Liverpool’s pre-season got underway with a victory after the Reds had paraded European Cup in front of the fans that turned out at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. Liverpool beat the Welsh team 4-3 at the ground that will host their next away competitive fixture when they play TNS in two weeks. A brace each for Fernando Morientes and Milan Baros followed Wrexham’s opening goal, but Wrexham had pulled the score back to 4-3 with ten minutes left to play.
Bolo Zenden and Jose Reina made their first appearances in Reds colours, although today Liverpool were wearing their new white away kits, and the goalkeepers were wearing all yellow. We say goalkeepers, because Rafa Benitez used two sets of players for the game, basically a first-half and a second-half team.
One of those playing in the first half was Steven Gerrard, who spoke after the game about his relief that Liverpool fans had chanted his name in what was his first appearance after the drama of his new contract situation early in the week. Surprisingly, Gerrard said he expected them to welcome him back, saying: "I didn’t doubt that, I’ve got a fantastic relationship with the fans. I know they have been through a lot as well, which I’m not proud of. I feel as if I’ve made the right decision and as I said, I’m not proud of the week I’ve been through. It’s been difficult and very confusing."
Gerrard’s reception today in a pre-season friendly on a warm day in summer may be in contrast to the treatment he gets should Liverpool be losing a vital game on a wet and windy winter’s day later in the season. Liverpool fans will have little patience with the star now, which means he has to put good performances in almost every game now. Gerrard will continue to be asked about what happened in the week, but he says he’d rather forget about it: "I wouldn’t wish being in my shoes on any other person. But it’s all behind me and I’d like to forget about it."
Gerrard seems to be well aware of the anger he caused amongst Liverpool fans when his departure was announced, and he thinks that the frustration was due to Liverpool nearly losing, in his words, their "best player". He said of the fans: "They were close to losing their best player, so I can understand people getting frustrated." If there’s one item that Gerrard needs extra training on it’s the way he speaks to interviewers. He’s a footballer, not a diplomat, but he needs to be more careful in what he says, to avoid sounding arrogant. Liverpool fans’ anger when he was set to leave the club was more down to the way that his imminent departure had followed twelve months of uncertainty with Chelsea hovering like vultures.
The full story about why he nearly left hasn’t yet been explained satisfactorily in public, and this leaves the impression that it wouldn’t sound too good for the club or the player if the truth did come out. Unfortunately this leaves the door open for rumours to start. Gerrard says that he feels most Liverpool fans felt sorry for him, saying: "The majority of the fans also realised what I was going through and put themselves in my shoes. And you can take it from me, it wasn’t good." Gerrard needs to do his talking in the best way he can – on the pitch.
Liverpool team: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Warnock, Potter, Hamann, Gerrard, Zenden, Cisse, Morientes.
Subs: Dudek, Raven, Josemi, Medjani, Whitbread, Garcia, Welsh, Alonso, Riise, Baros, Le Tallec.