Find Madeleine

Madeleine McCannBritish Liverpool supporters will no doubt be aware of the awful situation a family on holiday in Portugal found themselves in when their young daughter was abducted.
    
Madeleine McCann, who had her fourth birthday at the weekend, went missing from the apartment the family were using in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on 3rd May.

Fans at last night's UEFA Cup final held at Hampden Park in Glasgow between Sevilla and Espanyol were shown a two minute film, "Find Madeleine", in an attempt to raise awareness of the case in Spain. One theory is that Madeleine may have been taken to (or through) Spain by her abductors and it was hoped that showing the film may help find her. It seems that the case hasn't received a great deal of publicity in Spain. Leaflets were also left on seats.

The supporters warmly applauded the film when it was shown.

This site gets many visitors from Spain, thanks to the strong links Liverpool FC now has with the country through Rafael Benitez and many of his staff and players. If you are one of our Spanish readers it would be a great help if you could help spread the word about Madeleine – the more people who are aware of her plight the more chance there is she'll be found.

The extended family have set up a website – www.findmadeleine.com – which shows how you can help with any information you have. At this stage people are more concerned with finding Maddy than catching those responsible, so please help in any way you can.
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Continue reading Find Madeleine

Report: £15m Bent wanted by Liverpool

According to the London Evening Standard , Liverpool have entered the "race" to sign Darren Bent from Charlton Athletic.

The paper says that the England international's club have now put a £15m fee forward as their valuation for the player, who'll be keen to leave after Charlton were relegated to the Championship. The paper also says that Spurs and West Ham are in the running for the player, and that they believe he would prefer a move to Spurs. Of course West Ham are still effectively under threat of relegation, although that seems unlikely now despite potential legal action being considered by Sheffield United.

Charlton's attitude is that despite their relegation they will not accept a low fee for the player, meaning they want Tottenham to go away and reconsider their reported £10m bid for the striker and West Ham their reported £12m bid.

In fact it's possible that the link with Liverpool has come about because Charlton want to see both clubs up their bids, in what is now going to be a typical game of summer transfer poker. Chances are Charlton couldn't afford to keep Bent with the drop in their income, but Bent isn't obliged to leave. He can choose any of the clubs that come in for him then dig his heels in waiting for the move he wants – the way Michael Owen was meant to do two years ago when leaving Real!

Charlton were reported to have turned down a bid of £18m from West Ham in January during a spending spree to try and stave off relegation. Charlton did not want to assist one of their main rivals in the fight to avoid the drop hence their decision not to accept an offer that’s unlikely to be matched.

With Liverpool supposedly added to the list of interested clubs both London sides need to decide if they believe the links, then need to make a bid closer to what would be their final offer. It's no secret that Rafa is looking to buy new strikers, with Robbie Fowler certainly leaving and Craig Bellamy looking almost certain to go, but if Rafa has £15m to spend on Bent then he’s got £15m to spend on one of those targets from overseas that he’s more interested in.

Bent scored 13 times for Charlton this season.

Continue reading Report: £15m Bent wanted by Liverpool

Neal a possibility for Academy role

With Steve Heighway now gone from his role as Director of the Academy, a reorganisation is on the cards to fit in with the plans of Rafael Benitez. It's unlikely there will be a direct replacement for Heighway, with the structure changing instead, but rumours continue as to who will get the job closest to Heighway's old one.

According to Chris Bascombe in today's Echo, a new name as been brought into the reckoning. In fact it's not a new name to the club, it's one-time club captain and scorer of goals in two European Cup finals, Phil Neal.

Neal won eight league winner's medals, a record until this season when Ryan Giggs won his ninth, and also won four European Cup final medals. He got a penalty in the 3-1 win in Rome in 1977, and scored again in the same city when the Reds drew 1-1 with AS Roma. That game went to a shoot-out, and Neal scored in that too. He never won an FA Cup winners' medal, Liverpool winning the cup the season before he joined, and not again until the season after he left!

His time at Anfield ended in quite bitter circumstances. He'd been captain during the 1984-85 season and was unhappy that he was overlooked for the player-manager's job in place of Kenny Dalglish. Dalglish upset him further by given the armband to Alan Hansen instead of Neal when he took over as boss, and the final straw was the way Steve Nicol became first-choice full-back in his place. Neal made comments after he left about his unhappiness, but he's long since got over that upset and is a regular member of the commentary team on the official LFC website's match coverage.

