Teams: Reds v Villa – Xabi back

After Liverpool’s 4-1 demolition of Manchester United last week, and then defeats for both Manchester United and Chelsea yesterday, this game has become far more important than anyone expected it be just a few weeks ago.

Liverpool went into that match at Old Trafford last week seven points behind, having played one game more. Had they lost, and allowing United three points for that game in hand, Liverpool would have effectively been 13 points behind.

But that didn’t happen, and winning today would see Liverpool close the gap to a single point. United would still have a game in hand, but it would put tremendous pressure on United. Liverpool can do no more than win their own games and wait to see how United do in theirs. And today really needs to be a win.

Villa go into the game three points from fourth place. Anything less than a 9-0 win for Villa will see them remain in fifth place behind Arsenal who have superior goal difference.

But Villa are obviously a far better side than they have been in most recent seasons. Liverpool have to work hard. Rafa has to outwit O’Neill.

Rafa has put last week’s last-minute stand-in, the legendary Sami Hyypia, back on the bench wth Alvaro Arbeloa available again at right back. Jamie Carragher moves back to his favoured position of centre-back, alongside Martin Skrtel.

Also back in the starting line-up is Xabi Alonso, recovered from injury and replacing Lucas. He’ll play alongside Javier Mascherano.

Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt will start on the left and right respectively, with the world class duo of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres continuing their brilliant partnership.

Good to see Daniel Agger’s name amongst the subs, and Dossena’s there too maybe hoping to get on and continue his little run of scoring!

Some familiar faces on the opposite side – Villa have Brad Friedel in goal and Emile Heskey up front. They’ve also got Gareth Barry, a Liverpool target last summer, who still may end up playing at Anfield on a more permanent basis.

The game will begin with a minute’s silence, to pay tribute to Bryce Morrison, the club secretary who sadly and suddenly passed away yesterday. Liverpool will wear black armbands. Continue reading Teams: Reds v Villa – Xabi back

Reds must win every game. Including mind games.

When Alex Ferguson was interviewed after seeing his side battered 4-1 by Liverpool, he claimed the best side lost. The best side lost 4-1? The manager of the winning side, Rafael Benítez, had listened to taunts from opposing fans for weeks: “Rafa’s cracking up.” Now here was Ferguson, trying to make out that somehow Liverpool’s demolition job was all down to luck.

But that wasn’t his only excuse.

The interview just mentioned had been to his club’s own TV channel

It was the only interview he gave. Reports on Monday suggested he had refused to speak to Sky because he was annoyed with the kick-off time. United had played a day later than Liverpool in the Champions League, but on top of that Sky’s coverage of this match saw it kick off in the earliest possible slot of the weekend.

The suggestion was that, on top of their luck, Liverpool had an even bigger advantage because of the fatigue that United’s players would be feeling.

But on this occasion Sky had no choice. Sky would always prefer a later kick-off, preferably 4pm on Sunday, but the police just don’t like the idea of all that extra pre-match drinking time. It had to be a lunchtime kick-off. And it couldn’t be a Sunday lunchtime kick-off because that slot was taken by Setanta’s coverage of Manchester City, who’d been playing in Europe on Thursday.

It had to be a Saturday lunchtime kick-off if it was to be televised live.

Of course the kick-off time applied to both teams. Even if it had kicked off at 4pm on Sunday, Liverpool would still have had 24 more hours to recover and prepare than their opponents. Maybe United would have been less tired – but Liverpool would have been even hungrier.

So if Ferguson wanted to blame the humiliating scoreline on the fact his players were tired that’s all well and good – but it really wasn’t Sky’s fault.  So why avoid their interviewer’s questions?

Away from the comfort of his club’s own reporters, would Ferguson have been spared a reminder of Rafa’s January comments? Would he still be able to suggest he’d need to use Freud to help him decipher them? Would he be able to use the word “disturbed”?

He could try. But he’d look rather silly.

