Sunday, December 05, 2010

Hodgson Calms Fears Over Extended Gerrard Absence

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson insists Steven Gerrard is still on course to return against Newcastle in a week's time, following the captain's fears that he had suffered an injury setback.

Gerrard tore his hamstring in England's friendly defeat to France, and has spent the past month in rehabilitation. Liverpool's head of sports medicine, Dr Peter Brukner, recently revealed the midfielder's recovery was going well, with Aston Villa the final league fixture to be missed by the Liverpool skipper.

However, Gerrard believed he had aggravated the problem earlier this week, calling on the expertise of the doctors, but Hodgson insists there has been no setback.

"There's no problem with Steven," said the Liverpool manager. "It turned out that he just tweaked a bit of scar tissue.

"I spoke to him after Tuesday's training and he did say he felt he had tweaked something. But the medical people have had a look at him and said it was nothing, it was only scar tissue.

"It's fine and when he went back to training again he was fine. It's not a setback to his planned comeback and he should be fine."

Gerrard Remains On Track

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has calmed fears that Steven Gerrard has suffered a setback in his return from injury.

The Reds captain has been unavailable since sustaining a grade-two tear in his left hamstring during England's friendly defeat to France at Wembley in mid-November.

It has been reported that Gerrard suffered a serious setback in midweek training ahead of a planned return for Liverpool's trip to Newcastle next Saturday.

But Hodgson has announced that the 30-year-old only caused a minor aggravation to some scar tissue and the club's medical staff are not overly concerned.

"There's no problem with Steven," said the Liverpool manager, who will be without Gerrard and vice-captain Jamie Carragher against Aston Villa on Monday.

"It turned out that he just tweaked a bit of scar tissue. I spoke to him after Tuesday's training and he did say he felt he had tweaked something.

"But the medical people have had a look at him and said it was nothing, it was only scar tissue.

"It's fine and when he went back to training again he was fine. It's not a setback to his planned comeback and he should be fine."

Liverpool Legend Ian Rush Backs Joe Cole To Be A Kop Hero

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes that Joe Cole has what it takes to be a roaring success on Merseyside.

The 29-year-old midfielder has had a difficult time since his Bosman transfer from Chelsea, as he was sent off in his first Premier League game for a tackle on Laurent Koscielny.

Since then the ex-West Ham United man has had some trouble with a hamstring injury, which is possibly why his appearances have produced inconsistent performances.

However, the former Reds great Rush believes that there's a lot more to come from the creative playmaker.

"With the talent he’s got Joe does not want to be known as a nearly man," said Rush, according to The Sunday Express.

"I’m sure that playing regularly with Liverpool will give him the chance to prove that he’s a really top, top class player.

"He can become a hero to The Kop. Look at Fernando Torres - Liverpool fans took to him straight away.

"When Joe signed in the summer, for many Liverpool fans it was light at the end of the tunnel. It proved after some hard times that the top players still wanted to come to Liverpool – that the club was back in business.

"He can change games and I was baffled when England didn’t really give him a chance in the summer’s World Cup finals. A fully fit Joe Cole can change games.

"There is definitely a lot more to come from him. He can see things and has the same footballing brain as Torres and Steven Gerrard. He is on the same wavelength."

Cole is currently placed 259th in the Castrol Rankings, up from 576th a month ago.

Liverpool takes on Aston Villa at Anfield on Monday.

Lucas Leiva Says Liverpool Fans Are Starting To Appreciate Him

After a tricky spell at Anfield, Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva says that his form has improved and that the Kop supporters are beginning to appreciate him.

Brazilian international Lucas has been at Liverpool since moving from Gremio Porto Alegre in 2007. He was a regular in the Liverpool side last season and has made eighteen appearances so far this term, scoring once against Steaua Bucharest.

Although there has been speculation that clubs including Stoke City are keen to sign him, Lucas believes that he is finally winning over his Liverpool critics.

The 23-year-old is quoted in the Sunday Mirror saying, “I’m trying to be positive...Everyone knows I had a really bad time here, but I’m working hard and I’m improving. I’m getting older and gaining more experience.

“I’m pleased with my form. Am I appreciated more? By the media, I don’t know. But by the fans, definitely...When you are doing well, everyone can see.”

Hodgson Set To Pounce As England Star Looks To Quit City

England international defender Joleon Lescott has spoken out of his unhappiness at Manchester City. He has started just five league games this season which ultimately, is threatening his England career.

The former Everton player was a regular under former boss Mark Hughes and he was seen by many as the perfect partner to captain Kolo Toure. This season however, Vincent Kompany has established himself as a member of the first eleven ahead of the 28-year-old.

‘Of course. I’m not happy with the situation,’ said Lescott on the situation.

‘I don’t enjoy sitting on the bench, and sometimes not even making the bench.’

The news may be music to the ears of Roy Hodgson who may see Lescott as a solution to his defensive woes. Injuries to Agger and Carragher have left Liverpool bare in defence and will be looking to boulster in January.

Lescott amazingly is a £22 million signing (slightly steep), one of the first in the Sheikhs era follwoing a strong season the year before with Everton. He was voted the clubs’ player of the year in 2008 and also weighed in with 10 goals in all competitions.

