Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mark Lawrenson: Sammy Lee A Great Choice For Liverpool

Sammy Lee is the perfect choice to be Rafael Benitez's number two - and I'm delighted he is back at Liverpool.

There are two main reasons for this. The first centres around his qualities as a coach, which are so good Trevor Brooking once made him the FA’s man to coach the coaches.

He gets players to do their jobs both in training and on the tactical side. But he’s not just someone who concentrates on the team, he will work one on one just to help somebody out because that’s all he wants to do.

I remember some of the Bolton lads talking about how he was the first on the training ground in the morning and the last to leave it because he was always staying behind to work with someone and give them some extra help.

It’s that kind of enthusiasm which can only have a positive effect on the Liverpool squad.

But the second reason why he is the right appointment is because of what a character like Sammy represents.

He has Liverpool Football Club at his heart. Those type of people have been sadly lacking during this past season of off-field turmoil so this sends out the right message.

The supporters like the fact that the backroom staff has someone that has the club in his blood – it’s a hark-back to the old Anfield boot room mentality.

On a personal note, I’ve know Sammy for many years since we played in the same Liverpool team and it’s no surprise he has made such a good coach.

He was never really a leader in terms of his personality, but he was a great leader by example.

The key to Sammy’s game was he knew what he was there to do – he was a continuity player in our team. Get it, give it, get it back, give it again.

When you played with him you could close your eyes and pass to him because you always knew where he was going to be. He had that discipline and awareness of his role and he has since successfully drummed that ideal into the players he has worked with. He also has the pedigree. Playing for England, winning European Cups, coaching with England. Many of the players will know his methods and Benitez knows he has someone whose opinion he can trust.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say Sammy was born to be a number two though.

I think it was always going to be a tough ask for whoever took over from Sam Allardyce at Bolton and it didn’t work out.

When you’re in charge of everything and all the other issues that come with managing, it can detract from what you’re really good at and I think being in that position at the Reebok had a detrimental on how good a coach he is.

At the end of the day, there aren’t many managerial jobs about and it was always going to be easier for Sammy to take up another coaching role before he considered going back into management.

Realistically, he would be taking charge of a team in the Championship now and someone like him needs to be working at the highest level, whatever the role.

So when he gets an offer to do that at a club he would die for, it was always going to be a no- brainer – both for him and Benitez.

Gerrard: Torres And Babel Will Shine In Euro 2008

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has sent award-winning team-mates Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel off to Euro 2008 with ringing endorsements after their first season at Anfield.

Torres has been named the club’s player of the season, while Babel is the young player of the season in the poll of Reds supporters.

Torres is now heading for the European finals as a key part of the Spanish squad, while Babel will be playing for Holland in Switzerland and Austria.

Torres is the runaway winner of Liverpool’s top player award with a remarkable 78% of the votes cast.

The striker hit a stunning 33 goals in his first season in English football, and broke the record for goals in the top flight scored by a foreign player in his debut campaign.

And Gerrard, who will have to watch the tournament on TV with England failing to qualify, expressed his delight at the impact Torres and Babel have made.

He said: “I enjoy playing alongside Torres, it is great to have him here and he has been player of the year hands down. His movement and runs are fantastic. Hopefully he can take this into next season.

“What has struck me about him, besides the goals, is his work rate and how much he is up for it.

“Usually when you bring in foreign players there can be a concern about whether they will be able to handle the physical side of the Premier League. How long are they going to take to adapt to the push and shove?

“But from the first game against Chelsea, he was all over their defenders, harassing them. If he gets kicked he’s straight back up. He loves it! This is what has struck me most because I always expected him to get the goals.”

Gerrard added: “He is a powerful boy, he doesn’t go down. He is strong, has great character and works hard for the team. He is a great buy so far.

“As for Ryan, he is still young and has made a big impact from the bench, and he has also done well in some matches he has started and he has a bright future.

“If he’s willing to learn then he has got the right players around him to help his game. But it is all about Ryan now and how much he wants to take his game to the next level, because he has certainly got the attributes.

“He has got the ability, there is no doubt about it. He is strong, quick, can set goals up and score. He’s got it all.

“But I have seen it with so many players when they have had this ability and not taken it to the next level.

“It is up to him now how much he wants to be one of the top players about, because he certainly could be.”

Torres is now aiming for even more success in Euro 2008, having been selected for the Spanish squad along with club colleagues Jose Reina, Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa.

Spain face friendlies against Peru (May 31) and USA (June 4) before kicking off their opening group match against Russia in Innsbruck on June 10.

Meanwhile, Argentine international Javier Mascherano is desperate to win silverware with the Reds

He said: “It is a matter of great pride for me to represent the famous name of Liverpool.

“I want to play my part in making this club even more successful. I want to ensure this is the last season without a trophy for a long time.

“We had a season which had many highlights but also left us with a feeling that maybe we could have achieved more.

“There are some important lessons we must think about as a team during the summer months and learn, before we come back for next season.

“We lost too many points at home – we cannot do that next season. We lost too many late goals and did not kill teams off sometimes when we had the chances.”

Harry Kewell: I Want To Show Rafa Benitez What I Was Capable Of

Unwanted Liverpool winger Harry Kewell is determined to show manager Rafael Benitez that he was wrong to let him go.

The 29-year-old will be released by the Reds this summer after five years at the club which have largely been ruined by injuries and lack of form.

The former Leeds star remains confident of his own abilities, however, and insists he has nothing to prove to anyone - except Benitez.

“The one person I’d like to show is my old manager,” said Kewell. “I didn’t get a chance to show him a lot of what I could do and it would be great to show him what I was capable of doing.

