Rabotnicki 0 Liverpool 2

FK Rabotnicki v LiverpoolEuropa League Qualifying (first leg)
Thursday, 29th July 2010

FK Rabotnicki Skopje 0
Liverpool 2 (Ngog 17, 59)

The Roy Hodgson era got underway in Macedonia with the new Liverpool boss taking charge of his first competitive game for the Reds.

FK Rabotnicki billed it as their “game of the century” and the pre-match mood of Roy Hodgson suggested he was feeling the pressure somewhat. But despite having so many of his squad unavailable due to a lack of fitness following their World Cup involvement Hodgson needn’t have worried. The match squad included a large number of reserve and academy faces but in hindsight it gave the new boss a lot more information about the players on show than any pre-season friendly could have done.

A strong back-four had the promising and impressive Martin Kelly as the least experienced of the quartet, which also included Martin Skrtel, Soto Kyrgiakos and Daniel Agger. That trio had all been to South Africa, but had been deemed fit enough by the club’s new medical team. Agger carried on where he’d ended last season, at full-back, with the club’s only recognised left-back Emiliano Insua omitted from the travelling squad as he continued to negotiate with Fiorentina for a move away from Anfield. Pepe Reina was still on holiday meaning Cavalieri got a chance to put himself in the shop window with a quiet but confident outing between the sticks.

Jovanovic made his competitive debut for the Reds out wide on the left, with 19-year-old David Amoo playing right-wing. Jay Spearing started in midfield with Lucas – who was captain for the night and set up the opener for David Ngog. Alberto Aquilani played in an advanced role at the front of midfield.

On his own up front was Ngog, who scored both goals and impressed his manager not just with his goals but his all-round play on the night. Hodgson said: “Ngog has worked very hard in training and done very well in the pre-season games so far, I was pleased that he crowned his performance with two goals. I thought his target play, his general movement and his ability to keep the ball for us was also very good, but front players need goals and that will be a very big weight off his mind. Front players need goals, and he has got them, which means he can relax. He has shown us that he has the movement and touch, and quality. It will mean he doesn’t have to worry too much about the coming matches.”

Hodgson was happy with the result and the way his side performed: “I am very satisfied. It was a big crowd and some of our players that played are not used to big crowds. I was really pleased with the way everyone went about their business. It could have been very difficult for us, so we can go back to Anfield with a margin of victory which will enable us to feel a little more comfortable. I’m really pleased that we got through this test because they are an experienced European team, who can play some good football. I am encouraged by that.

“The players came into the game under pressure, and I am delighted it is a positive outcome and they can go back to Liverpool feeling good about themselves. You learn a lot about your team every time they play, and there were a lot of players out there who I need to learn about. Some of them I’ve hardly worked with, so it was a very good exercise for me in that respect.

“I’m pleased, but I am not going to come out and make statements on how wonderful this team is because we have a lot of good players to come back into the side. I came to the job knowing the situation, and the important thing is to put together a team that can match the expectation that surrounds this club. I don’t think I’ve ever said the squad is in need of a major overhaul. What I want to do is add one or two players to the team – which is what Rafael Benítez would have wanted to do – but it is important we keep the nucleus of last season and those players who were, perhaps, just behind the first team last year.

“I am delighted so many players who were under pressure – either as senior players taking responsibility or younger players trying to make their mark – can leave feeling good about themselves. It was a very good exercise for me. You learn a lot about your players as people in situations like this. Of course we know where our best players are – we had 13 at the World Cup – but quite a few of the others showed they are not out of place at Liverpool, they deserve to be here and it will be a pleasure to work with them in the future.

“If we are going to have a good season in the Premier League, we will need the stars back in our midst, but I can also say that we’ve got players who are maybe not as well known who have done a good job, who have stepped in and got a great result in conditions that were not easy.”

Although Hodgson stopped short of saying the tie was won, the result gives him the cushion to choose a side for the return leg that fits in better with his planning for the start of the league season and the visit of Arsenal to Anfield.