Continue reading Reds must win every game. Including mind games.

Liverpool secretary Bryce Morrison dies

Liverpool Football Club and its supporters have been shocked and deeply saddened by the news that club secretary Bryce Morrison died suddenly this morning.

Mr Morrison was seen on live television only yesterday sitting alongside Rick Parry for the Champions League draw in Nyon, and his death was completely unexpected.

He had been at the club for 17 years, having joined in the club’s centenary year in 1992.

Liverpool will show their respect by holding a minute’s silence ahead of tomorrow’s match with Aston Villa, and the Liverpool players will be wearing black armbands.

Liverpool FC chief executive Rick Parry paid tribute on the club’s website: “We are all devastated at the news and our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s wife Gill and his family at this very sad time.

“Bryce gave 17 years’ loyal service to Liverpool and his dedication to and love for the club was apparent to all of those who worked alongside him.

“Bryce was well known throughout football and will be sadly missed by his many friends within the game.

“There will be a minute’s silence before tomorrow’s match against Aston Villa and as a mark of respect the players will wear black armbands in his memory.

“This is a very sad day for Liverpool Football Club.”

Mr Morrison was a familiar face at the European draws at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, often attending alongside Rick Parry but also often there as Liverpool’s most senior representative.

A message from UEFA appeared on the website: “UEFA and the European football family wishes to pass on its deepest sympathy to Mr Morrison’s family and friends, as well as to Liverpool.”

The Premier League also sent their condolences, a statement reading: “On hearing the sad news of Bryce Morrison’s sudden and unexpected death, everyone at the Premier League would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Bryce’s family, friends and Liverpool FC. Bryce was an excellent football administrator, and above all a decent man.” also sends its condolences to Mr Morrison’s family and friends at this very sad time.

Rafa signs until 2014.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez has signed a new contract with Liverpool, keeping him at the club until 2014.

Rafa’s existing contract had one more season to run after this summer, helping to feed speculation for most of the season that he was going to be managing elsewhere next season.

That speculation reached its peak just before Liverpool’s first-leg win over Real Madrid in the Champions League, with major media outlets reporting Rafa was to leave following that game. But the week ended with a different name on the way out – Rick Parry’s departure at the end of the season was announced on the Friday.

The news was announced officially on the club’s own website at 9pm, allowing just enough time for tomorrow’s back pages to reflect the news. 

Rafa told that he was delighted: “My heart is with Liverpool Football Club, so I’m delighted to sign this new deal. I love the club, the fans and the city and with a club like this and supporters like this, I could never say no to staying. I always made clear I wanted to be here for a long time and when I complete my new contract it will mean I have spent over a decade in Liverpool.

“The club is greatly respected around the world due to its incredible history and tremendous heritage. It is my aim to uphold those values and help create a new chapter in our history.”

Rafa’s quotes included an acknowledgement to the club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, for their part in giving him the deal he’d wanted: “Throughout this process, I would like to thank the owners for their hard work in finalising the deal. All of us at the club want the same thing, which is to be successful by winning major trophies.”

Tom Hicks said: “It is wonderful news that Rafa has made a long-term commitment to the football club. Since he became Manager in 2004, he has been responsible for the great progress we have made. I know he will continue to build on his achievements as he has a tremendous hunger and desire to bring more success to the club – success our fans and everyone connected with the club deserves.” Hicks had said at the height of the club’s civil war, last season, that he wanted to give Rafa a new deal.

George Gillett has never made too much of a secret of his true feelings about Rafa, but he still had some good things to say in the official announcement: “With Rafa continuing to manage the team, we can look forward to more great football and success on the pitch. He has special abilities and qualities which are admired here at the club and around the world. Coming after our excellent wins over Real Madrid and Manchester United, this gives us great momentum going into the final stages of the season.”

