Monday, September 27, 2010

Kuyt: Torres Is Focused On Winning With Liverpool

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has dismissed speculation about Fernando Torres' state of mind and insisted the striker has an important role to play even if he is not scoring.

Torres has provided the assists for the Reds' last four goals; winning the penalty and free-kick against Manchester United which allowed Steven Gerrard to hit a double and then setting up Kuyt and the captain again in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

However, he has scored only once for Liverpool so far this season - the winner against West Brom - and has started to show signs of frustration on the pitch. Reports regularly claim the Spain international is unhappy and is considering leaving Anfield, as happened in the summer, but Kuyt said Torres' quality would see him through.

"Everyone is expecting goals from Fernando but he offers a lot more. Against Sunderland he was responsible for setting up the two goals,'' said the Holland international, who returned to action against the Black Cats earlier than expected after a shoulder injury earlier this month.

"He is very important for the team even if he is not scoring goals. I'm sure his goals will come. His mood has never changed. If you are a striker, and the type of striker Fernando is, you want to be involved in goals. But everyone could see how happy he was to have set up two goals.

"When you are one of the world's best strikers everyone is watching you so if they get a moment to blame him they will. And if you are not winning games he is not happy, I am not happy and the team is not happy. But we all know next week he could score a hat-trick and then everything changes.''

Kuyt, who is hoping to be picked to face his former club in Europe on Thursday, admits Liverpool have yet to get into gear after their worst start to a top-flight season for 18 years, with just six points from as many games.

"We are not at our level yet because if we were in our best shape we would win these games,'' he said. "Every day everyone is working very hard to get there, unfortunately against Sunderland it didn't happen but we can't wait for the next opportunity to change it.

"We as players want to win every game and challenge for trophies but the situation at the club we have to be patient. If you are at Liverpool expectations are always high and you are expected to win every game. If you lose or draw people are not happy and we are not happy and that is what we are at the moment.

"Things will come because we know we have quality and it just takes time. We all want to win and challenge for things and I am sure it will happen if we keep working. But we have to make sure we get some points in (against Blackpool) before we go away for the international break.''

Liverpool Interested In £8m Rated Newcastle United Attacker

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is considering a January move for Newcastle United winger Wayne Routledge and hopes that he is given sufficient funds by the club’s board to make an offer that might tempt the St James’ Park side into accepting.

The former Tottenham and Crystal Palace wide man was instrumental in helping Chris Hughton’s side to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt as his incisive running helped the Toon Army to the Championship title and the 25 year old has continued to impress this term.

Hodgson is known to be looking for some natural width to help balance his side and provide ammunition for his strikers and he hopes he can persuade the London born former England Under 21 international into making a move to the Merseyside club.

The pint sized speed merchant arrived at Newcastle United in January and is valued at around £8m but could prove tricky to land given that he is just over six months into a three and a half year contract.

Referees' Body Backs Stuart Attwell Over Liverpool FC Goal Against Sunderland

Refereeing chiefs said Stuart Attwell was right to award Liverpool FC their controversial opening goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Sunderland.

The Professional Game Match Officials body, which provides match officials for all matches in the Premier League and Football League, issued a statement after Attwell faced criticism.

Attwell allowed Dirk Kuyt’s opening strike to count after ruling Michael Turner had taken a free-kick when he appeared to roll it back to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Fernando Torres nipped in, raced through on goal and played in Kuyt to score.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said at his press conference: "I’ve been in enough trouble so I don’t want to talk about it but you all witnessed it and he got it wrong."

However PGMO released a statement clarifying their view of the goal.

The statement read: "PGMO has reviewed the first goal scored between Liverpool and Sunderland and believe that the correct decisions were made.

"According to the Laws of the Game, having stopped the game for any infringement the referee is required to ’indicate the restart of the match’.