Rabotnicki (4-3-3): M Bogatinov – G Dimovski, Fernando Lopes, E Belica, V Sekulovski (sub: E Adem, 43min)— V Tunevski (sub: F Petkovski, 77), N Gligorov, G Todorovski – J Zé Carlos (G Mojsov, 57), Wandeir, Fabio Silva.
Subs not used: T Kandikijan, Marcio, Roberto Carlos, K Sinkovic.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): D Cavalieri – M Kelly, M Skrtel, S Kyrgiakos, D Agger (S Darby, 72) – D Amoo (N Eccleston, 83) Lucas Leiva, J Spearing, M Jovanovic – A Aquilani (L Dalla Valle, 83) – D Ngog.
Subs not used: P Gulacsi, J Shelvey, D Ayala, T Ince.

Referee: A Damato (Italy).

Rabotnicki v Reds: Roy’s reign begins

FK Rabotnicki v LiverpoolThe Roy Hodgson era gets underway in Macedonia as the new Liverpool boss takes charge of his first competitive game for the Reds.

FK Rabotnicki have billed it as their “game of the century” but with so many of the Liverpool squad having been involved in the World Cup Hodgson has been forced to put out a team including a large number of reserve and academy faces.

The back-four is a strong one, the promising Martin Kelly the least experienced of the quartet which includes Martin Skrtel, Soto Kyrgiakos and Daniel Agger. That trio all went to South Africa, but have been deemed fit enough by the club’s new medical team. Agger looks set to carry on where he left off last season, filling in at full-back. With Emiliano Insua still being pushed towards the exit door for a move to Fiorentina (he’s also had his squad number taken off him) Liverpool don’t actually have a recognised left back. Pepe Reina is still on holiday meaning Cavalieri is the last line of the defence.

Jovanovic will make his competitive debut, probably on the left wing, with 19-year-old David Amoo getting a chance on the right. Jay Spearing will be alongside captain for the night Lucas in central midfield. Alberto Aquilani also starts, possibly in behind striker David Ngog.

Liverpool: Cavalieri, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Kelly, Jovanovic, Lucas, Spearing, Amoo, Aquilani, Ngog.
Subs: Gulacsi, Darby, Shelvey, Dalla Valle, Eccleston, Ayala, Ince.

Reds next signing of “big” summer – Luke Young

On the day Liverpool unveiled two Bosman signings and a £2m youngster come reports that the club are about to pay £2.5m for 31-year-old Aston Villa right-back Luke Young.

Not only would the deal signal a record fee for the Anfield side this year, it would also be a sign that Roy Hodgson is finally getting a little bit of say in the transfer dealings of this summer. What also has to be said is that the fee will be dwarfed by the overall profit made on transfer fees by Liverpool in the last year. Continue reading Reds next signing of “big” summer – Luke Young

Hodgson: Torres looking forward to return

Roy Hodgson spoke to the media this afternoon as part of a press conference at Anfield staged to unveil the three signings to arrive so far in what Tom Hicks promised would be a “big” summer. What Hicks didn’t specify was whether it was “big” for transfers in or transfers out, and that was the kind of question most fans wanted to hear answered, in particular relating to the futures of Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano.

Hodgson still unsure of squadThe total outlay so far this “big” summer is £2m, the fee paid for young defender Danny Wilson (with more to pay should certain targets be met). The other two signings unveiled were Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovich, both signed on free transfers.  One signing made just before the end of last season was Jonjo Shelvey, not part of today’s show, he cost £1.7m.

What’s far more worrying for Liverpool fans is where all the money from sales has gone to. Obviously there’s still some work to be done in the transfer market, because if the Emiliano Insua transfer to Fiorentina goes through there won’t be a recognised left-back at the club. Christian Purslow and Martin Broughton have both insisted that any proceeds from player sales can’t and won’t be used to “pay down debt”, but have yet to explain where all the money has gone.

The club’s current financial year ends next week, and in that 12-month period the club have spent far less than they have brought back in on transfer fees. Assuming Insua’s sale goes through at the reported £5m fee, Liverpool will have made a profit on transfer fees of £32.1m since August 1st. Continue reading Hodgson: Torres looking forward to return

Dalglish on the past few months and the future

When Liverpool Football Club announced the departure of former manager Rafael Benítez “by mutual consent” they added the name of club legend Kenny Dalglish to the statement. Kenny was to help Christian Purslow in the search for a new manager.

