Neil Fitzmaurice: “People were suffocating”

Neil Fitzmaurice as Eddie Doig in MobileWriter and actor Neil Fitzmaurice stars in a new three-part drama, ‘Mobile’, starting on ITV1 in the UK on Monday, playing the part of a character who he has one major thing in common with. The character he plays is called Eddie Doig, a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster still suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. In real life Neil himself was a survivor of the terrible events in the Leppings Lane end that saw ninety-six Liverpool supporters die. He still suffers to this day as a result.

Neil is well-known for his work with Peter Kay – they co-wrote ‘Phoenix Nights’ in which Neil played the part of Ray Von. He also co-wrote and starred in some of the ‘That Peter Kay Thing’ series.

Neil wasn’t chosen for the part of Eddie because of his own experiences of Hillsborough, because it was something he’d not spoken about in public before. However, as he told the Daily Mirror, as soon as he saw the script he felt he was the right person to play the part: “When I was cast for the role of Eddie nobody knew I'd been at Hillsborough nor suffered from post-traumatic stress because I've never told anybody before, but when I saw the script it was as though the part had been written for me. The fact that Eddie had been a victim of Hillsborough leapt out at me and I knew, because of my personal experience, that I could do the role justice.”

It’s the 18th anniversary of Hillsborough next month, yet the years haven’t allowed the memories of April 15th 1989 to fade for Neil, or for other survivors of the day. His story is extremely moving. Ninety-six people died, but thousands of supporters had to witness those events first-hand and those kinds of memories don’t go away. Now 37, Neil talks about the harrowing scenes as though they happened yesterday.

Continue reading Neil Fitzmaurice: “People were suffocating”

Echo: New owners want 76,000 capacity

Tom Hicks and George Gillett will next be at Anfield on March 31st for the visit of Arsenal by which time it’s hoped there’s more clarity about their wishes to make the new Anfield bigger than expected. Today the club’s chief executive Rick Parry confirmed that all work on the new ground had been brought to a temporary halt until the new proposals had been finalised: “They are conducting a very swift review of what is possible. Yes work has been halted very temporarily, but their commitment to the new stadium is total, there’s no question of that.”

As Parry says, it would be almost negligent of the new owners not to investigate alternative possibilities for the new venue, considering their own experiences in US venues in the past. “If there is going to be a review of what might be possible, now is the time,” said Parry. “If there are going to be any changes, however, it will be a case of scaling up, not downscaling. They are experts in this field and I’m constantly hearing phrases like ‘best in the world’.”

Parry hinted further at the desire to at least allow for a future increase in capacity: “They just want to understand exactly what the options are for the future. If there are ways of constructing the stadium which would allow for future expansion, they want to investigate it. It makes perfect common sense.”

When Rick Parry announced some time ago, before any new investment in the club had been found, that it was impossible to ever expand the new stadium once it was built it was met with derision by many people. Parry was quite clear at the time though – it could not be expanded once built. Hicks and Gillett obviously saw this as a challenge: “They don’t want to steam ahead into something which might prevent expansion in the future. Construction deadlines won’t change, however. Any changes will be discussed in the next few weeks and actual building-work will commence on the planned date.”

An idea for the new ground which keeps being mentioned is the use of underground executive boxes, which allow guests to be entertained in luxury before being taken up to the stands by lift to watch the actual game. Hicks has this facility at his Texas Rangers stadium, a legacy from when George W Bush was owner and wanted a safe place for his father to watch the game – his father was the president at that time. It’s an idea that’s taking off in the US with Dallas Cowboys planning similar features in their new stadium.

Hicks had said last month that the plans were being reviewed by their own US architects, saying: “We said, ‘Here are the constraints, take a fresh look and see if there are other ideas we can incorporate on the inside that would make it more fan-friendly, produce more revenues and give more customer satisfaction’. They are working on ideas – What we have to do is strike a balance between new ideas and Yankee ingenuity at the same time as protecting the traditions of Liverpool and Anfield. We’re going to do that very quickly.”

