Sunday, January 01, 2012

Johnson Hails Gerrard's Return

Defender Glen Johnson insists the return of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will re-ignite the Reds' season.

The midfield general came off the bench to inspire Kenny Dalglish's men to a comfortable 3-1 victory against Newcastle at Anfield on Friday night.

He bagged the crucial third goal for Liverpool late on to secure all three Premier League points to leave them in fifth place, but crucially, in a position to challenge for a UEFA Champions League spot.

And Johnson feels that the 31-year-old, who was making only his second appearance after a two month lay-off because of an ankle infection, will make a huge difference to the side in the second half of the season.

He said: "Some of the stuff he does you just can't teach.

"He makes a massive difference whether he comes on for 10 or 20 minutes.

"We have definitely missed him and we are glad to have him back.

"It is a big lift for everyone to have him fit again.

"He has been training hard and working very well with the fitness lads and hopefully he will be back starting again soon."

The full-back believes the result against the Magpies could be a turning point in Liverpool's season following four draws in five home games - and scoring more than twice for the first time since late August.

"It was nice to bounce back from last week's draw at home to Blackburn so we are very pleased," he added.

"Craig did well and the longer that continues the better.

"Anyone that can come in and score two goals the more the merrier.

"The more we win the more confidence we are going to have.

"We have one of the best defences in the league so the fewer goals we concede the better and hopefully we can put more away.

"We have to try to beat every team that comes here and we have got off to a good start."

Skrtel: Craig Gives Us So Much Quality

Martin Skrtel has hailed the influence to Liverpool of Craig Bellamy after the Welsh international’s two-goal display against Newcastle United in the final game of 2011 on Friday night.

Liverpool's No.39 was a constant menace to his old side and the Slovakian was quick to mention just how important a figure he is for Kenny Dalglish's side.

"Craig put in a really good performance and we were delighted for him to get two goals against his old club. He showed again what a great footballer he is," Skrtel told

"Everybody knows how much quality he has and he shows that in every single game he plays. He's a great player and we are delighted to have him on our side.

"It was a very important win for us, especially after not winning the previous two games, so we got the three points and we are really happy with that."

The No.37 was also full of praise for skipper Steven Gerrard after he netted the Reds final goal of the calendar year against Newcastle.

He added: "Stevie is special. He has been out for a while but he scored and showed how very important a player he is for Liverpool.

"He has given everyone a lot of confidence. We have a lot of games to play, just in January alone, and his return is a big boost to us. We are all happy to see him back."

Skrtel also made a key contribution during the win over Alan Pardew's side when he made a fantastic goal saving clearance from Demba Ba with the score at 2-1.

He said: "I just tried to do my best to clear the ball.

"It was going in and I was happy to help the team and clear the ball."

Dalglish's charges now turn their attentions to the first of three meetings in January with Manchester City.

With the two legged Carling Cup semi-final to follow, the Reds will head into Tuesday's clash at the Etihad Stadium full of confidence.

"We played really well at Anfield against them and showed we can compete against them," added Skrtel.

"If we can repeat that performance on Tuesday then we are certainly capable of getting a good result against them.

"We are looking forward to it and we will give our best.

"These are going to be special games as in a short period we play them three times so we hope to be successful."

FA Reveal Suarez Ban Reasons

The Football Association has now released full written reasons for Liverpool star Luis Suarez's ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

In the reasons for the sanctions the independent regulatory commission claim Suarez gave "unreliable" and "inconsistent" evidence to the commission.

The 115-page document goes into detail of the case and the conversation the two players had during the match at Anfield on 15th October.

The report states in its summary: "Mr. Evra was a credible witness. He gave his evidence in a calm, composed and clear way. It was, for the most part, consistent, although both he and Mr. Suarez were understandably unable to remember every detail of the exchanges between them.

"Mr. Suarez's evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the contemporaneous evidence, especially the video footage. For example, Mr. Suarez said that he pinched Mr. Evra's skin in an attempt to defuse the situation. He also said that his use of the word 'negro' to address Mr. Evra was conciliatory and friendly. We rejected that evidence.

"To describe his own behaviour in that way was unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument. That this was put forward by Mr Suarez was surprising and seriously undermined the reliability of his evidence on other matters.

"There were also inconsistencies between his accounts given at different times as to what happened."

Liverpool has confirmed they will study the findings before deciding whether or not to lodge an appeal.

"The club can confirm that they received the written reasons from the Regulatory Commission at short notice last night on the evening of the game against Newcastle United," read the Liverpool statement.

"The player, the club and our legal advisors will now take the necessary amount of time to read, digest and properly consider the contents of the 115 page judgment and will make no further comment at present."

