Sunday, June 13, 2010

Barnes Thinks Reds Will Improve

Liverpool legend John Barnes has backed Kenny Dalglish or Roy Hodgson to succeed Rafael Benitez, insisting whoever gets the job will enjoy a "win-win situation".

Benitez parted company with the Reds by mutual consent last week and speculation continues over the contenders to step into his shoes at Anfield.

After guiding Liverpool to a remarkable Champions League triumph in 2005, success slowly dried up while relations with the club's American owners soured, culminating in his recent departure and subsequent appointment by Inter Milan.

A lowly seventh-placed finish in the Barclays Premier League last season was the lowest of his tenure and Barnes believes the next man in will benefit from the bar being set so low.

The former league and FA Cup winner said: "Whoever comes in will finish better than seventh, regardless of whether there is money to spend.

"To be honest, I would like there not to be money to spend because if there is, it means you have sold Gerrard or Torres. So under those circumstances, I'd rather have no money!

"A manager coming in has to be prepared to work in those circumstances, knowing that Liverpool will finish higher than seventh. So it's a positive thing.

"Even with no money to spend, if you finish fourth you have done better than last year. The same if you finish fifth or sixth, you have still done better.

"It's a win-win situation. I hope Liverpool fans don't expect a manager coming in saying 'we're going to finish first or second' and I don't think they will."

As for the names in the frame, Barnes insists he has no strong opinion. However, he believes both former boss Dalglish and Fulham boss Hodgson are well qualified.

"Is it going to be Kenny Dalglish or Roy Hodgson? Who knows?" he said.

"Both would do a great job, there are lots of good managers and whoever it is will have to be a proven manager so they won't get the decision wrong.

"If Kenny wants it, why not Kenny? If it's Roy Hodgson I'm sure he'll do a good job as well."

As for Benitez, Barnes added: "It does not surprise me that Rafa Benitez has gone to Inter, because he is a good manager.

"He's proven that and his stature has not gone down, in my opinion. You don't become a bad manager overnight. But obviously it didn't work out in the last year so he left."

Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool FC Legacy Is Secure

The King may not be back on his throne just yet – and may even face an uphill battle to reclaim it. But the clamour on the Kop for his coronation is growing by the day.

A week ago Kenny Dalglish was the man tasked with helping pinpoint Rafa Benitez’s successor.

Fast forward seven days and he apparently finds himself in a two-horse race for the Anfield hot-seat with Fulham’s Roy Hodgson. The kingmaker has turned serious contender.

There has been no public word from the Kop legend himself but no one should be in any doubt just how much he wants a second crack at the job he cherishes above any other.

His former players have been queuing up all week to wax lyrical about why he is the right man at the right time for a club wracked by instability and uncertainty. And just to ram home the point his son Paul, the ex-Reds reserves frontman, passionately pleaded his father’s case.

“I think my dad is the best person to do the job, I know how much he wants it,” he said.

“He’s a born winner. He’s an inspiration to everyone connected to Liverpool. No-one can inspire the whole club in these difficult times like my father.”

Of course not everyone is convinced about Dalglish’s fairytale return and many of the doubts expressed are understandable.

Dalglish is the greatest player ever to wear a Reds shirt. A man who cemented his legendary status on the Kop during six years as boss between 1985 and 1991 when he won three league titles and two FA Cups.

He’s admired, respected and loved in equal measure and some are concerned that by coming back he would risk damaging all that. And also that by agreeing to work under Tom Hicks and George Gillett, he would somehow be tarnished.

In the absence of a crystal ball, there are no guarantees. Who knows, the second coming could end in tears but it’s clearly a risk Dalglish is willing to take.

And if Kenny Dalglish himself is prepared to sacrifice his reputation, to put his neck on the line for the club he loves, then surely that should be good enough for anyone?

This is a man who doesn’t need the money and doesn’t crave the spotlight. He would be making the leap from directors’ box to the dugout because of his growing concern for what’s happening at Anfield, seeking a chance to repay fans desperately in need of a lift for their unswerving support.

And what if it did pay off? It would be one of football’s greatest stories.

Another claim is that Dalglish has been out of the game too long. It’s a decade since he last managed in the top flight. The argument is that the game has moved on and Dalglish has been left behind; that Liverpool supporters are living in the past.

