Rafa: Harry’s game will help Crouch

After spending the last five months recovering from injury and surgery, Harry Kewell could find himself finally back on the pitch for Liverpool this week.

Harry was forced to leave the field early during the European Cup final after suffering a groin injury, and then during the summer he needed surgery on a hernia. His next match could be in the same competition though, as Liverpool continue their defence of the European Cup. Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez said today that the Australian attacker will be travelling to Belgium with the rest of the squad, and that he may even be well enough to play a part in the game.

Kewell has rarely been 100% fit during his days at Anfield, meaning he’s found it difficult to reproduce the form that made him such a threat during his days at Leeds. According to some of those close to Kewell, the previous Anfield boss Gerard Houllier was guilty of using the player when he was very much short of fitness, meaning his injuries would be aggravated rather than improved. Now that Rafel Benitez is boss, he wants the old Harry Kewell in his side.

Rafa told liverpoolfc.tv that Kewell will have his fitness assessed before a decision is made as to whether he is included in the matchday squad: “Harry is feeling much better now. He will definitely be travelling with us and could maybe play some part, we will have to assess his fitness before the game.”

Rafa explained that Kewell’s return is imminent, even if Wednesday’s game does come a little too soon: “If he doesn’t figure against Anderlecht then I am sure he will be back playing either at the weekend or the following midweek.”

Liverpool’s frustration at not being able to secure a work-permit for left-winger Mark Gonzales could be eased if Harry can show his old form, as Rafa explained: “His return will be a big boost for us. He is the kind of player who can beat players and get in crosses from the by-line from which the likes of Peter Crouch and Fernando Morientes can benefit.”

Djibril Cisse may not like to hear it, but the Spanish coach wants Kewell to play a big part in the development of Peter Crouch: “I see Harry as a key player to help Peter Crouch develop as our centre forward. We have different players with different qualities and abilities, but Harry is the main one who can get to the dead-ball line and put over the kind of crosses that Crouch likes.”

The boss then looks back at a game he saw well before he became Reds boss, when Kewell was still playing for then Premiership side Leeds: “I know Harry can do this. When I arrived at Liverpool, I brought with me the memory of once seeing Harry play against Manchester United for Leeds at Old Trafford and he was fantastic. Leeds lost the game, but he gave Jaap Stam a lot of problems, and that is the Harry Kewell I want to see playing for Liverpool.”

Unfortunately for Kewell he has been treated unfairly by large sections of the Liverpool crowd. Harry’s injuries have stopped him playing as well as he could, and it has looked at times that maybe he wasn’t as interested as he could be. The time is right now for Liverpool fans to get behind the player, helping him to gain the confidence he needs after a lengthy lay-off. Rafa wants the fans to give him the time and support he needs: “Harry will need some time to get back to his best, but this is an important season for him. He is disappointed with how it has gone for him during his time here, but he is a professional who knows what he is capable of and he wants to play. He has more confidence in his fitness now. Maybe in the past he didn’t have that kind of confidence, but he does now.”

Continue reading Rafa: Harry’s game will help Crouch

Reply from Ken Dilanian of the Philadelphia Inquirer

We published our views earlier today on an article about Italian football violence that had included references to the Hillsborough disaster. The writer of the article, Ken Dilanian, was very quick to respond to us, explaining how he’d been given the wrong number of casualties and so on.

This is his reply:

Dear Jim,

Thanks for your note. I’m not sure this is the reply you are looking for, but I did research this incident, and in fact I read the Wikipedia article you referenced. I am well aware, therefore, that according to the government inquiry the cause of those tragic deaths was more complicated than fan violence. I don’t believe my article implied anything different. What it said was what experts on European football told me: That the Hillsborough disaster led to a crackdown on football violence and fan behavior in Britain. As for the figure of 93, I now see that I inadvertently used the initial figure (as indicated in the Associated Press account below). I see that the number has changed, and the BBC uses 96. I will therefore ask my editors to run a correction.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Best regards,

Ken Dilanian
Rome Correspondent
The Philadelphia Inquirer

The following article is the one that Ken referred to in his note. This was obviously written in the early aftermath of the disaster, and it does make difficult reading, for various reasons. You’ll also see the early efforts being made to shift blame as quickly as possible to the football supporters (of both sides) that were at the game that day. This is the exact article without any alterations made by us:

The Associated Press
April 15, 1989, Saturday, AM cycle

SECTION: Sports News
LENGTH: 682 words


In the bright sunshine of early spring, the cheers of English soccer fans turned to screams and then shock as a surging crowd crushed dozens to death in the stands Saturday.

