Safety fears may see cut to away allocation at Anfield

An advisory group has recommended to Liverpool City Council that they cut the allocation for Manchester United fans for the Premier League clash against Liverpool in October.  The Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG) made the recommendations after studying the behaviour of Manchester United supporters at Anfield in April.

Although “persistent standing” was referred to in the document the main issue seems to be the blocking of gangways, not the persistent standing itself. GSAG reported: “Spectators from other away clubs attending the ground also persistently stand, however they do not spread out in to the gangways to the same extent that the Manchester United spectators do.”

The group had compared the Manchester United fixture to “a similar high-profile game where persistent standing also occurred” and said the Manchester United supporters’ actions “had overwhelmed the reasonable operations of the stewards through the management plan.”

This was an “escalation” of the supporters’ actions compared to previous games GSAG said, and “it is not clear what more the club can reasonably do through stewarding measures to ensure spectators do not encroach in to gangways.”

Continue reading Safety fears may see cut to away allocation at Anfield

Billy Bragg releases ‘Never Buy The Sun’ as a free download

Billy Bragg has written, rehearsed, recorded and released a single in the space of a few days and it’s now available as a free download.

Billy Bragg - Never Buy The SunThe song is called “Never buy The Sun” and was written in the midst of the current scandal at tabloid and its sister tabloid, the now closed-down News of the World.

In the song Bragg refers to the boycott of The Sun by Liverpool supporters and others in response to the lies it told in 1989 just days after the disaster that saw 96 Liverpool fans die.

This is the press release about the song:
Continue reading Billy Bragg releases ‘Never Buy The Sun’ as a free download

22 years later The Sun boycott continues. Every day of the week.

Liverpool supporters don’t buy The Sun and haven’t done so for 22 years. The decision in 1989 by the then-editor of the ‘paper’, Kelvin MacKenzie, to publish a catalogue of complete lies under a massive headline proclaiming it as “The Truth” saw a boycott begin that still holds strong to this day.

As MacKenzie knew, it wasn’t the truth, it wasn’t even close, it was page after page of lies that were the product of clearly sick minds.

Liverpool supporters had gone to watch a game of football. Ninety-six would never go home; many more would be injured. Survivors still struggle to deal with the sights they saw and the sounds they heard as they narrowly escaped death themselves. They were powerless as people, their own people, their own family or friends, died around them.

The stories the survivors tell are chilling, harrowing to listen to; look them in the eyes and you almost feel that you are there with them, going through that hell. Except you aren’t; you couldn’t ever imagine that kind of hell unless you’d lived through it. Nobody would wish that kind of experience on you. No half-decent human being would play down what you’d gone through.

And that’s where The Sun comes in.

“The Truth”, had they made any kind of effort to find it, could have exposed not only the incompetence that allowed ninety-six innocent people to die but also the horrific experiences that this incompetence had put the survivors through. The Sun had no interest in “The Truth”. The Sun acted like it wanted to help a cover-up take effect.
Continue reading 22 years later The Sun boycott continues. Every day of the week.

Downing fee agreed with Reds after Villa winger puts in transfer request

Liverpool’s efforts to secure Aston Villa’s England international winger Stewart Downing are about to finally pay off after the two clubs agreed a fee for his transfer to Anfield.

Downing, 27 later this month, will now undergo a medical for Liverpool as well as officially discussing personal terms. The fee is believed to be worth up to £20m. It’s important to note the words “up to” – that price is understood to include a number of add-on clauses containing conditions that need to be met for the fee to reach that value.

LFC’s statement announcing the news was brief: “Liverpool FC tonight announced they had agreed a fee with Aston Villa for the transfer of Stewart Downing. Liverpool have now been granted permission to discuss personal terms with the player and arrange a medical.”

The Reds are currently out in Asia after embarking on their pre-season tour of the region. They got off to a winning start in the first fixture, a 4-3 win over Guangdong Sunray Cave in China with Christian Poulsen, David Ngog, Andy Carroll and Conor Coady getting the goals. Coady was making his debut for the first team, as was new signing Charlie Adam who came on in the second half.

