Monday, March 02, 2009

Reds Youngster Keen To Catch Rafa's Eye

Adam Hammill has his fingers crossed that his loan to Barnsley is nothing more than a stopgap in his Liverpool career.

Hammill was one of a number of Rafa Benitez’s youngsters to be farmed out on a temporary basis earlier in the season, playing for Blackpool 23 times.

Having briefly returned to Anfield, the 21-year-old was once again sent out on a quest for first-team football - to Oakwell.

Having made his first start for his temporary club this weekend, Hammill admits he has not yet thrown the towel in on his hopes of becoming more of a fixture under Benitez.

“I’m a red through and through,” he said in the Daily Star. “I signed a three-year deal in the summer so I’ve got two years when I go back. I think it shows Liverpool’s confidence in me.

“This is my third season out on loan in The Championship and this is another step in the right direction.

“I don’t get any feedback from Anfield but they obviously have scouts at games. I’ve played 70 Championship games but my dream is to play in front of the Kop.

“If that doesn’t happen, I’ve got to knuckle down wherever I go.”

Rafa - Europe Is Liverpool's Best Hope For Success

Rafael Benitez has admitted that Liverpool are reliant on a slip-up by Premier League leaders Manchester United if the title is to go to Anfield for the first time since 1990 and that the Champions League is now their best hope for silverware this season.

Liverpool conceded second place in the league table to Chelsea following a 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough and the Blues' 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The Reds' unbeaten 15-game league run came to an abrupt end at the Riverside Stadium as Xabi Alonso's own goal and Tuncay Sanli's 63rd-minute strike saw Boro clinch all three points for the first time since November 9.

The result leaves Liverpool seven points adrift of United, who have a game in hand and look poised to equal the Reds' record of 18 league titles.

"Before the game, it was very difficult - after the game, it is more difficult," conceded Benitez. It depends on United. It will be more difficult, clearly."

"Clearly the Champions League is the best option we have now," he said, before adding a galling statement to all Liverpool fans: "Second would still be an achievement."

Sir Alex Ferguson's men face Newcastle United on Wednesday fresh from their Carling Cup success over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and could be even further ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool if the pair fail to win their games on 24 hours earlier on Tuesday.

Liverpool take on a rejuvenated Sunderland at Anfield and Chelsea, similarly rejuvenated under Guus Hiddink, travel to Fratton Park to face Portsmouth.

Critics will be taking note of Benitez's team selection for the game against the Wearsiders after his decision to play left-sided centre-half Martin Skrtel at right-back for the first time in his Liverpool career against Boro's in-form Stewart Downing.

The decision not to deploy Jamie Carragher at right back was a result of fatigue, as Benitez explained: "(Jamie) Carragher told me he had heavy legs and so, as a centre-back, he could run less. At right-back normally you run more, so he played at centre-half. That was the idea."

Reds Relying On United Slip-Up

Rafa Benitez admits his Liverpool side are reliant on a slip-up by Premier League leaders Manchester United if the title is to go to Anfield for the first time since 1990.

Liverpool conceded second place in the league to Chelsea following a 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough and the Blues' 2-1 home win over Wigan on Saturday.

The Reds' unbeaten 15-game league run came to an abrupt end at the Riverside Stadium as Xabi Alonso's own goal and Tuncay's 63rd-minute strike saw Boro clinch all three points for the first time since November 9.

The result left Liverpool seven points adrift of United, who have a game in hand, having played in the Carling Cup final on Sunday.

"Before the game, it was very difficult, after the game it is more difficult," conceded Benitez. "It depends on United. It will be more difficult, clearly."

The possibility of Alex Ferguson's side winning the title is even more galling for Liverpool fans, with United looking poised to equal the Reds' record of 18 league titles.

Aurelio Rues Boro Defeat

Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio admitted the weekend defeat by Middlesbrough was a missed opportunity in the title race.

The Reds slumped to only their second defeat in the Premier League this season after Middlesbrough recorded a 2-0 victory at the Riverside.

The defeat means Liverpool remain seven points behind leaders Manchester United having played a game more with their title hopes hanging by a thread.

Aurelio admits the players were disappointed with the manner of the defeat at Middlesbrough and has called on his team-mates to get back to winning ways against Sunderland on Tuesday night.

"We are very disappointed because we felt we had enough chances to win the game in the first half," Aurelio told the club's official website.

"We lost a great opportunity to try to get closer to Manchester United but we must bounce back now and beat Sunderland at Anfield on Tuesday night.

"I thought we started really well. We kept the ball and had good opportunities but we couldn't score. When that happens there is always the chance the opposition can score.

