Friday, April 03, 2009

New Reds Deal For Gerrard

Steven Gerrard will now almost certainly get his wish to end his career at Liverpool having agreed a two-year contract extension.

The Liverpool captain, 29 next month, is believed to now be on a deal approaching £150,000 a week which will run until at least 2013, when he will be 33.

Manager Rafael Benitez told "Steven's new contract is fantastic news for the club.

"Steven has once again shown his commitment and it was an easy deal to agree. As soon as we offered him the option he said yes.

"There were no problems at all. He wants to stay for life.

"This deal sends out another clear message that we are moving forward as a club. To know we have a player of Steven's quality with us for many more years is a great boost for the club and the fans.

"He is clearly a player who inspires those around him and, even though he is playing very well at the moment, I still think his best years are ahead of him."

Gerrard said recently: "I'm really happy at the club at the moment, in fact I have never been happier at any time throughout my career and I would happily sign for life.

"I am playing in a top team, I am playing with world-class players and I believe that with this manager, going forward, we can be successful."

After Benitez signed his own new contract in March, the way has been clear for the Anfield boss to secure deals for a string of his top stars.

It is understood that Benitez, now with more control over his budget and transfer policy, is preparing deals for Jose Reina, Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Dirk Kuyt, Daniel Agger, Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher.

He has already tied up deals for several of his backroom staff, including assistant manager Sammy Lee, first-team coach Mauricio Pellegrino, goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero, fitness coach Paco de Miguel and chief scout Eduardo Macia.

But the jewel in the crown is Gerrard. Once again there has been speculation of a summer bid from Real Madrid, but Gerrard has frequently made it clear he has no desire to play anywhere but Anfield.

And the announcement of his new deal can only boost the feel-good atmosphere around the club as they chase Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Tremendous victories over United, Real Madrid and Aston Villa have set up Liverpool for a tilt at both the domestic title and the Champions League.

They are just one point behind United, who have a game in hand, and victory at Fulham on Saturday will take them top before United face Villa at Old Trafford on Sunday.

And on Wednesday they face Chelsea in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Anfield.

Gerrard Denies Nightclub Attack

England and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has denied being involved in a nightclub fight.

The Reds captain formally pleaded not guilty to affray when he appeared at Liverpool Crown Court.

Gerrard, 28, was accused of being part of a group that injured businessman Marcus McGee, 34, at the Lounge Inn, Southport, in the early hours of December 29 last year.

His appearance came on the day he signed a two-year contract extension which will keep him at Anfield until 2013.

Asked how he pleaded, the father of two, dressed smartly in a single-breasted dark blue suit, said in a loud voice: "Not guilty."

He appeared alongside six other men who also denied affray - a charge stemming from a melee after Gerrard celebrated Liverpool's 5-1 destruction of Newcastle.

Today, the Recorder of Liverpool Henry Globe QC adjourned the trial to July 20.

Because of Gerrard's standing as Liverpool captain, there had been discussion in legal circles about whether the trial would be moved to another city.

But Judge Globe, saying careful consideration would be given to jury members' interests, kept the case in Liverpool.

He checked with prosecuting barrister Brian Cummings QC and the rest of counsel today whether his own interest in football - and visits to Anfield - had any bearing on him presiding over the trial.

He said: "I want to make it quite plain, my own position, I want it to be clearly understood.

"I am not a season ticket-holder, nor regular attender at Anfield, but it would be right to say I have been a visitor at Anfield as a guest on occasions.

"I have a general interest in football and watched many football matches, though not live, with many different clubs, not just Liverpool."

The assembled barristers agreed that was fine.

The seven defendants were given bail with conditions not to contact witnesses nor to enter the Lounge Inn unless with a legal representative.

Rafa Benitez Urges Liverpool To Maintain Discipline

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has today spoken of the need for his team to not get carried away by their fine results prior to the international break, and concentrate on the task in hand, placing a particular emphasis on team discipline.

The Reds have put down a real marker in their last few games, handing out impressive beatings to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Aston Villa, whilst their rivals from Old Trafford stuttered last week in their 2-0 defeat at Fulham, and were reduced to nine men after a Paul Scholes handball and a Wayne Rooney tantrum.

No Liverpool man has received his marching orders this season, and the Spaniard is keen that such an impressive disciplinary record is maintained when his side travel themselves to Fulham this weekend.

"The mentality of the team is good and the players are well organised and know what to do," he told The Liverpool Echo.

"This helps our discipline and the players know the most important thing is to stay focused on the game and that is all, especially when it is coming to this time of the season.

"It is always important in difficult situations to keep your head and remain cool."

Meanwhile, Benitez received some positive news on the injury front, after it was confirmed that the knee injury suffered by Sami Hyypia whilst away with Finland is not serious, and the defender has every chance of making the trip to Craven Cottage.

