Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tom Hicks Plans To Get More Involved At Liverpool As Gillett's Son Leaves

Liverpool FC co-owner Tom Hicks last night signalled that he plans to play a more hands-on roll in the running of the Anfield club.

Despite becoming the target of fans’ anger over the £100million-plus debt he and fellow owner George Gillett have placed on the club, Hicks told an American press conference he intends to become more involved at Anfield.

He dismissed suggestions he would be driven to sell up to Dubai International Capital or the growing ‘Share Liverpool’ group which aims to raise the money needed to buy out both Gillett and Hicks.

"I'm anticipating a more active role in Liverpool,'' Hicks told reporters at the Texas Rangers baseball franchise he also owns. I really don't want to comment more at this point.''

Hicks wouldn't be pressed into answering qustions about Liverpool’s financial stability.

Question marks have been hanging over how the Americans plan to run Liverpool FC since Gillett’s son Foster, who arrived to work with LFC chief executive Rick Parry after the takeover last year, went on holiday.

That was a month ago, and the Liverpool Daily Post understands he has not been back since.

The Daily Post understands that Foster Gillett and his wife have no plans to return to the city, despite having recently bought a £1m home in Woolton.

Any plans by Hicks to get more actively involved in Liverpool are likely to upset fans.

Comments by Hicks about approaching Jurgen Klinsmann as a possible replacement for Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez have galvanised public opinion against him.

In a survey carried out by the Liverpool Daily Post last month, nine out of 10 fans wanted Hicks to sell up his stake immediatley.

On the anniversary of the club’s takeover on Wednesday, chief executive Rick Parry urged all sides to start working together again.

But with rumours persisting in the financial press that the Americans may pass more of their debt on to the club’s book, that is unlikely to happen.

Rafael Benitez Admits That It's Win Or Bust At Chelsea

Rafael Benitez has admitted that it is win or bust at Chelsea if Liverpool are going to have a credible Premier League campaign.

The Anfield boss believes that if his side suffer yet another defeat at Stamford Bridge, then the best they can hope for is fourth place.

That is why he has described the encounter with Chelsea as a defining moment in his team's season - even though he knows it will take a superhuman effort to win there.

Under Benitez, Liverpool have lost every time they have visited the other members of the so-called 'Big Four'. In nine visits, they have not taken a single point from Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal.

And with away trips to all three coming up over the next six weeks, the Spanish coach knows that if his side are to hold any ambition of closing the gap on third place, then they must start beating their biggest rivals.

With such a tough run-in, they may have to take points of the title-chasers just to remain a distant fourth.

He admitted: "It is clear we have to win at Chelsea if we want to lift our season. It is a big game for us, because a result against a big team can offer real momentum.

"We are fighting for fourth position and if we beat Chelsea we can think about maybe third position.

"But if we lose, then we're running out of games and it would be much more difficult to even think about third place. We know how important it is."

Despite Liverpool's dismal record against the clubs they consider to be their main rivals, Benitez is still confident he can pull off a major shock.

They have taken only two points from their three home games against the top three this season.

But the Spanish coach was in defiant mood yesterday, insisting that he can inspire his men to a famous victory. "I go into the game with confidence. Personally, I feel very good," he said.

"We know we will need to play better than we have to get anything at Chelsea. When you play against the top sides you must play really well if you want to get something from the game.

"I think the players have the confidence now to go and get a result. The players who were not on international duty have trained well, the sessions were really good and the mood fantastic.

"I think we can do it, I really do. We have shown in different games that we are capable of doing it. We have gone to Chelsea before and played well, and deserved more from the game. Maybe this is the time we get it."

Benitez though, will be without his top scorer Fernando Torres, and he admits there is now a major worry about where the goals will come from.

His record against the top teams hasn't been good enough, but he argues that against the very best teams, it is the smallest of details that decide the outcome.

"When you play at Chelsea, it isn't easy. It isn't just Liverpool, nobody wins there, because they are so strong at home.

"So it's important to be focused on not making mistakes, because you know the small details are always important against a top team, especially away from home.

"We have played well, but I've said it before many times, we need to start taking the chances we create.

"How do we do that? I was asked a few weeks ago about why only Steven Gerrard and Torres are scoring.

But now we've lost Torres, we'll see if Gerrard can score!

"Clearly, we need goalscorers from all over the team. I hope the team will be ready, but goalscoring has been a problem for us from other areas, that is clear."

Liverpool will be forced to play Javier Mascherano, even after his long trip in midweek to the United States for a meaningless friendly with the Argentine Olympic squad, because Xabi Alonso is suspended.