"Unfortunately we conceded a goal from a corner, which was hard to take. In the second half we didn't create as many chances but we still had some good opportunities.

"Middlesbrough got every man behind the ball and made it difficult for us. They scored the second goal from a counter-attack when we lost the ball. That was disappointing.

"We will still keep on fighting because we know in football that anything can happen. We won't give up and we will now try to win every game."

Rafa Around The Edges

Oliver Holt says Liverpool must stick with Rafael Benitez long-term in the wake of another turbulent week for the Anfield club.

News that chief executive Rick Parry will leave the club at the end of the season appears to have made it more likely that the Spaniard will sign a new deal soon.

Benitez's impressive record in Europe continued this week when the Reds overcame Real Madrid 1-0 in the Champions League thanks to a Yossi Benayoun strike.

But the domestic picture is not so rosy as Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough appears to have ended any fading hopes co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett will have had of savouring Premier League glory this season.

"Benitez has won the power struggle but lost the league, but in a way that's been the story of his reign at Liverpool," said the Daily Mirror's Holt.

"The league has always been the thing that's eluded him and the Champions League, where he again had an amazing result on Wednesday is the tournament where he's excelled.

"The thing is his record in the Champions League alone demands that they do everything they possibly can to keep hold of him.

"He is improving Liverpool's record all of the time in the domestic competition - ok they are not there yet, but that's because they haven't got the personnel.

"They are not as good as Manchester United but that is a massive task, to become as good as Manchester United in the domestic competition.

"In the circumstances what he's achieved in Europe has been amazing and they've got to try and keep him and presumably, that is part of the reason why Rick Parry has left, because Tom Hicks who is more of an ally of Benitez than (George) Gillett has realised that."

Martin Samuel, of the Daily Mail, said: "He is exceptional at getting his side to punch above its weight in Europe but you can't do that for 38 matches in a league.

"In the end you will find your own level in a league and that's what is happening this season because the way this league is going Manchester United could win by 10 or 15 points. That will show the level - that's how far ahead of they are of everyone else.

"I cannot think that there has ever been a better squad in English football than Manchester United at the moment because they do not play a weakened team.

"We all have our own idea of what their best first XI is but you could take five of those players out and put five in and it's not a weakened team."

Why Liverpool Must Replace Rafa Benitez With Jose Mourinho In The Summer, By Stan Collymore

Saturday February 28 must go down as the day Manchester United effectively retained their Premier League title - without having to kick a ball.

My Call Collymore phone-in was bombarded by Liverpool fans exasperated by the 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough.

I have the ultimate respect for Anfield manager Rafa Benitez for turning the club into a force in Europe again. But he is absolutely not the man to take them forward next season to challenge Manchester United for a 19th title.

And I think that when chief executive Rick Parry goes this summer, Benitez should follow him through the exit door.

Liverpool's chances of finally landing the title for the first time since 1990 looked good when they won at Chelsea last October. But since Rafa's rant about United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in early January, Liverpool have stuttered badly.

The problem has been a genuine lack of quality as they have spent money on players who wouldn't get into Manchester United's side.

Apart from Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, there is very little creativity, imagination and guile in Liverpool's team - and they are just too darn negative.

Benitez's tactics may work at Real Madrid in the Champions League, where you can shut up shop and nick a 1-0 win like they did last week, but not in the Premier League where anybody can beat anybody.

The biggest challenge for Liverpool is to create another dynasty to rival the ones set up by Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly.

And I think the only man who can do that is former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, whose Inter Milan team now top Serie A. I realise he isn't popular on Merseyside but Mourinho has absolute self-belief and I firmly believe he should be the next Anfield boss.

I would urge Liverpool not to delay and to start putting the feelers out now for the Portu-geezer.

Liverpool have missed on out Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo in the past by not being decisive enough, but this is one decision they should not stall on.

With the political battles at Anfield, luring Mourinho from Milan will not be easy. But I hope there is a big broom to clean up Liverpool this summer and sweep away Parry, Benitez and of course the club's American owners.

I hope any new owners stump up the money required to transform the club and then keep their heads down - unlike the Yanks.

And my first signing would be Mourinho. Players respond to him and he has a proven track record in the Premier League and Europe.

Benitez's track record is in Europe after winning the 2005 Champions League and reaching the 2007 final so it is a no-brainer for me.

