Monday, January 11, 2010

Owner's Son Tom Hicks Junior Apologises To Liverpool FC Fan For Sending Abusive Email

Tom Hicks Jr. has apologised to a Liverpool supporter after he was accused of sending an abusive email.

The Dallas based Liverpool director and son of co-owner Tom Hicks Senior was contacted by Stephen Horner, a concerned fan, who emailed him an extract of a Liverpool Echo article published this weekend.

The extract contained a series of points raised in the Football Echo's Blood Red Column this weekend. The article analysed and explored the challenges facing Rafa Benitez.

But just before 4am in Texas yesterday (10am in England), Hicks Jr. sent one reply calling Mr. Horner “an idiot”.

He then sent another email – this time with Liverpool’s financial and commercial directors Philip Nash and Ian Ayre copied in – which told Horner: “Blow me f*** face. Go to Hell. I’m sick of you.”

Mr. Horner says he was shocked by the outburst but late last night, he was again contacted by Hicks Jr., this time to say sorry for the incident.

The email read: “Stephen, I apologize for losing my temper and using bad language with you. It was a kneejerk reaction. Tommy”

Liverpool – who have sold Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena this weekend to Dinamo Moscow and Napoli respectively – were not making any comment today on the incident but the club insist neither Mr. Nash nor Mr. Ayre received the original email.

This is not the first time that Hicks Jr. has clashed with Liverpool supporters.

He was at the centre of a heated row in the Sandon Pub, near Anfield, in February 2008 after the Reds had beaten Middlesbrough 3-2.

Regardless of whether Hicks Jr. has apologised, though, Paul Rice – Chairman of Spirit of Shankly – believes the Texan has made his position on the board untenable.

He said: “It is totally indefensible for a director of the club to speak to a fan in that manner. The comment is unbecoming of a director of Liverpool FC.”

Horner himself said today: "The email that I sent on Saturday morning to Tom Hicks Senior, George Gillett and Tom Hicks Jr. was merely a link to the Liverpool Echo article, 'Rafa Benitez should not have to manage Liverpool FC's debt', where I copied and pasted the pertinent points made in the article.

"I was polite and offered no personal view on the article, but felt compelled to send the article to the owners as it succinctly covered all of the main concerns that we as supporters have with the current situation; namely the £240M debt which Hicks and Gillett have loaded onto the club, the lack of investment in the playing squad and the false promises over the New Stadium.

"We are totally hamstrung as a result of the leveraged buy out by Hicks and Gillett, and cannot move forward as a Football club on or off the field.

"We finished 2nd in the league last season, and should have kicked on this season. There should have been investment in the playing squad in the summer and yet we have invested less than we recouped through player sales.

"We will continue to regress whilst Hicks and Gillett are owners of this worldwide institution. I am sick and tired of the propaganda and spin that is coming out of Liverpool Football Club.

"It is time for honesty. We exist to win trophies, not to pay off debts that have been loaded onto the club by others.

"The damage has been done by Hicks initial two email messages that he sent me on Saturday morning, and the apology received later in the day is hollow and probably a PR exercise.

He added: "The Gillett and Hicks reign has been nothing short of disastrous and they have proved time and time again that they are not fit and proper custodians of this special Football Club which means so much to so many people around the world. I urge former Chairman David Moores to now step forward and speak out, and admit his fatal mistake in selling to Gillett and Hicks.

"Hicks Junior should resign with immediate effect and it is time that Gillett and Hicks sold up and handed the reigns over to people who understand "The Liverpool Way".

"They are not welcome at Anfield and should name their price and begin negotiations with more suitable investors who can take this great club forward."

Benitez Fears Liverpool Will Head For Exit

Rafa Benitez is bracing himself for the biggest battle of his life – holding on to his big-name stars if Liverpool’s season ends in disaster.

The Kop boss is only too aware that mind-blowing bids will be slammed down hard on the American owners’ boardroom table for his own elite top four – Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina and Javier Mascherano.

And although Benitez wouldn’t want to cash in, he knows George Gillett and Tom Hicks will be swayed by multi-million-pound offers.

The key to keeping his superstar squad intact is silverware. Finishing in the top four and picking up a cup or two along the way is what he needs to turn round a disappointing season.

But even if Champions League qualification is secured, Benitez knows it probably won’t stop Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho coming back in for Steven Gerrard who he tried to sign for Chelsea in 2004.

And Manchester City would also be certain to make making a world-record bid of up to £100million for Torres. Benitez at first straight-batted the question saying: “At this moment we have to do the best for the club which is trying to improve the squad.”

