As Liverpool’s keeper Pepe Reina won an award for his work in stopping opposing strikers from scoring last season, one of the Reds’ own strikers spoke about how he was hoping to put in performances this season that would see him become a part of Anfield folklore.
Kuyt’s first season at the club saw him perform well despite worries off the field. As well as settling into a new country he had concerns about his father, who has been ill since Kuyt became a Red, and who sadly passed away recently. He feels this season is going to be very different for him: “I’m sure I will get better this season: Last year I didn’t have a full pre-season or know the rest of the lads or the club so well. Now I’m more settled and any difficulties when starting at a new club are behind me. I can focus 100 percent on my football and I have a good feeling about this season.”
Kuyt wants to be able to go down in history at Anfield as a successful striker, and knows he’s got some work to do to live up to the likes of Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and others: “Players like Robbie and Michael Owen are known as some of the best strikers Liverpool has ever had and it’s good for me to be able to have the chance to join those names. I want to be seen as a Liverpool goalscorer, and now I can’t wait to show it. I scored a lot of goals in Holland, but England is totally different because it’s so much more difficult.”
There’s no doubt at all that Dirk is one of the game’s nice guys, and his attitude is likely to stand him in good stead with Rafa, who likes players who are prepared to adapt to his plans: “I believe I can do here what I did in Holland, but I also think I can do more for the team than just score goals. It’s important for me to do whatever job is asked, working hard or making assists.”
Kuyt has also had a hint from the manager that he’ll be used in a different way this season, meaning he may get more chances to score: “Andriy and Fernando are different strikers to Fowler and Bellamy, so I may play in a different role. Fernando likes to come deeper for the ball, so if I play alongside him there’s the chance for me to play higher up the park, which I enjoy. That’s more how I was used to playing with Feyenoord. It all depends who I play alongside, of course, but what’s most important is to play, win the games and help as many players as possible to score goals.”
At the opposite end of the field Pepe Reina is hoping to do as well as he did last season. The Spanish keeper won the Barclays Golden Glove award for his nineteen clean sheets, the second season in a row he’s won the award. But for Reina it wasn’t him alone who kept those clean sheets. He said: “This is not my trophy; it’s recognition of the work of our defenders as well as the other players in the team. We are a special group at Liverpool and that is why we have had some success over recent seasons.”
He went on: “I would say our defence is a ten out of ten unit. There is such a determination not to concede goals and hopefully we’ll be able to reproduce our best form throughout the coming season.”
Liverpool get the season underway at Villa Park on Saturday evening, but Reina says the three points are more important than a shut-out: “For me, clean sheets aren’t the most important thing. If I keep one at Aston Villa this weekend then great, but if I don’t and we still win the game then that’s great as well.”
Liverpool are looking likely to have to wait until a Premier League panel sits before they know if they will be able to improve that defence by signing Gabriel Heinze. The Argentine defender wants to leave the Red Devils of Old Trafford and join the Reds of Anfield, but his club are refusing to honour a written agreement they had made with Heinze’s agent. The league will now adjudicate over the issue, and say they expect to be able to make a decision before the end of the transfer window. One theory is that they know full-well they will lose the decision, but are hoping their stalling will prevent Heinze from being able to play for Liverpool against Chelsea on August 19th.