Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dalglish Hails Reds Revival

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes his side have "surpassed expectations" in the second half of the season.

But he has stressed continued progress will be achieved only with the right attitude.

Having taken over from Roy Hodgson in January Dalglish has led the club from 12th place, looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone, to sixth and still with a chance of securing European football next season.

Sunday's defeat to Tottenham was the Scot's first at Anfield since returning to the job he left more than 20 years ago.

They may now be outsiders for the final Europa League spot after Spurs moved a point ahead with one match remaining but, the odd blip apart, the Reds boss has had nothing but praise for his squad.

"They have played brilliantly since January, gone about their work and surpassed all expectations," said the 60-year-old.

"We are dependent on other people now (to finish fifth) when we could have finished it but it has been a fantastic effort to get close.

"We can only look after ourselves."

The performance against Tottenham was a reminder that despite the great strides the team has made under Dalglish there is still work to be done.

Striker Andy Carroll was pressed into action for that game because of an injury to Raul Meireles, breaking up the profitable front pairing of Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt, and it undoubtedly impacted on the way they played.

It raised questions in some quarters about how the £35million club record signing will fit into a system based on movement and exerting pressure on opponents by pressing high up the pitch.

However, Dalglish insisted personnel mattered less than attitude when it came to carrying out his plans on the pitch.

"They are professional footballers. I don't think a change in the way you play should contribute to a change in your attitude," he added.

"Football teams change formations all the time, you just have to overcome these things.

"It it is not a disruption when you put Andy Carroll in your team."

Even if Liverpool eventually finish sixth that will still represent considerable progress on where they were just over four months ago.

But thoughts are already turning to next season, when midfielder Lucas Leiva will be targeting qualification for the Champions League.

"At the beginning of the season we were around the relegation zone," said Lucas.

"I don't think anyone was expecting us to finish fifth or sixth and that's a great comeback.

"It's an achievement but we are Liverpool and we want to finish higher than that.

"The Champions League is the biggest target for us but we just have to finish well and start next season with a really positive mentality and attitude and then we'll have a big chance of making our fans smile again."

Liverpool head to Aston Villa on Sunday needing to better Tottenham's result against relegation-threatened Birmingham to snatch back Europa League qualification.

"I think Birmingham will try to get points from Tottenham and that helps with the way they'll approach the game," added Lucas.

"At the end of the day it's not in our hands so we just have to do our job. Hopefully then something good will happen for us.

"Villa just beat Arsenal away which shows they are really committed.

"Getting fifth would be very important for Liverpool. We still believe we can finish well.

"We have to go into the last game with the commitment we've shown lately."

Off the field, a decision on whether to proceed with the building of a new stadium or redevelop Anfield looks set to be made in the coming weeks.

Comolli Holds Liverpool Talks With Spanish International

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina has confirmed that talks with Damien Comolli helped persuade him to stay at Anfield.

The Spanish stopper has been linked with a number of clubs across Europe, with Barclays Premier League outfits amongst those thought to be keen on making a move for the stopper.

After a turbulent period under Roy Hodgson and the January exit of compatriot Fernando Torres, the writing appeared to be on the wall with regards to Reina's future at Anfield.

However, the former Villarreal star has revealed his delight at how things have changed on Merseyside since the arrival of Kenny Dalglish, and is convinced Liverpool are now moving in the right direction after a difficult start to the current campaign.

"Everything has changed, the whole situation of the club. Recently I have talked with Comolli, asking about the future, and I believe in the club and this project. I am happy here," the 28-year-old confirmed to the official Liverpool website.

"We know how much work there is to be done, but I believe we are in the right place and we are going in the right direction. Next season will be more positive.

"The quicker we improve, the better for the club, but we cannot change overnight. The owners are preparing a big summer and hopefully the players that come in will improve the squad."

After a string of recent impressive performances in the Liverpool goal, Reina appears to be heading back towards his best and will be hoping to help the club towards a return to the Champions League.

Europa League football now appears beyond the Reds though, with Liverpool needing Spurs to slip-up at home to Birmingham on the final day if they are to secure fifth place.

Neil Warnock Rules Out Move For Joe Cole

Queens Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock has officially declared Liverpool’s Joe Cole unaffordable for the club after reports linked the England international with a move to Loftus Road.

The former West Ham man has endured a fairly miserable season at Anfield after moving to Liverpool last summer on a free transfer from Chelsea.

At the time, the transfer was praised, with many suggesting it would work out as a bargain in the long-term, however injuries blighted his first few months at the club.

It is fully expected that the West Ham academy graduate will move on this summer with it being suggested that Liverpool might offer Cole in a deal to bring highly-rated Moroccan international Adel Taarabt to Anfield, but Warnock has rubbished claims linking him with QPR.

Warnock has cited wages as the main issue and has insisted that the club isn’t going to approach the Premier League in an over-zealous manner, making sure they don’t overspend, regardless of the presence of billionaires Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mittal.

Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Warnock said: "I don't think anyone wants to splash out fortunes.

