Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Liverpool FC Owner John Henry Sets Out His Vision For The Reds

Owner John W Henry has urged Liverpool’s players to give everything to help lead the club up the Premier League table.

The American, who also revealed that his sports investment company New England Sports Ventures (NESV) will change its name to Fenway Sports Group, reiterated his promise to restore the Reds to their former glory.

But he insists success will only come if everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Speaking to the independent Liverpool FC website Red and White Kop, he said: “The club has gone through a very difficult period and the period has not ended.

“It’s up to us to build a winner going forward. It’s up to them (the players) to determine to win now. We saw a certain team on the field against Chelsea last week that showed what they can do.

“We also know how competitive the EPL is this year. There are no guaranteed matches any longer for any club. This club can be better.

“Blaming the manager or any one particular player is simply wrong. This club needs to play up to their potential every match. If they don’t, they won’t win.”

Looking further into the future, Henry vowed to invest in the playing squad but believes the club will conduct most of its business next summer rather than in January.

“We have work to do and must invest in this club to improve it on the field,” he added. “Can that be successfully done in January? A number of people I’ve talked with doubt it.

“Most people seem to think it will be the summer before we can really begin to improve. So the players – all 11 each week – have to be on the same page every match and have to live up to the history and respect this club has engendered – no matter what.

“I’ve met with a number of our players and had private discussions with some of them. I’ve been greatly impressed by them personally. They are all exceptionally bright and they all want to be here.

“The question they have had, rightfully so, is whether or not the club is going to go in the right direction. They all want to see that. I have been very forthright about our philosophy and about what we are going to try to achieve.

“Some would prefer a quick fix. Others prefer to focus on the long-term and that is very difficult for most players.

“But this club needs everyone on the same page every day. We need everyone focused on what needs to be done in the next match facing us and during that match.

“The club should not have to settle for less. As one insightful player told me, “The spirit of the side needs to be there like a family – as one.”

Responding to fans’ fears about a lack of football expertise and experience at senior management and board level, Henry pointed to the recent appointment of Damien Comolli as director of football strategy.

He said: “Damien has a philosophy that is similar to ours and what has made us successful in Boston. But he is just our first appointment.

“We don’t know English football, but we do know the sports business and what it takes to be successful.

“You must first of all have the right people in place and you must be able to give them the resources they need to be successful. With the new Financial Fair Play Rules coming into effect next year, we know that we need to emphasize revenue growth. That is an area we feel we are very strong.

“The best way to market Liverpool FC globally is to win because the fanbase is already so large globally. If we build the right team on the field, everything off the field will take care of itself.”

Henry said chairman Tom Werner and himself will be frequent visitors to Anfield.

He said: “We will be in London and Liverpool with regularity. There is a lot to be done. We speak about the Sox and LFC daily – seven days a week.

“We are working on teleconferencing as well as spending time in Liverpool. In the digital world of today one can say almost nothing is local. It has never been easier to work from a distance.

“But like Fenway, Anfield will be hard to stay away from. We’ve really enjoyed our time in Liverpool thus far.”

Asked what Liverpool’s new owners can give to Liverpool in terms of a personal vision and philosophy, Henry said: “We will have to be bold, thoughtful and aggressive in order to do the right thing for the community, for the supporters and for the club long-term.

“Liverpool values are well known. What makes Anfield so special beyond the history of the ground are the people who populate Anfield each match. They value the club first and foremost.

“That is what we have to ensure every person who wears a kit or works for the club at any level has in the their minds first and foremost – the club comes first.

“In Boston every player who puts on a Boston Red Sox uniform knows what it means to wear that uniform. It’s something very special. Wearing that uniform has a great deal of meaning.

“We have a Red Sox way that is discussed in spring training each year. It is a privilege to work for the Boston Red Sox at any level. We have Red Sox Ambassadors who spend their days ensuring that people outside of the organization know how much all of us inside the organization appreciate our fans and visitors to Fenway Park.

“The values that we have to strive for within the club at Liverpool emanate from the supporters. We cannot have anyone at the club who when they walk into the Academy, Melwood or Anfield, aren’t aware of club values and that the club comes first and foremost.

“We have to have everyone from top to bottom on the same page – exactly the same page. And we will.

“We will make mistakes and it will be up to us to correct them. With the level of support this club has, if we are all on the same page, we will be incredibly successful.”

Comolli Outlines Liverpool Transfer Plans

New Liverpool director of football strategy Damien Comolli insists that he will be working closely with Roy Hodgson to bring new faces to Anfield in the coming transfer windows and stressed that his position will not undermine the manager.

Comolli joined Liverpool from Saint Etienne two weeks ago and it has been suggested that the club's new owners appointed him as a result of doubts about Hodgson's transfer record since taking arriving at Anfield.

