Sunday, August 01, 2010

David Ngog And Dani Pacheco Have Part To Play In Liverpool FC’s Future

Among the many hot topics currently being discussed by Liverpool supporters, the subject of strikers has assumed great significance this week.

Fernando Torres, of course, has been the subject of most conjecture; every bulletin that has appeared about his future have invoked either gasps of anxiety or sighs of relief and it is encouraging that Roy Hodgson said he has told Liverpool he is ready to return to work.

Clearly there have been issues to sort out with Torres this summer and club officials have worked overtime to persuade him to give it another season at Anfield rather than accepting the advances of either Manchester City or Chelsea.

The warning signs with Torres have been there for many months and it was back in January, remember, when he became the first person in the dressing room to break the silence and urge co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to financially back Rafa Benitez.
Torres is not concerned about personal gain and if he ever leaves Anfield, it would not be to obtain a more lucrative deal; he wants to play for a team that wins trophies – ditto Steven Gerrard – and it frustrates the Spaniard intensely that it has proved beyond Liverpool these last three years.

You would not find a Liverpool fan anywhere who wants to see Torres, whose 116 appearances have yielded 72 goals, seek pastures new but the club has to prepare for every eventuality in the knowledge that players will always come and go for a variety of reasons.

With this in mind, the previous regime brought in two youngsters who were seen as the future and both David Ngog and Daniel Pacheco have done much in recent weeks on foreign fields to enhance their reputations, as well as increasing their prospects under Hodgson.

In many ways, it is best to start with Ngog.

Scorer of both goals in Skopje on Thursday night as Liverpool eased past FC Rabotnicki, the Frenchman built on the encouraging start he has made to pre-season with his best performance of the summer.

Nonchalant in taking his first, clinical in rifling home his second, Ngog gave the impression he has spent time working on his game, as the movement he showed to reach Martin Kelly's pinpoint cross – feinting to go forward before peeling off his marker – was exemplary.

Similar to Lucas, Ngog has been a player who certain sections of supporters have only wanted to concentrate on finding negatives; as Lucas suffered because he was thrust into the position vacated by Xabi Alonso, so Ngog was derided because there was no Torres.

Now it is obvious the 21-year-old has much to learn – Daniel Agger made that point after the win in Macedonia – but he is not a player who will end up falling into a bracket reserved for failed strikers Sean Dundee, Erik Meijer and, dare we say, Robbie Keane.

He scored eight times last season and had he been English, there would have been a clamour for Ngog to go to the World Cup; the more he plays, the better he will become and his frame is definitely starting to fill out.

With France overhauling the squad that performed so disastrously in South Africa – Thierry Henry is retired, Nicolas Anelka has been exiled and Sidney Govou best days are behind him – it would not be a huge surprise if Ngog becomes a fixture with Les Bleus in the next 12 months.

What role he has to play under Hodgson remains to be seen but the Parisian has done his chances no harm in recent weeks and his new manager has absolutely no intention of letting Ngog depart to West Bromwich Albion.

Similar sentiments apply to Pacheco.

He has set the Under-19 European Championships alight and has been scoring for fun in a Spanish team that has oozed quality, bamboozling their opponents with that rhythmic passing game.

Real Sociedad want to take Pacheco back to La Liga but it would be a huge shame if the 19-year-old left because he felt frustrated; there might not be much of Pacheco but he is big on heart, has great talent and, just as importantly, is classed as homegrown this year.

Losing Torres would be a shattering blow but, in some ways, it is just as vital to hang on to Ngog and Pacheco; young goalscorers are few and far between and if they can continue their development on Merseyside, Liverpool will be all the better for it.

Lucas Ready To Fill The Void

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva is ready to fill the void of want-away team-mate Javier Mascherano.

Argentina captain Mascherano has been repeatedly linked with Inter Milan, who are managed by former Reds boss Rafa Benitez, and he has told club officials that he wants to leave Anfield.

Liverpool are reported to be following Belgium star Steven Defour as a possible replacement, but, having captained his club in the pre-season absence of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, Lucas is ready to step up.

"We know the situation regarding Javier and of course we all hope he stays because he's such a good player and important to the team," said Lucas in the Daily Mirror.