Some were taken away on advertising billboards used as makeshift stretchers. Others lay motionless on the field as emergency medical teams tried desperately to save their lives as the English F.A. Cup semifinal turned into Britain’s worst sporting disaster.

Peter Wright, chief constable of the South Yorkshire Police said 93 people were killed and at least 200 injured.

One fan who survived sat in a corner of the stadium, numbed with shock, head in hands.

All around him, police gathered up clothing and belongings as ambulances sped across the green turf picking up bodies and ferrying the dead and injured to hospitals.

One doctor told of "sheer mayhem" when he ran to help the dying at Hillsborough Stadium.

"There was one chap I went to who was clinically dead," Dr. Glyn Phillips said. "He had no heartbeat."

Phillips said he managed to resuscitate the fan but added, "I don’t know what the state of his cerebral function is going to be."

The disaster occurred six minutes into the semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Hundreds of Liverpool fans who had no tickets surged through an open turnstile gate behind one of the goals to swell an already crowded section of the ground, soccer officials said.

Scores of fans were crushed or suffocated and within minutes, a crush barrier collapsed under the sheer weight of the crowd, sending hundreds of fans tumbling onto the concrete terracing and pouring on to the field.

The referee quickly took the players to the dressing rooms and 90 minutes later, the game was called off.

For a while, there was sporadic fighting between rival sets of fans, news reports said. Then, as the extent of the injuries became clear, the fighting stopped as officials and fans realized that what had happened had nothing to do with crowd violence, they said.

Supporters who survived accused game officials for allowing the unauthorized spectators into the stadium.

"It was ridiculous. They just opened the gates and waved them in," said one Liverpool fan who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I have two friends but I don’t know what’s happened to them. I was crushed up to one of the railings and got cuts to my arm but I was lucky to get out alive."

Another fan, 20-year-old Gary Stanley, said crowd control outside the ground was "crazy."

"There was complete madness and somehow the doors were opened," he said. "There were too many people in the section and I saw some people crushed against barriers. The arrangements were dreadful and I’ve still got a full ticket. I didn’t even have to show it to get in."

As police cleared the ground, fans wandered around aimlessly, their red-and-white scarves draped around their necks. Huge sections of the toughened steel barrier had been ripped away. Another part was bent out of shape like a pipe cleaner.

"Anybody whose chest was against that barrier would have been lucky to survive," said Dr. Bill Eastwood, consultant safety engineer for the Sheffield Wednesday club, which regularly plays at Hillsborough.

"It was a steel tube bent like a banana and assuming the person was 18 inches wide, there would have been 600 pounds of pressure on his chest."

Roger Taylor, chairman of Britain’s Football Association, said fans without tickets were allowed to approach turnstiles freely.

"When that happens at matches like this where demand for tickets far exceeds supply, you’re going to get a severe crushing at the turnstiles. That appears to have happened but no gates were broken down. They were opened. But I don’t know what took that decision."

As a full investigation was launched into one of Europe’s worst sporting tragedies, one of Britain’s top soccer officials summed up the feelings of a nation.

"I am deeply sorry that the day has ended this way," said English Football Association chief executive Graham Kelly. "We had six minutes of football and 1 1/2 hours of absolute bedlam."

Continue reading Reply from Ken Dilanian of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Please check your facts and tell the truth

To: Ken Dilanian kdilanian@fastwebnet.it.
Amanda Bennett (Editor) abennett@phillynews.com

This is an open note to the author of an article published on the website of an American newspaper today, and also to its editor and hopefully its readership.

On Monday October 17th 2005, an article published on the website of the Philadelphia National Inquirer made reference to the Hillsborough Disaster. Unfortunately the writer of the article failed to make any efforts to check the details of the disaster before publishing his story. The story can be found at: http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/breaking_news/12920688.htm. Unfortunately there is a requirement to register before reading the full article.

The article itself, headlined, “Italy calls penalty on violent soccer fans, ” was a report on changes in Italian law which will see stiffer penalties imposed on Italian hooligans, in the wake of the scenes at the Champions League fixture between Inter Milan and AC Milan last season. The article also talked about other problems in the game of football in Italy, including racist chants, regular missile throwing and even bribery allegations.

The reporter, Inquirer Staff Writer Ken Dilanian, then went on to imply that the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters in 1989 at the Hillsborough disaster were caused by violence. The article also reports incorrectly the actual number of supporters that died in the tragedy.

To quote the article: “Italian football was not always so marred by violence: In the 1980s, British fans were the problem.