Hodgson has brought Joe Cole, Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles to the club, but all have flattered to deceive thus far, and it is thought that John Henry sought out Comolli in a bid to improve the quality of new recruits.

But Comolli has moved quickly to play down reports that he will have final say in any future transfers, insisting that he and Hodgson will work together to target new players.

"I think it was just a feeling between the owners and Roy as well that they wanted someone to be in there and come and help on a daily basis, support Roy in terms of making sure there is the best structure around all the club in all the areas which are football related," Comolli told Liverpool's official website.

"In the short term, in my position you always think of the next window or the next two windows and I think everybody has got this in mind. As I've just joined, we've got only a few weeks to prepare for the window but we are also looking at the summer transfer window.

"That's what I would call short term but then long term we are already looking at things like the pre-season tour for next season, we are already looking at the academy to see what we can improve, what the targets are there in England, young players who we could bring in, the same thing about Europe, to identify players around Europe that we'll be trying to bring in. It's a mix of short term and long term which I think is one of the beauties of this job.

Comolli has built a strong reputation for spotting talent during spells at Monaco, Arsenal - where he helped unearth Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure - and Tottenham. Comolli was responsible for bringing the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric to the White Hart Lane, though he also facilitated the signings of the significantly less successful Adel Taarabt and David Bentley.

After clashing with then-Spurs manager Martin Jol, who complained several players had been signed without his permission, Comolli was later sacked along with Jol's successor Juande Ramos.

But the 37-year-old Frenchman is confident that a strong relationship with Hodgson will help bring the Reds success.

"We've been talking at length since I joined, several times a day on different issues and different matters, not only related to the transfer window or to scouting, we talk about everything. I think this relationship is going to grow in a positive way, that's for sure. We see things the same way. So far everything we have discussed we totally agree and have the same vision. I expect that's going to go on.

"When you see the clubs he has managed and the national teams he has managed, what he's done at Fulham, what he's done at Blackburn and obviously being in charge here. Obviously, when you have managed Inter Milan as well and all the pressure there is there at one of the biggest clubs in the world, you have to have respect for what he's done.

"I think sometimes it becomes controversial and it should not be. As John Henry said, it will be a consensus among us. That's the way John sees it, that's the way I see it and that's the way Roy sees it. The manager's decision and the manager's opinion on a player is absolutely crucial."

Liverpool In Shock Link To £8 Million Defender

Liverpool are being linked with a shock January move for Middlebrough defender David Wheater.

The Championship centre back has previously been linked with Premier League clubs, but club chairman Steve Gibson has constantly resisted selling Boro's prize asset. However, interest from Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson could force the club to cash-in on the player.

Wheater graduated through the club's academy to become one of the top players at the Riverside, learning his trade during three loan spells before becoming a regular in the north east.

Tipped to leave the club after Premier League relegation back in 2008-09, Wheater decided to stay in a bid to help Middlesbrough return to the top flight of English football.

After last season's failed attempt and a change of management at the club, Liverpool are thought to be in a position to make an offer the player can't refuse.

Hodgson has courted the player in the past, making an offer during his time as manager at Fulham. A versatile defender, the 23-year-old could play in a central or full back position for Liverpool.

The Reds have been promised money to spend by new owners NESV, with Hodgson set to have around £35 million at his Anfield disposal in 2011.

'Five or six' players are thought to be on the agenda, with Liverpool looking to add strength-in-depth in a number of core positions.

The Metro reports that Liverpool are considering a bid for the player, with West Ham, Stoke and Everton also thought to be keen on the player.

Liverpool Face Italian Fight For PSV Wing Wizard

Liverpool face strong competition from Juventus in the race to sign PSV Eindhoven winger Balazs Dzsudzsak.

The Hungarian international was reportedly watched by Liverpool scouts last weekend, and scored a double against Utrecht to send the Reds team back to Merseyside with a glowing reference for Roy Hodgson.

However, Serie A giants Juventus have now been confirmed in the race to sign the player by agent Jozsef Vorosbaranyi.

"As it has been published in the press now I can admit that we've been in contact with Juventus for a couple of months," said Vorosbaranyi.

"I know he would like to go to Spain but it would be difficult to reject an offer from Juventus. Balazs also likes the atmosphere and the high attendances of the Bundesliga and he wouldn't say 'no' to a playful team from the Premier League."

Arsenal and Spurs are also thought to have taken an interest in the player, but it's Liverpool who have been most closely connected with the 23-year-old attacker.

Signed by PSV in 2007 from Debreceni VSC, Dzsudzsak is most naturally a winger but can also play in the striking positions.

