The Liver Bird  

Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year, New Start? Probably Not, No.

Maxi Rodriguez Liverpool 2010/11 Manchester United V Liverpool (3-2) 19/09/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
I think we missed Maxi last match...

As much as i would like to get excited about the prospect of 2011 being a brand new fresh start for Liverpool, i can't really see it can you? After Wednesday night's pathetic display against Wolverhampton Wanderers it does make you wonder how much more embarrassing things could get.

Bolton under Owen Coyle are a decent side and even the factor of us being ok at home has been slashed now after falling to a side bottom of the table with no real return in terms of attempts at goal.

Bolton Wanderers are currently in 6th position which is a fantastic start to the season for them, in the meantime Liverpool are hovering in 12th with some points to make up in order to even get close to a more respectable position.

Liverpool still have injuries to Spearing and Carragher. A possible doubt is Joe Cole who suffered an ankle knock and Steven Gerrard although he should start has questionable fitness especially after watching him towards the end of the game against Wolves.

For Bolton they are without Paul Robinson who is suspended. Lee is also out on international duty, and Cohen out on compassionate leave. Injuries to Davis, O'Brien, Gardner and Samuel mean they are also all out and doubtful for Bolton are Steinsson and Holden.

I think if we even manage to get something from the game tomorrow then we either need to play Torres as the sole striker or be brave enough to even perhaps drop him and play Ngog up front with Babel for the first 45minutes. It worked a treat against Villa and although i obviously have no doubts in Fernando Torres' ability, if he plays like he did Wednesday (he wasn't the only one who wasn't up to scratch) then there's not much point in him being on the field.

I think we have to start Maxi Rodriguez and maybe even give Jovanovic another run in the side. It's got to the stage now where i don't really care who he lines up because either way his set up and decisions aren't going to work.

Fingers crossed anyway ay folks?

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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Hungry Wolves Make A Meal Of Liverpool

He looks down himself, please stop dragging us with you!...

Folks, i apologise in advance for the nature of this post, it's rant driven and probably more of a moan than an analysis but i can't be blamed after that performance last night!

As you will know if you follow me on Twitter i went into town (Wolverhampton) to watch the match with a few mates and me fella (Wolves fan). The Litten Tree in town is always a top atmosphere to watch matches in but this wasn't going to be like when i go to watch Liverpool v Manchester United and both sets of fans have roughly equal amounts, oh no.

I think i heard/noticed a few Liverpool fans but i'd take a punt at the pub being 98% gold and black, certainly all the people around the area where we were standing up were all following the home side. So that sets the kind of scene i was in for you.

First shock of the night was Roy's chosen line up. Admittedly i wasn't too worried at first with Kuyt on the left and Meireles on the right but as the match played out it did eventually become obvious that this was either a poor decision or a risk that just didn't work.

Gerrard of course was back in midfield and thankfully Lucas started instead of Poulsen. Another point to note was the missing Maxi Rodriguez who has arguably been our most effective player in recent games. Torres and Ngog were the front men, again i hate this scenario, i've mentioned before i'd love for Liverpool to try reverting back to 4-4-2 (I often wished Rafa would have tried it) however, i don't believe you should force the matter, Fernando Torres and David Ngog are both good players but i just don't think they work well as a team.

For Wolves they set up the same side that they put out on Boxing Day except this time Mick McCarthy had started their star man Matt Jarvis. Ebanks-Blake was their main striker and the manager also stuck with Wayne Hennessey in goal.

The match started in similar fashion to most of Liverpool's games this season, no real sense of urgency and it was just a steady passing set up. A chance quickly appeared for the Reds when Raul Meireles found himself in front of goal but fluffed his chance, perhaps also due to good pressure from the Wolves defence but i don't think we can fall back on excuses for the number 4's waste.

With a sort of chance having occurred so quickly the tone set originally was a positive one. This however would not take long to deteriorate.

With Paul Konchesky being his usual bumbling self on the left flank it was no surprise that Wolverhampton Wanderers began to gain a foothold on the game. Matt Jarvis had all the space he wanted on the right hand side and although it's harsh to say i literally do not think there would have been a difference if Konchesky wasn't there. Absolute shite!

David Ngog for Liverpool was perhaps the only poor excuse of a threat on the Wolves goal that we had. I've always said his hold up play was brilliant and is often not noticed, this combined with his efforts to get Liverpool on the score sheet for me meant that he was the only player on the pitch who was playing well.

With Wolves now getting even more confident and crosses flying in from that man again Matt Jarvis, Liverpool's defence was called to duty on several crucial occasions. I'd praise the fact that we kept a clean sheet for 55minutes but the defending was slapdash at best.

Kyrgiakos is a superb defender but the one criticism of him is that he often plays too dangerously in the box, he is one to try his luck with a shirt pull or grab but last night he was playing way to close to crossing that line. Fortunately because Christophe Berra was also having "one of those nights" neither side ended up getting a penalty as the referee appeared happy to let both the defenders play handbags each time there was a corner.

(Kyrgiakos pissed me off too because he didn't score! That's another quid down the drain on my first goalscorer hopes!)

By half time i had no confidence left at all. Even before kick off there was barely any faith there but 45minutes of football at Anfield and Wolves were easily on top. You could feel the dreams rising in the pub, at this stage though nobody had really noticed that i wasn't following the home side, some people looked a bit baffled when i shouted "Konchesky's a load of shit" at the screen and kept chanting "Gypo!" when Hunt came on the tele but other than that they were none the wiser so far. How things would change.

It was hard to believe how we could be less effective second half but Liverpool under Roy Hodgson's defensive and defunct tactics meant there was a whole new scale of how terrible a side could be.

55minutes and Wolves deservedly got themselves a goal. Stephen Ward of all the bloody Wolves players though?! Even me fella who is prone to supporting all of his players as much as he can (even if they're shite) had said earlier in the game that Ward was bloody terrible. So basically not only was it bad enough we'd conceded (no thanks to Martin Skrtel's superb reactions) but perhaps the worst player on their half of the field had slotted it into the net. Charming!

