Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Benitez Blasts Carra Critics

Rafa Benitez believes Jamie Carragher proved with his performance against Manchester United that he is not at the end of his career just yet.

The Liverpool defender has been criticised for some of his displays during the early part of the season and there have been suggestions he is not the player he once was.

However, he was at his defiant best on Sunday and helped the Reds seal a crucial 2-0 victory over fierce rivals United.

Benitez insists he never had any doubts about the 31-year-old, while he expects Liverpool to get back on track now key players are returning to fitness.

"Jamie played well," said Benitez. "He had been having a difficult time but the only thing to do in such a situation is to try again and try again.

"It was only a question of keeping working hard, and he proved that he is a good centre-back and not at the end of his career just yet.

"He showed what a good defender he still is and (collectively) we have shown that we are not a bad team, not a bad squad. Maybe next April people will again judge us but at this moment we have enough quality.

"We have had five players injured, all at once. But when we are all fit we are difficult for anyone to beat."

Benitez and his players had come under pressure after a run of four straight defeats in all competitions but he maintains he always had confidence in the character of his squad.

He explained: "The players responded to the messages they had been given. It was simple, keep training the same way, keep working hard and things will change.

"In football you can talk a lot but if you do not work hard you will not change anything.

"We worked hard on lots of things, but the main thing was that everyone was together, the team, the fans, the staff. The attitude was fantastic, and you can see that we can beat anyone.

"This was the perfect answer, the perfect response because we were not winning.

"Against a good team you have to perform really well and be focused to achieve what you want. All the players wanted to impress, that was the difference.

"It was a result that will please a lot of people, maybe not United. But I have been saying all season that the top sides will lose more points that you would expect, that will make the title race more open.

"This is the proof. I was determined to keep my confidence, to keep my faith in my players."

Mascherano Warning For Reds

Javier Mascherano has warned Liverpool that Sunday's victory over Manchester United will count for nothing if it is not the start of a winning run.

Fernando Torres and David Ngog scored the goals to earn a 2-0 success at a deafening Anfield, but Mascherano played an equally influential role.

The Argentina captain was at his destructive best in the heart of midfield, snubbing United's attacks, before a late red card and he is well aware of the importance of the win.

Liverpool went into the game having experienced four successive defeats in all competitions, but the triumph over rivals United stopped the rot and has led some to suggest they could still be in the title race.

Mascherano hopes he and his team-mates can surge up the table, saying: "It was difficult for us to lose four games in a row.

"But now I say, 'let's start again'. Now we have won we cannot stop, and (we will) try to keep going. We are pulling together.

"If we want to fight for something we have to play every game like that. We cannot be relaxed with this win, that is the message."

Fifth-placed Liverpool trail table-topping Chelsea by six points, but Mascherano is focusing on one game at a time.

"We need to think about continuing winning, not to look at the table and seeing we are six points behind Chelsea," he said. "We have to look forward and not drop important points in the future.

"If we want these three points (against United) to be valuable we have to show this performance in the future.

"Maybe people thought we couldn't play as we can against the top sides, but we showed we can and we are really happy."

Lucas Leiva Set The Platform For Liverpool's Victory Over Manchester United

What will that victory do for confidence at Anfield?

Liverpool desperately needed that win yesterday. They had gone into the game on the back of four successive defeats, which is almost unheard of at Anfield. You had to go back to 1987 for the last time that had happened and go back to 1953 for the last time they had lost five games on the spin.

Liverpool needed a big show of character and the players delivered. It wasn't the most free-flowing football they have produced this season, they have passed the ball better, but it was important that they came through the way they did in such a high-pressure game.

Had they lost you could almost certainly have written off their title challenge for another season, but by winning they are right back in the mix. The most important thing in the short-term was to release the pressure around Anfield. It was becoming almost impossible to deal with and at least the players can go back to trying to get results away from the intense glare that has surrounded the club over the past week or so.

What did the result mean for Rafael Benitez and his future at the club?

No manager is unsackable and Benitez knows that. If Liverpool go another season without winning a trophy, or finish outside the top four, Benitez's position will be called into question again. That is the nature of the job.

But at this stage of the season there was far too much talk about Benitez's position. He had a bad run of results but that is all it was. Nothing had been decided, no trophies had been handed out, no places in next season's Champions League had been decided, so there was no need for that kind of talk at this stage.

