Warnock called up for England

Brilliant news for Stephen Warnock tonight with him receiving his first call-up to the full England squad. Also in the squad is Chris Kirkland, Liverpool’s ‘keeper currently on loan at West Brom. Carragher and Gerrard complete the Liverpool representation in the squad. Liverpool target Michael Owen is also included, although he’s suspended for the first of the two games being played by England.

Kirkland’s appearance in the squad has been helped in a major way by the poor performance from former Reds ‘keeper David James in England’s recent friendly defeat to Denmark. Ericsson said: "Chris Kirkland is a brilliant prospect who has suffered badly with injuries, but he is now started playing regularly again, so I feel the time is right to have a good look at him."

There’s also a chance that Jamie Carragher will be used as a right-back for his national team, with the Swedish coach saying: "Right-back is an issue. I know Jamie Carragher and Phil Neville don’t play for their clubs but they can do the job. Luke Young is also doing very well at the moment."

He also spoke about the opposite full-back position: "I am going to take Stephen Warnock. We don’t have that many left-backs and Wayne Bridge has still to come back."  In fact this call-up caps a great turn-around for Stephen who was bitterly disappointed to miss out on a Champions League winners medal in May, and also a trip on the open-top bus tour of the city the following day. He recently signed a new deal at Anfield as well as finding himself picked as first-choice left-back in the opening two games of the Premiership. His experience for Liverpool in European competition will stand him in good stead for England.

Gerrard is in the squad but whether he plays remains to be seen – he was unfit for Liverpool’s Super Cup victory against CSKA Moscow on Friday night.  He may be fit for the second game, against Northern Ireland on September 7th, but is more doubtful for the first game against Wales on September 3rd.

Full Squad:
Robinson (Tottenham), Green (Norwich), Kirkland (Liverpool, on loan at West Brom)
Young (Charlton), Warnock (Liverpool), P Neville (Everton), A Cole (Arsenal), Carragher (Liverpool), Ferdinand (Man Utd), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (Birmingham)
Beckham (Real Madrid), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), J Cole (Chelsea), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Jenas (Newcastle), Carrick (Tottenham), Richardson (Man Utd)
Owen (Real Madrid), Rooney (Man Utd), Defoe (Tottenham), A Johnson (Crystal Palace), Bent (Charlton)
Continue reading Warnock called up for England

Post match reaction – Super Cup Final 2005

Straight after Liverpool won their second trophy in three months and their first of the season – five still to go – Rafa Benitez was approached by ITV1’s reporter Gabriel Clark. Waiting to be congratulated on the success and to give his thoughts on how they won, Rafa looked annoyed when Clark asked questions that could wait. Liverpool fans were chanting Owen’s name at one point during the match, so Clark asked Rafa if Owen was coming back to Anfield. Rafa’s answer: "We want trophies and we want good players."  Over and over again Clark asked about Owen, and also about Cisse, as Rafa tried to say that this was the time to celebrate the victory, not speculate about players. Clark wouldn’t give in, and ITV’s studio team seemed to find it funny. Some managers would refuse to do interviews with the attitude shown tonight. When he did have chance to talks about tonight’s game, he said that Liverpool played well but nearly lost because of one error midway through the first half: "I think it was a difficult game. We did one mistake and we’re losing."

Cisse himself was asked next what he thought about Michael Owen’s possible arrival. The Frenchman had just won the match – and the man of the match award – with his substitute appearance. Cisse is happy in England, living in Cheshire with his new wife. He’s happy at Liverpool too, hoping to pay back the medical staff and the fans for everything that happened last season during his injury. Newspapers being newspapers have decided that Cisse is on his way out. Rafa completely avoided answering questions about Cisse’s future, which won’t reassure the player much, but Cisse says he wants to remain a Red: "I’ve had a lot of speculation about me the last few weeks but now I’m very happy for me and my wife and the team. My future is at Liverpool for the moment. I feel good here so I don’t know why I have to move. It’s difficult but I have to be strong."

Liverpool paid £14million for Cisse, and unless another club has come in with a bid at that level (including part-exchange bids for other players) then it’s unlikely Liverpool would sell him. Rafa has had all summer to start trying to sell the player, like he did with Baros, and he certainly would not have cup-tied him had he been planning to sell him. We’ve heard nothing that leads us to believe Cisse is on the way out, and it’s only if a late and high bid has come in that Cisse is likely to be on his way

A great night tonight for Jamie Carragher.  Carra was skipper tonight with Steven Gerrard out injured, and Liverpool’s most influential player got the chance to lift a trophy – a dream come true. Carra acts like a captain even without the armband, and tonight he was seen dishing out more rollockings than ever. Only in the noisiest of atmospheres is Carra’s voice not heard, a quality he’s had throughout his career. He said that Cisse had a great attitude tonight: "He wanted to prove a point but he’s reacted in the right way by winning us the cup so all credit to him. It’s only one game but the whole of Europe is watching and it’s always nice to win a trophy. We’re involved in six this year and this is the first."