"In practice, in the majority of cases, referees indicate for the re-start by gesturing to players to take the kick. These gestures can be minimal. For the more important ’ceremonial’ free-kicks, which also involve control of the defensive wall, referees can indicate by using the whistle. However, there is no requirement by Law to use the whistle to make the indication.

"The ball is then in play when it is kicked and moves. So, in this case, the ball was in play as soon as it is kicked by a Sunderland player.

"Also, the Laws state that the free-kick must be taken from the place where the infringement occurred. Again, in this case, the referee correctly determined that the free-kick was played from the right place."

Pique Urges Torres To Leave

Gerard Pique claims Fernando Torres will be embarrassed having to play in the Europa League for Liverpool and has urged him to leave the club.

The Barcelona defender, who won the World Cup with the Reds striker, believes he needs to be winning trophies rather than settling for second best.

The former Manchester United player says the 26-year-old will have to leave the Anfield giants and seek success elsewhere.

Pique told the Daily Star Sunday: "There is no way this can go on for Nando. It's just impossible.

"I spoke with him before he committed to Liverpool and he told me he wanted to win things with Liverpool - but if the club didn't invest and show real intent, he would be forced to leave.

"It's really embarrassing for Nando to play in a team of that quality.

"You would not see Messi or Rooney playing in the Europa League - so there is no reason why Nando should be playing there.

"Along with David Villa, he is the best striker in the world.

"He needs to be winning things domestically like he does with Spain."

Pique completed a domestic treble with Barcelona last year and was a World Cup winner with Spain in South Africa this summer.

The defender claims Liverpool are not capable of winning trophies at the current time and has urged the striker to come and join him at Barcelona next season.

"Liverpool has shown already this season they are not capable of winning things - and that's it for him now," said Pique.

"Liverpool are really testing Nando's loyalty.

"For the last two seasons they have promised him they will challenge.

"They haven't delivered on it at all. The ownership of the club looks completely unstable.

"It doesn't look like the manager or the players have any faith in the club.

"There can be no questions when Nando leaves in the summer.

"Players of less quality would have left last summer.

"But he is a decent guy and believed it when they told him they would invest.

"I am not just saying this because I want him to join Barcelona.

"The truth is I don't know if he will.

"It might be Chelsea, it might be Real Madrid, it might be Barcelona.

"But I know he wants to join a club where he can win league titles and European Cups. I would love us to sign Nando in the summer."

Roy Hodgson Backs Fans’ Right To Protest Following Sunderland Draw

In Anfield’s stands, Liverpool’s fans shouted their defiance. Some 9,000 of them, according to Merseyside Police, remained in their seats long after referee Stuart Attwell had called time on another dispiriting afternoon to voice their displeasure at the continued ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

In his booth, George Sefton, the iconic voice of the club, seemed to offer tacit approval of the sit-in protest organised by Spirit of Shankly, the supporters’ union, instructing the demonstrators that stewards would be on hand to ensure order was maintained.

In the bowels of the stadium, the club’s manager, Roy Hodgson, sympathised with their cause. “You cannot criticise the fans for showing their displeasure about the ownership problem because, like ourselves, they want to see the club moving forward and not sort of stuck with owners who are trying to sell the club,” he said.

His thoughts were echoed by Steve Bruce, his Sunderland counterpart. “In my experience, it has always been the case that if it is unstable above you, with those who employ you, then it filters down,” he said, after watching his side earn a well-deserved point. “It is unbelievable, because this club has never had that sort of thing. It has been run properly. It is going to be a difficult time until it gets resolved.”

However, the most eloquent of the protests about the Hicks and Gillett regime, the clearest signal to the Royal Bank of Scotland why it should not countenance refinancing the £282 million debt laden on the club by its absentee landlords, came on the pitch. It was there in the listless display of Hodgson’s first-choice XI, even after Michael Turner — and, according to Bruce, Attwell — gifted Dirk Kuyt an opening goal mired in controversy, the defender insisting he had not taken the soft free-kick which released Fernando Torres to tee up the Dutchman.