Liverpool have never been the kind of club that have had a knee-jerk reaction to problems with their managers - they always take a considered view and as Christian Purslow, the managing director, said yesterday they see him as central to the long-term vision at the club. What they are trying to do now is put the investment in place that will allow him to build on what he has already achieved. No one likes losing games and they don't like to be under pressure - this victory will have been a big release of pressure for Benitez.

Without Steven Gerrard and with Fernando Torres not fully fit it was important the rest of the Liverpool side stood up to be counted. Who caught your eye?

To beat Manchester United everyone has to play well, so the first thing to say is that this was a really good team performance which hasn't been the case in previous weeks.

Having said that, there were a few outstanding individuals for Liverpool yesterday. Jamie Carragher was magnificent. There have been people writing him off in recent weeks which has been ridiculous. He is a top professional and one of the outstanding defenders of his generation. Like every player he will go through bad patches but he is a crucial part of Benitez's Liverpool side.

Yossi Benayoun created the first goal with a wonderful pass. He is growing in stature all the time and is now one of Liverpool's foremost players. He is someone Benitez is looking to, alongside Gerrard and Torres, to make things happen. Elsewhere, Javier Mascherano put in the kind of performance that is expected of him but that he had failed to produce so far this season.

Lucas Leiva was the one player who really stood out but it didn't surprise me. He has received an awful lot of criticism during his time at Anfield but he always works hard for the team, in the nuts and bolts rather than in the flashy stuff, and I thought his display in midfield set the platform for the victory.

What did you make of Sir Alex Ferguson's comments after the game?

When Liverpool won 4-1 at Old Trafford last season, Ferguson said Liverpool hadn't deserved the win but this time he held his hands up and was pretty magnanimous, although he still couldn't help but have a snipe at the referee, Andre Marriner.

Obviously, we know he is in trouble for his comments over Alan Wiley's fitness and yesterday he questioned Marriner's experience. What kind of referee does he want?

There is no such thing as a perfect footballer and that is also the case with referees. Marriner is a promising young referee and the only way to give him the kind of experience he needs is by taking charge of these high profile games. He got most of the big decisions right, the only contentious one was the decision he made not to send off Carragher.

Carragher could have been sent off but Marriner also showed Nemanja Vidic the yellow card when he brought Dirk Kuyt down as last man. He showed consistency in both decisions.

Ferguson's comments about Carragher's challenge on Michael Carrick were a little strange. It was a very forceful challenge but he took the ball. Ferguson only need have looked at his players' reaction for his answer - none of them even looked at the referee.

Apart from the comments about the referee, Ferguson did say Liverpool had deserved to win the game and he deserves credit for that.

Torres gave Rio Ferdinand and Vidic another torrid afternoon. Do United look fragile defensively this season?

That must be a concern for Ferguson. Anyone would want Ferdinand and Vidic in their side but neither looked entirely convincing yesterday. Ferdinand is struggling for form because of his fitness and as soon as he gets match-sharp again I would expect him to start delivering the kind of performances that we expect from him.

Vidic's problems are more psychological. When he sees Torres he almost looks scared of being shown up and when centre backs have that kind of problem with centre forwards it becomes a real problem. Ferdinand and Vidic won't face Torres every week; sometimes you can criticise the defenders too much and not give enough credit to the strikers.

Yesterday's result appears to have opened up the title race again. It promises to be as exciting a season as we have seen in some time.

It's fantastic. Every football fan should really enjoy this because it doesn't happen every season. There will be times when every manager that is challenging for the title will come under pressure because one result can really change things. Teams are winning and losing like never before because all of the teams involved have weaknesses - some of them glaring.

Chelsea have the points on the table at the moment but you can still see their weaknesses when they travel away from home and concede from set plays. They will also lose some key players to the African Nations Cup after Christmas.

United have shown weaknesses of their own and Liverpool's are well documented. It all makes for a fascinating season and there will be plenty more twists and turns to come.

Hansen: United Don't Inspire The Same Fear They Did Last Season

Liverpool legend Alan Hansen believes the Premier League champions Manchester United are not the same proposition minus the attacking threat of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, who left Old Trafford in the summer to join Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively.

Hansen told footballpools.com: “I was very surprised at Manchester United’s performance at Anfield which lacked the quality and the desire that we are all used to.”

“My old club thoroughly deserved to beat the champions on the day which will relieve some of the mounting pressure on manager Rafa Benitez.”

“Whether this will be the catalyst behind a sustained run of form which could signal a title challenge remains to be seen but if Liverpool were to stand any chance of title success they needed to win that game.”