But in truth how much has really changed? Players are richer, the stakes are higher and some clubs are now playthings of billionaires. But the qualities needed for success as a boss surely remain the same?

Nobody can question Dalglish’s knowledge of the game and he won’t have lost that ability to motivate. The passion and desire is still there.

Others argue Dalglish may not be able to handle the pressure of life as a Premier League boss these days. They point out it all got too much for him in February 1991 when he resigned and walked away.

But that ignores the unbearable stress Dalglish had been faced with over the preceding years. He had bravely led the club through two major tragedies and when he quit, he was still dealing with the emotional toil of Hillsborough and the aftermath.

Over the past decade Dalglish has had many chances to get back into the game but nothing could tempt him. It was only when Liverpool came calling last year that he leapt at the opportunity to work as an ambassador for the club and help youngsters at the Academy.

Now another opening has arisen and having looked around at the competition Dalglish, who has huge personal respect and affection for Roy Hodgson, has nonetheless rightly concluded his credentials stand up to allcomers in comparison. And he simply wants the best for Liverpool.

Even if only on a short-term deal until the club’s sale is completed, Dalglish would be the ideal man to provide unity and restore morale.

The man best placed to calm fears of a player exodus and convince the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to stay put.

He knows how the club ticks and what’s needed to lead Liverpool through these tough times.

Without doubt it would be an emotional appointment but that doesn’t mean it would be the wrong one. Liverpool fans deserve the best and club needs reinvigorating.

Dalglish is the man to do it.

Gerrard Inspired By Sprint Star Bolt

Steven Gerrard will take inspiration from the fastest man on the planet when he leads England out against USA in their World Cup opener.

Gerrard and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt - the world-record holder at 100 and 200 metres - have formed something of a mutual admiration society, with Manchester United fan Bolt having requested a signed shirt from the Liverpool captain.

"I'd heard Usain Bolt was a big football fan and it was really flattering that he wanted my shirt," Gerrard was quoted as saying in The Sun. "I'm just disappointed I haven't got his pace.

"It's a pity he's a Man United fan though. I was going to ask him to one of our training sessions when he's in England but I might not bother now.

"Seriously Usain is an athlete I really look up to. As a sprinter he's the man, isn't he? He's a winner, an inspiration and someone I love watching."

Michael Owen Believes His Former Liverpool Teammate Steven Gerrard Will Be Dreaming Of England Glory

Michael Owen believes Steven Gerrard will be dreaming of making history as only the second England captain ever to lift the World Cup.

The Liverpool midfielder was handed the armband after Rio Ferdinand pulled out of the squad with injury. And Manchester United striker Owen believes his former Anfield colleague will flourish with the added responsibility.

“It's got to be crossing Stevie's [Steven Gerrard] mind as England start the competition in Rustenburg," Owen told The Telegraph.

"If England have a good tournament, Stevie would go down as only the second Englishman, after Bobby Moore, to lift that World Cup and that would be an unbelievable feeling.

“Everybody's devastated for Rio Ferdinand for getting injured, and is wishing him a speedy recovery.

"I know how hard he will be working to get fit for the start of the season and I'm sure I will see Rio at Manchester United's training ground, Carrington, soon.

“But now that Rio is sadly out, there is nobody better to captain England than Stevie. I know him well.

"We grew up playing for Liverpool together and I know how much representing his country means to him. This is a massive moment for Stevie, the biggest in his career.

“He's captained England before but it's different in the World Cup. Stevie will rise to the challenge because he has all the qualities.

"He has this quiet authority that inspires. Stevie won't let England down against the US."

Despite Gerrard’s credentials, Owen thinks England are blessed with leaders throughout the squad who will all be desperate to seize one of their last big chances of glory in a major tournament.

“We're fortunate with England that we have a lot of club captains in the squad and a lot of players such as Stevie, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney in their prime. They are the backbone of the team," he added.

“Some of them may make the next World Cup in Brazil but they'll be touching their mid-30s. Only Wayne will be in his prime.

"That is why this is a massive competition for them and why I expect them to start strongly."

