Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lucas Thanks Benitez For Showing Faith In Him

Liverpool midfielder Lucas has thanked Rafael Benitez for the faith he has shown in him and has backed the Reds to win the Premier League this season.

The Brazil international was targeted by the Anfield boo-boys earlier this season following some sub-standard performances.

But Benitez has stuck by the versatile 21-year-old and his faith has been rewarded by a series of commanding displays, particularly in Sunday's 5-1 mauling of Newcastle.

The former Gremio star has been encouraged by his form and is confident Liverpool can sustain their assault on the Premier League title.

He said: "I'm pleased with my performances this season. I'm getting more minutes on the pitch and I'm making good use of it. But I have to thank the confidence my manager has in me for that.

"The team is in an optimistic mood at the moment as we have fulfilled all of our goals. We are not taking anything for granted though because we are up against some tough rivals.

"It is my dream to win the league title with Liverpool and I can see it happening. I don't see Chelsea or Manchester United having the same potential as us this year."

Accrington Stanley Player Arrested In Gerrard Assault Probe

Two Accrington Stanley players were caught up in the nightclub disturbance that saw footballer Steven Gerrard charged with assault, it has emerged.

Winger Bobby Grant, 18, and goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin, 28, were in the Lounge Inn, Southport, on Sunday with Gerrard’s party when the incident happened, Reds manager John Coleman said.

Grant, who lives in Litherland, Merseyside, was arrested alongside Gerrard and four others but has now been released on bail pending further inquiries, Mr Coleman said.

Dunbavin, a pal of Gerrard’s from their days together in the Liverpool FC youth team, was not arrested, according to the manager.

Gerrard, the 28-year-old Liverpool FC captain, was out with friends, including the Stanley players, celebrating Liverpool’s 5-1 defeat of Newcastle.

Stanley boss John Coleman said neither of his players would face any disciplinary action after the incident.

He said: “I have spoken to them both about the incident and as far as I am concerned they did nothing wrong.

“I understand it is very unlikely that Bobby will be charged.

“They were out having a quite drink six days before their next match. They have broken no club rules.

“Bobby and Ian will be offered the same sort of support by Accrington Stanley that Liverpool are offering Gerrard.”

An incident at around 2.30am on Monday in the Lounge Inn saw local businessman Marcus McGee, 34, lose a tooth and he needed stitches for cuts to his face.

Gerrard has been charged with assault and affray.

John Doran, 29, of Woodlands Road, and Ian Gerard Smith, 19, of Hilary Avenue, both Huyton, also face assault and affray charges.

They will appear at North Sefton Magistrates’ Court on January 23.

The spokesman said Gerrard and the two other men had been bailed.

Forest Green's FA Cup Preparations Upset By Steven Gerrard's Arrest

Forest Green's Andrew Mangan says his FA Cup preparations have been thrown into turmoil by Steven Gerrard's arrest.

Mangan, 22, knows Gerrard and they have a mutual friend in Accrington keeper Ian Dunbavin.

The Liverpool and England star has been charged with assault and affray following a brawl at a Southport nightclub.

And Mangan, preparing to face Derby in the third round on Saturday, is concerned for Gerrard and his favourite club.

"I'm from Huyton and a massive Liverpool fan," said Mangan, who joined Conference side Forest Green in the summer.

"It is great seeing Liverpool top of the league.

But I am gutted for Gerrard because he is a hero and from Huyton as well.

"I had a drink with him at Ian Dunbavin's engagement party in September.

"I think it's just a case of wrong place, wrong time, as Steve would not have got involved in anything stupid." Mangan wants a fourthround trip to Anfield if Forest Green beat Derby.

He added: "Derby have just gone down from the Premier League and are having a bad time so hopefully we can nick a result."

Sami Hyypia Hails Liverpool Confidence As Key To Success

The Liverpool centre-back has admitted there is no real secret to the Reds' recent run of good form, which has taken them to the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool find themselves at the top of the table going into 2009 after an impressive festive period that has seen them hit eight goals in their last two games.

The Reds thrashed Newcastle United 5-1 on Sunday, but experienced defender Hyypia says there is no big secret behind their recent success.

"We are doing the same things in training and we are trying to play the same way as we did at the start of the season," he told the club’s website.

"But confidence is a big thing and if you are high on confidence then you can play better because everyone wants the ball more and I think that showed against Newcastle.

"We had a good result and a good performance against Bolton [Wanderers] two days earlier and we took our form from that into the Newcastle game.