Of course at this stage Rich (me fella) had relished his opportunity to get his own back on me from last year when i screamed in his face, his joyous jumping up and down was bearable, partly because i knew how crap we were playing and that we didn't really deserve anything less at this stage, putting up with the noise from the rest of the pub though was hard to deal with. I stood head in hands (Roy Hodgson stylee) and just tried to calm down before i snapped at one of the blokes next to me who had called Gerrard a twat in the first half. Can't stand fans like that! It wasn't even after a challenge or out just mindless abuse, of course i know and he knows it was fuelled by jealousy so i got over it.

It was quite clear now that the Reds were providing a poor excuse for a game of football and trying to get through a strong Wolves midfield was proving more and more difficult, hence a change was needed, ideally Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole or even Ryan Babel. Although i find Babel frustrating i did think his pace could have added problems so to see him getting warmed up was ok, i could understand the thoughts behind Roy's choice there (surprisingly) but then...

"Substitution: David Ngog" ... WHAT?!

I know some of you reading (especially if you're a Wolves fan) will think this is a good substitution and yes sometimes maybe it would be but David Ngog in my eyes was the only one worthy of being on the pitch. Steven Gerrard despite his best attempts was clearly suffering from no game time straight back from injury, Fernando Torres was clearly struggling and the only other real attacking options i.e. Kuyt and Meireles were either invisible or wasteful.

Fair enough bring Babel on but take off Meireles for God's sake and put Ryan on the wing! Jesus Christ that was frustrating as hell to watch. I had to double check the numbers on the fourth official's board about three times!

Throughout all of this Mick McCarthy was up, instructing his team, instilling them with some support and making sure they were carrying out his brilliant instructions. Because let's face it, Wolves set up perfectly, similar to Blackpool they realised that teams don't get anything from being too cautious at Anfield. They may not have had tons of chances but they made it count when it mattered.

Ten more horror filled minutes went by, watching Liverpool with their backs against the wall was horrible, i've seen poor performances this season but this was abysmal. Wolves are bottom of the league for God's sake! We were supposed to be acceptable at home! This 90minutes was far from acceptable. On came Joe Cole, again i was quite happy with his introduction and thought taking off Meireles was a good decision but unfortunately for Joe he was once again unable to prove his massive wage packet.

Immediately after this substitution came the biggest cheer of the night from the Anfield faithful, ironically it came as Paul Konchesky was taken off and replaced by Fabio Aurelio. I do feel sorry for Konchesky but i don't think even he would deny how poor his game was last night.

Aurelio on at least should have meant some more attacking options were available. But then again Roy isn't too keen on attacking full backs is he? He seems to have a panic attack when he spots Glen Johnson in the final third.

87minutes and Liverpool's best chance of the game after a Steven Gerrard free kick was whipped into the danger area. Met by Martin Skrtel i was up in the air before the ball had hit the back of the net. This proved to be rather embarrassing.

Whenever i jump up to celebrate a goal (that means that much) my eyes leave the television, i often end up spinning around, arms straight up in the air... Point being, i had NO IDEA that the linesman had put his flag up. Rich's face turned from deflation to elation and i knew what had happened.

Was bloody gutted! But at least now everyone in the pub knew damn straight that i was one of those extremely rare "proper Liverpool fans" in Wolverhampton. To be honest, we didn't deserve to draw anyway and whilst momentarily celebrating it felt wrong to be so happy for an equalizer at home, to Wolves.

90minutes plus extra time was up and up rose the noise levels within The Litten Tree, to make things worse the DJ starting playing Hi Ho Silver Lining (which if you don't know is Wolves' signature tune before kick offs at the Molineux) at this stage i thought it was time to go to the toilets and have a strop before calming down and going back to say "fair play" to my other half. Texts from my brother, my boss, Facebook updates and Twitter pisstakes flooded in but then again i was expecting that.

Wolves though should have nothing taken away from them, although i believe we did play a part in making them look better they were solid, remained concentrated and supplied a regular threat for Liverpool to deal with throughout the 90minutes.

Here is a summary in the form of two photos for my time watching the match...


After thinking back on the game it is appropriate to note some of the fans reactions. Chants of "Dalglish!" and "Hodgson for England!" showed a side of Liverpool fans i have never seen. By no means am i saying it is wrong, hell i'm not one usually to slate a manager but even i joined in with the Dalglish chants in the pub. It's a shame because he's just a man, things shouldn't get personal, but how as a Liverpool fan can you sit back any longer and watch Roy Hodgson spiral this club even further into an abyss. He's not right for Liverpool FC. His tactics don't suit us and i dread to think what he's gonna do if he's here throughout the transfer window.

He's a nice chap and would be a top manager for some other club somewhere else but for us, his position is now untenable.

Some people maintain that it's the players but if that's the case then why after several cases of Hodgson making substitutions supposedly for the better has the outcome of the game still been the same? Players who would usually change a game last season when brought on i.e. Babel are now falling at the first hurdle. The players aren't totally free of blame of course, a football club only works when the two gel together but the staff playing the football at the moment for Liverpool FC clearly don't gel with Roy Hodgson.

His pathetic and downright cringe-worthy post match interviews too i have just about had enough of. His lack of instruction from the sidelines and visible portrayal of worry (i.e. Facerubitus) are no help to the team at all. It's just not working.

After that utterly terrible performance we are now in 12th place going into 2011 with Everton above us to make matters worse. This is unacceptable for Liverpool, something needs to change and fast before we start becoming candidates for the most shocking ever relegation candidates and i'm not even joking.

I can handle the weeks, months, perhaps years of stick that i'm going to get now what with living in Wolverhampton and having an other half who still nearly 24hours after the match thinks it's funny to make a 1 and a 0 with his hands but what i can't handle is what is happening to my beloved football club.

It seems more like decades ago when we were regularly contesting in the Champions League and actually winning trophies whilst pushing in a title race, not a manager ago and a few seasons.

Not sure how we get out of this one but let's hope that 2011 is a better horizon for Liverpool FC otherwise it's hello mid table and Carlton Cole... Robert Huth... Brede Hangeland... ughhhhhh!!!