Liverpool have been linked with a string of such players in recent weeks, with Hodgson looking to invest in 'five or six' players at Anfield after being promised funds by new owners NESV.

The player is flattered by the overall interest, stating: "I've been linked with many clubs recently so I don't want to say more about this news until there is more."

With the transfer window drawing ever closer and Dzsudzsak's form improving at the Phillips Stadium, Liverpool will have to move quickly in 2011 if they want the player on Merseyside as a potential foil for Fernando Torres.

Roy Tracking French Talent

Reports claim Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson was in Auxerre on Sunday scouting potential new recruits.

The Reds manager is said to have attended Auxerre's Ligue 1 fixture with Rennes, which the hosts won 2-1.

A number of players are believed to have been in Hodgson's thoughts when he arrived in France, with Liverpool desperate to add in January.

With new owners at the Anfield helm, it is expected that the Merseyside giants will have money to spend when the transfer window reopens.

It is thought that a defensive midfielder will be towards the top of their shopping list, with Rennes' Yann M'Vila a possible candidate to fill such a role.

The 20-year-old has already been capped four times by France and is likely to have figured on Hodgson's radar for some time.

Auxerre's Delvin Ndinga is another believed to have caught the eye, with a number of clubs from across Europe monitoring his situation.

Another player to have been linked with Liverpool in the past is Slovenian striker Valter Birsa and Hodgson may have taken the opportunity to run the rule over him.

The Auxerre striker impressed at the 2010 World Cup and it is expected to be only a matter of time before he is on his way to pastures new.

Hodgson Eyes Up Fanni As Johnson Replacement

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is ready to move for French right-back Rod Fanni - as he looks to replace Glen Johnson.

Hodgson flew to watch the Rennes defender against Auxerre on Sunday and is poised to make a bargain offer of around £3 million in the New Year window.

Fanni, 29 next month, is one of the most respected right backs in his homeland and has won five caps for France.

He has been close to coming to the Premier League before when Newcastle, Sunderland and Everton tried for him.

Hodgson is in the market for an experienced defender and is frustrated by England right back Johnson’s injuries and average form since he took charge.

Johnson will be sold in the January market if a suitable offer comes in and Hodgson’s decision to look at potential replacements points towards a change in that department.

Hodgson and Johnson’s relationship has become fraught in recent days after the Kop boss called Johnson’s England credentials into question.

He said: “To be frank, he has not performed up to now to the level I would expect of him. You would have to ask him the question, “Do you think you are playing at top form and are you playing like the best right-back in the country for your club?” If he says yes, we will have to agree to differ. And if he says No, then you have to ask the question, why not?”

Johnson’s response was to label Hodgson’s tactics ‘boring”.

Fanni is a regular in the Rennes side but almost joined Atletico Madrid in the summer before the move fell through.

Hodgson has been playing Jamie Carragher and young Martin Kelly as cover for Johnson during his absence, but a sensible investment in a mature international would fit in with his plans.

Liverpool’s new owners would like to sign young talent for the future, but there are short-term measures also needed - and landing a player who could take over from Johnson and give them a profit would also tick boxes.

Christian Poulsen Will Not Run Away From Liverpool - Agent

Christian Poulsen will not be seeking a move away from Liverpool despite his difficult start to life at Anfield, according to his agent.

A series of indifferent performances have led to question marks surrounding the future of the midfielder and rumours have begun to circulate concerning a move as early as January.

Goal.com UK exclusively revealed that the Reds are ready to sell the Dane when the transfer window re-opens in two months' time although Poulsen's representative, Jorn Bonnesen, insists that the combative midfielder is happy to stay at the club.

"I do not comment on speculation," Bonnesen told Bold.dk about rumours linking Poulsen with an early Anfield exit.

"Christian is happy to be in Liverpool. He is not one that sticks his tail between his legs and runs away.

"He is a type that will fight for his place and prove his worth."

Liverpool Confirm Fernando Torres Sustained An Ankle Injury During Loss To Stoke City

Liverpool have confirmed that striker Fernando Torres fell prey to an ankle injury during the recent loss to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

The 26-year-old sustained the injury during the second-half of the game, but managed to continue and play until the final whistle.

The club has now confirmed that the former Atletico Madrid man will link up with the Spain squad for their upcoming international friendly with Portugal, where he will be assessed by the national team's medical staff.

A statement on the club's official website reads: "Fernando Torres sustained an ankle ligament strain during Saturday's clash with Stoke City - but the striker will still join up with the Spain squad for their international with Portugal.

"The Reds' medical team has been in contact with their Spanish counterparts to keep them up to date on the 26-year-old's condition.

"Torres will have the injury further assessed by the Spanish medical staff ahead of the friendly in Lisbon on Wednesday."