Friday, September 24, 2010

Steven Gerrard Urges Senior Stars To Step Up Following League Cup Exit To Northampton Town

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has called on his senior team-mates to carry the club through a difficult start to the season.

Gerrard, 30, was just an observer as Roy Hodgson's understrength side crashed to defeat to League Two Northampton Town in Wednesday night's League Cup tie. The result followed a poor start to their Premier League campaign which sees them in 16th place in the table.

Speaking to the club's official website, Gerrard issued a rallying cry to get the Anfield outfit back to success starting with the weekend fixture against Sunderland.

He said: "They will learn from this experience. Football isn't just about highs.

"Throughout my career I have experienced both highs and lows and probably learnt more from the lows because you look at yourself first, look at what went wrong and try to learn from your mistakes.

"The players are allowed to be down today but it's up to players like myself to pick them back up because playing for this club there are big games every two or three days and we need to get everyone's head focused on Sunderland now.

"I can understand everyone's frustration but I think the Carling Cup now, when you're part of a big club and a big squad, is all about giving young players the chance and the experience because if you put a strong side out then the kids will never get the chance to experience playing in front of big crowds and in big competitions. There are still some positives underneath the frustration.

"Although we've gone out and everyone is down and disappointed, the experience that would have given the lads in the dressing room might be vital for the future.

"The amount of ability and talent in that squad was good enough to roll Northampton over and I'm sure nine times out of ten it would have, but in cup football sometimes a shock happens and you slip on the banana. Those players are still good players, we're still a fantastic squad and there's still a lot of things to achieve this term and a lot of football to be played.

"The last thing we want now is for people to be sulking with their heads down because there's a massive game in three days.

"No-one is hurting more than the players who played. We've all been there and all experienced it.

"Everyone is disappointed and down but it's not the end of the world. It's gone now, it's important we move on and think about Sunderland and try to get the three points."

Fernando Torres Ready To Quit Kop

Fernando Torres is ready to quit Liverpool in dismay at the club’s progress under new boss Roy Hodgson.

And big-spending Manchester City are already ­pl­otting a £50m January bid to put the Spain superstar out of his Anfield misery.

The World Cup winner feels the club has gone back on promises to invest in top quality players and is now looking for a way out.

Torres was hotly tipped to leave Liverpool in the summer after the Merseysiders failed to secure Champions League football under Rafa Benitez last season.

Barcelona, City and Chelsea all showed a major interest in the striker – but Torres insisted he wouldn’t make a decision on his future until after the World Cup in South Africa.

After Benitez’s departure and a lot of persuasion from Hodgson, the former Atletico Madrid man followed in skipper Steven Gerrard’s footsteps by deciding to stay at Liverpool.

The shock capture of Joe Cole and Hodgson’s promise of more major signings played a big role in persuading Torres to stay.

But the club has failed to follow up their swoop for ex-Chelsea star Cole with any other marquee names – a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the Spaniard.

The departure to Barcelona of Javier Mascherano – arguably the best defensive ­midfielder in world football – and their poor start to the season have also deeply concerned Torres.

All that, together with the club’s precarious financial state, has forced him to seriously reconsider his future.

Torres, 26, has come in for some early-season criticism for a string of below-par displays, with many questioning whether he actually wants to be at the club. Starsport understands that Torres’ representatives are already trying to engineer a move away from Anfield in the January window – particularly if the Reds’ quest to regain their Champions League status looks doomed.

And City chiefs have already made it clear that they are ready to smash their transfer record to bring the hitman to Eastlands.

Boss Roberto Mancini made Torres his No.1 summer target, but knew he would be facing an uphill struggle to lure the striker without the carrot of European Cup football.

But the Italian will renew his attempts to pull off the capture of Torres once the transfer window reopens.

Bayern Munich Set For €20 Million Liverpool Raid

Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich are looking at the prospect of buying Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina as their answer to the retired Oliver Kahn. The Spanish keeper has impressed during numerous weeks at Anfield despite Liverpool sitting uncomfortably in 16th place in the Premiership.

The player is highly rated and reports from Germany and Holland suggest the South German team may look to Reina as the ideal summer signing with Munich already leaking goals at the back this season. The news will alarm Liverpool fans as they feel their team becoming somewhat of a footballing supermarket after news that Tom Hicks could not get backing to re-finance any deals.

Reina has been at Liverpool Football for sometime now and he may also feel it is time for a new challenge having missed out on Champions League football this season and possibly the next if he decides to stay at Anfield.

With talk during the summer of a possible move to Arsenal, Liverpool’s owners know they have a good quality asset on their hands and they could possibly encourage a bidding war that would lead to a transfer fee of around €20m.