Peter Crouch will start up front with Dirk Kuyt behind, and Benitez must also decide whether to continue with his unpopular tactic of employing Jamie Carragher at right-back.

Liverpool are the league's draw specialists with 10 games finishing all square.

Kenny Would Be Ideal For Anfield Role

Kenny Dalglish took to the stage at the ECHO Sports Personality Awards on Monday night and reminded everyone what qualities Liverpool Football Club has been so sorely lacking in recent months.

Class, humility and dignity used to be watchwords at Anfield at a time when dirty linen being washed in public was as rare an occurrence as a season without a trophy.

Far too often during the all too difficult last 12 months the qualities which made the Liverpool Way the route all other clubs in English football looked to follow have been cast aside as personal agendas and vendettas have been put before the good of the club.

And because of that, when Dalglish addressed the Echo Arena his adherence to the old Liverpool way of doing things highlighted just how badly the club has been getting things wrong since it was taken over a year ago.

There were even those in the audience who spoke of a desire to see Dalglish back at the club he still loves so he can help restore the values which have been conspicuous only by their absence of late.

That would be a tall order, of course. Dalglish’s status among Liverpool’s fans means there is a risk that his mere presence could overshadow the manager if he was given some sort of role at Anfield.

Such a situation has occurred at Barcelona, where Johann Cruyff looms large over each and every coach who takes charge of first team affairs at the Nou Camp, even though Cruyff is only an adviser to club president Joan Laporta.

The “ghost on the wall” situation is nothing new, either, as a succession of Manchester United managers who wilted in the presence of the late Matt Busby can testify.

Liverpool managed to avoid such problems when they stopped Bill Shankly from turning up at Melwood after the legendary Scot was succeeded by Bob Paisley, and although it was harsh on Shankly, it was undoubtedly for the good of the club.

Having legends hanging around isn’t always good for a club but with Liverpool currently being in so desperate need of the qualities Dalglish has in abundance maybe the time is right to get him back on board in some capacity.

Although, judging by the way he responded to being offered the manager’s job more than 20 years ago, it might not be all that easy to convince him.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, he said: “I got a phone call from Peter Robinson asking could he come up to the house to see me with John Smith.

“The club had only just given me a four-year contract so I didn’t really know what they wanted to see me about.

“Then Peter said they wanted to talk to me about the manager’s job and I said ‘well, don’t worry about that, you can still come anyway’.”

Liverpool has had no finer servant than Kenny Dalglish and if a role was created for him it could only be good news for the club and its fans.

Rafa - Time Is Running Out

Rafa Benitez admits time is running out for Liverpool as they chase a place in next season's UEFA Champions League.

Liverpool face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, a match which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1, and Reds boss Benitez is targeting a rare victory in West London.

The Reds had been touted as genuine title challengers this year, but they now face a battle with the likes of Everton, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Portsmouth just to finish in the top four.

And under-pressure Benitez acknowledges that his side must start to find some consistency in the race to reach a place in Europe's top club competition.

"We are fighting for fourth position and if we beat Chelsea we can maybe think about third," Benitez said in the Daily Star.

"But if we don't we are running out of games. I've said it many times, but we need to start taking our chances more often.

"If we get three points at Chelsea, in terms of confidence it will be good for the team.

"I know we have not won at Stamford Bridge in recent seasons, but nobody is winning there so it is not just for us that it is difficult, it is difficult for everyone who goes there."

Kewell Targets New Liverpool Deal

Harry Kewell is looking forward to getting an extension to his existing deal at Liverpool as he believes Anfield “has the best atmosphere in the world.”

The Australian winger’s contract expires in the summer and as such, he is keen to get back to his best form to prove to manager Rafa Benitez that he can still play at the highest standard.

"I want to stay at Liverpool and I'm going to be working hard to get another contract," Kewell told The Guardian.

"I think this is a great club. I was out on the pitch the other night and I said to Yossi (Benayoun) that Anfield has the best atmosphere in the world. Why would you want to leave?"

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Merseysiders since 2003, has faced a lot of injury problems for last two years and is aiming to put the troubles behind him for good. Benitez too is an admirer of Kewell’s talent and had said earlier this season that the attacker could get a new deal.

"I'm one to face up to my problems,” added the former Leeds United player. “I'm not afraid to turn around and say I have got some problems and I need to work at them.

“It is hard getting back to the top level after being out for so long but I'm getting there slowly. I'm showing glimpses but I would like to be more consistent.”

On speculation of Italian and Spanish clubs interested in him, he said: "You can't help talk but the truth is that I haven't heard anything, my agent hasn't heard anything and Liverpool haven't heard anything. So I just continue playing."