As for the underground executive suites, known as “bunker suites”, he said: “We kind of stumbled into the concept of the bunker suites. But it’s essentially an underground living room where you can go down and have fine food, fine wine, big-screen TVs, and then go up and watch the pitch live.”

According to the Liverpool Echo, the figure the new owners have in mind for the capacity is 76,000, very close to the 80,000 that Rick Parry had dismissed earlier in the day. The story was written by chief sports writer and Everton correspondent David Prentice rather than the usual Liverpool FC correspondent Chris Bascombe.

Continue reading Echo: New owners want 76,000 capacity

Liverpool FC: 115 years old today

Liverpool Football Club today celebrates its 115th birthday. Most Reds are aware of how Liverpool FC came about in the wake of some late 19th century bitterness from the side that used to be based at Anfield – Everton. Businessman John Houlding took the decision (after years of financial support for what is nowadays the smaller of the two clubs) of forming a new club to play at the now vacant Anfield.

The club was formed on 15th March 1892 in Mr Houlding’s house which was on Anfield Road.

To read the story in full, please visit the club’s official website for a very informative article. The following is a short extract:

“The official split between Houlding and Everton took place on the 12th of March 1892. At a members meeting one of the opponents George Mahon, led the meeting when John Houlding unexpectedly turned up. Mahon stood up to give the club's President the chair. But surrounded by ‘enemies’ Mr. Houlding said the famous words: ‘I'm here on a trial, and a criminal never takes the chair’. He then left the club with 18-19 other members.

“Liverpool F.C. was formed on the 15th of March 1892. It was at John Houlding's house in Anfield Road that he and his closest friends left from Everton FC, formed a new club. William.E.Barclay, a great football enthusiast, strongly suggested that they should go on with a new name: Liverpool.”

Continue reading Liverpool FC: 115 years old today

Parry dismisses 80,000-seater idea

Liverpool Chief Executive Rick Parry has spoken out about the reports Liverpool are looking to make changes to their stadium plans in the new era under American ownership.

The plans for the new stadium to replace Anfield have all been passed and approved and preparatory work on the building site had already begun. However when Mr Gillett and Mr Hicks took over they expressed a desire to review the plans to see if any improvements could be made, including an increase to the planned 60,000 capacity.

Some reports have claimed an increase in capacity as high as 80,000, but Parry said this figure had been “plucked out of the air”.

As we said earlier, the review of the stadium got underway almost as soon as the new owners took over, but Parry confirmed that the review is taking into consideration all of the restrictions that are in place over any potential changes: “A review is in progress, but the new owners are very aware of the current planning approval and it's link with the regeneration of the surrounding area.”

As for the 80,000-seater idea: “I have no idea where that idea has come from, seemingly plucked out of the air,” said Parry.

Wherever the figure has come from, a lot of fans would dearly love to see the club with a stadium of that size because far too many people find it difficult to get to see a game for one reason or another. If it can’t be increased to be that size from the beginning, there is a genuine need to have flexibility to redevelop to that size in the future.

The plans that have been approved don’t allow for an future expansion, but to move away too far from those plans would cause inevitable delays, and Parry says the club just don’t want that: “We are planning that the stadium would be completed within two or three years, and we do not want to alter those plans. There is no desire to start the whole planning process again.”

The review has clearly got to a stage now where the desired alterations have been drawn up and according to some reports the council have been shown these potential changes. They are said to have found no reasons to oppose the changes at this stage, but of course informal decisions will count for nothing by the time the council are told officially of the changes.

Continue reading Parry dismisses 80,000-seater idea

Reds look to add further 5000 seats to New Anfield

Liverpool FC’s plans for their new stadium have reportedly put on hold to accommodate some new ideas by the new owners. There have been rumours throughout the week that the club were going to halt work on the existing proposals in order to start the process of a completely different design and a massively increased stadium. However it’s more likely to be nothing more than a slight increase on the previous plans for a 60,000 capacity stadium.

New owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks admitted on takeover day that they would be getting their own experts from the States to look at the plans to see how things could be improved, but acknowledged there were certain parameters that had to be stuck to. One of the biggest constraints on capacity at the new stadium is the fact that the local transport infrastructure is unable to cope with anything much higher than the 60,000 seats planned. The local roads just aren’t wide enough, and earlier ideas to utilise a nearby freight branch line to bring a rail link to the ground were never fully explored. As well as those issues, there are issues about size and appearance, and if major changes were made to either then most of the planning procedures would need to be restarted. To get around this the club could restrict their changes to the internal layout of the stadium.

Yesterday a club spokesman confirmed a review of the plans was underway, but this is no more than what Hicks and Gillett had promised at the historic press conference: “There is a total commitment to a new stadium, but the new owners are conducting a thorough review of the current proposals, to see if there is any way they can be improved.”

Continue reading Reds look to add further 5000 seats to New Anfield

Last chance to help make Bob “Sir”

Today sees the closing date for the petition to award English football's most successful manager a posthumous Knighthood.

Bob Paisley won three of Liverpool's five European Cups, as well as six league titles. Not a bad return from his nine years in charge of English football's most successful clubs. He built on what Bill Shankly did and brought us even more success than we could have dreamed of.

When this site first mentioned the petition the number of signatories stood at just over 900. At the time of writing today there are just short of 41,000 names on the list!

If you've not already signed then I urge you to do so today. Aides to the Prime Minister Tony Blair have hinted previously that he will take these demonstrations of mass support for a cause seriously, and although Knighthoods have never been awarded posthumously before this has a good chance of being the first time for it to happen.

The Reds current vice-captain, defender Jamie Carragher, is the type of player Bob Paisley would have been proud of, and he is one of those backing the campaign: "I was never fortunate enough to play under Bob Paisley, but everyone at Anfield knows what a great manager and a great man he was. You only have to look at his record as a manager to realise that he was up there with the best – three European Cups speaks for itself."

Even Mark Lawrenson took sime time out from his work as a pundit to add his approval to the appeal: "I think it would be fantastic – he was a brilliant manager," said the former Reds defender. "Everyone in the team I played for – the Sounesses, Hansens, Dalglishes and Rushes of this world – would be absolutely delighted if this comes about."

Visit to sign the petition. Today!

Continue reading Last chance to help make Bob “Sir”

Tom and George take unconditional control of Reds

Liverpool have now been officially taken over by American tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks. The pair, through their company Kop Football, had already bought David Moores' majority shareholding, but have now obtained the 75% they needed to secure unconditional control of the club.

A statement was issued to the Stock Exchange this morning saying the Gillette and Hicks had "received valid acceptances in respect of 28,089 Liverpool shares, representing approximately 80.7% of Liverpool's issued share capital to which the offer relates".

Those shares have cost Gillett and Hicks £5000 each, in an offer to shareholders which was due to end on Monday. The offer also included a guarantee that those who sold their shares in time would retain their rights to tickets permanently, along with the offer of being allowed a season ticket as soon as the new stadium is built. The pair have the 75% shareholding they needed, but have decided to keep the offer open until Monday March 26th, at 3pm.

The next target for the pair would be to obtain a 90% shareholding, which allows them to carry out a compulsory purchase of the remaining shares for a full takeover.

Tom and George were at Anfield on Tuesday night to witness why Liverpool FC are such a special club, and were by all accounts taken aback. They saw Liverpool progress to the last eight of the Champions League on away goals, knocking out holders Barcelona in the process.

Continue reading Tom and George take unconditional control of Reds

Xabi: We must not look too far ahead

Liverpool’s players were all delighted to get through to the last eight of the Champions League after beating Barcelona over two legs, but Xabi Alonso wanted to just calm everyone down a little before they got carried away.

Liverpool’s success, against the holders, was described by Jamie Carragher as possibly Liverpool’s biggest European win outside of a final, but Xabi says that it will count for nothing when the next round gets underway: “Beating the champions is a great achievement but we have take it step by step and be realistic. We are going to meet a tough team in the quarter-finals and it’s best not to look too far ahead.”

Xabi said that last night’s match was unlike the first leg, and became tough after the goal from Barcelona: “It was different to the game at the Camp Nou. The last 15 minutes after they scored was hard and we had to defend very well to stop them doing it again as we would have been out. It was a shame that Gudjohnsen got a goal because we had several chances.”