It also makes Liverpool a more attractive prospect to potential investors, and Rafa’s decision to sign such a long-term deal suggests he felt reassured the turmoil of the past 18 months would soon be resolved.

Another reassurance will have come when Rick Parry’s end-of-season departure was announced, paving the way for Rafa’s contract to include the terms giving him more responsibility that he felt were so important.

Stories this morning suggested Rafa was refusing to sign his contract having already decided to leave for Real Madrid. But the authors of those stories will now be perhaps be questioning how reliable those particular sources were.

Reds demolish Devils 4-1 in cracking win

Rafa’s cracking up? Well given that is was the travelling Liverpool support who were singing those words, and that the vast majority of fans are still very much behind their beleaguered manager, not everyone thinks so. The song was a sarcastic message to the Manchester United fans, well, the ones who hadn’t vacated the premises early, and rapidly.

Liverpool beat Manchester United by four goals to one at Old Trafford.

After going a goal down from the spot on 23 minutes, Liverpool pulled it back level again five minutes later with a piece of typical Torres class. By half time Liverpool had the edge, Steven Gerrard scoring from the penalty he’d earned himself. In the second half Fabio Aurelio scored direct from the free kick that brought a red card for Nemanja Vidic. Nobody else got near his perfect set piece. By this time 76 minutes had been played, Liverpool were winning 3-1, and deservedly so. Liverpool’s win had been achieved when United still had 11 on the pitch; it was only the icing on the cake when Dossena added the fourth in injury time.

So, what did Manchester United’s manager, Alex Ferguson, have to say about this rather convincing defeat? He told Sky: “It is a hard one to take because I thought, really, we were the better team and the score does not reflect that.”

Hold on – who was it that was supposed to be cracking up? Continue reading Reds demolish Devils 4-1 in cracking win

Teams: Reds v Real – Torres starts

Torres is back! Liverpool’s number nine starts, as does another doubt before the game, Alvaro Arbeloa, meaning Mascherano doesn’t have to play right back.

How much of a risk it is to start with both players is something we’ll know after the game, but the scorer of Liverpool’s away goal, Yossi Benayoun, wasn’t able to take part.

The other full-back tonight is Fabio Aurelio, with Skrtel and Carragher as centre backs.

In midfield we see Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano both playing in their best positions, with Steven Gerrard playing the advanced role he’s become so good at. Dirk Kuyt goes back to his more customary position on the right, with Ryan Babel starting on the left.

Jerzy Dudek returns to Anfield, sitting on the bench as deputy to Casillas. One-time Liverpool target Gabriel Heinze starts, as does Arjen Robben, a player who was always a threat for Chelsea against Liverpool. Sometimes it was for footballing reasons. Continue reading Teams: Reds v Real – Torres starts

Reina calls for Kop to get ‘crazy’

Tonight is one of those nights where the words “This Is Anfield” should bring respect, if not fear, to the players, staff and supporters of the team visiting one of the world’s most famous stadiums.

The dispute between the club’s owners has produced a never ending stream of politically-motivated stories about what’s happening at Anfield. But fans and players at Real Madrid are quite used to that kind of situation, where politics are always playing a part in how the club is run.

Liverpool fans will welcome Real Madrid the same way they welcome any big club on a European night. Real will get respect from Liverpool fans, but they’ll probably never forget the game, whatever the result.

For Liverpool the result can be any draw or any win. A 1-0 defeat would see the game go to extra-time and penalties, any other defeat would end Liverpool’s season. The league is only a mathematical possibility, not a realistic one, so Liverpool fans are desperate to see their team get into the last eight of the competition they’ve won five times.

The so-called “twelfth man” is different on European nights. It’s hard to say why, but it is. Nobody would expect the fans to be up for a game against Sunderland as much as they are for a game against the legendary Real Madrid, but even so there’s a massive difference between what we can expect tonight and the disgraceful booing of one player that a small minority felt was acceptable last week.