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

There's More At Stake Than Just Three Points...

Anfield Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers Premier League 24/10/2010 Sotirios Kyrgiakos  (Liverpool) celebrates first goal Photo: Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
I don't care if i still haven't collected yet, i'm still putting another quid on the big Greek for first goalscorer tomorrow!...

There's the small matter of bragging rights too.

Yes folks, it's that time of the season once again, after Wolves managed to stay in the Premier League last season i once again got to add tomorrow's fixture to my list of favourites. As a Liverpool fan living in Wolverhampton that alone makes the match a hell of a lot more exciting but add to that having my other half being an avid Wolves fan well the banter is just immense.

Come kick off tomorrow i will be sat in a pub in Wolverhampton with me fella and some mates, few drinks at hand and completely lacking confidence in Liverpool's abilities.

The plus side for Liverpool of course (and it's the ONLY plus side) is that our form at Anfield has been good. 4 games on the bounce unbeaten and only one goal conceded in that time.

To help support our quest for some confidence in the run up to the game it is perhaps helpful to know that Wolves are having problems on the road. They have not won away from home so far this season and their only point came from a draw at Goodison Park.

However, we must not be put into a false sense of security, those who have watched some Wolves matches this season will notice that whilst results have perhaps not always gone their way, they have been playing some good football and been unlucky on several occasions.

The key thing to remember is that Wolves have nothing to lose tomorrow, things can't get worse, they're propping up the table whereas for Liverpool thinks could just become even more embarrassing.

Injuries for Wolves also add some comfort to worried Liverpool fans (how many times have i used "lack of confidence" and words like "wary" & "worried" these past few weeks? It's just wrong!) with key man Kevin Doyle out this certainly puts an impact on their goal threat.

Mancienne is also out, so too is influential Karl Henry and traditionally solid defender Jody Craddock. Injuries are a problem for Mick McCarthy but his real problem appears to be his stubbornness.

At the moment Mick is playing Wayne Hennessey in goal for Wolverhampton Wanderers, now don't get me wrong, Hennessey is a good goalkeeper but unfortunately these last few matches for Wolves, he's not been great. Hahnemann however who was dropped for what i can see as no good reason seems a right talent, he's confident in instructing his defence, has made some superb saves this season and can distribute well.

Now don't get calling up Sky Sports News or whatever (they probably couldn't give a toss anyway) but me Pa who works on Virgin trains got talking to a passenger on the Wolverhampton to Euston train yesterday, it turned out to be Hahnemann's other half, my Dad being a Wolves supporter of course asked why Hahnemann wasn't starting and she replied "some things should stay in the dressing room". Now this isn't god's truth because my Dad's been known to exaggerate! (Lmao) although he met Roy Walker the other week too and the terrible joke within the anecdote seemed feasible to me!

Point being, i think Wolves are missing a trick without the American in goal.

Another frustration for Wolves fans on Boxing Day was when Mick McCarthy decided not to start by far their best player Matt Jarvis. To put it simply if Mick doesn't start Jarvis tomorrow night, not only is he mad but he is also handing Liverpool a major trump card.

Jarvis may not get on the score sheet very often but the reason Wolves get the ball in the net is usually because an attack has originated from a pacey Jarvis weave down the wing or a pin point cross whipped in.

I personally (no offence to the Wolves side) cannot pick out another player who should cause a major threat for Liverpool who will start tomorrow night. I mean there's Hunt but players like Gerrard and Torres have dealt with the likes of him before. Milijas can be dangerous particularly from free kicks but with Reina in goal that shouldn't be too hazardous.

For Liverpool in terms of injuries and starting line ups it actually looks a bit more promising. Still out are Spearing and Carragher but Daniel Agger is off the injury list. I still don't think he'll start but it's a positive at least.

For how Roy will set up i just can't predict it. Clearly Gerrard back from injury will feature and so too Torres, probably up front with Ngog. Back four will pretty much spell itself out - Konchesky, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos and Johnson with Reina in goal. Where the questions lie is in midfield, Lucas? Poulsen? (Please! Do not start Poulsen!) Babel? Cole? Jovaonvic? Meireles? I really don't know who he's going to select.

Team selections aside it doesn't really matter who Wolves or Liverpool put out because quite frankly it's going to be a difficult game either way.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have not scored in 270 Premier League minutes against Liverpool, i for one say we keep it that way and finish the game off with a nice little piece of Torres magic.

I haven't had to experience me fella celebrating a Wolves goal against Liverpool yet and in all honesty i can't promise that my reaction will be a safe one on his part! Haha. Nevertheless whatever the outcome, tomorrow's match will be massive entertainment myself, to some of you it may just be a Liverpool game against some side who got promoted last year, but to me...

THIS IS WAR!

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Monday, 27 December 2010

A Gold And Black Perspective

So for those of you that don't know by now (where have you been?!) my lovely other half is a massive Wolves fan. Of course with me living in Wolverhampton that's hardly shocking is it? Anyways, as i did last season i have requested that he gives The Liver Bird a taste of how they are feeling on the opposite side in the run up to Wednesday night's clash.

My match preview will be up at some point tomorrow but for the time being enjoy...

Wolverhampton Wanderers/Stoke City Premiership 11.04.10 Photo: Tim Parker Fotosports International Matt Jarvis Wolverhampton Wanderers 2009/10 Photo via Newscom
One to watch Matt Jarvis...

Wolves head to Anfield on the back of a demoralising home defeat to relegation rivals Wigan Athletic. It certainly spoilt my Boxing Day, though it came as no major surprise.

That defeat probably marks the lowest point of our season. Beaten at home by Wigan and bottom of the league. Not quite bottom at Christmas, but close enough. In truth, it's looking pretty hopeless.

But we are just the sort of team who could pull out a result on Wednesday night. Last season, we were beaten home and away by Portsmouth but did the double over Spurs. That's how frustrating it can be to support Wolverhampton Wanderers. We played Man. City off the park and beat them well earlier in the season and then succumbed to Wigan yesterday getting exactly what we deserved; nothing.

