Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paul Ince Junior Joins Anfield Academy

Ince junior, 16, has been taken on by the club as a first-year Academy trainee, but unlike his father, who was an England captain as a midfielder, Thomas is a striker.

Paul, 40, is now manager of MK Dons and took them to promotion from Coca-Cola League Two this season, after previously taking charge of Macclesfield when his playing career came to an end.

Ince played for West Ham and Manchester United before moving to Inter Milan, and cited the fact that he wanted Thomas to attend school in England as the reason for his return from Italy to join Liverpool in 1997.

The Ince family have always kept their home in Wirral, where Thomas has worked his way successfully through the Liverpool’s schoolboy teams to the point that he has now started his career as a professional.

Liverpool have released three players from last season’s academy – defender Mattone Awang, winger Ben Parsonage and striker Michael Collins.

Swedish midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic, part of the FA Youth Cup winning side of 2007, is looking for a new club while still being under contract at the club.

Dirk Kuyt Confident Of Making Dutch Euro 2008 Cut

Dirk Kuyt is confident he won't be axed by Holland for the upcoming Euro 2008 finals.

The Liverpool striker was among a 26-man preliminary squad named at the weekend by Holland coach Marco van Basten.

That party will be cut to 23 when the final squad is announced on Monday, with rumours in Holland suggesting Kuyt will be one of the three to miss out. But the Liverpool man reckons his return to form over the past three months should be enough to earn him a place on the plane to Switzerland and Austria next month.

“If I show the same here as I did in the recent months at Liverpool, I don’t have to worry,” said Kuyt. “I think I will be a part of the squad. I am convinced that I can be important to my country. Few players can be compared to me style-wise.”

Kuyt struggled for form earlier in the season as he came to terms with Rafael Benitez’s rotation policy and the death of his father.

But the 27-year-old has enjoyed a renai-ssance having been moved to the right flank of a three-man strikeforce – a similar position to one he has previously played in for Holland – and netted crucial Champions League goals against Inter Milan, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Ryan Babel is also in the preliminary squad and is expected to be named in the final party next week.

Fulham Eye Finnan Return - Report

Fulham are reportedly eager to bring Liverpool full-back Steve Finnan back to Craven Cottage this summer.

The Republic of Ireland international enjoyed five years with the Cottagers before being picked up by Liverpool, where he has won the Champions League and FA Cup in the past five seasons.

However, having recently turned 32, injuries are beginning to get the better of him, and the arrival of Borussia Dortmund's Swiss full-back Philipp Degen has all but signalled the end for Finnan, who signed for £4 million in 2003.

Having just sealed survival in the Premier League in the most dramatic fashion, Fulham will now be eager to bolster their squad in order to build on this season and hope they are not involved in such a dogfight again this time next year.

While their first eleven is fairly solid, it is beyond that that they come undone, and with Paul Stalteri not impressing at right-back while being on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, plus the sale of Liam Rosenior to now relegated Reading, the west London outfit are decidedly short in right-back.

Finnan's experience, familiarity with the club and undoubted quality and commitment when fit would prove an asset to Roy Hodgson, should a deal be agreed between the two clubs.

Rafa To Start Anfield Clear-out

Xabi Alonso could be one of several players to leave Liverpool this summer.

He was only a late substitute in the club's final home game of the season against Manchester City and then did not figure at all in the last match at Tottenham.

Although Alonso, who is in Spain's squad for the Euro 2008 finals next month, has recently claimed he still sees his future at Anfield, a move to Italy would certainly interest him.

It is no secret that Benitez has been told he must sell as well as buy this summer as be re-builds his squad.

And Alonso found his senior appearances restricted last season following the £18.6million arrival of Javier Mascherano and with young Brazilian midfielder Lucas also making an impact.

With Benitez still trying to tie up the move of England international midfielder Gareth Barry to Anfield for £10million, the departure of Alonso would not be a surprise.

Alonso was one of Benitez's first signings when he took over as manager four years ago, arriving for £10.5million from Real Sociedad.

The 26-year-old has played 163 games for the club and scored 14 goals but featured little towards the end of the season.

Rafa Benitez also left out Jermaine Pennant, John Arne Riise and Peter Crouch from the side at Spurs, along with Harry Kewell, who knew by then his contract would not be renewed.

Benitez has already been active in the transfer market having signed defender Philipp Degen from Borussia Dortmund.

The Liverpool manager is also believed to be chasing Ulrich Rame, Bordeaux's France international goalkeeper, and Italian left-back Andrea Dossena from Udinese.

But the possible departure of Alonso will disappoint Liverpool fans, the Basque-born star being a key player over recent seasons and scorer of one of the goals in the 2005 Champions League final win in Istanbul.

Lucas Excited About Future

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva believes he can only improve as a player.

The Brazilian put in a number of impressive performances in the Reds' midfield last season, rarely looking out of place as his side reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and finished fourth in the Barclays Premier League.

"I really enjoyed my first season with Liverpool," said the 21-year-old, who joined the club from Gremio.

"To play 31 games for a club like this in your first season is something I am proud of because it is not easy to adapt to football in a new country.”I did not play any games in the first three months because I was still adapting to the style but now I feel much more comfortable on the pitch and, hopefully, next season will be better.

"English football is completely different so I needed to learn quickly. I spoke a lot with Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano because they know what it takes to play in my position in England and they helped me a lot.

"I tried to do the right things and to learn from them because when you have players like them around you it makes you feel more confident.

"I think I got better as the season went on because at first I did not go forward as much as I would have liked. I was adapting and I wasn't that confident on the pitch. But as the season went on I improved and hopefully next season will be better.