Gerrard back in training but Kelly has setback

Steven Gerrard could be in contention for the visit to West Brom at the weekend with manager Kenny Dalglish revealing the skipper has returned to training.

Gerrard underwent surgery on a troublesome groin injury following the 3-1 win against Manchester United. A limited fixture list, in part due to the international break, means he’s only missed one league game, the win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. It’s a little early to say he’ll play this weekend, but Kenny is pleased with his progress: “Steven is training so he has done really well to get where he is.”

The last time Gerrard played for England was in a meaningless friendly against France, a game that saw him play longer than his club had requested and left him out of action for weeks. If Gerrard does make his comeback at the weekend the timing will prove to have been a masterstroke, at least from Liverpool’s point of view.
Continue reading Gerrard back in training but Kelly has setback

Anfield delight at new deal for Lucas

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has signed a new “long-term” contract for the Reds.

The club confirmed the news in a statement on the official website this afternoon. His previous deal was due to run out at the end of next season.

Damien Comolli, the club’s Director of Football, said the agreement had come after months of talks: “I am very, very pleased. We have been talking for a few months now, ever since I arrived at the club.

“One of the first things I did after I arrived was to look at the contract situation and to see where Lucas was at. I knew we had to do something quickly because we couldn’t afford to lose him and didn’t want to lose him.”

The 24-year-old has been at Anfield for four years and at times his young age, not to mention the distance he’d moved from home at that age, was forgotten by those individuals who seem to always need someone to grumble about. But his attitude has always been spot on and his performances mean he has become a player almost certainly guaranteed a start.

He’s racking up the appearances now, as Comolli points out: “If you look at his playing record he started 46 games last year in all competitions and this year it will be between 45 and 50.

“He is exactly what we want. He has the right mentality, quality and attitude. He understands what this club is all about and even though the discussions went on for quite a long time he always said to me ‘I want to stay and we need to find a solution’.”
Continue reading Anfield delight at new deal for Lucas

LFC release details of 22nd Hillsborough Memorial service

In three weeks’ time it will be the 22nd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and as is now customary the club will be holding a service at Anfield in memory of the 96 victims of that awful day.

The service will begin at 2:45pm, but the club will open the stadium from 1pm to allow plenty of time for those attending to make their way in. The service starts at this time to allow the significance of 3:06pm to be made part of the service.

As always there is no charge for entrance, but the club have asked those who wish to attend to order their free tickets in advance. This allows the club to ensure they can plan accordingly for the numbers wishing to attend and to arrange to open more of Anfield’s stands if so needed.

Tickets will be made available from Monday with an initial allocation of 10,000. If demand looks like it may exceed this number then further arrangements will be made and announced. Continue reading LFC release details of 22nd Hillsborough Memorial service

Ian Ayre made Liverpool MD, Comolli promoted.

Ian Ayre has been appointed Liverpool FC’s new Managing Director and Damien Comolli had been promoted to Director of Football for the club.

Ayre came to the club as Commercial Director in 2007 under the previous regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, reporting at the time to then Chief Executive Rick Parry. The club has made significant improvements commercially during his time at the club, including the significantly improved shirt sponsorship deal Ayre negotiated with Standard Chartered. Liverpool have significantly increased the number of partners they have deals with.

Not every commercial move the club has made has been popular with all supporters, especially the arrangements with Thomas Cook, but the additional revenues raised overall have been vital to the club. It can certainly be argued that this boost to income is what kept the club afloat as Hicks and Gillett’s financial problems started to take hold. Now it’s hoped that as much of that increased cash as possible can go towards improving the squad.

The club has been searching for a new Chief Executive since takeover and although the new owners had met with a number of potential candidates they were unable to find one meeting all of their criteria.

John Henry explained: “Ian has enormous experience gained from his work in the sports and media businesses over the past 15 years and we are delighted today to announce this significant appointment.  We conducted an extensive recruitment search and met with outstanding candidates who sought this role but in the end, after having worked with Ian and other top executives within the club, we realised that Ian had all of the attributes necessary to lead the Club forward.”
Continue reading Ian Ayre made Liverpool MD, Comolli promoted.

Carroll, Suarez and Agger start for Reds

Liverpool welcome Daniel Agger back to the starting line up for the Premier League clash against Sunderland, with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll also starting the game.

Although Agger has been used at left-back it’s not a natural position for him meaning Jamie Carragher is likely to start at right-back, with Johnson at left-back.

Jay Spearing also starts, as does new proud new dad (his son Pepe Lucas was born yesterday) Lucas Leiva.

This will be a first league start for Liverpool for Carroll, and the first time the club’s two new signings – Suarez and Carroll – have started any game together for the Reds.

Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Spearing, Lucas, Meireles, Suarez, Kuyt, Carroll
Subs: Gulacsi, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Cole, Maxi, Poulsen, Ngog.