“I didn’t put my hand up to be injured. It’s one of those things you have to go through in your life and it’s a shame.”

Kewell has also played down reports claiming he has already agreed to join Portsmouth.

“Apparently my agent did a deal with Portsmouth while he was on the plane coming over to Australia, so I don’t know how he’s done that,” Kewell said on a trip to his homeland.

“But I’ve never shied away from going abroad. I’ve never shied away from playing in the Premier League, I’ve never shied away from playing anywhere.

“My options are open and we’ll see what happens.”

Rafa Benitez Looks A Bit Sheepish

Two Liverpool icons came face-to-face – and found they had something unexpected in common.

Rafa Baa-nitez has been revealed as the latest signing of Go Superlambananas, and the real Liverpool manager was on hand to give his seal of approval to the lookalike.

With the glasses, red and white scarf and distinctive goatee, Baa-nitez is an instantly recognisable tribute to the Liverpool manager, who was happy to sign his name on the sculpture.

Go Superlambananas takes over the city for 10 weeks beginning in June.

As part of the summer celebrations of Capital of Culture year, 100 small replicas of the much-loved Liverpool icon are being transformed into unique, exciting artworks displayed throughout the streets, parks, neighbourhoods and open spaces.

Dozens of Superlambanas are being adorned before going on display throughout the city.

After the event, many will be sold at a charity auction with a significant percentage of the proceeds going to local charities. Baa-nitez has been sponsored by Finch – The Ideas Agency.

Joint-MD Tim Crutchley said: “The Baa-nitez concept really resonated as Liverpool is a city that is synonymous with sport and football is at its very heart.

“And with Rafa and his wife, Montse, being supporters of The Lily Centre Charity in Liverpool, he has very kindly given his time and the new Baa-nitez will be used to help raise awareness and funds for the centre.”

Degen Deal Announced, Back-up Keeper Linked

Liverpool FC have officially confirmed today that Philipp Degen is to join the club when his current contract with Borussia Dortmund runs out at the end of the month.

Degen, in the Swiss squad for Euro 2008, will officially become a Red on July 1st.

Reds boss Rafa Benítez said today of the 25-year-old right-back: “Philipp is still young but has gained great experience from playing in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund and on the international stage with Switzerland. He also played in the Champions League during his time with Basel and so is used to top level football.”

He went on,”He is an offensive player with great energy and a winning mentality. His strength is going forward and I am confident he will prove to be a quality addition to our squad.”

Some Liverpool fans have been critical of the fact that Liverpool are signing players on free transfers, but Rafa sees the benefits of spreading his budget as far as possible, and no fee doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality: “Sometimes you can find these players on the market. When you find a player like him who costs no money it means you can use money for improving other parts of the squad. He is a good signing, a player of potential, who can help us improve in the wide areas.”

Degen himself said he didn’t need to be asked twice: “When I received the offer from Liverpool, there was no doubt I would accept it. They are one of the biggest clubs in the world and I am looking forward to the challenge of establishing myself there and playing in the best league there is.”

One of the players he’ll be competing with for a place in the Reds line-up is Alvaro Arbeloa, who has just been called up for Spain’s Euro 2008 challenge. He said he was delighted to be involved with his country: “I’m very happy to be here, I’m really excited and I’m determined to do well. I want to fully enjoy this experience and go far in the tournament. It’s important to think that we have to win, although we haven’t won much in Spain. That’s the right mentality. We know that we have to go bit by bit but the objective is to win Euro 2008.”

Meanwhile reports in France have linked Liverpool with a move for a 35-year-old goalkeeper. Ulrich Ramé has just ended the season with Bordeaux, finishing second in the French top flight, and leParisien now say Liverpool have looked at him as cover for Pepe Reina. Liverpool’s previous three French keepers have been Pegguy Arphexad, Patrice Luzi and Charles Itandje, and enthusiasm amongst supporters for this possible signing is likely to be rather low. Hopefully so inside Melwood too.

Harry Kewell Linked With Portsmouth Move

Harry Kewell, the Australia midfielder released by Liverpool this month, has been linked with a move to FA Cup winners Portsmouth as he attempts to rebuild his career.

After five injury-plagued seasons at Liverpool, Kewell is available on a free transfer and may appeal to Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager. But Kewell played down the reports, saying he was keeping his options open.

"I have never shied away from going abroad, playing in the Premiership or playing anywhere," Kewell said.

Kewell has been dubbed an expensive flop by many Liverpool supporters and some newspaper reports have taken to suggesting that he is pricier than episodes of Neighbours, the Australian soap. The calculation is based on Kewell costing Liverpool £160,000 per game during his 138 appearances for the club, providing a meagre return of just 16 goals.

But Kewell, who is training with the Socceroos ahead of their friendly against Ghana in Sydney on Friday, dismissed the jibes as something newspapers specialise in.

"When are they ever polite? There are always scapegoats, there are always people they want to blame," Kewell said. It's unfortunate I was one of them because I didn't put my hand up to get injured. It's a shame because I ain't done nothing wrong.

"It's something that they live and die for. They want to write things that aren't nice, but you just don't read it and you get on with your life."

However, Kewell, who signed for Liverpool in 2003, nevertheless regrets being unable to show manager Rafael Benitez his best form. The 29-year-old said he knew what he was capable of producing on the pitch but injuries stopped him from doing so.

"The one person I would like to show is probably my old manager," he said. "I didn't get a chance to show him a lot of what I could do. It would be great just to show him what I was capable of doing."

Earlier this month, Benitez said Liverpool had tried to reach an extension with Kewell but the two parties could not agree.