So, there is still hope for Wednesday, as the start of every new game, and we are still only three points from safety. We've come close to getting draws at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford already this season, so there definitely is hope.

While a trip to Anfield is perhaps not as daunting as it once was, Liverpool are still a force to be reckoned with on their own patch. Couple that with our dreadful away form which has seen us take just one point from eight games and it doesn't bode well. Though that point did come in Liverpool in our 1-1 draw at Goodison back in August, so I hope that's an omen.

Who should Liverpool fans be quaking in their boots about in the Wolves team? Well, the main man this season has been Matt Jarvis. He has been nothing short of sensational this season, and came very close to forcing his way into the England squad. It's only because there are so many good English wingers about at the moment that he's been kept out.

Whether Jarvis plays Wednesday night is another thing though. Though fully fit, Mick McCarthy chose to leave our best player on the bench against Wigan. When he was eventually brought on he set up our consolation goal. Too little, too late Mick.

Other than Jarvis, Kevin Doyle is missing through injury as are other key influential players Karl Henry and Adlene Guedioura. Nenad Milijas, Stephen Hunt and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake are all capable of posing a threat.

From my point of view, obviously Stevie G (who I hear is returning from injury just in time for us, more good news!) and Fernando Torres are the ones to look out for, but whoever takes to the field, you know you're largely going to be up against it when you visit Anfield. I just hope we take a leaf from Blackpool's book and have a go at you. We've not got a good enough defence to go backs to the wall.

I'm sorry that you've basically had to read a rant from a fan about his team at the bottom of the Premier League, but that's the way it's going for my club at the moment. Here's to a good game, and obviously a Wolves win!

I just hope we can meet again next season.

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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Boxing Day At Blackpool

SHEEP IN FEILD WITH SNOW & FROST ON TREE WYKEHAM, SCARBOROUGH WEATHER IN NORTH YORKSHIRE , , 21 December 2010 DIC8943 Photo via Newscom
If the match is off i say we all throw snowballs at Gary Neville...

Liverpool's Boxing Day trip to Blackpool may be off before we've even thought of who's going to be in the starting line up. Blackpool are the only Premier League club who don't have under soil heating. With well equipped grounds in the country already struggling to cope it's looking doubtful that Blackpool's pitch and surrounding areas will be usable/safe.

For this reason this match preview is going to be ridiculously short (yes that's right even shorter than usual! haha) although fingers crossed the game actually goes ahead.

Liverpool still have injuries to Carragher, Agger and Spearing. Captain Steven Gerrard was believed to be making his return against Fulham but after the match was postponed this still remains a mystery. Should the game go ahead on Boxing Day though you would like to think the number 8 will start.

Blackpool are holding out ok concerning injuries with their main men still available. Luke Varney who has been causing problems for several defences in the league i feel is the player to look out for.

Of course many Reds were looking forward to the trip to Blackpool on Boxing Day and i'm sure one too many bevvies afterwards! So if the match is on are we confident in Liverpool's ability?

I personally think after the embarrassing defeat at home to Blackpool we will definitely struggle. Our away form in general is terrible and i'm convinced this tie with the Seasiders will be no different.

***Update*** Match postponed due to frozen pitch.

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Friday, 17 December 2010

Roy Set To Face His Old Fulham Side

Roy Hodgson Manager Liverpool 2010/11 Liverpool V Napoli 04/11/10 UEFA Europa League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
Any more of this face rubbing and i'm gonna have to go Phantom Of The Opera-stylee...

Fulham fans will probably be quite pleased to see Roy Hodgson tomorrow when they make the trip to Anfield. Mark Hughes hasn't exactly got them off to a good start and Roy is still a well respected figure down South. Of course, we all know the reason behind this... Because Roy is a Fulham level Manager. However i still wouldn't fancy a swap deal for Hughesy would you??

For Liverpool some perhaps positive news in the hope that Captain Steven Gerrard will be ready to start against Fulham tomorrow. Spearing, Carragher and Agger however are still out and i'm getting more and more concerned with Agger's case, i just don't believe what they're telling us. After reading those comments in the Danish press, i just can't get the thought that something more serious is wrong out of my head.

Fulham have injuries to Senderos, Zamora, Stoor, Halliche, Dembele and Briggs. However most of those players are not regular first team starters. Danny Murphy will make yet another return to Anfield tomorrow and the midfielder is sure to get a warm welcome from Anfield.

Last year at Craven Cottage Fulham gave Liverpool a fright on Halloween when two of our players also saw Red. Their second fixture at Anfield though ended in a solemn 0-0.

A massive positive for Liverpool however is that Fulham have never won at Anfield. This also throws up a horrible flip side though, if Liverpool were to lose tomorrow, there is simply no excuse.

***Update*** Match postponed due to heavy snowfall.

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Sparta Prague, Stevie & "Scouse Scum"

Well folks, just a quick update on the latest LFC news. I'm sure you've all already been frantically tweeting and Sky Sports News watching today in order to find out who Liverpool's next opponents would be in the Europa League and we've landed ourselves with an away trip to Prague.

Sparta Prague in all honesty are probably one of the better few teams in the competition but we could have had a lot worse. The second leg being at home provides some confidence at least, so i'm sure you're all with me in looking forward to our next stage of the competition we have not yet lost in.

In other news, Captain Steven Gerrard was looking strong in training today. The pictures released by www.liverpoolfc.tv show that the number 8 is recovering well and also support the idea that our star man will be back to face Fulham tomorrow. I hope he is because we could do with that spark.


(Image courtesy of: www.liverpoolfc.tv)

And to end on, just when you thought hilarious mishaps were gone for a few months concerning Liverpool, up pops Paul Konchesky's Mom from the safety or her internet and tip taps a delightful update on her personal not so personal Facebook profile.

Carol Konchesky described Liverpool fans as "Scouse Scum". I'm all for freedom of speech and of course i wouldn't expect people to print my opinionated Facebook statuses in the Daily Mail, but then again ... I'm not Paul Konchesky's Mom. (Daily Mail Story Link)

It will be interesting to see what sort of reaction the ex Fulham player will get from Anfield tomorrow.

