Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Riera Can’t Wait For Torres’ Liverpool Return

Liverpool winger Albert Riera believes the table-topping Merseyside club will push on in the New Year and confirm their position as the best with the return of Fernando Torres from injury.

The Reds go into 2009 as Premier League leaders after demolishing Newcastle 5-1 on Sunday. That victory, coupled with a win and draw against Arsenal and Bolton over the Christmas period, were achieved without talismanic striker Fernando Torres, to the surprise of some.

But fellow Spaniard Albert Riera is convinced the club can perform even better with the Spanish goal-getter returns from injury.

"All wingers, in fact all players, would want to play with Fernando because he is such a good player," Riera told the club’s official magazine.

"He's so important for our team - scoring 33 goals last season. It's not easy to score that many goals at this level. It will be great news for us when he's fit again and I'm sure we'll play a lot of times together and form a good understanding.

"I know Fernando well from playing with him some years ago at U18 level with Spain. We know each other from back then and we can now help each other again here at Liverpool.

"It's no excuse for us when we don't have Fernando - we have to use our other strikers. We have good attacking players at the club who can come in," he said.

"It is up to us to read their games and adapt to suit each other, whether that be playing balls into their feet, to their head or into space. All strikers have different characteristics and movements. You have to read each moment in the game."

Wigan Open Door For Emile Heskey Departure

Wigan Athletic striker Emile Heskey has been told he can leave the club in January if he wishes to do so, according to a report in the British tabloid the Sun.

The England international forward has been linked with a return to former club Liverpool, who he played for between 2000-2004, with Reds manager Rafa Benitez reportedly willing to offer £4 million for his services in the new year.

While the 30-year-old's contract is set to expire at the end of the season, it had been claimed that Wigan would not let him leave for less than £10 million in January, and subsequently that the former Birmingham City
striker wanted to stay at the JJB stadium for the rest of the campaign.

However, with Colombian international Hugo Rodallega expected to join the Latics as early as next week, Wigan are now ready to cash in, although it appears no formal offers have been lodged as yet.

"Everybody knows Emile Heskey’s future is hanging in the balance ahead of the coming transfer window," Whelan is quoted as saying in the Sun.

"He is out of contract at the end of the season but so far, there have been no approaches for him. We totally respect Emile and it all depends on what he wants to do.

"I honestly feel this could be his last career move. But, obviously, we’d love to see him stay at Wigan."

Gerrard Arrested In Assault Probe

England and Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard is under arrest following an assault at a nightclub.

Police were called to the Lounge Inn in Southport, Merseyside after reports of a disturbance at 0230 GMT. Six men were detained later in a nearby street.

The men, four from Huyton, one from Formby and one from Litherland, remain in police custody.

A 34-year-old man from Southport was taken to hospital with facial injuries, not thought to be life-threatening.

The incident is alleged to have taken place at the restaurant and bar - which turns into a nightclub - on Bold Street.

Four men aged 33, 31, 29 and 19, all from Huyton, a 28-year-old from Formby and an 18-year-old from Litherland were arrested a short time later on nearby Lord Street.

The Lounge Inn remained closed on Monday.

Midfielder Gerrard, 28, is Liverpool captain and scored twice in his team's 5-1 victory over Newcastle on Sunday.

A police spokesman said: "Merseyside Police is investigating an assault that took place in the early hours of Monday December 29 on Bold Street in Southport.

"At around 2.30am this morning officers attended a disturbance at a licensed premises on Bold Street.

"Six men were arrested on suspicion of section 20 assault, on Lord Street."

The spokesman added all six currently remained in custody. It is believed no other Liverpool footballers are among those being held.

Gerrard was born and grew up on Huyton's Bluebell Estate.

Last month the Premier League star was given the freedom of his home borough of Knowsley in recognition of his contribution to football.

Liverpool FC said it would not be commenting.

Gerrard's England Future Safe - For Now

Liverpool star Steven Gerrard has been told his England future is safe for now after he was charged with assault following an alleged nightclub brawl.

However, should the Reds captain be charged with a serious criminal assault he could be dumped from Fabio Capello's squad.

