Parry explains his trip to the States

We reported last night that Rick Parry had been spotted on the TV in attendance at a game of American football. The story was also reported by national newspapers today, but Parry denies there was any secrecy about his trip.

Parry spoke to the official website at www.liverpoolfc.tv to tell them what was going on. He said: "It certainly wasn’t a secret visit, having attended two games with a combined attendance of over 100,000 people.  I’ve actually known the Kraft family since meeting them in Boston back in 2001 and have had a longstanding invitation to visit the Gillette stadium, which is one of the very few privately funded stadia in the USA. They were keen for me to see at close hand how the matchday operation ran and I watched both the New England Revolution v Chicago Fire MLS game on Sunday and the New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts NFL fixture a day later. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss at length the way in which they had funded the construction of the ground."

As ever, you can read just about anything you like between the lines of what the Chief Executive said. One the one hand he did not deny outright interest in investment from Bob Kraft and his family, but on the other hand his explanation is more than plausible on its own.
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Parry spotted watching Kraft’s team

With Liverpool having a rest from first-team football due to the international break, the Reds’ Chief Executive Rick Parry jumped on a plane and headed off across the Atlantic. Mr Parry probably thought he was safe from being spotted by anyone who recognised him when he attended the American Football game between The New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

Unfortunately for Parry, the game was being watched by some Reds fans on TV, and when the US director decided to feature the Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft sitting in the stands, the eagled-eyed fans couldn’t help but notice a certain member of the Liverpool board sitting just behind.

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Gerrard and Crouch declare their love for Liverpool

After looking set to leave Anfield in the summer, Reds captain Steven Gerrard has said that now he’s staying he’d like it to be for good. Stevie spoke to the official Liverpool FC website about how he’s been thinking ahead to what he might do at the end of his playing days. Gerrard said: “I’m always thinking about what I’ll do after football. I know what the manager said in the summer but even before that it’s always been my idea to stay involved with this football club for as long as I can. I’ve been here since I was eight years of age and it would be wonderful to think I could still be here after hanging up my boots. Whether that’d be in a managerial or coaching capacity I’m not sure.”

Gerrard still has a good few playing years ahead of him, but there’s no harm in thinking ahead: “Of course, I’m still only 25 and the end of my playing career is still a long way off but the future is something that is constantly on my mind. Whatever happens I hope it is something linked with Liverpool. I learn things from the manager and coaching staff at Melwood every day and if I did ever become a boss then they’d influence me greatly, as would all the other fantastic manager’s and coaches I have worked under. My ideas and tactics would be based on theirs.”

Stevie also revealed some of the fun that Rafa and his staff are bringing to the training sessions at Melwood: “As part of our warm-up one day in training recently we did a bit of shadow boxing. It was the manager’s idea and it was just good to do something different. He must have got out of bed that morning, felt like Mohammed Ali and decided to get us all doing it. He ended up getting into a toy fight with Darren Potter though and came out the loser so I don’t think he’ll be doing that again!”

Gerrard is now on duty with the England squad in preparation for Saturday’s friendly with Argentina, alongside Reds team-mate Peter Crouch. Crouch has played 16 games for club and country without scoring, and is desperate to sort that out. He’s delighted with the support he’s getting from the Liverpool supporters, a big contrast the jeers of so-called England supporters in his last two appearances. Crouch says, “Everyone seems to be willing me to get that first goal and the fans here have been so great with me since I joined. I’m taking confidence from that. I’m desperate to score and I’m certain it’s going to come soon. I’m sure of it, so long as I keep working hard and getting in the right positions.”

Crouch feels that the support of his manager and the fans of his own team is what matters most of all, and that’s helped him to keep working away. The attitude of others, especially pundits, has been disgraceful and that’s not gone unnoticed by Crouch: “I’ve not been unduly affected by the criticism because of our fans’ support. It has taken me aback just how negative other people have been. I suppose that’s what happens if you don’t get on the scoresheet and I’m learning that when you join a high profile club you become an instant target.”