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Bore Draw Ensures Liverpool Top The Group

Martin Kelly Liverpool 2009/10 Liverpool V Atletico Madrid (1-2) 08/08/09 Pre Season Friendly 2009 Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International
The defender was impressive again...

We knew it wasn't going to be a thriller yesterday but my word it was difficult to keep my eyes open towards the end. In fact the only thing keeping me awake was the possibility of Kyrgiakos scoring and winning me 20 quid. I can't begin to think how bored the thousands of kids who got in for free were.

A shadow of a regular Reds side was fielded by Roy Hodgson who unfortunately didn't start Fernando Torres after saying that he would earlier in the week. Apparently this was due to advice from medical staff.

Not even Pepe Reina was in goal for this one, the man who tends to never miss out on a game had a seat in the stands instead so it was Brad Jones' chance to shine between the sticks.

Martin Skrtel was captain on his 26th birthday and Babel with young starlet Nathan Eccleston lead the line.

The Utrecht fans arguably provided more entertainment than their own side as they continued to supply an atmosphere throughout the 90minutes.

Liverpool's game never really had an exciting section but i think it's important to highlight some more impressive performances from the likes of Kelly, Wilson and Shelvey. Not to mention Eccleston who was packed full of confidence up front and will no doubt have relished his time on the field last night.

Kelly once again was super impressive for me and it makes me feel that maybe in this case it won't be the old "he plays a few games for the Reds then gets loaned out" he truly to me looks like he could be the next Gerrard or Carragher in terms of inspiration and lifting the team and i feel in time, he may even match them on talent. Best of luck to the lad, fully behind him.

Liverpool's best chance of the game came in the first half when Milan Jovanovic found himself in some space and took a shot from distance. The powerful drive was stopped only by the crossbar and The Kop arose with the sound of sucking in air.

For Utrecht the first half ended with an unfortunate injury to their star man Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, an awkward fall saw him break his collar bone and the forward had to be stretchered off.

Kyrgiakos entered the field of play for the second half replacing Skrtel and again was top quality in his aerial battles and i thought he handled his captain's armband well instructing youngsters Kelly and Wilson whilst also helping out Brad Jones.

Pacheco also came on in the second half replacing Eccleston. It was great to see Pacheco again as this boy is certainly something special. His talent worries me that he'll be snapped up by a foreign side but for now i think we should all enjoy his time in a Red shirt and should he choose to stay on at Liverpool, he might just be the next big thing.

Finally Dirk Kuyt was brought on by Roy Hodgson, the Dutchman spent a long time with Utrecht so both sets of fans were happy to see him come on for the final 20minutes or so.

Despite substitutions and some stages of threat, neither side was able to break the deadlock. An extremely hard game to watch for the neutral no doubt but also frustrating for us Liverpool fans who were screaming "Attack! Attack! Attack, Attack, Attack!" constantly in order for the game to be livened up.

Hodgson had already set up how he wanted to though and i think we knew from the onset that this game if it were to include a goal was not going to be coming from open play.

Nevertheless, i'm not one to sit on negatives when we have a positive to go by, off we trot to the knockout stages...

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Can Liverpool End Group Stages On A High?

Apr. 10, 2010 - Liverpool, United Kingdom England UK - epa02112665 Liverpool substitute Daniel Pacheco (R) is tackled by Fulham's Kagisho Dikgacoi (L) during the English Premier League match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield, Liverpool, United Kingdom on Sunday, April 11, 2010.
I'd like to see Pacheco tomorrow night...

Utrecht are making the journey to Anfield for tomorrow night's final group stage fixture of the Europa League. With Liverpool already through to the knockout stages, all that remains to be decided is whether the Reds can top the group or not. Liverpool of course could actually lose and still finish first in the group but it all depends on Steaua's result and how many goals they score.

The Reds however will not want to lose and go out on a low. Especially after last weekends terrible loss to Newcastle, full side or not they will surely want to provide some entertainment for the fans and be victorious against Utrecht.

A nice gesture from new owners John Henry & Co also means that kids get in free tomorrow night and the prices of adult tickets have been slashed too.

Still injured for Liverpool are Carragher, Gerrard, Agger and Spearing. David Ngog also suffered in a clash with Kyrgiakos at the weekend and had to receive stitches above his eye so he may not be utilised.

I doubt Fernando Torres will start either with Roy perhaps wanting to keep him in shape for next weekend. Everyone has probably already guessed that the side will feature some of the B team as it were. I expect to see Kelly and Poulsen and it would be nice to see Pacheco actually with the possibility of Torres and Ngog not playing.

Our last meeting with Utrecht ended in a rather uneventful 0-0 draw so let's hope we can get some goals in the net this time around. Utrecht don't really have too much to play for other than pride and didn't look very threatening last time anyway so it should be an achievable task for the Reds.

***Update*** - Torres is set to start against Utrecht (link).

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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Early Christmas Carroll For Liverpool Sings Of Woeful Season

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool , Premier League 28/11/2010 Dirk Kuyt of Liverpool Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International 07783 913 777 Photo via Newscom
Kuyt got Liverpool's only goal...

An embarrassing 3-1 defeat yesterday for Liverpool has only piled even more pressure onto manager Roy Hodgson and onto the lads to fork out some consistency. Of course different fans have different views on the reasons why Liverpool's season has been so atrocious but i think one thing we can agree on is something needs to change.

1 win in our last 9 away fixtures is not acceptable. For a side like Liverpool, faltering or not, that kind of away form would stand you in good stead for relegation favourites if it were paired up with a matching home form, thank god it's not but it's just not good enough.

Newcastle's first goal came within the first 15minutes. The Reds beforehand had a few chances from the likes of Kyrgiakos and Maxi but nothing really to threaten the Magpies. Kevin Nolan capitalised on his chance and managed to get the ball past Reina at his near post. The assist came from Andy Carroll who would later pop up again, i didn't need to warn anyone about the talent of Carroll but he caused way more problems than i would have expected and proved too much to handle for Liverpool.

