Jack Hobbs could be in line for a full Premiership debut this weekend, with boss Rafa Benitez concerned at the injuries he has amongst his defenders. Jamie Carragher had to leave the game early on Sunday in Liverpool’s win over Bolton after worries he’d damaged his ribs again in a collision with Pepe Reina. Although he’s expected to be fit by then, he’s also on four yellow cards, and another booking would bring a suspension.
The match Carra would miss would be the showdown with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Suspensions from bookings apply seven days after the final booking, and with the United game delayed a day for TV coverage it means that would be the match he’d miss. So Rafa has to consider if it’s worth chancing the player being unavailable for such a game.
In addition to this Steve Finnan is struggling with injury, meaning that Rafa won’t necessarily have Alvaro Arbeloa available to cover the centre-back role.
Nineteen-year-old Hobbs is prepared to step in if needed: “Carra has a week to recover until the Reading game, but if I can fill in and help out I will do. I’d look forward to it and feel I am ready.”
Hobbs got his league debut on Sunday when Carra went off six minutes into the second half, and he recalled how he felt as he was about to step onto the Anfield turf: “I was a little bit nervous when the manager told me to strip off on Sunday. When he called me over I didn’t know that Carra was injured, but when I got told I was on I was excited and nervous. I just wanted to get out there and do it. It’s another step in my career.”
Hobbs is reserve captain but understandably didn’t play a part in last night’s 3-0 mini-derby win over Everton.
He said: “It’s a bit more experience for me and it will make the time easier. I’m glad to have come through it without any mistakes. Fingers crossed I can get another chance at Reading. Steve Finnan’s injury isn’t that bad but I’ll keep training this week and see what happens. It depends on injuries how often I play this season, but I will keep training hard and see what happens and if I get a chance, I know I must take it.”
Hobbs knows that breaking into the first team will require patience and that when he gets his chances he has to take them: “I’m relieved and quite pleased to have finally made my Premier League debut. I’m just glad to have got a run out, really happy. I’ve been on the bench a few times but haven’t been part of it in the league, but I was glad to just get out and do my bit for the team. Sami Hyypia was alongside side me talking all the time and really helping me out, although I think Bolton only had one chance during the time I was on. It’s good to have someone with that experience alongside you. It was a little worrying coming on against Nicolas Anelka, who is such a good striker, but I was pleased to get out there no matter who it was up against.”
Meanwhile Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill has claimed that talk of a deal already being done to take the Reds’ on-loan keeper Scott Carson to Villa Park are premature: “He is here for the season and we have heard nothing from Liverpool at all,” said O’Neill. “I will look at the situation and Liverpool will be very much in the driving seat because they can dictate what the player is going to cost.”
Whether that move had been agreed in principle with Rafa before the owners blocked him from dealing in sales or purchases of players isn’t clear, but the manager had an opportunity to speak at length to both the Chief Executive Rick Parry and the owner’s representative Foster Gillett last night. The manager was flanked by the pair at the Halliwell Jones to watch that 3-0 win over Everton. Liverpool went ahead with a Patrick Boyle own-goal, and then Krisztian Nemeth scored twice to make sure of the win.
Rumours circulating about Rafa’s future over the weekend have now hit the press, with the Daily Mirror claiming “Fabio Capello has been ‘tapped up’ twice by Liverpool as Rafa Benitez battles to stay in command at Anfield. Capello claims he was contacted before and after last week’s Champions League win over Porto as boss Benitez’s relationship with owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks reached crisis point.” The story carries no quotes from Capello, and is part of an article talking about who the FA would prefer as England boss. It’s also contradicted by the Daily Star who claim he’s on his way to Newcastle to replace the unpopular Sam Allardyce.
However Liverpool have still not issued a denial that the owners had made plans to sack the boss, despite the public softening of the row between the two camps, and the feeling remains that Rafa will be out of a job if Liverpool go out in the final game of the Champions League group stage.