"We'll have to wait and see, but if he goes then I'm ready to play and to impress and do whatever job the manager needs from me.

"I'm not the same player as Javier, we have different styles, but I know I am able play the role Javier does because last season I played a few games when he was at right-back.

"I've no problem with doing that job, I know I can do it if that's what the manager wants. I think I did well last season, but I think in this one I can do even better wherever I play."

Aurelio Set For Reds Return understands Liverpool are lining up a shock move to bring Fabio Aurelio back to the club.

Aurelio left Anfield earlier this summer after failing to agree a new contract on a pay-as-you- play deal.

Aurelio made 71 Premier League appearances for Liverpool during his four seasons at the club, but his progress was hampered by injuries, restricting him to just eight league starts last term.

The Brazilian departed on a free transfer and was linked with a move back to his native Brazil, but he has yet to find a club.

Liverpool has failed to bring in a replacement for Aurelio despite being linked with a host of names, including Maynor Figueroa and Paul Konchesky.

However, it appears Aurelio could be in line for a sensational return to Anfield as Roy Hodgson is ready to offer him a deal to solve his problems at left-back.

Hodgson is believed to be an admirer of the South American and Aurelio has linked up with the rest of the Liverpool squad in Germany for their pre-season friendly with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Luke Young Set For Fulham Transfer As Liverpool Eye Paul Konchesky

Luke Young looks set to become one of Mark Hughes's first signings as Fulham boss following the collapse of his switch from Aston Villa to Liverpool.

Should the deal be completed in the next week, it would pave the way for Reds manager Roy Hodgson to raid his former club for Paul Konchesky.

Young, 31, is not in Martin O'Neill's plans for next season and Villa accepted a £2.5 million bid from Liverpool earlier in the week.

However, the former Tottenham, Charlton and Middlesbrough full-back was unable to agree personal terms, with reports suggesting he was unwilling to accept a pay cut from his current £47,000-a-week salary package.

Hughes is a long-term admirer of ex-England defender Young and is ready to capitalise on the breakdown of the talks with Liverpool to wrap up a £2.5 million deal in the next few days.

That would leave Liverpool still searching for full-back reinforcements and Hodgson is said to be ready to take Konchesky to Anfield.

The 29-year-old was a regular for Fulham under Hodgson and the Liverpool Echo reports that the Reds are now lining up a £2.5 million bid for the former Charlton and West Ham man.

Agent Of Juventus Midfielder Christian Poulsen Excludes Liverpool Link

Christian Poulsen's agent Joern Bonnesen believes the Liverpool link is a no-goer as he excludes a Juventus exit.

Reports have linked the midfielder with the Anfield club, claiming Roy Hodgson was ready to make a move for him - which was confirmed by Giuseppe Marotta on Friday morning when he said Liverpool had shown an interest.

But Bonnesen feels his client will not be leaving Juventus.

"Christian will stay in Turin. Whatever name comes out on the papers doesn't correspond to the reality," the agent told

"I hope that this response closes this episode for sure. He needs to train regularly, and even he is tired of speaking about the market."

Liverpool See Steven Defour As Ideal Replacement For Javier Mascherano

Liverpool are aiming to beat Manchester United to the signing of Standard Liege midfielder Steven Defour, viewing him as a potential replacement for Javier Mascherano.

According to the Daily Mail, Red's manager Roy Hodgson was set to watch Defour in Belgium on Friday evening and is weighing up a £10 million offer for the midfielder, who is also believed to be on Sir Alex Ferguson's shortlist.

With the Argentine’s probable departure to Inter this summer, Hodgson is already searching for a suitor in his defensive-midfield ranks.

And the 22-year-old Belgium international seems to fit Hodgson's brief. One stumbling block in any possible move to Anfield though will be the fact that the Red Devils have already declared their interest, with Ferguson sending Defour a letter of encouragement when he broke his foot last year.

Mascherano has expressed his desire to leave Anfield, but Hodgson will not allow the midfielder to reunite with former boss Rafael Benitez at San Siro unless the fee is close to their reported valuation of £25m.

If Liverpool fails in their transfer tug-of-war for Defour, it is thought Hodgson's alternative targets include Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov and Juventus midfielder Christian Poulsen.

