Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tom Hicks & George Gillett Told: Put Real Money Into Liverpool FC

THE fans group which wants to buy Liverpool today challenged the club’s American owners to put ‘some real money’ into Anfield and fend off potentially devastating debts over coming years.

The ShareLiverpoolFC group, which has announced ambitious plans for a Barcelona-style buyout at Anfield with supporters – or organised groups of them – each owning a stake in the club, has conducted its own analysis of Anfield’s finances.

The study comes in the wake of the recent credit crunch – blamed by Tom Hicks and George Gillett for their halting of plans to build a new stadium – and the global banking crisis.

It also follows calls this week by UEFA president Sepp Blatter for controls on the foreign ownership of football clubs, and comments by the FA chairman Lord Triesman and UEFA’s general secretary David Taylor, regarding the excessive debts held by Premier League clubs.

Share Liverpool’s founder Rogan Taylor, a lifelong Liverpool fan, says the probe has raised serious questions about the Reds financial stability, given its dependency on borrowed cash – and the need to find over £20m a year plus to service interest payments on loans lumped onto the books by the owners.

ShareLiverpoolFC is supported by Anfield legends including Phil Thompson, John Barnes and John Aldridge and also has established close working links with the fans union the Spirit of Shankly.

In a statement released today, it said: “Even if the current RBS loan is extended beyond Jan ‘09, under the current arrangement it will only be until July, 2009.

“With both American owners unable to raise money for the stadium, in today’s financial climate, can they raise more ‘real’, unleveraged money to restructure the loan and keep the club afloat?

“If the football bubble bursts, could the loans secured against LFC become sub prime and put the club at risk?

“Kop Football Ltd has to find £20m plus to service the debt of £245m.

“How will the debt be serviced?

“Can the owners assure us that Kop Football’s indebtedness is not to be serviced by the club? If it is, how can the club pay it?”

Said Dr Taylor: “This is not a comfortable position to be in at a time when the game’s regulators are calling for a reduction in debt and foreign ownership – not to mention the effects of the global credit crunch.

SLFC board member, Barrie Baxter, added: “ShareLiverpoolFC already represents thousands of fans prepared to invest real money into the club.

“Raising the required funds won’t be the issue once we have a deal in prospect.

“We’re confident we’ll be able to succeed. We are prepared to consider a partnership with any incoming buyer with the right attitude to the development of LFC going forward.

“After the experience with the current owners, it will be important for any new owner to ensure that they have the confidence of Liverpool fans.

“We call on the current owners to inject cash as capital to reduce the club’s debt.

“If they are unwilling or unable to do this, then they should move over and let others that can better serve the club take control.”

ShareLiverpoolFC’s long term objective is to gain control of the club. However, in the medium term, its strategy is to work with suitable new investors to help achieve a change of ownership, stabilise the club’s finances and represent the fans interests by acquiring a stake in the club.

ShareLiverpoolFC believes its participation in the future will assist with this.

It says its message to potential new owners of “their” club is: “Come and talk to us; you need the fans behind you and this is no ordinary club.

“We understand it and have the experience to help”.

The group is still urging supporters who wish to get involved in taking a stake in its planned fans buyout to contact them via their website -

JOHN ALDRIDGE COLUMN: Why I'm Amazed By Liverpool's Grit

IT’S amazing that four times already this season Liverpool have fought back from behind to win - and on each occasion the opposition began with the letter M!

For me it highlights the guts and determination Rafa Benitez has instilled in his players.

At half-time against Manchester City I didn’t think there was any way back. We had been really poor in the first half and City deserved their two-goal lead.

But once Fernando Torres pulled one back, the momentum was with us and the shocking challenge on Xabi Alonso which saw City's Pablo Zabaleta sent off provided another boost.

In the end Torres and Dirk Kuyt ensured it was a memorable day and to come back from 2-0 to win was tremendous.

The comeback wins against Middlesbrough, Manchester United, Marseille and Man City were all impressive in their own way but I would still say the pick of the lot was the United game.

The fact we conceded so early and were all over the shop but then fought back without Gerrard or Torres to beat our big rivals was a massive feat.

I guess after seeing what the lads did in Istanbul three years ago we shouldn’t be surprised at anything, especially when you’ve got players of the quality of Gerrard and Torres in your side.

But the City game did highlight for me one weakness in the team.

In the first half our left hand side was a problem and Fabio Aurelio really struggled at left back.

We’ve also got Andrea Dossena who can play there but I don’t believe he has got to grips with the Premier League yet.

Albert Riera has done well going forward on the left flank. He was our best player in the first half against City but defensively we are vulnerable down that side.