“In 1985, 39 supporters of Italian club Juventus were crushed and killed during a stadium stampede in Brussels, Belgium, as they fled marauding Liverpool fans. But after a 1989 disaster at which 93 Liverpool backers were killed during a match with another English team, the British government cracked down by improving stadium security and banning violent fans.”

Mr Dilanian seems to be unaware that the 96 fans that died (as opposed to the 93 he mentions) did so because of events that were not related to violence. A number of factors led to those deaths, none of which involved violence. Much has been written about how the poor planning of the event and the actions of senior members of the police force in charge that day were responsible for the deaths. Mr Dilanian seems to have been unable to find a moment to check those facts before allowing his story to be published.

Mr Dilanian could have avoided offence to Liverpool supporters and more importantly the families of those that were killed that day if he had spent just a small amount of time checking his facts. The hurt and suffering that was caused that day in 1989 was made worse in the following days by the lies that were printed by a British national newspaper at the time. The Sun claimed that Liverpool supporters were guilty of unspeakable acts against their own fellow fans that day, when in fact they were heroes that day. The Sun suffered tremendously in terms of circulation figures in the Liverpool area after their lies were printed. A daily circulation in that part of the country that had been close to a quarter of a million has been reduced to a little over 10,000. And now we find that over 16 years later the lies and mistruths are still being peddled to the public. This time it is a newspaper from the United States, but the fact remains that the lies still hurt those who suffered that day.

What also hurts is that many of the disparaging remarks made after the disaster were made at the expense of the character of the people of the city of Liverpool. An impression was being made by The Sun newspaper that the people of Liverpool were all vermin, especially those that chose to follow Liverpool Football Club. The various proceedings that took place afterwards to investigate the cause of the disaster were designed to protect those police officers that had acted so poorly on the day. No punishment was ever given to any of those involved. Those that even prevented what few ambulances that were available from entering the stadium to tend for the injured and dying. Liverpool supporters had to rip advertising hoardings from the side of the field of play to use as makeshift stretchers. Supporters were trying to save lives, police officers were being ordered to push fans trying to avoid being crushed and suffocated to death back into the crush again.

The wounds of that day and the days that followed are still very much open for so many of the people of Liverpool. Just try for a moment to imagine if the people of Philadelphia had suffered a disaster like this and had then during their hours of grief had been portrayed in the way the people of Liverpool were. Imagine if Philly had lost so many of its people in a disaster in a neighbouring state, and it was found that the chief of police of that state had been responsible, yet remained unpunished.

I am sure that Mr Dilanian never intended to cause hurt in his article, but by not taking that small amount of time out to check some facts he has caused hurt. I hope that the reporter and the newspaper have the decency to do a little more investigation into the disaster and the suffering it caused, and to then correct their original article. An article in its own right would be a suitable way of putting the record straight.

For more information on the disaster, I would recommend spending a bit of time making use of the following websites:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_disaster
Liverpool FC: http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/lfc_story/memorial/
Hillsborough Justice Campaign: http://www.contrast.org/hillsborough/home.shtm

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I urge you to read more about this disaster and hope that you are able to ensure the truth is now published.

Jim Boardman
17th October 2005

Continue reading Please check your facts and tell the truth

Reds v Blackburn – post-match reaction

Rafael Benitez, talking about Djbril Cisse scoring return to the Reds starting line-up: "It is always important for a striker to score goals. People talked a lot about what was said in midweek and to score a goal he must be happy. We shook hands after his goal because he is a professional, we are both professionals. He worked hard, scored the goal and got us the win. And for him, after he broke his leg at Blackburn last season, this was a better outcome."

Rafa talking diplomatically about Blackburn’s expected game plan and their loss of a player:
"We knew we would be playing against a tough team today, we tried to continue the same way, play football, win the second ball and at set-pieces. You can score in the first minute or the last minute and it’s the same. It’s normal to create so many opportunities against ten men. We scored one goal but if it finished three-nil it would have probably been normal for playing against ten."

Blackburn boss and ex-Manc Mark Hughes talking about referee Mark Halsey’s red card for Zurab Khizanishvili: "I’d like him to look at that decision again because it changed the outcome of the game. After he originally gave the penalty he told my players it would probably be a yellow card, but after his linesman buzzed him and rightfully told him the ball was outside the box he showed him the red card. Would he have given a red card if it was a penalty or did he change his mind because it was outside the box?"

