In memory of the 39 victims of Heysel

Twenty-six years ago today, on May 29th 1985, 39 football supporters lost their lives at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, Belgium. It was the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool.

Remembering HeyselIn one section of the ground an area that UEFA had allocated as ‘neutral’ was to be segregated from the adjoining area allocated to Liverpool fans using nothing more than a frail chicken wire fence. The ‘neutral’ area in fact became an area for Juventus fans after the tickets for that section found their way into the hands of touts who sold them onto fans of the Italian club.

Before the game kicked off supporters of both clubs in this area of the ground began to throw missiles at each other. This went on for some time and tensions continued to rise before some Liverpool fans charged the Juventus fans. As supporters in that so-called ‘neutral’ section fled, looking for safety, a wall in the crumbling stadium collapsed, killing 39 people and injuring many more.

32 of the dead were Italians, with four Belgians, two French and another from Northern Ireland also dying. They died after trying to get away from the trouble.

Liverpool had voiced concerns before the fixture at both the choice of venue – the stadium was literally falling apart – and the decision to allocate that area as neutral. Had those concerns been taken seriously by UEFA and others involved in the organisation of the fixture then the actions of that small group of Liverpool supporters would never have had the consequences they had.

On the 20th anniversary of the disaster the club’s then Chief Executive Rick Parry said: “We want all Juventus fans to know that we are very sorry about the fact that 39 people lost their lives.”

Today is a day of sorrow and remembrance.

In Memoria e Amicizia – In Memory and Friendship

Rocco Acerra
Bruno Balli
Alfons Bos
Giancarlo Bruschera
Andrea Casula
Giovanni Casula
Nino Cerullo
Willy Chielens
Giuseppina Conti
Dirk Daenecky
Dionisio Fabbro
Jacques François
Eugenio Gagliano
Francesco Galli
Giancarlo Gonnelli
Alberto Guarini
Giovacchino Landini
Roberto Lorentini
Barbara Lusci
Franco Martelli
Loris Messore
Gianni Mastrolaco
Sergio Bastino Mazzino
Luciano Rocco Papaluca
Luigi Pidone
Bento Pistolato
Patrick Radcliffe
Domenico Ragazzi
Antonio Ragnanese
Claude Robert
Mario Ronchi
Domenico Russo
Tarcisio Salvi
Gianfranco Sarto
Giuseppe Spalaore
Mario Spanu
Tarcisio Venturin
Jean Michel Walla
Claudio Zavaroni

May they rest in peace.

* For an honest account of the day from a Liverpool fan who was there please read this: Our day of shame by Tony Evans, Football Editor of The Times.

Cole starts as Liverpool end season in hunt for 5th

Liverpool go into their last game of the season with a chance of qualifying for Europa League football next season. For that to happen the team currently in fifth, Spurs, need to drop points against Birmingham, who are battling for survival in the Premier League. Defeat for Spurs would mean Liverpool need a point, a draw for Spurs would mean Liverpool need all three. The Reds are best going out aiming for all three and letting the other game run its course.

Sixth place is guaranteed whatever happens today and that would be no disgrace for Kenny Dalglish’s side, who were down in twelfth and in danger of getting dragged into the relegation battle under Roy Hodgson. There is every chance that had Hodgson remained this game would have seen Liverpool fighting for survival and today’s Liverpool keeper playing his last game for the club.

Pepe Reina is going nowhere this summer and starts in goal, with a back four containing one name unlikely to be involved next season. Fabio Aurelio was given a reprieve last summer after the original decision had been taken not to offer him a contract but his injury issues never went away and this may well be his final game in a Liverpool shirt.

There’s no place in the squad for Glen Johnson; John Flanagan starts with Jack Robinson on the bench. Also on the bench is Andre Wisdom, a player from the Academy for whom there is much hope, alongside Wilson who perhaps needs more time before being ready for the first team. Carragher and Skrtel start at centre-back, meaning Skrtel has been an ever-present in the league this season. Kyrgiakos doesn’t figure in the 18.

Another player who might be playing his last game for the Reds is Joe Cole. His first season at the club has been a disappointment, injuries and a lack of match fitness limiting his chances, chances he didn’t take too well when they did come. This is an opportunity for him to show other clubs that he might be worth a punt, although it may require a substantial drop in wages for that to happen.

Liverpool have to make do without Maxi Rodriguez today but Raul Meireles does get himself back in the starting line-up. Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez start but Andy Carroll didn’t make the match squad.

In goal for Aston Villa is one of Liverpool’s former keepers, Brad Friedel, with former Liverpool forward Emile Heskey on the Villa bench. Ex-Red Gary McAllister takes charge of the home side today with manager, and former Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier still recovering from his recent heart problems.

One of today’s travelling Reds is no doubt fulfilling a dream despite already fulfilling the dream of most Reds fans. Steven Gerrard is sitting in the away end.