Gerrard was charged this morning along with two other men who had also been arrested after a 'disturbance' outside a late-night bar in Southport, Merseyside in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The venue's DJ, a 34-year-old local man, required hospital treatment after suffering facial injuries.

Gerrard, 28, was released from Southport police station early this morning.

He was at the restaurant and bar - which turns into a nightclub - with friends to celebrate Liverpool's 5-1 win over Newcastle.

But an FA spokesman insisted: 'No one knows the full facts so we are not even discussing this matter.

'No player is banned from representing England while they are the subject of a police inquiry.

'That position would only change in the case of a conviction for a serious criminal offence. Then the case would be considered on its individual merits.'

Gerrard has been capped by England 70 times and has captained his country on four occasions.

He was made an MBE last year and received an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

However, unless he is found guilt of a serious criminal offence the incident is unlikely to affect Liverpool's title pursuit.

Gerrard is not due back to training until tomorrow morning and was unlikely to play this weekend anyway – boss Rafa Benitez was already considering resting his skipper for the FA Cup clash with Preston.

Liverpool Must Not Let Steven Gerrard Arrest Upset Title Quest

Steven Gerrard won't let his night in the cells arrest Liverpool's title charge.

Gerrard endured a crazy 24 hours - after inspiring Liverpool to a 5-1 thrashing of Newcastle on Sunday with a brilliant performance, he woke up yesterday in a police cell on Merseyside.

The Reds skipper was arrested along with five other men on suspicion of assault and spent most of the day in custody as he was quizzed by detectives before being released late last night.

Gerrard, 28, was due back at Melwood this morning after what was officially a day off for the players yesterday and team-mate Dirk Kuyt has come out in support of him.

Kuyt claims Gerrard is a great captain and is backing him to keep spearheading their title challenge.

"Stevie was great against Newcastle, but then he always is," said the Dutch international.

"He scored two goals and got two assists for us. He's a great captain and showed once again how he likes to lead by example. Like I said, it's not just this game that he does it, he does it every game. He's very important to us."

Gerrard's brush with the law came as he unwound with a few mates on a night out in Southport after the Newcastle win and, ironically, he claims the secret behind Liverpool's great form is because they are relaxed.

The midfielder felt they let the pressure of being league leaders get to them in recent games at Anfield where they dropped points to Hull and West Ham.

"I think we've got to enjoy it," he said, speaking before his arrest.

"We'll play our best football if we are relaxed and composed.

"There have probably been times when we've been a bit anxious, particularly at home, because we're top and we're trying to win games in the first 15 or 20 minutes. But I think the win against Bolton on Boxing Day showed the importance of being relaxed because we got our rewards for a composed passing display.

"The message to all of us is to relax, to keep working hard and to enjoy it. We're top of the league so confidence should be high. The table doesn't lie so we've got to be very pleased.

"Our performance against Newcastle illustrates how good our away form is at the moment. It's first class and if we continue that and improve slightly at home, then it could be an interesting end of season."

Liverpool's thrashing of Newcastle gives them a three point lead at the top of the Premier League, but the perfectionist Gerrard cannot help but reflect on those dropped points at home.

"Our points tally is decent, but I'm still disappointed because it could have been better still," he said.

"We've had a few slip-ups at home against Hull, Stoke and Fulham. They were games we had expected to win and should have won.

"It was a good team performance against Newcastle with a lot of goals. We could have scored even more if you're going to be picky and fussy.

"You have got to look at the work we do on the training ground. We work on passing and possession day in and day out, so much so that you almost become sick of it.

"You are seeing the fruits of the work we are doing out on the pitch.

"We are keeping the ball very well, defensively we look solid and we're scoring a lot of goals."

Liverpool fans are beginning to believe that Rafa Benitez can bring them their first title since 1990 - but Gerrard, who was only 10 then, urged caution.

"I think it's important for us to remain humble, keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard," he said.

"We know that if we keep performing to this level, we will come very close.

"But it's still early and there are a lot of big challenges still ahead, so we certainly won't be getting carried away."

Revealed: Alleged Victim Of Brawl Which Triggered Liverpool Captain's Arrest

The alleged victim of a nightclub brawl for which footballer Steven Gerrard was arrested is a DJ there, police sources confirmed today.

