Friday, September 05, 2008

Jermaine Pennant Still In Liverpool FC Plans

RAFAEL BENITEZ has assured Jermaine Pennant he won’t freeze him out at Liverpool.

The Anfield manager was prepared to let the winger leave the club during the recent transfer window.

Pennant had talks with both Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers but ultimately declined the advances of both clubs.

The winger has fallen down the pecking order at Liverpool and has not even made the bench since being an unused substitute in the opening game at Standard Liege.

However, Benitez believes Pennant could still prove a useful squad member and has pencilled in the 25-year-old for an appearance in the Carling Cup clash against Crewe on September 23.

Liverpool may also look to extend Pennant’s contract at Anfield. The winger has entered the final 12 months of the three-year deal he signed when he arrived from Birmingham City for £6.7m in July 2006.

Liverpool have the option to invoke a one-year extension, a course they may choose to follow to prevent Pennant walking out of the club on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Liverpool FC Fans Back Jamie Carragher: You've Got It Right Over England

LIVERPOOL fans have given Jamie Carragher their backing after the Reds star admitted he has always put club before country.

Carragher came in for a storm of criticism yesterday after extracts of his forthcoming autobiography were published in a national newspaper in which he revealed an England defeat “never hurt me in the same way as losing for my club”.

He even went as far as saying he “would rather miss for England than LFC”, when discussing his England penalty miss against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup.

Former Liverpool player Stan Collymore, who won a total of three England caps before retiring at the age of 30 having never fulfilled his potential, was among those who criticised Carragher for his stance.

But the Bootle-born defender won the backing of Reds fans with Les Lawson of the Liverpool Supporters Club saying: “I agree with Carra. My only thought when international breaks come around is that I hope the players come back uninjured.

“I couldn’t care less about England, I’m a Liverpool supporter. We are Scouse, not English!”

Lawson even went as far as admitting Liverpool fans prefer to show allegiance to Spain because of the large contingent of Spaniards at Anfield.

He said: “I have watched Liverpool reserves when England are playing. In fact, if England were playing Spain, you would probably find Liverpool fans supporting Spain.”

Carragher’s attitude has been met with disappointment but not surprise by England supporters.

Mark Perryman, of the England Fans’ Group, thinks that European Cup-winners like Carragher, who play regular Champions League football, don’t reach the pinnacle of their careers on the international stage.

He said: “You do not want to hear things like that, but I do understand where someone like Carragher is coming from.

“His view is no different to many fans, particularly those who support the big clubs.

“If you asked most fans whether they would want their club to win the title or England to win the World Cup, they would back their own clubs.

“It is an attitude that has arisen as the Champions League has got bigger and bigger. I know that as an England fan these days, I am in a minority.

“The Champions League provides international quality football from September to March to players like Carragher. Success in it is crucial to the big clubs, so I understand his view.”

Jamie Carragher: Winning The Premier League Is Now An Obsession

I stare at my medal collection and there's a gaping, lingering hole.

It's a void I fear will never be filled before that dreaded moment when I wear the red shirt for the last time.

Since I turned 30, the pain of having no title medal seems to have intensified. I can't even really argue we've come close to ending our Premier League drought.

It hurts more as you begin to appreciate time is as much a rival as the other top clubs.

I may only have the three years left on my current Liverpool contract to win the league and it will sicken me not to achieve it. I'm fixated by this goal, consumed by my determination to bring the title back to Anfield.

I don't just think about winning the title once a day, but sometimes as many as half a dozen times in an afternoon.

Winning the title has become Liverpool's obsession, but whereas the supporters have their lifetimes to realise the ambition, as a player I'm running out of opportunities.

Without wishing to sound negative, I've no choice but to prepare myself for the possibility it might not happen. If I never win a title, knowing the standards I've set myself, I suspect I'll consider my career a partial failure.

Benitez Welcomes Riera To Liverpool But Fears Market Inflation Due To City Cash Injection

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez welcomed new signing Albert Riera to Anfield today - then admitted the player's former Premier League employers could be title contenders this season.

The Spanish winger spent six months on loan with Manchester City in his previous spell in English football and although it was an unmemorable stint for player and club, the prospects of both have flourished this week.

