Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ian Rush: Liverpool's Carragher Is 'Very Special'

Liverpool legend Ian Rush thinks that the Liverpool fans knocking Jamie Carragher for his own goal against Hull are forgetting a few things.

Ian Rush reckons that those in the media and elsewhere who have slated Liverpool's stalwart defender Jamie Carragher for his own goal at the weekend ought to think again.

Carragher, Liverpool born and bred, loves the club and gives his all for it the way that only someone from the city can, and Rush thinks that Carragher deserves praise for his years of committment to the cause rather than criticism for the odd mistake.

"Some were all too happy to point out this isn’t the first time he has scored an own goal but I look at it from another perspective – how many goals does Carragher save Liverpool every season by making last ditch interventions and getting himself into the kind of positions where other defenders would be too scared to go?" Rush asked, in today's Liverpool Echo.

"Own goals are an occupational hazard for defenders like Carragher.

"If you put your body on the line and make tackle after tackle, the odds are that every now and again the ball will deflect the wrong way or come off you in an unexpected way."

And Rush goes on to remind Liverpool fans of the Champions League final in Istanbul, when, with AC Milan pushing for a winner, Carragher threw himself in to challenges and blocks like a man possessed to keep the ball out of the net. The Anfield legend later provides a telling example of Carragher's character as well.

"Another example of his commitment to the team and his will to win was when he tried to stay on the pitch after breaking his leg at Blackburn," added Rush.

"You don’t do that unless you are a very special individual.

"That’s why every Liverpool fan will forgive Carragher the odd own goal and why they will keep encouraging him to go in where it matters – because they know that makes him worth his weight in gold."

Carragher's own goal was his second of the season, the other coming in the defeat at Tottenham Hotpsur back in Novemeber.

Liverpool To Cope With Absence Of Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez's continued absence from Anfield will not hamper Liverpool's preparations for the Sunday's match against Arsenal, according to Sammy Lee, his assistant. Lee has taken charge while Benitez recovers from a minor operation to remove kidney stones.

"We have already planned what we are going to do so we will just be sticking to that," Lee said. "Everyone knows exactly what we will be doing and the important thing is that we all muck in together and keep things running as normal while we are without the boss.

"It will be all hands to the pump but one of the good things about this club is the way everyone pulls together when it matters. The main man may not be here but we have to keep things going so he can just pick up from where he left off when he comes back."

Lee added: "Everyone is hoping the boss recovers quickly because Rafa's health and wellbeing is the most important thing.

"He is a massive presence at the club, so we all want to see him back here as soon as he is well enough. But in the meantime it's business as usual."

Benitez is expected to return to work in the next two days after being taken ill on Sunday.

We’ve Been Nervous At Home, Admits Albert Riera

Winger Albert Riera admits that nerves have got the better of Liverpool during their poor recent home run.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hull was the third league stalemate in a row at Anfield against unfancied opposition – and Spanish winger Riera thinks the weight of expectation of going after the first league title for 19 years could be playing on their minds.

“I think we’ve been more nervy than usual at Anfield,” he said.

“We’re going out to win but maybe because people are expecting us to do it and that’s affected us a little bit.

“Maybe there’s been a lack of precision in some of our passing and maybe we’ve been trying to play quicker than we need to.

“We have to think about those things and improve.

“We are the first people to be disappointed and we understand why the supporters are.

“The only thing we can do now is continue working and make sure we win our next matches.”

After draws 0-0 draws against Fulham and West Ham, Liverpool failed to open a gap on Chelsea, which remains at one point.

And Rieira admitted that the recent home form hasn’t been good enough.

“It’s clear we’re not happy drawing another match at home,” he said.

“Obviously it’s a regret dropping points at home. If we hadn’t drawn three successive games here maybe we’d be four or five points clear at the top, but we have to be positive.

“Against Hull I thought we started well but then found ourselves two goals down. We created a lot of chances and tried to score but it didn’t work out.

“We were unlucky, because we could have gone in at half time winning despite going 2-0 down.”

Liverpool now turn their attention to inconsistent Arsenal.

Riera said: “We’ve beaten United and Chelsea already this season so if we could now beat Arsenal maybe it would send a message out.

“It would be a good response to go and win against Arsenal after these draws.

“If we do that some might say we’re doing it the hard way – beating the top teams and not those we might be expected to win against – but people forget this is a very competitive championship.

“We’re still in a good position.”

Pennant Fuels Tottenham Speculation

Jermaine Pennant has fuelled speculation linking him with a move to Tottenham after he rejected the opportunity to talk to Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers according to Sunday Rafa Benitez warned Pennant that his first team opportunities would be limited in the summer however the former gunner urged Benitez to let him stay and fight for his place.

Pennant can leave in the summer for a free transfer if he doesn't reach fifteen appearances for Liverpool this season, hence the reason Benitez is desperate to cash in on the winger in January, or the Spaniard maybe forced to start using him, or risk losing the wide man for nothing next summer.

Pennant reportedly craves a return to London following his home being burgled. Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has shown in interest in the player after failing to sign him in the summer when he was Portsmouth manager.

Pennant's rejections of the advances of Stoke and Blackburn could signal the path for a cut price move to London. Benitez may only be able to ask between £2 and £4 million for a player that could leave on a free transfer in January.

Bayern Munich's Mark van Bommel Could Join Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea Or Man United

Bayern Munich captain Mark van Bommel could be open to moving to the big four of the Premier League claimed his former club PSV Eindhoven director Jan Reker.

