Thursday, June 19, 2008

How Bill Shankly’s Desk May Have Changed Football

The desk Bill Shankly sat at to write out a furious resignation letter in 1964 is to go under the auctioneer’s hammer in Liverpool.

The roll-top desk is included in a bundle of artefacts that will be sold by Cato Crane next week.

It comes from a collection gathered together by former player, coach and club stalwart Tom Bush, who spent 37 years at Anfield.

His son, Alan, explained the desk was bound up in a power struggle between the board and the manager that has a resonance in today’s Premiership.

He said: “In 1962, Johnny Morrissey, a tough little Liverpool lad and striker, was sold to Everton by the Liverpool chairman TV Williams.

“Bill was so incensed he not been consulted that he typed his resignation out and left it on the desk.

“Walking out of the club he met my father, Tom, and Bob Paisley in the car park. Bill told them he had resigned and they were shocked.

“They made him go back into the club and they persuaded him not to resign. My father removed the letter and destroyed it.

“They then spoke to the club secretary the following day, and TV Williams effectively relinquished his power. He never bought or sold another player.

“That was the moment that managers began really to manage, and it was because of the stand that Bill took.

“It’s something that has been kept ‘in house’ at the club for years, and this desk is at the centre of it.”

When Mr Bush got hold of the desk nearly 40 years ago, he found a bundle of papers tucked at the back. They turned out to include some real gems, and the job lot will be auctioned off next Tuesday.

They include a match receipt from an FA cup tie between Liverpool and Everton, which reveals that Liverpool earned £2,607, 9 shillings from the gate.

There is also a “Liverpool Ladies Itinerary” for the players’ wives and girlfriends attending the Liverpool versus Arsenal FA Cup Final in 1950.

The schedule is likely to make today’s WAGs raise a well-sculpted eyebrow.

It includes a seaside visit to Brighton and Reigate as part of a tour that departed Liverpool Lime Street at 8.30am sharp on cup final Saturday.

The 1950s WAGs were put up in a Great Northern Hotel, the pocket-sized cardboard itinerary reveals.

Best of all may be a handwritten note from chairman George Richards to Don Welsh offering him the job as manager at LFC.

A simple three-page letter on headed notepaper in copper-plate script doubles up as Welsh’s contract, for which he would receive an extra £500 for winning the FA Cup or league championship.

Mr Bush said: “This was all the bits of administrative ‘rubbish’ in the back of the desk. In 1970, I was a student at Liverpool University and I was working at Anfield when they were building the new stand.

“I was in one part of the building and in the corner was this desk, in bits, I remembered from when I was a boy.

“It had been used by all the post-war managers up to then. I brought it home and got a furniture restorer to fix it up.”

Mr Bush wants the entire bundle of artefacts to be sold together and it is understood a representative from Liverpool FC Museum has been to look at it.

Auctioneer John Crane said: “The collection is so important, it would be a shame to spilt it up.”

He values the lot at upwards of £1,500.

Greek Option For Reds Target

Albert Riera is seen as a viable transfer target for Liverpool, but the Spanish press claims that Panathinaikos have offered the midfielder a three-year contract worth £3.2 million.

Former Manchester City ace Riera has been linked to a return to The Premier League, following a superb season with Espanyol.

His Catalonian employers are ready to cash-in on the 26-year-old, who is believed to be interested in the Greek offer, but only if his brother Sito is part of the deal.

The striker is playing for Espanyol’s ‘B’ team after having joined from city rivals Barcelona in the summer of 2007.

Panathinaikos are believed to have been rebuffed with an £8 million bid, as Espanyol demand a minimum of £12 million.

It is clear that Riera wants out of Espanyol, after being targeted by a section of the club’s fans.

“I’m not going to play for Espanyol any more,” he said. “I don’t want to play for a club where the fans don’t want me.”

Riise Ends His Anfield Career

John Arne Riise’s Liverpool career finally came to an end last night when Roma confirmed his signing.

The Norwegian left-back was in Italy for talks yesterday and agreed personal terms to complete the move on a four-year deal worth £2.2million.

Liverpool had looked set to recoup the £4.6m they paid Monaco for him in 2001 but the clubs reached a compromise on the player’s valuation, which was revealed as just short of £4m by the Italian club.

A Roma statement said: “AS Roma announce they have reached an agreement with Liverpool Football Club for the acquisition of the sporting rights of the player John Arne Riise with effect from July 1 2008.”

The departure of Riise, 27, had been inevitable since the second half of last season when a loss of form saw him lose his place to Fabio Aurelio.

And Rafael Benitez’s pursuit of Andrea Dossena, whose arrival from Udinese is imminent, also indicated that Riise’s days were numbered.

The Liverpool manager has been hoping for the right price for the player and will use the money to fund summer squad strengthening – but he needs to see more moves materialise that will boost his transfer kitty.

No fee has yet been agreed for Xabi Alonso as Juventus ponder their offer for the midfielder, and that saga won’t be resolved before the end of Spain’s involvement in Euro 2008.

Portsmouth are still weighing up an offer for Peter Crouch but Liverpool will expect in the region of £10m for the England international striker.

They will also listen to offers for Scott Carson following his return from a season’s loan at Aston Villa – whose holding out for at least £18m for Gareth Barry is central to Benitez’s desire to offload his players at the right price.

Carson’s need for first team football is likely to lead to Benitez also having to search for a reliable second-choice goalkeeper to back up Pepe Reina.

