Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fulham Game Called Off

Liverpool Football Club have confirmed that today's game against Fulham has been postponed. The decision has been ratified by the Premier League.

A Liverpool spokesman commented: "Club officials met with the Police this morning to assess the prevailing weather conditions.

"The safety of all fans attending the game is paramount and although the Anfield pitch is playable, the conditions around the stadium and further afield for people travelling to the match are such that the decision was taken, following Police advice on safety grounds, to postpone the game.

"All existing tickets will remain valid for the re-arranged fixture. We will also offer refunds and publish a deadline date for refunds once the re-arranged game date is announced, to enable us to re-sell any returned seats to other supporters.

"Any guests who have purchased hospitality for the game are advised to retain their tickets as they will be valid for the new date. We will advise all supporters of the new date as soon as possible."

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham

Liverpool have had alternating wins and losses in the Premier League for a few weeks now, and are steadily slipping off the pace in the hunt to secure European football for next season.

Competing in the Europa League is already a step downwards for a club that is generally considered as one of the heavyweights of continental football, and not competing in either one of the two competitions would put the club in a precarious position.

The stars have not yet begun to leave, perhaps hoping for a turn in the tide since the recent takeover by New England Sports Ventures. But if the results are not forthcoming, the sense of doom and gloom around Anfield may plummet even further.

However, the Reds have been particularly strong at home this term, as they have lost just one league game in their own backyard. Since losing to Blackpool, they have gone six games unbeaten at Anfield in all competitions, winning five of them in the process.

And the return of Fernando Torres to the starting line-up should also prove to give the side a much needed boost, having missed him during the draw with Utrecht in the Europa League. But more importantly, skipper Steven Gerrard could be back for this one, which would be a major plus for a team looking to push upwards in the league.

Fulham are well known to be poor on their travels, and their winless run away from home has stretched on to well over a year. In fact, it is now 16 months since the London-based club took three points in the league on their travels.

This will certainly worry manager Mark Hughes, since going without victories away from home leaves much to be done at Craven Cottage. And sitting level on points with 18th placed Wigan Athletic proves how costly their travel sickness has become.

Should such a syndrome continue much longer, it could even see the side plunge into the dreaded drop zone.

Even if Hughes’ charges are allowed to go scot free on one count of travel sickness, they are found guilty of exhibiting a generally poor form. That they have only a solitary victory from their last 14 games in all competitions is proof enough that a victory would be welcomed with open arms - not that it would not have been welcomed under any circumstances, only that the same feeling would be a lot more exemplified in this case.

Fulham have also not registered a win in their last 23 visits to Anfield, which makes a victory look like a pipe dream if one goes by statistics. But football is far from all that, and there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip, and Anfield could be the place where the visitors break their hoodoo.



There have been reports that manager Roy Hodgson could choose not to rush skipper Steven Gerrard back into action, and give him a spot on the bench instead. The Kop favourite has been absent since sustaining a hamstring injury whilst on international duty.

David Ngog is also a doubt for this one after a head injury in the club’s last league game, but the Frenchman is expected to return in time to make the line-up.

Daniel Agger (calf), Jamie Carragher (shoulder) and Jay Spearing (ankle) all remain on the sidelines.

Possible starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Konchesky; Kuyt, Meireles, Lucas, Maxi Rodriguez; Ngog, Torres.


Moussa Dembele could return to the team after overcoming an ankle injury that saw him miss the last four matches, but he would likely have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Bobby Zamora (leg) and Philippe Senderos (calf) remain long-term absentees and are expected to return only next year.

But otherwise manager Mark Hughes has no new concerns ahead of this game.

Possible starting XI: Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey; Gera; Kamara.

Hodgson Eyes January Arrivals At Anfield

Roy Hodgson wants to bring fresh faces to Anfield in January – but admits he has no idea what he’ll be given to spend.

