Saturday, November 06, 2010

Henry Makes No Roy Promises

Liverpool owner John W Henry is making no guarantees about Roy Hodgson's long-term future at the club.

Hodgson, who took the Liverpool hotseat in July, has come under fire in recent weeks following the Reds' dismal start to the season, with the Merseyside club currently sitting 13th in the Premier League table.

American Henry, who took over at Anfield last month with his company New England Sports Ventures, says there are no immediate plans for a change in management, and when asked if under-pressure Hodgson was the right man for the job he told Sky Sports News: "He certainly is at this point."

However, the owner added: "I can't make any promises about the future for anything in the organization because two months ago I didn't know that much about English football.

"We tend to stay with our managers and our general managers. Roy didn't build this team so I think he has been unfairly criticized this year.

"I think it is my role at this point to support him in every way, to make sure he has the resources to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. There is no change that is imminent."

Pulis Cools Lucas Links

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has played down rumours linking him with a move for Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva.

Recent reports have suggested the Potters are weighing up a bid for the Brazilian when the transfer window reopens in January.

Stoke were linked with Lucas in the last transfer window, but the player remained at Anfield.

However, speculation over his future refuses to go away with the midfielder yet to establish himself as a regular in Roy Hodgson's plans.

Pulis has denied making any enquiries about Lucas, claiming he has not held any discussions with Hodgson since he took over at Anfield.

"I haven't spoken to Roy since he went to Liverpool," Pulis told the Stoke Sentinel.

Cleo In Dark Over Reds Talk

Partizan Belgrade star Cleo admits he is in the dark about reports linking him with a move to Liverpool.

Reports have suggested the Reds are considering a move for the Brazilian striker as they bolster their attacking options in the January transfer window.

However, Cleo, who has scored against Arsenal in this season's Champions League, is not reading too much into the speculation.

"Liverpool? I heard something about this story... Well, I actually read about it on the internet," Cleo told Blic.

"But nobody has talked with me about this. But of course in football you never know what tomorrow will bring to you.

"Just two years ago I had a trial at Lens, but then I signed for Red Star Belgrade.

"Back then I was too costly for Lens, but now I'm at club, which plays in the Champions League. So you really never know what will happen.

"I don't want to think too much about my future.

"Who knows where would I be now, if I had signed for Lens."

Henry Wants Squad Depth

Liverpool owner John W Henry has pinpointed the squad's lack of strength in depth and emerging stars as one of the club's main problems.

The Reds are considered one of the Premier League's giants, but they have gone 20 years since their last title success and have struggled in recent campaigns.

Liverpool have found themselves lagging behind the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal not only in terms of success on the pitch but revenue streams off it.

However, Henry has a long-term vision for the Reds and sees strengthening in Roy Hodgson's squad as one of the main priorities.

Liverpool appointed Spurs' former director of football Damien Comolli this week to help and he believes the Frenchman will help the team achieve their goal.

"We're not deep enough. We don't have enough youth," he told Sky Sports News.

"If you look at Manchester United and Arsenal they have depth.

"They have relative young teams and that's something that he (Comolli) can help us with."

Some believe the addition of Comolli could undermine Hodgson's authority, however, Henry insists the ex-Fulham boss wanted the position filling.

When asked if Comolli's arrival would undermine Hodgson, Henry replied: "No, not at all.

"When I first met with Roy it was really clear that he wanted someone in that position, so I really didn't talk that much with Roy over the week or so before we made the decision to bring Damien in.

"So I think he may have been surprised when I brought it up, but he's fully supportive. He knows Damien. I think the model really requires people of certain personalities for it to work and Roy and Damien are two personalities that will mesh well together.

"It will be a group decision. You build consensus. I think it's a very good model, but though each will be in charge of their own areas.

"We're still building a team. We're in the middle of building that. We may make some mistakes early on, but we're going to try and avoid that and we're studying every day."

Former owners Tim Hicks and George Gillett ran Liverpool into spiralling debts and Henry insists the new American regime will not fall into the same traps.

Henry also owns Major League Baseball team the Boston Red Sox and helped bring success to the famous club and acknowledges investment is needed at Anfield.

The 61-year-old knows that a new stadium is preferable in the long run as opposed to refurbishing Anfield if they are to compete with the Premier League's leading clubs in terms of revenue with Fifa's Fair Play rules set to come into force.

"We really have to invest in the club. We need more depth. We need to build the squad," he continued.

