented with the prestigious HJC Cup, but they will also be sent to Rotterdam (flights and hotel included) on 8th-10th June to represent the HJC in a 5-A-Side tournament being organised by ALSIN (Association of Liverpool Supporters In the Netherlands) to celebrate their fifth anniversary on 9th June. Teams from Sweden, Norway, France, Belgium, Netherlands will be taking part and there'll be a 'do' afterwards at which everyone will be welcome. More details nearer the time. A very special prize indeed.

Payment: All teams must first REGISTER by emailing Craig Mansfield on alfa33boxer@msn.com

Entry fees themselves can then be paid in one of the following ways:

PAYPAL: Payments PER TEAM ONLY (not individually) can be made to sarahdeane@thequestionmaster.co.uk with "HJC Cup [Team Name/Team Captain]" stated clearly in the reference box.

CHEQUE: Made payable to "Hillsborough Justice Campaign" and your team name/team captain written clearly on the back. Cheques can be handed in at the HJC Shop on match days or posted to:

HJC Cup Entry
408 The Collegiate
Shaw Street
L6 1HA

In either case, please include a covering letter stating clearly who the money is from and a contact email/phone number so your entry can be confirmed.

At this stage, only a £30 deposit per team is required (but feel free to pay the whole £100 up front if you wish). Balances
MUST be received by Saturday 5th May.

Individuals who wish to play but don't have a team, don't worry. Contact us (details below) and we'll endeavour to find you a team to join.

So, What Happens Then?

For anyone who's never been before, this is what happens.

  • Group Stages (teams drawn by independent UEFA official. Or Gerry).
  • Quarter-Finals (or Second Round, depending on number of teams entered)
  • Semi Finals
  • 3rd/4th place play off
  • Final
  • Pub

Bibs are provided, but it would be helpful if all teams can ‘co-ordinate' their kits. No prizes for Best Dressed Team,
though, unfortunately.

The Pitz has an upstairs licensed bar with a great view out onto the pitches

Flag-waving is encouraged, although anyone turning up in jester hats will be ejected. Also, the acoustics from the ‘viewing platform' have been improved over the years to facilitate high-end heckling (especially of Green Machine).

The large back bar of THE SANDON has been booked from 6.30pm. There will be food available although, because we've ended up throwing lots of stuff out in previous years, this year it will be more nibbles than big nosh (and quiches for Craig). Oakfield Road does have eleven chippies, after all, which we've found most people prefer after a few Babychams…..

The SANDON will also be where the presentations are made. Up for grabs is not just the prestigious HJC Cup itself, but the Kieran Taylor Memorial Trophy for Player of the Tournament.

There will be music, spoken word, a raffle, tombola and an auction with some very special lots on offer. Start saving now, as all proceeds go directly to the HJC.

We hope this will become the biggest and best tournament so far, so thanks in advance to everyone taking part and also to those who have already given so generously to make this happen.

Any questions, no matter how trivial, feel free to IM me or email sair37@redandwhitkekop.net

Keep your eyes on the HJC Cup website at www.hjccup.co.uk over the coming weeks for
details of any changes.

For more information about the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, go to www.contrast.org/hillsborough

Continue reading The HJC Cup 2007

Emails put Rafa’s mind at rest for now.

Reds manager Rafael Benitez says that he has now had the chance to speak to the new owners of the club after his public request that they let him know what they've got planned for the future for Liverpool FC. It was done by email.

He said in a press conference earlier this week: "I couldn’t have more support than I’ve had here, but now we have new people taking over and it’s important I talk to the American owners. I have spoken to them once, when they first came to the club, but now I would like to see them again as soon as possible and talk about the future. As I’ve said before, I don’t just want to talk about money to spend on players, I would like to hear about the plans which will improve the club."

The new owners saw this and, so it seems, acted quickly to reassure Rafa. He told the Liverpool Echo today: "I’ve been in contact with the new owners by e-mail over the last two days and they answered very quickly. I know they will be here for the Arsenal game. I will not meet them face to face before then, but we are in contact and we can progress from this. This is important because we need to know the situation so we can continue our plans for the future."

As the last top-flight club to actually get an official website, Liverpool have certainly never been first to embrace the internet, but it's reassuring that Rafa now has this method of keeping in touch with the owners, a useful tool considering the time-differences involved.

Continue reading Emails put Rafa’s mind at rest for now.

Peltier latest Red youngster loaned out

Hull City have taken Liverpool youngster Lee Peltier on emergency loan for just over one month.

The 20-year-old, who has appeared for the first team four times, will be with Hull until May 7th.

Peltier is one of a number of Liverpool's youngster who are being allowed to gain some useful experience on loan at lower league sides this year.

Earlier this week Liverpool allowed 18-year-old Godwin Antwi to join Accrington on an emergency loan. Liverpool reserve Goalkeeper David Martin had also been on emergency loan at Accrington but had to return early after suffering an injury five minutes into his first appearance with the club.

Nineteen-year-old Danny Guthrie is enjoying his one-month loan with Southampton and is hoping that they will extend the loan until the end of the season.

Another player enjoying a spell out on loan is Adam Hammill who has been earning rave reviews at Dunfermline.

Continue reading Peltier latest Red youngster loaned out