Sunday, September 05, 2010

Why Hicks And Gillett Should Be Worried By Man United's Poor Season Ticket Sales

David Gill set a target of selling 54,000 Manchester United season tickets this summer.

But thanks to a laudable protest against the parasitical Glazers by fans group MUST, 2,200 went unsold.

Gill’s reaction to missing a target he was sure he would hit, especially after freezing prices, was “that’s pretty good”. If New Labour ever gets back into power, a Cabinet post is assured.

I hope Liverpool’s owners, its chairman and the Royal Bank of Scotland digested the significance of this story.

Because after a summer when no credible ­candidate has appeared to buy the club, another transfer window has yielded a profit for the banks, and no answers have been given on either issue, revolution is in the air.

If Hicks and Gillett are allowed to refinance their debt in October, the resistance being mounted against their American compatriots at Old Trafford will seem remarkably tame.

Liverpudlians will not allow their club to be strangled by these cowboys any longer.

The boil is about to be lanced at Anfield. If Martin Broughton and the RBS can’t do it, the fans will do it for them. And it won’t be pretty.

Dirk Kuyt Admits To Holding Talks Over Move To Inter

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has admitted that he held talks over a possible switch to European champions Inter.

The Dutch front man was a top target for former Reds manager Rafa Benitez, now in charge of Inter.

And despite the move never materializing, Kuyt admits he was flattered to be in negotiations with the reigning Italian champions.

“I cannot deny there were negotiations with Inter,” he is quoted as saying by ESPN.

“It was pleasing to be courted by such a prestigious club, led by the coach who brought me to England and with whom I still have a splendid rapport.

“However, Liverpool declared I was not for sale and I am in any case happy to have stayed in the Premier League.”

Tommy Smith: Liverpool FC Have Got To Show More Adventure

It might seem a long way off before Liverpool play their next league game against Birmingham.

But I hope there is some radical thinking going in the meantime because after struggling against a Midlands side last weekend, one who we should have beaten pretty easily at home, we cannot afford to run things so close again.

We never looked comfortable and in control against West Brom and the problem was that we were just too defensive with two holding players in Poulsen and Lucas.

I’m not a fan of Lucas - I just don’t see what he brings to the party - but what was obvious was that with Poulsen we had a similar sort of player sitting back there with him.

As the game drew on everyone was looking to Fernando Torres to do something special and as usual he delivered with a great strike.

But once again, as happened so many times last season, we’ve gone into the half time interval without getting a goal or being in front.

If we don’t get ahead if the first 45 minutes it does give sides facing us confidence and only creates tension on and off the pitch.

Birmingham look a better side than West Brom and away from home it will be tougher next weekend. But I really hope new midfield signing Raul Meireles makes his debut because we need more invention and bite than we saw at Anfield.

I’d push Steven Gerrard right up front with Torres. They gel so well together and understand each other’s moves that I’d pair them up.

If we need one midfield player behind them to do some of the donkey work then so be it.

But I want to see the Reds being much more adventurous and attack minded - and playing two holding men in the middle stops that happening.

Chelsea had thrashed West Brom and we were all hoping for something similar at Anfield. But it just never looked like happening.

Birmingham has been busy in the transfer market but has also had their own troubles recently, with stories about their manager Alex McLeish being unhappy and of course they blew a two goal lead last weekend against a ten man Bolton side.

I just hope Roy Hodgson is working hard behind the scenes on a much more attack minded formation so we get our first away win on the board now.

Dominic King: Ryan Babel Must Make The Most Of His Anfield Opportunity

One of the most in vogue websites currently in cyberspace and a tool that makes it easy to keep in touch with the rich and famous, Twitter.

It was also especially useful on transfer deadline day, not least when Ryan Babel tweeted that he was 'going nowhere! YNWA!!!'

There is no doubt that Babel's career on Merseyside came close to ending on Tuesday and there were a couple of clubs who wanted to sign him up.

He has, however, got a reprieve and it will be intriguing to see if he can make the most of this opportunity.

Some will have given up hope of ever seeing Babel produce the performances that lit up the Under 21 European Championships in 2007 and it might be naive to think he will suddenly become consistent.

But, as time has shown, opportunity knocks when it is least expected. Babel must answer in the best possible fashion.