The Liverpool FC and England star remains in police custody after the 34-year-old Southport man was taken to hospital with facial injuries.

Sources confirmed the man was an employee of the Lounge Inn, in Southport, Merseyside, where the midfielder and five other men were arrested on suspicion of assault in the early hours of today.

Gerrard, 28, was at the restaurant and bar - which turns into a nightclub - with friends to celebrate Liverpool's 5-1 destruction of Newcastle United.

But trouble began and an altercation took place outside the premises in Bold Street.

The town centre premises remained shut today but evidence of a fight inside could be seen through the windows.

Spots of blood were clearly visible on the floor, and shards of broken glass.

A Bentley car, which is believed to have been parked overnight, remained outside the club with a parking ticket attached.

Today Gerrard’s wife Alex Curran, 26, left a coffee shop close to the police station where the father of her two children was being questioned.

She refused to answer reporters’ questions as she walked to her Bentley car and drove off in the opposite direction from the police station, heading towards Liverpool.

The sister of the Lounge Inn co-owner, Dario Curcillo, said the footballer was in the club to celebrate his team’s win over Newcastle United earlier in the day.

She said: “As far as I know he comes here regularly and it was just a normal night at the bar.

“I don’t know anything about what happened last night.”

She added that her brother was unavailable for comment.

A Liverpool FC spokesman said the club would not be commenting on their captain’s arrest.

A police spokesman said: “Merseyside Police are investigating an assault that took place in the early hours of Monday December 29 on Bold Street in Southport.

“At around 2.30am this morning officers attended a disturbance at a licensed premises on Bold Street.

“Six men were arrested on suspicion of section 20 assault on Lord Street.

“The men, four aged 33, 31, 29 and 19, who all come from the Huyton area, a 28-year-old man from Formby and an 18-year-old man from Litherland remain in police custody.

“A 34-year-old man from Southport was taken to hospital with facial injuries which are not believed to be life-threatening.

A man, who said he was a friend of Gerrard, later drove off in the Bentley parked outside the bar in Bold Street.

He said the car did not belong to the footballer and added he did not want to comment on last night’s incident.

Alan Hansen - Liverpool FC Can Win Title

Liverpool legend Alan Hansen is starting to believe his former club are serious title contenders.

The Reds have not been domestic champions since 1990 but top the Premier League at the halfway stage with a three-point lead over second-placed Chelsea.

And former centre-back Hansen said: “I have been tipping Chelsea for the championship all along, but the longer the season goes on the better chance that I think Liverpool have got.”

Liverpool looked in championship form as they beat Newcastle 5-1 on Sunday, while Chelsea struggled to a 2-2 draw with Fulham.

The Cottagers also took a point from Liverpool recently, as did West Ham and Hull, but Hansen reckons it is the ability to recover from such setbacks which shows Rafael Benitez’s men have improved from previous seasons.

“Certainly Liverpool have a better chance of winning than they had last season,” he said.

“They are more resilient than at the same time last season, they have more strength in depth and, crucially, they are able to create impetus and momentum.

“In the last month they have had three draws against lesser teams and it has not affected them.

“The most important thing is that they are not getting beaten.

“Mentally, the difference between drawing and losing is massive, even if the gap in points between winning and drawing is greater.

“As a title contender a defeat places unbelievable pressure on you, so it is when you lose two games in four or five that you find out what you are made of.

“This is where Manchester United and Chelsea have become brilliant; it is the aptitude test of a championship-winning side.”

Daniel Agger Keen To Stay At Anfield

Daniel Agger has reiterated his desire to stay at Liverpool – but admits there remains a possibility he may move away from Anfield.

Talks are still continuing over a new contract for the Denmark international, whose present deal has 18 months remaining.

Agger was sidelined for almost 12 months with a metatarsal problem and, after returning to full fitness in the summer, struggled to regain his place in the starting line-up before Martin Skrtel suffered a knee injury in October.

Agger had expressed his frustration at being on the sidelines, with reports in his homeland hinting the 24-year-old was considering buying out his contract.