“Fernando Torres is not 100% fit but his importance to the Reds was underlined in the way he took his goal. There are few better strikers in the world, let alone the Premier League and his performance in comparison to United striker Dimitar Berbatov was vastly superior.”

“Manchester United may be just two points off the top of the table but there’s no doubt they are far from firing on all cylinders.”

“They certainly missed the combative Darren Fletcher at Anfield as they lacked a destructive player in the middle of the park to break up Liverpool’s attacks.”

“At the moment, United don’t inspire the same fear they did at times last season with Cristiano Ronaldo in the side and Carlos Tevez waiting in the wings.”

“Wayne Rooney fought hard yesterday but his striker partner Berbatov looked disinterested at times and certainly wasn’t up for a physical battle with Liverpool centre-halves Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger.”

“There’s no doubt the Bulgarian has superb ability but he has yet to show the fighting spirit synonymous with Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.”

Hertha Linked With Forward Duo

Hertha Berlin general manager Michael Preetz has refused to deny speculation linking them with a move for Andriy Voronin.

Reports in the German press have suggested that Hertha are eyeing a winter move for the Liverpool striker, who spent a spell on loan at the club last season, as well as Wolfsburg attacker Ashkan Dejagah.

Hertha are currently rock-bottom of the German Bundesliga after a terrible start to the campaign, and they have been linked with a move for the duo as they attempt to turn their season around.

Preetz refused to deny the claims linking them with the pair, conceding that he will have to wait till the transfer window opens to sign attached players.

"We are only able to buy unattached players at this point this season and there is no unattached player able to help this club," he told spox.com.

"I am only willing to look at the situation right now and I have faith in the manager and the team."

Hertha take on Borussia Dortmund on Friday looking to improve on their existing tally of four points from 10 games.

How Liverpool's Transfer Spending Compares

On the eve of this season, Liverpool manager Rafa Bentiez bemoaned his side’s lack of financial power. However, an analysis of the spending habits of the ‘Big Four’ since his appointment in June 2004 shows that the Spaniard has outspent Sir Alex Ferguson by £80m. Furthermore, when money raised through player sales is taken into account, Benitez’ net spending dwarves Ferguson’s by £95m and only Chelsea have spent more on player recruitment during the same five-year period.

Benitez wasted no time in splashing the cash on his arrival on Merseyside. In his first season at the club his net spending totalled £31m, including £20m on the misfiring strike partnership of Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes. At the same time, Ferguson was making an upfront payment – also of £20m – for Wayne Rooney, who has since confirmed that he was, and still is, the brightest prospect in English football.

With Roman Abramovich a year into his Chelsea spending spree at the time of Benitez’s arrival, only the West London club could match the Spaniard’s outlay. Their most expensive signing that summer was the £24m Didier Drogba but his 102nd goal for the club against Blackburn yesterday suggests much better value for money than the £6.3m Benitez paid for Morientes, who managed just 12 goals throughout his Liverpool career.

While Benitez was spending £41m on eight players in that first season – none of whom are still at the club – Arsene Wenger was splashing out £2m on four players, two of whom – Manuel Almunia and Emmanuel Eboue – have become crucial members of the Arsenal side, while a third, Vito Mannone has burst on to the scene this season. In fact, since June 2004, Wenger has earned his club £27m from his transfer dealings and has spent £154m less that Benitez.

The extent of the Liverpool manager’s spending comes as a surprise, his method of recruitment offers up a telling explanation; as the figures show he likes to spread his wealth thinly. Since joining the club, he has signed 23 players for less than £3m, while during the same period Ferguson has brought in just seven bargain-basement players, the last of whom was the out-of-contract Michael Owen – the first player Benitez allowed to leave the Anfield.

It is worth noting that the world record fee of £80m Manchester United received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo this summer undoubtedly massages their 2004-09 net spending figure, although such largesse did not stop Florentino PĂ©rez boosting Liverpool’s coffers by £30m in return for the services of Xabi Alonso.

While in the six months before Bentiez’s appointment, Ferguson spent £26.7m on Louis Saha, Alan Smith and Gabriel Heinze, he was at least dipping into a £40m war chest funded by the sales of David Beckham to Real Madrid for £25m and Juan Sebastian Veron to Chelsea for £15m. Even taking Ferguson’s pre-Benitez spending into account, the Liverpool boss still comfortably outspends the Scot.