Liverpool FC To Gamble On Javier Mascherano

Liverpool are ready to gamble on the fitness of Javier Mascherano at Fulham tomorrow – despite the midfielder having not yet returned from international duty.

Mascherano will play despite only having arrived at Melwood at lunchtime today after being on the receiving end of Argentina’s heaviest defeat in more than 60 years, losing 6-1 in Bolivia at high altitude.

In-form Liverpool will aim to pick up where they left off before the international break by moving temporarily top of the Premier League with victory at Fulham tomorrow evening.

Of Argentina’s surprise loss, Mascherano said: “For some of us, playing in the altitude was something new, for others not so much, but we can’t say that we lost because of the altitude.

“Our rivals played better and nothing turned out right for us.

“This should serve us as a lesson and it will surely consolidate the squad, who are very united and growing in every aspect.”

Liverpool are confident both Sami Hyypia and Yossi Benayoun will be available for the trip to Craven Cottage.

And with no further international breaks, Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard believes the Anfield outfit can now devote 100% of their concentration and energies on their quest for Premier League and Champions League glory.

“The good thing now is that we can put the internationals to the back of our minds now and just concentrate on the run-in,” said Gerrard.

“The last three weeks have been among the most enjoyable in my Liverpool career, and we want to keep that momentum going.

“We know that it is going to be difficult at Craven Cottage; just look at what they did to United.”

Rafael Benitez: I Contemplated Leaving Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has revealed that he gave serious thought to leaving the club before finally signing a new five-year contract at Anfield last month.

It appears that uncertainty at boardroom level caused Benitez to question his own future.

However, the Spaniard insists that the doubts have since faded and he is now fully committed to taking the club forward.

"It is true that at times I may have thought about my future," Benitez is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

"It will be easier now the contract is done. Once you sign a contract you know you can start thinking about the future. That is why it was important to get it done as soon as possible.

"The uncertainty at the club was the only thing on my mind before. But delaying the decision before saying yes at the end of the season would have been worse for everyone because we would have lost some of our transfer targets or [would] certainly [be] at a disadvantage."

Ablett: Reds Must Feel Invincible

Gary Ablett believes Liverpool have to adopt an air of invincibility if they are to end their 19-year quest for a league championship.

Ablett played in the last Liverpool team to win the title - which was then Division One - in the 1989-90 season.

The 43-year-old remembers how that squad, managed by Kenny Dalglish, felt they were unbeatable during their run to a record 18th championship and believes the 2009 generation have to do the same.

In their last three matches they have beaten Real Madrid in the Champions League and Manchester United and Aston Villa in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals in the process.

Ablett reckons those performances could prove pivotal to the outcome of Liverpool's campaign.

"If you go back to our championship-winning team we went out with a feeling we couldn't be beaten," he said.

"The three results of late will hopefully have given us confidence to take through to the end of the season and it would be nice to see the same result as 1989-1990.

"I'm sure Rafa will give them the benefit of his vast wisdom. He'll tell them to go out and do what they have been doing."

Rafael Benitez's side currently trail defending champions United by a point, although their arch rivals do have a match in hand.

However, after a run of three successive league victories - including that 4-1 demolition of United at Old Trafford - Liverpool could be top before Sir Alex Ferguson's side play again.

The Merseysiders travel to Fulham for a Saturday evening kick-off while United welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford the following day.

Ablett, who now manages the club's reserve team, said expectations were always high at Anfield but closing the gap on United in recent weeks had provided an extra boost.

"I think we are always hopeful we are going to do well," he added.

"The results in the week before the international break gave everyone renewed confidence and self-belief that we could go on and achieve things.

"Obviously United are still in the driving seat but if we take care of our own business and continue to play in the manner we have been and collect as many points as we can and United slip up hopefully we can be there to take advantage.

"We have the players to take advantage of that situation."

Ablett also praised Benitez for the work he has done since arriving at the club in the summer of 2004.

In his first season he famously won the Champions League against AC Milan in Istanbul, reached the final two years later and has now turned Liverpool into genuine title contenders.

"I think we have improved with every single year Rafa has been here, culminating in the chance with eight games to go we could win the league," said Ablett.

"I'm not sure in the time Rafa has been here we could say that before.

"We are definitely improving; we have had to improve to keep up with United, Chelsea and Arsenal in the past.

"Hopefully our time is coming. If it's this year, great. If it's next year we'll wait for next year."

Rafa Benitez: International Break Won't Halt Liverpool's Quest For Silverware

Rafael Benitez is optimistic that Liverpool can carry on in the same rich vein of form that saw them score 13 goals in their last three games before the international break.

The Reds thrashed Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League, before thumping Manchester United 4-1 and Aston Villa 5-0 in the Premier League.