All of Liverpool’s players are technically adept internationals with vast experience. Yet they seem uninspired, uncertain in their approach: Bruce’s observation that doubt at the top permeates right to the bottom writ large.

It came in the evident frustration of Torres and Steven Gerrard, whose delight at scoring an equaliser to cancel out Darren Bent’s two goals for Sunderland was almost equal to the fervour with which he celebrated his goal against Olympiakos in a Champions League group game in 2004 that put Liverpool on the road to winning the trophy.

And it also came in seeing Hodgson – a manager who won this job on his ability to work on limited resources, to get the best out of limited players, to find a way of helping underdogs bite the big beasts – continue to struggle to construct a team and to identify a tactic that will enable Liverpool to overpower their guests. Caught between evolution and revolution, he seems uncomfortable in his task. That mixed message manifests itself in Liverpool’s play.

Those fans pleading with the Americans to leave could not have hoped for a clearer illustration of the damage Hicks and Gillett, with their empty vows and wallets, have done. This ground holds no fears for visitors any more. This is not Anfield. Not as it was.

Roy Hopeful On Konchesky

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson expects left-back Paul Konchesky to miss the club's fixtures this week due to a hamstring strain.

The former Fulham defender sustained the blow making an innocuous sliding challenge in Saturday's controversial 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

Hodgson is unsure as to the severity of the injury, although he does not think the 29-year-old stopper will require a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

However, Hodgson does believe he will miss Thursday's Europa League clash at Utrecht and their weekend Premier League fixture with newly-promoted Blackpool.

"He's got a hamstring strain," Hodgson told the club's official website.

"I couldn't tell you exactly how bad it is yet.

"I don't think it's extremely bad but I certainly think it would rule him out for Thursday and next Sunday.

"Hopefully it won't be much more problematic."

Hodgson Shows Signs Of Mounting Stress At Struggling Liverpool

One virtue that helped Roy Hodgson to become Liverpool's manager was a level of common sense which appeared to have eluded his two predecessors. Where Gérard Houllier seemed to exude paranoia towards the end of his reign, using the amount of corners his side had earned in games as a gauge of their success, and Rafael Benítez obsessed over feuds with the Anfield hierarchy, Hodgson was seen to be a wise figure who would spread calm through a club in distress.

In that regard, his demeanour after this match was concerning. Hodgson was prickly in response to the questions put to him and in one instance spoke in a manner that was almost alarmingly confusing.

"I'm sorry but I cannot see the drama you want to make of that," he replied, when asked if this draw had been particularly disappointing given Liverpool's desire for a morale-boosting win following their defeat by Northampton Town in the Carling Cup. "This group of players were not involved in the Carling Cup, I've explained that a dozen times, I don't know how many times I've got to go back to the Carling Cup." But then he added this: "But you're right, it was a disappointing night [against Northampton] and that disappointment could have carried over today."

To suggest Hodgson is exhausted after a spell in charge of Liverpool that has seen them win one of seven domestic games, lose to a side who are 13th in League Two and continue to endure a draining saga over the ownership of the club is perhaps extreme, but as autumn takes its grip the beaming 62-year-old who walked into Anfield on a sun-drenched July day and spoke of his "honour" in taking over at the club seems to have vanished.

Maybe that was no surprise after a match in which he had seen his team start brightly but then lose rhythm and cohesion against opponents who would have won through goals from Darren Bent either side of half-time had it not been for an equalising header from Steven Gerrard on 64 minutes.

Hodgson claimed that the chances Liverpool created after that, most notably from Daniel Agger, meant they were "worth a point", but he was in a minority and more agreement could be found in his assessment that Liverpool remain well short of challenging for a top-four place.

"At the moment our major problem is dealing with expectations," he said. "There are a lot of new players [and] uncertainty over the ownership of the club and the minute you are not top of the table people are saying this is not good enough. That anxiety will play upon us but we cannot do more than we are doing."