The Reds have been linked with a host of names in recent weeks after picking up a number of injuries and enduring a difficult start to the season.

And Hodgson admits he’ll do business when the transfer window re-opens if the club’s new owners allow him to.

He said: “I can only hope we get some of the injured players back and I can also hope if there is any possibility of transfers in the January window that will help us and make us a better team that I’ll be given the opportunity to take those players.

“My ambition to improve the squad is shared by the owners but we’ll have to wait and see what possibilities there are and what they would like to do.”

Hodgson admits Anfield holds the key to Liverpool’s chances of finishing high up the Premier League table.

The Reds take on Fulham at home this weekend, while Wolves, Bolton and Everton will also head to Anfield within the next month.

And Hodgson said: “Four games out of six [at home] is important because Anfield has been good to us in recent weeks. We’ve won games there and taken points and the crowd has a bearing. Their support is very, very important for us.

“We are playing a lot of those teams who are around us or even below us in the table so there’s a lot of responsibility.”

Liverpool Will Not Play An Under-Strength Team In Europa League Knockout Stages

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has admitted he may have to end his policy of resting his most valuable assets during Europa League games when his side enters the knockout stages in February.

Liverpool will face Czech champions Sparta Prague in the last 32, before a potential meeting with either Portuguese side Braga — opponents of Arsenal in the Champions League — or Lech Poznan in the last 16.

Though Hodgson has thus far attempted to spare his most important players the strain of playing three games a week — Steven Gerrard featured for just 45 minutes of Liverpool’s six group stage fixtures, while Fernando Torres started just once — he suggested on Friday he would include them as he looks to win a trophy in his first season at the club.

“We are at the knockout stage now, and so I will not have that option because it will be important to put out our best team every time if we want to go further in the competition,” he said.

Liverpool 'Discuss Deal' For French Ace After Scouting Mission

Liverpool have reportedly held talks over the potential signing of Charles N'Zogbia.

According to the Daily Express, the Reds are ready to table an offer of around £7 million after scouts were dispatched to watch the Wigan winger at close quarters.

It's not the first time Liverpool representatives have been to watch the 24-year-old Frenchman, with three Anfield scouts - including chief talent-spotter Eduardo Macia - allegedly deployed to monitor N'Zogbia during Wigan's Carling Cup victory against Swansea in October.

And, according to Click Lancashire, Roy Hodgson was at the DW Stadium earlier this month and was wowed by N'Zogbia's man-of-the-match performance in the 2-2 draw with Stoke.

N'Zogbia is understood to have been identified as a high-priority target by Liverpool in their pursuit of attacking reinforcements when the transfer window opens next month.

The Liverpool boss is thought to be keeping his eye on a number of potentially potent signings after admitting his side are too dependant on the goalscoring abilities of Anfield ace Fernando Torres.

New Liverpool owners NESV are expected to back their manager in the transfer market with upwards of £25 million as he looks to bring more attack-minded players to Anfield in the New Year.

Aston Villa speedster Ashley Young and Spurs wide-man David Bentley have both been linked with moves to Anfield in January as Liverpool continue their pursuit of an added cutting-edge.

Reina Ready For Vital Period

Jose Reina is well aware that the festive period in the Premier League is a make-or-break period in Liverpool's 'realistic' quest for a place in the top four.

The Reds are preparing to welcome Fulham to Anfield on Saturday evening ahead of what looks to be a key series of fixtures in an inconsistent season.

Roy Hodgson will host his former club as the first of three home matches in four outings, with meetings against Wolves and Bolton on the agenda, as well as a Boxing Day trip to Blackpool.

And Reina is aware that Liverpool's reliable home form, which has secured 17 of their 22 points this season, could prove key in the challenge to return to the UEFA Champions League.

"We know it's a critical moment in the season. Every year Christmas time is huge," said the Spain international goalkeeper, who on his last Anfield appearance beat Ray Clemence's record in reaching 100 league clean sheets in the fastest time.