With the money Manchester City have at their disposal it’s only a matter of time before they sign yet another world class centre-back to displace him further so maybe a short-term loan move or maybe a permanent transfer would suit him.

He can play at left-back as well which other interested clubs will benefit from. With other teams ready to pounce the question is will Lescott fight for his place, or will he opt for a move out of Eastlands in January?

Hodgson Chasing Another Second-Rate Striker

Liverpool fans will be desperate to see their manager splashing the cash come January. The squad at Anfield is in dire need of a facelift and the club’s owners have already given the green light. Though, this relies on the strict proviso that huge sums of money are not just spent for the sake of it.

That might be a tough task for Woy. Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, cash seems to encourage the Kop manager to look at players who although would be a fine acquisition for Fulham, are quite simply not good enough to play at Anfield.

His latest target? Valter Birsa. Again, signing a striker should be high on Hodgson’s list of priorities, but the Auxerre man is just not good enough a player for Liverpool to be looking at.

There is some confusion in the media as to the 23 year-old’s credentials. TalkSport claims the Slovenian scored 4 goals in 64 appearances for Auxerre last season, while the Sun puts the figure at 9 goals in 57.

This season has seen Birsa strike 4 times in 18 appearances. In any case, these stats are hardly evident of a prolific goal-scorer.

He’s not good enough, Roy. Fact.

Damien Comolli Is Seeking A Window Of Opportunity At Liverpool

Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s director of football strategy, believes he has identified potential bargains in the January sales, with Europe’s financially stricken clubs desperate to sell their best players.

“My feeling about it is that in this economic recession there are so many clubs that are in trouble abroad, more than England. These clubs are under enormous pressure to sell. So this January window could be a very different window from what we have seen previously.

“Players that we would never have thought would be available could be. So that’s why we are working away, thinking that if there is the right opportunity we should do it. Strange things could happen,” he said.

The January window has proved a poor time to invest in the past and NESV, Liverpool’s new owners, are cautious about making promises.

Comolli is keen to stress that the club will not buy a player just to make a statement of intent: “I think the owners are clear minded enough to step back from that pressure. We are going to do what is right, not just for now, but what is right for the club in the next three or four years.

“Roy [Hodgson] is totally onside with that. Why do it if it’s not right? If it’s right in the summer we’ll do it then.”

Anfield Youth May Have To Wait

Roy Hodgson wants to give youth a chance but Liverpool's stars of the future may have to wait a bit longer to get a Premier League opportunity.

Securing the likes of Dani Pacheco, 19, and Martin Kelly, 20, on extended two and three-year contracts showed how keen the Merseysiders are to hang on to their up and coming players.

New England Sports Ventures, who took over the club in October, are known to favour a policy of recruiting young, less-heralded players who have shown the potential to become huge successes - a policy which served them well with the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

There are several youngsters currently on the fringes of the first team who have been given a chance in the Europa League this season as Hodgson has regularly rested senior players.

A significant number of them are likely to get a run-out for Liverpool's final pool fixture at home to Utrecht a week on Wednesday as they have already qualified as Group K winners for the last-32.

However, chances on the domestic front are harder to come by, as shown by the fact Hodgson made 10 changes for the game against Steaua Bucharest and opted to not even take five first-team regulars on the trip.

They will all, of course, return for Monday's visit of Aston Villa - where former Reds boss Gerard Houllier is finding that because of the depth of his squad he sometimes has no option but to throw youngsters into the fray.

But while Houllier, two months into the job, will be given some leeway the same cannot be said for Hodgson.

The club's poor start to the season has meant there is little margin for error from now on if they still hold out hopes of catching the top four.

That is why some of the younger players will have to be patient and take what limited chances come along.

Hodgson has done his best to expose them to high-level competitive football and he was impressed by what he saw against Steaua.

"It was a game where we knew we would be put under some pressure but the way they kept their shape and discipline was impressive," he said.

"Now they have got through that test they can be more than satisfied because they will learn a lot from that game.

"You would have to play many, many reserve matches to get the type of experience games like that bring you.

"It is great for me that got through the game, done well, and with the games coming up we will be needing these players.

"If we had lost the game we would have all, and I include myself, been wondering what would have happened if I had just taken the team that did well against West Ham and Tottenham.

"But sometimes in football when you have a lot of matches one after the other you have to make decisions which are correct for the long-term future of the club.

"The decision we made to play these players paid off and in the long term we will gain an awful lot from it."

Hodgson pointed to the improvement of Lucas Leiva and David Ngog, who have played most of the European games this season, as an indicator of what could be achieved by giving players a chance to express themselves away from the demands of the Premier League.

"It has discovered players for us. David and Lucas were, in the beginning, players many Liverpool fans thought were not good enough for the first team," said the Reds boss.

"They have used this competiion in the early stages to prove they are very much first team players and in more recent weeks we have seen players like Jonjo Shelvey emerge.

"In particular it was good for me to see Martin Kelly continuing where he left off in the games he has had but perhaps even more so for people like Dani Pacheco, Danny Wilson and Nathan Eccleston (all 19 or under)."