The taunts from so many parts of the media about the player’s height are becoming tiresome, but Crouch won’t let it get to him: “Things are scrutinised a lot more here, but as long as I’m doing a job which the manager, my team-mates and the fans are happy with, I won’t let it get me down. Maybe the criticism built up after the England game, but I’m not really interested what anyone outside Liverpool thinks now. Nobody here has a problem with me, so everyone else can say what they like.”

By using words like, “I’m not really interested what anyone outside Liverpool thinks now,” Crouch has endeared himself all the more to Reds fans – Liverpool come first, international stuff is a bonus at best. One of Liverpool’s most popular players is known to have that attitude towards England – he’s delighted to get a chance to play for them, and will give them his all, but they are second to Liverpool in his priorities.

Crouch was the most important player involved in the goals on Saturday without actually scoring, but was disappointed to miss out on breaking his duck: “I was gutted I couldn’t get that first goal on Saturday because I had the chances. I was delighted Xabi finished off the second, but I must admit I wanted it to be me celebrating a goal.”

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UEFA ban Anderlecht star for racism at Anfield

UEFA showed last night their will to stamp racism out of the game of football in Europe by banning Anderlecht’s Nenad JeÅ¡trović for three games after his alleged racist comments at Anfield last week.

JeÅ¡trović had only arrived on the pitch five minutes earlier, and after a minor clash with Liverpool’s Momo Sissoko he was overheard by the match referee hurling abuse at Sissoko. The referee said that the abuse was racist and sent the player off.

According to the UEFA website, “UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Committee found that the Anderlecht player had used a racially-motivated insult during an angry exchange with Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko in the 75th minute of the Group G game at Anfield.”

Anderlecht have two games left in Group G which the Serbo-Montenegrin will miss. He’ll also miss the next European game he’s otherwise eligible for, which is likely to be next season.

UEFA say the 29-year-old attacker is allowed to lodge an appeal, before midnight this Thursday. This sounds unlikely though, with the player commenting: “I accept the decision but I was on a losing ticket as the referee’s report said one thing, I said another. I am not a racist but unfortunately I don’t matter and the referee does.”

Last week in the aftermath of the sending off the player said he was at a loss to explain why the referee had acted in such a way, saying: “I don’t understand why the referee sent me off. Sissoko didn’t hear it and he looked surprised when I was sent off.”

TV coverage actually showed Sissoko looking in surprise at the comments being made, and then looking at the referee who was just a couple of yards away at the time. JeÅ¡trović was adamant he’d done no wrong, saying, “I participate in all the anti-racism events we have at Anderlecht and it’s difficult for me to think that everyone thinks I’m a racist, especially because I want to play in England one day. I like everyone and it’s not important to me what colour people are.”

The referee in question was Kim Milton Nielsen.

* UEFA will be holding a hearing for Middlesbrough defender Abel Xavier after his “B Sample” once again tested positive for a banned substance. The former Liverpool player had been tested positive in his original sample when the first test was taken on September 29th. The test game after Boro’s Uefa Cup clash with Xanthi. The hearing is set for 17th November and could see the player banned for at least a year. The player himself says he is stunned at the result, and feels there must be a simple explanation.

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Benitez: I want a lot more wins

When Liverpool suffered a defeat at Fulham in the league, and at Crystal Palace in the League Cup, the feeling was that Liverpool were a club in crisis. The wounds of a 4-1 defeat at home to Chelsea were still open and Liverpool’s league position was too low for comfort. Some were even trying to say that European success was easier than domestic success.

Rafael Benitez was not happy to see his team look uninterested in the defeat against Fulham, calling them in for extra training the following day. He made it clear he wanted more commitment from his players, and those thoughts were echoed by club captain Steven Gerrard after the Palace defeat. The warnings seemed to be heeded, and Rafa got commitment from his charges. Now Liverpool have won three games in a row and the manager says it is no surprise as he feels his squad is much more well equipped than last season. Speaking after the weekend defeat of Aston Villa, Rafa said: “People have been talking about crisis but you can see that the team is stronger than last season. We can score goals, we can control the game, we can create chances and we’ve had clean sheet. As a manager, I only need to correct some mistakes.”