The Echo say that Neal would act as "a figurehead" at the Academy, part of a new setup that would see other coaching staff join too. Rafa was given the opportunity to take part in the interviews after new owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett decided Rafa must be more involved in what goes on at all levels in the club.

Recent rumours that Gary McAllister was being linked with a role looking after the youngsters are dismissed to some extent in the article, with hints that he will be offered a role as part of the club's first-team coaching staff.

The role that Neal would get is not going to be an easy one. Neal will have to act almost as a school headmaster and would need to handle children and their parents, ensuring their welfare is being looked after, whilst at the same time ensuring that he is willing to liaise with Rafa in deciding on which players are suitable to move to Melwood, and also how the players are educated in football terms. Heighway seemed to have a problem with both keeping the youngsters and their parents happy, and keeping the manager happy.

It's not just about turning good young players into genuine candidates for the first team squad; it's also about discovering the potential talent out there. One criticism of Heighway was that he wasn't willing to scout outside the Merseyside area, but that will change when the new set-up is established. Neal, if given the job, would also be overseeing the scouts that go looking for that raw talent in schoolboy football.

Other honours won by Neal during his time at Anfield include four League Cups and a UEFA Cup. His coaching career wasn't the most successful, and wasn't helped by his role as England boss Graham Taylor's right-hand-man during the "do I not like Orange" era. He also managed Bolton, Manchester City and Coventry. With Bolton he got them promoted from Division 4 (these days known as League 2), in 1988. His last coaching role was as assistant manager at Peterborough in 1997/98.

He cost Liverpool just £66,000 when he signed from Northampton in 1974.

Continue reading Neal a possibility for Academy role

Gerrard desperate to get new deal signed

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is sending out signals that he’s desperate to get his new deal signed and out of the way, and once again the signs are there that the club don’t share his sense of urgency.

Gerrard nearly left the club two years ago when Rick Parry delayed talks over a new deal. Parry went on holiday and Gerrard got nervous that perhaps the Reds were looking to cash in on him and use the cash to rebuild. The drama was soon ended when Gerrard had a last-minute change-of-mind, but Parry was lucky not to lose the player through being so laid back about a new deal. That deal is now two years old and Rafa Benítez wants it extending so that Gerrard can’t leave under new rules allowing players to buy themselves out of their contracts.

Speaking today, 26-year-old Gerrard said he’s got his pen ready: “Talks are progressing and I am ready to sign a new contract any time now. It's just around the corner. I am not sure when it will be done but I am ready to sign. As soon as the contract is put in front of me, I will sign it.”

The deal is said to be worth £120,000 a week for the inspirational midfielder who says he wants to give his best years to the club: “I'm coming up to 27-years-old now and hopefully I can sign a long-term deal that will see me having the best days of my career at Liverpool. Obviously it is all about whether you are good enough to be in the starting 11, but that is what I intend to happen now for the best years of my career.”

Gerrard reiterated that he was waiting on the club to sort out the paperwork: “It is all now up to Rick Parry and the American people – and Rafa – when it actually happens. I will be in La Manga now for the rest of the week at our training camp, but my advisors will be holding more talks to sort out the last details. I have told the club I want to stay and it is all now in the club's hands.”

Parry didn’t seem quite as keen to get things tied up before the final when he spoke to Radio 5 last week: “We're as keen as ever. It's always been our aim to keep Steven at the club for the rest of his career. In no way has that diminished,” said Parry. “He's ambitious and wants us to be winning trophies so the more successful we are and the more finals we are in, the happier he will be in the long term. We're not putting a timescale on it. We're keen to do it, he's keen to do it and it will get done. What we're focusing on now is the final.”

Parry is under pressure from fans after refusing to discuss why numbers didn’t seem to add up in the recent ballot for Champions League final tickets, and if he allows Gerrard to become unsettled again he’ll find it hard to hang onto any respect from Reds supporters at all. It’s important he manages the situation carefully now and ensures Gerrard knows the deal really is around the corner.