Maik Taylor was one target but the Northern Ireland international revealed why he snubbed Anfield to sign a new contract with relegated Birmingham City.

“With an offer on the table from the club, it was always going to be the case that I would stay really,” Taylor said.

“It was flattering that Liverpool showed a lot of interest and of course I gave it serious consideration.

“Liverpool could offer the Champions League and everything else, but it would have been a situation as a number two and a year’s contract as well.

“Scott Carson has gone back there now as well. There was talk of him going to Villa after his loan, but that has not materialised.

“I still have a big desire to play and, as long as I keep my form and fitness, that’s more likely here.”

Xabi Alonso Looked Man With Point To Prove

So far in Euro 2008, Anfield’s interest in the Spanish team’s fortunes has been centered around Fernando Torres.

Liverpool’s top scorer has made a goal, scored a goal, been substituted prematurely, denied falling out with his coach and denied that he’s about to join Chelsea for a world record fee.

However, with Luis Aragones’s side having already won Group D, ‘El Nino’ and most of his fellow regulars in the side were given the night off ahead of their quarter-finals showdown with world champions Italy.

The scenario duly presented an opportunity for three other Liverpool players to figure with the Anfield trio of Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa all stepping off the bench.

Alonso was handed the captain’s armband and produced the kind of performance that would have banished any question marks over his Liverpool future if seen on a regular basis at Anfield.

Rafael Benitez now prefers Argentininian Javier Mascherano in his first choice midfield but Alonso put a poor season with his club behind him and was unfortunate not to score with a trademark shot from the halfway line that caught out Greek keeper Antonis Nikopolidis in the first half before rattling his right-hand post with a 30-yard screamer after the interval.

Whether he was playing for his place in Aragones’s line-up, his Liverpool future or a move to the likes of Juventus, Alonso looked like a man with a point to prove.

In contrast, Arbeloa hardly covered himself with glory, caught in no man’s land between two Greek attackers for the opening goal and booked just before the break, it was a display that wouldn’t have worried incoming Liverpool full-backs Andrea Dossena and Philipp Degen much.

As arguably the best goalkeeper in the world not to be number one with his national side, this was a rare chance for Pepe Reina to shine in front of Aragones but you can’t help but feel that the three-time Premier League Golden Gloves winner gets a raw deal with Spain.

Iker Casillas seems to be an immovable object in the number one jersey but his Anfield counterpart has done much more on the European stage in recent seasons.

Reina didn’t have much chance with the bullet header that brought Angelos Charisteas’s opener but facing the defence-minded Greeks is never going to be the busiest of nights for a goalkeeper eager to show his worth.

Taylor Explains Liverpool Snub

Maik Taylor has revealed why he knocked back the advances of Liverpool in order to stay in the Championship with newly-relegated Birmingham City.

Liverpool's shock swoop for Maik Taylor has been rebuffed by the player, with the veteran re-signing with relegated Birmingham till 2010.

Rafa Benitez wanted the 36-year-old Northern Ireland international as cover for Pepe Reina and hoped experienced Taylor would move back to the Premiership in a Bosman deal.

However, Taylor has revealed that first-team football, his settled family and good relationship with Blues boss Alex McLeish prompted him to resist the Red' "flattering" advances.

Taylor told the Birmingham Mail: "With an offer on the table from the club, it was always going to be the case that I would stay really.

"It was flattering that Liverpool showed a lot of interest and of course I gave it some serious consideration.

"Liverpool could offer the Champions League and everything else, but it would have been a situation as a No.2 - a year’s contract as well.

"Scott Carson has gone back there now. There was talk of him going to Villa after his loan, but that has not materialized.

"I still have a big desire to play and, as long as I keep my form and fitness, that’s more likely here.

"I enjoy playing for Birmingham and although obviously it was tremendously disappointing to get relegated, I am really optimistic about the future and looking forward to the new season.

"I was really pleased with the way the manager and [goalkeeping coach] Dave Watson were with me. Straight after our last game against Blackburn Rovers, they said they wanted to offer me a new deal"

Taylor added that his family was "really settled" in the area and that Everton and Stoke City had also made enquiries about his availability.

Olic Unfazed By Liverpool Talk

Croatian striker Ivica Olic says he is unfazed by transfer speculation linking him with a move to Liverpool and admits he expects to be still playing for Hamburg at the start of the season.

Olic has impressed during the recent good run of form Croatia have enjoyed at Euro 2008 and has awoken the interest of a number of clubs after putting himself very much in the shop window with his displays.

Reports coming from Germany claim Rafa Benitez would like to see Olic working the wide areas at Anfield next season to supply the ammunition for leading scorer Fernando Torres.

However, Olic has confessed that he is likely to remain in the Bundesliga despite his fine displays in Austria and Switzerland.

"All this is not currently an issue for me" he told Mopo when asked about the transfer speculation.

"I want to, and must have, my mind on the European Championship - for Croatia!

"Once I'm back home, I will quickly get together with HSV. I think I'll play next year for Hamburg. And even longer. But so much is possible in football."

Hamburg are looking to restart contract negotiations with the 28 year old when he returns from the finals, but the birth of a new baby could play some part in the thinking regarding his future.

The Croat forward is however quoted by Spox as saying: "To play with a great club in England is a dream for me."

Liverpool are said to have scouted the left-sided forward during the tournament and been impressed with his work-rate and ability.