Finnan hurt by “lies” against him

Steve Finnan has told the official Liverpool FC website that he was hurt by allegations he made racist remarks at Old Trafford in January.

Two Manchester United supporters reported Finnan to the police after claiming they lip-read the player making comments of a racist nature to Patrice Evra towards the end of the clash between Liverpool and United. Liverpool were absolutely stunned to hear the accusations, especially considering the first the club knew of it was through the media. Liverpool brought in a lip-reader to look at the alleged incident and this lip-reader confirmed the allegations were false. Ian Cotton the Liverpool club spokesman was clear: “The first either the club or the player knew about this matter was through the media. There has been absolutely no contact from the Greater Manchester police. We have subsequently had a video of the match analysed by a lip-reader, who has told us there is nothing to support this outrageous slur. The player vehemently denies these allegations. He has not used any such language.”

Greater Manchester Police confirmed they were “investigating” the complaints, which coincidentally only appeared after Liverpool had knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup.

Speaking to the official LFC website, Finnan made it clear how upset he was at the allegations: “I was astonished when I heard of the accusations and I categorically deny them. It was disappointing to read the stories in the press. To suggest I would use racist language is very hurtful.”

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Rafa wants Pako to stay

Rafael Benitez could be set to lose on of his coaches at the end of the season as Paco Herrera looks to head back home to Spain at the end of his contract in the summer. According to the Liverpool Echo, Herrera never brought his family over to England when he arrived a little under two years ago and now wants to get back to them.

Not to be confused with Pako (with a ‘k’) Ayesteran, Rafa’s assistant manager, Paco (with a ‘c’) helps look after the reserves. In fact he has been instrumental in bringing new young talent to the club. Paco was hired as scout originally, and he’s used his scouting skills to help find the likes of Jack Hobbs, Paul Anderson and Antonio Barragan. As a result Liverpool’s reserve side is more of a super-charged youth team than a place for overpaid unwanted former first teamers to sit out their contracts. Some of those youngsters have joined with members of the Academy’s under-18 side to compete in the FA Youth Cup, a competition they are strongly tipped to win and are already in the semi-finals of.

Benitez wants to try and work out some kind of solution that sees Paco remain at Anfield after his contract ends. Rafa said: “We are talking about Paco’s future because he is an important person for us and he’s doing a very good job. It’s a possibility he will stay, but it’s also possible he will return to Spain because his family is there. We are thinking about a possible solution.”

One option considered for Herrera is to keep him as chief scout which could allow him to scout the continent from a Spanish base. Rafa’s determination to keep Herrera at the club shows that the reports we predicted linking Rafa with a move back to Real are miles away from any truth. Rafa knew he was going to be asked about the Real job as soon as the President resigned, and was ready to answer the inevitable questions: “I have a clear idea whenever anyone in Spain talks about this. I am focused on three competitions with my club, Liverpool. I want to win every game. I hear information from Spain, but my priority is the next game against Charlton, the Champions League and the FA Cup.”

Rafa was at Anfield last night to see three of his team help England to a 2-1 win over Uruguay. Peter Crouch scored with his head to give England the equaliser, Jamie Carragher performed very well as expected at left-back after being brought on due to an injury. England boss Sven Goran Eriksson was pleased with Crouch’s work, and although not saying he would definitely be off to Germany he certainly gave him encouragement: “That’s Peter Crouch. He’s different. I will not promise him a World Cup place, but it will difficult to leave him out.” The same has to be said for Jamie Carragher – his performance at left back proving just how valuable a squad player he would be for England, although a poor performance from Rio Ferdinand last night could even open the door to Carragher playing in his best role for England this summer. However, this is England of course and a lot depends on what the reporters of London decide they’d like to see.

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Eriksson: YNWA makes me freeze

Tonight’s England match at Anfield is part of the country’s preparations for the World Cup, and Steven Gerrard says that by the time they’ve played this and their next two friendlies they’ll be ready and hungry. According to Stevie, England want to do really well in Germany: “By the time the first game comes around, this team will be ready. Fingers crossed we will keep everyone fit. I think you will see a hungry England team.”