But, when pressed further about who would have to make a decision on a massive transfer bid, he said:

“We would have conversations if we had to decide about this.

“Finishing in the top four is key to keeping everyone together and we also want to progress in the cups.

“The FA Cup and the Europa League are a challenge so we have to stick together and try to do our best in every game and every competition.”

It’s clearly a seriously worrying time for Benitez who has worked relentlessly to tie up his superstars on long-term deals.

Torres, Gerrard and Reina have committed themselves to the club and the cause but Mascherano is yet to sign on the dotted line.

The Argentina midfielder has kept his options open about cutting and running in the summer to Barcelona – if they still want him.

Benitez believes Mascherano will decide to stay now his pal, Argentina winger Maxi Rodriguez, is on his way to Anfield from Atletico Madrid.

Mascherano is still considering whether his immediate future might be better served in Spain but Benitez will not give up on that personal fight either. He said: “We are working on improving the level of the squad.

“Sometimes it’s bringing players, sometimes it’s players leaving.

“We are selling Andrea Dossena and Andriy Voronin because they were not playing too many games and they wanted to play every week.

“So we had to manage the situation and try to do the best for them and for us.

“We are doing contract extensions with others because we wanted to keep a strong squad.

“Sometimes that means to buy and sometimes to sell.

“Sometimes people want to go – but you can’t let them go now.

“Sometimes you don’t have the right offer so it’s not easy to say if you will lose some players.”

Liverpool Midfielder Alberto Aquilani Feeling 'Reborn'

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani midfielder insists that he is feeling "reborn" after recovering from a long-term injury, and that he intends to help the Reds pick up the pieces of a shattered season.

The Merseyside giants have endured several false dawns, with the injury-plagued Italian making only five Premier League appearances so far following his big-money switch from Roma.

"I feel reborn and I want to smash the world," Aquilani is quoted by the News of the World as saying.

"It was so hard being all that time without playing.

"Believe me when I say to you that watching your team-mates training and playing while you do nothing but physiotherapy, gym exercises and routines in the swimming pool for rehabilitation is really difficult.

"But now that is over. I am fine and I just want to put it all behind me and not think about anything but playing.

"The rest will follow. If I remain in good health, I know I can play at a certain high level.

"I know I have the confidence of the manager [Rafael Benitez], the rest of the management and my new team-mates.

"I know what I am worth on a football pitch and I want to do my absolute best in a very difficult season like this for the club and the fans."

Liverpool: Offers Could Be Considered

If tabloids reports are accurate Rafa has admitted for the first time that he has some concerns over the Liverpool futures of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.

Offers for the Reds' most prized assets are thought to have never been in question however the Spaniard has for the first time intimated that offers would be considered, as he explained:

'We would have a conversation and decide what's the best for the club.

'I've said before I want to keep the best players here because that means we can be closer to the top four. They are the most important.

'We gave extensions to players because we want to keep the squad together.

'If you ask any manager in the world they will tell you they want more money and want to spend but at this moment we have to do what's best for the club.

'That means managing the situation for each player and see what happens.'

In my honest opinion Rafa is just giving a worst case scenario answer to a question which has no doubt been manipulated to suit those that have published it and this is most likely a realistic worst case scenario that we'll have to hope, and I do believe, that we will avoid.

Should Rafa be forced to sell these players, due to finances, then I can't see that he'd be willing to hang around but I'm confident that it'll not come to this anyway.

Pay Row Keeps Reds Waiting For Max

Liverpool are confident that a money row between Maxi Rodriguez and Atletico Madrid will not derail the Argentine's £1.2 million move to Anfield.

Manager Rafa Benitez has agreed a fee with the Spanish club and Rodriguez has accepted the terms of an 18-month contract.

But the 29-year-old midfielder's arrival has been put in doubt by a stand-off with Atletico.

Rodriguez is demanding he is paid a £5 million loyalty bonus that would have been due to him had he stayed at the Vincente Calderon Stadium for the remaining six months of his contract.

Rodriguez has fallen out of favour with Atletico coach Enrique Sanchez Flores this season - despite scoring four goals in a Spanish Cup tie in November.

Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano both recommended him to Benitez having played with him for club and country respectively.

But Rodriguez is refusing to give up on the pay-off he will get at the end of the season after spending five years at Atletico.

Rafa Ready To Improve Reds' Defence

Rafa Benitez is desperate to improve Liverpool's defensive record but he accepts his side have come a long way following early-season problems.

The Reds have kept successive cleansheets in the league following a concerted effort to return to the defensive meanness of last term.

