Sunday, July 27, 2008

Yeats: Skrtel's Got It All

Ron Yeats has hailed the impact of Martin Skrtel after the Slovakian overcame a difficult start to life at Anfield to enjoy a promising first season with the club.

The Reds legend - who Bill Shankly famously called his 'Colossus' - admits he had reservations about Skrtel following the defender's debut against Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup; but he is now a keen admirer of the 23-year-old and feels he can go on to have a big future on Merseyside.

"I go to all the home games and after watching his debut I wasn't very impressed," Yeats told LFC TV.

"When I say I wasn't impressed I mean, I thought he was a bag of nerves. But I thought he must have something about him.

"In the games that followed he showed that he was very good player. He's got a bit of pace and boy can he tackle and head the ball.

"That's what you want from a centre back. I think he's only 23 and with him Agger, Carragher and the boy Hobbs, we are well endowed with centre backs.

"And of course there's Sami Hyypia. He's my favourite player I must admit. I went twice to see him and then I recommended him because I thought he was something else.

"He doesn't have a lot of pace, he'll tell you that, but he can read the game. He's a super passer of the ball too."

Yeats feels Hyypia's experience and sheer professionalism will provide the likes of Skrtel with the perfect example to follow in terms of how to conduct themselves, both, on and off the pitch.

"Sami is a talker and a leader and I think you have to have that because football is made up of partnerships," he said.

"If you don't have that then you have no chance. Sami will talk players through where they need to be and where they shouldn't be and I think Skrtel, and the others I have mentioned, will benefit from that."

McAuley: U18S Will Improve

Liverpool Under-18s will continue their preparations for the new Academy league season when they host Plymouth Argyle in a friendly match this afternoon.

Boss Hughie McAuley feels his squad will have benefitted from the experience they gained during what was a tough 2007-08 campaign and is confident he will have a much stronger group of players at his disposal this time around.

"Today we play Plymouth and then we've got Bradford coming up too," he told LFC TV.

"So it gives us two home games to try a few things out on what is a really good pitch at the Academy. Hopefully we can push on and improve our overall game.

"It'll give us the chance to look at more players against sides we don't normally play against and set us up nicely ahead of our trip to Spain in a few weeks time.

"There's always a buzz when you come back for pre-season training because you haven't seen the boys or staff for several weeks and it's nice to get back as a full group and begin work.

"I think I learned a lot about the players last year because we had a particularly young group.

"They are now more experienced so it's good for their development and this year we are hoping that it will give the squad a bit more of a backbone. We obviously have some new players coming in too and we are looking forward to working with them, so I think we've got a decent squad of players.

"We've got the likes of Adam Pepper and Jack Metcalf who figured last season as well as some other new players.

"Then there's Michael Roberts and even Alex Kacaniklic, who's a very young under-18 player, so we've got a bit more experience but some very good first year players too."

Alonso To Sign For Fenerbahce So Liverpool Can Finally Land Villa's Barry?

Spanish International Xabi Alonso has been linked with a move to Turkish Fenerbahce as Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez tries to raise the funds to land main transfer target Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, according to The Mirror.

26-year-old Alonso had been linked with a move to Serie A giants Juventus all summer, but this fell through when La Vecchia Signora decided to sign Christian Poulsen from La Liga club Sevilla instead.

It is now believed that Liverpool have agreed a fee in the region of £12million (€15.2m) with Fenerbahce to allow Alonso to leave Anfield and give Benitez the necessary finances to finally prise England International Gareth Barry away from Villa Park.

Fenerbahce see EURO 2008 Winner Alonso as the ideal man to front their Champions League campaign this year, with Benitez already believed to have held talks with the Spaniard about his future.

Benitez To Bow Out Of Barry Race?

Liverpool are reportedly set to pull the plug on their lengthy pursuit of Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry, as they begin to explore other avenues.

According to News of the World, the Reds will officially end their chase for Barry to focus on wrapping up the signing of Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur.

Even until recently it seemed inevitable that the England international would end up at Anfield, especially after he lambasted Villa boss Martin O’Neill in the press and declared his desire to make the switch.

But proceedings have stalled recently as both the Midlands club and their Merseyside counterparts have refused to compromise their respective positions regarding the transfer fee. Villa have not shifted from their ₤18million asking price, while Liverpool will not go any higher than ₤15million plus add-ons.

The deal was further jeopardised when Juventus dropped their interest in Xabi Alonso, whose proposed ₤16million move to Turin was supposed to fund the Reds’ bid for Barry. But the Basque playmaker appears to be staying now, despite some reports claiming that he is unsettled and will discuss his future his manager Rafael Benitez this week.

And Barry’s dreams of a North West move could be shattered if Liverpool complete the capture of Keane within the next few days. Benitez wants the Irish striker in his squad for next weekend’s friendly against Rangers, and is willing to stump up all of ₤20million for the ex-Internazionale man.

Furthermore, the former Valencia coach is closely monitoring the situation of David Silva, who is likely to leave the Mestalla this summer as the Spanish club seek to wipe away their massive debts. It is believed any offer above ₤17million would be enough to prise the 22-year-old playmaker away from los Che.

As such, Barry’s future is well and truly up in the air, and he now faces the very real possibility of having to remain at Villa Park for the upcoming campaign. O’Neill has made a peace offering to his want-away skipper, but the Villa fans may not be quite so forgiving.

Argentine Bruna Scores Against Stockport

Gerardo Bruna secured a score-draw for Liverpool as they take on League One outfit Stockport County.

Liverpool took of the 'Hatters' today, and after Stockport paraded their play-off trophy to the crowd before kick-off, they took to the pitch with a game plan to get stuck into a fairly young Liverpool side, coached by Gary Ablett.

Within 20 minutes, however, Vincent Weijl darted down the left flank and set a cross over to the far post that Ryan Flynn nodded through to the grateful Gerardo Bruna, who sent a hard shot past the Stockport keeper.

The home side could have equalised straight away but 17-year old Aussie goalkeeper, Dean Bouzanis responded well to Thompson's shot and pulled off a good save.

After the break Brouwer and Bruna linked up well and could have doubled the scoreline but County glovesman Owain fon Williams denied the move a goal.

After much diligence the Hatters drew level just after the hour mark, unmarked Michael Raynes nodded the equaliser.

Stockport County: Williams, Rose (McNulty 65), Owen, Pilkington (Green 83), Dicker (Blizzard 65), Thompson, Baker (McNeil 65), Rowe, Raynes, Turnbull, McSweeney (Vincent 77). Unused subs: Astbury, Havern.

Liverpool XI: Bouzanis (Hansen 46), Kelly, Huth, San Jose, Ayala (Eccleston 46), Spearing (Metcalf 83), Flynn, Bruna (Simon 56), Lindfield, Weijl (Kacaniklic 56), Brouwer (Amoo 77). Unused subs: Nemeth.