Reds unchanged for trip to Bolton

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has named an unchanged line-up for today’s visit to the Reebok stadium and another vital game in a season that has seen the Reds win just twice in the Premier League.
Bolton v Liverpool
It’s 442 days since Roy won a league game away from home, a record that stretches back to his time as boss of Fulham, but today’s trip to Bolton has to be seen as a good opportunity to end that run.

Last week’s win at home to Blackburn must have brought a massive boost to the confidence of a squad that seemed to have forgotten which end of the table it should have been battling at. Much of the good work from that win has been overshadowed by speculation about the futures of key players and a week of quotes from Hodgson that have added to the fans’ discontent about his start to the season.
Continue reading Reds unchanged for trip to Bolton

Roy has much to prove as Reds travel to Bolton

Liverpool make the short trip to Bolton tomorrow with supporters desperately hoping Roy Hodgson will use tactics becoming of a side featuring a trio of world-class players as opposed to those of a side looking for praise for avoiding relegation.

Last weekend saw Liverpool win a league game for the second time this season, but did little to change the minds of fans who feel manager Roy Hodgson is out of his depth. Comments from the manager since then have only raised the level of hostility being shown towards him by supporters who, quite frankly, are used to far better than this.

Hodgson seems content to go along with Tom Hicks’ idea that much of the blame for the disgraceful start to Liverpool’s season can be pinned on the previous manager.

It’s an epic cop-out.

When Liverpool kick-off at the Reebok it’ll be 442 days since Roy Hodgson won an away game in the Premier League.  Is that down to Rafa too?

For all the debate amongst supporters about whether or not Rafa had to go, nobody in their right mind would have said he left behind a squad that should be in the relegation zone with a quarter of the season gone.

And it’s important to recall comments Roy made in September: “We were unbelievably over-staffed when I came to the club and, if the truth be known, we still are over-staffed.” In terms of the summer’s transfer deals he said at the time: “We should be very happy. A lot of hard work has gone in and you have to mention Christian Purslow and Eduardo Macia, both worked really hard during the transfer window to do the deals I wanted to happen but also to do deals for quite a few players to leave the club.”

Roy Hodgson and two DanesAs far as what he meant by “over-staffed”, he also said: “We don’t want that middle group who are too old for reserve football but are not serving any purpose for the first team because they never feature.”

If that “middle group” of players were surplus to requirements he wouldn’t need to replace them if they were offloaded in the last minute of the transfer window. If he was happy with the rest of his squad and the deals done over the summer then he surely can’t have any complaints about what he inherited.

That was before the embarrassment that followed in the league.

Back to this week and he said: “I think you can pay an awful lot of money for poor players and you can pay not very much money for very good ones – it is all to do with how good your scouting and your eye is. There are a lot of things here that the club has got to get right. We have got a lot more expensive failures on our list than good players that we have brought in for next to nothing.”

Comments like that must work wonders for morale. Especially amongst players that Roy might come to rely on should injuries mount up like they did last season. It’s unlikely he’ll be complaining of being over-staffed then. And they may well be expensive failures, but telling them they are is hardly going to change that. Or increase their value when it comes to offloading them.

And it’s not just the ones who cost money that he’s grumbling about: “Free transfers don’t necessarily mean that you have got a bargain. My experience of them has been very mixed. You need to be sure that the player you get can do the job you want from him.” Even if he doesn’t mean Cole or Jovanovich, neither of whom have been outstanding since their arrival, his comments will sow seeds of doubt in their minds, particularly the latter one whose deal was agreed before Roy was manager.

So with the “expensive failures” and free transfers feeling a little more unwanted, Roy moved onto claims that some of the club’s most vital players are feeling down in the dumps about life under his management. None of the players themselves have come out to deny the claims, and the club are yet to deny the existence of any “get out clauses”. Roy chose to make general comments about rumours rather than say the players in question got on well with him: “This football club have a lot of players who have played for Liverpool for a long time. Every other day they’ve probably read or heard some nonsense about them and they seem to be a pretty hardened bunch.”

And he gave an insight into why he misses the point about what Liverpool FC is all about.

At a club that hadn’t long ago been playing in the old second division a Europa League place, never mind a Europa League run, might be what Roy would term “Utopia”. It’s nothing of the sort at Anfield, where fans want to be in with a chance of winning the league again, just like they were 18 months ago with a squad very similar to the one Roy inherited.

When Roy got Fulham into the Europa League, and then got them all the way to the final, he wasn’t likely to be on the wrong end of any criticism. He seems unable to see why things might be different at Anfield: “I’m relatively hardened but I’ve been spared too much at Fulham, where never a bad word was said.”

He also gave a hint at what Carragher and Gerrard might have been telling him about all those bad words he hears now he’s left Fulham: “It is an interesting thing for me to get into the type of mindset Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard are so good at. Having heard and seen it all before they are quite prepared to shrug their shoulders and write it off.”

