Saturday, May 07, 2011

Kenny - Youth Not About Glory

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has claimed that youth teams should be used for development and not for the prospect of winning trophies.

The Scot appeared to be directing a criticism at the decision to select record signing Andy Carroll for the England Under-21 squad for the European Championship next month.

The 22-year-old joined Liverpool for £35million in January, but has struggled with his fitness, despite putting in an excellent performance against Manchester City in April.

But, despite now being a full international with two caps and a goal to his name, he was picked by Stuart Pearce to join a provisional 40-man squad for the tournament in Denmark.

Dalglish distanced himself from a club-vs-country row and would not have anything to say until the final squad was announced, but he did share his opinions over the matter.

"For me, the benefit of having younger teams is to use them to get the best players into the full team - exactly the same way it is at club level as it is at international," he said.

"Andy has played a number of games for the younger teams, Under 21s and Under-19s, and he has played for the full international team, so it has certainly served its purpose in his development.

"The important thing is not to win a competition, it is to get people progressing through it (the system)."

To emphasize his point, Dalglish used the development of young full-backs Jack Robinson and John Flanagan, who have made an impression in the first team and have not been back with the youth side since.

The team missed out on the chance to win their division, but drew 2-2 with Wolves on Friday, something Dalglish admits could have been different if the duo had been playing.

"Our youth team have just drawn 2-2 and finished second in their league when they had an opportunity to go first," he said.

"I suppose we'll get the blame because we have taken Flanagan and Robinson away from them.

"But for us that is more progress than what it would have been to have won the youth division they were in and got no players through.

"I don't see it being any different for anyone else."

Liverpool Confirm Completion Of New Big Money Deal For "Next Gerrard"

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish and Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli have tied up a new contract for promising young midfielder Jay Spearing, with the tenacious academy graduate emerging this season as a valuable squad player and drawing comparisons to team-mate Steven Gerrard.

The specific details on the length of the deal are yet to be announced, but Comolli confirmed that an extension has been signed and the youngster now looks set to continue filling in for the injured Steven Gerrard. Weeks after Gerrard sustained his long-term injury, Dalglish was quick to praise the efforts of a young man he believed could be the long-term replacement.

"You feel for players when they're injured but when they are injured someone else steps up to the plate. It's to their credit that they've all stepped up to the plate; not just Jay, all of them.

"He's always been a good passer but maybe now he's got a bit more confidence and belief in himself and he's encouraged more to do it. Jay's been fantastic in the games he's played for us, and that's a great lift for everyone at the club - to see someone like that coming through."

Spearing finally broke into the Liverpool first team earlier this season, and the 22-year-old local boy has since made 18 impressive appearances for the club. Many have been swift to compare Spearing to Gerrard; both are Liverpool-born Reds, with a passion and tenacity to get around the pitch.

Adding to his combative and courageous approach to the game, Spearing's improved passing ability has helped to earn him an improved big money deal, and Comolli was quick to praise his efforts in the campaign so far.

"He has worked hard and has done very well," Comolli told Liverpool FC’s official website.

"He won his place in the team on merit and has showed in the last games that he can raise his game to what we need.”

According to Comolli, the new deal is the result of lengthy contract negotiations rather than just a reflection of his form over the past few weeks.

"To be fair to him,” Comolli continued, “it's not only what he has done in the last four or five games that triggered the new contract.

"We have been talking for quite a while, independently of what he was doing on the field. But that was confirmation that it was the right thing to do.

"His commitment and aggression on the pitch is fantastic and since he has been playing I think he has added some passing quality which we didn't see before.

"He has started to get forward more and the more he plays the more he improves."

Liverpool On Alert As Spurs Prepare To Sell Winger

Tottenham Hotspur winger Aaron Lennon could be sold this summer after falling out with Harry Redknapp, reports

The England international has had an inconsistent season at White Hart Lane and could be offloaded this summer for £15 million.

Sources close to Tottenham suggest Redknapp is fed up with Lennon's inability to follow directions, factors that could lead to a move to Liverpool.