UPDATE: Aston Villa have also confirmed an agreement has been reached with Liverpool for Downing. Their chief executive, Paul Faulkner, explained that Villa’s decision came after an improved bid from The Reds and also after Downing had put a transfer request in: “I can confirm that we have reached an agreement with Liverpool following an improved offer received earlier today and the submission of a formal transfer request by Stewart Downing, and have subsequently given them permission to speak with the player.

“We believe there are replacements available in the market who can strengthen our squad ahead of the coming season, and we are in discussions as such.”

Downing is believed to have made it clear he was interested only in a move to Anfield and the transfer request was an expected move should Villa continue to hold firm in their bid to keep him.

Wisdom extends contract, Darby out on loan

Liverpool’s 18-year-old defender Andre Wisdom has been rewarded with a new contract for the club after progressing through the academy and reserve sides and into the first team squad.

Centre-back Wisdom made it onto the bench for the last league game of the season at Villa Park and although that opportunity came in part because of injuries to other defenders there is no doubt at all that the club consider him a player with huge potential. Wisdom was one of a number of the club’s youngsters who got the chance to train with the first team following Kenny Dalglish’s return as team manager.

Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s Director of Football, spoke about the deal to the club’s official website: “We are delighted; he made fantastic progress last season. He’s got great potential and a great future ahead of him. Andre is another player who is versatile. He can play, is good on the ball, intelligent and physically very strong. He has all the ingredients to be a top defender.”

Comolli, the club’s Director of Football, said Wisdom mustn’t take the new contract as an excuse to relax, there’s still much work for him to do: “We have shown for a while that if young players are good enough they will be rewarded. I told him when he signed it is just a step. It’s an achievement in a way, but he should not just sit on this contract and wait to see what happens; he should show that he is hungry and wants to keep progressing.

“We know he is very young and that his position at centre-half is very difficult to break into in the first team because of the responsibilities of the position, but Andre has all the qualities and skills to get there.”

There was also some recognition from Comolli for Kenny Dalglish’s influence with the lads from the reserves and academy: “Kenny has got a way of saying the right thing at the right time to them, boosting their confidence and making sure they’re relaxed, whether it’s in a game or a training session. For players like Andre, he saw what happened last season with Jack Robinson, Jonathan Flanagan and Jay Spearing, so he must be thinking he could be the next one – and that’s what we are pushing him to do.”

Jay Spearing is a little older than the other players Comolli mentioned but his progress last season saw him used on a regular basis and rewarded with a new contract of his own. Spearing had previously signed a new deal in 2009 at the same time as another promising youngster, defender Stephen Darby, keeping the pair at the club until 2012. Unfortunately Darby’s career at Anfield now looks to be over after the club announced he would be going out on loan for the whole of next season.

Darby, 22, has had loan spells at Swindon Town and Notts County in previous seasons and will spend next season on loan at League One Rochdale, after which he’ll no longer be under contract at Anfield. His chances of getting into the first team were further restricted by the assured performances of Martin Kelly and the rapid emergence of John Flanagan.

Doncaster, MK Dons and Oldham were among the other clubs reported to be vying for his services and Rochdale are delighted with the deal. Announcing the loan on their website, the club said “Darby has tasted in action in the Champions League as well as the Premiership” and that his “services were in demand by a host of other clubs”. ‘Darbs’ will fly out to Spain on Friday morning to join his new teammates for pre-season training.

Johnson signs new deal, Doni close to signing

As Charlie Adam moved closer to becoming Liverpool’s latest new signing Reds full-back Glen Johnson became the latest player to sign an extension for the club.

Glen Johnson signs contract extensionJohnson was signed from Portsmouth in the summer of 2009 in a £17.1m deal, a fee that was often cited by fans who were critical of the player, especially as Liverpool’s all round slump began to take hold. Johnson has been as good an example as any of the change in mood and performance levels after the return of Kenny Dalglish and has been in arguably his best form since signing the club.