What Roy failed to spot was that they were shrugging their shoulders and writing off criticism for different reasons, like “only” finishing second in the league, or being out of the running for the league title by this point last season.  Having played for Liverpool their whole careers, they’d never been in this position before Hodgson arrived. Perhaps they are just being polite.

Roy of the SeventiesThe criticism this season isn’t fickle knee-jerk attention-seeking nonsense. Roy, who has often answered criticism with references to his success in Scandinavia back in the days when Bob Paisley was starting out as successor to Bill Shankly, seems happy to ignore the latest questions about his abilities: “It is part and parcel of the business of working for Liverpool Football Club. I am beginning to turn it around myself.”

Last Sunday saw Liverpool play well, showing lots of reminders of how good many of the squad actually are, and pick up their second win of the season. But it was only against Blackburn and it was only a victory by one goal from a largely full-strength squad.  It was a start, but it’s far too early to get carried away. Not for Roy: “I hope we carry on from where we left off last Sunday because I thought that was a good team performance and a great victory.”

Great victories are 4-1 wins at Old Trafford, knocking Real Madrid or Barcelona out of the Champions League, that night in Istanbul.

2-1 at home to a manager with apparent delusions he’s one of the best managers in world football is not a great victory.

After that win Hodgson admitted Liverpool hadn’t played as well for the last 20 minutes as they had for the rest of the game: “If people expect us to really play a lot better football than we did for 70 minutes at the start of the Blackburn game they are going to be asking a lot.”

This week he’d forgotten about that last 20 minutes: “It is very important from the first minute at the Reebok Stadium we are as committed as we were for 90 minutes against Blackburn.”

Fans will be delighted to know that Roy has some lofty heights in mind for this club: “I’m not believing naively we are going to win seven out of nine and fly up to the top of the table but I do want us to move from out of the relegation zone.”

Thanks Roy. We didn’t really like to ask, but now you mention it we’d like to move out of that relegation zone too.

We have to win seven out of nine if we are to get back to anything like the minimum target most fans would have had for this season. If that seems a tall order it’s because we failed to win in seven out of our first nine games of the season.

And most fans predict the second nine games to go much like the first nine.

The challenge for Roy tomorrow is to prove those fans wrong.

* Fancy Liverpool’s chances against Bolton or is it going to be another day to forget for the Reds? Bet £10 and get a free £20 bet with Paddy Power. >>

John W Henry answers fan questions

Liverpool FC are now owned by a group of investors under the umbrella of New England Sports Ventures, the people who own Boston Red Sox in the US, a group that is led by John W Henry.

Mr Henry is clearly a man who wants to engage with fans, and the latest example of that is a serious of questions he answered for the Liverpool fan site Red and White Kop (RAWK).

Some of the questions he answered included one on how NESV funded their acquisition of the club, and one on whether or not there is any binding agreement in place to prevent acquisition debt being placed on the club at a late date.

He also gave an indication of how NESV hope to make a return on their investment, and his answer should be quite reassuring for supporters.

To see the answers you’ll need to visit Red and White Kop, it wouldn’t be fair to reveal any of them here. We’ve mentioned the interview in an effort to give it a tiny bit more exposure, but RAWK is probably the biggest independent LFC forum on the net.

A second set of answers to some further questions is expected at a later date.

Reassuring words, but fans await action

John Henry from Liverpool’s new owners NESV sent the club’s official website some quotes earlier today. They were part of a concerted effort by the club to try and dampen down some of the speculation surrounding the future direction of the club.

Do NESV hear the concerns of the fans?He said “We have recently read stories about our intentions for the forthcoming January transfer window and have a sense of humour about this type of inevitable speculation.”

Word that NESV will look at transfer fees and contract costs in a different way to any of their predecessors was been taken by some sections of the media to mean they’ll not be spending any money. But with the Red Sox the second highest spenders in baseball’s equivalent of the transfer market that’s an assumption that isn’t being made by many supporters.

Nobody expects – and few fans wanted – Liverpool’s new owners to be sugar-daddies. What supporters want to see is a club that practically runs itself; generating its own income for transfers and player wages. We don’t want to find we’ve become reliant on money coming in from outside the club that could be taken away at any time.
Continue reading Reassuring words, but fans await action

Money problems over, but are LFC still lacking ambition?

Roy Hodgson has passed comment on reports linking Pepe Reina to Manchester United. He said Liverpool don’t need the money and don’t want to sell, a situation that he says also applies with Fernando Torres.

What he failed to discuss were the claims that have grown in recent days – that Torres and Reina are disillusioned with their manager, his coaching and his tactics. That the likelihood of them leaving hinges more on their own personal satisfaction with the club’s future direction than on any interest from other clubs or on Liverpool’s financial situation.

Despite a far better performance on Sunday against Blackburn, Hodgson is still some way short of meeting the expectations of most supporters. He’s only managed to get two wins out of the first quarter of the league season, Liverpool are languishing in the relegation places with negative goal difference and Roy is acting like it’s a minor setback.
Continue reading Money problems over, but are LFC still lacking ambition?