With Liverpool being knocked out of the Carling Cup this week, it leaves the Merseysider’s only two real chances of silverware both in the FA Cup and Europa League although manager Roy Hodgson may feel that a Champions League spot is more important as he tries to keep his players for next season.

Liverpool Plan Ambitious £18m Raid For Tottenham Pair

Liverpool will attempt to pull of something of a coup this January by trying to nab two out of favour Tottenham players as the Anfield club looks to improve his under-performing squad. Boss Roy Hodgson is rumoured to be looking to reignite his interest in Roman Pavlyuchenko as well as lure Mexican international Giovani with the promise of the first team football neither regular enjoys at White Hart Lane.

The Merseyside club tried in a last ditch move to bring Pavlyuchenko to the club last month and will look to secure the Russian in January when it may well become abundantly clear that the former Spartak Moscow man is little more than a bit part player in the north London club’s plans. The 28 year old forward has managed just one start in the Premier League this season and even then he was hauled off after an hour, so he may well be keen on a move.

Former Barcelona man Giovani is in a similar position having managed just 30 minutes of Premier League action thus far and having failed to persuade Redknapp of his value the 21 year old adaptable attacker may well have had enough of bench warming.

Both players would offer Hodgson a vast improvement on what the club has to offer in their respective positions. Pavlyuchenko may well be an ideal foil for Fernando Torres and Giovani could offer Liverpool a number of attacking options to help provide ammunition for a club that has struggled badly to hit the back of the net, managing just two goals from open play in five matches.

The pair would cost the club around £18m to purchase and clearly such a move would become more realistic in funding terms if co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett had been ousted by the club by new owners. However it is worth noting that the club has netted around £30m through player sales over the summer and reinvested around £20m of that in new additions and Managing Director Christian Purslow has stated that money made from sales would be reinvested in improving the Anfield squad.

Holland Drop Liverpool FC's Ryan Babel Following Anfield Failure

Ryan Babel has admitted that he 'failed personally' during Liverpool's humiliating Carling Cup exit to Northampton Town after being dropped from Holland's Euro 2012 squad.

The trying attacker suffered a double heartache on Wednesday as Liverpool crashed out to the League Two outfit on penalties just hours after he found out that Bert van Marwijk omitted him from the Oranje's upcoming qualifiers against Moldova and Sweden.

Former Ajax prodigy Babel has struggled to justify his £11.5milllon price tag after arriving at Anfield in 2007 from his hometown club and reflected on the defeat on Twitter yesterday amidst fears that his future resurfaced following the muted performance.

"No excuses for Wednesday night," he wrote.

"We weren't good enough. And I failed personally.

"Haven't lost faith, so I keep working."

The 23-year-old was linked with moves to Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham, amongst others, before the summer transfer window closed and Liverpool are expected to listen to offers for his services if no significant improvement is not made before the New Year.

Roy Hodgson Seems Powerless To Arrest Liverpool's Decline

Roy Hodgson offered an eloquent expression of his powerlessness by sitting, almost motionless, in the Anfield dugout as Liverpool lurched further into crisis against Northampton on Wednesday.

Even as Liverpool rocked under the League Two side's onslaught in the second half, even as they found themselves outplayed and out-thought by a team some 69 places below them in the league pyramid, Hodgson did not stir from his seat.

He did not rise to exhort his young players as their nerves shredded, or upbraid the five internationals included in his second-string side as their abilities seemingly deserted them. Hodgson, impervious, impassive, has found himself impotent to stop Liverpool's continued fall from grace.

That should not be read as a criticism. Liverpool's defeat on penalties against Ian Sampson's determined side rounded off an annus horribilis which began with their excoriation in Florence on Sept 30 last year, took in an early exit from the Champions League, humiliation against Reading in the FA Cup and a seventh place finish in the Premier League.

Rafael Benítez could not retain his job as manager. His replacement was identified as the man to steady the ship, to steer Liverpool through the choppiest waters in their recent history.

His appeal was understandable. Off the field, he would not indulge in the Machiavellian politics so beloved of the Spaniard, while on it he could be relied upon at least to return a sense of style to a club whose substance was crumbling. He could work on limited resources and unite a fractured dressing room.

It seems now that Liverpool was simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Their troubles begin in the boardroom and infect every pore of the club.

The root cause of all of those defeats, from Fiorentina to Northampton, is Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Steven Gerrard might yesterday have insisted that the club's fans could trust the team "to get it right in the end," but while his faith is admirable, such a statement lays bare Liverpool's desperation.

The Americans must depart before any genuine recovery can begin.

When judging Hodgson, the circumstances in which he is working must be taken into consideration, though Benítez was scarcely afforded the same courtesy.