And Owen is not alone in expressing his frustration over the continued debate about the effectiveness of deploying Gerrard and Lampard together in central midfield.

The former Three Lions striker believes England have a range of tactical options, that Fabio Capello can delpoy to steer them out of Group C.

“Many areas will be important in Rustenburg, but two, in midfield and attack, strike me as key," he continued.

"Stevie's midfield partnership with Frank [Lampard] is something that people have been talking a lot about. I'd find the debate very frustrating if I were one of them.

“Stevie and Frank are in their prime, are very established in their careers and in their thirties so it's a horrible feeling to be doubted. But it is perfectly reasonable for people to ask: 'How are we going to play in midfield?'

“England could play 4-5-1 with a holding midfielder like Michael Carrick deep or they could go 4-4-2. Stevie and Frank are regulars for clubs who play 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, not 4-4-2.

“At Chelsea, Frank is given licence to get forward because he knows he has two other lads in midfield with him, one of whom shields the back four. It was Claude Makelele and is now John Obi Mikel, while Michael Ballack also had a spell.

“That allows Frank to bomb on, knowing he'll not leave the defence exposed. Liverpool have Lucas and Javier Mascherano sitting in midfield, letting Stevie join Fernando Torres.

“Stevie and Frank don't have as much defensive responsibility for their clubs. England are different. If they play as a two together, I'm sure they will adapt because they are both intelligent players but 4-4-2 could be a concern.

“They can play 4-4-2 but don't do it regularly and I want to see them doing what they do best, getting forward, creating and scoring goals for us.

"If we are 4-4-2, it will be interesting to see who takes the lead role and who anchors midfield. Both will instinctively want to attack.

"I feel Stevie should be playing further forward, closer to Wayne, but I know Emile Heskey will do a good job if he partners Wayne.

"I played for many years with Emile for England and Liverpool and know how important he is to the team, how he brings the best out of others.

“I'll never forget the 5-1 in Munich when he played a crucial supporting role in my hat-trick. Emile's obvious attributes are his size, strength and pace. He'll hem the American defenders in, keeping the pressure on them.”

Steven Gerrard Must Provide The Spark To Fire Up Wayne Rooney

When Steven Gerrard leads the England team out against the USA, the responsibility of being captain is not the only thing weighing heavily on his shoulders.

To wear the armband means representing the hopes of an expectant nation but if England are to have any chance of making an impact in South Africa, then Stevie G's most important role is to provide the key for Wayne Rooney to rediscover his magic.

As the team showed in qualifying, when the Manchester United striker is in form they are a match for most sides in the world.

The problem is that since Fabio Capello's men qualified with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Croatia last September, Rooney hasn't scored for his country. A volley against the unmighty Platinum Stars doesn't count and his frustration in the warm-up games before the tournament has been there for everyone to see as he told the referee where to go.

That performance against Croatia also represents the last occasion when England impressed on the international stage and they will have to reach those heights again if they are to enjoy the delights of their training camp in Rustenburg for another four weeks.

Every magician needs an assistant to make their tricks tick and Gerrard has proved more than useful to his Scouse mate in doing just that in the past.

It is no coincidence that Rooney began to really perform during qualifying when the Liverpool midfielder was selected to play on the left, which allowed the duo to combine effectively behind the battering ram of Emile Heskey.

The first time it was used earned a 5-1 demolition of Kazakhstan in October 2008 and, four days later, Gerrard and Rooney both scored in a 3-1 win in Belarus.

By the time Croatia visited Wembley 11 months later, their understanding was unstoppable and yet the lack of competitive games since then has seen some of the fire go out. Capello has understandably experimented in friendlies over the past few months and it has played a part in England looking disjointed.

They can ill-afford that trend to continue and early indications are that the trio of Gerrard, Rooney and Heskey will be employed in the same manner which brought such a wave of optimism across the country not so long ago.

However, one gets the impression it is not just Gerrard's bond on the field which is so crucial to bringing out the best in England's talisman.

They may have been playing for rival clubs throughout their career due to Rooney's starring role for Everton and Manchester United and the former taking up residency at Anfield, but being born and raised in Liverpool has ensured they have still formed a strong sense of brotherhood.