Suarez was hit with an eight-match suspension and fined £40,000 by the Football Association on December 20th after the commission found the Uruguayan guilty of using a racist slur towards Evra.

The ban was suspended pending an appeal by the Merseyside club.

Liverpool have been steadfast in their support of Suarez criticizing the FA and claiming Evra should also face charges after he admitted insulting Suarez during the altercation.

The club's players and Reds boss Kenny Dalglish also wore T-shirts in support of the Uruguayan before their draw with Wigan on 21st December.

With the FA revealing Liverpool were served the reasons on December 30th, the Merseyside club must lodge an appeal before 13th January 2012, with the ban not beginning until this date has passed.

Unreliable Luis Suárez Should Forget Any Hopes Of An Appeal

Publish and be damning. Printed on the FA website on New Year's Eve, the written reasons behind Luis Suárez’s eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra suggests Liverpool have little hope of mounting a successful appeal even if they work hard to widen the “he said, they said” loopholes in the 115-page report.

The commission came out so emphatically against Suárez, condemning his evidence as “unreliable” and “inconsistent” and, at one point, “simply incredible”, that it would be almost inconceivable that the FA would reduce the punishment. The commission simply believed Evra’s word against Suárez, throwing in some new video footage of the incident to back up its case.

Liverpool’s lawyers could attack the “probability” element of the report and revisit point 223, focusing on the difference between someone being racist or simply using racist language, but it remains difficult reading for Anfield. The commission even considered a “greater suspension”.
If Liverpool decide against appealing, Suárez will be available to play Manchester United at Old Trafford on Feb 11. If they overcome Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, half of Suárez’s eight would be in cup combat (including the Carling Cup).

Liverpool have to think carefully, weighing up the probability of any reduction in the ban (unlikely) to the reality that he might miss only four games in their pursuit of a Champions League place.

There are many key points in the report but the one that jumps out, in the summary, reads: “We have found that Mr. Suárez used the word “negro” or “negros” seven times in his exchanges with Mr. Evra”. Seven times. It was the frequency of the usage and the manner in which the words were said, aggressively according to the commission, which explained the punishment.

The commission clearly did not accept Suárez’s cultural differences’ argument, his defence that such words like “negro” could be used if said in certain circumstances.

It was clear to those watching the game at Anfield on Oct 15 that this was a heated dispute between the pair; certainly Evra was incensed at what had occurred. The referee, Andre Marriner, had to intervene to calm them down.

“It happened, also, in a number of phases,’’ the commission reported.

“First, there were the exchanges in the goalmouth. Secondly, there was the exchange just before the referee spoke to the players. Thirdly, there was the exchange just after the referee had spoken to the players.

"Whilst we recognized that the exchanges occurred over only a two-minute spell in the second half of the match, there were multiple uses of the insulting words by Mr. Suárez.” The “multiple uses” undermines any heat-of-the-moment defence.

“The second aggravating factor was what Mr. Suárez said when using the insulting words,’’ the report continued. “He did not simply use the word “negro” to address Mr. Evra. He did that, but he also said that he had kicked Mr. Evra because he was black, and that he did not talk to blacks.

"Even if Mr. Suárez said these things in the heat of the moment without really meaning them, nevertheless this was more than just calling Mr. Evra “negro”'. According to the Spanish language experts, the uses would have been regarded as racially offensive in Uruguay.”

The commission analyzed the tone as well as the words. Yet the word “negro” is unacceptable anyway, regardless of context or cultural differences.

Suárez accepted this by the end. “He told us that he would not use the word “negro” on a football pitch in England in the future,’’ concluded the commission, “and it would be highly surprising if he did so.

Liverpool Respond To Suarez Report

Liverpool Football Club has responded to the FA's reasons for banning Luis Suarez for eight games for racist behaviour.

The following statement has been issued by the club following the FA's comments:

The Club can confirm that they received the written reasons from the Regulatory Commission at short notice on the evening of the game against Newcastle United.

The player, the Club and our legal advisors will now take the necessary amount of time to read, digest and properly consider the contents of the 115 page judgment and will make no further comment at present.

Liverpool Target £17m Brazilian

Liverpool is reportedly considering a January raid on Chelsea midfield target Fernando Reges.

The 24-year-old FC Porto star has emerged as one of a number of players in the position who is of interested to the club, according to The Daily Mail, with Celtic's Beram Kayal another player on the club's transfer radar.

With a long-term injury to Brazilian international Lucas Leiva and skipper Steven Gerrard not yet back to match fitness at Liverpool, the Anfield outfit are said to be in the market for a player in the 'anchor role'.