It has been suggested that the recent international fixtures might have disrupted Liverpool's momentum, but the 48-year-old is convinced that will not be the case.

"We were playing very well before the break, that is true," Benitez is quoted as saying in The Sun.

"Now we have to start again. We want to pick up where we left things and carry on winning.

"We’ve every confidence it will be the same when we get everyone back. I am really positive when I think about the rest of the season."

Liverpool Star Gerrard Due In Court Today

England midfielder Steven Gerrard is due in court today to formally plead over his alleged involvement in a nightclub brawl.

Gerrard is expected at Liverpool Crown Court this morning to plead over a single count of affray.

It is alleged the Liverpool captain was involved in a melee which saw businessman Marcus McGee, 34, lose a tooth and sustain facial cuts.

The 28-year-old was at Southport's Lounge Inn celebrating Liverpool's 5-1 win over Newcastle when trouble flared in the early hours of December 29.

The married father-of-two was originally charged with affray and assault.

But last month when he appeared before magistrates in the seaside town, the assault charge was dropped.

During his first court appearance in January Gerrard, of Formby, indicated he would deny the crown's case against him.

Today, he will go before the Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Henry Globe QC, along with six other defendants - all charged with affray.

They are Accrington players - goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin, 28, of Guildford Road, Southport, and midfielder Robert Grant, 18, of Enstone Avenue, Litherland - and John Doran, 29, of Woodlands Road, and Ian Smith, 19, of Hilary Avenue, both Huyton, Merseyside; John McGrattan, 33, of Rimmer Avenue, and Paul McGrattan, 31, of Linden Drive, both Huyton.

Liverpool Cannot Afford To Buy Barcelona Striker Samuel Eto'o

Samuel Eto'o will not be going to Liverpool this summer because the Premier League club cannot afford his extensive personal demands.

Liverpool are not interested in signing Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o this summer because they cannot meet his personal demands, according to a report in Sport.

The Reds have been linked with a bid for the Cameroonian striker as Rafael Benitez looks to celebrate penning a new long-term contract by adding some more quality to his squad.

Eto'o's contract at Barcelona runs out in 2010 and speculation is rife about whether he will sign a new deal or whether he or the club will decide a change is in their best interests.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has stated that he would like the striker to stay, however, he is also unsure about the demands that the club's free-scoring forward will make.

Last summer Eto'o was told he could leave but all interested parties baulked when he demanded up to €9 million-per-season. That could put off would-be suitors this time around.

Sport believe that the 28-year-old would ask Liverpool for at least €7.5m and that would be enough to scupper the deal as it would dwarf Fernando Torres' €5.4m-per-year contract.

Eto'o told the French press recently that he has already decided what he will do at the end of the season and has this week stated that he is not interested in joining Inter, who are also monitoring his situation.

Glum-faced Benitez Really Does Have Something To Bleat About Now As Key Men Get Injured

Liverpool fans should prepare themselves for manager Rafael Benitez to be even more grumpy than usual as the team prepare to play Fulham on Saturday night.

The Spaniard barely raised a smile after recent important victories and he is bound to be decidedly downbeat after an international break which Sami Hyypia and Yossi Benayoun are set to return from injured.

Given his increasing appetite for speaking out it would surely surprise no-one if he starts bleating about the international calendar and the number of games the top players are subjected to in the all-too familiar style of Arsene Wenger.

But his squad should be able to cope with a bit of bad luck (or rebelliousness/patriotism from his players) at this stage of the season and if he says he has his doubts, someone should tell him to look on the bright side of life for once.

Former Reds Star Mike Marsh Happy Developing Stars Of The Future

Mike Marsh lived the dream and now he’s dedicated to helping youngsters realise their own potential.

After a decade of playing and coaching in non-league football, the former Liverpool midfielder is focused on developing the talents of the next generation.

The Aughton-based 39-year-old is busy coaching Preston North End’s under-13s and working at Accrington College.

And despite gaining managerial experience at Burscough, Northwich Victoria and Bradford Park Avenue, Marsh insists he is in no rush to return to the dugout.

“I miss being involved at a football club on a day to day basis but management isn’t something I’m pining for,” he said.

“If a good offer came along I would consider it, but to be honest I’m preparing myself to get stuck into working in the youth system now.

“I do a few days a week at Preston and then I also coach at the college.

“It can be difficult at times because you have to tread carefully with youngsters but it’s rewarding and it’s great seeing them develop.”

Marsh started this season as first team coach at Conference outfit Northwich Victoria and went on to have a spell as caretaker boss but quit the cash-strapped club last November after being told to trim his squad.

A brief stint at UniBond Premier side Bradford Park Avenue followed but he turned down the chance to become their permanent boss.

