Rafa desperate to speak to owners

Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Porto was supposedly being watched in the States by the club’s co-owners, with Foster Gillett watching in the stands. How much of the game they understand is open to debate, but they can’t have failed to understand how the Liverpool supporters felt. Hearing the manager’s name sung over the top of You’ll Never Walk Alone must be unprecedented, and with it being sung throughout the night, starting over an hour before kick-off as a march in his honour began, they wouldn’t have had a chance to forget how the supporters feel.

Given the demonstration of feeling, the owners now have no excuses for their next steps involving the manager. When they arrived they claimed, or implied, that they understood how the club worked, how it was here to make people happy, and how any money-making had always been a bonus. They were going to let Rafa do his job with their full support, buying him players called Snoogy Doogy if he asked for them, so that by the time the new stadium was built the club would be winning or challenging for the league title every season.

Whatever changed that, they’ve never had the decency to own up. They’ve never explained why. Well the fans were careful last night to hold back in their criticism for the owners. To once again give them the benefit of the doubt – to open a door which would allow the owners to get back to running the club the way they promised they would. And that didn’t include sacking the best manager the club have had since the eighties for non-footballing reasons.

Rafa clearly appreciated the support from the fans, which he said was one of two reasons it was a moving occasion: “It was an emotional evening for two things. One, because we needed to win and it is important to go through in the Champions League and also for all the support for me and for the team. Somebody asked me if the past few days have been difficult. Not really difficult, because it has been something I was not expecting.”

His message for the fans: “I want to say thank you to all of our supporters. They were, as always, magnificent. I knew what was going on before the match, but I was focusing on the game. I knew something was happening but I was not really worried about this. I was thinking about the game because I knew that was my responsibility. I was preparing for the game with the players but all I can say is thank you, because they were fantastic.”

Rafa’s English has improved immensely since he arrived in England, but translations of any interviews he’s done in Spanish show how much more he could say if his English was perfect. It seems to be something that frustrates him, and he was struggling again in finding a way to truly express his gratitude to the fans that have got so firmly behind him: “The problem is I don’t have too many words in English to say how I feel. To say thank you. I could say something in Spanish but you would not understand.”

Communication has been the biggest problem for the managers since the Americans came in. He’s now trying to get the message across to the owners that he doesn’t have issues with them personally, he clearly just wants to sit down with them and make sure they understand what each other is looking for. It doesn’t make sense to Rafa to have his rights to negotiate deals taken away from him. “I don’t have any personal problems (with the owners). We were talking about different issues and we don’t have the same opinions at this moment, but I am sure that we will talk and they will understand and I will understand their ideas.”

Those who want to keep hurting Rafa, and perhaps want him sacked, have tried differing methods to put Rafa in a bad light: “I was reading something about my ego, but this is not about my ego. This is about my responsibility. It would be easier for me to stay and pick up my wages at the end of the month, but I don’t want to do this. I want to improve my team, my squad and I was trying to do this.”

Rafa didn’t want to allow the owners to miss his point – he’s not got an issue with them, he just wants to know, from them, what the problems have been about: “I repeat again: I do not have a problem with them. My relationship with them was good before and now we need to talk about what the problem was. Maybe we need to talk now and analyse the situation.”

During the game he really was focussed on coaching his team: “The most important thing is the team. I could hear the crowd but I was thinking about solutions because Porto were playing well and controlling the middle so we needed to find solutions and I was thinking about the players in front and the changes we needed. We needed to change something. We needed to keep the ball and we needed a target man.”

That target man was Peter Crouch, one of those tipped to be on his way out of the club to help Rafa fund the purchase of Javier Mascherano. The owners’ stance now is that Rafa can’t even do that, but had they fulfilled their earlier promises Crouch could well have been staying. Rafa didn’t expect he’d have to sell before he could buy, and he does rate Crouch highly, if not as highly as Crouch would like. Rafa knows that without funding from the owners he’s got to try and make the most of potential sales, and perhaps bring in a mixture of Bosmans and players close to the end of their contracts instead: “When you bring players in it’s not so much the price. Voronin was a Bosman transfer and he has been really good so the money is not important.”