“Harry feels Lennon is not learning, not improving and not listening to instructions,” a Tottenham source told

“He has been really disappointed by Lennon’s performances since the first half of last season and does not believe he is as willing to run at the full-back as he should be.”

“They have a really bad relationship and Harry wants to cash in,” said the source.

“Spurs have not yet started touting him around but if they get a good offer, they will probably sell him.”

With Gareth Bale also close to departing the club, and Real Madrid and Inter Milan among others ready to bid for the Welshman, Tottenham could lose two influential players during a summer where they were expected to build a squad capable of challenging for the Barclays Premier League title.

Liverpool meanwhile have put a winger at the top of their transfer wish list and Damien Comolli, who is set to lead negotiations for transfer targets this summer, is a known admirer of Lennon from their time together at Spurs.

Kenny Dalglish is likely to have to choose between Lennon and his international teammate Ashley Young, who has long been tipped with a move to Liverpool as well.

Liverpool's Pursuit Of Jose Enrique Boosted By Newcastle United Interest In Paul Konchesky

Liverpool's chances of signing Newcastle United star Jose Enrique have been boosted after Alan Pardew made it known he would be interested in signing Paul Konchesky as a replacement for the Spaniard, can reveal.

Enrique is Liverpool's first choice to solve the club's problem left-back position in the summer and Newcastle's interest in Reds defender Konchesky raises the possibility of a player-plus-cash deal.

The two clubs are yet to open negotiations but Newcastle are privately resigned to losing the £8 million-rated man, who has just one year left on his contract and is also attracting interest from Arsenal and European giants AC Milan and Bayern Munich.

Reds manager Kenny Dalglish has also been keeping tabs on Arsenal full-back Gael Clichy and Everton's Leighton Baines, but Enrique has always been his top target following his consistent displays throughout this season. Meanwhile, Manchester City and Real Madrid are also interested in the Gunners stopper, as revealed by

Enrique, 25, has said he will be “happy” to leave Newcastle this summer and is ready to push on following a successful four years at the club following his £6.3m move from Villarreal.

Pardew, the Newcastle boss, is preparing for next season without Enrique and has identified Konchesky as a player who could fill the role.

The pair worked together at West Ham and Pardew still believes the 29-year-old can be a solid Premier League performer despite a nightmare spell at Anfield following his £4m switch from Fulham last summer.

The former England international joined Nottingham Forest on loan in January and returned to Liverpool this week for the club's final three games of the season. Fulham are also interested in re-signing Konchesky but a return to Craven Cottage is far from certain.

Newcastle chiefs are anticipating a busy summer as Pardew has been promised he can spend all of the £35m received from Andy Carroll's sale to Liverpool in January.

Ipswich teenager Connor Wickham and Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner are believed to feature on Pardew's wishlist to lead the line for his side next season.

The Magpies are also considering a move for Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, who is out of contract at the end of the season and could be snapped up on a free transfer if he does not sign a new deal at Villa Park.

McAllister Delivers Liverpool Warning To Ashley Young

The future of Aston Villa's Ashley Young continues to be a concern for his club, and caretaker boss Gary McAllister has admitted that the lure of Champions League football is likely to tempt the England man away from the Midlands.

Young has just a year left on his current contract, and so this summer represents the last chance for Villa to cash in one of their most valuable assets. Manchester United and Liverpool are the most heavily linked of his likely destinations, though only United can provide him guaranteed entry to Europe's blue riband competition.

McAllister, who has assumed control while manager Gerard Houllier recovers from his heart problems, said: "I don't think it's inevitable Ashley will go. We will do everything we can to keep him here. He has become an England player playing for Aston Villa.

"The partnership of him and Darren Bent has looked exciting for Fabio Capello, for sure. The grass is also not always greener somewhere else but we are not silly. We have to be realistic. All players have ambition to play in the Champions League.

"We can't give them that. It's a goal but we all know how difficult it is to get up there. You can always understand the lure of playing in that competition. I managed to get a touch of it as a balding old man [with Liverpool] and it is a great experience."

McAllister knows Young will have to come to terms with being more under the microscope if he joins one of the top four clubs compared to at Villa.