Gerrard says he was disappointed that Liverpool’s league season turned out the way it did, but he’s hopeful that next season there’ll be a much more effective challenge: “We can't escape the fact that, in the league, this season we haven't been good enough,” said Gerrard. “You ask the manager, or me, or indeed any of the players in our dressing room and they will all say exactly the same thing: We had bigger ambitions for this season than the Champions League.”

He went on: “We always had one eye on Europe because it is so prestigious and a tournament that has always served us well, but we also wanted the league flag flying back at Anfield and felt we were in a good position to have a real go. The league is always your bread and butter as a Liverpool player and we're not far away. With investment in the summer, and the squad here staying together we can promise to push Chelsea and United all the way next year.”

Continue reading Gerrard desperate to get new deal signed

Rafa gives stick back to Voldano!

The former technical director of Real Madrid, Jorge Valdano, has been blasted today by Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.

Valdano was writing in Spanish newspaper Marca recently after the Champions League semi-final and criticised both managers for their styles of football. With no Spanish sides in the semi-finals, in fact there were three English sides, Valdano wasn't happy. Liverpool have become extremely popular in Spain because of the Spanish connection, and no doubt Valdano had seen much written about Liverpool's triumph over Chelsea. The triumph came accompanied by the noise and passion of the Anfield crowd, and Valdano claimed this passion disguised a terrible show of football.

His words will take a long time to forget: “Football is made up of subjective feeling, of suggestion – and, in that, Anfield is unbeatable. Put a shit hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it's a work of art. It's not. It's a shit hanging from a stick.”

Rafa gave his response today. “The people at this club who are working to obtain the targets we are achieving deserve respect, a deep respect. I believe that he has shown a lack of respect to the club and the fans and the sacred stage of Anfield. Speaking of ‘shit hanging from a stick’ and other unfair comparisons show he has absolutely no knowledge of the historical reality of this organisation in world football.”

Valdano left Real two years ago. Rafa was once part of the coaching staff at Real of course, and has been courted more than once by Real since he became Liverpool boss. But he’s not impressed with Valdano: “I have known Jorge Valdano for more than 20 years since my time at Real Madrid and I do not have the best professional concept of him. I believe that he has much to thank to people like Ramon Martinez, Cappa or Giráldez, to mention only some examples, of trainers or sporting directors he’s worked like. These are people who have made a bigger contribution.”

Rafa was scathing in his response, annoyed most of all at the lack of respect shown by the Argentinean: “It infuriates to me that a person who has the privilege of being able to express himself in the media does not do so with honour and education and does not show, I repeat, the minimum respect to an institution like Liverpool, with it’s success and history.”

As well as his shit-on-a-stick comments Valdano had said: “Chelsea and Liverpool are the clearest, most exaggerated example of the way football is going: very intense, very collective, very tactical, very physical, and very direct. But, a short pass? Noooo. A feint? Noooo. A change of pace? Noooo. A one-two? A nutmeg? A backheel? Don't be ridiculous. None of that. The extreme control and seriousness with which both teams played the semi-final neutralised any creative licence, any moments of exquisite skill. If football is going the way Chelsea and Liverpool are taking it, we had better be ready to wave goodbye to any expression of the cleverness and talent we have enjoyed for a century.”

Valdano had a go at both coaches because their playing careers weren’t the best: “The lives of Mourinho and Benítez have crossed in a world that is ever more scrutinised and exposed by the media, which is why they look at each other with such distrust. But they have two things in common: a previously denied, hitherto unsatisfied hunger for glory, and a desire to have everything under control. Both of those things stem from one key factor: neither Mourinho nor Benítez made it as a player.”

Valdano, who managed just one championship and no European Cups during his time as a coach, went on: “That has made them channel all their vanity into coaching. Those who did not have the talent to make it as players do not believe in the talent of players, they do not believe in the ability to improvise in order to win football matches. In short, Benítez and Mourinho are exactly the kind of coaches that Benítez and Mourinho would have needed to have made it as players.”

Liverpool of course would have had more trickery on show had Luis Garcia been available. Unfortunately he was injured and despite him returning to training again today he won’t be picked for the Champions League final – he was taken out of the official squad in January to make way for Mascherano.