Kenny Dalglish 'I think obviously it’s a huge disappointment that Rafa left'It’s believed Kenny didn’t know his name would appear on the statement, it’s also believed the club hadn’t even discussed the idea with him to help out in the search for a replacement. They assumed he’d help, and they clearly needed his name to appear on the statement. It not only gave an impression he would be heavily involved in selecting the new manager, it also implied he approved of the decision to part company with Benítez, a decision that had been far from universally accepted.

Kenny would later put his own name forward as a candidate for the job, but the club showed him further disrespect by choosing to snub his offer for reasons yet to be explained. Despite this lack of respect, Kenny went ahead and helped the board out with the process. Not that he was actually helping in a search – a list of names was handed to him rather than him being involved in drawing up that list.

Why Kenny wasn’t asked to provide input on some potential candidates remains as unclear as the reasons why the board felt they could ignore his request to be considered for the job. Continue reading Dalglish on the past few months and the future

The excitement of pre-season

It was a busy week for Liverpool last week, and it was no surprise to see that the events were hyped up as much as they were.

Joe Cole was a good signing, but he was signed on a Bosman, following on from Milan Jovanovich who also arrived on a Bosman this summer. Danny Wilson is certainly a huge prospect for the future, but although his fee will rise substantially should he fulfil his potential the fee until he does is just £2m. All three signings are positive for the club, three good bits of business as some managers may refer to it, but they certainly don’t signal all is well at Anfield.

Although Emiliano Insua is still not a Fiorentina player his departure seems a formality now. That’s despite Roy Hodgson pointing out that the club had started the ball rolling on the transfer of the last remaining left-back before he’d even arrived at the club and that he liked the youngster as a person and a player. That suggests Hodgson would have preferred him to stay, and added to the fact that Insua will count as “home grown” when he is too old to count as a youngster under the league’s new quota rules it seems odd that the club felt they could make that decision when there was nobody with actual football experience around to help make it. Whether the reported £5m fee gets spent on a replacement remains to be seen.

Also in this busy week we saw Albert Riera follow Yossi Benayoun – the other player who complained publicly about the previous manager – out of the exit door. The fanatical reception Riera – alleged to have assaulted one of the club’s youngsters at Melwood last season – got in Athens suggests that Liverpool may still get a demand for a refund due to mistaken identity.

If Olympiacos do try to get their £3.3m back they’ll find what Rafael Benítez found out last summer and what Roy Hodgson seems to be finding this summer – where transfers are concerned Christian Purslow’s “player account” doesn’t give as much out as it takes in. Continue reading The excitement of pre-season

Why do you keep fighting for LFC?

By Paul Gardner

(reproduced here with Paul’s permission)

Liverpool supporters fighting for their clubLast couple of days’ developments particularly with the rise in ticket prices has made me think more about this.

All of it simply comes down to my Dad. Everything he instilled in me and everything he taught me, not only about Liverpool FC, but about life. My Dad went home and away in the 60’s and 70’s, spending all his wages on going the match. Hitch hiking to matches if he didn’t have enough money to get to the aways, but always finding a way to go the games domestically. If he couldn’t go to an away he would go to Goodison or Prenton Park to get his footy fix. Passed his Season Ticket onto my cousin around the time I was born though so he had more time and more money for me. Took me to my first game in 1990 and a few others now and again in the years after it, but couldn’t afford to take me that much even at the lower prices then. Continue reading Why do you keep fighting for LFC?

Reds: Joe Cole signs for four years

Liverpool have today announced the signing of England international Joe Cole on a free transfer.

The former Chelsea star was out of contract at Stamford Bridge and therefore free to choose his destination from any offers in front of him, with Tottenham or Arsenal having looked his most likely destination before the World Cup.

Joe Cole joins LiverpoolUltimately though it was Liverpool who said the right things and made the right offer, the player signing on a four-year deal – although he does still need to undergo a medical.

Cole is the club’s third new arrival of the summer, joining Jonjo Shelvey and Milan Jovanovic – both of whom signed before the previous manager left but will play their debut season under the new first team coach Roy Hodgson.

28-year-old Cole was a product of the West Ham youth academy, before moving onto Chelsea where he won the league three times along with two FA Cups. He was recently on duty in South Africa with his England and now Liverpool team-mates Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, and also his former Chelsea team-mate Glen Johnson.