He said: "It's difficult because you know how high the expectation levels are here. But when you go to these other clubs - I'm talking about the top four or five where the pressure is on - then the microscope becomes even greater. The criticism becomes greater because each and every little move is under scrutiny. Some people can't deal with it."

McAllister is quick to praise Young for the way he has remained focused on helping Villa in their relegation battle.

He said: "The facts are that Ashley could have been distracted with all the talk. There's not a day passed when he hasn't been linked with somebody but he is a good professional. Maybe in games he's been a wee bit up and down - but he gives 100 per cent"

McAllister also confirmed Villa plan to hold talks with midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, who is out of contract in the summer, over his future.

Jonjo Shelvey Is Example To Liverpool Youngsters, Says Academy Director

Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is providing the kind of example other youngsters at the club should follow, according to academy technical director Pep Segura.

The 19-year-old has been at the club less than 12 months, having joined from Charlton early last summer, but has already made 18 first team appearances - a tally which would have been greater had a knee operation not sidelined him for two months.

Manager Kenny Dalglish clearly rates the youngster, using him as a substitute in his first six matches after taking over from Roy Hodgson in January before injury struck.

Having returned to fitness Shelvey has come off the bench in the last three games, even filling in at left-back, and outshone more experienced first-teamers Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen and David Ngog, scoring in last night's 2-2 reserve team draw at home to Manchester United.

Segura, who has been in charge of the second string for the last few months, believes Shelvey's development offers encouragement to the latest crop of hopefuls to come out of the academy - with teenagers John Flanagan and Jack Robinson having played their part for the first team in the last month.

"Shelvey demonstrated his quality and he had a fantastic game," said Segura.

"He wants to grow as a player and play for the first team. He was focused and he was a good example for our young players."

Cole and Poulsen, who have started just five matches between them since December 5, both played 90 minutes last night but Ngog was substituted at half-time.

"It was a good experience for the young players to get the chance to play alongside the first team squad players and they will learn a lot from that," added Segura.

Reina Set For Reds Milestone

Pepe Reina could play his 150th consecutive Barclays Premier League game for Liverpool at Fulham on Monday night.

Should he achieve the feat, it will be seventh longest sequence by any player in Reds history.

The last match Reina missed was the club's final Premier League game before the 2007 Champions League final at home to Charlton.

Head to Head (league only):
At Fulham: Liverpool 9 wins, Fulham 8 wins, 6 Draws.
Overall: Liverpool 26 wins, Fulham 8 wins, 13 Draws.

Liverpool aims for a league double over Fulham this season following a 1-0 win over the Cottagers at Anfield back in January. John Pantsil scored a 52nd minute own goal to give the Reds a first home win since Kenny Dalglish returned to the managerial hot-seat.

Last season Liverpool lost 3-1 at Craven Cottage with Bobby Zamora, Erik Nevland and Clint Dempsey scoring the goals. Fernando Torres had equalized for the Reds. For only the fifth time in their history Liverpool had two players sent off in a game - Jamie Carragher and Philipp Degen within three minutes close to the end.

Overall in the Premier League Liverpool have won five and lost four at Fulham, while home and away have won 11 and drawn four of the 19 meetings.

Liverpool's biggest win over Fulham in the League came in November 1955 when they won 7-0 at Anfield.

Their best win on this ground came in October 2004 when they won 4-2 after being two goals adrift at half-time.

There has not been a draw between the teams at Fulham in the Premier League.

The 3-1 defeat at Fulham last season equalled Liverpool's heaviest ever loss at Craven Cottage - they lost by the same score in April 1956.

Billy Liddell, with the help of two penalties, is the scorer of Liverpool's only hat-trick in meetings between the sides doing so in September 1954 at Anfield.

Jamie Carragher will be in line to play his 666th game for Liverpool - moving into outright second place in the club's all-time appearance list.

Dirk Kuyt has now scored eight penalties out of eight for Liverpool as well as a successful spot-kick in a Champions League Semi-Final shoot-out against Chelsea.