Gerrard Attacked At Carra Bash

Liverpool star Steven ­Gerrard was attacked at a surprise 30th birthday party for team-mate Jamie Carragher’s wife.

A partygoer threw a punch at the England ­captain at the bash for WAG Nicola Carragher at a hotel in Merseyside.

Liverpool star Gerrard, 30, was targeted as he chatted with friends in a private area of the hotel.

Shocked guests stopped the man before he could throw more punches at the midfielder, who led out England against Bulgaria on Friday evening.

A witness told the Sunday Mirror: “Steven was ­minding his own business when this bloke started a row with him, apparently over nothing.

“He squared up to Stevie and was shouting abuse. Before anyone knew what was happening the man had thrown a punch.

“Thankfully he didn’t connect properly — probably because he was quite drunk. Steven looked as shocked as anyone else. It was unprovoked but Steven didn’t rise to it.”

The attacker was thrown out of the party, at Liverpool’s Hilton Hotel last Sunday, but police were not called.

Guests at the bash included Liverpool’s Joe Cole, 28, and wife Carly, 26. The X Factor star Alexandra Burke was paid £30,000 to sing for 15 minutes.

Last year Gerrard was cleared of affray following a fight at a Southport bar.

Carra: My Mersey Pride

Jamie Carragher reflected on his testimonial celebrations and admitted the day couldn't have gone any better for him.

Liverpool stars past and present turned out to help mark the defender's 14 years in the first team on an occasion to savour at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.

The likes of Luis Garcia, Jerzy Dudek, Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Gary McAllister and Danny Murphy all donned the famous red jersey once again as they secured a 4-1 victory over an Everton XI.

A host of Liverpool's most promising young stars were given the chance to shine in the second half in front of a crowd of 35,361 - and Carragher believes he couldn't have asked for much more from the event.

He told afterwards: "It was a good afternoon. It was all about having a good day and I'm pleased Everton were involved, there was a good crowd and everyone enjoyed it.

"It was a decent, proper game. There were a lot of changes and Everton had a lot of young lads playing, as we did in the second half, so I think it was great they were able to all get a game and hopefully that bodes well for the futures of both clubs.

"It's always good to see your mates come back and I was delighted they all got involved. I'm pleased it went well for them.

"There's been a bit of graft over the last few weeks, so I'll enjoy the occasion and hopefully it's done now."

Carragher found the back of the net at each end in the contest - both from the penalty spot.

After putting Liverpool 2-0 ahead from 12 yards on the stroke of half-time, he fired the ball past debutant Brad Jones as Yakubu prepared to take an Everton spot kick in the second period.

He explained: "I don't score too often, but I actually wanted the first penalty to be for Michael Owen to score - I'd totally forgot people would want me to take it.

"As for the second penalty, I was a big Everton fan as a kid and always wanted to score a goal for them, so I've done that as well now and I was pleased with it."

Carra On Target In Derby Win

Jamie Carragher was on target at both ends as a Liverpool XI beat an Everton XI 4-1 in the defender's testimonial at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds stalwart converted a penalty on the stroke of half-time to add to Luis Garcia's opener.

Joe Cole extended Liverpool's lead with a well-worked goal on the hour - his first for the club - before Carragher put through his own net via the penalty spot shortly after.

But Nathan Eccleston restored the home side's three-goal cushion with a cool finish on an afternoon to remember.

A whole host of Kop stars past and present turned out to help celebrate Carragher's 15 seasons in the first team at Anfield, over the course of which he has firmly positioned himself not only alongside the finest defenders to have represented the club, but also as one of the world's very best.

Treble winners Emile Heskey and Michael Owen led the attack from the off, while there were also places for Istanbul heroes Garcia and Jerzy Dudek.

And further swelling the feel-good factor, Steven Gerrard made a dash back from London to participate in the opening 11 minutes - the Liverpool skipper granted special permission by England coach Fabio Capello to return having last night played the whole game for the Three Lions against Bulgaria at Wembley.

He was joined in the starting XI by Cole, while summer signings Brad Jones and Paul Konchesky were named amongst the substitutes.

Meanwhile, Everton's squad included the likes of Tony Hibbert, Francis Jeffers, Leon Osman, Yakubu, Lee Carsley, Leighton Baines, Mikel Arteta and Jermaine Beckford.