In conclusion, he could only have been referring to Chelsea when he said on the eve of this season that: “It is always difficult to compete in the Premier League with clubs who have more money.” And even then, Benitez’s net spending over the last five transfer windows eclipses even that of Abramovich. Perhaps now it is time he turned to some more imaginative excuses.

Liverpool total net spend 2004-09: £122m loss

2004-05 Net spend: £31.05m loss in total
Players in + fee: Djibril Cisse £14m, Josemi £2m, Luis Garcia £6m, Xabi Alonso £10.5m, Antonio Nunez £2m, Mauricio Pellegrino free, Fernando Morientes £6.3m, Scott Carson £0.75m.
Players out + fee: Markus Babbel free, Danny Murphy £2.5m, Michael Owen £8m, Stephane Henchoz free.

2005-06 Net spend: £23.4m loss
Players in + fee: Pepe Reina (£6m), Mark Gonzalez (£4.5m), Boudewijn Zenden (free), Antonio Barragan (£0.25m), Mohamed Sissoko (£5.6m), Peter Crouch (£7m), Godwin Antwin (£0.5m), Jack Hobbs (£0.75m), Paul Anderson (£1m), Jan Kromkamp (Swap), David Martin (£0.5m), Daniel Agger (£5.8m), Robbie Fowler (Free).
Players out + fee: Vladimir Smicer (Free), El Hadji Diouf (£1.5m), Mauricio Pellegrino (Free), Gregory Vignal (Free), Antonio Nunez (£0.5m), Ritchie Partridge (Free), Milan Baros (£6.5m), Josemi (Swap).

2006-07 Net spend: £32.85m loss
Players in + fee: Craig Bellamy £6m, Gabriel Paletta £2m, Fabio Aurelio Free, Jermaine Pennant £6.7m, Dirk Kuyt £9m, Nabil El Zhar £1m, Alvaro Arbeloa £2.6m, Francisco Manuel Duran Free, Javier Mascherano £18.6m.
Players out + fee: Fernando Morientes £3m, Bruno Cheyrou (£0.5m), Dietmar Hamann (£0.4m), Carl Medjani Free, Antonio Barragan (£0.7m), Djimi Traore (£2m),Neil Mellor £1m, Jan Kromkamp £1.7m, Chris Kirkland £2m, Darren Potter £0.25m, Stephen Warnock £1.5m, Salif Diao Free.

2007-08 Net spend: £23.3m loss
Players in + fee: Andriy Voronin Free, Krisztian Nemeth £0.5m, Charles-Hubert Itandje £3.5m, Fernando Torres £26.5m, Yossi Benayoun £5m,Ryan Babel £11.5m, Emiliano Insua £2m*, Damien Plessis (£1m), Martin Skrtel (£6m).
Players out + fee: Florent Sinoma Pongolle £2.7m, Danny O’Donnell £0.1m, Luis Garcia £4m, Boudewijn Zenden Free, Djibril Cisse £6m, Craig Bellamy £7.5m, Mark Gonzalez £4.2m, Jerzey Dudek Free, Robbie Fowler Free, Mohamed Sissoko £8.2m, Gabriel Paletta Swap.

2008-09 Net spend: £6.45m loss
Players in + fee: Philipp Degen free, Andrea Dossena £7m, Diego Cavalieri £3.5m, David Ngog £1.5m, Robbie Keane £20.3m, Vitor Flora Free, Albert Riera £8m.
Players out + fee: Anthony Le Tallec £1.1m, Harry Kewell Free, Peter Crouch £9m, Danny Guthrie £2.5m, Scott Carson £3.25m, John Arne Riise £4m, Steve Finnan £2m, Robbie Keane £12m.

2009-10 Net spend: £4.95m loss
Players in + fee: Glen Johnson £18m, Alberto Aquilani £20m, Sotiros Kyrgiakos £2m.
Players out + fee: Paul Anderson £0.25m, Sebastian Leto £1.3m, Sami Hyypia Free, Jermaine Pennant Free, Alvaro Arbeloa £3.5m, Xabi Alonso £30m.