As for resting for England games, Gerrard enjoys playing far too much to enjoy being left out: “I want to play in as many matches as possible. I want more nights like Istanbul. I’m sure if we were to reach the World Cup final, it would match it if not better it.” Although that last comment might upset some Liverpool fans, winning the World Cup would be an achievement up there with winning the European Cup. Stevie loves to play and England is his country – he wants as many medals as possible.

Stevie’s boss for England, for the time-being at least, is Swede Sven Goran Eriksson. Eriksson spoke today about how he had a chance to meet the great Joe Fagan during a visit to the Anfield boot room thirty years ago. Fagan was in Liverpool’s boot room during a long period of Liverpool’s success, taking on the manager’s job in time to win the European Cup, League and League Cup treble in 1984. Eriksson explained: “As a young man I came here to Anfield now and then, and I visited the famous bootroom. Joe Fagan invited me there thirty years ago. I saw them training and I saw them play in games many times and I learned many things.”

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Momo will be back say Reds midfielders

Momo Sissoko’s fellow team-mates are thinking about him as he starts the road to recovery from the eye injury he suffered in Portugal last week. Sissoko could be back before the end of the season although there’s still some way to go before the full extent of the damage will be known. So far so good, medical specialists reporting they are pleased with his progress and he’s been able to read sight charts with his sore eye.

Liverpool are glad to have had Dietmar Hamann available to call on with Momo being unavailable, and Didi said it was tough to leave the Mali international behind when they were leaving Portugal: “He’s a great young player, improving all the time at Liverpool and I’m sure he’ll recover as soon as possible and be back fighting for every ball in midfield. He was actually in the dressing room at half time being treated but we had a lot to talk about and so weren’t able to do much except tell him to keep his chin up. It was arriving at the airport knowing that we were leaving somebody behind when it struck us how bad the injury must be.”

Speaking to Liverpool’s official weekly magazine, LFC, Didi said: “We went over there with a full squad and we wanted to leave with a full squad. That’s how it is here. We win, lose and draw as a team and we fight as a team. You never like leaving anybody behind. He has everyone’s support at the club and we are all thinking about him and hoping he makes a full recovery.”

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Kromkamp happy with beautiful step

Liverpool’s right wing-back Jan Kromkamp answered his international coach’s strange comments earlier in the week by insisting he’s happy with his new club. The Dutch coach Marco Van Basten claimed Kromkamp had made a big mistake in leaving Holland to play in Spain and then England. Van Basten was also unhappy at not getting enough time with his players for him to be able to name his World Cup squad, yet left Kromkamp out of his squad for tonight’s friendly with Ecuador.

Kromkamp obviously doesn’t want to burn any bridges and so was quite guarded in his response, saying: “I don’t want to say too much about it. I just can only say that I have got the feeling, that for myself, I have made a beautiful step. I’m very fit and I feel very happy here. If the national coach would appeal to me, then I’m ready for it. And if he finds that others are better, then he has to take someone else. Of course I would love to go to the World Cup, but I can only wait and do my best.”

Marco van Basten’s comments come despite the fact that he spent around half of his playing career outside Holland, playing for AC Milan in Italy. Perhaps van Basten has built up a dislike for Liverpool after they beat his old team in Istanbul last season, but whatever his reasons it makes him sound very arrogant and these comments would have been better said away from the press.

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“The Kop” won’t bait Neville tonight

Anfield will be packed tonight for the visit of the England national team in what should have been their last match away from Wembley. The new super-ground wasn’t going to be ready in time though of course and so England will play their last home friendlies before the World Cup at Old Trafford.

Although the ground will undoubtedly contain a lot of Liverpool supporters, it’s not entirely accurate to call the gathering of fans at one end of the stadium “The Kop”. That part of the ground is called “The Kop Grandstand”, it used to be called “The Spion Kop”, but “The Kop” is about more than concrete and plastic seats. “The Kop” is the collection of Liverpool supporters who sit there for Liverpool games, who used to stand there for Liverpool games. The individual supporters making up “The Kop” may have changed over the years, in some cases for the worse, but in the main “The Kop” consists of the best supporters in the world, a label few neutrals would argue with. Tonight “The Kop Grandstand” will not be populated by “The Kop”.

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