"We need stadium changes, whether we build a new ground in Stanley Park or we rebuild and refurbish Anfield. If you build a stadium there's debt involved in that. Even Arsenal had to borrow to build Emirates. You cannot sustain a club in the long term to buy players.

"You're really limited to what your revenues are. That means we have to create revenues worldwide. We have to generate revenues and that's what we're really good at.

"When we went to Boston we spent three years trying to figure out whether to build a new stadium or refurbish the new one.

"We need to move faster. Hopefully within a year, but I don't want to set a hard-fast timeline when we'll make that decision. If you're going to build a new ground that takes time."

Ancelotti Keen On Gerrard Link

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has declared he would like to manage Steven Gerrard one day as he prepares to instead nullify the Liverpool captain in their Premier League clash at Anfield on Sunday.

Ancelotti wasn't launching a transfer move for Gerrard, but simply outlining his admiration and respect for the England midfielder, who is coming off a stunning hat-trick in the Europa League as a substitute in Liverpool's 3-1 win over Napoli.

Ancelotti knows three points at Anfield will help Chelsea maintain their five-point lead at the Premier League summit. But this time, with Liverpool in the midst of a mini-revival after a poor start to the season, Ancelotti knows a revitalized Gerrard will only help to inspire them.

Gerrard was the catalyst for Liverpool's comeback from 3-0 down against Ancelotti's AC Milan side in the 2005 Champions league final in Istanbul. The Reds won on penalties but Ancelotti gained revenge in Athens in the 2007 final by beating Liverpool 2-1.
Ancelotti highlighted Gerrard as the main threat to Chelsea and paid him the ultimate professional compliment by saying he would like to work with him one day.

When asked why he would like to manage him, Ancelotti replied: "Because he's one of the best players in the world. If you can manage the best players, it's easier to win. I don't know him as a person. I think he's a good man. But the reason I would like to manage him is because I've managed a lot of fantastic players, and he's one of the best players.

"He plays in a very dangerous position for us, a little bit behind Fernando Torres. We have to control that position during the game because he'll be able to give passes to Torres for the final pass, and will also be dangerous shooting from distance. It will be important for us not to give him the chances to play with that space. It's not just important that John Obi Mikel has good control of that position, but also the other midfielders have to support him and control Gerrard.

"I think Gerrard knows very well the tradition and history of the club. He's happy to wear the shirt. The shirt is 'inside' him. For this reason, it's important for the other players to have a team-mate who is a 'Liverpool player'. It's the same with John Terry at Chelsea. They're very good examples for the young players or those who arrive in the new team. They show the right behaviour of what is expected of them as a Liverpool or Chelsea player.''

When quizzed over where he would like to manage him - at Liverpool, Chelsea or England - Ancelotti replied: "I don't know.''

The Italian remains without the services of England midfielder Frank Lampard for the trip to Merseyside and Ghana international Michael Essien is doubtful with a toe problem. But France winger Florent Malouda has recovered from his twisted ankle and is fit to play.

Lampard last played in the 2-0 win over Stoke at the end of August. He had hernia surgery initially but has since been plagued by a hamstring problem since then.

"Lampard is not available for this game,'' said Ancelotti.”We have to take our time again. We didn't want to take a risk. He's done plenty of training alone, so the next step is training with his team-mates, which he'll start at the beginning of next week. I hope he'll be ready for Sunderland. We have a little problem with Essien's toe and we're not sure he'll be fit. I'm hopeful he can play.''

Liverpool Owner Keen On 39th Game Plan

Liverpool co-owner Tom Werner has revived talk of a controversial 39th Premier League game to be played overseas.

The concept was met with criticism when it was initially suggested by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, with a number of fans and clubs voicing their disapproval. Fifa president Sepp Blatter also condemned the proposals, but Werner, who bought Liverpool last month along with John W Henry of New England Sports Ventures, believes the idea could still have legs.

As well as Liverpool, NESV also owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team and, after witnessing another NFL gridiron game at Wembley, Werner believes the Premier League could succeed overseas.

He told BBC Sport: "I think that first of all the EPL is the strongest league in the world and its reach is global. It's been very impressive to me the number of people globally who watch the EPL and we hope to expand that imprint.

"I think that the more important the game the more excitement. Friendlies are great, but why not have an actual match in season."

Werner also assured Liverpool's fans that he and Henry are determined to bring success back to Anfield. The club have not won the league since 1990 and have seen their haul of 18 titles equalled by Manchester United, whose manager Sir Alex Ferguson has successfully carried out his promise to knock Liverpool off their perch.

