Wednesday, February 09, 2011

John W Henry Says 19th Manchester United Title Would Motivate Club To Break 21-year 'Curse'

Liverpool owner John W Henry has claimed that the prospect of Manchester United winning a record 19th domestic league championship this season provides added motivation to break Liverpool's 21-year title "curse".

United and Liverpool currently share the distinction of winning 18 league titles - more than any other English club - but Old Trafford has now housed the Premier League trophy eleven times since Liverpool were last crowned league champions in 1990.

The return of Kenny Dalglish as manager at Anfield following the sacking of Roy Hodgson last month has revived Liverpool's fortunes on the pitch and the club climbed to sixth in the table following Sunday's 1-0 victory at Chelsea.

But with United sitting four points clear of the pack at the top of the table, a 19th league title appears more likely to head to Manchester before Merseyside.

And Henry, whose Fenway Sports Group oversaw the Boston Red Sox ending their 86-year wait for baseball World Series crown in 2004, admits that United's recent success has merely intensified the desire to bring glory to Liverpool.

Henry said: "We want to be the best in football. Manchester United have 18 (titles), we have 18. If nothing else, that should be enough to drive us forward.

"It is beginning to look like United could edge ahead this year, so we have our work cut out."

Liverpool can help scupper United's title bid by defeating Sir Alex Ferguson's team at Anfield on March 5, but Henry claims that ending Liverpool's title drought is the priority.

"Fenway Sports Group have a unique skill set for what we call in the US breaking curses," said Henry.

"We had an 86-year drought in Boston for winning a World Series and there has been a 21-year drought [at Liverpool] for winning the first division.

"We have no other agenda than that. That is why we are there [at Liverpool] and that is what everyone in the organization is working towards.

"Throughout the [takeover] process we looked at similarities with what we have accomplished at Boston and what we thought we could do at Liverpool.

"There was a strong feeling we were uniquely qualified, even though we did not know the sport, we knew the sports business."

Fernando Torres Admits Liverpool Are A Bigger Club Than Chelsea

Fernando Torres has admitted Liverpool are a bigger club than Chelsea but says he moved to Stamford Bridge because he was losing enthusiasm for football at Anfield.

The striker has been heavily criticized by supporters of the Reds since his £50 million move to west London after three-and-a-half successful years on Merseyside.

Despite his motives for the move being questioned, Torres insists he had to make the switch for sporting reasons.

“Liverpool will always be very special to me,” he told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.

“Because of its history, Liverpool is a bigger club, but it is going through a difficult time.

“Money was not important - I left to improve sporting-wise. I thought I would stay one more year and take it as a transition season.

“But a time comes when you lose enthusiasm, you see those in the Spanish national team are playing at a different level

“Then when everything looked black, Chelsea came and showed a real interest in me.”

The 26-year-old built on his claims that Chelsea was the right club for him by analyzing their status in the English game over the last decade.

Torres continued: “Chelsea is like Manchester United - the strongest over the last 10 years.

“One [Liverpool or Chelsea] is not better than the other - I'm just happy to have had the fortune of playing for both of them.

“I have been pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere in the Chelsea changing room.

“I thought it would be more distant but the atmosphere is very good. They laugh, they joke and it’s nice.”

Torres is currently on duty with Spain ahead of their home friendly with Colombia and admits it is a welcome opportunity to get away from the spotlight in England.

“These past 10 days have been very intense and it still is,” he said.

“Everything has gone so quickly and it's as though I have a lot of information in my head.

“It seems that a month has gone by instead of a week. I want to enjoy playing with the national team because we are champions of everything.

“This game is good for me to disconnect from it all.”

Bobby Mimms Linked With Coaching Role At Anfield

Liverpool is reportedly considering a contract offer for Blackburn goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms.

The 47-year-old appears to have an uncertain future in Lancashire following the arrival of new owners Venky's, and Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is thought to be keen on linking up with Mimms once again.

The pair worked together during Mimms' playing days, with new Liverpool manager Dalglish his boss during the successful reign at Blackburn Rovers.

A keeper who played for 12 different clubs in Britain, including Tottenham Hotspur between 1988 and 1990, Mimms has excelled as a coach and is credited with resurrecting the career of Paul Robinson.

However, the Independent claims that Liverpool will look to capitalize on the current certainty at Ewood Park after a contract offer has yet to be made to the man brought to the club by Paul Ince in 2008.

The opportunity to work alongside Spanish stopper Jose Reina may be tough to turn down for Mimms, especially if Liverpool produces an enticing contract offer before his current employers.

With additional coaching experience from his five years with Wolves, Mimms would also be working alongside one of the best keepers in the Barclays Premier League in Jose Reina.

Neither Liverpool or Blackburn have commented on the issue.

