Miller appointed boss at J-League JEF United

Liverpool’s first-team coach Alex Miller is to leave the club for a new Rafa Benitez and Alex Millerrole in Tokyo after being appointed as manager of J-League outfit JEF United Chiba.

Earlier today Reuters carried quotes suggesting Miller was likely to join, from an official at the Japanese club who finished 13th last season and are struggling this: “We have drawn up a list and are hoping to make an announcement either tomorrow or the next day,” Kentaro Shiga said, “Miller is one of our candidates. We have a match this weekend so we want to name the new manager as soon as possible. We should have more details in the next day or two.”

Press in Japan claimed that Miller was offered a £500k-a-year salary to take over the side. They had recently sacked the previous manager, Croatian Josip Kuze, with the side at the bottom of the table, having been unable to win any of their 11 opening fixtures. Reuters say that the side have seen many of their better players leave in recent years, including Japanese internationals Naotake Hanyu and Satoru Yamagishi. Continue reading Miller appointed boss at J-League JEF United

Kenny: Prove what Liverpool means to you

Possibly the only man that all Liverpool fans would give their unconditional trust to has spoken out about the situation the club finds itself in as the season draws to a close.

Kenny Dalglish, league and cup double winnerKenny Dalglish, a legend as a player, a manager and a man says that it’s time to stop apportioning blame and time to start finding solutions.

Speaking in the club’s official weekly magazine, LFC, “King” Kenny said: “The current impasse cannot continue much longer.”

He said that the end to this season Champions’ League run would at least now allow all those involved in the ownership fight to sort out their differences: “If you are looking for a positive to extract from the negatives then maybe the absence of a final appearance in Moscow will allow all sides in the current boardroom battle to sit down and work out a solution that is best for this football club.”

Rafa Benítez has reportedly got very limited funds for transfers this summer, because the current owners are looking at ways of ending their partnership rather than strengthen it. But it’s not just about money, Kenny suggests the squabbling will put players off joining too: “Players around Europe are starting to look at where they want to play next season, and it is not fair for Rafa Benitez to try to enter negotiations with an arm behind his back. On the field we are an attractive proposition. Off it you would have reservations about coming here while there is still issues to be resolved.” Continue reading Kenny: Prove what Liverpool means to you

Crouch will talk to Rafa then decide his future

When Rafael Benítez signed Peter Crouch three years ago it was a transfer that attracted criticism from some fans. Peter Crouch considers Anfield futureWhen Crouch went on a run of nineteen games without scoring his first Reds goal the criticism was coming mainly from the press, with the fans taking him under their wing and encouraging him more and more in every game.

When he did score, his goal was officially classed as an own goal by a PA reporter who, given his decision to rule another one out in a later game (against Newcastle in December), seemed to be enjoying Crouch’s drought. But by then fans had taken Crouch to their hearts, and were disputing the PA reporter’s resentful decision. He scored a second in the same game anyway, so one way or another he’d opened his Reds account. And the official panel who sit and look at such disputed goals ruled against the reporter, and Crouch’s first goal stood. As did the other disputed goal when the panel sat in judgement of that.

He ended the season with eight league goals, plus another three in the FA Cup including the one that knocked Manchester United out on the way to Cardiff, along with two in the World Club Championship in Japan.

He increased his total to 18 in all in his second season, last season, with seven of his goals coming in Europe. This season his total, with one game left and no guarantee he’ll play in it, is just eleven goals. Continue reading Crouch will talk to Rafa then decide his future

Liverpool’s third version of stadium plans approved

Perhaps it will be a case of third-time lucky after the latest version of plans for a new Anfield were given approval by the city council earlier today.

The need for a new stadium is not in question, Liverpool’s future depends on it being built, and Liverpool’s latest plans are for a stadium that will cost £300m to build, ultimately seating 71,000 fans if later approval is given to build it to capacity. That’s an increase of 26,000 on the current home, the Anfield stadium on the site used by Liverpool since the club was formed in 1892.