CL Result: Liverpool 4 Porto 1

Champions League Group A – November 28th 2007 – Result

Liverpool 4 Porto 1

Liverpool’s 4-1 win means their Champions League destiny stays in their own hands, but after Besiktas also won their game over Marseilles, Liverpool have to win the last game, away to Marseilles.

Liverpool are now level on points with Marseilles, but despite the Reds’ far-better goal difference Marseilles are placed above them, based on the fact the French side won their first meeting. A draw or defeat in France would therefore see Liverpool finish below Marseilles, and would also mean at least one of Porto and Besikta finished on more points.

A win however would see Liverpool finish on ten points and qualify. They would top the group should Porto drop any points against Besiktas.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 17 Arbeloa, 11 Benayoun (15 Crouch, 71), 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 19 Babel (18 Kuyt, 85), 10 Voronin (7 Kewell, 63), 9 Torres
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 6 Riise, 21 Lucas, 22 Sissoko
Goals: Torres 19, 78, Gerrard 84 (pen), Crouch 88
Bookings: Hyypia 37

FC Porto: 1 Helton, 12 Bosingwa, 4 Stepanov, 2 Bruno Alves, 5 Cech, 11 Gonzalez (17 Sektioui, 77), 8 Gonzalez, 6 Paulo Assuncao (23 Postiga, 81), 25 Kazmierczak (16 Raul Meireles, 65), 7 Quaresma, 9 Lopez
Unused subs: 33 Nuno, 3 Pedro Emanuel, 13 Fucile, 18 Bolatti
Goals: Lopez 33
Bookings: Paulo Assuncao 48, Stepanov 82, Quaresma 90

Stats: (Liverpool – Porto)
Possession: 57% – 43%
Shots on target: 15 – 2
Shots off target: 3 – 8
Corners: 11 – 3
Fouls: 13 – 10

Referee: Roberto Rosetti
Attendance: 41,095

CL Teams: Liverpool v Porto

Rafa Benitez, knowing he’s got almost unanimous backing from Liverpool supporters, has picked a team with four changes for tonight’s Champions League game with Porto.

It’s almost certainly a must-win game, although Rafa has been referring to it more as do-not-lose game. Lucas and Kewell make way for Babel and Benayoun, with Gerrard moving into his preferred central role, alongside Javier Mascherano who returns in place of Momo Sissoko. Up-front Dirk Kuyt is replaced by Andriy Voronin who will play alongside Fernando Torres.
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 17 Arbeloa, 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 19 Babel, 10 Voronin, 9 Torres
Subs: 30 Itandje, 6 Riise, 7 Kewell, 15 Crouch, 18 Kuyt, 21 Lucas, 22 Sissoko

FC Porto: 1 Helton, 12 Bosingwa, 4 Stepanov, 2 Bruno Alves, 5 Cech, 11 Gonzalez, 8 Gonzalez, 6 Paulo Assuncao, 25 Kazmierczak, 7 Quaresma, 9 Lopez
Subs: 33 Nuno, 3 Pedro Emanuel, 13 Fucile, 16 Raul Meireles, 17 Sektioui, 18 Bolatti, 23 Postiga

Referee: Roberto Rosetti

Details: Marching and singing for Rafa

As what might one day become known as “Rafa Day” begins, more details of tonight’s massive show of support for the club’s manager Rafael Benitez have been confirmed. Remember, the emphasis is on showing your support for the manager, rather than your undoubted anger towards the new owners or the chief executive. Foster Gillett is rumoured to be attending tonight – make sure he’s in no doubt as to why the manager must stay.

Details from RTK:

First off all, hats off to each and every one of you for the support shown towards our manager already. The planning, effort and preparation for tonight is unbelievable. We’ll always have the banter between sections of the support, but when it really matters, we come together and stand as one. We’re Liverpool.