The same paper reported earlier in the month that manager Kenny Dalglish was considering a £17 million move for the player, with Liverpool scouts sent to watch the player in a 0-0 Champions League draw against Zenit St Petersburg.

Seydou Keita and Yann M'Vila have also been speculatively linked with a move to Merseyside by various sources, and it remains to be seen if the Liverpool boss will indeed turn to the transfer market, with funds expected to be made available by owners FSG.
As for Chelsea, their interest in Fernando stems back to the summer following Andre Villas-Boas' arrival from the Estádio do Dragão.

The ex-Porto boss was linked with a number of former players from the Primera Liga champions, with Hulk, Alvaro Pereira, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho also tipped to follow their manager to Stamford Bridge at the time.

Whilst none of the aforementioned four made the move to Chelsea, Fernando was another to be linked and one of the few that are still being linked with the switch to west London.

Competition is already fierce at the club in the position though, with John Obi-Mikel, Michael Essien and Oriol Romeu fighting for one place in a midfield three at the club. Whether Fernando can add to that mix remains a decision for the Chelsea boss to make in the coming days.

Hard Knocks And Tough Lessons On Adam's Long Road To Anfield

What is it about the festive season and Charlie Adam that don't go well? A missed penalty and an own goal blighted this year's celebrations, while 12 months ago his failed transfer attempt to Liverpool got the New Year off to a shaky start. And in January 2009 he was dealt a devastating blow to his career when Rangers let him go.

But each time Adam picked himself up and came back stronger and this time round should be no different. Because having experienced both sides of being a footballer, Charlie Adam knows what it takes to make it; he learned the hard way.

In the space of a few years he went from picking up £300 a week on loan at Ross County to being a £7m pound signing for Liverpool.

Undoubtedly, it's been a rocky road. More than once his future as a professional footballer was uncertain. As a schoolboy growing up in Dundee, he was tipped for great things, his left foot, good attitude; hard work and dedication made him stand out. Everybody who saw him play said Charlie Adam would succeed.

He was in demand. Big clubs in England and Scotland wanted him. He was linked with Manchester United, Liverpool, Celtic and Rangers. Adam's father, Charlie Snr, was an accomplished player, most notably with Jim McLean's Dundee United. So when it came to choosing who junior should join, his father helped with the decision. Charlie Snr was a Rangers fan and this gave them the edge they needed to secure their new teenage star.

It was Alex McLeish who brought him to the club and gave him his first start. Initially it looked like he would be the perfect fit for Rangers, so much so that when he was just 16 McLeish brought him to Prague for a UEFA Cup trip. He didn't play but it appeared he was set for great things.

Not long after, Adam's fairytale started to fall apart. He was sent on loan to Ross County and St Mirren and in over three years he'd barely got a look-in with Rangers. McLeish told him that sometimes in football you had to go one step back to go two forwards and now Adam echoes those words.

"When you are a young player going on loan is part and parcel of the game. If you are not in the first team of the club that you are at then I think the best thing that you can do is go and play on loan somewhere. Once you are playing week in, week out then that's all that matters."

After McLeish left Rangers in 2006, Paul Le Guen took over for a short time before Walter Smith took the reins. Adam seemed to get back on track under Smith, playing 32 times and even testing himself against Barcelona in the Champions League. But once again Adam fell out of favour and by January 2009 he was on his way out of Ibrox

He found an unlikely home on loan in Blackpool. They were struggling to avoid relegation in the Championship while the 23-year-old was struggling with his career. Yet it turned out the two were in many ways the perfect match.

"People were saying that going to Blackpool was a step back but it was a step forward for me. I wasn't playing regular enough at Rangers. I chose to go there to play, that was a step forward for me and that is the way that I look at it. I was playing with good players and they helped me over the two and a half years that I was there.

"When I went there I was probably using it as a stepping stone to hopefully go to a bigger club. You need to go to the right club and fortunately I went to the right club in Blackpool and they gave me the opportunity to play."

In saying that he didn't have the smoothest start at Blackpool. He got sent off on his debut against Doncaster Rovers for an off-the-ball stamp on Richie Wellens. He admits it was difficult adjusting to the new club but the bottom line was that he wanted to play so he needed to make that happen. He went on to play 13 times for the Seasiders that season, scoring twice, and they wanted to keep him.

In August 2009, Adam made a permanent switch to Blackpool for a then club record of £500,000. He quickly became their main man, justifying the club's outlay. At the end of the season they reached the play-off final at Wembley and this was a big turning point in Adam's career.