As Gerrard said: “I think the reason we have a good understanding on the pitch is because we are quite close off it. I know what Wayne is about, I know his upbringing, his background and I think I can certainly help Wayne be one of the best players in the tournament.

“The stage is set for Wayne. He is at a fantastic age, he is in great shape and is coming off the back of an unbelievable season, probably his best.

“I'm just delighted he is English and going to be leading us out there and we will be behind him. Hopefully he can be our main goalscorer and score the goals that spur us on to victory.”

The last Englishman to walk away from the World Cup with the Golden Boot was Gary Lineker, whose six goals helped the Three Lions reach the quarter-finals in 1986.

Some of the younger supporters just associate him with delivering scripted jibes on Match of the Day but one thing no-one can dispute is his knowledge of how to find the net. With England's defence looking far from solid, much will depend on what England can do at the other end, which is why so much focus is on Rooney to follow in Lineker's footsteps.

It is a challenge the former Everton and Tottenham striker is confident Rooney can rise to. He said: “Wayne will be the key thing for success. He is one of the best players in the world and this is his big chance to show that on the world stage.

“He has learned about the game, he doesn't chase people with the ball willy-nilly, as he used to. He plays in a central position and reserves his energy a bit better. His movement in the box has got better.

“He is spending a lot more time in the penalty area and that is the reason he is scoring more goals and getting into more threatening positions. I don't think England could win it without him — a hell of a lot revolves around him.”

Still, within the England camp one gets a feeling there is a sense of relief the waiting is almost over.

The USA are not the easiest opponents for an opening match as they thrive on being the underdogs. What they lack in quality they make up for in work-rate, which is why it is so crucial England's best players deliver.

Should Gerrard help Rooney find his scoring touch, it may not just represent a good start but the start of something special.

Steven Gerrard Was Meant To Lead England, Says Liverpool FC Legend Phil Thompson

Phil Thompson had a World Cup dream thwarted but could not be happier Steven Gerrard will be realising his.

As the Liverpool talisman leads England out in Rustenburg for their opening match of the tournament against the USA, the memories of two conflicting events in Thompson’s international career will come flooding back.

A proud servant on 42 occasions for his country, Anfield legend Thompson recalls the night he was handed the captain’s armband for the first time, taking the national side into battle against Bulgaria.

But as he revelled in Gerrard’s “long overdue” ascent to England leader, Kop favourite Tommo recounts one of his darkest days when sporting the three lions on his chest.

Debuting as captain in a European Championship qualifier on November, 22 1979 with skipper Kevin Keegan absent, Kirkby man Thompson would go on to lead England a further five times, though not in the one game he felt sure he would be skipper in once more.

As Ron Greenwood prepared his troops for Spain’82 and the Group Four challenge of France in Bilbao, captain Keegan was again ruled out, and Thompson awaited the manager’s call.

However instead of being told he would lead his country out in the World Cup, Thompson was dealt the biggest blow of his international career with Mick Mills given the nod.

As Thompson was denied the crowning moment he so sorely craved, he is in the perfect position to send his congratulations to Gerrard and has backed the Reds man to deliver.

“I’m probably being biased but I thought Steven was ready for the captaincy a few years ago,” said Thompson.

“His maturity has significantly changed over the last few years as well as his whole outlook to the game.

“Steven has shown greater responsibility over this period and has been ready to take the role on for a number of years now.

“It was always going to be a close race between him (Gerrard), Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. Capello made his decision but I always felt Stevie was ahead of the other two. But with the way it has panned out and with Steven leading his country out in the World Cup, maybe it was meant to be.”

Steven Gerrard Thanks Liverpool FC For Helping Him To England Captaincy

Steven Gerrard today spoke of his debt of gratitude to Liverpool FC as he prepares to lead England into World Cup battle.

Gerrard will become the first Reds player to captain England at a World Cup when Fabio Capello’s squad kick off their Group C campaign with a clash against the USA in Rustenberg.

Only three other Liverpool skippers – Glen Hysen with Sweden in 1990 and the Scots Graeme Souness (1982) and Tommy Younger (1958) – have fulfilled similar roles at previous tournaments and Gerrard is aware of the responsibility on his shoulders.

For that reason, all his energies are being channelled into making a success of the job but, ahead of the clash at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Gerrard has taken time to thank the people at Anfield who have provided guidance throughout his career.