I’ve heard some talk about the right hand side also being a problem but I don’t see it like that.

Okay, Alvaro Arbeloa made a mistake for City’s first and should have been stronger in the tackle but in general he does a decent job defensively. He’s got a good engine and got forward well to put a great cross in for Torres’ first.

The spine of the team looks so strong and with Riera’s tricks on one flank and Kuyt working his socks off on the other it gives us good balance. I just hope all the players away for the internationals come back fit and ready to face Wigan.

MARTIN SKRTEL will be a big loss over the next few months but I guess if there was one area where we could afford to lose someone it’s centre-back.

We’re looking very strong in that department and with Skrtel out there’s the chance for Daniel Agger and Sami Hyypia to force their way back in.

I’ve been really impressed by Skrtel this season. He’s Carra-like in many ways - very determined and not much gets past him.

Agger is very comfortable in possession but when it comes to defending I’d say Skrtel is better.

But he must learn from Sunday as he contributed towards his own injury.

Defenders are told from a very young age not to let the ball bounce - you have to meet it on the full and get rid of it.

But he got himself into all sorts of trouble and had to produce a fantastic tackle to avert the danger.

It was a rare mistake from Skrtel and I’m sure he’ll come back from this injury stronger than ever.

Agger has had to be patient this season but now he’ll get the chance to prove he deserves a place in the side.

Steven Gerrard Will Be Let Off Leash Against Kazakhstan

Steven Gerrard will finally be let off the leash at Wembley today and given a chance to prove he is England's Mr Fantastic.

England boss Fabio Capello yesterday spelt out a clear message that he is determined to get the best out of Liverpool captain Gerrard - and prove that he can play alongside Frank Lampard.

Capello says he can solve the conundrum which has bamboozled previous bosses Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson, who both refused to give up on the Gerrard-Lampard midfield axis, despite mixed results.

Chelsea midfielder Lampard admitted earlier this week that his partnership with Gerrard has not worked regularly for England and was partly to blame for them not reaching Euro 2008.

Gerrard has also been left frustrated, claiming that he has only played in his favourite position just five times in 68 games for England.

Gerrard has - despite Capello saying otherwise - started four times under the Italian and has played all over midfield. That has certainly helped restrict Gerrard, who has consistently struggled to reach the heights for England despite becoming irreplaceable for Liverpool while establishing a reputation as one of the best midfielders in the world.

Gerrard may even count himself lucky that injury to Joe Cole meant that Capello was unable to keep the winning team which thrashed Croatia in Zagreb last month, when the Liverpool midfielder was out injured.

But Gerrard's return has once again left Capello facing the old dilemma as to whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together.

And despite all their failings in the past, Capello insists that he is the man to make it work.

Furthermore, Capello also says that he will play Gerrard in his best position against Kazakhstan - even though he would not say exactly what that is.

Capello says today's World Cup qualifier at Wembley is a new beginning for Gerrard.

And the coach has almost made it his personal challenge to ensure that England get the best out of arguably their most naturally-gifted player. Capello said last night: "I think Steven Gerrard is a fantastic player.

"He has played with me in three games so far and, tomorrow, I think you will see the position Gerrard plays because it'll be a very important position on the field.

"Yes, it is his long-term position. It depends on the games, always. And the opponents. Sometimes he can play in one position, sometimes in another.

"But I think I know the best position for Gerrard. You will see (tomorrow).

"For me he can play in two or three positions. But, it depends on the game which one he plays in.

I didn't read his comments and I don't know how many games he's played exactly.

"But he's only played three times with me. I hope that three of these five games were with me!

"He played where I think it's better for him, always. I try, throughout my career, my style is to put the players in the best position for them to play better and at 100 per cent in the team."

The Gerrard and Lampard axis has not worked in the past and has become a tired old problem for England. But Capello insists he is the man to make it work and says Gerrard and the in-form Chelsea man are good enough to play together, although that seems a rather familiar argument.

Capello added: "I hope so. But, also, I'm sure that fantastic players have to play together, in my opinion. I don't know why they haven't worked before.

"I think, with me, they've played only three or two games together. The past is not my problem. I think about the future.

"He has to play like when he plays with Liverpool, the same. He's one of the 11 players on the pitch.

"We win and we lose together, always. He's an important player, for sure, but he's only one of the 11."

Fabio Capello: ‘Steven Gerrard Is Hub Of England Team’

FABIO CAPELLO has vowed to build his England revolution around Steven Gerrard – starting against Kazakhstan this afternoon.