England should take care of the players they borrow

Kenny Dalglish, now in formal talks to become Liverpool boss on a permanent basis, has called for some understanding from England manager Fabio Capello.

When Capello names his England squad for next weekend’s European Championship qualifying match against Wales, plus a friendly against Ghana the following Tuesday, it seems likely he’ll include Liverpool striker Andy Carroll.

Carroll and Gerrard on England dutyCarroll became Liverpool’s record signing in January in a £35m transfer from Newcastle, arriving with an injury that had kept him out since December. He got his first start for the Reds on Thursday night as the club made their disappointing exit from the Europa League, losing on aggregate to Braga. This followed two relatively short sub appearances by the striker as part of a carefully-managed recovery programme.

Kenny isn’t trying to block the under-pressure England boss from naming the club’s prize acquisition in his squad; what concerns him is how closely the England set-up will adhere to Liverpool’s ideas for the 22-year-old’s rehabilitation from that injury lay-off.

“I don’t know if Fabio wants to pick him or not,” said Dalglish, “but there is no point in us being as guided as we have been in his recuperation and doing such a good job to get him to where he is now if someone else is going to waste all that.

“England have to be responsible with him. It is not a case of going to war with anyone, we fully understand somebody wanting to pick his best players for England – but they also have to understand the fact that he is not really there yet for fitness.”

It is debatable whether or not England will understand and if they do whether they will agree. Back in November the club asked England to restrict Steven Gerrard to just 60 minutes of a friendly game against France.

England decided against this and Gerrard went on to play for 85 minutes – and even then he was only withdrawn after going down injured. That injury proved to be a serious hamstring tear and the club’s captain was out of action for six weeks.

Understandably Liverpool were annoyed at the events of that night.

Fabio Capello, whilst sympathetic about the injury itself, didn’t seem too concerned that Liverpool’s request had been ignored.

Speaking after the club’s anger had been made known – unofficially – the England manager was defiant: “They asked if he can play for one hour, if it’s possible. They can’t decide how long a player plays with the national team.”

He went on: “If it’s possible, he’d have played an hour. I understand why they’re upset, and I am also upset.”

But it wasn’t just Liverpool who felt they had been let down by England. Newcastle were upset too – about the use of Andy Carroll.

Carroll played for 72 minutes of the game despite his then-club Newcastle warning England that he was suffering from a groin injury. The player had initially pulled out of the fixture, according to reports, but England exercised their right to demand he report for duty to be assessed by their own medical staff and he was passed fit to play.

Newcastle sent a complaint to the FA after the game, saying they wouldn’t have used the player in their own side had they been playing that night.

Capello claimed his general manager, Franco Baldini, had squared it with the player’s club beforehand: “Franco spoke with Newcastle before the game and we checked him before the game.”

He also claimed he’d asked the player himself: “I spoke with him at the hotel, personally, and after the warm-up here, after the first-half too. He told me he was fit to play every time.”

The England manager seems to put his players on the spot when it comes to decisions that may go against their clubs’ wishes – he also asked Gerrard if he was willing to stay on beyond the hour his club had requested: “Barry was really injured so we needed someone senior on the pitch because it was a really young team. He (Gerrard) said he was good so, for that reason, it’s good. We’re upset about what happened to Steve, of course.”

Capello was adamant there was no issue: “No player has ever played for me who was not fit,” he said.

And as for Carroll: “Our doctor said he was fit, so the player was ready to play,” Capello insisted. “He finished the game very well.”

After the England defeat Carroll suggested he’d like to get more chances in an England shirt: “I was happy with my performance on the night and it obviously leaves you wanting to experience a bit more. For me it was a great experience to be out there and playing with top international players, I’ve really enjoyed it.

“The atmosphere to play in front of 86,000 people was a real buzz and it’s something I’ll never forget. Now I’m just looking forward to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.”

Carroll was declared fit to play in that Bolton game, scoring Newcastle’s only game in a 5-1 defeat, and didn’t miss a game until the end of December when he broke down with the injury that would keep him out for two-and-a-half months. He scored four goals in those six games, including one in the defeat of Liverpool in December.

In hindsight it’s easy to argue that England were proved right, that Carroll was fit to play for them, but this fixture was a meaningless friendly, sandwiched in the middle of two Premier League weekends. It was hardly a game where they needed to take such risks.

And their risk didn’t pay off where Steven Gerrard was concerned – although it was Liverpool and not England who suffered for the six weeks he missed.

England aren’t only taking risks with the fitness of players that aren’t theirs, players they’ll hope to call on for games that do matter. They’re also risking their relationships with the clubs those players are employed by and in turn with the players themselves.

And perhaps that’s why they are without Liverpool’s captain for this important fixture.