A crowd of 35,361 gathered inside Anfield, helping to bolster funds for Carragher's 23 Foundation.

And Carra couldn't have wished for a better start to the afternoon as Garcia curled home an opening goal inside two minutes.

Collecting Heskey's layoff on the right corner of the box, the Spaniard cut inside before clipping a fine effort beyond the reach of Iain Turner to bring Anfield back to its feet.

Moments later, Owen drew a good stop from the Blues' goalkeeper before the striker saw a goal-bound effort blocked on the line by Aristote Nsiala.

Gerrard was withdrawn from the action shortly after the 10-minute mark, with Danny Murphy his replacement. Both were naturally afforded a warm reception.

Despite the relaxed feel to the contest, there was a good flow about the game with the football pleasing on the eye.

Liverpool were the only team threatening, however, and after Garcia had stabbed a volley wide, Cole struck straight at Turner after being fed by Owen. Meanwhile, at the other end, a mis-kick by Yakubu when in a promising position inside the box drew ironic cheers from the Kop.

And they were cheering again soon after as Carragher produced the sort of interception that has established him as one of the finest defenders in the club's history as he prevented Jeffers from going through on goal.

Play quickly swung to the other end and Heskey's sublime control of a long-ball forward presented him with a clear shooting opportunity. Unfortunately the finish did not match.

The striker did help carve out a chance for Murphy on 34 minutes, playing a neat one-two with Owen before releasing the ball into the path of the Fulham man, who prodded narrowly wide of the post.

Even Carra himself was trying his luck as he struck wide from 25 yards after Garcia's corner had been cleared to the edge of the box.

He was soon back patrolling the defence, however, and a challenge on Lee Carsley inside the area led to the Everton midfielder dramatically collapsing in a heap before kicking the ball away in comedy fashion after failing to win a spot kick, for which a yellow card was issued by referee Mark Halsey.

However, Liverpool were awarded a penalty when Shane Duffy blocked Owen's shot with his hand on 44 minutes.

There was only ever going to be one taker, and Carragher dispatched his effort into the top corner with aplomb to send the Reds in with a two-goal advantage at the break.

A raft of changes were made during the interval, with some of Liverpool's most promising youngsters handed an opportunity to impress.

Only Carragher, Cole and Spearing remained on the field from the first half with Eccleston, Jonjo Shelvey, David Amoo, Andre Wisdom and Daniel Ayala entering the fray.

There were also Reds debuts for Jones and Konchesky, while Ryan Babel was introduced to the action for the second half.

Shelvey almost made an instant impact as he arrowed an attempted clearance inches wide of the upright.

But Liverpool did further their lead on the hour mark when Cole fired home his first goal for the Reds.

Meeting Babel's measured cross, the No.10 expertly dispatched a low volley into the Kop end goal.

However, Everton were given the chance to reduce the arrears when they were awarded a penalty for shirt pulling inside the box.

With Yakubu poised to take the kick, Carragher took everyone by surprise by surging ahead of the Everton forward and hammering the ball into his own goal - cue much laughter inside the stadium.

It was to be his last playing act of the afternoon, with youngster John Flanaghan promptly replacing him.

Cole then stung the palms of Turner before Babel outstripped Duffy for pace and teed up Eccleston, whose shot was hacked off the line by Zac Thompson.

The youngster did not have to wait long to find the target, however, as he drove low into the bottom corner after being found in space inside the box by Babel.

Former crowd favourite David Thompson took the place of Cole in the aftermath, moments prior to Gary McAllister and Jason McAteer returning to the hallowed L4 turf - the former greeted by cries of 'shoot' every time he collected possession in reference to his unforgettable derby winner at Goodison in 2001.

Babel's sublime skill to put the ball through the legs of Baines almost garnered a fifth goal for the Reds, but the Dutchman's strike was beaten away by Turner, while Ross Barkley's snap shot for Everton was blocked by Jones and Anfield's newest custodian produced an even better save to deny Beckford late on.

But the afternoon belongs to one man - and Carragher was given a thunderous reception as he returned to the field at the end of a contest that proved a fitting tribute to Liverpool's legendary No.23.