Hughes on how he felt they would have won with eleven men:
"It was hard to take, we started the game brightly and were the more dominant team, the sending-off changed the complexion of the game. Having spoken to the lads, the referee’s initial decision was that it was a penalty and he was pushed into seeing that was incorrect and when he goes over to the linesman he is saying it was likely to be a yellow card. But then he asked for clarification from his assistant and he is told the tackle was outside the box, then he comes back and gives him a red card."

Hughes, continuing to talk himself into an FA disciplinary hearing: "If he had given the penalty, would he have sent him off? The fact he didn’t give a penalty seemed to change his mind and give our lad the red card. It wasn’t a goalscoring opportunity, he wasn’t bearing down on goal and he was actually going away from the goal. There were players getting back and the referee needs to look at the decision because he has affected the outcome of the game and we will appeal."

Hughes on the sending off. Still: "If we don’t appeal we will lose him and also Lucas Neill at right-back, and that’s our cover taken out in one go. It changed the game. I thought we were excellent all day, we had to be determined and resolute and as the game went on I felt the only way we would concede was a set piece. Liverpool didn’t create anything in open play. You fear when they get a free kick on the edge of the box that something will happen but I can’t fault my players."
Continue reading Reds v Blackburn – post-match reaction

Riki is not going to be sold cut-price

Liverpool’s reported interest in Getafe striker Riki will only be successful if the Reds meet the full amount of the player’s buy-out clause.

The president of Getafe, Angel Torres, says his start player will not be sold for any less than the reported £4m stated in his contract. Scoring four goals so far this season, Riki has helped Getafe get to the top of the Primera Liga, and now Liverpool have been linked with a move for him. The player is capable of both scoring and playing out wide, two assets Rafa Benitez has been hunting for this season. Today’s win at home to Blackburn was by a single goal against ten men, and numerous chances were missed by the three strikers Rafa used. Although Zenden helped to improve Liverpool’s wide play today, Rafa still wants to improve in that department.

Deportivo La Coruna tried to buy 25-year-old Riki during the close-season, but weren’t able to match the money demanded by his club. According to Torres, Liverpool haven’t yet made any official move for him: "We realise Liverpool or any big club could want Riki, but nobody has officially spoken to us. I don’t know if they have spoken to his agent. I have to say that not Liverpool nor anyone are going to get him for 4million euros – they have to pay his buy-out clause."

Torres was speaking to Spanish newspaper Marca, and there’s every chance that Liverpool aren’t even interested in the player. Rafa’s name is often used in Spain now by clubs and players to increase bids for players. Torres has no need to speak to Marca about the player’s possible move away from the club, so perhaps he needs that £4m for the purchase of players elsewhere on the park. He says of Riki: "He is an adaptable striker who is in the news and it would be a shame for us to lose him, but it’s obvious that if someone pays his buy-out clause and he wants to go then there is nothing we can do about it. I am not surprised Liverpool may want him because he is in incredible form at the moment. Liverpool have scouts here and all over the place."

Continue reading Riki is not going to be sold cut-price

Premiership: Liverpool 1 Blackburn 0

FA Premier League Result. 15th October 2005.

Liverpool 1 Blackburn Rovers 0

Djibril Cisse scored the winner for Liverpool and after a celebration in front of the adoring Liverpool fans the Frenchman made a point of shaking the hand of manager Rafael Benitez.

Cisse had complained during his recent international duty about the amount of time he’d spent on the bench for Liverpool, feeling unwanted, especially after summertime links with a move back to France. Rafael Benitez had made public his opinion that all of his squad have to understand that they will be used sparingly with Liverpool involved in potentially so many games this season.

Cisse played the whole ninety minutes, it was England striker Peter Crouch that made way on 66 minutes for fit-again Spanish striker Fernando Morientes.

Referee Mark Halsey kept his cards in his pocket for most of the game, the only card being shown in the first half was red, for Blackburn’s Khizanishvili. His foul was considered professional by the ref, who also awarded a penalty to the Reds. However he spoke to his linesman and changed his mind, instead awarding a free-kick outside the area. No change of mind on the red card though. The other cards came late in the game, all in the space of four minutes and all yellows for Blackburn players.

Continue reading Premiership: Liverpool 1 Blackburn 0

Finnan will not face charges over road accident

Relief for Liverpool’s Republic of Ireland internation Steve Finnan who found out yesterday that charges had been dropped against him following a road traffic accident in January.

An 81-year-old man had died after spending five weeks in hospital after being hit in the accident. The 81-year-old was a pedestrian and Finnan had been arrested – in April – on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. 

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said yesterday that the case had been dropped because of a lack of evidence against the 29-year-old. In a statement, the CPS said: "We considered all the evidence carefully and concluded it was not sufficient for a reasonable prospect of conviction."