“A lot of clubs are trying to turn themselves into professional outfits without having the necessary finances in place,” he said.

“At Northwich the players weren’t paid for months and you can’t go on working like that. I was getting phone calls from players saying they couldn’t afford to pay their mortgage or put petrol in their cars to get to training.

“When the chairman asked me to lay a couple of players off I knew then it was time to call it a day.

“I was only at Bradford for a short time. I went to help out Dave Cameron and was then caretaker for a bit after he was sacked. I could have stayed there but it wasn’t for me.

“I’m happy doing what I’m doing and if I did go back into non-league it would be on a part-time basis.”

Marsh knows exactly what it takes to reach the top after enjoying his own fairytale rise from Kopite to Liverpool player.

He spent six years at Anfield and made 101 appearances for the Reds after being spotted playing for Kirkby Town by then reserve team boss Phil Thompson in 1987.

“I played for Kirkby on Saturdays and for the Railway Pub on Sundays who were sponsored by Phil,” Marsh said. “A couple of players told him there was this 17-year-old kid who was worth a look at and he came and watched me.

“I got invited for a trial and then went back for pre-season before signing in the August.

“I had followed Liverpool home and away until that point so signing for the club took a while to sink in.

“It was probably two or three years before the penny dropped that it was my occupation and not just my hobby!”

Marsh made his debut in a 2-0 win over Charlton at Anfield in March 1989 but he spent four years in the reserves before establishing himself as a first team regular in the 1991/92 season.

He scored a memorable goal in the dramatic UEFA Cup clash against Auxerre in November 1991 when the Reds overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit.

Marsh picked up an FA Cup winners’ medal at the end of that season after being an unused substitute for the 2-0 final win over Sunderland.

“I had the honour of playing with so many great players and I loved every minute of my six years at Anfield,” he said.

“The real highlight for me was the ‘92 Cup final. I know that might sound strange because I didn’t actually play.

“I probably should have been more down about not getting on but I was a Liverpool fan and those few days down in London were among the best of my life.

“I got a medal and it was just a great occasion to be part of.”

The midfielder was also played at right-back by boss Graeme Souness but he couldn’t hold down a place and left in September 1993 to join West Ham. David Burrows and Marsh were makeweights in the deal which took Julian Dicks to Anfield.

“I actually asked Souness if I could go because I wasn’t involved much,” he revealed.

“He asked me to show some patience but I told him I had been patient enough.

“I was at an age where I needed regular football. I had no regrets about moving on.

“I wanted to play and you can’t go on waiting forever.”

Spells at Coventry, Galatasaray and Southend followed before a serious knee injury brought a premature end to his professional career at the age of 28 in 1997.

Marsh accepted an insurance payout which meant he wasn’t allowed to play in the Football League again.

He made a comeback in non-league football and went on to win the Conference twice with Kidderminster and Boston but was unable to go up with them.

“It would have been nice to go back into the League but I never regretted accepting that payout,” he said.

“At Southend I was told my knee wouldn’t withstand the demands of full-time football.

“It was a difficult decision but the time was right. I had two young kids and the payout offered me security.

“If I had wanted to play in the League again I’d have had to pay back the money but it wasn’t just about me. Southend would also have had to pay money back and they got the lion’s share of the payout.

“The fact is my knee wasn’t up to full-time training.

“I had a good career and enjoyed the rest of my playing days. I’m not bitter about anything.”

On-loan Martin Kelly Shines On Debut For Huddersfield

Martin Kelly earned rave reviews after his debut for Huddersfield on Tuesday night.

The 18-year-old Liverpool centre-back has joined the League One club on loan until the end of the season and helped them secure a 2-1 win at Bristol Rovers.

Kelly was playing out of position at left-back but his performance delighted boss Lee Clark.

“That was one of the best debuts I have seen,” he said.

“He was playing out of position at left-back.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Martin in his normal role if he can do that well in an unfamiliar one.

“I’ll have to work on my Spanish so I can ask Mr Benitez for a season-long loan if the lad carries on like that.

“We want to try and loan some special talents from the Premier League if they can help us progress.”

Kelly has teamed up with Liverpool legend Terry McDermott, who is assistant boss of the Terriers.

And the England Under-19s international is relishing the opportunity to gain some valuable experience.

“I’m glad to have picked Huddersfield as the club to come to,” said Kelly.

“I’m made up that I have the opportunity to get a bit of experience in League One and I am sure this is the right move for me. I think it will be a really good experience for me.

“I had an expectation that I might go out on loan, but it was only after the England match on Wednesday that I knew what options were available to me.

“It was Gary Ablett who called to tell me about the possibility. We talked about it for a good hour or two and came to the conclusion that it was the right decision for me to come here.

“I know I am still young and this is part of my learning curve. The experience can only be good for me.”