"Overall it was a very good performance except for conceding a goal right before half-time, which we shouldn't have done. But that's football and it was probably a bit unjustified that they got a goal back when they did, because we could have been six or seven up.

"The important thing was we didn't let it affect us and we responded in the right way by getting another goal at the start of the second half.

"We are top of the league, so confidence is high and hopefully that will continue."

Liverpool Boosted In Their Quest For Pompey Full-Back Johnson

Liverpool have been handed a major boost in their pursuit of Portsmouth and England defender Glen Johnson.

Anfield boss Rafa Benitez is eager to add a right-back to his defensive ranks next month with Alvaro Arbeloa looking unconvincing and summer signing from Borussia Dortmund Philipp Degen yet to make a Barclays Premier League start.

The Spaniard has kept close tabs on the former West Ham and Chelsea defender, who has had an impressive opening half to the season.

Liverpool are preparing a £9million bid for the Fratton Park man - and their hopes of landing Johnson have been dealt a major fillip after Portsmouth executive chairman Peter Storrie admitted the club would listen to offers for the full-back.

He said: 'As with any of our players, obviously if an exceptional offer came in, such as the £20m for Lassana Diarra, we would consider it.'

Pompey boss Tony Adams will be desperate to hold onto Johnson, but could yet be forced to part with one of his prized-assets to boost the club's ailing coffers.

Dalglish: I Was With Stevie On Sunday Night

Kenny Dalglish has revealed he shared part of Sunday night with Steven Gerrard, and he labelled the Liverpool skipper’s behaviour ‘as good as gold’.

Gerrard later ended up arrested and charged for assault and affray, allegedly in an act of self-defence, and he now faces a court appearance on January 23.

Club legend Dalglish revealed he and his wife Marina had met Gerrard on Sunday night to discuss charity matters with the Liverpool captain and wife Alex.

Dalglish admits there were no signs of the events that were to follow, insisting he was shocked by the news that unravelled on Monday morning.

“Marina and I were talking to them about meeting up to help Marina’s charity,” Dalglish explained in The Daily Mail. “They’ve already helped anyway but they wanted to do more.

“When I heard the news the next morning I was really surprised. He was out with his mates and they were enjoying themselves.

“They were as good as gold.

“Now is the time for the people around Steven to support him, and there is no better football club to be at for that.”

Liverpool Must Not Rest Steven Gerrard In FA Cup

Before every kick-off, the Kop launch into celebrated song about the support system operating within the four walls of their famous old ground. So it is little surprise to observe the Anfield family wrapping their arms tenderly around Steven Gerrard.

Liverpool's captain is being reminded how highly he is regarded by all at Anfield. The supportive call from his manager, Rafael Benitez, came through on Tuesday morning followed by an emphatic statement of support from the club. On Wednesday it will be the squad's turn to express their admiration for their team-mate, leader, inspiration and friend.

When Gerrard arrives at training at Melwood, the likes of Jamie Carragher will show the No 8 how much he is held in their esteem. Benitez's back-room staff will also rally round, Sammy Lee doubtless delivering a few crisp words of encouragement. At Preston North End on Saturday, Liverpool fans will get their chance to voice their love for the team's heartbeat.

Everyone associated with Liverpool will give their backing to Gerrard as the judicial process unfolds over his assault charge. Amid all the chants from Liverpool fans and sympathetic comments from colleagues, what Gerrard needs to hear most now is a referee's whistle, signalling the start of a match, the chance to prove a point and remind the world of his ability.

Early in his career, when distracted by events off the field, a Merseysider given to introspection would retreat into his shell on the pitch, most notably during England's epic draw with Greece at Old Trafford.

Now 28, Gerrard possesses the mental strength to sprint out of the tunnel and continue to impose his phenomenal game on proceedings.

So if Benitez is tempted to rest his captain at Deepdale this weekend, arguing that it is only the FA Cup, that more important challenges lie ahead in the Premier League and Champions League, then Liverpool's manager should think again.

The Cup offers Gerrard real respite, not just this Saturday, but, if Liverpool defeat Preston, over the weekend immediately following his appearance before North Sefton Magistrates' Court on Friday, Jan 23.

His main aim is to guide Liverpool to a first title in 19 years but the Cup comes at a very important time. Gerrard has been playing so well this season and he needs to maintain this run of prodigious form.

The Cup has provided sweet solace before, notably during the 2001 treble and particularly the 2006 final when Gerrard broke West Ham United hearts at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

So he must slip on that No 8 kit at Deepdale on Saturday evening, tie up his laces, glance momentarily at the names of his two beloved daughters woven into his boots and take on Preston.