Riera, 26, has signed a four-year deal with the Reds - where the company of Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Jose Reina will surely do his international prospects no harm - while City have agreed a takeover with the mega-rich Abu Dhabi United Group.

And although Benitez believes his new signing from Espanyol may finally solve his long-standing problems on the left wing, he accepts that the grand designs of City's new investors could make his quest for title success even more difficult.

For Benitez, the stunning capture of Robinho for a British record transfer fee could have set in motion a chain of events that will blow the accepted 'big four' wide open.

'You cannot just win the title by spending money but Chelsea won for two years spending big, big money. Afterwards Manchester United won spending lots of money too,' Benitez said. 'If we are talking about spending money then maybe Manchester City will win the title this year.

'It is not just a question of money but if you have more money it is easier. If you don't have too much money, you must do the job as best you can.

'If we are talking now, maybe they (City) need time but if we talk in January maybe they will buy five players... then you never know.

'But it is not just a question of "I will invest more and I will win". You cannot guarantee anything.'

One consequence of the City takeover Benitez can see taking immediate effect is a hike in transfer fees involving English clubs.

A similar thing happened when Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea as the billionaire flooded the market with cash - and early talk of a City bid in excess of £120million for Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to prevent history repeating itself this time.

'Prices could rise,' said Benitez, who is believed to have paid around £8million for Riera.

'That could be a problem. You cannot change these things but you try and get the players you want as cheap as possible, even when prices go higher.'

Reflecting on his own newest recruit, Benitez - who denied knowledge of a deadline day offer of £50million for Torres - predicted a bright Liverpool future.

'We were talking about wingers and he is winger with Premier League experience,' he said. 'That is a good thing because maybe he can settle down quickly.

'He was here (in England) three years ago but since then he has been capped by the national team and has the experience of playing in a UEFA Cup final.'

He added: 'He's the kind of player all managers like and the supporters will be very happy. He is good in the air, has a good delivery and a good left foot, he is also strong and he can be really good for us.'

Riera, who was also a reported target for Liverpool's Merseyside rivals Everton, insisted Anfield was the only place for him.

'I am very happy to be here, it was my first choice,' he confirmed. 'I only wanted to come here for a lot of reasons - the history of the club, the Champions League, the team-mates, the supporters.

'A lot of things make this the perfect club for me now.'

Riera: Don't Judge Me On City Spell

Albert Riera today vowed to prove his worth at Anfield and insisted fans shouldn't judge him on his last spell in English football with Manchester City.

On the day Rafael Benitez unveiled his deadline day signing to the media at Melwood, Riera insisted his game has developed during the three years he has since spent in Spain - and now he can't wait to make an impact on Merseyside.

"That was a different moment," reflected Riera. "I went to Manchester City in January and we were playing for a place in the middle of the table.

"I was 22 but now I have three years more experience and this is very important in football. Since then I have played in a UEFA Cup final and I have played for the national team.

"I am now more prepared to play for a big club like Liverpool and I also know the Premier League.

"I think I am better now. I have made good progress and I want to continue this progress here.

Liverpool beat off competition from rival clubs - including Everton - to land the 26-year old, but Riera insists Anfield was the only destination he was interested in moving to.

"I am happy to be here," he added. "This is the first day with my team-mates. I wanted to come here because of the history, the Champions League, Anfield, the supporters and my team-mates. This is the perfect club for me.

"Espanyol had other offers, not just from Everton, but I told them I wanted to go to Liverpool.

"The most important thing for any player is to go out there to try and win every game. We want to try and fight to win everything, the Champions League, the Premier League and the two cups. These are the things I want."

Competition for the top prizes could have increased following the takeover at Riera's former club on deadline day, but Riera insists everyone at Anfield should just concentrate on their own performances rather than cast an eye down the M62.

"I know what has happened at City but the most important thing for me now is Liverpool," he said.

"They are one team we need to be careful of but we need to look at ourselves. If we do good things we do not need to think about other teams."

Liverpool’s Arbeloa Feels Torres Can Stamp His Class

Liverpool right back Alvaro Arbeloa is certain that his team mate Fernando Torres can move past his 33 goals, which he scored last season and make an even bigger mark in the Premier League.

