Monday, December 20, 2010

Roy Hodgson Says He Needs To Bring In His Own Players

Roy Hodgson feels the Liverpool side he inherited from Rafael Benítez is starting to feel like his own with every passing game, but admits it would take an influx of players akin to that overseen by Harry Redknapp at Tottenham before he can make his own mark on the club.

After a turbulent opening six months at Anfield — a period in which the 63 year-old acknowledges he struggled to transmit his beliefs to his new squad, suggesting he “could not identify with a lot of things that happened on the pitch” — Hodgson appears to have settled on both system and personnel.

He is likely to begin his work shaping the squad to his own wishes as soon as the transfer window opens in January —selling Milan Jovanovic could be his first task with Cologne and Hamburg interested — but insists this will not be a Liverpool team cast in his own image for some time to come.

“It is starting to feel more like my side,” the Liverpool manager said. “But it is still a team that I have not put together. I want to make that clear. I took the team over and I have not made that many changes. I brought in [Paul] Konchesky to play left back, Raul Meireles to replace [Javier] Mascherano and Joe Cole came in at the same time as me as well as Christian Poulsen. The other players I have inherited.

“I think I would be a good comparison with Tottenham because Harry [Redknapp] came in there just as I came into Fulham so he will just be completing three years and he has brought in a lot of players. So to really call it my team, I would have had to make a slightly bigger impact on those who have been brought in.

“I am more than happy to take responsibility for this squad but it takes a coach more than five or six months to make his stamp on a club. I am hoping we will do some good business in transfer windows to come and then I will be able say, ‘If you don’t like it then I have no one to blame but myself’.”

Ryan Babel: I Prefer Playing Under Roy Hodgson Than Rafael Benitez

Ryan Babel insists that he would like to remain at Liverpool, while praising Roy Hodgson's style of management.

The Dutchman arrived at the club in 2007 after the Reds had carved out a €16.5 million deal with Ajax for his services.

But his stay on Merseyside saw him being only fringe player under former boss Rafael Benitez, with whom he shared a frosty relationship that saw him wanting to leave the club.

Hodgson's approachable nature, however, appears to have had a positive impact on the player.

"It's not up to me whether I see my future here, it's up to Liverpool," Babel said, according to The Mirror.

"This is my fourth season so it's up to them what they do. I have one more year at the end of this season left on my contract and I would like to stay.

"It has been frustrating here as a player, but it's not changed my loyalty towards the club. It's more with the manager. The club is fantastic. But if a manager doesn't like you it's between you and the manager.

"The club is amazing and there are still a lot of fans who believe in me so that gives me a goal. They [Hodgson and Benitez] are different. The current manager does things differently, and maybe that suits me better.

"When he arrived he was closer with the team, talking to players, and maybe that gives the players a boost to respond better.

"He's more involved day to day with the players. He does things differently. Under Rafa the assistant managers took a lot of responsibility but that is different now.

"I hope this country hasn't seen the best of me yet. The maximum number of games I've played in a row is four and it's difficult for any player to find consistency if you're not playing every week."

Benitez deployed Babel largely on the flanks, but his successor has chosen to play him in his preferred position as a striker.

He said: "I think first of all I'm just enjoying the opportunity to play and I am trying to make the most of it.

"But that position [central] suits me a bit better because you can use most of your energy up front. Maybe on the wing you have to defend a bit more and maybe that suits me less.

"The striker role, together with someone else, is pretty good for me."

In the recent Europa League game against Utrecht, Babel was supposed to start alongside Fernando Torres. But the Dutchman was surprised that the boss chose to go back on his word and keep the Spaniard out of the starting line-up instead.

"I only found Fernando wasn't playing an hour before the game," he said. "The day before the game we were working together. I've never played up front with Fernando and I was looking forward to it but maybe the manager wanted to give him some rest."

Milan Jovanovic Set For Quick Liverpool Exit

Liverpool is prepared to let Milan Jovanovic leave during the January transfer window with the forward having failed to make an impact at Anfield.

Last season, Jovanovic scored 13 goals and provided four assists for Belgian side Standard Liege in 32 appearances, before starring for Serbia at the World Cup, prompting Liverpool to snap him up.

However, he has scored just two goals for Liverpool so far, finding the net in the League Cup against Northampton Town and at Steaua Bucharest. The striker has featured mainly in the Europa League for Roy Hodgson's side, enjoying few Premier League opportunities.

The Daily Mail reports that Liverpool would be happy to let the 29-year-old leave Anfield as Hodgson looks to re-shape his squad. Jovanovic is reportedly interested in a move to the Bundesliga, although he was recently linked with Turkish side Trabzonspor.

Bayern Munchen Join Race For Unsettled Glen Johnson

Bayern München are interested in unsettled Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson, according to German sources.