"There are 12 points just around the corner for us. They are tough but winnable games so it's a time to get ourselves back on track.

"The top four is realistic - that's realistic to talk about now.

"We have to beat Fulham and let's see how the Christmas period ends, then in January we can see where we're aiming for."

Joe Cole Is Facing A Growing Challenge At Anfield

Roy Hodgson has been guilty of defending under-performing players on too many occasions so far this season.

His declaration that the derby display at Goodison was the best of his tenure and that Liverpool had ‘battled well’ at Stoke being two cases in point.

However, not even Hodgson could bring himself to talk up Joe Cole’s performance in Wednesday’s dour stalemate with Utrecht.

“Joe knows he is better than that and he knows he can do better than that,” he said. “He sets himself high standards and I’m sure he came off the field feeling it was not the performance he wanted to give.”

The final Europa League group game may have been meaningless for Liverpool but for Cole it represented a glorious opportunity to kick-start his Anfield career. The chance was spurned.

As one of the most experienced players on show, it should have been Cole pulling the strings and cajoling a performance out of the youngsters alongside him.

Instead he remained firmly on the periphery throughout to the point that when his shot was blocked late on many had forgotten he was even still out there.

The midfielder is clearly desperately short of confidence and it’s easy to see why. Little has gone right for him since he left Chelsea as a free agent and opted to make the switch to Anfield this summer.

Sent off for a crude lunge on the opening weekend of the Premier League season against Arsenal, Cole then missed a penalty in front of the Kop against Trabzonspor.

In October he admitted to being in the worst form of his career and then promptly pulled a hamstring at Bolton and was out for a month.

Cole has been fit for three weeks now but in starts against Steaua Bucharest and Utrecht has failed to demonstrate why Liverpool were so keen to beat Tottenham to his signature. When Hodgson was in desperate need of attacking flair late on at St James’ Park last week, he turned to the erratic Milan Jovanovic instead.

The club’s marquee summer signing has provided Hodgson with a dilemma. The 29-year-old may have been a free transfer but there was nothing cheap about acquiring his services with a hefty signing on fee and a four-year deal on a reported wage of £100,000 per week.

Cole was supposed to provide the creativity the Reds lacked in the final third, but a player with three Premier League title medals is in danger of becoming an expensive bench warmer.

Starting him against Fulham today would represent a real leap of faith. On current form you can’t say the Reds’ No 10 is a better bet than either Maxi Rodriguez on the left or David Ngog just behind Fernando Torres.

Cole said he wanted a challenge when he arrived at Anfield and he has certainly got one. It’s one fans will be hoping he conquers because a Liverpool side with Cole firing on all cylinders would look a much more threatening proposition.

Ray Clemence: My Liverpool FC Records Are Being Broken By Pepe Reina

Amid all the talk of new recruits in the January transfer window there is one department everyone accepts is in safe hands.

In Pepe Reina Liverpool boast a model of consistency who will make his 200th league appearance for the club against Fulham tonight.

Having stepped aside to allow deputy Brad Jones to play in front of Australia coach Holger Osieck against Utrecht on Wednesday night, Reina will return to action in search of a fourth successive home league clean sheet.

His shut-out in the Reds’ last home league clash against Aston Villa saw the Spaniard become the quickest keeper in the club’s history to reach 100 clean sheets in the league.

It was his 198th appearance and he comfortably broke the previous best held by legendary keeper Ray Clemence who took 217 games.

Arguably the greatest shot-stopper in Liverpool’s history, Clemence has got used to seeing his records tumble in recent years and couldn’t be happier to see his achievements surpassed by Reina.

“I didn’t have a clue about that record until I was told but I’m delighted for Pepe,” Clemence said. “It’s nice to have records but they are there to be broken. You are setting targets for others to beat and Pepe has done that.

“Anyone who keeps that many clean sheets in so few games has proved himself to be top class.