Liverpool FC’s Clash With Borussia Moenchengladbach Is The Celebration Of A Unique Friendship

It’s a friendship unique in world football which has blossomed over four decades.

When Liverpool and Borussia Moenchengladbach met five times during the 1970s the stakes were high and it was the Reds who took the spoils.

In 1973 they edged out the Germans 3-2 on aggregate in the final of the UEFA Cup and then four years later the European Cup was secured for the first time as Gladbach were beaten 3-1 on a memorable night in Rome.

The rivals faced each other again in the semi-finals a year later when Bob Paisley’s side booked their passage to Wembley by overturning a 2-1 deficit with a 3-0 victory at Anfield.

Thirty two years have past since they last locked horns in a competitive fixture but the affinity between the clubs has never been stronger.

The bond which was forged between the two sets of fans on those glorious European nights has not only stood the test of time but strengthened.

And the depth of that mutual respect and admiration will be evident when Liverpool visit a sold-out Borussia Park for their final pre-season friendly tomorrow.

For Kopite Graham Agg, who leads an annual pilgrimage of Reds fans to Moenchengladbach, it will be a special occasion.

“This friendship goes back to those great games in the 70s and it really took off after some Borussia fans came to Liverpool in 1991 to present a cheque for 21,000 Deutsch Marks (about £7,000) to the Hillsborough fund,” he said.

“That meant a great deal and in 1992 a group of Borussia fans started coming over to Anfield every year to support us during the Bundesliga’s winter break.

“The only year they haven’t come over was in 2007 when during their break we only had two home games – against Chelsea and Everton.

“They decided they didn’t want to take 100 tickets off genuine Liverpool fans for such big games so stayed at home which was a nice gesture.

“I speak fluent German having lived over there for a few years so when they came over in 2006 I met up with them for a night in town.

“I was chatting to one of them who said the relationship between the clubs was great but that it was a bit one-sided. They had been coming over here since ‘92 but there wasn’t much coming back the other way.

“I was a bit embarrassed and decided we needed to do something about it.”

The 48-year-old from Netherton started planning a trip to Moenchengladbach to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the clubs’ meeting in the European Cup final.

It proved to be an unforgettable experience and since then the popularity of the trips to Germany has grown.

“There were 25 of us who went in 2007 and the hospitality and friendship shown to us was unbelievable,” he added.

“Just before Gladbach’s final home game a few of us went on the pitch to unveil a special friendship flag to our German friends.

“Their fans roared and then chanted ‘Liverpool, Liverpool’ before giving a perfect rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. It was very emotional.

“We decided then to do it every year. We’ve been four times now and every year it gets bigger and better.

“The supporters who have joined me on our friendship visits have been superb ambassadors for both Liverpool FC and the city.

“We owe a lot to Borussia’s fan liaison officer Thomas “Tower” Weinmann, Thomas “Jonny” Polcher and Matthes Neumann from the BMG Fan Projekt and lifelong Borussia supporter Willi Hartmann, who has made every single friendship visit to Liverpool alongside “Jonny” since ‘92, as they’ve been great in helping to organize our visits.

“Back in April there were 75 of us over there and when Liverpool fans see how they are treated this weekend I’m sure next April we will have over 100.

“The affinity their fans have for our club is remarkable. When we were there about 30 per cent of their fans were wearing Liverpool shirts. I thought it was because we were visiting but we found out it’s a tradition for their supporters to wear Liverpool shirts to all their home games.

“Their official supporters club house near the stadium has a corner dedicated to Liverpool Football Club. And in the stadium their corporate hospitality is in the LFC suite which has a framed picture of the Kop from the 70s.

“It really is remarkable. Both Liverpool and Moenchengladbach are working class cities so I think that’s why the fans identify with each other so much.”

There promises to be a party atmosphere in the German city this weekend.

Liverpool have sold 1,000 tickets for tomorrow’s match and that number will be swelled by supporters’ clubs from across Europe.

The clubs last met in a friendly back in 1994 and this fixture, which is being held to celebrate Borussia’s 110th anniversary, has been a long time coming.

“Back in 2006 they asked me to join them to hand in a petition to Rick Parry at Anfield with 5,000 signatures asking for Liverpool to play them in a friendly,” Agg said.