Benitez has rotated his many squad options before when the Cup comes around. He must desist this time. Gerrard must be allowed to parade his determination as well as his talent in front of a packed stadium, a watching nation and a substantial global television audience.

Football is Gerrard's stage and to keep him in the wings would frustrate one of the game's hungriest performers. And why deny the fans the sight of Gerrard?

Walking into St James' Park on Sunday, I fell into conversation with a Newcastle United supporter heading towards the Gallowgate with his son.

They were there to cheer on the Toon, more out of love-is-blind loyalty than expectation of black-and-white success, but the father was also keen to show his son one of the greats of the modern game in action. After two goals in a typically dynamic display, Gerrard left the field to a lengthy standing ovation from home fans as well as visiting ones.

Liverpool's captain is widely admired across the country, barring obvious pockets of hostility such as Old Trafford, and the desire to see one of England's premier stars has been intensified by the Football Association's decision to tether the national team to Wembley after the popular travelling roadshow.

As he heads to Melwood on Wednesday morning, Gerrard should remember the acclaim of the Newcastle fans, reminding himself of his qualities, and inform Benitez that he is ready for duty against Preston. This is no time to let Gerrard walk alone.

Liverpool Captain Gerrard Faces Five Years In Jail Over Charge He Assaulted DJ In Bar Brawl

Liverpool and England star Steven Gerrard could face up to five years in jail after being charged with assault and affray today following a nightclub brawl.

The 28-year-old Liverpool captain was arrested along with five other men near the Lounge Inn in Southport in the early hours of Monday.

He was charged this morning along with two other men who had also been arrested after the altercation.

The venue's DJ, 34-year-old Marcus McGee, 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 destruction of Newcastle United.

In a statement, a Merseyside Police spokesman said: 'Merseyside Police has charged Steven Gerrard, 28 years, of Formby, Sefton, John Doran, 29, and Ian Smith, 19 years, both from Huyton, Liverpool, with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray following an incident at Bold Street in Southport in the early hours of Monday, December 29.

'The three men will be appearing at North Sefton Magistrates' Court on January 23.'

The spokesman said Gerrard and the two other men had been bailed and three other men, aged 18, 31 and 33, who were arrested in connection with the incident were bailed pending further inquiries.

After the game on Sunday the Reds' captain, who scored twice, hailed his table-topping side as the best he has played in.

But several hours later he was apparently caught up in a brawl outside the Lounge Inn in Bold Street.

Police were called and arrested six men on suspicion of assault in nearby Lord Street.
The town centre business remained shut yesterday but evidence of a fight inside could be seen through the windows.

Earlier in the night, the 28-year-old father of two looked happy and relaxed as he posed for photographs with fans. Yet soon afterwards he was in a cell accused of taking part in a violent assault.

Mr. McGee, 34, lost a tooth and suffered cuts and bruises when he was allegedly set upon by the footballer and his friends after refusing to play Gerrard's favourite song while acting as a DJ in a bar in Southport, Merseyside.

Witnesses of the alleged attack said Mr. McGee, a Manchester United fan, was in charge of a card which allowed the music to be changed.

They claimed Gerrard asked for a particular tune but was told that it was not club policy to play requests.

At that point the footballer allegedly pushed past Mr McGee, catching him with an elbow.

A police source said: 'Mr. McGee retaliated and swore at Gerrard, which was when Gerrard's mates turned violent and assaulted him.'

Friends of the England star insisted he had been reacting to provocation and had thrown no punches himself. Mr. McGee, a father of two who runs a double glazing firm, was taken to hospital where he received four stitches to his forehead and treatment on a cut nose, swollen eye and a dislodged tooth.

A witness told the Sun newspaper there had been bad feeling in the bar earlier. He said: 'Marcus came into the bar with two friends and some time later Gerrard walked in. One of Gerrard's mates had had a dispute with one of Marcus's pals and they eyeballed each other.

'Marcus stepped in a peacemaker and it calmed down for a while. Everyone was drinking and having a good time, but when Marcus's mates left, he was on his own and that's when he and Gerrard started rowing by the dance floor.'

The bar was closed for much of yesterday while damage from the 2am brawl was cleared up. Spots of blood were clearly visible on the floor.

Gerrard and five friends - all but one from the tough working class Huyton area where he grew up - were arrested on suspicion of assault and ordered to spend the night in the cells at the town's police station.

It is understood that questioning did not begin until Monday afternoon.

Gerrard's glamorous wife, model Alex Curran, 26, arrived during the afternoon wearing grey jeans, black boots and a black fur-trimmed leather jacket.