Gerrard needed an operation; he’d been playing at less than his full capacity for some time because of a groin problem. What was important for Liverpool was when to schedule the operation to minimise his absence from the starting line-up. A less-than one hundred percent fit Gerrard is better than no Gerrard at all, but the sooner the fully-functioning Gerrard was ready to be picked the better.

It just so happened there was a convenient spot in the calendar. Liverpool played Manchester United on March 6th, and then they had just one league fixture in the four weeks that followed.

So Gerrard put his all into Liverpool’s 3-1 humiliation of Alex Ferguson’s side at Anfield before going under the knife. The Reds’ club doctor referred to it as “a minor operation” and said he’d be out for “around three-to-four weeks.”

Gerrard’s return to action after he’d been crocked for England was the home defeat to Wolves in December that featured chants of “Hodgson for England” from Liverpool fans angry that former manager Roy was still being indulged in a job he never should have got in the first place. And Hodgson could be involved when Gerrard makes his return from this injury.

It might be a little optimistic, but the game that falls three-and-a-half weeks after the date of the operation is a visit to Hodgson’s new club West Brom. If he misses that one he should be fit by the time Manchester City visit Anfield nine days later.

Hodgson won’t admit to any regrets over taking on the Liverpool job, but had he turned it down perhaps the England job would have been an option for him. And perhaps the wait wouldn’t have been quite as long as he might have expected.

Gerrard’s absence, along with that of Rio Ferdinand, has caused another storm for Fabio Capello. After he decided John Terry could have the captain’s armband back there are reports of unrest amongst the England players. Terry had been stripped of the captaincy in disgrace before the World Cup, Ferdinand and Gerrard becoming captain and vice-captain respectively, but Capello’s u-turn doesn’t seem to have gone down well with anyone other than Terry himself.

Capello seems to be making enemies, the England camp seems to be splitting. It seems it always does in the end. But as long as England keep their problems to themselves, and don’t introduce any new ones for Liverpool, it’s doubtful that many Reds really care.

Reds in Braga: Carroll on bench, Carra right-back

Liverpool start tonight’s Europa League first leg match in Portugal against Braga without either of the two new signings that cost a total of well over £50m in the last transfer window.

Luis Suarez can’t play in the competition as he’s cup-tied under UEFA’s rules, but Andy Carroll is on the bench ready to make his European debut for the club – if manager Kenny Dalglish gives him the nod. Carroll has to wear 29 on his shirt in this competition rather than 9, due to another of UEFA’s rules.

Injuries for Liverpool mean Kenny doesn’t have a great deal of choice in defence, Jamie Carragher will start at right-back with Glen Johnson on the left. Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio and Martin Kelly are all unavailable due to injury.

There’s a start tonight for both Spearing and Poulsen alongside Lucas Leiva – Steven Gerrard still not 100% fit and so staying in Liverpool.

There’s a start for Dirk Kuyt, the hat-trick hero from the 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday, with Raul Mereiles and Joe Cole also starting the tie this evening.

It’s a 6pm kick-off (GMT).
Continue reading Reds in Braga: Carroll on bench, Carra right-back

A guide to Braga

After Dirk Kuyt got a late winner in the last round at Anfield, Liverpool now face FC Braga of Portugal in the Europa League and Reds weren’t exactly given much notice to go and book their flights, as the game is on March 10th.

If you are heading over to Braga, and are looking to make your own way there, then you won’t find a direct flight unless you are flying from London to Porto, otherwise you’ll have to find a connecting flight in the likes of Madrid or Geneva if flying from Liverpool.

Reds from London will find this trip the easiest, as there are direct flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to Porto.
Continue reading A guide to Braga

Carroll on bench, Gerrard and Suarez start

Liverpool’s new signing Andy Carroll has made it to the Liverpool bench for today’s clash with Manchester United at Anfield and could make his eagerly awaited debut. The striker was signed from Newcastle for £35m on deadline day but arrived with an injury that he’s now recovered from. Match fitness is always likely to be an issue after such a long lay-off and it makes sense that he’s eased into his return to action. Luis Suarez starts as does Dirk Kuyt.

Meanwhile the fears that Steven Gerrard might miss today’s game haven’t been realised as the club captain starts. The midfielder is still believed to be some way short of full fitness but his own fight and determination to make this fixture, and the club’s careful handling of him in the days leading up to the game, have ensured he starts a match he looks forward to with as much passion as any of the Liverpool supporters shouting from the stands today.

Gerrard was sent off the last time the two sides met, in the FA Cup third round clash that took place at Old Trafford matter of hours after Kenny Dalglish had returned from a holiday to take the managerial reigns back following the departure of Roy Hodgson.

With Martin Kelly out injured Glen Johnson returns to the right-back position with Fabio Aurelio starting at left-back. Daniel Agger is another injury victim so Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher both start, with Soto Kyrgiakos the only defender on the bench today.

Manchester United are without defenders Ferdinand and Vidic.
Continue reading Carroll on bench, Gerrard and Suarez start