“It’s not easy to keep clean sheets. Your concentration has to be spot on.”

Reina still has some way to go to match the haul of honours collected by Clemence who spent 14 years at Anfield between 1967 and 1981.

The keeper Bill Shankly signed for £18,000 from Scunthorpe won an astonishing five league titles, three European Cups, two UEFA Cups, the FA Cup and the League Cup with the Reds before moving to Tottenham. Remarkably, the England international only missed six league matches in the space of 11 years and in 1978/79 conceded just four times in 21 home games.

His total of 665 appearances puts him second only to Ian Callaghan in the club’s all-time list.

Reina, who signed a new deal back in April to keep him at Anfield until 2016, has spoken of his desire to join Clemence in the 600 club.

And Clemence believes the 28-year-old, who has played 283 times since signing for £6million from Villarreal in 2005, will remain as Liverpool’s number one for years to come.

“Pepe really is a world class goalkeeper and is still young,” he added. “He has all the attributes a modern goalkeeper needs. He has great reflexes and is very brave.

“One thing that has changed from my playing days is that these days you have to be more accomplished with your feet.

“You need to be a good distributor of the ball and Pepe certainly has that ability.

“His distribution is excellent and he plays a key role in the team counter attacking. His record speaks for itself.”

When Jamie Carragher recently dislocated his shoulder at White Hart Lane and joined Steven Gerrard on the sidelines, Clemence wasn’t surprised that boss Roy Hodgson turned to Reina to skipper the side.

The Reds’ reliable number one hasn’t missed a league game since May 2007.

“Pepe was the ideal replacement,” he said. “I think it’s clear he’s got the respect of his team-mates and all the staff and that’s vital for a captain.

“He has been at the club a long time and has performed consistently well. He’s one of the most experienced players in the team. Everyone knows him and what he demands from them.”

Clemence, who won 61 caps, is busy these days as head of the Football Association’s Development Team.

The 62-year-old works with under-21s coach Stuart Pearce to monitor the progress of the nation’s 16 to 20-year-olds.

However, he still keeps a close eye on events at Anfield.

Frustration is growing amongst fans after promising home displays have been followed up with desperate away performances.

The result is Liverpool stuck in mid-table – closer to the drop zone than the top four – but the former keeper believes Hodgson must be given time to turn the club around.

“Liverpool’s start to the season has been exactly what I expected after all that happened in the summer,” he added. “Roy has come in and had some good results and some indifferent results.

“It’s clear that some changes need to be made but Roy hasn’t had the opportunity to make those changes yet.

“I just think everyone associated with the club, including the supporters and the owners, need to have patience. It’s going to take time but I believe Roy is the right man to get the club back on track.”

Clemence believes the Reds’ mixed fortunes underlines the need to add to a squad seriously lacking in depth.

He added: “It’s not for me to tell Liverpool how to do their business but I think it’s clear to everyone the side needs strengthening.

“Whether that happens next month I don’t know. January is a notoriously difficult time to buy players – very few top players become available. Maybe it will be next summer before Liverpool are able to get what they need.”

Meanwhile, Reina is under no illusions about the importance of the Christmas season to breath new life into the Reds’ campaign.

Today’s clash with Fulham is followed by three in the space of a week against Blackpool, Wolves and Bolton.

“We know it’s a critical moment,” he said. “Every year Christmas time is huge. There are 12 points just around the corner for us. They are tough but winnable games, so it’s a time to get ourselves back on track.”

Konchesky's Mother Blasts Liverpool Fans

Roy Hudson welcomes his former side Fulham to Anfield this evening, but Paul Konchesky, who followed the Liverpool manager to Merseyside in the summer, might get a less warm reception from the Kop after his mother became involved in a bizarre internet row with some of the club's supporters.

Responding to criticism of her son by some Liverpool fans, Carol Konchesky used her Facebook page last month to apparently call them "scouse scum" and accused supporters of living in the past.