Supporters, managers and fellow footballers all watched on as the Tangerines secured a win over Cardiff City and Adam scored a terrific free kick to help send his side to the Premier League. Any doubts that hung over his ability to cut it were answered. Finally Charlie Adam had arrived.

Within his first month in the Premier League, he had made an impact. Adam was proving he could compete with the best players in the world and people were standing up and taking notice of the midfielder. By the time the January transfer window opened he was in demand.

Of course Adam wanted to go; it was "a no-brainer". Liverpool bid £4.5m but his manager, Ian Holloway, described it as a disgraceful offer. Adam did everything in his power to make the move happen, it just wasn't meant to be.

After the dust settled he resumed his role in the engine room for Blackpool, despite everything that had happened his loyalty never wavered. In his mind he was still a Blackpool player and they needed him.

Indeed Adam's efforts were unquestionable; he was even nominated for PFA player of the year along with the likes of Carlos Tevez and Gareth Bale, incredible really when you think he was playing for a team that was relegated. He was now officially one of the best players in the Premier League.

"I think that year we were a wee bit naive -- when we were winning we'd sometimes go for another goal and we'd get sucker-punched and either lose or draw the game. That comes with experience of playing in the Premier League. It's the best league in the world and if you make mistakes you get punished for them and we definitely did that."

Thankfully for Adam, Blackpool's relegation didn't mean the end of his Premier League career. Liverpool resumed their chase for the midfielder and an offer of £7m meant the deal was done.

Growing up, Adam's heroes were the footballers who played in his position. Going into the Liverpool dressing room for the first time was an experience for Adam albeit a good one. The players he looked up to and admired were now his team-mates and the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were everything he expected them to be.

"They've been Liverpool players for ages, they are the heart and soul of the club and the respect they've got in the dressing room is superb and deserved. They are top players and it's great to be able to step on the pitch with them. They look after everybody. When I first joined they came up and said if you need anything just let me know. It's great to share a dressing room with them."

And so was his new manager, Kenny Dalglish. He enjoys his fellow Scotsman's enthusiasm and appreciates how hard he works.

Adam's relationship with the Liverpool fans is a far cry from his days at Ibrox when his father stopped going to the games because of the abuse the Rangers fans dished out to his son. They've taken to him at Anfield and the number 26 jersey is fast becoming one of the most popular in the club.

Many see him as a cross between Liverpool legends Jan Molby and Terry McDermott, passing combined with work-rate. He has been pulling the strings as the team's playmaker in the absence of Gerrard and has been Liverpool's go-to man. He is the most fouled player in the league so far this season. Gerrard's return is a mixed blessing for the Scot -- as twice over the Festive season he had to make way for the captain but in the long run he is looking for the pair to form a partnership.

Adam and his Liverpool team-mates faced criticism after a string of draws so Friday night's result -- the 3-1 win over Newcastle -- was badly needed. A lack of goals has been a problem, and Gerrard's cameo on Friday showed his importance to the team.

Criticism and pressure are common place in all levels of football, currently Blackburn manager Steve Kean is being subjected to both from disgruntled fans, Adam believes this is just part of the game but admits it's not always easy to deal with.

"There is a lot of pressure on managers, but when you come into the football world there is pressure on everyone. But I disagree with how people get treated especially the way Steve Kean has been but that's football. The way Steve has handled it has been excellent. All he can do is keep trying to win games and that's what we try to do too, is keep winning games. Sometimes it's hard but you have to keep at it."

It's been a tough journey for Charlie Adam but one that's been worthwhile because it's led him to Liverpool. He's learned that it takes more than talent to make it to the top and with that in mind he's going to keep climbing.

Alberto Aquilani: No Hard Feelings Towards Juventus

AC Milan midfielder Alberto Aquilani has insisted that he holds no ill feeling towards Juventus despite not being offered a permanent deal at the Turin club after a season-long spell with the side last season.

The Italy international could have joined Antonio Conte's side at the end of his temporary stay, yet the club did not take up the option to sign him on a permanent deal, resulting in the former Roma man signing for Massimiliano Allegri's men for the 2011-12 campaign.

Juventus struggled to a seventh-place finished last term, yet Aquilani has no regrets over the move to the Turin side.

"I have absolutely no bitterness towards Juventus because they are the side who brought me back to Italy after an unfortunate period in the Premier League," Aquilani told Sky Sport Italia.

"Of course, compared to when I was there, Juventus have changed a lot. Many of the players who were in the starting XI now no longer even find strength on the bench. There has been a huge transformation.

"Was it a change for better or worse? Well, if they are still unbeaten, then there must be a reason."

Juventus and Milan are currently joint leaders in Serie A, with both clubs currently at winter training camps in Dubai, ahead of the resumption of the league.