Continue reading Rafa gives stick back to Voldano!

Gerrard: We’ll miss Robbie

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has praised Liverpool’s outgoing striker Robbie Fowler on his devotion to the Reds. Robbie waved goodbye to Anfield on Sunday after he’d captained the side in his last appearance at home in the Liverpool shirt. Gerrard was happy to hand the armband over to him for the day, allowing Robbie to have the send-off Gerard Houllier and Phil Thompson had denied him in 2001 when he was substituted at half-time in what was to be his last game in the first spell at the club for him.

Gerrard said: “There aren't many strikers around like Robbie anymore, not just in England but around Europe. In his prime he was one of the best finishers there's ever been. When you think he took the number nine shirt from Ian Rush and managed to fill it, I don't think there's a bigger tribute you can pay to him than that.”
 
Gerrard was brought up supporting Liverpool when Rush was scoring goals for fun, and saw Robbie take the number over after Rush moved on. The shirt then fell into the wrong hands when El Hadji-Diouf wore it, before Djibril Cissé borrowed it for a couple of seasons. When Cissé left in the summer Robbie got his old number back, but now it looks likely to go to a new player: “The number nine shirt at Anfield is one of the most important and it's been great to see Robbie wearing it again,” said Stevie. “Whoever is lucky enough to wear it next year will have an impossible job on their hands replacing Robbie. If they're half as good as he's been for the club, they'll have to be a great player.”
 
Many of the players have spoken about Robbie’s influence at Melwood since he returned, but according to Gerrard it was almost like he’d never been away: “All the lads are going to miss him on and off the park next season. There was no-one in Liverpool happier than me when we signed him back. He just belonged here. One of the reasons he's such a legend is even when he'd left us the first time, it was impossible not to think of him as a Liverpool player. Whenever we had a big game against Everton or Manchester United, or in the Champions League, you could guarantee Robbie would be texting us wishing us good luck, or saying well done if we had a good result.”
 
Robbie arrived short of fitness but worked hard to bring himself up to a level that meant Rafa Benítez offered him an extension on his deal. He’s kept that hard work up despite not having too many chances to play this season, which has impressed Gerrard: “Everyone knows how much he loves the club, which is why he's always had such a rapport with the fans. Since he's been here he's worked so hard for us and been the ultra professional. It must be hard when you've been used to playing every week but you have to be patient and wait for your chance. The way he's reacted is an example to everyone. On and off the park it's been great to have him here. It's going to be very difficult for someone to follow him.”
 
Fowler said goodbye to Anfield, but there’s still a chance he’ll have one final appearance in the Red shirt: “I know Robbie will be working as hard as anyone to be involved in the Champions League final and you can't rule out the possibility he'll make a big contribution,” says Gerrard.

On Sunday Fowler himself admitted he was struggling not to cry: “At the end, on the lap of honour when the fans were chanting my name, it was a bit of an emotional time but I did my best to keep the tears in,” said Robbie. “With it being my last game at Anfield, I'd have loved to have scored but not everything goes to plan in football. I have had a good career at Liverpool and today I tried not to let things get on top of me. I think it worked, I felt I did all right.”
 
Fowler was unlucky in that Rafa brought him off two minutes from time to ensure he got a standing ovation, only for Liverpool to be awarded a penalty moments later, which Fowler would surely have taken had he still been on. “It's just one of those things,” he said. “The manager has been great and I can't thank him enough for giving me a chance by bringing me back to Liverpool. I know what he was doing in bringing me off and getting me a good ovation from the crowd, but as I've said before, things don't always go to plan in football. If I was on the pitch, I'd have taken the penalty, and if we'd have won the game, it would have been better.”
 
Fowler is hopeful he’ll be given a chance to make one more appearance: “With a bit of luck, I'll be involved in the Champions League final and we'll see what happens there.”
 
He was delighted with the chance to wave farewell to the fans who love him so much: “I missed saying goodbye last time and I'm glad I could to do it this time. I'd have loved to have stayed but all good things come to an end. Thankfully I had a decent chance of saying goodbye. I've thanked the manager and the fans have been fantastic to me, in the first spell and probably just as good the second time around.”
 