Tonight – There will be a few thousand flyers available in the HJC shop from 5pm onwards. We are appealing for anyone to pop along and pick up a big handful each and help hand them out around the area. A few lads going down to The Stanley and The King Harry, another few to The Solly and The Albert, others targeting The Park and The Sandon and so on. To make as many people aware as possible as to what is going on, in case they’ve been living in the land of nod for the past few days. There is also a version attached below in PDF format for you to print off and hand out on your way to the game and to anyone you see tonight. Using a catchphrase from across the park, “every little helps”. Get printing off and get handing out. And anyone that can get to the HJC shop between 5pm and 6pm, please do so and help get them flyers out there.

Download this flyer and print – Rafa_March_Flyer_Here

Just print off and tear into two pieces, giving a couple of A5 sized flyer with each print. Simple.

Get yourselves in and around The Sandon for half 6, and there’ll be lads there ready to take the lead and let everyone know exactly what’s going on. Let’s make this special. A real show of Red strength. It’s been built up by the press already, now it’s time for us to deliver. Our manager needs us.

Let’s leave any anti-American and anti-Rick Parry feelings to one side for tonight. No matter how you feel on the subject, let’s leave that for another day and use tonight to show our passionate support for our manager. Our Club. Our Manager. Don’t let anything dilute that. Just use tonight to march in support of our manager, the man that’s brought us so many special nights, the man who’s working towards bringing us more of those nights and the man that needs our backing more than ever. Let’s show him how much he means to us. Starting with the march outside, then let’s take that inside the ground and get Anfield rocking. It’s down to us, all of us, to make that happen.

Over to you…

Reina: We must get three points

Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina would, along with a number of other key players, almost certainly want to leave Liverpool should the new owners carry out their alleged threat to sack manager Rafa Benitez, but for now insists that the players are not allowing the fuss to distract them from their football. He said: “It’s not affecting us. It is not always easy, but all we can do is play football and show how good we are on the pitch.”

Reina was speaking ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash with Porto at Anfield. If Liverpool can win this game then their chances of qualification are back again, something that seemed highly unlikely after the half-way point of the group stage when they had just one point from nine available. He says a win tonight would set them up for a big match away to Marseilles in two weeks: “First of all it doesn’t just depend upon this result,” he said. “We want to keep playing in the Champions League for a long time and so we must look to get three points and then play Marseille in what would be a final.” Continue reading Reina: We must get three points

Rafa goes quiet on row with Hicks

With a Champions League fixture set for tomorrow night, it was time for the standard press conference from Rafa Benitez to take place at Melwood this afternoon. Except the assembled journalists didn’t really want to know too much specifically about the Porto game at Anfield, they wanted to know the latest in Rafa’s troubles with the American owners.

Rafa is reported to have been marked down by Tom Hicks for the sack ever since his passionate and emotional outburst after the Athens defeat in May. Hicks in particular is said to have blown his top about Rafa’s outburst, perhaps having never seen such passion from a coach in the sports he understands. The owners didn’t sack him, but they also didn’t allow him to buy the players he wanted; they went back on their promise to give him extra funds to strengthen his squad. He got the money from player sales and the Champions League prize money. Continue reading Rafa goes quiet on row with Hicks

Reds fans to show Rafa their support, Wednesday night

From the RTK (Reclaim The Kop) campaign (please note the newer time of 6.30pm, compared to the 7pm that you may have heard previously):

We are calling on all supporters of Liverpool FC to demonstrate their unconditional support of the Rafael Benitez this Wednesday. Rafa is far and away the most important figure at Anfield – bar none. Under his guidance the club has appeared in 2 European Cup finals in the little over 3 years that he has been manager. We currently stand well placed in the title race and remain undefeated.

Rafael Benitez also needs the full support of his employers. It is Rafa’s job not only to train and coach the players, but also to be proactive and decisive in acquiring new ones. Bill Shankly turned down the Liverpool job in the early 1950s because he was told it would not be his job to sign new players. It was only when he was promised a free reign in the selection of his squad that he agreed to become manager of Liverpool FC. Rafael Benitez deserves similar support from our current owners.

If you want to pledge your support publicly for Rafa Benitez then join us on Wednesday evening at 6:30pm, outside the Sandon pub on Oakfield Road, close to The Kop. If you have any Rafa flags and banners then please bring them along. We then urge you to continue your support of Rafa during this crucial European Cup game by singing and chanting his name. We call on all Liverpool supporters to unite and publicly display their devotion to our manager.