Manchester United total net spend 2004-2009: £27m loss

2004-05 Net spend: £20.3m loss
Players in + fee: Wayne Rooney £26m, Florent N’Galula Nominal
Players out + fee: Nicky Butt £2.5m, Luke Chadwick Free, Diego Forlan £2m, Bojan Djordic Free, Eric Djemba-Djemba £1.2m

2005-06 Net spend: £13.5m loss
Players in + fee: Edwin van der Sar £2m, Ji-Sung Park £4m, Ben Foster £1m, Nemanja Vidic £7m, Patrice Evra £5.5m
Players out + fee: Roy Carroll Free, Ricardo Free, Phil Neville £3.5m, Kleberson £2.5m, Roy Keane Free

2006-07 Net spend: £2.9m loss
Players in + fee: Michael Carrick £18.6m
Players out + fee: Jonathan Spector £0.5m, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake £0.2m, Quinton Fortune Free, Ruud van Nistelrooy £11m, Liam Miller Free, David Jones £1m, Tim Howard £3m

2007-08 Net spend: £24m loss
Players in + fee: Owen Hargreaves £17m, Anderson £17m, Tomas Kuszczak £2.1m, Nani £17m, Carlos Tevez Loan, Manucho Nominal
Players out + fee: Kieran Richardson £5.5m, Giuseppe Rossi £6.6m, Alan Smith £6m, Gabriel Heinze £8m, Ryan Shawcross£1m, Phil Bardsley £2m

2008-09 Net spend: £33.1m loss
Players in + fee: Dimitar Berbatov £30.75m, Zoran Tosic £9m, Ritchie de Laet £0.1m
Players out + fee: Gerard Pique £5m, Chris Eagles £1m, Mikael Silvestre £0.75m, Loius Saha Nominal

2009-10 Net spend: £66.5m profit
Players in + fee: Antonio Valencia £16m, Gabriel Obertan £3m, Michael Owen Free
Players out + fee: Cristiano Ronaldo £80m, Lee Martin £2m, Fraizer Campbell £3.5m, Carlos Tevez Released, Manucho Nominal

Chelsea total net spend 2004-09: £186m loss

2004-05 Net spend: £87.6m loss
Players in + fee: Arjen Robben £12m, Paulo Ferreira £13.2m, Alex £5m, Mateja Kezman £5m, Tiago £8m, Didier Drogba £24m, Ricardo Carvalho £20.6m, Jiri Jarosik £3m
Players out + fee: Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink Free, Mario Melchiot Free, Jesper Gronkjaer £2.2m, Boudewijn Zenden Free, Neil Sullivan Free, Celestine Babyaro £1m, Marco Ambrosio Free, Adrian Mutu Free

2005-06 Net spend: £32.1m loss
Players in + fee: Asier del Horno £8m, Lassana Diarra £1m, Shaun Wright-Phillips £21m, Michael Essien £24.4m
Players out + fee: Mikael Forssell £3m, Scott Parker £6.5m, Juan Sebastian Veron Undisc, Mateja Kezman £5.3m, Tiago £6.5m, Alexei Smertin £1m

2006-07 Net spend: £37.7m loss
Players in + fee: Michael Ballack Free, Salomon Kalou £8m, Andrei Shevchenko £30m, John Obi-Mikel £16m, Khalid Boulahrouz £7m, Ashley Cole £5m (swap)
Players out + fee: Eidur Gudjohnson £8m, Jiri Jarosik £0.5m, Carlton Cole £4m, Damien Duff £5m, Asier del Horno £4.8m, Hernan Crespo Free, Willian Gallas Swap, Robert Huth £6m

2007-08 Net spend: £13.5m loss
Players in + fee: Steve Sidwell Free, Claudio Pizarro Free, Tal Ben-Haim Free, Florent Malouda £13.5m, Juliano Belletti £3m, Nicolas Anelka £15m, Branislav Ivanovic £9m, Franco di Santo £3m
Players out + fee: Arjen Robben £24m, Glen Johnson £4m, Lassana Diarra £2m

2008-09 Net spend: £6.8m profit
Players in + fee: Jose Bosingwa £16.2m, Deco £8m.
Players out + fee: Steve Sidwell £5m, Claude Makelele Free, Tal Ben-Haim £5m, Shaun Wright-Phillips £9m, Wayne Bridge £12m, Carlo Cudicini Free.

2009-10 Net spend: £22m loss
Players in + fee: Mineiro Undisc, Gokham Tore Undisc, Yuri Zhirkov £18m, Daniel Sturridge £5m (tribunal)
Players out + fee: Ben Sahar £1m, Frank Nouble Undisc, Andrei Shevchenko Free.

Arsenal Net spend 2004-09: £27m profit

2004-05 Net spend: £2.55m profit
Players in + fee: Arturo Lupoli £0.2m, Manuel Almunia £0.5m, Vito Mannone £0.35m, Emmanuel Eboue £1m.
Players out + fee: Giovanni van Bronckhorst £2m, Martin Keown Free, Ray Parlour Free, Kanu Free, Francis Jeffers £2.6m, Igor Stepanovs nominal, Sylvain Wiltord Free, Rami Shabaan Free.