Liverpool Playmaker Target Set For Transfer Scrap

Liverpool are thought to have competition in the race to sign Slovenian playmaker Josip Ilicic.

The 23-year-old Palermo star has been linked with a number of Barclays Premier League teams as his stock continues to rise in Italy, with Liverpool thought to be one of the clubs keen to bring the player to England.

Chelsea have also tracked the player in the past, but now Italian sources claim Spurs are keen to bring the player to White Hart Lane.

"I have not had any contact with Tottenham chiefs, although it is indisputable that the player would like the English club," agent Armir Ruznic told

"There are several teams in the English and Spanish leagues, as well as the Italian one, interested in him."

Liverpool are thought to be one of those clubs, with director of football strategy at Anfield, Damien Comolli, thought to be impressed by the attacking youngsters ability.

Former Merseysiders boss Roy Hodgson was also thought to be interested in the former Maribor star, with Liverpool thought to be considering a move under his tenure.

It's unknown if Kenny Dalglish has also taken an interest in the player, although it's thought that Ilicic would cost Liverpool in the region of €17 million because Palermo have insisted they are not looking to sell.

With competition for the player's signature so fierce, a summer bidding war could be on the cards between Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea as the three clubs consider bringing the Serie 'A' starlet to England.

Liverpool Interested In Sergio Canales

Liverpool are reportedly ready to reignite their interest in Spanish youngster Sergio Canales.

The 19-year-old joined Real Madrid last summer – spurning the chance to move to Merseyside, according to – but has struggled to make an impact on Jose Mourinho’s side.

Spanish publication, Onda Cero, has since claimed that Real were willing to let the attacking midfielder leave the Bernabeu and, now, reports that Liverpool have registered their interest.

Despite his lack of first team action – and the reported interest from Liverpool – Canales is more than happy to remain in Madrid and fight for his place, commenting that he continues to enjoy the experience with Los Blancos.

"It's complicated when you don't play all the time, but this is Real Madrid," he said.

"I am very happy with how the fans greeted me. The crowd seemed to feel much affection for me, which is important to me.

"I want to continue working hard and trying to participate more. I am very grateful to the fans and also very happy. It makes things much easier. I enjoy playing for Real Madrid immensely."

Should Liverpool opt to make a summer move for the €8 million-rated teenager, then it would serve as evidence of owners New England Sports Ventures (NESV) fulfilling their pledge to bring the cream of young talent to Anfield.

Liverpool director of football strategy, Damien Comolli, has been tasked with identifying potential summer investments and – along with Canales – has reportedly earmarked a number of other La Liga players as future Anfield stars.

Valencia striker Paco Alcacer, 17, is understood to be on the Liverpool radar, as is 20-year-old Villarreal sensation Mateo Musacchio and the Reds are likely to make their move in the summer.

Further investment youth development remains a priority for NESV as they strive to bring the next Liverpool heroes through the Academy ranks.

Stephen Darby Linked With Summer Notts County Switch

Notts County could attempt to sign Stephen Darby on a permanent deal in the summer - if the on-loan Liverpool defender continues to impress.

After a successful two-month stint at Meadow Lane earlier this season, the 22-year-old has returned to the League One club on a deal until the end of the campaign.

Darby is currently the first-choice right-back, ahead of club captain John Thompson, and has helped the Magpies keep five clean sheets in the 12 games he has played.

"He's been brilliant. He's a model professional and he has never let us down on any occasion." said assistant manager Alex Rae.

"We're delighted to have him on board for the rest of the season,

"He's still got another year to go with Liverpool. In terms of where we go, we'll have to look at it in the summer. How he does between now and then will be a factor."

Sotirios Kyrgiakos Is A Transfer Target For Stoke City

Tony Pulis will renew his interest in Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos once the transfer window reopens this summer reports The People.

The Potters boss tried to bring the Greece international to the Britannia stadium in the January window in a bid to strengthen his defensive line, only for the move to break down in the final hour.

Kyrgiakos was a £2million signing from AEK Athens in August 2009, and despite playing well when called upon, he has struggled to cement his place in the Liverpool starting line-up with fierce competition for places.

Since the arrival of Kop legend Kenny Dalglish, the 31-year-old centre half has rarely featured for the Reds and therefore would consider a move away from Anfield but is keen to remain in the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool owners are keen to offer King Kenny the manager’s job on a full-time basis, and confirmation of that would all but end Kyrgiakos’ fledgling career at Anfield as Dalglish will likely move for a central defender of his own choosing.

New England Sports Ventures (NESV) have identified the development of young players at their Academy as a priority for transfers moving forward, and Liverpool director of football strategy Damien Comolli has been tasked with bringing the cream of young European talent to Merseyside.