Gudjohnsen’s goal came after Liverpool fans had greeted him onto the field with chants of “Where were you in Istanbul?”, and he was booed every time he touched the ball. This wasn’t purely because he was a Chelsea player, it goes back to the semi-final first leg in 2005 when he took a dive to get Xabi Alonso booked, then taunted Xabi because he knew he’d miss the second leg as a result. Gudjohnsen’s still paying back the Karma for that it would seem.

Xabi won’t have missed the reception Gudjohnsen got, but felt the supporters were special once more throughout the game: “We would like to have beaten Barcelona at home in front of our own fans but overall we are delighted that we are going through to the next round. We knew it was going to be a great atmosphere and our supporters were massive again. That’s why they are probably the best in the world.”

Captain Steven Gerrard was less laid back about the club’s chances of repeating the glory of Istanbul, and the other four European Cup wins, to make it six times. He thinks Liverpool could go all the way, although he was speaking very soon after the win: “It was an awesome performance to put the holders out and over two legs we definitely deserved it – we are ready for anyone now. We should have beaten them, but when we conceded the goal at the end we showed more spirit, more grit, more determination than them. We were throwing bodies in the way, putting bodies on the line, and we have laid down a marker.”

Rafa Benítez will be making sure the players are brought back down to earth again today as he looks back at the game and finds faults he wants to see improved. He’s obviously going to be delighted with the result, but he always looks at what else can be fixed after a win. Any time you see Liverpool celebrating a win, you’ll see Rafa having a serious word with one of his players about an incident that took place at some stage of the game. Maybe that’s part of the reason why Gerrard considers Rafa to be so good: “We all have total respect and confidence in Rafa Benitez. He has shown he is one of the best managers in the world, and he shows it with the tactics he used in Europe. We always trust him to get it right, and he did it again this time.”

The tactics required commitment from the players, and Gerrard feels Rafa got that: “It was all about hard work, in both legs. The effort put in by everyone has been rewarded. We were unlucky not to go in ahead at half-time in the second leg, but Barcelona are so good going forward, they play such nice football, but we stuck in there and are in the last eight now. This now gives us great confidence, going through against the best side in Europe over two legs.”

Craig Bellamy feels the best team went through – against the odds: “Over two legs usually the best team goes through and we were the best team. Did we prove people wrong? It wasn’t an issue, not many of the critics get it right anyway. But that is the beauty of this game; you never know what is going to happen.”

The Welshman, scorer of the first of Liverpool’s two away goals in the Nou Camp and creator of the second, continued: “In a great competition like this against a great side like this we still had a chance. In the first half we hit the bar twice and really took the game to them. The second half was very difficult. They really stepped up a level and we were hanging on a bit.”

Bellamy came to Anfield to play for his boyhood heroes and to experience some of the occasions he used to watch on the television as a child. He described last night as the ultimate experience: “It was an amazing occasion and the biggest night of my life. It was incredible when you consider the tempo and everything about the match. I have never experienced a game at this level.”

Craig also said that other factors in Liverpool’s success include team spirit and a family atmosphere: “It is all about team spirit. When you come to a club like Liverpool, with what they have won like the European Cup the season before and then the FA Cup, it is all about spirit. There is always a great team spirit anyway, but when you arrive and mix with these players, you know it is a family club, you come in and you are all together. Against a team like Barcelona everyone has to contribute and that is what has happened.”

Like the rest of us Bellamy is waiting anxiously for the draw: “Now I will watch the other games and see who goes through, see who we get on Friday in the quarter-final draw, but it is going to be a tough game, that’s for sure. Hopefully we can carry on the momentum as we have just beaten the European champions.”

The striker admitted he was biting his nails as much as the rest of us once he’d been taken off in the second half: “I was a little bit worried on the bench late on, and didn’t know whether to go inside and watch it on the telly, but I can’t remember them having a proper chance after the goal. There were not that many nervous moments, but Barcelona can cut you open. We had to concentrate all the way through but credit to our defence as well.”