Continue reading Finnan will not face charges over road accident

Rafa: We’re working to get Crouch scoring

Rafael Benitez came out in support of Peter Crouch, the English media’s latest scapegoat for poor England play. Crouch is yet to score for the Reds since joining from Southampton this summer and Rafa has revealed how the rest of the squad are being shown how to provide the right sort of service for the player.

Crouch’s game is about more than his ability in the air, his reading of the game is excellent, his ability to create chances for team-mates is part of what makes him the player he is. Rafa says he’s pleased with Crouch’s start: "I’m like the supporters in that I’m happy with the way Crouch has played so far. Like any striker, though, he wants to score goals and it’ll be good for him when he does score. "

The Liverpool manager was frustrated in his attempts to sign some new wingers in the summer, and so he’s now working with the players he’s got to provide service for those strikers with good ability in the air: "People have suggested we need to get more crosses into the area for him and I agree with that. We’re working hard in training at finding ways to cross for Crouch and also Morientes."

Crouch is unlikely to start for England tonight, but the player he’s currently keeping out of the Liverpool side will be on international duty tonight. Djibril Cisse is expected to be used by France as they play with three strikers in a bid to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany.

Continue reading Rafa: We’re working to get Crouch scoring

Why blame Crouch?

Liverpool fans support Liverpool. Note the full-stop after the word Liverpool. If you asked most Reds supporters how they feel about their international team, you’ll find most of them aren’t really all that bothered. That goes especially for the English Liverpool fans.

When a World Cup or European Championships Finals tournament comes around then we’ll watch the matches and pretty much start to get into it. England may feature some Liverpool players, so we’ll cheer them on and wish them well. If they lose it’s not the end of the world. At next summer’s World Cup we may even be more interested in the fortunes of Spain, especially if Xabi and co get to play a starring role.

In a lot of cases Liverpool supporters are more interested in the fortunes of Ireland, because in a lot of cases Liverpool supporters are Irish enough to at least qualify to play for Ireland. The England national team tends to be more representative of England South. Not so much for where the players themselves may be from, but for the way that the coverage they get is written by the newspapers’ southern reporters. Even though the latest internationals have been played at Old Trafford, the slant is always on England South.

We wrote a couple of days ago about our frustration at Steven Gerrard picking up an injury on duty for England. The frustration was increased because the organisation that benefits from England’s success on the field, the FA, were giving Liverpool a hard time by saying they must pay compensation to Sunderland if they are to represent Europe in the World Club Championships in the summer.

Liverpool fans tend to treat their players like family. It’s OK for us to criticise a player, but if anyone else wants to have a go at them we’ll close ranks and defend them. For years criticism of Liverpool players by Liverpool fans was confined to the pub before the game, or a quiet chat to mates when waiting for kick-off. Once the players were on the pitch they’d all be supported 100%. Nowadays the internet brings us the chance to air views on a forum, readable by anyone, or in phone-ins, which are listened to by many. 
Continue reading Why blame Crouch?

Reds to try out Stockport youngster

Liverpool’s newly revamped scouting network continues to look for players from both at home and abroad and a youngster from Stockport could be the next one to join the Champions of Europe.

James Tunnicliffe is a a 16-year-old central defender who Liverpool have been watching for a while. The Reds have spoken to his current side Stockport County who have agreed for the player to spend a fortnight at Melwood. If both Liverpool and the youngster are happy at the end of the two weeks then the player will become a Red.

The details of the deal to make him a permanent Red are already in place, in a similar way to how Lincoln City sold Jack Hobbs to Liverpool in August.

Stockport’s manager Chris Turner said: "If the boy does well over at Liverpool then it is an opportunity with the European champions that doesn’t come along too often in life and it’s a chance for him. He is an exceptional talent and a boy that would be in our first team by the end of the season I am sure. There isn’t going to be too many times when the European champions are going to be coming for one of your players and it is an opportunity that we couldn’t really turn down."

Turner also hinted that Liverpool have acted much better than Chelsea who signed Harry Worley from Stockport in the summer. Chelsea, despite their money, failed to agree a reasonable fee and so Stockport now need to wait for a tribunal to decide a fee. Turner said of Worley: "He joined Chelsea but we haven’t had the tribunal and I must state that Liverpool have been very professional with James Tunnicliffe and they have been a pleasure to speak to and work with. They have both come through the centre of excellence and I think that shows just how good it is. Hopefully there won’t be any more leaving but we have got some talented young players and the club has to come first."

Continue reading Reds to try out Stockport youngster