Torres, who joined the Reds last season from Atletico Madrid for a fee of £20million and became the first Liverpool player to score 20 league goals in a single campaign since Robbie Fowler along with breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for Manchester United, for most Premiership goals by a foreign player in their debut season.

Arbeloa who also hails from Spain, disclosed that Torres is confident to cross the 33 goal mark this season.

He told LFC magazine: "Nando's a crazy guy. He is really confident he can build on the total of goals he scored in his first season with us.

"If anyone is going to do it, then Fernando is the man. He wants to improve all the time, and one way for him to do that, the best way, is to score more than 33 goals.

"It seems like an impossible target – it does to me, anyway. But he is super confident that it is achievable.

"He believes he can smash last season's total. I said to him that I thought what he was saying was mad because it was a lot of goals and teams will be preparing to deal with him this season.

"They have been exposed by him and they will be trying to think up ways to prevent the same thing happening again.

"But knowing you have to stop him and actually stopping him are very different things. I don't know if it is possible – we hope not, anyway."

Rafael Benitez Delighted To Have Torres And Gerrard Back In Training

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez today revealed that Fernando Torres as well as skipper Steven Gerrard have resumed light training at Anfield.

The duo are hoping to attain full fitness ahead of the Premier League clash against defending champions Manchester United.

According to Benitez they can take up to “ten to twelve days” before making their comeback to first team action.

Currently Torres is nursing a hamstring tear that he picked up against Aston Villa at the weekend while Gerrard is on the way to recovery from a groin operation.

'Both players are now back jogging and will be out for ten to twelve days," said Benitez.

"Gerrard might be back before Torres but you never know."

Liverpool Fans Tell Royal Bank Of Scotland To Stop Extending Finance To Hicks And Gillett

Liverpool fans' group the Spirit of Shankly wants the Royal Bank of Scotland to stop financing the club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The bank, along with US investment bank Wachovia, gave finance to the owners in January to re-finance their original loan of £350million, which ended with the club being saddled with £30m a year of interest payments.

That loan is due for re-negotiation again in January, and now the fans' action group wants the RBS to refuse any further cash. It is being suggested that fans will be asked to close their accounts and disrupt the bank's activities if further loans are allowed.

The SOS group says in a statement: 'We would encourage the RBS to withdraw financial support for Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

'Should the owners come back asking for more finance in January, we would ask the bank to refuse as it is against the wishes of the vast majority of Liverpool fans.'

Rafa Liked My Aggressive Style And Wanted Me To Intimidate Rivals And Team-Mates, Says Carragher

Jamie Carragher has revealed how Rafa Benitez wanted the aggressive defender to be his enforcer both on and off the pitch.

Shortly after taking over at Liverpool, Benitez handed the centre-half a DVDs of Arrigo Sacchi's legendary AC Milan side of the 1980s and asked him to analyse Franco Baresi's movements and organisation of the defence.

The Spaniard also wanted Carragher to inject some toughness into his team-mates - by any means necessary.

After a defeat at Birmingham, Benitez pulled Carragher in after training and told him a story from his Valencia days.

'When members of the squad didn't show the right attitude in the match, the Argentinian players would start a fight in the showers with the team-mates who weren't doing their job,' he said. 'I looked at the manager to make sure it wasn't a joke and could see a glint in his eye. "He's dropping me a hint here" I thought.

"I don't think that's me," I said politely, informing Rafa that verbal rather than physical tormenting of underperforming colleagues was more my scene.

'But it was comforting to know he trusted me enough to give me his blessing to take a swing at some of the players he didn't like.'

In his new autobiography, serialised in The Mirror, Carragher says Benitez's defensive wisdom impressed him most.

'It was a step up from what I'd enjoyed before. Gerard Houllier guided me towards becoming a top-class Premier League player, but Benitez has been the greatest overall influence on Jamie Carragher the defender.

'He's brought the best out of me, transformed me into a centre-half of European pedigree. I've played the finest football of my career under Rafa. Every training session has included advice on how I can improve my game.'