The 26-year-old appears to be on his way out of Anfield, and Liverpool are said to be in the hunt for a replacement, accepting that Johnson wants to leave.

Real Madrid and Juventus FC Torino are also reportedly after the England man, who Liverpool has valued at €14 million.

Johnson arrived at Liverpool last summer from Portsmouth, and performed solidly last season. However, he has suffered this term from both injuries and a dip in form.

There is no guarantee Johnson will break into the Bayern first team though, with Philipp Lahm currently the first-choice right-back at the Bavarian outfit.

Danny Murphy Guarantees Roy Hodgson Will Provide Liverpool with Top Four Finish

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy believes if the Anfield club shows a little more faith then Roy Hodgson will lead them back into the top four.

Murphy worked under Hodgson at Fulham before the 63-year-old made the summer switch to Anfield and readily admits he stands as one of the manager’s biggest fans.

And though Hodgson has come under immense pressure at Anfield for a series of poor results so far this season, Murphy still maintains that the ex-Finland coach is the man to get it right.

"If I was a betting man, I would guarantee [Liverpool] are going to finish in the top four", said Murphy.

"The club is in a bit of a predicament, but you couldn’t ask for a more humble gentleman to deal with that. I didn’t want to see him go (from Fulham), but football success generally means that people move on."

Murphy does accept that Liverpool have had a difficult start under Hodgson, but believes the club’s fans understand what is achievable at present and will eventually reap the rewards for keeping faith in the manager.

"You will get a more successful Liverpool there this season, but the fans are realistic at the moment about what’s achievable."

Babel Receives Utrecht Apology

FC Utrecht has given an official apology to Liverpool's Ryan Babel for the way their fans abused his mother in the Europa League tie at Anfield on Thursday night.

Utrecht fans baited Babel with chants about his mother being a whore constantly throughout the match, something the Dutch club were clearly unhappy about and felt they needed to act upon.

Babel said: "It was not nice for me. I know why they did it. It has everything to do with the fact that I have an Ajax background.

"Ajax is the biggest rival club of Utrecht. Although I have left there four years ago and class myself as a real Liverpool player, they see it differently."

Utrecht chairman Jan Willem van Dop said: "I contacted Dirk Kuyt, who used to be a Utrecht player, for Ryan’s details.

"Once I got them I wrote to Ryan and offered him our apologies. Stuff like that should not be said by our fans."

'Our Objective For 2011'

In the final Academy column of 2010, Technical Manager, Josep Segura reflects upon the Youth Cup success against Notts County and looks ahead to the challenges they will face in 2011.

We had a big victory in the Youth Cup on Thursday night and our players produced a fantastic performance.

Notts County were a good team but we showed that we have some talented players coming through the ranks. It was a thoroughly professional performance, particularly in the second half.

The 4-0 win has obviously made everyone here at the Academy very happy ahead of the Christmas break. But I must stress it is not just a question of winning one football match.

The most important thing for Liverpool is that these players aged 16, 17 and 18 years old go on to become professionals with this club.

This is our target. We are very happy with the victory but it is not our major objective. It is clear that we must strive to produce great players to play for Liverpool Football Club for years to come and hopefully they can help us to win many trophies at first-team level.

It is not an easy challenge for us but it is one that we must work hard to make a reality with every passing day.

When I was at Barcelona we won the equivalent of the Youth Cup at U18 level. Everyone was delighted and it is a great memory. But only five players went on to become professionals with the first-team.

It would be fantastic if we can go on to enjoy great success in the Youth Cup this season but we must always ask ourselves how many will be first-team players of the future?

That is the main thing.

Having said that, I feel we have made good progress since I arrived here in the summer of 2009. The Academy is growing and the level of our players is growing too.

I said when I made the move here that the opportunity to work for such a great club was one I could not turn down. If you add to that the fact that I get to work with good people like Frank McParland and Kenny Dalglish then you can see why it is such a wonderful opportunity.

They have both shown great support to me since I came here and for the overall playing philosophy I have introduced. My role is a very specific one that dictates our daily routine. I focus upon the overall style we want from our players and teach the coaches to follow this line of thinking.

Obviously playing in stadia with a rich history like Meadow Lane also adds to the development of these youngsters and it is nice that the fourth round draw offers some of them the chance to sample Anfield for the very first time.

It will be a difficult game for us because Crystal Palace are top of the FA Premier Academy League Group A. That section includes teams like Arsenal and Chelsea so we know it will be a good test and that it won't be easy - but that's the idea I want to install into the heads of all the players, that nothing is easy.

You must work hard for everything you want to achieve.

At this moment, we are all happy and have worked hard, so we can go on our holidays in a happy mood. Everyone is pleased with the job we have done. We will have a good rest and come back in the New Year fresh for the challenges that await, aiming to ensure that this great club is blessed with some of the best homegrown players of the future.