A call for patience was also expressed by the forward Dirk Kuyt – "It's only a matter of time before we are playing at our level" – and with Fernando Torres gaining more match sharpness (if not more goals), Joe Cole able to bed into the team and Gerrard playing close to his best, Liverpool should improve. It is even possible that the boardroom dramas, which on Saturday prompted a sit-in protest by supporters, could be drawing to an end. The deadline for the American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, to refinance their loans to the banks is approaching.

But even at this early stage, Liverpool need to find some momentum. This is now their worst start to a season since 1953-54 and Sunderland will feel that their plight should be worse, given their display and the manner in which they fell behind.

"A joke" is how Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, described Kuyt's fifth-minute opener, which came after Torres intercepted a backpass from Michael Turner to his goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, which the referee, Stuart Attwell, deemed to be the free-kick that he had just awarded the visitors.

Sunderland broke out in a rage, claiming Turner was simply moving the ball into position so Mignolet could take the set piece himself. Attwell consulted with his assistant but still gave the goal.

"I watched the incident and it's crazy, the referee had his back to the play," said Bruce of the official. Attwell was defended by the Premier League but he already had a reputation soured by his awarding of an infamous Reading "ghost goal" against Watford in 2008.

Hodgson had his own grumblings against the 27-year-old but for him it was a day to be thankful for small mercies.

Fans Worried As Website Calls For 'Hooliganism'

Irish supporters of Liverpool are concerned over article seeking to 'put the frighteners on' owners.

Irish supporters of Liverpool Football Club (LFC) have reacted with concern to an article on a well-known UK fan website urging them to "get the baseball bats and ski masks ready" to "put the frightners [sic] on" the club's beleaguered American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

The article, posted on the popular Koptalk website by its editor, Duncan Oldham, is accompanied by a picture of a man in a black balaclava and holding what appears to be a crowbar.

A spokesman for Merseyside police has confirmed it is examining the content of the article to establish if it involves any public order offences.

The up-for-sale club is currently at the centre of a longstanding takeover battle which has led to numerous peaceful protests staged by fans encouraging Hicks and Gillett to sell their shares.

But supporters' groups here said they in "no way condone" the calls in the article for "every passionate Red out there who has a 'set' and who is capable of donning a ski mask and waving a baseball bat in a menacing manner, to step up to put the frighteners on these two and everyone they associate with including any companies that support them".

"Disruption, especially to financial institutions, is what they are scared of. And on a personal level, there's nobody in the world who's [sic] arse wouldn't collapse if someone peered over their bed in the middle of the night armed with a Texas Rangers baseball bat or two," it states. "I won't sign petitions, I won't send emails to journalists who don't care, but I will get stuck in via other methods best not written about. I don't care if I get into trouble with my words… I mean it. I mean every single word."

Oldham also stressed that while he does not believe in "anyone getting physically hurt", he acknowledged that this was "tempting" but not acceptable.

"They can cling on for as long as they want but something will give and that's why I'm fairly relaxed and confident that I won't have to do three months inside for threatening behaviour," he wrote. "Seriously, it's time to scare the shit out of them… People have died for our club. People have had their ashes scattered at Anfield."

Sarah Higgins, committee member of Tallaght LFC supporters' club, said many Irish fans of the Premier league club have taken part in peaceful demonstrations against its owners. She noted that Koptalk is an influential LFC site among supporters. "No one can condone violence of this sort at all," she told the Sunday Tribune. "I don't think it's the right message to put out at all. An awful lot of people would not get behind us if we did what is being suggested."

John Curtin, secretary of Cork-based Buttevant international LFC supporters' club agreed. "I wouldn't condone it in any way. It is bringing a violent hooliganism aspect back into something that the English FA has been working to eradicate," he said. "I can't see how any Liverpool fan would like to see that carry-on."