Gerrard is expected to play an integral role as the Italian’s team aim to continue their 100% start to their World Cup qualifying group six at Wembley.

The Liverpool midfielder missed the 4-1 victory in Croatia last month through injury, prompting talk of the 28-year-old being left on the bench with Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry having impressed in central midfield in Zagreb.

But Capello has revealed Gerrard will step straight back into the team for his 69th cap in a role the England coach envisions as the player’s long-term position.

“I think Steven Gerrard is a fantastic player,” said Capello yesterday. “For tomorrow, I think you will see Gerrard in a very important position on the field, his long-term position.

“Of course, it depends on the games and the opponents, and he can play in two or three positions. But I think I know the best position for Gerrard and you will see tomorrow.”

Gerrard will today once again be asked to work in tandem with Lampard, leaving Barry taking responsibility for defensive duties in midfield.

And Capello thinks he has found a way to solve the puzzle of why two world-class talents have seemed so ill-at-ease together.

“Yes, I hope so,” said the Italian. “But, also, I’m sure that fantastic players have to play together, in my opinion. I don’t know why they haven’t worked before.

“I think, with me, they’ve played only three or two games together. The past is not my problem. I think about the future. I’ve experienced things like this in the past a lot of times. At Milan, Juventus and sometimes in Madrid. It was always with the forwards, not with the midfielders.

“But it’s not a problem for me. I prefer good players. I prefer to have good players. I prefer to have players of this quality.”

Gerrard has been employed by club manager Rafael Benitez either in an attacking role behind Fernando Torres or in his preferred role of orthodox central midfielder.

Last month, the player estimated that he has only been used in his favoured position on five occasions while with his country.

But Capello said: “I didn’t read about him talking about not playing in his favourite position, but he’s always played for me as a midfielder. I hope that three of these five games were with me!

“I always play him where I think it’s better for him.

“Throughout my career, my style is to put the players in the best position for them to play better and at 100% in the team.

“He has to play like when he plays with Liverpool.”

Youngsters Aiming For Sixth Straight Win

Liverpool's academy side will be looking for their sixth straight league victory when they travel to take on Blackburn Rovers later today.

The under-18s men have already taken maximum points off Nottingham Forest, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday, Crewe and Wolves in an impressive five match winning streak - but coach Hughie McAuley is expecting nothing less than a stern test in Lancashire.

"Games against Blackburn are always similar," he told "They are a hard, physical side who will be encouraged to pass the ball now that Paul Ince is involved with the club.

"From our point of view we need to get the ball down and play composed football. If we do that then we know we can be a match for anyone.

"We've had a good run of late but we are aware we have been starting games slowly. Without wanting to make the boys over anxious about it, we'll be stressing to them before the game - just as we do during the week - about the importance of making a good start."

The match will doubtless be an extra special occasion for Liverpool youngster Thomas Ince, whose father - himself a former Anfield midfielder - is now in charge at Ewood Park.

"I am sure Thomas is looking forward to it because of the family ties," added McAuley. "But when the game kicks off I am sure he will be professional and have no other thought apart from trying to influence the game as best he can."

Juve To Launch Sensational January Bid For Liverpool Captain Gerrard?

Both Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur have moved to dismiss reports on Thursday that La Vecchia Signora are planning to make a move for Spurs midfielder Luka Modric, with the latest reports coming from Italy suggesting that Juve will instead make a sensational bid for England International Steven Gerrard at Liverpool.

The Juve fans have voiced their discontent recently at the Serie A sides mediocre start to the Scudetto, with news that the Italian giants were chasing Modric making the Bianconeri faithful even more disgruntled.

Juventus know that a star signing is needed to appease the fans and are reportedly ready to go all out in January in their attempts to sign the Reds captain.

However, while Juventus know that any bid for 28-year-old Gerrard will be instantly rejected out of hand, but are aware of the financial issues surrounding the Merseyside club in light of the credit crunch and are hoping that Liverpool’s American owners will be tempted to cash in if a huge offer is on the table for their talisman.

Even if the board did accept an offer for Gerrard from Juve, it is highly unlikely that the midfielder would choose to swap Anfield for Turin, with the Reds homegrown star happy to stay at Rafa Benitez’s side.

Abalimba Praised As Liverpool Continue To Assess The Trialist

Liverpool are checking out Medi Abalimba in different positions as the Southend United teenager continues his extended trials with the English giants.

The Congolese midfielder, who turns 17 next week, has found the reserve team outings more physical, but he has been excited training with the Reds stars, winger Jermaine Pennant and defender Sami Hyypia, and also that he has been getting a positive feedback.