Rafa needs us, and we owe him every ounce of love and support that we can possibly muster.

Remember: Liverpool Football Club exists not to make money – it exists to win trophies and be a source of pride for its supporters. It serves no other purpose.

Hala Rafa!

Rafa will not walk

Has there been a softening of attitudes in the war at Anfield? Rafael Benitez is now said to be backing down somewhat in his anger towards the owners, but Tom Hicks has already set his heart on sacking him. George Gillett has all-but disappeared, along with his son Foster who departed these shores a month ago without explanation, handing over his duties to Rick Parry, chief executive of the club.

Yesterday News of the World journalist Chris Bascombe saw his article on how close Rafa was to the sack attract massive attention. Hackles of supporters were already up amongst Reds in the wake of Rafa’s recent hints that he was being told to concentrate on coaching not transfers, and those hackles were raised further when the man himself explained more about it after Saturday’s convincing 3-0 win over Newcastle. But on Sunday Bascombe confirmed the rumour that had been spreading – the owners want Rafa sacked.

The outcry was unbelievable – certainly on internet message boards – and today sees fans without the internet back at work and able to discuss a story they may not have heard yet. Does Hicks want to do the unthinkable, and sack Rafa?

Today Chris Bascombe spoke on TalkSport about the situation, and in his view the owners are still planning to sack Rafa – the question still not if, but when. But later in the day Liverpool Echo reporter Tony Barratt quoted a source as saying Rafa was ready to offer an olive branch. Continue reading Rafa will not walk

Owners say nothing’s changed: Rafa still can’t buy or sell

Desperately trying to keep some kind of support from the club’s supporters, Liverpool’s co-Chairmen and joint owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett felt it necessary to release another official statement.
Today saw Chris Bascombe of the News of the World go out on a limb and claim Rafa Benitez will be sacked soon, a case of “when” rather than “if”. Rafa spoke yesterday of having the ability to negotiate transfers – even free transfers or sales – taken away from him by the owners.
The depth of feeling can’t have been lost on them, no matter how much their heads are in the clouds across the Atlantic. Liverpool fans will start a revolution if the owners halt Rafa’s revolution.
The statement, billed as a “joint statement” again, said: “Despite speculation in today’s newspapers, there is nothing new to say. We had a good win yesterday and have got some very important games coming up starting with Porto on Wednesday, followed by Bolton and Reading, before Marseille and Manchester United in a few weeks. Both of us, together with Chief Executive Rick Parry, plan to meet with Rafa when we come over mid December to make decisions on the team’s requirements at that time.”
Still no words from George Gillett himself, nor his absent son, which is strange given how vocal the shorter one was at the time of the takeover, and before Athens when he was throwing notes around as part of his demonstration that he wanted to “support” Rafa.
That support has disintegrated almost completely now as Hicks continues to run the show his own way. If – as Rafa has been told – Parry is in charge of transfers now, why are there going to be no decisions made until the owners finally find some time to visit our club, for the big match against United next month?
This is the second time the club have spoken out about a Bascombe article, Rick Parry claiming recently that the owners were still getting along fine, contrary to Bascombe’s claims that they’d been in dispute over the refinancing of the club.
One question that would be nice to be answered in their now regular statements is why has Rafa had his negotiation privileges taken away from him?

Rafa to be sacked by absentee owners?

The difficulties between Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and the club’s current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett continue to dominate the thoughts of Reds supporters, the vast majority of whom are 100% behind the manager.

Liverpool are fifth in the table but with a game in hand on most of those above them. In fact a 1-0 win in that game in hand, were it to be played now, would put Liverpool second. They’ve won their last three games in a row scoring thirteen goals and conceding none.

Yet Rafa’s job is under threat. This has been leaking out in hints and rumours since Rafa’s angry press conference on Thursday, but today it was reported in the News of The World by Chris Bascombe. Rafa is to be sacked. Continue reading Rafa to be sacked by absentee owners?