Saturday, September 03, 2011

Gerrard: Liverpool Did Well To Axe Pricey Stars Like Joe Cole

Steven Gerrard has praised Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish for replacing high-earning fringe players such as Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and Christian Poulsen with 'hungry' new talent during the transfer window.

The club captain has suggested Anfield will be a better place without squad misfits such as Cole, who has joined big-spending French side Lille on a season-long loan - in turn freeing up the former Chelsea man's rumoured £90,000-a-week wages for new recruits.

Cole was said to have rejected other lucrative offers from Spurs and Arsenal to move to Merseyside last year.

And despite being one of the club's most heralded signings of 2010, Cole was a flop - with injury and poor form hampering his entire 12 months at the club.

Gerrard claimed Dalglish and Reds director of football Damien Comolli have proved their worth as 'smooth operators' in the transfer market.

'They have shifted a lot of players who were no longer involved and were sitting on good contracts,' the midfielder said.

'And they have brought in some quality players who are hungry and want to do well.'

Among the other fringe players to have left Anfield during the clearout are Emiliano Insua, who went to Sporting Lisbon, and Jovanovic, who joined Anderlecht.

Unfancied midfielder Christian Poulsen signed for French side Evian, fringe striker David Ngog went to Bolton, and centre-back Sotirios Kyrgiakos transferred to Wolfsburg in what was an incredibly busy summer on Merseyside.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's squad was rejuvenated by the arrival of seven new players - including Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, Charlie Adam from Blackpool, and Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing.

Gerrard is now back in training with his new team-mates as he continues to make his way back from a serious groin injury.

The England international has not played competitively since March and he revealed that, at one stage, he feared for his career because of the long-term injury he was suffering.

'I basically had career-saving surgery and it's gone really well,' he told the Liverpool club website.

'Since coming out of hospital my rehab has gone really well. I'm really happy and positive again.'

Paul Merson: Craig Bellamy Deal Could End Up In Tears

Craig Bellamy going back to Liverpool shocked me. He needs to play football, and he’s not going to get it at Liverpool. He’s going to get frustrated. In two or three months’ time I can see it all ending in tears.

If someone gets injured, what a replacement he is to have on your books! But I don’t see him being happy waiting around for that to happen. He might not kick a ball there for three months! People say never go back to your old club. Usually I agree with them. But I can see it being effective. They are a big club, they are moving forward.

It’s not an easy decision, though, because if he had gone to QPR, he would be starting every game this season – guaranteed. He won’t let anybody down, and he will always be fighting 100 per cent for that club. But Liverpool doesn’t have a lot of fixtures this year. They’re not in Europe. I don’t think he’ll settle for Carling Cup football.

The risk is all the manager’s. But they don’t call him King Kenny for nothing. Because of Dalglish’s status at Liverpool, it’s going to be harder for the Welshman to rock the boat. If he does, he will be finished with the fans.

Gerrard Targets Comeback Against Tottenham

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard says he hopes to return for the Reds' September 18 clash against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

The England international has not featured since March due to a groin injury. After surgery in April, his recovery was further delayed by an infection which put him back in hospital in July and ruled him out of Liverpool's first matches of the new campaign.

Now fully recovered from his long layoff, Gerrard says he can't wait to return to first team action.

"I feel really good and I'm back kicking balls again - it's all positive," Gerrard told the club's official website.

"I should be back in full training with the team on Thursday or Friday of next week.

"I won't be involved against Stoke next Saturday but my plan is to hopefully be involved in the game against Tottenham [the following weekend on September 18]. It will be Kenny [Dalglish]'s decision when I come back in.

"I need to get some full training with the team under my belt and I'll have a better idea of my fitness condition when I play in a practice match which is being arranged."

Gerrard admitted such a long spell on the sidelines had taken its toll on him at times but insisted he felt better than ever and is ready to play a big part in Liverpool's season.

"It's been a tough five months for me since I had the surgery," he said. "It's been up and down emotionally and I've missed playing so much.

"I've had a good rest, I'm fired up and I'm raring to go again. I know I'm going to come back fitter, stronger and hungrier than ever.

"At the moment it's all good and I'm itching to get back. In fact it's worse than itching, my stomach is turning."

The 31-year old was also confident that he could avoid any recurrence of the groin problem and revealed that tests run on the problem area showed his rehabilitation had made him stronger than ever.

"Since coming out of hospital my rehab has gone really well. I'm really happy and positive again. My groin is as strong as it's ever been," he continued.

"It's not just what doctors and physios are telling me - the stats are there to prove it.

"My groin is tested when I'm working and the physios collect data. My groin scores now are better than before I even started feeling my groin.

"I'm in good shape and feel better than ever. My body weight, fat levels and upper body strength are all good.

"But it will take time for people to see me out playing again and playing well for them to believe what I'm saying in this interview."

Pearce: Henderson Was On His Knees

Stuart Pearce has conceded Jordan Henderson was 'on his knees' when playing for England at the European Under-21 Championship in the summer.