“They’ve been pushing for it ever since and Sunday’s game means a lot to their supporters. It’s a 54,000 sell-out and it’s the first time in their history they have ever sold out for a pre-season friendly.

“It’s going to be incredible and Liverpool fans going over there for the first time don’t realize what they have let themselves in for. On Saturday there is a five-aside tournament involving teams from Borussia and Liverpool as well as teams from the French, Dutch, German and Hungarian Liverpool Supporters’ Clubs.

“After that there is a big fan festival organized for the evening. Liverpool got about 1,000 tickets but with all the other fans from across Europe they’ll probably be about 3,000 Reds fans.

“Just before the game on Sunday a few of us are going to do a lap of honour around the pitch to parade all the flags we have taken over there.

“No other two clubs have this kind of friendship and it’s something we should be very proud of.”

Coady Seals Cup Double

England U17 European Champion Conor Coady was on the mark as Liverpool Reserves came from behind to win the Liverpool Senior Cup after a 3-2 win over Skelmersdale United at the Ashley Travel Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Coady and Andre Wisdom had superb games at the heart of Liverpool's defence and John McMahon's side has now completed a cup double in the space of a week after last Saturday's Lancashire Senior Cup final win over Oldham Athletic.

Skelmersdale United gave it everything they had and were a real credit to themselves and the non-league circuit, but McMahon's side showed great character to come back and win.

Coady, Gerardo Bruna and Alex Cooper all found the net for Liverpool.

This match was held over from last season and there was a good crowd in to watch the game.

McMahon fielded a young side with Icelandic midfielder Victor Palsson and Danish 'keeper Martin Hansen given an outing after recently being included in Roy Hodgson's first team squad for the Swiss training camp. Promising Academy midfielder Michael Roberts made his first start for the reserves in the middle of the park.

Liverpool's Danish youth international Nikola Saric went close after four minutes when he cut in from the right and fired a left-footed effort just wide of Damien Eastham's near post.

Two minutes later Bruna got clear down the left and was unlucky to see his attempted chip just clear the bar.

The home side went close themselves when Roberts lost position and Skem captain Aaron Turner fired wide.

The match had started in superb fashion with both sides intent on attacking and Palsson was next to go close when he was denied by Eastham after a determined run into the box.

Karl O'Donnell then found himself clean through, but under pressure from Reds stopper Hansen he hesitated, then when the ball fell invitingly to Ryan Wade he was denied superbly by the Dane.

Skelmersdale United took the lead after 11 minutes from a well worked corner when the unmarked Karl Ledsham headed home after a near post flick on.

Liverpool had a great chance to equalize when Palsson fired wide from a good position after superb play down the right from Saric.

McMahon's side were level after 24 minutes and it came through a typical free-kick from Bruna. The former Real Madrid man caught the Skem defence and 'keeper off guard as he curled a sweet effort into the corner of the net.

Two minutes later it was almost 2-1 but Palsson's near post header was cleared off the line by Paul Byrne.

Exciting Portugese youngster Toni Silva was next to go close when he fired just wide after a superb pass from Roberts.

The crowd were then left applauding Silva after a wonderful run down the right. After exchanging passes with Bruna he gave himself a great chance but with a reluctance to shoot with his right foot was denied by a brave save from Eastham.

A minute after the break Liverpool went 2-1 up when Coady headed home Bruna's right wing corner.

Skem then went close to an equalizer when Phil Mooney hit the post with a superb strike.

Bruna was a whisker away from making it 3-1 with a long range driver that landed just wide.

The home side had a great chance for an equalizer after 70 minutes when Wade saw a sight of goal, but a magnificent challenge from John Flanagan put him off his stride.

Liverpool made it 3-1 five minutes from time with a great finish from Alex Cooper. Substitute Michael Ngoo made the goal with a fantastic run down the right and from his cross, Cooper fired home.

Skelmersdale United then made it a frantic last few minutes for the Reds when O'Donnell netted from close range to make it 3-2, and only a superb last ditch challenge from Emmanuel Mendy denied them a stoppage time equalizer.

Then at the other end Vincent Weijl almost made it 4-2 but his powerful drive was superbly kept out by Eastham.

Captain Andre Wisdom was then presented with the magnificent Liverpool County FA Senior Cup trophy as the reserves retained the trophy.