Enough has been said on why that embarrassing noise from a shameful few was wrong, tonight we’ll hopefully see why getting behind every single player in a Red shirt is so important.

In the goalkeeper’s shirt is Pepe Reina, and he’s urged the fans to show what they can do: “We need to be able to feel that the supporters are with us and behind us like crazy. The atmosphere on the night when we played Barcelona was unbelievable and I would like to remind the people of moments like these that we have enjoyed together and now to try and create some new ones.” Continue reading Reina calls for Kop to get ‘crazy’

Moving on.

The article that appeared here earlier referred to a situation that I now feel can be closed off and hopefully forgotten about. No need to speculate about it, you might even be thinking of the wrong person completely.

I’ve received an apology and I fully accept it, along with the explanation given.

Some of the points in this article do still stand though, and so I’ll edit them slightly and leave them in place.

I’ll remove the references to my health and my illness too, I don’t really feel comfortable going into so much detail so openly. But don’t worry, it’s  a pain to  live with, but it could be something far worse.

I don’t write on here with hit counts in mind. When it comes to the political situation at the club these days, all I try to do is find the truth.

With better health, maybe I’d have found it by now, but there is a lot of “smoke and mirrors” with what goes on at the club.

If we are going to force one or both owners out, we should force them out with the truth, particularly when one of the reasons given to force them out is their lack of truth.

If we are to force the manager out, we should be forcing him out for genuine reasons, not because of false or misleading reports of his actions.

Rick Parry has already announced his departure – I hope it was for the right reasons, I hope he wasn’t hounded out with lies.

I made a mistake in an article in terms of working out the source of some quotes. It was an attempt to find some truth, and it failed. But I think we’ve all got to keep looking for the truth. If we find we are wrong, we’ve got to hold our hands up.

People are damaging the club. In some cases I’m sure they’re doing it deliberately, with others they see the damage as a necessary evil to their plans and with others they probably don’t even realise they’re doing it.

It saddens me to see how many of us are fighting with each other. It used to be LFC v The World. What is it now? Can we not try and go back to that?

There is too much hatred in and around this club and it is slowly but surely destroying this club. A lot of people, from the highest levels downwards, need to start thinking about fixing the problems, not looking to get revenge or to score points over each other.

We will get our club back one day and we will get ourselves back on that f***ing perch. But not if we keep trying to knock each other off it! We need to work together, despite any differences, for what we all, deep down, really want.

UPDATE: Dirk Kuyt contract quotes

I want to apologise to readers of the site, because this original article was based on my erroneous assumption that quotes from Dirk Kuyt, carried across the media on Saturday night and Sunday morning, were three weeks old. In fact the quotes were only three days old.

My error was purely that. It was never a malicious attempt to mislead anyone.

I saw quotes from a player discussing his new contract, and how it was tied into the manager’s new contract, yet no mention whatsoever of the announcement the day before, Friday, that the club’s chief executive was to leave in the summer.

It seemed somewhat odd that a player would talk about his and his manager’s future, however vaguely, yet no reporter would ask about how Parry’s position fitted into those futures.

And so I double-checked to see if I could find some context for the quotes.

There was nothing before Saturday, without going all the way back to early February.

Back then there was an appearance on Dutch TV where Kuyt said pretty much the same things he’d said in the latest quotes. If there was a difference, it was easily put down to translation differences.

The article on this site wasn’t an attack on the press or the media. The article was an attack on what I thought was an agent, a PR agency or someone connected to the club or potential ownership in some way.

We’ve had story after story for the last 18 months attacking the club or its people in some way or other. Sometimes the stories are full of truth, sometimes they are full of spin, sometimes they contain what can only really be described as lies.