If i'm correct i believe the last time Liverpool won away after being subject to going down in the game first it was the 3-2 victory against Bolton. Again this didn't spell out much hope for an already slow looking Liverpool side.

I thought the added magic of Fernando Torres would help up us achieve another similar if not better performance like the one against Aston Villa but unfortunately for the Spaniard he wasn't on song. Chances you would see him bury in other fixtures were sent packing and it was clear it wasn't going to be Torres' day.

So who else i hear you ask do we rely on for goals? Well, unfairly so i often think, Dirk Kuyt is often slated, although he isn't the most tidy of players, we all know he'll give 110% and he can get you a goal when needs be.

Just after half time, the Dutchman managed to get an equalizer for the Reds and "managed" is the perfect word to describe it. It wasn't a given goal by any means and at one stage it didn't even look like it was going to trickle in but his hard work beforehand to steal possession when the ball hit off Sol Campbell's back and his ability to keep his composure meant that Kuyt deserved his goal.

At 1-1 you've always got to fancy a Liverpool winner, even when we're not playing up to scratch i always feel a bit more confident once the first goal has gone in. The Reds though weren't going to be in for any celebrations today.

Newcastle's second came from a pathetic little man, i can take the fact that Newcastle won and i totally agree they deserved the three points but i would have rather have seen us been hammered 6-0 than to see that thug in all his arrogant glory after stealing possession from a sloppy Liverpool defence and sending the ball past Reina.

I pity the bloke, he's a poor excuse for a footballer and in my book shouldn't even be playing, the sooner he gets his comeuppance the better. (I do apologise to any Newcastle fans reading but i sincerely despise the man)

Anyway, strictly moving on... Liverpool now found themselves on the back foot again. As Roy said in his post match interview, the side that went out first half were a different side second half, Roy was not pleased apparently afterwards with the way the second 45minutes were panning out... Not unhappy enough however to perhaps make a substitution?

Even his first change of the game was forced. I just can't get my head around Roy's thought processes.

So just before 80minutes with the Reds still being unfruitful in their minority of chances in front of the Newcastle goal, Andy Carroll thought it was about time this game was put to bed. With a shot from a good range out being allowed to happen as the lads in defence didn't think they needed to close him down (?!) Carroll smashed a super effort into the net and made it 2-1 to Alan Pardew's boys.

Hodgson brought on Milan Jovanovic at 85minutes for Maxi Rodriguez but it was too late to change things. Alan Pardew has recorded a victory in his first game with the Magpies but fans in the North East still seem to have questions over his appointment and notably how he was appointed.

For Liverpool's managerial situation i think it would be wrong at this point in time for there not to be any questions hovering. I agree that some of the lads performances this season have been below par but for me it's Hodgson in the bigger picture that appears to be causing the problems.

I still and always will stand by the fact that i respect Roy as a man and manager but he isn't going to work for Liverpool. 1 away win in 9 away fixtures and 1 i think in his last 27 (includes his time at Fulham) is not an acceptable record for somebody in the top seat at Liverpool FC.

Not only this but his insistence to bring in Konchesky means we are left with a Fulham standard player, i know we don't have a natural left back but i personally would rather see Aurelio in that position, maybe not every game but certainly in ones where we should be attacking.

A side needs balance i feel and with Johnson such an influential attacker i feel we need a similar style player on the opposite side, the gaps left are a risk of course but it worked last season with Insua and Johnson on the majority of occasions. You only have to look at the Finnan and Riise days to see how one half of the defence flank was unbalanced. Just a theory.

Then of course we have the question of whether Roy's persistence of 4-4-2 is going to work? Don't get me wrong, i have been intrigued for a long while of Liverpool going back to 4-4-2 but as much as i think Ngog is a right good player, he and Torres just don't seem to work well together. In contrast the other night against Villa he and Babel worked very well but we cannot sacrifice El Nino. Therefore in my eyes, Roy needs to rethink and field Torres as the lone striker with Meireles for support until Stevie gets back.

I did at one stage think with Roy's experience of different players and different clubs and styles that he would realise when he is making a mistake and be able to adjust the side and adapt to different circumstances but i'm afraid The Bootroom is just too much for Hodgson and the shoes just don't fit.

With Utrecht up next and then a home tie against Roy's old club Fulham followed by what could be a tricky away game at Blackpool, these are tightrope walks for Hodgson.

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Friday, 10 December 2010

Is Alan Pardew A First Game Victory?

Mar. 17, 2010 - 05644219 date 17 03 2010 Copyright imago BPI Andy Carroll of Newcastle United Celebrates Scoring The First Goal PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxFRAxNEDxESPxSWExPOLxCHNxJPN Football men England Premier League 2009 2010 Action shot Single Vdig 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd Football.
Truly flying at the moment, surely a threat for Liverpool tomorrow...

Liverpool travel to St. James' Park tomorrow evening in one of the first Saturday matches i can remember in a long time for the Reds. Newcastle of course have been all over the news this week after the sacking of manager Chris Hughton and his replacement in Alan Pardew.

I could get into the whole situation and make several comments on my thoughts of Newcastle's decision and how Mike Ashley runs his beloved football club but i shant get into it. For their fans sake though, i do hope Pardew does well for them.

Back to the game and Liverpool are still having some injury problems, Carragher has successfully had his operation so is on the mend but will not be around for a few months. Jay Spearing is still out and Daniel Agger still unavailable although the latest is that he's doing well in training and hopes to feature before Christmas.

Captain Steven Gerrard is fighting hard but has been ruled out by Roy Hodgson for tomorrow's game however it is assumed he will be available for our next league game against Fulham.

Newcastle are without Ben Arfa, Gosling and Taylor. Suspended are Coloccini and Williamson for one match and they also have a list of doubts with thug (excuse my choice of description but he's not a sportsman in my eyes and should be banned from football to be perfectly honest) Joey Barton having a groin problem, Harper a shoulder problem then Guthrie and Nolan both with ankle problems.