He claims he’s yet to be offered anything for next season although he’s also thinking purely about Liverpool for now anyway: “I've had no offers yet. We've got another game and I'm not too worried about what's happening in the future just now. I'm just focused on the next game and that's the main priority. I've not even thought about my future. The next game is massive for us. I want to focus on that, and whatever happens after that we'll see.”

He was down as fifth penalty taker in the semi-final against Chelsea, but wasn’t needed thanks to the other players. If the final goes to penalties there’s every chance he’ll be brought on to take one if Rafa’s in a position to do so: “I don't think many people could cope if the game against Milan goes to penalties but as long as Liverpool win, no matter how, then we'll all be happy,” said Robbie.

After Sunday’s game Rafa explained how he’d wanted the day to be a tribute to one of Liverpool’s greatest-ever goalscorers: “The day was all about Robbie Fowler and it was fantastic to see the supporters applauding him. It would have been perfect had Robbie scored in front of the Kop and it was a pity we got a penalty just after he had left the pitch. I wanted Robbie to take the applause from the crowd and that is why I took him off and it was unfortunate.”

Continue reading Gerrard: We’ll miss Robbie

Anfield says its goodbyes

Liverpool’s last home game of the season looks set to be a mixture of emotions this afternoon.

Players are making their final appearances at Anfield before moving on elsewhere, fans are angry about the ticketing fiasco for the Champions League final and the squad need sending off in style ahead of that game. The game itself is set to be nothing more than a side-show.

Robbie Fowler is one of those players leaving, after it was finally confirmed officially that he was not going to get his contract renewed. Fans are hopeful Rafa will give him a run-out in what might be his penultimate appearance in a Red shirt. With seven subs allowed in Champions League fixtures it’s almost certain he’ll be on the bench in Athens, and if circumstances dictate he’ll be called upon for the penalty shoot-out should we be forced to endure that torture again. He was brought on as a late sub in extra-time against Chelsea in the semi-final, but thanks to the clinical penalties of his team-mates, and two saves from Reina, he wasn’t needed. But Rafa had him ready for the high pressure role: “He was out there to take the fifth penalty if it got that far. I could rely on Robbie,” said the boss afterwards. Robbie has been considering a number of offers, including one from Celtic, and will be wished well wherever he goes.

Jerzy Dudek was hoping to bow out with his final start at Anfield today, but there are reports he’s been hit with a groin injury and may not get to play after all. Rafa needs Jerzy to be fit and well for his place on the bench in Athens, but with first-choice Reina still recovering from a shoulder injury there’s a dilemma for Rafa over who to use today.

Dudek himself is full of praise for Rafa and Reina as his days at Anfield come to an end. The 34-year-old Pole, hero of Istanbul two years ago, accepts that Reina is an excellent keeper in all respects: “Everything Pepe Reina does he does well,” says Jerzy. “He does things in a way that gives confidence to the rest of the team. He will come for crosses all the time in certain areas, which takes the pressure off the defence, and his distribution of the ball is better than some midfielders. He can launch the quickest counter-attacks in the Premiership. Since he has come here we have always done well – and the two things are not a coincidence.”

Dudek also feels Liverpool could be in a position to win that elusive 19th league title soon. Although disappointed he won’t be a part of it directly, he says he’ll be joining in with the rest of us if we are celebrating that success: “It makes me a little sad that I won't be here on the pitch to enjoy a title success but I will be watching from wherever I am. I will be as happy as any supporter from the Kop.”

First up though is that trip to Athens to try and bring home another European Cup. It would be Liverpool’s sixth, the same number that opponents Milan have won, and would of course look rather nice spending a year in the trophy room alongside the dented version we got to keep last time round. The players and coaching staff need a good send-off, but those sending them off aren’t all going to be in Athens to see them.

Liverpool supporters groups are astounded by the way the club has handled the allocation of tickets and a protest has been planned. Fans are meeting in the Sandon pub at 1pm, ahead of the game, to discuss the best way to make their feelings known. Rick Parry is facing the full brunt of the fury, because his handling of the situation in the local media and on the club’s website has been seen as arrogant. The impression he’s given is that of someone who doesn’t particularly think it’s anything to do with the fans how the club choose to distribute their tickets. He’s hoping it will blow over, but that seems unlikely now.