Cisse did another dance around the trophy sitting on its podium, like he did in Istanbul in May, and looked delighted to be collecting another winners medal. Whatever happens to Cisse in the next few days, his performance tonight has earned him a place not only in Anfield’s record books, but also in the history of the club.

And sooner or later maybe TV reporters will realise that Liverpool are keeping things under their hats until they themselves are ready to reveal their plans.

Continue reading Post match reaction – Super Cup Final 2005

Stelios signs new Bolton deal

Speculation that Liverpool were going to sign Bolton midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos has finally come to an end with news that the Greek international has signed a new contract.

Stelios is 31 and had one more year left on his current deal. Liverpool did not make a bid for the player, who was valued at £2.5million by the Reebok outfit.

His new contract is for three years, and the signing has cheered up Bolton boss Allardyce: "I’m delighted that we can put all the speculation behind us. I was concerned earlier this week we might lose him but in the end he wanted to stay loyal to me and the club. Throughout, Stelios has been very professional and he can now look forward to playing his best football at Bolton. He is a terrific little player and a real match winner."
Continue reading Stelios signs new Bolton deal

Reds on home straight in race for Owen

Newcastle United have now shown what might have been the real reason for their "bid" for Michael Owen – to put the frighteners on Albert Luque and his club Deportivo la Coruna.

Newcastle revealed earlier in the week that they had made a bid to Real Madrid for Owen, believed to be £16million. The buzz coming out of St James’s Park was that Newcastle were big hitters in the transfer market and that Owen was on his way. Trouble was, after all of the fanfare of their announcement, they basically gave Owen just 24 hours to make his mind up – a permanent move or no move at all. Owen had earlier said that he was willing to go to play for the Toon if he could not get a deal with Liverpool, but only on loan. Sounness said that was just not on. In fact in all likelihood the deal was never on in the first place.

Behind the scenes Newcastle were putting pressure on Deportivo to accept a bid for Luque. Earlier in the week a bid of £7.5million was rejected, but on Thursday the Spanish club accepted a bid for 14 million euros – £9.5million. Luque has agreed terms and now just awaits his medical.

Freddie Shepherd, Newcastle chairman, had said the deadline for Owen to sign was yesterday. Sounness seems to be on a different agenda however, saying: "Our offer for Michael is still on the table, we’ve spoken to his advisors and they’re considering it." Perhaps Sounness isn’t fully in the picture, Shepherd won’t have a lot of patience left with Sounness, who’s team have managed only one point from a possible nine in their opening games. After finishing in the bottom half of the table last year their only hope of qualifying for Europe was through the Intertoto – and they failed in that too.

Unless Shepherd has changed his mind, Real are running out of options. Owen has made it clear that if he’s not part of Real’s starting line-up then he wants a return to the Premiership. He’s ruled out a move to France and Gerard Houllier’s Lyon. Manchester United confirmed they had no interest in signing the player – after Real’s propaganda machine tried to bring them into the running to prompt an auction. Arsenal have also admitted they like the player but have no intention of signing him. So Owen joins Liverpool or stays at Real. Owen’s already made it clear he wants to come back to Anfield.

Madrid and Liverpool now need to meet somewhere in the middle. Madrid won’t get what they want for the player. Liverpool will pay a sensible amount for him.

Rick Parry, Liverpool’s Chief Executive, gave little away when interviewed at yesterday’s Champions League draw. He said: "Wait and see. There’s been far too much speculation on it already. Let’s just rely on facts and we’ll see when we get to that day." The day in question being the closure of the transfer window next week. Speaking about stories that he and David Moores (the Liverpool Chairman) had been overruling Rafa Benitez over the signing of the player, Parry said these stories were untrue. He said: "My personal feelings do not have anything to do with it. One myth that can be dispelled is there’s never been a difference of opinion between Rafa and me. We’re just keeping our counsel." The truth is that Liverpool want Owen, for a sensible price. They will not be ripped off, and so the negotiation continues: "There’s some work to do and it’s a few days before the deadline, so we’ll see."