Some key names out for Newcastle probably don't make much difference because anyone watching them in their last few games, win or lose will have noticed one upcoming starlet who answers to the name Andy Carroll. Despite having the same hairdresser as Glen Johnson and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, this main man has a lot more goals under his belt and is a big threat for the Liverpool defence tomorrow.

The Magpies forward is on 9goals in the league already this season only Tevez and Berabtov can better him.

The Reds can argue that they have been looking a lot better of late, it's clear to me at least that there have been improvements in our performances but vitally, as shown against Spurs, a good performance will not always lead to those well needed 3points.

Tomorrow's fixture i think will bring up some surprises, it won't be a straightforward game for Liverpool and with Pardew surely eager to quickly get off the mark, it will be interesting to see how he sets up against us.

Let's not forget that a win for Roy and his lads tomorrow could take us up to the dizzying heights of 6th, as mentioned before, if we can begin to get some sort of foothold in that area of the table, it may not be such an abysmal season after all.

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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ignorant Remarks About Hillsborough Are Proof People Still Need To Be Educated

Alex Beam's quote - "..still agonizing over a 21-year-old soccer riot that killed 96 people" has angered thousands of Liverpool fans...

An American journalist writing for The Boston Globe has proven once again why it is vital Liverpool fans continue to strive and fight to educate people of the ins and outs of the Hillsborough tragedy and get justice for those 96 innocent football fans that lost their lives in April of 1989.

It really sickens me that this hasn't happened just once this year but on several occasions. The slipping of Hillsborough into a sentence is not something anyone in a writing job or job of importance should do. Unless you know your facts, you've been there and done the research, then just don't bother.

You are utterly disgracing the names of those 96 innocent people who's families still haven't been given closure.

Why on God's green earth these people feel the need to just tear to shreds the hearts and minds of Liverpool fans i do not know but it's becoming far too much of a regular occurrence.

As you all will have noticed surely being Twitterers when things like this happen our supporters do not take to it kindly and rightly so. I would never attempt to write an article about an American sports disaster without getting my facts right first and i would assume that an American journalist (Alex Beam) would treat me and every other Liverpool fan with the same respect.

So just for you Alex, Jeremy, Russell and the several others who think a simple "sorry" can brush off such a hurtful mistake, get yourself over to www.hdinfo.com and read.

Failing that i'm sure a meeting with the families of those that lost their lives on that lovely sunny day will fill you in on the true FACTS about Hillsborough.

The Daily Mails article on the breaking story - here.

#JFT96

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For Sale: 23, 8 & 9.

Maxi celebrates in his very colour coded snood, i'm sure Tevez and Nasri will be devastated that he's taken the fashion a step further!...

Time after time as Liverpool fans we hear the same old story. "Oh you're a two man team." . "You can't score without Gerrard or Torres." , "Your defence would be nothing without Carragher." (Maybe not so much the latter one haha) point being last night it was quite clear we could not only survive without our big names but pull out a solid result too.

No doubt about it Aston Villa aided us in looking good but even after subtracting the offside goal there could be no arguments from anyone watching that game who felt Liverpool were below par.

With Torres a late missing piece after having to go to hospital to welcome into the world another mini Nando, Roy Hodgson was left to make a snap decision and started Ryan Babel up front with David Ngog.

To be perfectly honest i was sceptical as i always am when Babel gets a start but i was interested to see him in his official title i.e. "Centre Forward".

Before kick off Gerard Houllier was greeted with banners and chants from loyal Liverpool fans who are still thankful for his time at the club. However, the generous "hello" was not going to be matched with a happy goodbye for Houllier and his Aston Villa side.

Liverpool's first goal came within the first 15minutes. A corner whipped in was well attacked by Martin Skrtel who headed back into the danger area, a poised David Ngog connected with a lovely header and smashed Liverpool 1-0 up.

It didn't take much longer for the Reds to get themselves a cushion either when Ryan Babel with a superb finish managed to spin his body on the edge of the area and send home Liverpool's second.

Somewhat unfortunately for Babel his goal should have been offside but i don't think it takes anything away from a great goal by Mr.Potential so fair play Ryan.

For Villa it wasn't looking very good. A poor defensive unit, lack of urgency and practically none existent attack meant that Liverpool were free to roam around the pitch completing passes and even when failing to play the ball, regain possession with ease.

Albrighton, a shock inclusion for Villa after his operation to have his appendix removed was perhaps their most effective player.

In the second half Houllier made an immediate substitution welcoming Delfouneso on the field in an attempt to change things for the better for Villa.

The most important moment for Liverpool was when Reina had to make an instinctive save with his left foot. Firstly because the game poised at 2-1 could have taken a bad turn for the Reds but secondly because the man himself between the sticks was on route to being the fastest ever Liverpool keeper to reach 100 clean sheets.

Threat taken care of, it was almost instantaneous when Roy's boys decided to truly put the game to bed. A piece of play originating from Reina's distribution eventually saw the ball reach Maxi Rodriguez. A fantastic shot from a decent way out passed Friedel with some speed and sent the Kop End crazy. Yet another rendition of the heartbeat theme rang out and Maxi appears to be truly settling down at Anfield now.

A double change from Houllier saw Pires and Agbonlahor come on but neither of the two could add any really problems to a game that had been out of their sights from ten minutes really.

Some flashes from Glen Johnson towards the end were nice to see and Fabio Aurelio and Joe Cole both had chance to feature in the Reds win.

Reina's clean sheet was made official when the referee blew the final whistle and Liverpool are now up into 8th.

With things looking a lot more steady on the pitch i do feel a bit more comfortable of late with out performances so let's hope that this can continue. With the league so tightly packed it would be brilliant for us to get in and around the teams fighting for spots between 4th and 7th.

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Houllier Returns To Anfield

Gerard Houllier Manager Aston Villa 2010/11 Aston Villa V Manchester United (2-2) 13/11/10 The Premier League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom
I should imagine a nice reception awaits Houllier tomorrow...

Liverpool fans welcome back Gerard Houllier who gained the club 7 pieces of silverware in his time at Anfield. Nobody will will forget particularly his UEFA Cup win in 2001 and as a manager he was always well respected by both players and fans in his stint at the club.

