Transfer deadline day has seen Liverpool allow two strikers to go elsewhere – one on loan and one on a permanent transfer. After Rafael Benítez signed two new strikers this summer he’s allowed two of the squad strikers to move on. Florent Sinama-Pongolle gets to spend a year in Spain whilst Neil Mellor gets to try and get his own career moving again at his new club, Preston North End.
Sinama-Pongolle has never quite lived up to the promise Liverpool fans thought he had when Gerard Houllier signed him as a teenager. He spent various periods out on loan, including the last half of last season at Blackburn. It was during his spell at Ewood Park when he made a “blunder” that probably ensured any lingering hopes of him rescuing his Liverpool career took a big hit. He said that people in the city of Liverpool all supported Everton – not true and not clever. A lot of Reds are still unhappy about what he said, especially as it came at a time when he was being linked with a possible summer move across the park to the bitter side of the city.
Everton never did come forward for the player though, and despite many rumours this summer that Gerard Houllier was finally going to buy back one of his many signings Pongolle has now gone to Spain for the loan deal. Recreativo de Huelvaon were delighted to take the player on loan, having won promotion last season. Their official website read: “Pongolle is a very important signing for us.”
As well as what he’d said to the press, Pongolle also had to try and fight his way past new signings Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt, along with Peter Crouch and Robbie Fowler for a place in the side. When you also consider that Rafa is happy to utilise the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Gonzalez, Luis Garcia and Steven Gerrard as part of the front two then it’s clear that Pongolle was going to struggle.
Similar thoughts must also have crossed Neil Mellor’s mind. Despite being highly thought of by Rafael Benítez, a spate of bad luck with injuries means he’s not been able to get himself any kind of run under Rafa, but he leaves Liverpool supporters with some good memories.
Two games that spring to mind are the league game against Arsenal at Anfield where Mellor got the winner with the last kick of the game from way out, and the Champions League group game against Olympiakos when Mellor came off the bench to score on of the three goals needed by the Reds to progress further in the competition. Pongolle scored the other, but the third one (a wonder strike from Steven Gerrard) was set up by Mellor too. That win gave Liverpool the confidence they needed to go all the way forward to the ultimate prize in the competition – a game in Istanbul that you may remember.
Mellor was unavailable for the final due to injury, missing just about the whole of last season too. He did go on loan to Wigan but even that had to be cut short as he struggled to get back from his double knee operation.
Now Preston get to make use of the player, with their boss Paul Simpson looking forward to making use of the natural goalscorer: “Neil is a goalscorer and hopefully that will continue to be the case. He is a tremendous signing. He has had his injury problems but we are happy he is over those and it’s just a case now of building up his fitness levels.”
Neil himself was sad to be leaving the Reds after a long time being the reserves’ top scorer, but he knew he had to make the move: “I think any player who leaves Liverpool is a bit disappointed because they are one of the best teams in the world, without a doubt. I have left before to go on loan at various clubs, but it was a big step to leave Liverpool fully and commit myself to Preston.”
Preston have been close to making it into the Premiership in recent times, something which helped Mellor make up his mind about the move: “I am really excited. This is a big club that has been in the playoffs for the past two seasons and I’m hoping we can go one better this year and get promotion. People might mention the injuries but it’s just about playing football now. I’ve come here to hopefully get the chance to try and do that. I just want to put the past behind me and look to the future at Preston.”
AnfieldRoad.com wish Neil the best of luck in the future, he’s a very good player and a great person, hopefully his luck will now change in his favour.