Of the four players signed by Liverpool in 2010, Cole is the third one to be signed on a free transfer. There will undoubtedly be a hefty signing-on fee to pay, not to mention a contract that is more lucrative than it might have been had he been signed for a fee from his former club, but in terms of straightforward transfer fees Liverpool’s transfer fund is heavily in profit since the turn of the year. Continue reading Reds: Joe Cole signs for four years

Is Hodgson fighting his corner already?

Roy Hodgson will take charge of his first game as Liverpool manager tonight and finally there’ll be something other than his CV to judge him on.

Except judging him on the performance of a team made up mainly of reserves and youngsters against the champions of Saudi Arabia, in pre-season, is obviously unfair. If it was the whole of the first team squad in action it would still just be a practice match that had more to do with getting players to fitness than trying out new tactics. It wasn’t set up on the basis of finding the right kind of opposition at the right time for the squad to get into the swing of pre-season. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to work out some of the reasons why “the Club” might want a bit of exposure in Saudi Arabia.

The Club seem more determined than ever to paint over the cracks in order to present a picture of harmony and professionalism that is most certainly still not there at the club. It must be stressed that this is not the fault of Hodgson; there is absolutely nothing to suggest he’ll be anything less than professional in his role as “manager” of the Reds. He’s determined to do his best with whatever resources and control he’s given and that is how he must be judged.

Roy HodgsonWhat might prove difficult is working out exactly what those resources are. We know the club have lied and misled us in the past and absolutely nothing has changed at the club to make that any less likely to happen again. Roy’s willingness to work with whatever he is given undoubtedly did him no harm when being considered for the job, but were the club also hoping he’d “keep ‘mum’” about anything that they might prefer to be kept quiet?

Well maybe that’s where it starts to get interesting. It’s early days yet but already there are signs of Roy standing up to those above him in the Club’s hierarchy. There are signs he is making sure he’ll not be the puppet or patsy that so many people predicted he would be. And if that is what he’s doing, he’s also doing it without fuss. Continue reading Is Hodgson fighting his corner already?

Hodgson wants stars to stay, stars remain silent

Liverpool fans should be forgiven for being cynical about comments from Roy Hodgson today in which he stated Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard weren’t for sale.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of tomorrow’s opening pre-season friendly with Al Hilal the new manager explained that he’d now held conversations with both players, but was yet to speak to the club’s Argentine captain Javier Mascherano.

Reds wait to see who's stayingMascherano has made no secret of his desire to leave, and it seems has also made no effort to talk to his new boss. Hodgson isn’t ready to condemn him yet, but hasn’t said a word about wanting him to stay: “I have tried to contact Javier. I have left him voice messages and sent him texts but had no reply. To be fair to him, that’s not unusual because he’s had a tough World Cup and I believe he’s gone back to Argentina. It’s not always easy to get in touch with people. I have tried to reach him to make clear I am happy to talk with him at his convenience.”

Hodgson had more luck speaking to Gerrard, who he met at Melwood before the club captain went on his holidays. A new manager at any club will want to speak to the club captain as soon as possible, but there is little doubt about what one of the main topics of conversation would have been.

A disillusioned Gerrard, feeling unwanted by his club, almost left for Chelsea in 2005 in the wake of that legendary night in Istanbul. Jose Mourinho was Chelsea’s manager at the time and as the new boss of Real Madrid has been linked with a fresh move for a player who is still waiting for investment in the club that has been repeatedly promised but never delivered for most of his professional career. Real Madrid would be the most likely destination should the captain leave, but a number of clubs would be interested should there be any sign from Anfield that the player could leave. Roy Hodgson wants him to stay.

“I’ve met with Steven,” he said, “and I thought the talks were positive.” He is obviously aware of the speculation but says there haven’t been any offers: “We’re in a situation where we hear our players are being courted by other teams but it’s all just rumours. What we haven’t had is a club wanting to buy Steven Gerrard.”

Hodgson says he told the captain exactly how he saw his future: “Steven Gerrard is not for sale – I made that clear to him.”

The new boss also referred to what he has been told is the “club’s policy” on players and said he told Gerrard he supports it, and that “we don’t want to sell our best players and have to start building again. We want to build our team around these players.” Continue reading Hodgson wants stars to stay, stars remain silent