Abalimba told the Essex Echo: “I played on the right wing against Manchester City and I did OK even though it isn’t my preferred position.

“Most of the players playing were 23 or 24-years-old so it was a lot more physical than I am used to.

“That was my first game at that level but the reserve team manager said he was proud of how I played.”

“I trained with Jermaine Pennant and Sami Hyypia the other day,” he added. “I did some work with Jamie Carragher too but there aren’t many of the first team players about at the moment because of the international break.”

Dubai Set To Drop Liverpool Interest After Bid For Charlton

Charlton Athletic were last night the subject of a takeover bid by the Maktoum family in a deal that would seem to end Dubai's interest in Liverpool.

The Valley club's efforts to play down the deal last night by insisting there is "no certainty" that the "indicative" bid will become a formal offer will not restrain unbridled excitement in south-east London. The involvement of Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, son of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, through his Zabeel Investments vehicle would make the ascendancy of a club that dropped out of the Premier League with only 34 points in 2007 almost a certainty.

The Maktoum family had been involved in fruitless negotiations with the Anfield club's owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, and also turned down the opportunity to purchase Newcastle United. Hicks recently travelled to Dubai with a view to offloading his 50% stake in the club but the talks were inconclusive. Then Mike Ashley and Dennis Wise also paid a visit in an attempt to generate interest in Newcastle but according to sources familiar with the discussions the sums the pair demanded were considered unrealistic.

Their attention then turned to Charlton. Superficially there would seem to be few motives for taking over a club who lie only 14th in the Championship today. But there was an influential link with Liverpool in that Rothschilds, the investment bank, had represented the five-times European champions and also worked for Charlton.

The Valley club have been scouring the market for fresh investment in recent months but few could have considered that the Dubai ruling caste would be interested in a Championship club. One close observer of Dubai's football negotiations expressed surprise at the deal, saying: "They usually go for the front of the grid."

However another explained that as Gulf potentates go, Dubai is the junior partner to Abu Dhabi and the investment by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Manchester City has shifted Premier League politics. The Charlton purchase may have been motivated by a desire not to be seen to "outdo" Abu Dhabi United Group by taking over England's most decorated club.

Any notion that Liverpool might still fall into Dubai's hands appears misguided since there would also be the further complication of Premier League and Football Association ownership rules. A single owner may not purchase two clubs in the same competition and the prospect of promotion as well as the chance of them being drawn against each other in a cup competition has complicated the issue. "Everything in Dubai goes back to the royal family," as one insider with knowledge of the deal stated.

A statement from Charlton's board said: "In spite of being approached by various English football clubs as well as a number of well-known clubs in Europe and South America, Zabeel Investments believes Charlton is the right club for them."

Amid a fire-sale of Premier League clubs Charlton have undoubtedly benefited from the effects of their good husbandry in recent years. With their Premier League parachute payments expiring at the end of last season, the board kept a tight rein on spending.

The directors even loaned the club almost £4m in interim funding in an effort to stabilise its finances in straitened times. In contrast to the £100m-plus borrowings of many top-flight clubs, Charlton's debts are believed to have been restricted to seven figures with the sales of players such as the £16m striker, Darren Bent, to Tottenham.

"We feel now is the right time to make a strategic, long-term investment in Charlton and get CAFC back to the English Premier League where they belong," said Zabeel Investments' executive chairman Mohammed Al-Hashimi.

"The passion of the fans at Charlton, the heritage of the club and the unique status it enjoys in the community make it an exciting proposition for us."

Neal Has Hopes For Defender Agger

Former Liverpool defender Phil Neal says Daniel Agger needs time to develop partnership with Jamie Carragher in the Reds defence in the coming weeks.

Agger now looks likely to be given his chance Rafa Benitez's side after Martin Skrtel's knee injury.

"It's up to Daniel Agger now to form a partnership if he gets the chance with maybe Jamie Carragher," Neal told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"He needs to give Rafa a selection problem for when Skrtel is available."

The 57-year-old former full-back also believes that the Reds' recent 3-2 victory over Manchester City was a defining moment in their season.

He recalls when he and his teammates had to to similar things when the picked up silverware.

"It’s a massive thing," Neal continued.

"We had to do that on several occasions but not too many thank goodness. I think that gives you strength in the dressing room.

But the man who helped Liverpool to three European cups in his time at the club warns it will need the efforts of the whole squad if they are to be successful.

"It's the people waiting in the wings that matter.

"If they are equally determined, when they get their half chance from Rafa, they'll want a share of the success.

"They'll want a bit of the action now having seen us make a fantastic start in Europe too."