The Dutch international who joined the Bundesliga giants Munich in 2006 from PSV has been linked with a move back to the Dutch side.

However club director Jan Reker claimed that even though there is a possibility that Bommel could return to them, the 28-year would be more happy to join the Premiership.

"His club Bayern Munich want to become the German champions, they will not let him go during the winter break," director Jan Reker has been quoted as saying.

"But reports that Mark isn't interested in a new PSV adventure are untrue.

"Van Bommel never said 'no' to PSV, but if he can join a big club in England, like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United, he will go there."

Me, Not Gerrard, Saying Keane May Go – Lawrenson

MARK LAWRENSON last night moved to diffuse a row over alleged comments made by Steven Gerrard about Robbie Keane’s Liverpool future.

The former Liverpool defender sparked controversy on Irish radio when he suggested that Gerrard had intimated in a conversation with him on Saturday that the Ireland captain could be leaving in January.

But the Anfield skipper disputed that version of events – before Lawrenson himself tried to clear up the confusion.

The BBC pundit, speaking on The Last Word with Today FM, said: “I hate to namedrop but I was having a drink with Steven Gerrard at a function on Saturday night and we talked about Robbie Keane.

“He said they shared the same agent and quite honestly he thinks something’s going to happen with Keane in January. It sounds like he could be moved on.”

Lawrenson, however, insists he was trying to reflect his own opinion on the situation and didn’t intend to involve Gerrard in the interview.

Quotes from the show circulated the internet yesterday, some appearing under headlines that gave the impression Gerrard was directly quoted talking about his team-mate.

“I’m sorry if it caused any aggravation but it wasn’t meant to,” said Lawrenson.

“Steven Gerrard’s name should never have come up in terms of Robbie Keane going in January.

“It wasn’t Steven saying that it was me saying it.

“The only connection I was making between the two was that they have the same agent and I have had a hunch for a while that Keane could go.

“But that is my opinion and nothing whatsoever to do with any conversations I had with Steven Gerrard.

“I happened to mention I spoke to him on Saturday night but I didn’t mean for that to come across in the way that it has been interpreted.”

Lawrenson reflected his feeling that both his former club and Keane should make a clean break next month in his weekly Daily Post column yesterday.

Manager Rafael Benitez last week twice denied that he was looking to offload the player who cost him £20million from Spurs in the summer.

Speculation over Keane’s future comes off the back of a frustrating start to his Liverpool career in which he has scored in just one Premier League game and has been taken off in 15 of the 19 starts he has made.

And on Saturday the striker was an unused substitute despite Liverpool having to push for a winner in their 2-2 draw with Hull City. Liverpool didn’t comment on Keane’s individual circumstances yesterday but did move to clarify Gerrard’s position.

A club spokesman said: “Mark Lawrenson’s remarks are his interpretation of a private chat between the two of them. They do not accurately reflect Steven’s opinion of Robbie Keane and they certainly do not tally with Steven’s recollection of the conversation itself.”

Liverpool Enraged By Lawrenson's Keane Comments

One of the Kop's former heroes has been left red-faced over his recent claims about the future of the club's struggling Irish striker.

Mark Lawrenson caused a stir when he said on Today FM this week that Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, had told him that Robbie Keane could be offloaded in January.

"I was having a drink with Steven Gerrard at a function on Saturday and we talked about Robbie Keane," the former Republic of Ireland star said.

"He said they shared the same agent and, quite honestly, he thinks something’s going to happen with Keane in January. It sounds like he could be moved on."

Keane has struggled to settle at Liverpool since his £20 million move from Tottenham Hotspur, and there has been considerable speculation over his immediate future.

But Gerrard has refuted Lawrenson's claims, and the Merseyside club - who have been constant in their backing of Keane - have wasted no time issuing an official response.

"Mark’s remarks are his interpretation of a private chat," an Anfield spokesperson told the press last night.

"They do no accurately reflect Steven’s opinion of Robbie and they certainly do not tally with Steven’s recollection of the conversation itself."

Nevertheless, only time will tell whether Lawrenson's ill-advised utterances were on the mark.

Liverpool's £15million Alonso To Join Real Ramos Revolution?

La Liga Champions Real Madrid have reportedly made a £15million offer for Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso, with former Tottenham Hotspur boss Juande Ramos keen to bolster a depleted midfield at the Bernabeu, according to reports.

Ramos is already reportedly on the verge of signing Portsmouth midfielder Lassana Diarra and now reports in Spain claim that Spanish International Alonso has also been the subject of a bid from Los Merengues. Ramos revealed on Monday that he needed two new players at the Bernabeu in January, with the former Spurs boss identifying the Madrid midfield as an area that needed strengthening.

Ramos told As: “We want a right winger and a midfielder. The club are working on it and I’m hopeful two talented players with a fighting spirit will join us pretty soon.”

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was eager to offload 27-year-old Alonso in the summer to raise the funds to buy Gareth Barry from Aston Villa. However, Serie A giants Juventus, who were keen on the midfielder baulked at the Merseyside clubs asking price and opted for Christian Poulsen at Sevilla instead.

Now with defensive-midfielder Mahamadou Diarra out through long-term injury, Ramos has found himself short in the centre of midfield and is believed to have made a firm offer for Alonso, who has been at Anfield since 2004 and has made 183 appearances for the Premier League club.