Hodgson ensures Reds depression continues

As details emerged of more player unrest at Liverpool, calls increased from Reds fans for Roy Hodgson to be removed from the position of manager.

Not everyone happy with life under HodgsonLiverpool lie nineteenth – or second-bottom – in the league; very much in the relegation zone and no signs of improvement to that situation can be found in the words or actions of the manager.

Today Anfield Road has learned that two of the club’s most valuable assets – whether looked at from a financial or football perspective – have become sufficiently disillusioned with life under Roy Hodgson to be seriously considering their futures.

It hasn’t yet been described as a refusal to play, but it is understood that Fernando Torres has made it clear that he no longer wishes to play for Roy Hodgson.

It has also emerged that Pepe Reina has become equally frustrated, also finding changes to the goalkeeping coaching methods to be so frustrating that he is now weighing up where his future lies.
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The Potemkin League – essential viewing for Reds

In the wake of the takeover of the Liverpool Football Club by New England Sports Ventures comes a film that was being made throughout the final months of uncertainty that led up to that change of ownership.

Potemkin League - Queue PolitelyThe movie, from Queue Politely, has been split into four parts for viewing on YouTube. It covers the topics we all – as Liverpool fans – grew to know far more about than we ever should have done. Few of us knew what “LBO” stood for four years ago, none of us thought the club would lie 2nd from bottom in the Premier League by now either.

Mike Horwarth, from Queue Politely, suggests the following is the best way to view the movie: “Please watch on HD full screen and if you can connect your PC or MAC to your TV. The film is broadcast quality HD and in anamorphic resolution.”

The links are below, please find some time to view the documentary in its entirety:
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Life is cruel says Roy after another embarrassing Reds defeat

Roy Hodgson's Liverpool in bottom twoEight games into the season and Liverpool have managed just one win. One win. Eight games.

Before this game began the question was already being asked if this could be Roy’s last as Liverpool boss. But it’s the derby, the kind of fixture that is never predictable and perhaps one of the few games in a season where it’s unfair to demand three points.

What isn’t unfair is to demand a performance. It’s the derby. Games are lost because of players being too fired up, referees being unable to cope with the extra pressure, bad luck, the other side being better on the day. We live with that. All we demand from a derby is that the 11 players on the pitch look like they want to win.

That never happened today.

What’s worse is it came days after the conclusion of an epic battle to kill off the epic swindle of the past three-and-a-half years. Uncertainty was gone as far as the risk of administration was concerned. New owners promising new investment for the squad and a massive feel-good factor going around the club and its supporters.

So why did the players look like Tom Hicks had won the war?
Continue reading Life is cruel says Roy after another embarrassing Reds defeat

Back to football – Everton v Liverpool

It genuinely seems a lifetime ago now that Liverpool were embarrassed by Blackpool at Anfield, as supporters showed for what we hope is one last time their complete disgust at the club’s ‘custodians’.

NESV at first Reds match since takeoverThe new ‘stewards’ are NESV, and despite suggesting otherwise on Friday they’ve decided to turn up for today’s game – the first senior match under their control.

It’s being played across the park, at Goodison, and as such is a good chance for NESV to see exactly why “the friendly derby” is a phrase as far from reality as Tom Hicks’ “net spend” claims.

Now we are talking about football again it’s good to see NESV show some public support for Roy Hodgson. But whatever time NESV might have in mind for him, one win in seven games and the worst start in 57 years means Hodgson has very little time left as far as supporters are concerned.

It might be a derby, it might be following on from an international week, but the excuses are wearing thin.

And the biggest excuse of all – the ownership mess – has gone.

Kick-off is at 1.30pm.
Continue reading Back to football – Everton v Liverpool

NESV: Stability the initial focus as Liverpool ownership begins

Thomas Werner, chairman of Liverpool’s new owners NESV, was at Melwood this morning with colleagues John W Henry and Joe Januszewski.

NESV visit MelwoodIt was all smiles as the new regime got to have another look at this important part of their new empire, meeting the coaching and playing staff. For now it’s all about steadying the ship.

The words sound much the same as they did last time the club changed hands – but the trio of what became known as the ‘independent directors’ insist that the new hands are very different to the (man) ham-fisted ones that left in embarrassing circumstances yesterday.

Actions will be more important than words, and NESV are understandably reluctant to say anything that will be construed as a promise and used against them at a later date.

Werner told that LFC “is one of the great clubs in all of sport, its history, its tradition, its fans – in some ways it’s similar to the fans of the Boston Red Sox in that they’re loyal, they’re passionate and it’s our good fortune to be stewards and we hope that we will take care of this extraordinary club and provide it with the resources and the commitment to win in the near future and hopefully restore some of its lustre.”
Continue reading NESV: Stability the initial focus as Liverpool ownership begins