The Reds are still looking for reinforcements in other areas, and one target is Bolton’s Stelios Giannakopoulos. Bolton value him at £2.5million, Liverpool at closer to £1million. Stelios is now in the final year of his contract, so would be available for nothing next summer. Trotters boss Sam Allardyce was at Anfield earlier in the week watching Liverpool lose against CSKA Sofia. He says he didn’t speak about Stelios, but was losing hope of keeping the player: "I’m not confident we will keep him. I really think he may leave – I’m 50-50 at best." 
Continue reading Reds on home straight in race for Owen

Reds’ Champions League Group Fixtures

Liverpool’s Champions League Group G fixtures have now been announced and ITV will be pleased. The final group game, at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea is to be played on a Tuesday, giving them the UK rights to one of the biggest games of the season. Sky will get to televise the first match, played on Wednesday 28th September.

Tue Sep 13th. Real Betis (a)
Wed Sep 28th. Chelsea (h)
Wed Oct 19th. Anderlecht (a)
Tue Nov 1st. Anderlecht (h)
Wed Nov 23rd. Real Betis (h)

Tue Dec 6th. Chelsea (a)
Continue reading Reds’ Champions League Group Fixtures

No surprise – Reds grouped with Chelsea

After avoiding Manchester United and Everton in the qualifiers, the only draw left for the conspiracy theorists was for Liverpool to play Chelsea in the group stages. Liverpool were seeded in the top tier for the draw and so couldn’t be drawn against any other team at that level, including Manchester United or Arsenal. Normally they wouldn’t be able to be drawn against another English team, but the country protection was thrown out for Liverpool this season, meaning a draw against Chelsea was a possibility. A one-in-eight chance. No surprise therefore when it happened.

As well as Chelsea, Liverpool will be joined in Group G by Belgian side Anderlecht and Spanish side Real Betis. Rafa and his staff will know as much as anyone can about Betis, and considering they faced Chelsea five times during Rafa’s first season at Anfield they couldn’t know much more about Chelsea. Anderlecht last played Liverpool in the competition in the sixties, in the tie that saw Liverpool were their famous all-red strip for the first time. That was in the first leg at Anfield, where Shankly’s ploy to put fear into the opposition had the desired effect, ending in a 3-0 win. The second leg was also a 1-0 win back then.

Five-times winners of the competition, and current holders, Liverpool are the only team in their group to have won Europe’s premier competition.

The draw pitting them against Chelsea was no surprise to Gerrard, he said he predicted it would happen: "I knew we were going to be playing Chelsea. I wasn’t surprised at all. I just had a feeling." Was the Reds captain being ironic when he spoke of all the "special" things about the tie? He said: "The game at Anfield against Chelsea last season was a very special occasion and I’m sure it will be special again this time. They have a special manager and I think it will be two very close games."
Jerzy Dudek was the hero of that night in Istanbul when the Reds took the title, and he also said it was no shock: "There was a lot of speculation about who we might get and I had a funny feeling we would be playing Chelsea again. It should be another special atmosphere at Anfield and we will give it our best."

Liverpool will play three games each on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, meaning that ITV get the UK TV rights to half the games. The matchdates are:

13/14 September
27/28 September
18/19 October
1/2 November
22/23 November
6/7 December.

The knockout stage takes place in the new year with the top-two from each group going through. The third-placed team in each group drop down into the UEFA cup. The final is a little earlier this time round, taking place in Paris on May 17th.

Full Draw 2005/06 UEFA Champions League:

Group A
FC Bayern München (GER)
Juventus FC (ITA)
Club Brugge KV (BEL)
SK Rapid Wien (AUT)

Group B
Arsenal FC (ENG)
AFC Ajax (NED)
AC Sparta Praha (CZE)
FC Thun (SUI)

Group C
FC Barcelona (ESP)
Panathinaikos FC (GRE)
Werder Bremen (GER)
Udinese Calcio (ITA)

Group D
Manchester United FC (ENG)
Villarreal CF (ESP)
LOSC Lille Métropole (FRA)
SL Benfica (POR)

Group E
AC Milan (ITA)
PSV Eindhoven (NED)
FC Schalke 04 (GER)
Fenerbahçe SK (TUR)

Group F
Real Madrid CF (ESP)
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)
Olympiacos CFP (GRE)
Rosenborg BK (NOR)

Group G
Liverpool FC (ENG, holders)
Chelsea FC (ENG)
RSC Anderlecht (BEL)
Real Betis Balompié (ESP)

Group H
FC Internazionale Milano (ITA)
FC Porto (POR)
Rangers FC (SCO)
FC Artmedia Bratislava (SVK)

Continue reading No surprise – Reds grouped with Chelsea

Striker latest: Flo is staying

We reported last night on stories that Liverpool were about to let Florent Sinama-Pongolle move to Lyon. We can now happily report that the player is set to stay.

What seems to have happened is that Flo was approached by former Reds boss Gerard Houllier, and the Frenchman turned the youngster’s head. Already on a downer due to his cruciate ligament injury, and then denied a European Cup medal or a place on the open-top bus tour, Houllier looked to have convinced the player that a return to his homeland was the only option.