2005-06 Net spend: £5m loss
Players in + fee: Nicklas Bendtner undisc, Alexander Hleb £11.2m, Vassiriki Diaby £2m, Emmanuel Adebayor £7m, Theo Walcott £5m, Mart Poom undisc
Players out + fee: Stuart Taylor Undisc, Jermaine Pennant £3m, Patrick Viera £13.7m, David Bentley £3m

2006-07 Net spend: £0.7m loss
Players in + fee: Tomas Rosicky £6.8m, Fran Merida Free, Alexandre Song £1m, William Gallas Swap, Denilson £3.4m.
Players out + fee: Robert Pires Free, Sol Campbell Free, Pascal Cygan £2m, Ashley Cole £5m (swap), Anthony Stokes £2m, Lauren £0.5m, Sebastian Larsson £1m

2007-08 Net spend: £19.9m profit
Players in + fee: Lukasz Fabianski £2m, Eduardo £7.5m, Bakari Sagna £6m, Lassana Diarra £2m, Luke Freeman £0.2m Players out + fee: Fabrice Muamba £4m, Jeremie Alaidiere £2m, Thierry Henry £16.1m, Arturo Lupoli Free, Fredrik Ljungberg£3m, Jose Antonio Reyes £6m, Matthew Connolly £1m, Lassana Diarra £5.5m

2008-09 Net spend: £20.75m loss
Players in + fee: Aaron Ramsey £5m, Samir Nasri £15.8m, Amaury Bischoff Free, Mikael Silvestre £0.75m, Andrei Arshavin£15m
Players out + fee: Jens Lehmann Free, Mathieu Flamini Free, Alexander Hleb £11.8m, Gilberto Silva £1m, Justin Hoyte £3m

2009-10 Net spend: £31m profit
Players in + fee: Thomas Vermaelen £10m
Players out + fee, Emmanuel Adebayor £25m, Kolo Toure £16m.

Liverpool Beach-Ball Boy Says Sorry To Fans

A teenage Liverpool fan who caused one of the oddest goals in English football history came out of hiding yesterday to apologise profusely for belting a beach ball onto the pitch.

Callum Campbell, 16, told the Sunday Mirror newspaper it was he who whacked the inflatable onto the pitch, triggering Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at Sunderland on Oct 17.

The youngster has faced death threats for his part in a defeat that dented the Reds’ bid to win the Premier League title and locked himself indoors for two days.

“It was me,” Campbell told the tabloid.

“I’m the one who did it. I’m the one caught on camera. I’m so, so sorry. This is my worst, worst nightmare.”

In the fifth minute of the match, Black Cats striker Darren Bent fired a shot on target, but it hit the Liverpool-branded beach ball, taking a big deflection and completely bamboozling Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina – who went for the wrong ball.

Millions around the world have seen the bizarre incident.

When the beach ball came Campbell’s way before the kick-off, he punched it onto the Stadium of Light pitch. It went into Reina’s goal but blew out as Sunderland went on the attack.

“When I got home I went into the garden and threw up. I was physically sick – and that’s before the death threats started appearing on the Internet the next day,” Campbell said.

“I watched it over and over again, and I still can’t work out how it happened.

“But my mum tells me it wasn’t my fault – and that’s what I have to believe. The referee should never have allowed the goal. I just hope the real fans understand and forgive me.

“How was I supposed to know what would happen? It was just a bit of fun, and if I could turn back the clock and do it differently, throw the ball into the crowd instead of on to the pitch, then I would.

“I’m really, really sorry it happened like it did.

“It’s bad enough when Liverpool lose, like in a normal way, but this was just one big disaster.

“It would have taken someone a couple of seconds to move it away, or put a foot on it and flatten it, but nobody bothered. And then it started to roll about. Just at the wrong moment.

“But I accept I shouldn’t have thrown it on to the pitch in the first place.”

Defeat left Liverpool seven points behind bitter rivals Manchester United, the reigning champions, their visitors today at Anfield.

His uncle Tony Moore said: “Let’s say Liverpool are just three points short of winning the league at the end of this season – he’ll be beside himself, thinking they were the points that cost them.”

At Campbell’s request, part of the fee for his interview was donated to the Hillsborough Disaster Fund.