Henderson has been handed the captain's armband for England's bid to qualify for the 2013 tournament after struggling to make an impression during this year's competition in Denmark.

He failed to replicate the form which had earned the midfielder a move to Liverpool from Sunderland, and Pearce believes it was due to fatigue.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere missed the tournament due to injury, but prior to that there had been concerns raised by his club boss Arsene Wenger regarding the potential for burn-out.

Under-21 coach Pearce, whose side thrashed Azerbaijan 6-0 on Thursday, admits Henderson was running on empty by the end of England's involvement at the finals.

"He captained the side well,' said Pearce regarding Henderson's performance against Azerbaijan, which included a goal.

"He will be a great talent for the future. But we have to nurture everyone in this squad.

"The one thing that did affect him (in Denmark) was the season. A lot was said about Jack Wilshere and his condition.

"But Jordan Henderson was the one player that we realized at the end of the season was flat.

"He took the move to Liverpool in his stride. But he was physically on his knees come the summer, if I'm being quite honest, and that was the only distraction for him.

"I thought he had a decent tournament but come the last group game he ran out of gas."

Gerrard: Last Season Was The Toughest Of My Career

Last season was the toughest of Steven Gerrard’s career. Injury restricted the inspirational Reds skipper to just 24 appearances. He played just six games under Kenny Dalglish and is eager to get back and impress the Kop legend.

“I wasn’t fit when I played for Kenny last season,” he said. “Yeah, we won at Chelsea but I was struggling with the injury. I was grinding through, just trying to get from day to day, week to week, with my groin.

“I want to come back and be 100% for Kenny. I want to put in that first top performance, get a good goal and a good win for the manager. “I’m basically in a pre-season situation now. I’ll be back in full training with the lads next week and everything is positive.

“The manager has to make a decision when I’m physically ready and when my form is good enough to come back in. I’m the type of player who gets fit quite quickly. It’s just a matter of getting training sessions and game time in the bank.”

Door Is Wide Open For The Impressive Stewart Downing

It has been a long road to international credibility for Stewart Downing but six years after making his debut for England he might just have found it.

Fabio Capello started with the Liverpool winger in Sofia on Friday night, promoting him ahead of the Manchester City pair of James Milner and Adam Johnson, and he could be here to stay.

This fairly abject Bulgaria team was not much opposition but Downing gave an understatedly impressive performance in the fluid attacking three behind Wayne Rooney. His corner was headed in by Rooney for the second goal and Downing himself hit a post with a header after some fine combinational counter-attacking play with Theo Walcott in the second half.

This 4-2-3-1 system demands flexibility from the attacking three and Downing and Walcott exchanged flanks frequently. His movement has improved dramatically in the last 18 months — playing in the centre for Villa helped that — and as the game drew to a close he even took up the playmaker’s role in the hole behind Rooney. He’s come a long way since his presence in the team was a perceived reflection of their impotence.

Downing was given his debut by Sven-Goran Eriksson against Holland in Feb 2005 but it was not until Steve McClaren took over that he got a regular run in the side. He played in eight of those disastrous Euro 2008 qualifiers and was tainted by association with McClaren from their time at Middlesbrough together.

He was on the pitch in Barcelona when the England support turned brutally on McClaren with the score 0-0 at half-time against Andorra. The hate poured down from the terraces and many felt Downing’s presence in the team was symptomatic of what was wrong with England.

When McClaren went, you thought Downing would go with him. Worse was to come, though, and it came back in Andorra. In Capello’s first competitive game was a surprise starter but an insipid performance meant he was booed by the fans who had made the trip. Capello, ruthlessly, replaced him at half-time with Joe Cole (who ended up scoring both England’s goals) and Downing did not start another competitive game until on Friday night.

Those three years have shown an impressive resolution to Downing’s personality. His youthful promise had plateaued when Martin O’Neill took him to Aston Villa. Boro had been relegated and Stiliyan Petrov — an opponent on Friday night — had broken his foot. Downing's his career was at a turning point. He did not look back.

His second season at Villa was outstanding — many Villa fans arguing he was superior to Ashley Young — and his move to Liverpool appears to have accelerated his grade of improvement. Capello and his coaching team have been impressed by his revived confidence and his hunger for the ball. The accuracy of his crossing - not really needed on Friday - will also be a great asset when Andy Carroll gets back to form.

It is not as premature as you might think to talk about the make-up of the England team at Euro 2012. Walcott will be desperate to retain his place in the team after missing out on the 2006 World Cup and while he did not knit easily into the make-up of the team in the first half on Friday he grew into the game and was excellent in the build-up to England’s slick third goal, sprinting towards the edge of the box before releasing Young out wide.

While Young has frustratingly fractious in his play, there were positives to draw from the way Walcott and Downing combined after the break. Rooney can often be left isolated when he plays the lone strikers role so it is important that he gets swift support on counters and Downing certainly provides that.