The hope from most fans though is that Parry can see what harm he’s done without Rafa and the players being affected. That Parry can hear how unpopular he’s now become and take steps to answer the one remaining question the fans want answered – who got how many? It should be a party today, a pre-Athens party, and we need to remember that Rafa and his squad know we’ve not fallen out with them!

It’s goodbye to those who’ll not be coming back next season. It’s goodbye to those we hope are bringing home number six. And it could be goodbye to Rick Parry unless he can swallow some pride and admit where those tickets went. It’s not a difficult question to answer, unless the answer is going to make things difficult.

Continue reading Anfield says its goodbyes

Old and new to keep goal for Reds and Addicks

The final league game for Liverpool and Charlton on Sunday looks set to see both sides play with different keepers to their regular choices for this season. And one side will see a keeper coming to the end of his club career keeping guard between the sticks, with the other side set to give their duties to a player just starting his career.

Charlton are already relegated and may give a chance to youngster Darren Randolph, who celebrates his 20th birthday tomorrow. They certainly won’t be using their regular first-choice for this season, on-loan Scott Carson.

Carson is of course a Liverpool goalkeeper and was given a season at Charlton to gain some valuable experience. He ended the season as the club’s player of the year.

Carson was allowed to go on loan because Rafa decided that Jerzy Dudek, in his final year at Anfield, could be used as cover for Pepe Reina. And with Reina nursing a shoulder injury Rafa seems likely to rest the Spanish star ahead of the Champions League final in less than two weeks.

Dudek has already spoken of the sadness he’ll feel as he leaves the club he helped to win a fifth European Cup with his performance in Istanbul, and now he says he feels the club are extremely close to winning the league: “We are all happy with the way we have played in the Premiership in the second half of the season and I feel we are not too far away from winning it.”

He went on: “Rafa knows what he has to do to take the club across the finishing line. If he is able to bring in quality players in the summer in one or two key positions then we will be very close next season.”

Rafa is looking at bringing quality players in this summer, but of course so will the other teams around us at the top.

Charlton’s Randolph is only going to be prevented from playing if boss Alan Pardew decides to go for out-of-favour Thomas Myhre. Randolph is looking forward to the chance if he gets it though: “I am not 100% sure what the situation is with Thomas Myhre, but if I do play, it will be a mixture of relishing the opportunity and being a bag of nerves. Any debut is special, but to make it at a place like Anfield would be a dream.”

* Don’t forget if you are going to the game on Sunday to bring something to help give Robbie Fowler the send-off he didn’t get last time he left.  Unless there is an unexpected last-minute change of heart Robbie is set to leave with his contract now coming to an end. Whether you bring banners, plasters for your nose, your old shirts from Robbie's heydey or something else you can think of, make sure Robbie gets to see just how much we all appreciate what he's done for us since he arrived here as a schoolchild.

Continue reading Old and new to keep goal for Reds and Addicks

Good bye and Thank you to departing heroes

Liverpool's last game of the league season is their last game at Anfield for this season, when they face Charlton on Saturday.

It's set to be an emotional day too.

As well as being an opportunity to send our players off to battle in ancient Greece against the Milanese, we'll also be saying goodbye to faces that have brought us some great memories over the years.

Jerzy Dudek had two years left on his contract after the glory of Istanbul in 2005, and those two years are now at an end. Rafa Benitez had brought Pepe Reina in to replace him; a decision made even before Istanbul, and was actually hopeful of selling the Polish international prior to his contract running out – for the right price. In the end the player stayed on at the club the rest of those two years because no deal came up that interested both the player and the club. He's made some mistakes – notably against Arsenal in January – since Istanbul, but his performance in Istanbul is what we will long remember him for.

Perhaps more significantly (and no disrespect to Jerzy in saying that), but Saturday will also be Robbie Fowler's last chance to appear at Anfield in a Red shirt. His 18-month-long return to Anfield has not been as glorious for him as he'd have liked, but he's still proved to be a vital squad member, and his influence on the training ground has been praised by his strike partners.