However, Benitez thinks there is still room for improvement.

"Yes, we are definitely much better," the boss told the club's website. "Still we can improve because we were really good in the last two or three seasons.

"Improving the defence needs hard work. But when you do your job every day on the pitch and in every training session, you see an improvement. That's what we're doing at the moment."

Meanwhile, Benitez admits his disappointment at the way this season has panned out.

He added: "I am disappointed with the way things have gone on. We were scoring a lot of goals in some games at home, but afterwards we weren't winning - and that's the important thing. It doesn't matter if you score four or five goals against one team if you don't win the next game.

"Two or three goals changed everything in the Champions League but clearly we have to improve. We want to do that now. Everyone's ready and improving depends on us.

"We know that it's very important for us, for the fans and the club to do well. So we'll push really hard.

"We have some players coming back from injury and if we can keep the majority of the players fit then we can beat anyone. The last two wins in the league means this team is coming back."

Rafa Top Of The Swaps

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez wants to snap up Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones in a swap deal involving outof-favour Ryan Babel. But he can only afford the £11million-rated Trinidad & Tobago target man if Babel goes to Steve Bruce's club.

The Kop manager has limited funds and cannot match Birmingham and Stoke if it comes to a straight cash auction for 25-year-old Jones.

However, Benitez has let leading agents work on his behalf to set up a potential swap involving Dutchman Babel, who is also rated at £11m by the Anfield outfit.

Liverpool believe Jones would fancy joining them and playing alongside Fernando Torres - or taking the Spaniard's place if he has to rest his injury.

Jones is not excited by the idea of joining Birmingham or Stoke, who have a lower profile. Liverpool may drop their valuation on Babel - Sunderland rate him at £8m - to make the move happen.

Bruce's interest has heightened because his bid for German striker Kevin Kuranyi, 27, at Schalke, looks doomed over the player's £130,000-a-week pay demands.

Babel, 23, has also been a target for ambitious Birmingham in the past few days but they came up short of the valuation and the Liverpool squad man is reluctant to go to the Blues.

Benitez has other strikers in mind, including Aston Villa's Anfield old boy Emile Heskey.

But Jones - a 6ft 2in powerhouse frontman when he is in the mood - is his first choice.

Villa Will Break Wage Cap To Keep Milner

James Milner will begin talks to extend his Aston Villa contract until 2015 when this month's transfer window closes.

The England winger joined the Midlands club from Newcastle for £12million in September 2008 and signed a four-year deal worth £40,000-a-week.

But the versatile star has since become one of Martin O'Neill's most important players and will now demand around £75,000-a-week, making him the club's top earner.

The Villa boss likes a loose wage cap to protect morale in the dressing room and the talks are likely to involve a lot of negotiation from both sides.

Milner, 24, made his England debut against Holland last August and his fine form in Villa's attempt to break into the top four has attracted interest from Liverpool.

His impressive performances in victories at Anfield and Old Trafford this season have also brought him to the attention of other members of the top four.

He has two and a half years left on his current deal but O'Neill, who believes the Leeds academy graduate could eventually become a central midfielder, wants to tie him down to a longer deal to ward off interest from other clubs.

That would see the player add a further three years to his present agreement. It will also ensure that Villa receive a big fee if he does leave.

Milner was among the lowest paid players at Newcastle and his representatives are believed to have thought they could have got a better deal for him when he arrived at Villa at a time when big contracts were being handed out to the likes of Ashley Young and John Carew.

Young is the club's highest earner on £65,000-a-week but Milner is a near certainty to make Fabio Capello's World Cup squad for South Africa next summer, and that will increase his bargaining position. Stilyan Petrov recently signed a contract worth £50,000-a-week, while Richard Dunne and Norwegian striker Carew are thought to be on slightly higher deals.

It is likely that the talks will result in Milner signing a contract worth around £70,000-a-week before heading off to South Africa with England.

Since winning his first England cap and setting up a goal in the Holland friendly, the former England Under-21 international has played in the last three World Cup qualifiers as well as in November's friendly defeat to Brazil in Dubai.

Milner has 46 Under-21 caps and has played for his country at that level more times than any other player. His last appearance was in the European Championship final defeat against Germany in Sweden last summer, which England lost 4-0.

His ability to cover a variety of positions has seen his importance to Villa increase. This season he has played on both wings, in central midfield and even at right-back.

He recently stated that he is enjoying the most settled period of his career having played under 13 different managers and caretakers by the age of 23.

Milner became the youngest player to score in the Premier League when he found the net for Leeds in 2002 when he was just 16.