Her remarks have generated a number of online comments and accusations about the abuse that has been levelled at her son. The left-back was signed from Fulham for £4m in August, but has struggled to settle at his new club.

Meanwhile, Hodgson could be forgiven for almost feeling wistful about his time with Fulham, given the struggles he has endured since leaving Craven Cottage in the summer.

"The difficult thing was that it was a good job," he said when asked if there was a wrench when Liverpool asked him to succeed Rafael Benitez.

"I was very happy living in the apartment we had owned for 10 years. We were 15 minutes from the training ground and I'd worked very hard with the players to reach a certain level and an understanding.

"I wouldn't have moved just anywhere from Fulham. Liverpool is a very special club, an institution in world football. When the offer came, sentiment had to be put aside."

However, at Fulham not every defeat or sluggish display demanded the kind of inquests that have pockmarked his six months on Merseyside.

"It has been a hardening and a weathering process that I have had to come to terms with, but it should be seen as a positive rather than a negative.

"It is going to be that type of attitude and desire from everybody at the club that will lift us into a better position."

In his first season at least, when relegation would have brought Fulham to its financial knees, the pressure was at least the equal of what he has experienced at Anfield.

"Yes, there was pressure, enormous pressure, but which club doesn't have it?" he said. "Mohamed al-Fayed has done a fantastic job in funding that club, in backing managers to do the job and he has received his reward."

Liverpool FC Allay Fears New Ownership Structure Will Repeat Deadlock Of Tom Hicks & George Gillet's Regime

Liverpool FC has moved to allay fears the ownership structure of the club could lead to a repeat of the deadlock which gripped the tenure of Tom Hicks and George Gillet.

A statement on the club’s website reveals principal owner John Henry and club chairman Tom Werner of New England Sports Ventures have 50% voting rights each.

The statement on the club website reads: "John Henry and Tom Werner are the ultimate owners of The Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited (the Club), each owning 50% of the voting rights in the Club."

The revelation that the new owners have, like former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, a 50-50 say is likely to raise fears of a potential for a future breakdown in the relationship.

Hicks and Gillett each owned 50% of Liverpool’s equity, meaning their disputes ended in stalemate until Royal Bank of Scotland and former chairman Martin Broughton intervened.

A spokesman for the club the owners believe there will be no repeat of that situation despite the 50-50 split of voting rights.

He said the longstanding working relationship between Henry and Werner, and Henry’s "prevailing economic interest" in the club effectively gives him the casting vote, meant there would be no repeat of the Hicks and Gillett situation.

"John W Henry and Tom Werner are close friends and confer repeatedly on all issues relating to Liverpool Football Club," the spokesman said. "They have worked together for 10 years at the Boston Red Sox without disagreement, and will continue to work together going forward.

"In the unlikely event there were to be any dispute principal owner John Henry has the prevailing economic interest and would have the means to resolve any issue."

Accounts at Companies House also reveal that NESV bought the club for just £218m in cash.

According to the filings NESV paid £217,778,550 for the equity in the club, effectively the amount Hicks and Gillett owed to Royal Bank of Scotland.

They also assumed responsibility for debts to RBS of around £83m, taking the transaction value to a round £300m.

NESV’s ownership of Liverpool is held via a new UK-registered holding company, UK Sports Ventures Holding Company Limited (KSV), a subsidiary of NESV.

UKSV has two directors, Edward Weiss, general counsel for NESV and the Red Sox, and David Ginsberg, an investment banker and colleague of Henry’s who is also on the football club board, and is vice-chairman of NESV and the Red Sox.

Bellow UKSV are two companies, Anfield Arena Limited, which appears to be the vehicle for the stadium development, and Liverpool Football Club and Athletics Grounds Limited (LFCAG), the football club business.

Henry and Werner are both on the LFCAG board, and are joined by three American colleagues, Ginsberg, Michael Gordon and Jeffrey Vinik.