Benitez's Weaknesses Will Cost Liverpool Dearly

As Rafael Benitez seethed on the team coach on Liverpool's return journey from Middlesbrough on Saturday night, he could have been forgiven for thinking he is in the wrong job. Knowing the Liverpool manager, he was probably plotting how to increase his influence at Anfield and thereby solve all their ills — applying for the vacant chief executive position, perhaps, or even buying the club outright — but a growing body of evidence suggests he would be better getting out altogether. And leaving club football entirely, for that matter.

As a strategist and tactician, Benítez has no equal, which he demonstrated again last week with Liverpool’s perfectly executed win over Real Madrid, but these qualities are more important at the highest level of knockout competitions rather than the daily grind of winning a league title. In other words, Benítez was born to be an international manager.

Benítez’s club credentials cannot be dismissed because he did win two championships with Valencia, but many of his biggest weaknesses are those that are most critical to sustained success in a title battle. The Spaniard’s record of buying players is, at best, patchy, shown by the revolving door transfer policy at Liverpool, while he often compromises the performance of the team by insisting on rotating his players in a similar manner. As his dysfunctional relationships with the various powers-that-be at Anfield indicate, Benítez’s dominant personality is also unsuited to working closely with others on a regular basis.

None of which matters as much in the international arena, where Benítez would be free to concentrate on what he does best, sitting alone in a darkened room dreaming up strategies and formations to win one-off matches against high-calibre opponents. His record in the biggest games against the other great tactician of his generation, José Mourinho, suggests Benítez is as good as it gets when it comes to selecting and preparing a team for knockout football, which is why the FA should have him high on its shortlist of candidates when it comes to replace Fabio Capello as England manager. If nothing else, Benítez would relish the scheming and politicking at Soho Square.

Hull City have not won in the Barclays Premier League since Phil Brown’s half-time tirade on the pitch at Manchester City on Boxing Day. And after collecting three points in as many months, Hull are only three away from the relegation zone. Brown is unlikely to confess to any regrets, but it could be a while before he gets a gig as a motivational speaker.

The Real Reason Why Liverpool Sacked Rick Parry

Rick Parry left Liverpool after trying - and failing - to find a major mega-bucks buyer for the club.

The Kop chief executive had spent the past month in deep dialogue with a mystery Arab group who talked about a takeover but did not deliver.

Wheeler-dealer Parry hoped to put the package together and buy out American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who both want to sell the famous club if the price is right.

But when Parry's mission failed - because the new team did not come up with the cash - his time was up and his 12-year reign ended after a final meeting with Hicks. Parry's departure is NOT a triumph for manager Rafa Benitez, with top Kop sources revealing there is still a lot of doubt about whether the Spaniard will stay.

Benitez has come through a time when many informed insiders tipped him to go. He would definitely have been a casualty if Parry had brought in new backers.

But the failure to find the new buyer was the final straw for Parry, who had ironically brought in Hicks and Gillett when David Moores sold the club.

The disappointment was too much for the chief executive to take. It was also a blow to Gillett who told friends he was confident of a sale.

The identity of the Middle East group is known only to Parry and his closest associates. Parry is due to leave Anfield at the end of the season but club sources believe he will be gone sooner.

However, as Hicks and Gillett clearly want out, Liverpool are still in turmoil behind the scenes with massive question marks hanging over Benitez's future.

The Spaniard has been stalling on his new contract for various reasons. Parry's departure may seem like a boost for him in his bid to control transfer policy but that may not be the case. He will also want to see if the Americans can find a new buyer - but that will now be without Parry's help.

Benitez suffered a bad weekend as Liverpool sunk to an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough just three days after their Champions League triumph at Real Madrid.

He said: "It's difficult to explain.

If before this game it was going to be difficult to win the League, then it is clearly now going to be even harder. The Champions League is the best option we have now. Before we play Real Madrid again, we have Sunderland and we must be ready for that game.

"This is a bad result. If you look at the first 30 minutes we were in control. Second would still be an achievement but we have to think about getting three points against Sunderland."

Rick Parry Lost His Liverpool Job After Trying To Organise A Takeover

The current chief executive will leave his post in the summer after trying and failing to get a potential investor to take-over from the current owners.

According to a report in British tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror, Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry will leave the Reds at the end of the season after failing to find a buyer for the club.

Apparently, the man who brought current American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to Anfield had been in discussions with an Arab group about a potential takeover.

However, it is thought that when the deal failed to materialise the Americans, who are said to be keen to sell the club if they receive the right offer, told Parry that he would be leaving his post in the summer.

Many have speculated that his imminent departure is a sign that Rafael Benitez has won a behind the scenes power-struggle but it is reported that this is not the case.

It is believed that the Spanish manager would have lost his job had Parry found new investors. However, the former Valencia manager's future with the Merseyside outfit remains far from certain.