Aston Villa: 1 Friedel, 2 L Young, 5 Dunne, 29 Collins, 36 Walker, 6 Downing, 7 Young, 16 Delph, 19 Petrov, 20 Reo-Coker, 39 Bent

Subs: 33 Marshall, 21 Clark, 8 Pires, 12 Albrighton, 13 Bradley, 11 Agbonlahor, 18 Heskey

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 38 Flanagan, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 6 Aurelio, 26 Spearing, 21 Lucas, 4 Meireles, 10 Cole, 18 Kuyt, 7 Suarez

Subs: 42 Gulacsi, 22 Wilson, 47 Wisdom, 49 Robinson, 28 Poulsen, 33 Shelvey, 24 Ngog

My Liverpool FC player of the season

It’s that time of year when the question constantly being asked is: “Who is your player of the season?” (Unless you are asking on behalf of one of the official awards organisers, in which case you asked this question about six months earlier). In this case the question being asked is who is the Liverpool FC player of the season?

As anyone with a remote interest in the English league could tell you the Reds’ season was split into two distinct and very different halves. The first half was played under dark clouds and endless thunderstorms, daylight was nowhere to be seen and words like ‘miserable’, ‘angry’ and ‘relegation’ were often to be heard. The second half was played in glorious sunshine with not a cloud in sight, with plenty of cold beer on ice and words like ‘joy’, ‘delight’ and ‘victory’ often to be heard. That’s less of an exaggeration than it might seem meaning there’s little point looking at performances from Roy Hodgson’s ‘era’ when choosing a player of the season.

Kenny Dalglish knew that the biggest problem at Anfield had nothing to do with transfer budgets or what type of marking to use. It wasn’t about which players shouldn’t have been sold or which players shouldn’t have replaced them. The issues Liverpool had were on a list longer than the Mersey but the biggest problem was what was missing at the club, and that was unity. On his return in January he set about restoring it; in no time at all the team were winning games and problems became opportunities, certainly where injuries saw certain players getting a chance they might not have expected to get.
Continue reading My Liverpool FC player of the season

Kenny is staying, let the party begin.

Kenny Dalglish is the new permanent manager of Liverpool Football Club. The caretaker manager since January, Kenny is now back in his old job and has a three year contract to go with it. To say Liverpool fans are happy about that is an understatement along the lines of describing Tom Hicks and George Gillett as not being very good for LFC.

The news was revealed on the club’s official website just before Kenny’s regular weekly pre-match press-conference with those members of the media he sees each week. One of the worst-kept secrets since the club cut out the damaging off-record briefings we’d all grown tired of was that Kenny’s deal was agreed and would be announced at some point this weekend. Normally if there’s big news to be announced the club hold a press conference in front of the ‘big boys’ of the media but Kenny didn’t want that. He wanted to reward the lads he sees week in and week out at the normal press briefings to get this story and to ask the first questions.

Even that says a lot about the man. Whereas some managers will ban reporters for asking the difficult questions, even if it’s from their club’s own TV station, Kenny is spoken about warmly by all the reporters who speak to him on a regular basis. The ‘big boys’ missed out this time and although not all of them were by any means hostile towards him the one or two who suggested he should stick to golf might be glad they weren’t asked to come up here anyway on this occasion. Continue reading Kenny is staying, let the party begin.

Reds v Newcastle – Carrol on bench, Johnson returns

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll’s former club Newcastle United visit Anfield today and although the number nine has not recovered in time to start the game he has been passed fit for a place on the bench against the club he grew up supporting.

Full-back Glen Johnson makes his return from injury today too meaning 17-year-old Jack Robinson drops to the
bench. 18-year-old Jon Flanagan starts again at right-back.

The game also sees vice-captain Jamie Carragher – skipper until the end of the season due to Steven Gerrard’s injury problems – reach another landmark for the club. This is his 665th appearance, putting him joint second with Emlyn Hughes and Ray Clemence in the Liverpool appearances chart.

Three points from this clash is important for Liverpool who now find themselves in a position where a fifth-placed finish, and in turn a European spot for next season, is in their own hands. If Liverpool win all four of their remaining games, including this one, they’ll finish ahead of current fifth-placed side Spurs. One of those four games is the visit of Spurs to Anfield. A win today would see them move into fifth.

Neither club ends the season with the manager in place at the beginning still in charge. Alan Pardew was in charge for the reverse fixture at St James’s Park earlier in the season, it was his first match after taking over from Chris Hughton. Roy Hodgson’s sorry side lost 3-1 that day, Andy Carroll getting the Magpies’ final goal.

Much has changed at Anfield since that meeting took place, not just the installation of Dalglish and the signings of Carroll and one of today’s starters Luis Suarez. Liverpool are full of belief – but don’t go into this game assuming it’s won before they’ve left the dressing room. Kenny won’t let them make those kinds of assumptions.

It’s an early kick-off – 12 noon.
Continue reading Reds v Newcastle – Carrol on bench, Johnson returns