"I think the Premier League will be a great league to be in, and I think the owners will really enjoy it, but they will want me to be as thrifty as I have been in the Championship.

"I can't see them throwing money around with 18,000 crowds. I don't think they want to be self-sufficient, as that is difficult, but they don't want to be throwing money around stupidly.

Fulham Eye Return For Liverpool's Paul Konchesky

Fulham is searching for a replacement for Mexico international full-back Carlos Salcido as he sets his sights on a return home at the end of the season.

The former Chivas Guadalajara man has reportedly promised his family that a return to his native country will come to fruition this summer, just a year after joining Fulham from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven for a fee of around £1.6 million.

The Daily Mail believe Mark Hughes will look to Paul Konchesky as Salcido’s replacement, with the Mexican understood to be close to agreeing terms with Monterrey, where he would link up with national team colleague Ricardo Osorio.

Konchesky is seen as an ideal replacement as he would represent a cheap solution after failing to establish himself at Anfield and eventually being shipped out on loan to Championship club Nottingham Forest.

It is believed Konchesky would welcome the chance to return to Fulham after reaching the Europa League final with them the last season, months prior to following Roy Hodgson to Liverpool.

Aguero Quit Announcement Prompts Liverpool Bids

Sergio Aguero has reportedly told the Athletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo that he wishes to leave the club in the summer, prompting interest from a host of clubs including Liverpool.

Aguero has been in fantastic form for Athletico Madrid this season, scoring 17 goals and providing 2 assists in 31 games for Los Colchoneros this season. Whilst Aguero has impressed, Athletico have faltered and look set to lose Aguero, Forlan and De Gea as they cannot offer them European football.

“Regarding Kun Aguero,” Balague stated via social media network Twitter. “He would cost 45m euros (plus taxes if At M [Athletico Madrid refuses to sell). Interest from Man City, Real Madrid and Liverpool.”

Whilst Spurs were not mentioned, they will certainly do their utmost to try signing one of the most exciting prospects in world football for a second time. However, their inability to offer him Champions League football could provide a possible obstacle, enabling the history of Real Madrid and financial power of Manchester City to snuff out their chances.

Liverpool once again has a large transfer kitty to delve into during the summer, with new owners the Fenway Sports Group set to hand Kenny Dalglish up to £50 million for squad additions. They seem to have more pressing problems with squad depth – including the apparent need for defensive reinforcements – but look at Aguero as a potential wide player.

Aguero is good friends with in-form Liverpool midfielder Maxi Rodriguez, having played alongside him at club and international level, whilst many are suggesting the success of Fernando Torres’ move to Anfield could prove the perfect template for a successful transition to the Premier League.

Whilst Liverpool is evidently keen, a number of other teams will surely be on red alert – Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan have all been recently linked with the South American – ensuring that no team are currently stand-out favourites for his signature.

Whilst Athletico Madrid are still waiting for official confirmation of Aguero’s desire to leave the Vicente Calderon, Quique Sanchez Flores will be preparing for a future without the diminutive attacker as Balague insisted he has told the Madrid hierarchy his career lies elsewhere.

“Kun Aguero has not asked officially 2 be transferred,” Balague tweeted. “No transfer requests exist in Spain. IT HAS BEEN REPORTED HE TOLD CHAIRMAN he wants out.”

'German Messi' Reveals Liverpool Move Plans

Liverpool's hopes of signing Mark Marin have hit a snag at the news that the playmaker wants to stay at Werder Bremen.

The 22-year-old has impressed a number of Europe's big clubs, interest that may have led to a bidding war this summer.

However the German has distanced himself from the rumours linking him with Liverpool.

"I have no interest in moving on this summer," Marin told 11Freunde weekly.

"I am able to progress being at Werder Bremen and I like my team-mates there.

"I want to play a good sort of football with Werder Bremen in the new season and I am still under contract at Weserstadion."

With the club looking for a winger to supply Andy Carroll, the news that Marin, known as the 'German Messs', wants to stay put in his homeland comes as a blow to Kenny Dalglish's transfer plans.

However with Ashley Young, Xabi Prieto and Charlie Adam still on Liverpool's wishlist, Dalglish is unlikely to be to disappointed by Marin's revelation.

Liverpool Match Arsenal's Season Ticket Price Increase

Liverpool are raising season ticket and matchday prices for next season but fans fear demand could increase if the team does not qualify for Europe.

The club's average season ticket price rise is 6.5%, Arsenal's prices went up by the same margin a fortnight ago.

No Europa League fixtures would mean fewer games at Anfield, ensuring that home tickets will be even more rare.

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said: "This is the fairest level of increase we can offer."

There will be far fewer games to attend at Anfield if Liverpool, currently sixth in the Premier League, cannot overtake Tottenham and qualify for the Europa League. Liverpool travels to Aston Villa for the final match of the season on Sunday.

Kenny Dalglish's side trail Spurs by a point after losing 2-0 against them at home on Sunday. The London side host Birmingham in their last game.