When they lack honesty in any way, it isn’t always the reporter who is putting spin on the facts or making some up, often a reporter is literally relaying what he was told. Sometimes a reporter will be presented with two versions of what happened, and it’s down to him to judge which he should believe – if any. On the whole any reporter who is a Liverpool fan tries to write the story with the club’s best interests at heart – with the obvious limitations that they have still got a job to do and can’t always ignore a big, but negative, story. And as we all have our own opinions on what is best for the club, sometimes the decision on how to cover a story doesn’t match what we might do if we were writing it. And of course not all reporters support Liverpool.

When it comes to the political situation at the club these days, all I try to do is find the truth. If we want to force one or both owners out, surely we should force them out with the truth, particularly when one of the reasons given to force them out is their lack of truth. If we want to force the manager out, we should be forcing him out for genuine reasons, not because of false or misleading reports of his actions.

The article yesterday was an attempt to find the truth.

Dirk hadn’t picked a good time if he’d decided to raise the issue of his contract straight after a defeat to Middlesbrough.

Of course he might have been asked a direct question about his contract. But even if it was an interview carried out on Saturday morning, Dirk – and the reporters talking to him – would have known that the situation with Rick Parry had changed. An important board member, the CEO, was to leave at the end of the season. It had been announced the day before. Yet not one follow-up question asking Dirk what he felt this meant, for the club, for the manager and for his new contract.

Prior to the set of articles that appeared from Saturday night onwards, there was only one English-language article I could find carrying quotes from Dirk discussing a new deal. It was on a site called “Dutch Football” and it referred to an appearance by Dirk on Dutch TV. It took place on the 8th or 9th of February, and doesn’t seem to have had an ounce of coverage by the UK press.

I did some more searching, but could only find Dutch language sites that carried the quotes from the TV show. Some auto-translating showed that the quotes were very similar to those in Sunday’s press.  I found a clip of the TV show too, but it all sounded Dutch to me!

The differences between the quotes on Sunday and those in February were consistent with translation differences often seen when real people do the translations, or when there’s a difference in the native tongues of the two translators. Auto-translation tools produce bizarre results, but enough to give you a general idea.

And that’s why I went with the article.

Quotes lying dormant for three weeks were – I thought – suddenly passed by somebody or other to the Sunday press.

And if that had been the case, what reason would this mystery person have had for bringing them up? It can be used to make Rafa look bad, it can be used to make one or both owners look bad. It can be used by a players’ agent to help press for a new contract for the player.

After a long line of made-up, misleading and spun stories, I felt it was time to raise this.

It turns out my instincts were on the right lines.

The quotes weren’t from Saturday night.

Dirk had said pretty much what he said on Dutch TV, for a second time.

But he had said it before both the Middlesbrough game and the Parry announcement. He’d said it at a Champions League post-match interview, following the game in Madrid on Wednesday.

The quotes hadn’t hit the press until Sunday, presumably because it was a separate interview for the benefit of the Sunday press.

So there was no case to answer in terms of a third party stirring up trouble this time. Perhaps the press could have mentioned the quotes were from Wednesday, but it’s no surprise they didn’t: It would lessen the impact.

The fact the quotes were only three days old probably wasn’t worth an article, although it was worth pointing perhaps in passing what the context of the quotes was.

So, in light of what I now know, here is a corrected version of the story.


Liverpool were never really out of the spotlight last week, with some of it actually related to football.

The week began with a rumour that Sky News later picked up, one that claimed Rafael Benitez would leave the club after the Real Madrid game on the Wednesday.

That rumour was denied, by Rick Parry, sources from the Tom Hicks camp and Rafa himself. Rafa spoke after his side had won 1-0 in Madrid.

24 hours later and the internet versions of a couple of national papers published a story claiming that Tom Hicks had been in contact with Jose Mourinho through a third party, about the possibility of him coming to Liverpool.

Laughed off by the Hicks camp, by the time those stories were on the breakfast table in printed form, they looked rather silly. Because by then the Echo and The Times had broken the news that Rick Parry’s departure was about to be announced.

The announcement came as a shock; it had been very much a closely-guarded secret and was only just broken by those papers before it was announced officially.