Computer rendering of \"Kop\" in New Anfield (v3)For now though the plans are officially for a 60,000-seater stadium, the club choosing that figure to match the capacity of the original version given planning permission. To increase it to 71,000 they will need to convince the planning committee at a later date that they can provide the necessary infrastructure for the additional 11,000 fans. In fact the permission for the 60,000 seats is conditional on certain improvements and measures being put in place to improve the transport infrastructure.

To enable the work to start the current owners included £60m in their refinancing plans back in January, but the funding of the remainder is unlikely to be agreed until the ownership situation is resolved.

The first plans approved were for the stadium known by many fans as the “Parry Bowl”, the stadium that looked similar to Bolton’s Reebok stadium, but with a larger capacity. It was the need to build that stadium that resulted in the club looking for outside investment.

The second plans approved were the ones revealed in July after the owners said that they wanted the club to have a bigger and better stadium than the “Parry Bowl”. Few disputed how much better the Dallas firm HKS’s plans looked, but at a later date costings were done and it was found to have come in at well over the expected £300m cost announced by the club in July. Some reports said it was nearly £150m over the agreed budget, and questions still remain unanswered as to how this could happen. Planning permission was granted in November, but by the time the government confirmed in January that they wouldn’t call the plans in, the owners were in New York with Rick Parry discussing two alternatives.

Of those alternatives, the version designed by the “Parry Bowl” architects lost out to the revised version by HKS. It’s this version that has been approved today. Continue reading Liverpool’s third version of stadium plans approved

Report: Hicks considers hedge funds to part-fund takeover

As Liverpool fans look forward with dread to the summer transfer window, a report in the Telegraph this morning claims that Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has been looking at using “hedge funds” as part of his plans to finance his attempt to take control at Anfield.

The report appears in the money section rather than the sports section, and points out the hedge funds approached are some of those that helped Malcolm Glazer in his takeover of Manchester United. The reports says Glazer got £275m of the £790m purchase price from hedge funds in the US, namely Perry Capital, Och-Ziff Capital Management and Citadel.

Hicks has been using Merril Lynch in his search for finance, and the Telegraph says: “Advisers are understood to have approached some of these funds recently to raise financing that would help him acquire George Gillett’s 50% stake in Liverpool and build a new 70,000-seat stadium at Stanley Park.”

Based on the lowest value usually quoted in terms of DIC’s offer for the club, Hicks needs at least £200m to buy Gillet out, which includes Gillett’s half of the total £350m finance, £105m of which is on the club.

According to the article, this type of financing is “playing an increasingly important in role in private equity financing, especially as the credit crunch has made it harder to raise debt from blue-chip banks.” It mentions retailer Peacocks being taken into private hands by its chief executive for just over £400m, and says that Newcastle were looking like being bought by hedge fund Polygon until wealthy supporter Mike Ashley stepped in.

The report says that even this “mysterious world of capital” isn’t a straightforward one, and that “at least one leading fund involved in these types of deals is understood to have rejected the opportunity to finance Mr Hicks’ plans for Liverpool.” It quotes a source: “There was an approach. It was turned down because the investment case for Liverpool is not the same as Manchester United.”

The Telegraph adds itself that “other hedge funds are understood to still be in discussions to provide financing for the deal.”

The article also points to the confusion over the alleged pre-emption deadline, saying: “Mr Hicks… has a pre-emption right that allows either man to acquire the other’s stake before it is sold to an external investor. It is said the right runs out towards the end of May, although banking sources say it is not clear whether this is in fact the case.” Continue reading Report: Hicks considers hedge funds to part-fund takeover

Teams: Liverpool v Man City – Insua starts

It’s Liverpool’s final home game of a season that has been full of incident on and off the field. It’s unfair to class it as a meaningless fixture, and that applies especially to Emiliano Insua who is given a chance in the first team. Rafa has high hopes for the youngster, and he may find himself used in more meaningful fixtures next season.

The game still makes no difference to Liverpool’s final league position, which is fourth, but three points in front of a full house would help Liverpool end the season with a gap from the top more respectable than last season.

It’s a day of farewells of course, as the last home game of the season always is. Some of the names won’t be back at Anfield – unless like Manchester City’s Didi Hamman (sub today) it’s in the shirt of an opposing team. And it’s not just those on the field who might be making their last appearance at the ground as a representative of LFC.