Various injuries have restricted the 26-year-old to just 70 appearances in his two seasons – 35 in each – but the club are clearly confident that those injuries don’t represent a long-term problem. Speaking about the deal to the official Liverpool FC website, Director of Football Damien Comolli said it wasn’t difficult to get the deal done: “We are absolutely delighted. We were in talks for a few weeks, but it was easy to find an agreement because he wanted to stay and we wanted him to stay. We are very pleased he wants to commit long term, and I think he was pleased we went to him and asked him to commit long term.” Continue reading Johnson signs new deal, Doni close to signing

Liverpool FC agree terms with Blackpool for Charlie Adam

Liverpool FC today announced that they had reached agreement with Blackpool for the transfer of Charlie Adam. The midfielder had tweeted earlier that he was having a day off from pre-season training, watching Sky Sports News. The deal is subject to the player passing his medical and agreeing personal terms.

The Reds first approached Blackpool for Adam in the January transfer window but the two clubs couldn’t agree a fee, Liverpool’s final offer of that window being a reported £6.5m. Over the course of the summer informal talks were held on a number of occasions but progress in reaching an agreement was extremely slow. Today’s announcement means Liverpool are on the verge of their second signing of the summer, following on from the purchase of Jordan Henderson.

Charlie Adam, Anfield-boundThe statement from The Reds read: “Liverpool Football Club today announced they have reached agreement with Blackpool for the transfer of Charlie Adam.

“The player will now travel to Merseyside for a medical and to discuss personal terms.”

Blackpool also announced the news: “Blackpool Football Club can confirm that an agreement has been reached with Liverpool for the transfer of skipper Charlie Adam.

“The 25-year-old has now been granted permission to discuss personal terms with the club and undergo a medical.”

No information has been released officially with regards the fee, although Blackpool had been holding out for £9m. The Blackpool Gazette reported that Blackpool “are expected to receive somewhere in the region of £7m, as well as two players.” The names of the players weren’t specified in the report.

Downing and Adam deals move closer, again

The latest developments in Liverpool’s attempts to buy Stewart Downing from Aston Villa were reported across the media overnight and this morning as the Reds were said to have had a £15m offer turned down for the former Middlesbrough player. Some reports say this was a follow-up to an earlier bid of £12m.

The Midlands club signed Downing for £12m two years ago and insist his value has shot up since then, meaning they are now demanding £20m for his signature. With two years left on his contract there was an attempt by Villa to negotiate an improved deal but his agent (who also represents Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard) reportedly told them that Downing wanted to keep his options open.

Arsenal have shown some interest in signing him but, with Downing understood to be set on a move to Anfield, Villa know they aren’t in a position to draw Liverpool into any auction. Liverpool are expected to make one further bid, perhaps for as much as £18m, but should Villa turn that down there would be a need for Downing to force the issue with his club by putting a transfer request in. Villa’s staff and players return for pre-season next week.

Some reports also claim that Alex McLeish is interested in the possibility of using David Ngog as part of the deal, but the two clubs’ valuations on the young striker are some distance apart.
Continue reading Downing and Adam deals move closer, again

Gerrard to miss Reds tour of Asia

Liverpool FC returned to pre-season training yesterday ahead of their flight to Asia on Sunday for their forthcoming pre-season tour and it’s safe to say that some of the faces at pre-season training will be less popular than others should they be part of the travelling party for the tour.

Liverpool FC Asia Tour 2011It’s also safe to say that there will be huge disappointment at the absence of one face in particular. Liverpool’s club captain, Steven Gerrard, will remain back at Melwood as he continues his recovery from two groin operations at the tail end of last season. The medical staff at the club have decided it is in the club and player’s best interests that he continue his rehabilitation programme rather than risk travelling to China, Malaysia and Singapore with the rest of the squad.

Reds boss Kenny Dalglish told the official tour site that the captain is making good progress on his recovery but that the priority has to be getting him fully fit for the new season:  “Steven and the medical team have done fantastically well so far and they are in the final stages of getting him back to full training. I’m sure there will be supporters disappointed that Steven is unable to be with us in Asia, but I’m sure the same people will appreciate the importance of Steven giving himself the best possible opportunity of being fit to play against Sunderland on the opening day of the new campaign. Steven continuing his rehabilitation programme at Melwood is in everybody’s long term interests.”