She was herself questioned by police following a fight in the Shangri-La restaurant in Liverpool in August 2006, but no charges were brought.

After leaving a coffee shop near the police station she refused to answer questions before driving off in her Bentley.

Another Bentley with a personalised number plate which was parked outside the Lounge Inn with a parking ticket on the windscreen was later picked up by a friend of Gerrard.

Neither the player's agent nor his club released any statement about the incident yesterday as they waited to find out whether he would be charged.

Gerrard used to have a flat in Southport but his rising profile made him a target on nights out and he moved into a £ 3million gated mansion in nearby Formby.

He returned to his old haunts, however, following Sunday's victory, after which he gave interviews about the need to 'remain humble, keep our feet on the ground'.

It is not known if he had been given permission by his manager, although Liverpool's next match is not until Saturday, against Preston in the FA Cup.

The supporter who had his picture taken with Gerrard shortly before the fight broke out said the footballer was 'in a good mood'.

The fan, who did not give his name, told ITV news: 'He seemed buoyant. I'm shocked that anything would have happened. I had a chat with him in the toilet and he was chuffed with the victory and it all seemed very nice.'

The fan added that he left the bar before the fight broke out.

Merseyside police said six arrests had been made on suspicion of a 'section 20 assault', which carries a maximum sentence of five years. Those in custody apart from Gerrard were four men from Huyton aged 33, 31, 29 and 19, and an 18-year-old from Litherland.

Gerrard is the latest in a long line of footballers to become involved in unsavoury incidents off the pitch.

Almost exactly a year ago, Joey Barton, who also grew up in Huyton, attacked a passerby after a night out in Liverpool, knocking him to the ground and punching him up to 20 times.

The 25-year-old, who plays for Newcastle United, was given a six-month jail sentence but served less than half - even though at the time of the attack he was on bail for attacking former team-mate Ousmane Dabo during training. He later received a suspended sentence for that offence as well as a 12-game ban.

In 2002, Chelsea's John Terry stood trial along with teammate Jody Morris accused of attacking a nightclub bouncer. Both were cleared.

The same year another current England international, Jonathan Woodgate, now of Spurs, was found guilty of affray but cleared of causing grievous bodily harm with intent over a brutal street attack on Asian student Sarfraz Najeib in Leeds.

His team-mate Lee Bowyer was cleared of causing GBH with intent and affray.

Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant To Snub Spurs As He Holds Out For Spain Move

Tottenham Hotspur’s planned January move for Jermaine Pennant could flounder with the Liverpool winger holding out for a move to Spain.

Pennant, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is surplus to requirements at Anfield with Rafael Benitez keen to sell the player during the forthcoming transfer window.

Real Madrid had agreed a fee in the region of £3million for the 25-year-old only for talks to stall over the player’s personal demands.

The deal has since been revived, although Atletico Madrid are also said to have been offered Pennant’s services.

And the winger’s desire for a move to La Liga could scupper Tottenham’s hopes of taking the former Arsenal man back to London with a £2m bid.

“I cannot imagine playing for another Premier League team after Liverpool,” said Pennant, who is also attracting interest from Wigan Athletic and Stoke City.

“I know Real Madrid made an offer for me. Real Madrid is a great club, so is Liverpool. I am not sure of the situation now; I am flattered that a club as huge as Real has shown interest in me, so we will have to see.

“I just want to play regular football and one of my dreams is to be able to do it in Spain one day. I love the way teams like Sevilla, Barcelona, Valencia or Real play. They keep the ball, they use wingers. The technical ability of the players is huge.”

Pennant’s last appearance came in the home victory over Portsmouth in late October, with the winger watching from the sidelines as Liverpool have opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table.

Benitez Assures Gerrard Of Support

Steven Gerrard is expected to return to training with Liverpool later today after being personally assured by Rafa Benitez that his position at the club was unaffected by his arrest for assault and affray on Tuesday.

The Reds captain was charged on Tuesday 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 Monday morning.

It is understood that Benitez has since telephoned Gerrard to pledge his skipper his full support and confirm that his status as club captain was not under review. The Times reports that 'Gerrard is said to have felt dejected after spending much of the previous day in police custody, but he was grateful for the call from Benitez.'

The newspaper also reports that, following the 5-1 defeat of Newcastle on Sunday, Gerrard was given a two-day break. As a result, he will not be punished for being at a nightclub until the early hours of Monday morning and no internal disciplinary action is being considered. Instead, Gerrard will report back to training today and may yet feature in this weekend's FA Cup tie at Preston.