Insua’s fellow full-back for today is Steve Finnan, with no sign of Wednesday’s pair John Arne Riise or Alvaro Arbeloa. Carragher and Hyypia play centrally today, both players knowing that they will be in danger of playing far less games next season than this with Daniel Agger set to come back from injury and Martin Skrtel – on the bench today – putting in a strong claim to be his partner.

Xabi Alonso is strongly rumoured to be on his way, the rumour strengthened by Liverpool’s bid for Gareth Barry, and he’s on the bench today. His place is taken by Lucas, playing alongside Mascherano.

The front four that have become pretty-much first choice is on show today, Babel, Kuyt and Gerrard all starting, with Torres recovered from the tight hamstring that had been given as a reason for his withdrawal on Wednesday night.

Yossi Benayoun, Andriy Voronin and Charles Itandje make up the rest of the bench, Rafa deciding not to give any chances to any of Insua’s fellow youngsters, most of whom will be involved in the North v South reserves play-off final at Anfield on Wednesday night against Villa.

Continue reading Teams: Liverpool v Man City – Insua starts

End of the season, not the end of the world

One of the worst seasons in Liverpool’s history off the field has now ended in pretty awful circumstances on it.

Liverpool’s last two league games make no difference to their position, which is stuck in fourth place as the team not quite up there with the top three, pretty much how it’s been for too long now.

One way or another the ownership situation needs to be resolved and Liverpool need to stop being in the headlines because of stupid spats and spin.

Liverpool went into this game knowing one goal from them would give them the confidence and sap Chelsea’s. Chelsea scored first in a first half that they’d dominated. But when Liverpool took over the second half and got an equaliser it looked like Liverpool could do it, could get a second goal and get through.

But it was Liverpool’s stuffing that got knocked out of them. Extra time came along and a Chelsea goal was disallowed, fairly, for offside. But seconds later Chelsea were in front. Hyypia brought down Ballack in the box, and with Frank Lampard on the field there weren’t going to be arguments between the German and Didier Drogba over who was going to take it. Lampard, still mourning his mother’s death sent Reina the wrong way.

Hyypia himself should have got a penalty. Replays showed him clearly brought down in the box, with the referee raising the whistle to mouth as if to award the penalty, before fulfilling Rafa’s prophecy about him being something of a homer.

When Drogba got his second it was all over. 3-1 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate, Liverpool couldn’t come back.

Ryan Babel’s goal three-and-a-half minutes from time raised faint hopes – at 4-3 a single goal from Liverpool would see them through – but Fernando Torres, scorer of Liverpool’s first, top scorer at the club in his first season, was on the bench.

The five minutes of stoppage time in the first game had ended with an own goal from Riise that made this tie have a different complexion to what it would have had, but there was no such length of time to be added onto any of the four halves played tonight.

A lot of fans were worried about trouble in Moscow had Liverpool got through to play there against their bitter rivals Manchester United, but none of those fans actually wanted their team not to get through. To picture “big ears” in the hands of Didier Drogba or Christiano Ronaldo isn’t something that sits easy in the mind in any way shape or form. Chelsea v Barcelona would have been far easier to watch.

Replays showed a player offside for Drogba’s opener, Sami Hyypia should have been given a penalty to make up for the one he gave away, but Liverpool know these things happen, they know they’ve got to find something to make up for nights where the referee and his officials make mistakes.

Bad luck played a part too in other ways. Martin Skrtel put a brilliant tackle in on Didier Drogba early in the game and didn’t recover. He was replaced by Hyypia, who wouldn’t have been on the pitch to give the penalty away otherwise. And using a sub early in the game limited Rafa’s options for tactical changes.

But Rafa’s choices with the options he had seemed strange to say the least.

With two subs left to make, and a need to score, Ryan Babel would have expected to be next on, but instead it was Jermaine Pennant, on for Yossi Benayoun who was one of Liverpool’s brightest players, and the provider of the Fernando Torres goal that finally broke that duck for Rafa’s sides at this ground. Continue reading End of the season, not the end of the world