It led to speculation both Real Madrid and AC Milan are considering making a bid for the centre-back in the forthcoming January transfer window.

And when asked if he will stay at Anfield, Agger said: “I hope so. I don’t know what the hold-up is. I let the club do the talking and I will try and do mine on the pitch.

“I am trying to improve. I feel it is getting better and better in every game. I am feeling more comfortable and trying to improve in every game.

“Of course I want to stay if it is possible.

“As I say, the club is dealing with my contract talks and we will take it from there.”

Hammill Returns To Reds

Adam Hammill has been recalled by Liverpool following his successful loan spell at Blackpool.

The 20-year-old is now waiting to see if he will remain at Liverpool for the second half of the season or go out on loan again.

The skilful winger is highly regarded by the Liverpool coaching staff and he was rewarded with a new three-year deal before he was sent out on loan to Blackpool last August.

Hammill impressed during his time at Bloomfield Road with a number of eye-catching performances, including a stunning strike in the local derby with Preston.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez has been keeping tabs on Hammill's progress and the Spaniard will now cast an eye over him in training in the next few weeks before deciding whether to keep him in the Liverpool squad or allow him to go out on loan again for regular first-team action.

Benitez could decide to give Hammill his chance in the side as he has shown he is prepared to give young members of his squad a chance to impress this term after using Nabil El Zhar and David Ngog as impact players off the bench in a number of games.

Blackpool were believed to be interested in extending Hammill's loan deal until the end of the season, but the uncertain management situation at Bloomfield Road following Simon Grayson's departure to Leeds has put that move up in the air.

Hammill has revealed he enjoyed his time at Blackpool and will now wait and see what Liverpool decide is the best option for him in the next few weeks.

"I would like to thank everyone at Blackpool and the fans for their support during my loan spell," Hammill told skysports.com.

"It's a great club with a good group of players and I really enjoyed my time there.

"I signed a new contract with Liverpool in the summer and I will see what they want to do next with me.

"If they wanted to loan me out again I would always be interested in a return to Bloomfield Road in the future."

Jermaine Pennant Chooses Wigan Over Real Madrid

Jermaine Pennant, having turned his back on the opportunity to join Real Madrid, is being lined up instead for a move to Wigan Athletic to fill the void left by Luis Antonio Valencia, who is poised to join the Spanish champions.

Juande Ramos, the Real coach, has been weighing up a number of Barclays Premier League players in his search for a new right winger, but having been priced out of a move for Ashley Young, of Aston Villa, and been put off by Pennant’s wage demands, it emerged last night that he is on course to complete a £14 million deal to bring Valencia to the Bernabéu shortly after the transfer window opens on Thursday.

Pennant, the Liverpool winger, has been accused in some quarters of blowing the opportunity of a lifetime, but as well as being unhappy at the personal terms on offer in Madrid, he was not convinced that he would play regularly for Real or that Ramos truly wanted him. Despite being restricted to only three Premier League appearances for Liverpool this season after falling out with Rafael Benítez, the manager, he is in no rush to leave, but Wigan hope to persuade him to move to the JJB Stadium for £2.5 million.

A complication is Liverpool’s determination to re-sign Emile Heskey, the Wigan forward, another player about to enter the final six months of his contract. Liverpool are confident that a deal for Heskey can be done, and whether the forward departs in January or in the summer, Steve Bruce, the Wigan manager, is already working on a deal to replace him with Hugo Rodallega, the Colombia striker who plays in Mexico for Necaxa.

Meanwhile, Mike Ashley faces an immediate examination of his credibility as Newcastle United’s owner after renewing his commitment to the club, with Joe Kinnear warning that his first-team squad requires an overhaul in January. Kinnear was already searching for cover in both full-back positions, at centre half and in central midfield before the names of Habib Beye (knee) and Mark Viduka (groin) were added to a lengthy injury list, but Ashley has previously shown a marked reluctance to invest heavily in new players. While Shay Given and Michael Owen are attracting interest from elsewhere, losing such experience in return for a fee would surely be counter-productive.

As far as Kinnear is concerned, there is a pressing need for reinforcements. “We need to address that situation immediately,” the manager said. “If we want to go forward, we must strengthen.”