Despite the fears over more expensive and more in-demand adult tickets, there was better news for younger fans. The Merseyside club have cut the cost of under-16 admission to prevent them being priced out of Premier League football.

In addition to the 4% average rise instigated by the club, a further 2.5% comes from the government's increase of VAT in January.

The lowest price for a Kop season ticket is now £725, with the highest being £802 for the Centenary and Main Stands.

Matchday tickets have increased by £1 for the Kop and £2 for all other stands - making the most expensive ticket £48 and the cheapest £39 - but the cost of a child admission has been dropped £8 to £15 for all matches.

Ayre added: "We have taken a considered view on these prices, taking into account the state of the economy, our ability to compete in a competitive football market and our aspirations for the 2011-12 season.

"We believe that this rise represents the fairest level of increase we could offer, whilst helping to ensure we maintain our significantly reduced debt position and our aspirations to improve our playing squad.

"We believe this will allow us to be competitive and maintain our ability to challenge our main competitors, many of whom have significantly higher capacities at this time."

Keith Jelley, of the Liverpool Supporters Club, said: It'll be a disappointed reaction from fans but I think it is fair.

"Arsenal has already mentioned that they're doing it. It will be the case across the Premier League. Not many will stay the same.

"We are still relatively cheap. Look at Arsenal and Chelsea. Even tickets at Fulham were £48 the other night."

Regarding the issue of matchday tickets, Jelley added: "League tickets might be harder to get hold of if there are no European games then fans will snap them up.

"If you've got the money and you want to go then you'll go. It's so difficult to get away tickets anyway.
"Game by game, it's not a massive jump. It is when you are paying full whack."

Speaking about season tickets continued: "Last season they went up. And, at Liverpool, we've got thousands on the waiting list anyway."

He is happy that the club is keeping one tradition intact by making their most iconic stand relatively cheap. "The Kop is the cheapest part of the ground anyway. I've always said that's weird but it's a good tradition," stated Jelley.

Andy And Lawro At Schools Cup

The next generation of Merseyside footballers met Andy Carroll as Anfield staged the finals of the Liverpool Cup 2011 on Monday.

Carroll shook hands and signed autographs before heading to the directors' box to watch the primary school kids in seven-a-side action - and he was clearly loving it.

Mark Lawrenson and Ronnie Moran were also on hand to present trophies.

Lawrenson told "It's quite refreshing. No one is falling over, no one is trying to get someone else booked or sent off. It's nice to see.

"It's such a brilliant atmosphere here. No one does football like the people of Merseyside."

The tournament was established in 1979 and culminates at Anfield every May. Just seven years ago our very own John Flanagan took part for Christ the King Catholic Primary - though his side was not the overall winners.

"It's the highlight of the schools football season," said Tim Johnson, vice-chairman of Liverpool Schools FA. "It's a real privilege for the children of Merseyside to play at Anfield. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"We've been very lucky over the years with players coming down. We were told there was a superstar coming tonight and they got that right. The club has backed this trophy for years."

First up in front of a crowd in excess of 1,100 were the girls, with St Paul's (West Derby) and St Margaret Mary's (Huyton) sharing third place. The final saw St John Bosco (Maghull) prevail 4-1 over St Sebastian's (Fairfield) thanks to goals from unstoppable Doyle twins Ellie and Emma, who grabbed a brace each.

The boys then took to the field, though there were early baths in the Anfield dressing rooms for beaten semi-finalists Lister (Tuebrook) and St Luke's (Formby). It was Farnborough (Southport) who eventually claimed a record fourth title with a 3-0 victory against St Paul's (West Derby). Charlie Ball, Mike Howard and Lucas Jones all capped fine performances by getting on the scoresheet.

Player of the night gongs went to Emma Doyle and Charlie Ball. The latter is already on Everton's books and looks like a potential star of the future.

Reds Arrive In The Caribbean

Liverpool U18s have arrived at Buccament Bay Resort for their week-long stay on the Caribbean island of St Vincent.

Rodolfo Borrell's 20-man squad enjoyed a relaxed eight hour journey from Gatwick airport to Barbados before concluding with a short 45 minute flight to their final destination.

The young Reds will be hoping to round-off the 2010-11 campaign with a friendly win against St Vincent U20s on Thursday afternoon but will also be visiting local schools and hosting training sessions as part of the link-up that has already seen the club open a soccer school on the island.

Borrell was delighted by the welcome his team received and is looking forward to what he believes will be an enjoyable experience.

He told "We are very proud to be here representing Liverpool FC.

"We are looking forward to the game against St Vincent & the Grenadines' U20s. It would be nice to finish what has been a long season with a good performance.

"The lads have worked hard all year and this trip is an opportunity for them to relax. It is also a chance for us to touch the lives of the people of St Vincent and it will be a privilege to visit the local schools and train on the excellent facilities here at Buccament Bay Resort.

"It promises to be a fantastic trip and I am really looking forward to meeting the people of the island and to see how well our soccer school is doing here."