Unlike his predecessor, Hodgson, to his credit, has made it clear he does not wish to use his absentee employers as an excuse. "I will not go down the ownership route," he said in August. "If you do not think the team is doing as well as it should, then as a player you can do something about it." Presumably, the same must go for the manager. Yet by his own criteria, and those used by the club when appointing him, Hodgson's opening months at Anfield have hardly been a success.

Daniel Agger may have distanced himself from comments suggesting the 62 year-old favoured a long-ball style, but even if his original words were lost in translation, few observers disagreed with him. Liverpool are hardly winning points for artistic impression.

They are hardly winning points of any sort, in fact – just five in the Premier League, albeit with a solid start in the Europa League. It is not hard to explain why. Few teams struggle more to create chances. Instinctive striking from David Ngog and Fernando Torres gave them a point against Arsenal and a win against West Brom, two set-pieces from Gerrard averted embarrassment at Old Trafford.

That Hodgson's reserves required two slices of good fortune even to take Northampton to penalties, though, suggests the problem is not only chronic but is one of system, rather than personnel, despite the criticism directed at Torres, in particular.

However, that the Spaniard is not alone in appearing to be "fed up", to borrow a phrase from Jamie Redknapp, is telling. The rationale for Benítez's dismissal was that he had lost the dressing room. For all the public utterances of support from his new players, there is no on-pitch evidence Hodgson has found it.

Perhaps that is not his fault. Perhaps that is the fate of Liverpool's manager in an era when disaffection with the ownership, with the status quo, permeates even the dressing room. Perhaps Hodgson cannot be expected to steer a course to safety. Perhaps all he can do is go down with the ship.

Liverpool FC Fans Take Battle With Hicks And Gillett Across The Atlantic

Liverpool's disenchanted fans took their dissatisfaction with Tom Hicks and George Gillett across the Atlantic on Thursday, sending hundreds of emails to leading US media executives, news outlets and financial institutions pleading for increased coverage of the club's current state.

Appealing to the memory of the Beatles, the special relationship between the UK and the USA and the thought of a British businessman destroying the New York Yankees or Washington Redskins, Liverpool's fans called for the situation to be reported in an effort to persuade Wall Street that allowing Hicks and Gillett to refinance their ownership of the Anfield club would be a mistake.

The campaign came at the end of seven days of confusion at Anfield. Last Friday, widespread reports emerged that Hicks was seeking to refinance and continue his ownership of Liverpool. The reports came less than four months after Hicks told journalists of his desire to quit the sports industry for good. "It's never been my primary business," he told Dallas Morning News reporters Gary Jacobson and Brendan Case on May 26. "And it's a business I no longer want to pay the price to be in." Weeks later, at the start of August, Hicks completed the sale of the Texas Rangers MLB franchise to a group led by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Liverpool's owners put the club on the market before the start of the summer but, according to managing director Christian Purslow, no firm bids have been made. Perhaps Hicks' stance this week has been a bargaining tool. He certainly has no intention of selling Liverpool on the cheap, making clear in the same interview with Jacobson and Case that he intended to make back "a couple of hundred" million dollars that he had lost on the Texas Rangers with the Anfield club. Nor will he want the club to be taken out of his hands by RBS, as has been mooted.

From a business perspective, there is little doubt that Hicks and Gillett should be able to command a higher asking price than they paid. Their ownership may have been distressing for fans, but it has seen a rapid turnaround of the club's commercial fortunes. Two examples stand out.

Firstly, Liverpool's previous shirt sponsorship, with Carlsberg, was worth a few million pounds per season - less, for example, than Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa will collect from Autonomy and FxPro this year. The new deal with Standard Chartered, negotiated by a commercial team headed by Liverpool's commercial director, Ian Ayre, matches Manchester United's £20 million per season as a British record.

Secondly, Hicks and Gillett arrived in early 2007. Later that year, the Premier League began a new cycle of broadcast rights for 2007-10, in which Liverpool's income from television money rose by 65 per cent. Another cycle, 2010-13, is now underway, and the club's broadcast income has risen again. The television money may be none of Hicks' or Gillett's doing, but there is no arguing with the fact that, off the pitch, Liverpool are a far more attractive commercial proposition than in the winter of 2006.

Unfortunately, the club's decline on the field has been far more obvious. For many years, Liverpool's success on the pitch masked a poorly run business; now poor first team performances obscure improved commercial fortunes. And even the business side of things is unsatisfactory to many fans, coming as it does with heavy debt loaded onto the club.

Put simply, though, the satisfaction of fans with an owner comes down to success on the pitch - hence the ease with which the Glazers continue to ride out discontent at Old Trafford. You can secure as many sponsorships as you want, but losing to Northampton will test the patience of the fans of any Premier League club. Liverpool fans' patience has long since run out.