He revealed another reason why the game felt so important to him: “That was my first start in the Champions League at Anfield so it was really special.”

Continue reading Xabi: We must not look too far ahead

Gerrard and Carra react to Barca game

ITV Sport interviewed Liverpool captain and vice-captain Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher straight after tonight’s aggregate victory over Barcelona. Liverpool are through the last eight of the Champions League now, but had to hang on for the last 15 minutes after Barcelona got one of the two away goals they needed to get back into the game. Carragher was asked how tough it was to hang on for that last period of the game: “We kept going quite well,” he said, “they had a great chance, Ronaldinho’s hit the post, but up until then we did quite well defensively. Players of that quality are bound to open you up. Great finish by Gudjohnsen, going round the keeper, we didn’t need that for the last 15 minutes to go. We were hanging on, but, a great victory in the end.”

Gerrard was asked what had got Liverpool through: “I think two good team performances,” he said. “I think we were unlucky not to go in at half-time ahead, then we paid for it for the last fifteen to twenty minutes. A side like Barcelona, with the quality they’ve got, as Jamie said, they’re so good going forward, they play such nice football, they’re going to get chances, but we stuck in there.”

Gerrard also had a word for the supporters: “The fans were superb they helped us get through it and we’re in the last eight now.”

Carragher was asked where the game ranked alongside all the other great matches over the years in Europe for Liverpool: “We’ve got a great history in Europe, and besides from winning the trophies and winning the finals, this is probably the biggest result the club’s ever had in Europe. Even though we’ve knocked them out, they’re still the best club side in the world so it shows how well we’ve done.”

Back to Gerrard, and he was asked whether Liverpool had played as well tonight as they had in the Nou Camp: “I’m not too sure. You’d have to look at the two games to see which was the better performance. You got more spirit more grit more determination – there were people throwing bodies, blocking their shots, (pointing to Carragher) awesome over the two legs, that’s one of the reasons why we’re through.”

And what did Carra feel at the final whistle? “Relief!” he said. “Ten or twelve minutes to go you’re just praying for the whistle. I didn’t realise the ref had blew it until a few seconds afterwards, but, delighted.”

Gerrard finished the interview off, saying: “There’s still a long way to go but that’ll give us great confidence. If we can go through over two legs against the best side in Europe then you know – we’re ready for anyone.”

Continue reading Gerrard and Carra react to Barca game

CL Result: Reds 0 Barca 1 (Agg 2-2). Reds through

UEFA Champions League – Round of 16, second leg

Tuesday 6th March 2007

Liverpool 0 Barcelona 1 (Aggregate 2-2)

Liverpool win on away goals rule.

Half-time: 0-0

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 5 Agger, 2 Arbeloa, 8 Gerrard, 22 Sissoko, 14 Alonso, 6 Riise (12 Aurelio, 77), 18 Kuyt (15 Crouch, 89), 17 Bellamy (16 Pennant, 67)
Unused subs: 1 Dudek, 4 Hyypia, 20 Mascherano, 32 Zenden
Bookings: Arbeloa 17, Sissoko 20, Pennant 80, Reina 81
Barcelona: 1 Valdes, 21 Thuram (7 Gudjohnsen, 71), 4 Marquez, 5 Puyol, 23 Oleguer, 6 Xavi, 24 Iniesta, 20 Deco, 19 Messi, 9 Eto’o (8 Giuly, 61), 10 Ronaldinho
Unused subs: 25 Jorquera, 11 Zambrotta, 15 Edmilson, 16 Sylvinho, 22 Saviola
Booking: Thuram 29
Goal: Gudjohnsen 75

Stats: (Liverpool – Barcelona)
Possession: 51% – 49%
Shots on target: 8 – 4
Shots off target: 6 – 4
Corners: 2 – 6
Fouls: 12 – 12

Referee: Herbert Fandel (Germany)
Assistant Refs: Carsten Kadach (Germany), Volker Wezel (Germany)
Fourth Official: Peter Sippel (Germany)

Attendance: 45,000

Continue reading CL Result: Reds 0 Barca 1 (Agg 2-2). Reds through