Now Gerrard – who will win his 81st cap – is determined to repay the faith that has been placed in him by playing a starring role, as he attempts to make a childhood dream come true.

“It’s a huge honour to be England captain at the World Cup finals and, of course, it gives you a huge sense of satisfaction,” said the Reds’ skipper.

“All I can do is thank everyone at Liverpool who have helped me get here; from the coaching staff to the constant backing of the supporters – the roles they have played will never be forgotten.

“I’m fortunate to play at a level where the prizes on offer are tremendous and I’ve been lucky to enjoy lots of success with Liverpool. But now I’m determined to stay in this tournament all the way to the end.

“In a few years, I want to look back at South Africa and say I really enjoyed it, that I played my part and led a successful England team.

“When you are a kid, you dream of playing at a World Cup finals and 1990 – when Paul Gascoigne was the star performer – was the first one I really studied; it would be amazing if I could have a similar impact.”

Liverpool is not necessarily a city that avidly follows the fortunes of the national team but World Cup fever has gripped these parts, particularly the street where Gerrard grew up in Huyton.

A television news crew has been showing pictures of how the road is adorned with the hundreds of crosses of St George and banners proclaiming ‘Come on Stevie G!’; it has not gone unnoticed.

“I’m well aware of the support we are getting back home,” said Gerrard. “I’ve never forgotten my roots and I’d love to be able to come back in a few weeks and share my memories with everyone.”

Liverpool Striker Dirk Kuyt Could Follow Rafael Benitez To Inter

The agent of Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt has admitted "anything is possible" amid suggestions new Inter coach Rafael Benitez is planning a San Siro reunion.

Kuyt, 29, was a firm favourite of the Spaniard at Anfield and racked up more than 200 appearances since he arrived at the club in 2006. Reports had emerged that the Dutch international and midfield battler Javier Mascherano could come to the Champoions League holders for £33 million.

Speaking to, agent Rob Jansen said: "It's just rumours, we know nothing about this offer.

"Dirk is thinking now only about the World Cup.

"He has an excellent relationship with Benitez, but we are commenting only on an hypothesis, because there is nothing concrete. When and if an offer arrives, we'll see.

"Dirk is happy at Liverpool and has a contract until 2012.

"Would he follow Benitez? Anything is possible, but, again, there is currently nothing."

Alan Hansen’s Liverpool FC Criticism Of Squad Doesn’t Stack Up

Alan Hansen is a Liverpool great and an eloquent TV pundit who often provides the voice of reason.

However, his declaration that the new Reds manager will find himself stuck with a squad inferior to the one Rafa Benitez inherited six years ago just doesn’t stack up.

“The painful truth for Liverpool and their supporters is that the new manager at Anfield, whoever he turns out to be, will find a worse squad at his disposal than that which Benitez inherited from Gerard Houllier in 2004,” Hansen said.

“And you could even argue that Liverpool are in their worst state since Bill Shankly arrived at the club more than 50 years ago.”

For Benitez’s first league game at Tottenham in August 2004 the line up was Dudek; Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Finnan, Hamann, Gerrard, Kewell; Cisse, Baros.

His only new recruit among those names was Josemi and on the bench he had Kirkland, Henchoz, Warnock, Biscan and Sinama Pongolle.

Gerrard was Liverpool’s only genuinely world class player, he had two infuriating inconsistent frontmen in Cisse and Baros and an Aussie winger who spent most of his time on the treatment table.

Fast forward six years and a Liverpool manager would currently be able to field a line up of: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua; Kuyt, Mascherano, Gerrard, Benayoun, Rodriguez; Torres.

The bench would have the likes of Aquilani, Skrtel, Riera, Babel and Lucas.

Of course Benitez made some terrible buys – Robbie Keane, Jermaine Pennant, Jan Krompkamp and Andrea Dossena to name just a few.

But the Spaniard also brought in some real quality and to suggest the squad is weaker now simply isn’t true.

Yes, the squad lacks depth but that was true during Houllier’s reign. Only investment from rich new owners will solve that.

But whoever takes over will inherit four world class players in Reina, Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano, considerably more than Houllier left behind.