Saturday saw a fair amount of analysis of Parry’s announcement, before Liverpool made a mess of their already slim league hopes by losing 2-0 at one of their bogey grounds.

The same night saw some quotes from Dirk Kuyt reported by various members of the Sunday press.

Had Liverpool won that game earlier in the day, or even drawn that game, then hearing comments from Kuyt about his contract wouldn’t have seemed out of place. But the idea of Kuyt bringing the subject up in the wake of not only the result but the performance seemed a little odd.

That said, often when we read quotes in the press we are reading a response to a direct question. We hardly ever see the question, and it can sometimes seem that a player puts more emphasis on a topic than he really has. And quite often we find that the quotes are an edited version of what was said, leaving the version reported as slightly out of context.

Where Rafa is concerned, there seems to be a serious effort to paint him in as bad a light as possible these days. He’s no angel, and far from perfect, but often gets accused falsely.

Some of his critics say that his efforts on the political side of life at Anfield have got in the way of his coaching. Life at Anfield is political, of that there is no doubt, and only a fool would expect Rafa to stay out of it completely. But some feel that he is too focussed on that, and also that he is exploiting the friction in the board-room to put in far higher demands than he might have done at a more settled club.

And that is how some people have interpreted the quotes from Dirk Kuyt that were in Sunday’s papers. They feel that Rafa is getting players to wait before signing new deals as part of some point-scoring or point-proving exercise.

What Kuyt was quoted as saying was: “Rafa told me he wanted to give me a new contract, but because of his own contract he wanted to sort that out first and then we’ll see what’s happening. I’ve just been trying to focus on the games and not worry too much because I’m happy at Liverpool and I enjoy it, I want to stay.”

This appeared in the Sunday papers after Dirk Kuyt was interviewed earlier in the week. It was a post-match interview following the Champions League, and although that was back on Wednesday, the quotes were for the benefit of the Sunday press.

The quotes were only a few days old, but they did pre-date the event on Friday that saw Rick Parry’s impending departure announced. It makes little difference to the fact that as of Wednesday Dirk Kuy was waiting for Rafa’s contract to be agreed before his own was discussed – but it would have been better to mention that Parry’s position had changed since then and that there was no indication of how this might impact Kuyt’s talks.

The quotes actually sounded very similar to comments Kuyt had made three works earlier, in an appearance on Dutch Television. The programme was “Studio Voetbal” and was recorded after Liverpool’s 3-2 win against Portsmouth. Kuyt was responding to recent reports linking him with interest from Juventus. He was a guest on the programme and talked for a while on a number of issues as well as his own situation at Anfield.

Although at first it seemed somebody was once again trying to stir trouble at the club. Like the Mourinho story on Thursday night, it could have been agents trying to stir some action for their clients. For this story in particular, it could even be an attempt to push the club into getting the contract sorted out much more quickly. It was still another reminder to be wary of taking anything you read or hear about the club at face value, but at least it wasn’t – on this occasion – anyone trying to put a spanner in what’s left of Liverpool’s works.

It wouldn’t have been the first time a translated interview had been reported without any reference to the original source, with parts missing and no real context given. And it wouldn’t have been the last.

There is still a war going on, and until it’s over we all need to be wary of propaganda, even small pieces of it.

We also, myself included, need to be wary of how we react to pieces of information we see in the media or online. Without knowing the full situation as to why Rafa is telling Kuyt to wait for his contract, we can’t really attack Rafa. Conspiracy theories are so common at Anfield now there is a chance the new stadium will be called “Area 51”.

When the accusations are wrong, it doesn’t make you decide it’s time to call it a day, or to run away, it makes you want to stand up and fight to clear your name.

And that is something we all need to keep in mind if we are going to fight to get rid of anyone from the club. Fight them with lies and they’ll never go away. Fight them with the truth and it surely can’t do any harm to the club.