Fowler's departure in 2001 came during a period where Gerard Houllier seemed intent on proving a point. He clearly had no respect for Fowler, who really did not want to leave Anfield, but had to consider his career. He went to Leeds for £11m, but left without getting a chance to say goodbye. His last appearance first time round was brought to an end at half-time in the game as Houllier decided to substitute him. Fowler wasn't whiter-than-white during his first spell at Anfield, but was far from the worst player at the club. The club should have backed him when he got a ridiculous ban for incidents involving the touchline and Graham Le Saux, but instead decided to let him serve his ban. No appeal was made in an attempt to reduce the ban to a reasonable length. Stories of training-ground bust-ups were allowed to leak out, and the press were fed negative stories about him.

One so-called Liverpool website tried to claim Fowler had been too drunk to train – when in reality he'd been suffering from what amounted to a bad case of flu, and was virtually unable to breathe, let alone take part in a training session. That Liverpool site – now boycotted by most internet-using Reds – was one of many who wanted to stick the knife into a player who loved Liverpool and had done since he joined.

In reality Robbie just did not fit in with Gerard Houllier's ways. Houllier wanted the money he knew Fowler would bring so that he could bring in his own signings. He knew he couldn't get rid of both Fowler and Owen, and it seemed that there was a campaign claiming Fowler and Owen couldn't play together. They rarely got a chance to even try and play together, but when they did it always seemed to work out. The French manager wasted the £11m he got for Robbie on Liverpool's worst-ever number nine – El Hadji Diouf. And that £11m still seems a bargain compared to the £14m lavished on Djibril Cisse – signed in 2003 but not actually arriving until 2004 after Houllier had left.

Gerard Houllier's greatest achievement as boss was the treble season, in fact in the whole of the calendar year 2005 he won five trophies. Robbie Fowler played an important part in those glories, but was dumped. In fact it was that season that Houllier decided to bring Jerzy Dudek in. Sander Westerveld had been hot and cold as goalkeeper during his spell as our number one, but when Houllier made two big-money purchases in that department it really did look like he'd made a mistake in actually signing both. Westerveld was let go, rapidly, and in came Jerzy and Chris Kirkland. Dudek never really got challenged by Kirks – whenever the former Coventry keeper was starting to look good, or Dudek was starting to look bad, poor Kirkland would pick up another injury. Would Dudek have even still been at the club if Kirkland had kept free from injury?

In many ways it would be easy now to stick the knife into Dudek. He could be accused of only staying at Anfield in order to rake in the money from his lucrative deal, signed during that Gerard Houllier era. He has certainly been quoted on more than one occasion as being unhappy with Rafa, although he's generally denied the quotes. His cup performances against Arsenal were shocking, there's little else can be said – but he really shouldn't have been picked for both games, the boss certainly should have let him sit out the second game as he clearly had no confidence whatsoever in his own abilities. But Jerzy brought us number five. Without his save in extra time (which the late Pope probably had a hand in) and his performance in the shoot-out, we'd be looking back on a valiant defeat, not a glorious victory.

Jerzy deserves a huge send-off on Saturday – a thank you for 2005.

Robbie Fowler deserves an even bigger send-off. His career at Anfield had been interrupted but he's brought us so much pleasure. And there are talks of Robbie getting that send-off – but unofficially. Various sites have spoken of their ideas for what should be done, various fans coming up with their own schemes. It's been mentioned in the Echo, by Chris Bascombe (one of those who saw at first-hand how Robbie was being victimised and lied about in the latter days of his first stint at the club). If you're at the game on Saturday, find a way of marking Robbie's departure. Give him the send of he was denied in 2001. Wear a nose plaster, like those "stop-snoring" ones you see in the chemist, similar to what Robbie wore in his heyday before he had surgery. Have you still got one of those t-shirts created to support the dockers? They were a spook of the Calvin Kline shirts that were popular at the time, with the CK of the logo put into the middle of the word "DoCKer". Have you got one of your old Robbie Fowler shirts?

If you are at the game, make sure you do something to mark the day, Robbie last appearance (if selected) at Anfield for Liverpool.

If the stories about how positive Robbie has been on the training ground are true then it's very likely he'll be back one day as a coach – but he's still got a couple of years of playing left in him, and hopefully he'll get the chance to appear most weeks at a club where the stakes aren't quite as high as they are at Anfield right now.

