Win tickets and meet Ryan Babel

www.babelofficial.comRyan Babel’s official website are offering two people a chance to meet the Liverpool and Holland forward.

Answer a simple question on Ryan’s official website (the answer is on that site if you don’t know it already) and you and a friend could win two tickets to Saturday’s Premier League clash with Blackburn at Anfield – to be followed by a face-to-face meeting with the Liverpool number 19.

The competition closes tomorrow. To enter visit Ryan’s official site: http://www.babelofficial.com/en/liverpool_competition.asp

* NB: The competition is run by the Ryan Babel website, not Anfield Road, and does not include travel or accommodation.

Hillsborough: Context & Consequences

Twenty years ago next week a disaster hit Liverpool Football Club that was so serious that even the club’s crest was permanently changed in memory of what happened. A permanent, eternal, flame burns at one end of the Anfield stadium, outside, as part of a memorial that lists the victims of the disaster. One ‘newspaper’ printed lies about what happened, and to this day suffers a strong and sustained boycott from Liverpool fans – and others – who remain disgusted at its coverage.

The Hillsborough Football Disaster: Context & ConsequencesThe disaster was the Hillsborough Disaster. Ninety-six Liverpool fans died. All they did was stand at one end of a football stadium in Sheffield to see their club take part in an FA Cup semi-final.

For younger fans, or fans who’ve started to follow the club as a result of the ‘globalisation’ of the game, it might seem that there’s a hell of a lot to take in. And it might also seem that, surely, if any individual or authority did anything wrong they’ll have been dealt with by now.

Unfortunately not.

Twenty years on and the fight for justice goes on. That’s why the Kop sang “Justice for the 96” for six minutes at the start of an FA Cup game a couple of years back. Six minutes of holding up a mosaic asking for “The Truth”. For all the reputation the Kop has for being the home of the best and most passionate fans in the world, it still takes some serious cause for such a gathering of people to sing for SIX minutes irrespective of what was going on during that match.

The six minutes wasn’t a random number, or an overrun of a planned five minutes. It was for a very significant reason.

Six minutes is significant. So is 15 minutes. Because the 15 minutes was wrong.
Continue reading Hillsborough: Context & Consequences

Rafa: Go out and buy Fields of Anfield Road

The new ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ single, produced to help raise awareness of the Hillsborough disaster, is now available to buy or download.

The Fields of Anfield Road Single out todayThe ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ is sung regularly by the Kop, and is based on ‘Fields of Athenry’. A number of local musicians and former players are amongst those who have recorded this new version, which features an extra verse poignantly remembering the ninety-six supporters who died almost twenty years ago.

The club are fully behind the single, and manager Rafa Benítez has asked that all Liverpool fans buy a copy. He said: “I was lucky enough to be at the launch of the single and I think it is fantastic. My message to our fans is to go out and buy it because it’s for a very, very good cause.”

The fight for justice for the 96 continues, and although it’s a fight that should have been won a long time ago it’s a fight that won’t end. As Rafa says, “We must never forget the Liverpool fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough.”

If you prefer old-fashioned physical copies of your music to just a downloaded mp3 version, you can buy the single online or in person from the club shop or from HMV. It’s actually only as old-fashioned as a CD, not vinyl, but features four tracks in that format.

There’s the “A” side, ‘Fields of Anfield Road’, by the Liverpool Collective featuring The Kop Choir.  The owner of the copyright to the original version of the song, Peter St.John, has agreed to not receive a penny from this single. There’s also a second version of the song, entitled ‘Fields of Anfield Road (Sunday morning version)’, performed by Starsailor’s James Walsh.

Wah!’s Pete Wylie has also donated a recording of ‘Heart as Big as Liverpool’ as one of the four tracks on the CD, with the other track coming from Elvis Costello, who has supplied a special version of his ‘Turning the Town Red’ track.

That Costello track was the theme tune to the excellent Channel 4 series ‘Scully’ which was screened in the mid-eighties, well before the awful events of Hillsborough, featuring cameo appearances from a number of Liverpool players.

Please do as Rafa says – buy the single – and see if you can not only help it get in the charts but to give the subject of Hillsborough the chance of some extra airtime and perhaps the ability to reach an audience that are unaware of what happened, or why it happened, in Sheffield on April 15th 1989.

Buy ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ from the LFC official online store.

Buy ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ from HMV

Buy ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ as a download from iTunes

For more on the single, visit the official ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ single website or see the video on the club’s official site.

Teams: Fulham v Reds

After seeing him score two goals in his last two appearances, both as sub, Rafa Benitez has handed Andrea Dossena a start in an advanced role.