The three wins have all come in the space of a week, and see Liverpool moving the right way in the table. Rafa explains how he wasn’t going to be drawn into the panic that some supporters were creating: “As I always say, after a Sunday there is a Monday. In football, you must be calm, you must analyse the situation with calmness and afterwards say ‘OK, I need to do this and this’. We could say that this week has been really important but I hope to see a lot more wins over the season.”

Benitez made three changes during the game, all three of a positive nature with Peter Crouch, Harry Kewell and Boudewijn Zenden being brought on. To Benitez, these changes allowed Liverpool to add to the control of the game they had shown throughout by actually being able to put some chances away. Rafa said: “I think it was Harry, Zenden and Crouch who changed the game. Crouch gives to us many things – he can keep the ball in the air, he can give the players around him more space. He can give to us something that the other players can’t. It’s important to have more than one option.”

When Morientes got a goal in midweek it was clear that this was going to give his confidence a much-needed boost, but with Crouch the boss feels that he has a player who is confident regardless of his lack of goals so far: “He has confidence. You can only score if you continue trying and trying. If you give up, then you won’t. But the most important thing is the team winning the game.”

Rafa was also pleased to put the statistic of not winning immediately after a Champions League game to bed once and for all. It was the first win in twenty attempts after a midweek European Cup game, and again the boss feels it has a part in raising confidence amongst the players: “It’s another statistic that we can change and it will be important for our confidence for the future. We want to play a lot of Champions League games this year and we need to win after them.”

Liverpool’s league position still sees them in the bottom half, but with a game or two in hand on everyone else in the table this is a little misleading. In theory they could get to eighth in the table if they won one game in hand. The teams above that in positions four to seven would all be one point ahead of Liverpool. That fourth-placed team is Arsenal, who are one point behind third-placed Manchester United, and they were the two teams considered as Chelsea’s main rivals for the title at the start of the season. Liverpool are in touching distance of catching both of those teams.

Wigan are the surprise package so far this season though, sitting in second place, six points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. Former Reds reserve Paul Jewell may yet prove to be the biggest threat to Liverpool’s hopes of a top-three finish this season.

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Internationals: Eriksson praises Crouch, Carragher injured

Sven Goran Eriksson has included Reds striker Peter Crouch in his England squad for the weekend friendly against Argentina in Geneva. He is joined by team-mate Steven Gerrard in the squad, but Jamie Carragher has been ruled out with an injury picked up in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Crouch has suffered jeers during his last two England games, not surprising though considering the games were played at the home of American-owned Manchester United. Crouch has also got a lot of stick from “experts” due to his lack of a goal in his 16 games for club and country since he made his debut for England at the end of last season. Eriksson, like Liverpool boss Benitez, feels that goals are only part of what makes Crouch an important player to have available, and feels that the jeers are damaging to England. Speaking yesterday, Eriksson said: “It’s a pity – he will not be better by being booed. Crouch is maybe not the most elegant footballer in the world but he’s very, very special.”

Crouch made the difference at Villa Park on Saturday, involved heavily in the build up to the penalty and also the second goal. The media are obsessed with his height, but his control of the ball at his feet is also an important aspect of his game, as is the fact he puts so much work in when he’s on the pitch. Eriksson is fond of him: “He’s a good boy, very honest, a hard worker, and against Austria he covered a lot of ground, more than any other England player, and that is very strange. Normally a centre-forward doesn’t do that. He’s very special. He is more special than any other footballer I have ever had.”

Eriksson also feels that Crouch will get better with every game: “Crouch is young, inexperienced, but every time he plays for Liverpool he gets more and more experience. I don’t know if he will be in the squad for the World Cup next summer. But I would like to have him in because he is very, very special, because he gives us things not many can give.”

And in terms of the striker hitting the back of the net, Eriksson of course knows that Crouch has to start scoring soon, but says the lack of it doesn’t make him a poor player: “I would like to see Crouch score a lot of goals, but that doesn’t take away that he is very special. He is tall, and up in the air he wins a lot of things. He is a very good target man, he creates problems always to opponents. I know he is not a goalscorer yet but he does give you so many options. I am sure he will score goals and he showed that for Southampton with 16 goals last season. It is all about confidence.”