A goal from the Dutchman will give him 13 for the season in the league - his best ever return for the Reds, while he has 14 in all competitions - one fewer than his best ever goals tally in an English season. He is also two short of scoring 50 in the league for the Reds.

Should Kuyt score he will become the first Liverpool player since John Aldridge in March 1989 to score in five successive league games in the same season.

Going into this weekend's games no Premier League player has achieved that feat though Peter Odemwingie had also netted in 4 in a row prior to West Brom's game with Wolves.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos could play his 50th game for Liverpool in all competitions if selected.

Steven Gerrard will be missing for the seventh successive league game. The Reds have won four and drawn one of the six games. He has made 21 league appearances this season, the fewest since he became a regular in the team in 1999-2000.

If Liverpool win all their remaining three games they will reach a total of 64 points - one more than last season.

A Reds' victory will equal last season's total of five league wins away from home.

Liverpool have scored in each of the last 15 league games home and away.

On the road the Reds have won one of the last six games in league and cup.

They have not conceded a goal from open play in the last four games - the only one scored in that time coming from a Robin van Persie penalty at the Emirates.

The only Fulham player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool is Roy Dwight who did so in 1956.

The three goals Fulham scored in this fixture last season are the only goals scored by them in the last seven meetings home and away.

They have netted only four goals in the last nine clashes with Liverpool.

The Cottagers are looking to record back-to-back home league wins over Liverpool for only the second time ever.

Fulham are unbeaten in the last seven home league games with six wins and a draw. They last lost at home on Boxing Day when they went down 3-1 to West Ham.

Only Blackburn of the last seven visiting teams to Craven Cottage have scored (they lost 3-2).

Fulham have scored three times in each of the last three home league games - beating Bolton, Blackpool and Blackburn.

The only teams to leave Craven Cottage with all three points are Tottenham, Manchester City and West Ham, while Manchester United and Chelsea have both only managed draws.

They are unbeaten in the last three games since losing at Old Trafford and have lost only two of the last 11 Premier League fixtures.

They are looking to record a third successive league win for the first time since May 2008 when those victories kept them up (winning at Portsmouth on the final day of the campaign).

If they win this game it will be first time since February 2006 they have won four in a row at home in the Premier League.

Clint Dempsey has now scored a record 33 Premier League goals for Fulham. His first goal came against the Reds in May 2007 after coming on as a substitute.

Illness ruled Brede Hangeland out of last weekend's 3-0 win at Sunderland - the first league game he has missed this season.

His replacement Philippe Senderos was making his Fulham debut following his summer signing from Arsenal. He had missed virtually the whole of the campaign with an Achilles injury.

Fulham are the only team in the top-flight not to have had a player red carded this season.

Fulham have won eight of the 47 League games between the two sides.

Mark Hughes is Fulham's 25th post-war manager and their sixth since 2000.

Leading scorers (league in brackets):

Liverpool: Kuyt 14 (12), Torres 9 (9), Gerrard 8 (4), Ngog 8 (2), Maxi 7 (7), Meireles 5 (5), Cole 3 (2), Suarez 3 (3), Babel 2 (1), Carroll 2 (2), Johnson 2 (2), Jovanovic 2 (0), Kyrgiakos 2 (2), Skrtel 2 (2), Lucas 1 (0), own goals 2 (1).

Fulham: Dempsey 13 (12), Zamora 6 (4), Hangeland 5 (4), Kamara 5 (2), Davies 4 (4), Dembele 4 (2), Duff 4 (4), Gera 4 (1), Etuhu 3 (2), A. Johnson 3 (3), Baird 2 (2), Murphy 2 (0), Greening 1 (0), Hughes 1 (1), Kakuta 1 (1), own goals 1 (1).

Frustration For Morgan

There was frustration for Academy trio Adam Morgan, Raheem Sterling and Brad Smith as England lost 2-0 to Denmark in the European U17 Championships on Tuesday afternoon.

Sterling made his first start for John Peacock's side in the tournament but was forced off the field after 38 minutes when he picked up a slight knock.