Liverpool need to beat Fulham today to keep the pressure on Manchester United – a win today would also put Liverpool top for 24 hours. Also in attacking roles for the Reds are Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard, both of whom agreed new contracts yesterday, and Fernando Torres.

With Javier Mascherano back late from his duties as Argentina captain he drops to the bench and Lucas starts in his place, alongside midweek penalty-score for Spain Xabi Alonso. Scorer of Spain’s winner in midweek, Albert Riera, is on the bench.

Emiliano Insua gets a start at left-back, with Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back, Carragher and Skrtel taking the two centre-back positions.

Yossi Benayoun returned from internation duty with a calf injury but is on the bench today.

Ex-Red Danny Murphy starts for Fulham.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Lucas, Alonso, Kuyt, Dossena, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Riera, Benayoun, Babel, Mascherano.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies, Zamora, Johnson
Subs: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gera, Kamara, Dacourt, Kallio, Baird.

Kick-off: 17:30 BST.

Hicks: Loan payment skipped to get banks’ attention

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks said last night that the non-payment of a quarterly interest bill by his family’s Hicks Sports Group (HSG) came as part of an attempt to re-negotiate the terms of the loans it relates to.

A report yesterday on the FINAlternatives website claimed HSG had defaulted on the loans, worth over $500m US, and had entered into talks with lenders “about a forbearance”. This is a term usually used in reference to short-term payment arrangements made to avoid foreclosure.  However, according to Hicks, the situation is not as dire as that report suggested.

Hicks has been in discussions with the lenders behind the HSG loans in an attempt to restructure the debt, or preferably to reduce the debt and in turn enable new investors to buy into those interests.

Those interests include the Dallas Stars NHL hockey side and the Texas Rangers MLB baseball side, but do not include Liverpool FC. Hicks has appointed Merrill Lynch to help him find buyers of minority stakes in either of the two US franchises. He is willing to reduce his own shareholding to as little as 51%. He currently owns 95% of the two sides.

However it seems those lenders – somewhere in the region of 40 separate institutions – have dragged their heels over making a decision on his proposals, and Hicks claims this action might just wake them up: “We’re doing this to get everybody’s attention so they’ll make a decision and cooperate with us,” he said.

Continue reading Hicks: Loan payment skipped to get banks’ attention

Report: Hicks’ US Sports Group defaults on loans

A report appeared this afternoon on US-based website FINalternatives claiming that Hicks Sports Group, the company that owns Tom Hicks’s US sports interests including the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers, had defaulted on loans amounting to $525m (£362m).

The report referred to an unnamed source and said that Hicks Sports Group (HSG) had “failed to make its interest payment on $525 million in syndicated bank loans on Monday.” It also said that HSG was in “in talks with its lenders about a forbearance”.

FINalternatives is a website styling itself as “the premier, independent source for news on the alternative investment industry” – and has a tagline of “hedge fund and private equity news”.

FINalternatives claim their source has seen documents relating to the loans and that “Hicks defaulted on a $350 million bank term loan, $100 million second-lien loan and a $75 million revolving credit facility.”
Continue reading Report: Hicks’ US Sports Group defaults on loans

Kuyt agrees new deal

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has agreed a new deal with the club, one which will keep him at the club until 2012.

Kuyt’s existing deal ran until the end of next season, and boss Rafa Benítez is delighted to see the player given the two year extension: “This is another great piece of news for the club. Dirk had one year left on his contract and we were keen for him to stay. He is a player with great quality who has a big part to play in our future. We are delighted to have reached an agreement.”

Dirk has been at the club for three years, signing from Feyenoord for £9m after winning the Dutch Footballer of the Year award for 2005-2006.

He’s scored ten goals this season for the Reds, starting off with the one that saved Liverpool from a penalty shoot-out in the Champions League qualifier against Standard Liege. His role has changed during his time at the club; he now rarely plays as the striker he was bought as, instead playing a wider role usually on the right. Continue reading Kuyt agrees new deal

Gerrard signs until 2013

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has agreed a two-year extension to his contract at the club meaning he’ll be a Red for at least another four seasons.

In an announcement on the club’s official site this morning, manager Rafael Benítez said: “This is fantastic news for the club. Steven has once again shown his commitment and it was an easy deal to agree. As soon as we offered him the option he said yes. There were no problems at all. He wants to stay for life.”

Extending the stay of the 28-year-old is an important piece of news that says much about the club’s intentions, according to Rafa: “This deal sends out another clear message that we are moving forward as a club. To know we have a player of Steven’s quality with us for many more years is a great boost for the club and the fans.  He is clearly a player who inspires those around him and even though he is playing very well at the moment, I still think his best years are ahead of him.” Continue reading Gerrard signs until 2013