Ex-reds Michael Owen and David James were also included in the squad. Reds goalkeeper Chris Kirkland – currently on loan at West Brom – was unavailable after being injured for Albion recently.

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Things starting to turn round for Reds

When Liverpool played Spurs in April, the Reds were awarded a penalty. That game followed their second-leg Champions League quarter final against Juventus, which saw them through to the Champions League semi-finals, where they would beat Chelsea en route to Istanbul and winning the competition. The patter of Liverpool being unable to win after playing in Europe in midweek continued that day – the Anfield fixture ended 2-2 and included a missed penalty from Steven Gerrard.
When Liverpool get a penalty these days there’s mixed feelings as the fans wait to see who will step up to take it. Djibril Cisse seems to be the first choice taker these days, but he was already off the field by the time yesterday’s was awarded. Xabi Alonso scored in Istanbul, but it was from the rebound after his penalty was well-saved. Perhaps his confidence has gone and in the end it was a surprise to see Gerrard step up for the nerve-wracking task.

In April, after he’d seen his penalty saved Gerrard said never again: “I should have scored the penalty and I apologise to the the fans and players. I should have won the game for Liverpool. That’s the end of me now on penalties.” Gerrard has changed his mind on other issues in recent months – something or other happened in the summer, what it was escapes us just now. Certainly Villa keeper Sorenson was looking useful in goal, making important saves, so it took a lot of courage for Gerrard to put the ball on that slot. In the end it was a well-taken penalty and Gerrard looked relieved.

One player who did not look likely to try and take the penalty was Peter Crouch, but he deserves the credit for winning it. Ridgewell and Crouch were tangling in the box, and whether or not it was a penalty was open to argument, certainly in the eyes of under-pressure David O’Leary. He and Ridgewell claimed after the game that these types of incident happen all of the time and a foul is never awarded. Crouch said he was stopped from getting up to head the ball, and so it was a penalty. Crouch’s role in getting the penalty wasn’t just the fact he was in the box waiting to get up for Zenden’s cross. He had kept possession for Liverpool 40 yards out when surrounded by numerous Villa players, found a team-mate and then darted into the box. By the time he got there Zenden was ready to cross the ball over to him and that’s when the penalty was awarded.

Alonso’s goal came after Crouch had seen the ball kicked off his toe in front of goal, an excellent block from the Villa defender. Villa were unlucky that the ball fell to Alonso, who is unlikely to miss when given a clear sight of goal like that.

Crouch is going to continue to hear about his “duck” for Liverpool, but he can take heart from the impact of his twenty-minute appearance. He’ll get that first goal soon, and when his goalscoring matches is all-round contribution to the team and his attitude, Rafa’s reasons for signing him will become clear to those in doubt. Those in doubt though, or those wishing to stir things up, are still asking questions, but Rafa says he still happy with Crouch: “People keep asking me about Peter’s failure to score but I say many times that if he plays well and we win, it is enough. He has done a very good job for us and definitely gives us more options and alternatives in attack. Of course, he will be more confident if he scores but if he plays as well as he did against Villa I will be happy.”

Liverpool have now won three games in a row and have finally shaken off that statistic of not winning after playing in Europe. Unfortunately for Liverpool though is the arrival of another international break. World Cup play-offs start next weekend, and many Liverpool stars will be away from Melwood either on duty in those play-offs or involved in friendlies. Rafa will be hoping they come back without injuries and ready to continue from where they left off at Villa yesterday.

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Premiership Result: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 2

FA Barclays Premiership Result.

Aston Villa 0 – 2 Liverpool (S Gerrard 85 (pen), X Alonso 89)
Half-time: 0-0

Aston Villa: T Sorensen, M Delaney, O Mellberg, L Ridgewell, G Barry, S Davis, G McCann, E Bakke (L Hendrie, 82) , J Milner, M Baros, K Phillips (J Angel, 61)
Subs: J Samuel, S Taylor, L Moore
Bookings: G Barry 13, G McCann 24

Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, J Riise, S Gerrard, X Alonso, M Sissoko, S Luis Garcia (B Zenden, 57) , F Morientes (P Crouch, 68) , D Cisse (H Kewell, 76)
Subs: J Dudek, H Kewell, P Crouch, S Warnock, B Zenden
Bookings: M Sissoko 25, X Alonso 80

Referee: S Bennett
Attendance: 42551
Continue reading Premiership Result: Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 2

Teams: Aston Villa v Liverpool

The two teams for today’s Villa v Liverpool match have been announced. The only change Liverpool have made to the side that won 3-0 against Anderlecht on Tuesday sees Djibril Cisse coming in for Peter Crouch. Crouch is therefore denied a start against his former club, unlike former Red Milan Baros who is selected for Villa alongside Kevin Phillips.

Aston Villa: T Sorensen, M Delaney, O Mellberg, L Ridgewell, G Barry, S Davis, G McCann, E Bakke, J Milner, M Baros, K Phillips. Subs: J Samuel, L Hendrie, J Angel, S Taylor, L Moore

Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, J Riise, S Gerrard, X Alonso, M Sissoko, S Luis Garcia, F Morientes, D Cisse. Subs: J Dudek, H Kewell, P Crouch, S Warnock, B Zenden

Ref: S Bennett

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Baros and Morientes racing for fitness

All the recent talk of droughts for Liverpool’s strikers won’t be lost on former-Red Milan Baros. Baros was sold in the summer, after a few outbursts in the press attributed to him complaining of the rotation policy Rafa Benitez uses. Now Liverpool are to face his new club tomorrow, if Baros recovers from injury he might be looking for revenge. Baros was certainly popular, if a little frustrating at times, when he was a Reds player. If the player himself had been able to be a little more patient then perhaps he’d still be at Anfield and be making improvements to his game all the time. Rafa Benitez says he was sad to let Baros go, but that it was for the good of the club as a whole: "I think Baros will get a good reception from the Liverpool supporters. It’s a pity we had to sell him, but we know he’s a good player who can score goals. I’m not sure if he’ll be fit for the game, but when he is he will be a good player for Aston Villa, we know that. But now we are thinking about our own team and how well we can play."

Liverpool head into tomorrow’s fixture with Aston Villa with only Fernando Morientes as a doubt for the game. Morientes limped out of the Champions League win against Anderlecht on Tuesday night after scoring earlier in the game. It was a goal that Morientes had been desperate to get to try and shut the critics up. When it came it was an excellent finish and he went a little overboard in celebrating, according to Rafa: "Morientes was hurt in the celebration of his goal. It’s not a big problem, but he felt a bit of pain."

Liverpool are leaving their options open on whether to include the player in the squad, although the more time goes on the less likely he is to make it. Rafa Benitez told reporters he was planning to assess the player at Melwood today: "We will see how he is during the training session and then we will make a decision." If he does play Rafa is confident he’ll play well: "He is a player with the right mentality and who does the right things. He is a winner, he trains with a smile on his face and I’m sure he’ll score more goals."

Should Morientes miss the game then this would normally have left the door open for a return to at least the bench for Florent Sinama-Pongolle. The French youngster scored in the second-half of Liverpool Reserves’ draw with Manchester City on Wednesday, but was later sent off for dissent. Red cards in reserve fixtures count towards first-team suspensions and so Pongolle now can’t be included in the squad.

Also playing in that reserve fixture was goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek. Dudek’s future was uncertain during the summer transfer window, despite his heroics in Istanbul. Benitez did not include him in any Champions League line-ups, and so Dudek was not cup-tied for Europe. Then the Polish keeper suffered an elbow injury and so whatever Liverpool might have had planned for him, there was no way he was going anywhere. Now he’s hoping to be given a chance to impress: "If I get the chance I know I’m going to take it and do what Pepe is doing just now. He has done very well because I know myself how hard it is to come to a new country and establish yourself. He’s a very good keeper, but I want my place back."

It’s hard to think of Dudek without remembering his actions in Turkey, but Rafael Benitez is not going to let sentiment get in his way. Dudek also has to overtake Scott Carson who has been second-choice this season. Liverpool fans would love the chance to see Dudek take to the pitch at Anfield at least one more time, if only to say "thanks", but that chance may not come.
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