Flo told his team mates on Monday that the deal was pretty much done, and resigned himself to leaving Anfield.

On Tuesday night he made a second appearance for the reserves, once again impressing with an excellent goalscoring performance during the half of the game he played. The reserve team on Tuesday did not include any of the players that were included in Wednesday night’s Champions League squad – for example Potter who played last night and Barragan and Whitbread who were on the bench. Pongolle was not in that squad for Wednesday, and was called into the squad once Rafa got wind of what Houllier had done.

Rafa made clear to Flo that he wanted him to stay, called him into the squad and when the result on aggregate looked to be more of a certainty, played the youngster in the game and in turn cup-tied him.

After the game Flo looked very happy to have made his return to first team action, and told reporters who were only aware of interest from Aberdeen that he wanted to stay.

The original story from The Liverpool Way fanzine’s website came after they were told by one of their playing contacts that Flo was starting to say his goodbyes in light of the moves by Houllier. The same sources informed them that the French side’s boss had not actually agreed a deal with Liverpool

We’re pleased that Benitez has made this move, and in light of Lyon’s late offer for Milan Baros – at £1.5 million over the asking price – perhaps it’s time that Houllier was asked politely to stop speaking to his former players.

Continue reading Striker latest: Flo is staying

Owen talks about his wish to be a Red again

Michael Owen has confirmed that talks to bring him home to Anfield are at an advanced stage – but he also says that a move to Newcastle has been agreed should Liverpool not get the deal finalised by the end of the transfer window.

Owen wanted to be part of Real’s plans for this season, and his preference was to have been told he was part of those plans. He has been speaking to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez who promised to help the former Reds hero return home. Owen revealed: "I said that my ideal situation was to start the season in the Real Madrid team and if not I would prefer to return to Liverpool."

Owen wants to come home and wants to wear the Red shirt again – but he’s not prepared to sit the season on the bench or in the reserves in Spain. If the deal with Liverpool can’t go through in the next seven days then he will be joining Newcastle on a one-year loan deal. Owen said: "If the transfer cannot be finalised in time I have agreed to go to Newcastle."

Owen fought his way into Madrid’s starting line-up towards the tail-end of last season, and thought that his future at Madrid was now looking better. However during the summer Real signed Brazilian strikers Robinho and Julio Baptista leaving Owen way down the pecking order at the club. Owen lives to play football, and not just at club level. A move is vital now according to Owen: "I need to be playing regularly in World Cup year. I am most grateful to Senor Perez for his personal concern about my career. I have really enjoyed being part of his Real Madrid team."

Despite Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez constantly deflecting answers to questions about Owen by talking about other priorites, Liverpool do want to sign the player. This is a fact we’ve talked about for some time now, even when the press were saying that Liverpool were not interested. Now that the news is public Liverpool have no option but to make a decision.

Owen is believed to be prepared to accept a pay cut to move to Anfield – possibly even less than he would have been on should he have signed a new deal a year ago. Although that amount isn’t agreed as such, the main delay now is for Liverpool and Real to agree terms. Neither side wants to lose face over the move and not only does a deal need to be agreed, but the two clubs also need to agree what they will publicly reveal about the deal.

Reports claiming that Benitez is being forced to buy the player against his will are completely untrue. Benitez wants the player and Liverpool’s board will not force him to buy a player against his will. Liverpool as a club however are determined that the transfer be carried out on their terms. This means that compromises are needed from all sides.

Continue reading Owen talks about his wish to be a Red again

Owen: I want to come home

Michael Owen has been in talks with Real Madrid over his future and last night the talks got to an advanced stage.

According to Sky Sports News this morning, Owen has revealed that he wants to come back to Anfield, and Real Madrid have said they will do what they can to help him get his wish.

However the player has also said that if a deal with Liverpool cannot be agreed before the transfer deadline next week, he will be joining Newcastle on a one-year deal.

Time for Liverpool to come clean and sort this issue out. More to come…

Continue reading Owen: I want to come home

Stolen ticket warning for Super Cup final

Super Cup 2005A warning tonight for any Liverpool fans planning to travel over to Monaco for Friday night’s Super Cup final – stolen tickets may be on sale.

The match is on Friday, at Stade Louis II stadium. The Reds face UEFA Cup winners CSKA Moscow, and UEFA have reported around 500 tickets have gone missing.

The tickets are numbered from 1100 to 1599, and have now been cancelled. UEFA said: "This means there will be no access for the holders of any tickets that match these numbers." They also said that police would be around the stadium and any fans who have one of these tickets should contact local police.
Continue reading Stolen ticket warning for Super Cup final