Walcott’s instinct is to go beyond the last striker while Downing’s is either to pull off him, into the space behind, or look to get down the touchline. It brings an attractive balance to England’s wide play.

There are only two more qualifiers and then two friendlies scheduled before the team gets into their warm-up games — assuming they qualify.

With Milner and Johnson threatened by reduced game-time and Downing likely to remain fresh without European football this season, it is wide open for him. Finally, he might take his chance.

Why Jordan Can Emulate Gerrard

There can be few better compliments for a young footballer than being identified as a potential long-term successor to Steven Gerrard's Anfield throne.

But that is the claim made in an exclusive interview with by a man who knows Jordan Henderson the footballer perhaps better than anyone else.

Ged McNamee, Sunderland's Academy manager, who coached Henderson from the age of eight, has explained why he thinks Reds fans will come to love Henderson.

"Anybody who knows Jordan will tell you that he's just an absolutely smashing lad and anyone who's seen him play will tell you he's got bags of natural ability and a strong work ethic," he says.

"If you look at a young Steven Gerrard, he was all over the park, chasing down players and charging up the park too - trust me, Jordan has all of that in him.

"I think he could be a little star for Liverpool. He's versatile; he'll always keep going and will always give you 100 per cent. He's the kind of guy Liverpool fans will easily take to."

Henderson was firmly established as a star at the Stadium of Light prior to his switch to Merseyside - but McNamee admits there were times in his earlier days when Sunderland had doubts over whether he'd make it.

"Obviously he's been with us for a long time and he joined us from the age of eight and so we've been with him through the ups and the downs," he says.

"There were times you'd look at Jordan and you'd think 'There's something special about that boy' and then other times you'd see him struggling and you'd worry for him.

"It was only really when he turned 16, where we were forced into making a decision whether or not to give him a contract, which we began to realize what kind of special player we'd signed."

Henderson went on to make over 70 appearances for the north-east club and managed to win himself the Black Cats' Young Player of the Year award for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

McNamee believes it was those difficult earlier experiences that made Henderson the player and person he is today.

"He's well rounded now, he's got his feet firmly on the ground and there really is no edge to him at all," he explains. "Thankfully we gave him that opportunity and to be fair to the lad he's taken it with both hands.

"Jordan will be the first to admit that he's got a lot of work to do before he catches Gerrard.

"Steven is a recognized international player, with tons of experience, but it's where Jordan wants to be and I think he can do it."

Liverpool Legend Bill Shankly's Birthday Today

It’s Bill Shankly’s birthday today and Kopites are congregating in establishments, social gatherings and the internet to discuss the impact of the man who is wholly acknowledged to have had the greatest influence on Liverpool Football Club, inspiring the team to become the footballing giant that it is today.

Shankly breezed into Anfield with his magic broom. A fiercely single minded man, he addressed the press upon arrival: "I am very pleased to and proud to have been chosen as manager of Liverpool FC, a club of such potential.

"It is my opinion that Liverpool has a crowd of followers which rank with the greatest in the game. They deserve success and I hope, in my own small way, I am able to do something towards to help them achieve it.

"I make no promises except that from the moment I take over I shall put everything into the job I so willingly undertake."

Hailing from Glenbuck, an Ayrshire coalmining village in the east of Muirkirk, Shankly was born into a family of ten. Times were hard. He received no formal education, and spent two years of his youth earning a meagre wage down the coal pits.

His hard upbringing shaped his philosophy and it was no great secret that he was greatly influenced by Robert Burns, the eminent Scottish Poet.

With his deep thinking not shackled by the formalities of a University education, Shankly provided intelligent opinion and an alternative viewpoint to almost everything. His utterances struck a chord and were lapped upon by the public.

In 1932 Shankly joined Carlisle, leaving to join Preston North End a year later. His bright thinking of the game was noted by greats such as Sir Tom Finney.

Anfield To Host Celebration Evening To Mark 10th Anniversary Of 2001 Treble

Anfield is hosting a special celebration dinner on Friday, October 7, to mark the 10th anniversary of Liverpool’s historic treble.

Special guests include Phil Thompson, who was assistant manager to Gerard Houllier back in 2001, and former Reds midfielder Gary McAllister.

They will discuss their memories of a remarkable campaign which resulted in Liverpool clinching the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup.

Thompson and McAllister will be joined by impressionist Darren Farley.

Standard Chartered Launch Hunt For Liverpool’s Most Dedicated Fan

Standard Chartered has launched a hunt for Liverpool’s most committed fan.

Throughout this season the club’s main sponsors will hand out Fan of the Month awards to recognize the efforts of those who go to great lengths to show their support for the Reds.

Every month a judging panel will choose a winner from the stories entered.

Each monthly winner will win a trophy, a Liverpool shirt and see their story in the club’s program. At the end of the season the public will get to vote on who they think should be named Fan of the Season.

Entry details are available at: