A year to remember, a year to forget

It was nice to be one of those who were asked by the official LFC website for our views on a year that has seen Liverpool fans fighting for the whole of the 12 months. (“An historic year in review”.)

Early in the year much of that fighting was with each other as the off-field troubles were increasingly ignored in terms of the part they undoubtedly played in the on-field troubles.

That fight was “won” by those who wanted a change of manager, but many of those were left in despair at the name of the man brought in as a replacement.

The despair has clearly been shown to be well-founded, the last time we started this badly we got relegated, and that was more than half a century ago and well before Bill Shankly’s arrival.

In the middle of this dreadful season came a glimmer of hope however. If the debt wasn’t killing the club during the reign of Hicks and Gillett the three years of boardroom infighting certainly was. But what most fans didn’t know was that with just weeks left of the 2010-11 season to go Hicks and Gillett had been forced by the bank to sign away their control of the club to new chairman Martin Broughton.

Liverpool fans fought for their club, Hicks and Gillett lost.  With days left until the bank took the club over, and after a bitter last-minute fight from the outgoing owners, Broughton sold the club to NESV, now known as Fenway Sports Group (FSG). The biggest part of the debt was paid off and the club now had owners who like each other – there are no guarantees about how it will all turn out, but there’s hope, something we’d started to think we’d never have again.

As the year draws to a close the supporters have been fighting to be heard in their desire for an urgent removal of the current manager from his post. And it now looks like their voices have been heard, finally there is some recognition in the mass media that whatever problems the manager inherited or had to work round he’s added far more to the mix.  There are even hints that the owners know he’s made many of this season’s problems for himself and is continually adding to them. His comments about fans not being supporters were a particular low point of his time in the job.

With all of this fighting, with so much happening, it was quite a challenge to keep to brief replies. So this is the long version.
Continue reading A year to remember, a year to forget

Reds v Wolves: Gerrard back, but where does he start?

Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard, absent through injury sustained whilst on international duty for England, is back in the starting line-up for tonight’s visit of struggling Wolves.

Having seen their side’s last two fixtures postponed due to the weather the Anfield crowd will be expecting a big performance from the Reds to make amends for that awful 3-1 defeat at Newcastle in their last game.

It remains to be seen how Hodgson intends to use Gerrard today. Lucas and Meireles had forged a good partnership in central midfield – with Meireles playing in his normal position – but Roy is expected to break this partnership up by putting Gerrard into the centre and moving Meireles out to the right. Dirk Kuyt is almost certain to start on the left side of the midfield.
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Avi Cohen passes away

There was sad news from Israel today with the announcement that former Liverpool defender Avi Cohen had died from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident last week.

Former Liverpool star Avi Cohen who has sadly passed awayAvi’s son, Bolton midfielder Tamir Cohen, gave the news at a press conference at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, where his father had been in intensive care since the accident on 20th December.

“Dad died of brain death,” said Tamir. “Thanks to all the people of Israel for their support and assistance.”

Reds legend Kenny Dalglish paid tribute to Avi following the news, recalling the defender’s popularity with his teammates: “Avi was a very popular guy in the dressing room,” said Kenny. “He was a good lad and adapted very well into the Liverpool way of life and got himself involved in the humour in the dressing room.

“It’s very sad news and my thoughts – everyone’s thoughts – are with his son and his family at this time. It is a huge shock for them.”

The 54 year old was signed for Liverpool in 1979 by Bob Paisley and although he never established a regular place in the side he did establish himself a place in Liverpool’s history, fondly remembered for helping secure the 1980 league title in a game at Anfield against Aston Villa. Kenny remembers the day well: “Avi scored two goals that day.

“One was an own goal at the Kop end but then he scored for us at the same end just after half time to put us back in front and we eventually won 4-1.”

Avi had been watched by Liverpool for some six months when the club invited him to spend a week training with the Reds. He made his debut early in 1979-80 season, when Ray Kennedy was absent, but that was his last league appearance until the back end of the season when he came off the bench against Stoke City. This appearance was soon followed by that Villa game for which he’ll probably be best remembered by Liverpool supporters.

He joined Liverpool at a time when the club had outstanding players in every position and when rotation was unheard of. As a result he never managed to get himself a regular starting place in what was one of the greatest teams in football history. But he’ll always be remembered by Liverpool supporters worldwide.

Like all Reds, we send our condolences to Avi’s family and friends.

Reds game at Blackpool called off

It will hardly come as a surprise but today’s match between Liverpool and Blackpool has been called off.

Newly-promoted Blackpool don’t have undersoil heating at their Bloomfield Road ground and with records being broken in the North West of England for freezing temperatures there’s no guarantee the game would have gone ahead if they had. Hodgson and Holloway at AnfieldThe weather station at Crosby, just north of Liverpool, saw temperatures drop as low as -17.6° C, the lowest it had ever recorded. Blackpool is less than 30 miles north of Liverpool.

A noon pitch inspection had been planned, with questions asked as to why it wasn’t taking place at 9am to give Liverpool fans fair warning about whether or not they would need to travel. At a time when the advice given to the public is to avoid making any unnecessary journeys the late pitch inspection meant journeys would have started before it was known if it was a wasted trip.

In the end Blackpool changed their mind, no doubt after a lot of prompting, and the pitch inspection was done earlier, as their official website explained: “Temperatures dipped to minus fourteen on Christmas Eve and minus nine on Christmas night and following discussions with the Premier League, officials from Liverpool and the match referee the planned inspection for noon has been brought forward to 10am.”
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So this is Christmas…

2010 has been a year of ‘war’ at Anfield, as it has been since the end of the first year of previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s reign.

New owners are now in place but the infighting continues, especially when the club’s previous manager or managing director are brought into the conversation.

In most cases the fighting is from people fighting for their club, which is still miles away from where it should be and with no outward sign of anything being done to stop the rot.

But as we fight for our club we fight with each other.

At this time of year it’s traditional to try hard, and it often takes a hell of a lot of effort, to get along with people who you really don’t get along with. Maybe it’s a good time to reflect on some of the bitter battles waged between fellow supporters of this club in recent months. Is it time to consign that to history and to stand together for the club we all love?

We can still fight for change, for improvements, for the return of this club to what we all know it should be. For fellow fans there will always be issues we don’t agree on. Everyone has their own feelings on what exactly should be changed, or how or when it should be changed, but rather than trying to force our views on each other we need to try and persuade each other. We need to listen, we need to try and remember that everything doesn’t have to be so black and white, and rarely ever is.

The closer we stick together the more powerful we are.

In the words of Liverpool’s very own John Lennon: War is over – if you want it.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

War is over - Merry Christmas

And if John Lennon can’t make you think about things in a different way, maybe this will remind you why we invest so much time, money and effort into supporting this club:

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Liverpool v Utrecht – No Reina, Torres on bench

This Europa League match is being described by some as a “nothing game”, but try telling that to the kids who’ll be making a rare or even first visit to Anfield to watch a first team fixture.

Nando makes way for Nathan and RyanTry also saying that to the players who are getting a rare or first start in this game – including Nathan Eccleston who gets his first ever start for the Reds first team.

The result of tonight’s match has no bearing on the final outcome of the group but thanks to a gesture from the club’s new owners a good turnout is expected – adults paying the cut-price £20 admission cost could get up to four free child tickets at the same time.

As expected Jonjo Shelvey starts, as Roy explained earlier in the week: “It is a good chance to give some players a run out. It’s a good chance for Jonjo to show what he can do again. He’s played a lot of European games and done very well but it’s also a chance for Ryan Babel.”

Both players start tonight but Roy seems to have had a change of mind since that interview. He said at the time: “Fernando Torres will be involved in the game, as will Pepe Reina and our centre-backs. Pepe Reina likes to play, he would like to play in this one and I’m not going to be the one who says to him, ‘You want to play, so you don’t play.’ So he will start the game and Brad Jones will be the second goalkeeper.”

Although Torres is on the bench Reina doesn’t make the 18 at all, meaning sub-keeper Brad Jones gets a rare start.

Pepe’s absence, alongside the continued absence of the captain and vice-captain, means there’s yet another name wearing the captain’s armband tonight. The honour goes to Martin Skrtel this time, the only man to keep his place from the side that were so embarrassingly beaten at St James’s Park on Sunday,
Continue reading Liverpool v Utrecht – No Reina, Torres on bench

Hodgson suggests 11th is “right up there”

With Liverpool playing Utrecht at home tonight in the Europa League Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson had to sit in front of the press and answer questions. The press conference came the day after the new owners had done their live phone-in, with many callers asking why on earth Roy was still in charge at Anfield.

Form for last six games, as at Dec 13 2010 (click to enlarge)The phone-in was mentioned by a reporter: “The club’s owners were on TV last night saying recent results were unacceptable as they put it…” Roy interrupted: “No, they didn’t say that, ‘recent results’, no.”

The reporter clarified: “Well, the words ‘results unacceptable’…”

Again, Roy interrupted: “Aah.”

It seemed Roy had been expecting this and he was ready with his answer: “There’s a bit of a difference,” he said, “between ‘recent results’ because I think the only team with better results than us over the last five or six games is The Arsenal, maybe Manchester United, so I hope you take the last five or six games, we’re right up there in terms of our results.”

This was an interesting claim from Roy, but also one that was very easy to get checked out because the Premier League’s own website includes a recent form table based on results from the last six games. So was Roy correct, was it just “The Arsenal” and “maybe Manchester United” above Liverpool on recent form?

Sadly not.

Liverpool are in fact eleventh in that table.

Ahead of Liverpool are the two Manchester sides, Spurs, Arsenal, Bolton, Stoke, Blackpool, Sunderland, Blackburn and West Brom.
Continue reading Hodgson suggests 11th is “right up there”

No point pretending, put the manager out of his misery

When Liverpool’s owners sat in front of the live cameras last night they knew they’d get questions about the manager, and they knew they’d not be able to answer them the way the supporters wanted them to. Whatever they plan to do with Roy Hodgson they’ll not talk about sacking him unless it’s already been done; they’ll not speak about any replacement they might have lined up until that replacement has signed his contract and started the job.

Miserable. Roy Hodgson struggling to meet standardsThis meant they had to answer the questions by playing down Hodgson’s role in the worst start to a season in many a year. Chairman Tom Werner chose to give Roy the excuse that he’s not had enough time to turn things round: “We feel like we just got here, Roy got here shortly before us. Nobody, least of all Roy, was happy about our performance last weekend,” Werner said.

They knew the question was coming, so perhaps the answer had been discussed before the programme went out on air. But despite all Tom Werner’s years in the TV business he fluffed his lines and had to be corrected by John Henry, his fellow owner.

Werner said: “We all know we have to perform better, especially on the road. I heard a statistic that under Rafa we only won one game in 2010 under his tenure.”

Tom got most of his line right, but he missed out the word “away”. John corrected him: “Well you mean on the road.”

Werner remembered: “On the road,” he said.
Continue reading No point pretending, put the manager out of his misery

Owners answer questions, but now need right answers

When George Gillett and Tom Hicks were elbowed out of Anfield by John Henry and Tom Werner it was a day when once again Liverpool fans could start to think about their club making history.

Tom Werner and John HenryA phone-in featuring both owners fielding questions from fans, live on TV, is in its own way a piece of history. It’s hard to envisage the last two owners being able to sit in the same room as each other, let alone speak on TV together to fans. It’s also hard to envisage the likes of the Glazer family or Roman Abramovich putting themselves in the firing line in such a way.  But Werner and Henry did just that last night, on the club’s official TV channel, and deserve enormous praise for doing so.

As historic as that was, the kind of history Liverpool fans want to see their club making again is the kind of history that comes with trophies. Liverpool have plenty of that history, but we want more of it, lots more of it, and for many supporters it seems as far away as ever with the current manager in charge.

Mixed messages from the manager – he seems to change his mind on a regular basis about how under or over-staffed he is and whose fault that is – don’t fill fans with any confidence. Poor, dated and mind-numbingly over-defensive tactics don’t help either. Especially when the manager talks either side of a defeat about how good all these other sides we’re facing are – even though all but one of them finished below Liverpool in the league just 18 months ago.

At times what Roy says gets twisted, but there’s no twisting required for fans to look in despair at one of his latest public comments: “For a team that wants to be in the top half of the table, our away form is not good enough.”

The reasons Messrs Henry and Werner were in that TV studio last night, indeed the reason Ian Ayre was in the studio with them, go back further than this season.
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What will Henry and Werner be asked by Liverpool fans?

In what must be an unprecedented move by any English football club Liverpool Football Club are today planning to offer fans the opportunity to grill the club’s owners live on TV.

John W Henry and Tom Werner, joint owners through FSG (or NESV as it used to be called), will sit alongside commercial director Ian Ayre for the official channel’s two-hour show “LFC Now” from 5pm. Supporters can get their questions over by email, Twitter, Facebook or phone.

There are obvious questions that supporters will want to ask, and despite suspicions from some supporters about possible censorship and vetting of questions it’s expected that this would be kept to a minimum by the producers of the show. Understandably there will be some questions that can’t be answered on air and there will be others that might well result in a diplomatic rather than openly honest answer, but other than that, and as long as the question doesn’t effectively repeat earlier questions, it should be possible for any point to be put to the new owners.

Anfield Road asked on Twitter for supporters to list the kinds of question they might ask if they got through tonight.
Continue reading What will Henry and Werner be asked by Liverpool fans?