Gerrard also spoke about the decision, admitting that he is disappointed to miss out: “I’d really been looking forward to travelling out to China, Malaysia and Singapore and meeting first hand as many of our fans as possible, and I’m really sorry that I won’t now be able to do that. All of us at the Club realise the incredible support we enjoy in these countries and how much it means to our supporters there. But after sitting down and talking with the medical experts and technical staff, it’s been decided that the best course of action is for me to continue my rehabilitation programme at Melwood. It’s disappointing I won’t be with them, but I’m sure the lads who go out there will put a great show on for our fans.”

The anticipation in the region for the visit of the club is huge with supporters desperate to see the heroes that in many cases they will probably never get to see play at Anfield. That doesn’t stop them dreaming of making that trip and this tour gives them a little taste of what that would bring – and like any fixture there’s never a guarantee of which players will be fit and selected to play.

Other than that Liverpool intend to take a full squad out on the tour although it remains to be seen which of the players considered to be ‘deadwood’ will join them. For what seems to be the first summer in years there are no rumours of a major star looking to leave or be sold although there is still little visible movement in recruiting more stars to the ranks.

Liverpool’s interest in the likes of Phil Jones, Connor Wickham and Gael Clichy came to nothing in the end with Jones preferring to move to Manchester United and Liverpool unwilling to match the bids made for Connor Wickham and Gael Clichy, with Clichy’s wages likely to be a further obstacle had it got that far.

Liverpool’s next known targets are Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, both players believed to be desperate to join the Reds but with both their clubs refusing to cave in for the amounts Liverpool have indicated they will pay. For now it remains a waiting game, all concerned waiting to see who will concede first in a stand-off that should ultimately favour Liverpool.

In many ways just as important as bringing new talent in is the need to offload some of those players that are, to put it as kindly as possible, stuck out on the fringes of the first team. Some of the players that were almost certainly welcomed back through gritted teeth include Milan Jovanovic, Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Philip Degen. Alberto Aquilani has made the right noises should his return to Anfield turn out to continue after the closure of the transfer window following Kenny Dalglish comments to the same effect but it’s unlikely either would object to a move elsewhere should the terms be suitable.

The one big signing of the summer so far is Jordan Henderson and although the midfielder was allowed a later start to pre-season than the bulk of the squad he is expected to take part in the Asian tour.

Kevin Keen joins Kenny Dalglish’s coaching team

Kevin Keen is the new First Team Coach at Liverpool FC after the club announced the latest change to the coaching staff following the recent departure of Assistant Manager Sammy Lee.

Keen joins Liverpool from West Ham where he was previously the First Team Coach. The club say the 44 year old has signed a three-year contract and that he’ll be at Melwood tomorrow for the first day of pre-season training.

Keen’s playing career began at Wycombe but he was best known for his time at West Ham, where he made 219 league appearances before moving to Wolves, Stoke and then Macclesfield. In all he played 502 league games before hanging up his boots in 2001.

He has been a caretaker manager at West Ham three times and Macclesfield once. His first coaching role at West Ham came in 2002 when he was appointed as under-17 coach. He has worked as both reserve coach and first team coach on a number of occasions at West Ham, but his final role was as caretaker manager in West Ham’s final Premier League game in May.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish said: “I’m delighted that Kevin is joining us to work alongside Steve Clarke coaching the First Team squad. He has previously worked with Steve at West Ham and has a good reputation and a good manner about him. He is highly respected in the game and will be a great addition to our technical staff.”

It is now expected that Steve Clarke will be named Assistant Manager, replacing Sammy Lee whose departure was leaked a few days before the official announcement came from the club. Although the official announcement said Lee had left the club “by mutual consent” it is thought he was asked to step aside in order that the club could make the appointment announced today.

Dalglish wished Lee well on his departure from the club, saying: “We’d like to place on record our thanks for all of Sammy’s hard work over the years and the contribution he has made to Liverpool. He has always been a credit to the Football Club and a credit to himself. Everyone at Liverpool FC wishes him all the best in his future career.”

Lee himself said: “I returned to the Club in 2008 and I’m proud of the contribution I’ve been able to make since then. I want to wish Kenny, the players and the supporters all the best going forward.”

That announcement also said that Liverpool would “continue to analyse the requirements of their backroom team” and “make further announcements in due course.”

It is now expected that Steve Clarke will be given the title of Assistant Manager but a change of title will make little difference to the role he was already carrying out alongside Dalglish.