With this in mind, Kyrgiakos’ opportunities look to be increasingly limited at Liverpool, but Pulis has seen enough to convince him he would fit into the Stoke City set-up as a ready made replacement for Abdoulaye Faye - who could still complete a switch to Celtic at the end of the season.

Faye, 32 had also agreed a deadline day deal that would have seen him swap the Britannia stadium for Celtic Park, but when Stoke officials realized they had run out of time to bring in Kyrgiakos the plug was pulled on both deals.

Pepe Reina Hints At Liverpool Exit

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has suggested he could follow Fernando Torres out of Anfield unless the club qualifies for the Champions League next season.

Reina, arguably the Premier League's outstanding goalkeeper over recent seasons, told Spanish radio: "I won’t lie - I want to play in the Champions League and challenge for titles."

Reina has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Liverpool, but following departures of his compatriots Xabi Alonso, Rafa Benítez and Fernando Torres over the last 18 months, speculation has increased about the Spaniard's Merseyside future.

Should he leave Liverpool a move to Spain would appear unlikely with neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona looking for a goalkeeper.

That is not the case among England's elite however, and Reina added: "Yes, of course, [Edwin] Van der Sar will hang up his gloves in the summer and Arsenal are also looking for a keeper. A lot of teams are looking for a keeper.

"There is nothing I can do or say, because I have a contract with Liverpool which I renewed last year. But I would like to be challenging for titles and be in a team with a realistic chance of winning things."

"Before, we were challenging for the Champions League and we were in the race for the title right til the end, but sadly in the last couple of years we haven't been.

"Nothing is fundamental but it [the Champions League is important]. I want to aspire to the maximum in my career, and that means trophies."

Ngog At The Double For Reds

David Ngog was at the double as Liverpool Reserves romped to a 4-0 friendly win over a strong Tranmere Rovers side at the Academy on Tuesday afternoon.

The Frenchman opened the scoring with a thumping 35th minute strike before Daniel Ayala and Emmanuel Mendy put the hosts out of sight in the second half.

Ngog then sealed the victory with a clinical drive late on as John McMahon's men maintained an unbeaten run that stretches as far back as October.

The Reds boss included Milan Jovanovic, Dani Pacheco, Brad Jones and Ngog in his starting XI as he looked to combat a Rovers team that boasted the experience of Alan Mahon and the highly-rated Dale Jennings.

First-team manager Kenny Dalglish was once again amongst the spectators for what looked like being an intriguing Merseyside derby of sorts and he almost saw Rovers take the lead on two minutes.

Mahon broke down the left and crossed for Lucas Akins who was left in acres of space eight yards from goal. It looked a simple task to control and finish but the striker somehow got the ball stuck under his feet. Sammy Morrow eventually bounced a shot wide after Liverpool had scrambled it to the edge of the area.

It was a let off for the hosts and they responded in the right manner as Michael Roberts fizzed a 25 yard blockbuster against the crossbar.

The midfielder certainly seemed to have his eye in and on 11 minutes he saw another effort shake the woodwork after a short corner was worked into his path.

Both sides seemed intent to attack at every opportunity and Rovers carved out a good opening four minutes later but Akins failed to find a teammate with his cut back after rounding Brad Jones.

Ngog then dragged an effort wide after good link up with Nikola Saric before Mahon crashed a well-struck shot just over Jones's bar.

With half an hour played there had been little sign of Jovanovic but the Serbia star almost had an assist to his name moments later when his weaving run and cross just missed the outstretched leg of Ngog.

The Frenchman's influence was beginning to grow as the match wore on and on 35 minutes he broke free to lash a left foot drive beyond Joe Collister to give Liverpool the lead.

The Reds had just about shaded the first period and McMahon opted to make changes at the interval with Gerardo Bruna and Suso replacing Saric and Alex Cooper respectively.

The duo gave the home side more composure in possession and on 55 minutes they doubled their advantage.

Pacheco forced a smart save out of Collister from 18 yards but from the resulting kick Ayala was on hand to bundle the ball home from close range.

It seemed to knock the fight out of the visitors and Pacheco again went close before Jovanovic drilled wide of the near post from a tight angle.

With the Reds in total control, McMahon introduced Andre Wisdom as a substitute and the highly-rated defender enjoyed a quiet run out on his first appearance since picking up a serious knee injury at the start of the season.

The one-way traffic continued and on 78 minutes a neat exchange between Bruna and Pacheco sent Ngog clear. It seemed inevitable the net would bulge, but the striker took one touch too many and the chance went begging.

A third goal appeared to be on the cards, however, and from a right-wing corner Mendy ghosted in at the near post to glance a header into the far corner.

The away side had done little to trouble the Reds' rearguard in the second period and although they did hit the bar late on, Ngog sealed a superb display when he rifled a rising drive inside the near post from eight yards out.