Now at Aston Villa, he already has some flavours of Liverpool past under his belt with players such as Heskey, Friedel and Warnock who have all spent time with the Reds. Another familiar face also spending some quality time with Houllier is none other than Gary McAllister, who is also well aquainted with Anfield territory.

Currently Villa are not in the greatest of positions although Houllier's boys have managed to pull off respectable draws against tough opposition in the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.

The only victory Villa have over Liverpool in the last 17 meetings between the clubs is a 3-1 win from right at the start of the 2009/2010 campaign. Unfortunately it spelled out a tough season for Liverpool which later saw Aston Villa finish above us in the table.

For Liverpool tomorrow we still have some large injury worries, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are both unavailable and also out are Jay Spearing and Daniel Agger.

After the boost to Milan Jovanovic in the week against Steaua Bucharest i feel there may be a benefit in starting the Serbian. Joe Cole is also freshly back from injury and will more than likely start.

Torres after having a rest will surely be raring to go and after last season's dying minutes winner in the snow, we all know he's capable of changing a game when needs be.

For Liverpool, the shaken up defence and building up of new partnerships could cause early problems, although i feel Kyrgiakos has more than enough experience to handle Villa tomorrow i have been disappointed of late with Skrtel's performances.

Aston Villa are without Ashley Young due to suspension with Bannan and Beye both doubts. Out injured are Heskey, Albrighton, Delph, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Sidwell and Weimann. Perhaps this explains some of Villa's struggles of late, however the squad left available still creates a side with strength.

My prediction for Liverpool tomorrow is a 2-1 win. As much as i would love Reina to get his clean sheet in order for him to become the fastest ever goalkeeper at Liverpool to reach 100 clean sheets, i just can't see Villa not being able to put one in the back of our net.

A confident start would do us the world of good but after starting well against Spurs, we all saw what happened there. We need to focus and keep a strong line of defence, the added hold up play of David Ngog could be valuable in order to get some decent attacks going but if he isn't started i still have a feeling that Torres or Kyrgiakos will be able to get us on the score sheet and on the way to a well needed 3 points.

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Friday, 3 December 2010

We're Through

Jovanovic celebrates after putting Liverpool ahead...

Liverpool yesterday secured their progression into the knockout stages of the Europa League after a 1-1 draw with Steaua Bucharest. Our opposition also look likely to qualify too depending on their last result.

A shaken up team from Roy Hodgson saw players like Babel, Jovanovic, Kelly and Wilson get another chance to shine. Joe Cole was also back from his injury, some refreshing news for Liverpool fans still deliberating on the damage of losing both key players Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

Fernando Torres was rested and even striker Ngog had to wait for his chance to feature in the game. Pepe Reina remained in goal and Aurelio was chosen in defence.

A steady first half start made it clear that Liverpool were not going to be on full throttle. As mentioned in my preview, we were never going to push ourselves too much when we didn't need to.

Roughly 20minutes in and Liverpool put themselves into the lead. A nice cross from Mr.Potential - Ryan Babel was met with the head of Milan Jovanovic who sent home the effort low to the right of the goalkeeper. It was good to see Jovanovic implying in his celebration that he was staying at Liverpool, in a time when the media seems to be feasting off Liverpool players, trying to claim they want out, it's always nice to see players stamping their true feelings on things.

Half time was reached with no other real poignant moments, but this wasn't a game for real entertainment i suppose. Our defence were holding up pretty well and it was nice to see some partnerships emerging that wouldn't always be given the chance.

Joe Cole unfortunately i felt was slightly ineffective, obviously just back from injury i doubt this is anything to worry about though and the game time will have only done him some good.

Steaua got their equalizer in the second half just after the hour mark and sadly for Liverpool it could have been prevented. Pepe Reina (who has made some mistakes as we all know but isn't renowned for them) must have been so annoyed at himself after it appeared he had made the save from Bonfim Eder but allowed the ball the slip underneath him and into the back of the net.

Not much you can say really in those situations, of course it's unfortunate and realistically without that goal Steaua at this stage in the second half were not looking too much of a threat.

However full time was reached with no more damage, the result was maybe not superb but enough to see Liverpool progress. With one game left against Utrecht, Liverpool could even lose and still top the group but it would be nice to end the group stages in style.

Aston Villa are up next for the Reds in what should be an emotional welcome back to Houllier.

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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Can Liverpool Secure Their Progression To The Knockout Stages?

Apr. 08, 2010 - Liverpool, Merseyside, England, UK - epa02109049 Liverpool's Lucas Leiva celebrates during the Europe League quarter final return match between Liverpool FC and S.L. Benfica, at the Anfield stadium, Liverpool, North West England, 08 April 2010.
Can Lucas be as effective as last time?...

It's Europa League time again for Liverpool and an away trip to Steaua Bucharest tomorrow means once completed there will be only one game left in the group stages for the Reds. Still unbeaten in the competition it is fair to say that we are going pretty strong within Europe.

For tomorrow night's fixture though Liverpool are lacking in some valuable experience with the likes of Carragher and Gerrard. Torres however is still available but whether it's worth taking the risk is a different story.

Last time out of course when Steaua came to Anfield, Liverpool managed an impressive 4-1 victory with Lucas and Joe Cole on the score sheet. In realistic terms though you'd have to say that Liverpool will probably come away with a draw here. I can't see us going full steam ahead when we don't need too and i also think Roy will be fielding a lower par side.

Steaua however are no mugs, they have not lost since their trip to Anfield so will surely fancy their chances at home. Steaua are currently second in the group and a win tomorrow will bring them level on the points with us.

Steaua at least have something to play for so it will hopefully make the match more interesting, in a game which i think is destined to be a draw it would still be nice to see perhaps the likes of Ngog or Shelvey on the score sheet.

This is perhaps also a good reason to bring into practice the pairing of Skrtel and Kyrgiakos. They've worked together before of course but it would seem they will be in partnership for a good while to come. With Carragher ruled out for a possible 3months and Agger still nowhere to be seen, these two will need to practice their crafts together.

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