Some sites have actually suggested a "Number Nine" day – a way of including Steve Heighway, outgoing Youth Academy coach and legendary winger, in the celebrations. It's a number that's had some great names wearing it, including of course Ian Rush, who was still playing as Robbie embarked on his professional career.

But don't forget Jerzy, He's dreading the last day. He told the club's official magazine: "I have 40,000 thank-yous to say, so it will take me a while. It would be nice to play in the last game against Charlton. I would get to walk around the pitch and take it all in. I could hear the fans singing again. I don't know if it will be possible, it's up to the manager when he picks the team. I just want to say goodbye. If it is not possible then I will be the last person left on the pitch after the Charlton game."

Robbie, Jerzy and Heighway aren't the only faces saying goodbye this summer, although some departures are being deliberately kept a little more low-profile ahead of the Champions League final. Bolo Zenden will have to wait and see if he's offered another contract for example. Rafa's got a big chunk of money to spend if he needs it, and strikers are where he's reportedly looking to strengthen first, with Carlos Tevez and Samuel Eto'o looking more and more likely to be offered the chance to play a part in the true beginning of the US era at the club.
 
Dudek says it's his decision to leave, and nobody will argue that with him. He says he has to leave to try and resurrect his international career, which came to a halt in the summer, something he discovered through the TV: "I was watching TV at home, just with Sky Sports News on in the background while I was doing some things and waiting for something else to come on – as you do. I actually saw a breaking news story come along the bottom of the screen: Jerzy Dudek is not going to the World Cup. I froze. At first I thought it was a joke from the Polish manager, but then I saw that our star striker was not going, and two other senior players were already out. It wasn't a joke."
 
Dudek would have seen that squad in the early part of the summer, and he claims he wanted to leave Anfield there and then, but was persuaded to stay on: "Something changed in me after that snub. From being happy to play here and press Pepe, I knew I had to go somewhere to play every week. The needs of the team were more important to me than my own needs. Scott Carson was going to Charlton and the manager could not get any cover, so I stayed." Carson won't be allowed to play on Saturday, under Premiership rules, but his season at Charlton has seen him voted their player of the season, and he's been kept busy in a side looking like getting relegated.
 
Jerzy says he's going to be taking a step down to leave Anfield: "Now I am going this summer. I am out of contract and I need to play football. I am still hungry to play and put the disappointment of the World Cup behind me. I know I will not move somewhere and find a nicer club than Liverpool. I love this city and love this club. If I had gone to the World Cup then I would have stayed here forever. I told Rafa that too. I would have done everything I wanted to do in my career. I will not play with better players or make more friends than I have here. Wherever I go from here will be a definite step down in my career."
 
He does not fancy the idea of appearing as an opponent at Anfield: "I just can't imagine walking into Anfield on match-day, walking out of the tunnel and going down to the Kop end – and then hoping to see Liverpool lose. This club has been my life for five years. I have become much more than an employee – I am a fan. I don't know how I will feel when I walk out of this place for the last time, but I imagine it will be very emotional and I can see tears in my eyes. I am not looking forward to it at all."

All of those leaving Anfield for the last time on Saturday will feel much the same – and it's the Reds' way of doing things to make sure they know how grateful we are for their services.

Give them all a great send-off.

Continue reading Good bye and Thank you to departing heroes

LFC: Flo deal is not done

Liverpool FC have today made a brief statement regarding the future of French forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle.

Sinama has been playing on loan in Spain this season, with Recreativo. The loan deal included an option to buy the player outright at the end, and Recre claimed they'd exercised this option, after raising what to them was a huge amount of money, €4m (around £2.7m). They made an announcement on their official site yesterday confirming the deal.

However the Liverpool FC official website points out that, "despite reports to the contrary, the deal has not yet been finalised."

Djibril Cisse went to Marseille on a similar loan deal but the French side are yet to take out their option on making the deal permanent. Cisse has been linked with moves to other Premiership clubs instead, but if no deal is forthcoming he'll be back at Melwood in the summer, although he won't even be close to being in Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez's plans.

Continue reading LFC: Flo deal is not done