Monday, October 15, 2007

Date Set To Decide Fate Of Liverpool FC's New Stadium

A crucial decision on Liverpool FC’s revised plans for its new stadium on Stanley Park will be made on October 30.

A special sitting of the city council’s planning committee will spend the day studying the proposals before making a final decision on the £300m project.

Last night, city council regeneration executive member Cllr Mike Storey said: “The right decision on the day will pave the way for a start on the new stadium early in 2008. This is so important not just for the club, but the Anfield community and the city as a whole.

“Liverpool FC is so crucial to our growing tourism sector. On match days every hotel room in the city is taken. I am delighted to see the scheme moving forward and look forward to seeing work start as soon as possible.”

Previous plans have already won approval and supporters of the new scheme are confident of winning official backing for the amended planning application.

Committee members will head for Stanley Park for a visit to the proposed stadium site before debating the scheme.

Last night, council sources said the American owners of the club, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, were pulling out all the stops to ensure planning documents and drawings were ready in time for what will be a crucial meeting.

US-based architects and planners are currently working alongside British design teams and the city council’s planning department.

The move comes just weeks after the final slice of public funding for the Stanley Park project was agreed by the board of the Northwest Regional Development Agency. The board agreed to an award of £9.3m to add to the £9m already given from the European Objective 1 fund.

The public cash will go towards refurbishing Stanley Park and building a new community partnership centre alongside the new ground. It is hoped the improvement scheme will give historic Stanley Park its biggest-ever facelift.

If the new plans are agreed at the end of this month, it will enable work on the new ground to start early in 2008, with opening planned for the start of the 2010/11 season.

The new plans are vastly different to the original proposals, hence the new planning application.

The scale of the project remains the same, with permission being sought for a 60,000-seater stadium, but there will be the possibility of extensions to add thousands of extra seats.

Ryan Babel Dropped By Holland For Oversleeping

Ryan Babel, the Liverpool midfielder, was omitted from Holland's team for Saturday's 2008 European Championship qualifying match with Romania because of oversleeping, according to coach Marco van Basten.

Van Basten picked Real Madrid's Arjen Robben in place of Babel as a punishment after the Anfield player twice missed team meetings.

"It was the second time that Babel overslept on a match day," Van Basten said. "That should never happen. That's why I left him out of the team. Robben trained hard and he is fit, so he played instead."

The Holland coach admitted Babel might feel deflated by the snub. "It is very well possible that Babel feels disappointed. It is also not my style to handle these kinds of things this way. But we also expect that players obey rules during a match.

"The first time that he arrived too late, he settled the matter with a joke. The second time he joined us too late for the meal and that was a bit too much. He has to appear on time, just like all the others."

Babel, 20, came into the match in the 78th-minute as substitute for Robben but could not prevent the Dutch from losing 1-0 to Romania in a clash between the two group leaders in Group G. Dorin Goian scored the only goal of the game.

Romania need five points from their last three games to be sure of qualifying for Euro 2008 while Holland are only two points ahead of third-placed Bulgaria.

Benitez Has No Fears Over Momo

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has backed under-fire midfielder Mohamed Sissoko to regain his best form for the club in the near future.

Sissoko has come under-fire in recent weeks for some below-par displays as the Reds have struggled to reproduce their early season form.

Benitez admits the Mali international is short of confidence, but the former Valencia chief is confident the all-action midfielder will bounce back.

"I see he is giving everything to play well," Benitez told the club's official website. "For our supporters that is the first thing any player must do.

"Momo was a key player when we won 82 points in the Premier League. Now we need to give him time to allow him to regain his confidence.

"I spoke to him after the Marseille game and said 'keep going.' He knows how I work because I managed him when he was 18 at Valencia, where he won the league and UEFA Cup with me.

"He knows I have a lot of confidence in him. I will push him and I will try to improve him."

Meanwhile, Liverpool have confirmed the departure of Pako Ayestaran as Benitez's assistant manager.

Benitez revealed last month Ayestaran was leaving Anfield after a reported bust-up between the pair.

A number of Spanish clubs and English sides were thought to be waiting in the wings to offer Ayestaran a job, but Liverpool have blocked any move for the highly-rated coach as he remains contracted to the club until the summer of 2008 as a result of the severance package.

"Following discussions between Rafael Benitez and Pako Ayestaran, it has been agreed that it would be in the best interests of all parties if Pako leaves his post as assistant manager," Reds chief executive RickParry told the club's official website.

"Pako, however, will remain under contract to us until next summer.

"The club want to thank Pako for his hard work and contribution to our success over the past three years."