Reclaiming the mantle of England's most successful club is something that excites Werner, and he has drawn comparisons between how the Red Sox have managed to close the gap between themselves and the New York Yankees.

"I think that would be a good comparison," he added. "The Yankees continue to have the best revenues in baseball but we have been successful in playing them head-to-head and we expect to play Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal and other clubs head-to-head.

"There will be trophies in that trophy case going forward. It's a pledge. I don't know when we will honour that pledge but we will honour it. We're going to make steady progress. We're in a very competitive league but we won't settle for anything less than first."

Some Liverpool fans have welcomed the arrival of Henry and Werner with scepticism after the ill-fated reign of their fellow countrymen Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but Werner assured them that there is nothing to worry about. "I understand their caution. John and I are men of our words," he said.

"There's no acquisition debt on the club, there is a bit of stadium debt, that's understandable.

"Any profits we make going forward will be invested in the club.

Dalglish Wows Crowds In Belfast

Kenny Dalglish was the guest of honour as hundreds of fans turned out to witness the Liverpool legend officially open the new club store in Belfast on Friday morning.

The Reds' Academy Ambassador was overwhelmed by the number of supporters that flocked to the new 2,000 sq ft unit on Castle Lane in the heart of the city's shopping district and was quick to point out the importance of what is now Liverpool's fifth official store.

"They must have thought it was Steven or Fernando coming here! When they find out it's me they may be disappointed!" joked Dalglish.

"But I do think it's an important thing for the club to get out and see as many people as they possibly can, especially the ones that can't come to us.

"It's nice that there has been such a big turnout here. The shop can be a fantastic success and is only going to benefit the Football Club. It gives the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to feel a little bit closer to us.

"There are plans to open other facilities in Dublin and Oslo as well, so it's all very positive."

The store's opening comes just 48 hours before Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with leaders Chelsea.

Roy Hodgson's men head into the showdown having won their last three matches, and while many observers have suggested the Blues look unstoppable this season, Dalglish remains confident Liverpool can continue their recent run.

He said: "They'll come to Anfield and they'll be worried about Liverpool. Everything has settled down a bit now. We've got the new owners and Roy (Hodgson) has been here a bit longer too, so he has gotten to know the players a bit better. I think Sunday could be a good day for us."

He added: "If you finish above Chelsea you are going to be champions. They look the favourites to win the league. When you play against them you need to be concentrated for the 90 minutes. You can't nod off because they will just punish you.

"I actually think Ashley Cole is a big threat for them. It might sound stupid talking about a left-back, but he just bombs forward while others fill in for him.

"It'll be a difficult game but it's also a difficult game for Chelsea."

Liverpool FC Appoint Tom Werner As Chairman

Tom Werner is the new chairman of Liverpool Football Club.

The 60-year-old’s position was clarified yesterday at a New England Sports Ventures (NESV) briefing in London.

The LFC co-owner is expected to take a very hands-on role at Anfield, as part of his top executive role.

No formal announcement was made declaring Werner as chairman, contrary to some reports.

But the position of certain members within NESV was clarified as the make-up of the Reds board starts to take shape.

Effectively, the position that executives hold within the Boston conglomerate set-up will directly transfer across to Liverpool.

John W Henry will remain as owner in chief and take a position on the board.

More indications about the new owners’ views on a Liverpool stadium were made yesterday.

It is thought the Americans could wait up to two years before deciding whether to build a new ground in Stanley Park, or redevelop existing Anfield, although no commitments have been made.

The news about Werner’s appointment is set to hurry along the departure of current Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton from Anfield.

That will come as no surprise as the British Airways boss openly stated he was brought in to the club to solely oversee its sale.

At present, Broughton remains at the club, but he has a post at Sports Investment Partners (SIP) already lined up, which he will shortly embark upon.

Liverpool was sold to John W Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, last month for £300m, in a rollercoaster battle with the much-maligned former co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The decision comes just days after the assignment of new scouting boss Damien Comolli, brought in to oversee Liverpool’s transfer policy.

The Liverpool board is now starting to take shape, with Werner joined by NESV executives David Ginsberg and Michael Gordon.

No limit has been set for the number of directors who will form the final make-up of the Anfield board.

Liverpool-born Ian Ayre remains in the frame, while a chief executive to replace the departed Christian Purslow is still needed, and the global recruitment process to find his successor is ongoing.