Left-back Smith played the full 90 minutes while Morgan came off the bench after 65 minutes to make his tournament bow.

Two goals in the first half from Viktor Fischer and Kenneth Zohor earned the victory for the Danes.

The result now means England have to beat host nation Serbia on Monday to keep their hopes alive of defending their U17 Euro crown.

Wolves End Reds' Hunt For Title

Liverpool U18s' hopes of winning the Premier Academy League Group C title are over after they were held to 2-2 draw by Wolves on Friday afternoon.

The young Reds twice went ahead through Henoc Mukendi but saw their dreams ended by equalizing goals from Liam McAlinden and Anthony Forde.

It means the Reds finish second in the standings, one point behind Everton who are crowned champions.

Rodolfo Borrell's side will feel they should have had the opportunity to win it in stoppage time when substitute Michael Ngoo was held back in the penalty area. However, the referee waved away the appeals and with it the home team's hopes of the championship.

Ahead of the encounter the Spanish coach had drafted reserve midfielder Michael Roberts into his starting line-up as he looked to bolster his side with key personnel still on England duty at the U17 European Championships.

The former Tranmere youngster was returning to action following the news that his close friend Michael 'Mikey' McNally had passed away.

The reaction of his teammates was to sport t-shirts paying tribute to the boyhood red in the warm-up and was another example of the fantastic unity that exists within the camp.

It was all set up for Liverpool to put on a show but it was the visitors who had the first opportunity of note on five minutes.

A delicate through ball sent Johnny Gorman rampaging in on goal. The Northern Ireland international showed great composure to round the onrushing Tyrell Belford but saw his low shot brilliantly hacked off the line by the covering Stephen Sama.

The hosts responded and Kristjan Emilsson released Toni Silva but the Portuguese winger stumbled just as he looked set to pull the trigger.

There certainly seemed to be one or two nerves creeping into the bumper Kirkby crowd but they were soon settled on 19 minutes.

Another trademark ball in behind the full back from Adorjan gave Mukendi a clear run at goal and he made no mistake with a low shot under the 'keeper.

The Hungarian was at the heart of all of Liverpool's best moves and there was almost a carbon copy of the opener on the half hour mark.

Another audacious flick found Mukendi racing into the left side of the penalty area but this time his stinging shot was brilliantly beaten away by Aaron McCarey.

A second goal looked on the cards and only Silva will know how he managed to miscue at the far post after Joe Rafferty flicked a near post corner across the six yard box.

Wolves had offered very little as the half had progressed but gave a warning to Liverpool five minutes before the interval when Forde curled a free-kick just shy of the post with Belford rooted to the spot.

Borrell had opted to replace Emilsson with hat-trick hero Ngoo at Wolves earlier in the week and he decided to make the same change at the interval.

However, it was Wolves who were quickest out of the traps and within three minutes of the restart they were level.

A searching ball from the right-wing was hooked back across goal by Jordan Cranston, allowing McAlinden the opportunity to head past birthday boy, Belford from close range.

It was the worst possible start to the second period for the home side but they restored their lead just before the hour mark courtesy of a moment of fortune.

Mukendi won possession on the right side of the midfield before cutting in towards goal. The towering frontman assessed his options and then fired in a speculative 30 yarder that McCarey allowed to bounce over his outstretched arms and into the far corner.

The relief within the watching crowd was tangible and they were almost celebrating a third just 60 seconds later but Ngoo crashed over the top after Mukendi had seized upon a misplaced pass deep in Wolves territory.

As the clock ticked down the visitors pushed for an equalizer and with 12 minutes left Forde sizzled in a 25 yard strike that arrowed in at the near post.

The Reds needed to dig deep to get the win they required and Sama missed a glorious chance soon after when he failed to convert from close range.

Liverpool continued to press and Silva saw a low shot deflected to safety after clever work by Ngoo before the big striker was brilliantly denied by McCarey.

Silva then blazed wide from the right-side of the box as they lay siege to the Wolves goal but it wasn't to be, and Craig Roddan was sent off at the final whistle for venting his frustration after the referee refused to point to the spot following a tumble by Ngoo.