Monday, June 11, 2012

Liverpool Surprise Contenders To Sign Daniel Sturridge

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is hoping to bring a number of new faces to the squad over the summer months and is believed to be interested in signing Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge.

The former Manchester City striker started the season in superb form but struggled towards the back end of the campaign as his chances in the first team became more limited.

Sturridge did score 11 Premier League goals in his 28 appearances last season but with the arrival of Eden Hazard and Marko Marin he will be aware that there is still plenty of competition for places.

Even with Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba leaving the club, he will still have to contend with Hazard, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres for a place in a front three.

The 22-year-old has often been used in wide positions and could act as a direct replacement for the departed Dirk Kuyt who, although a striker, was often asked to play on the wing for Liverpool.

The Daily Star believes that Liverpool are willing to offer as much as £15million for Sturridge as Rodgers looks to strengthen the side after a disappointing league campaign.

Last season there were a number of reports that Sturridge was unhappy with life at Chelsea, but he has never spoken out about the club and did made 41 appearances in all competitions.

Reds Target Johnson

Liverpool are reported to be lining up a £17 million swoop for Manchester City winger Adam Johnson.

Talks are set to move forward in the coming days and the Kop outfit are hoping that the Blues will do quick business on the England star, who narrowly missed out on Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad.

New Reds boss Brendan Rodgers knows that he also faces stiff competition from both Sunderland and Newcastle for Johnson, but the Merseysiders are understood to be willing to match his City wages.

Former Anfield boss Kenny Dalglish set the wheels in the motion last season and Liverpool scouts have been tracking the tricky 24-year-old ever since.

Rodgers is also a huge admirer of the player and has been told the funds are there to push through a big deal.

Johnson is now looking for more first-team opportunities to further his England claims and Liverpool are confident they can provide them.

United Beat Liverpool To Sign English Wonderkid

Manchester United have reportedly agreed a deal to beat Liverpool to the signing of young English superstar Nick Powell in a deal worth £4million.

Sir Alex Ferguson has finally succeeded after trying to put together a deal to bring the Crewe Alexandra youngster to Old Trafford for a number of weeks, according to the Daily Mail.

The deal with the Red Devils is reportedly worth £2million up front and will double depending on appearances.

The Anfield club was also reported to be lining up an offer for the 18-year-old, but it seems their Premier League rivals have beaten them to the punch and completed a deal for one of the most highly rated young players in England.

New Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had reportedly earmarked Powell as the first of his signings on Merseyside, but he will now have to make do with other options.

Powell has been a revelation this year for Crewe and the club publicly acknowledged they would find it difficult to hold onto the academy product if Premier League bids came in.

Crewe secured promotion to League One in the play-off final win over Cheltenham and Powell opened the scoring in a 2-0 win with a spectacular strike.

Gerrard Itching To Get Started

England captain Steven Gerrard insists the whole squad are itching to get started ahead of Monday's Euro 2012 opener with France.

England kick off their campaign in Donetsk on Monday looking to get off to winning start in Group D.

Roy Hodgson's men flew into Donetsk on Sunday from their training camp on Krakow and Gerrard is adamant they are ready for the challenge of taking on in-form France.

"The squad is really happy, we travelled this morning, and we are looking forward to training later," said Gerrard.

"We will be ready for the French on Monday.

"The spirit in the camp is fantastic. The preparation has been fantastic and we are itching to get started."

Gerrard also played down fears that England's players could be affected by the hot and humid conditions in Donetsk and the fact they have been forced to travel to Ukraine for the game.

Forecasts suggest Donetsk is set to hit a high of 34C on matchday, but Gerrard insists it will not affect the players.

""Yeah, it's hot but it's hot for both teams. We won't use the heat and the conditions as an excuse," added Gerrard.

"To echo what the manager said, the journey was a two-hour flight, which is exactly what we do for European games at home.

"Lots of the players have European experience."

Gerrard remains confident England can enjoy a successful tournament despite admitting losing the likes of Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry to injury was a major blow

"People say there is less pressure because of the injuries but what we've got to do as players is share the responsibility around the group," continued Gerrard.

"Any squad would miss the likes of Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill but you have to cope.

"Other squads are suffering similar things. You have to cope and get on with it and we're really confident we can do well in this competition."

Gerrard Makes Racism Vow

England captain Steven Gerrard insists he would support any of his team-mates if they were the targets of racist abuse at Euro 2012.

Roy Hodgson's men get their campaign off and running against France on Monday in Donetsk with fears some of England's players could be targeted after Holland's black players were subjected to racist abuse during an open training session in Poland earlier this week.

Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie has confirmed he was the victim of monkey chants during Friday night's Group A game in Wroclaw.

The issue of racism has hung over the whole tournament with Manchester City and Italy forward Mario Balotelli claiming he would walk off the pitch if he is abused by fans.

Gerrard admits he would not encourage any player to walk off the pitch, but that he make the referee aware of any incident and leave it up to UEFA to take action.

"I wouldn't encourage them to walk off the pitch, but if a player did come to me and say they had been racially abused I would take it to the referee and they would then take it up with UEFA," said Gerrard.

"I would certainly support any of the players who came to me."

Hodgson also backed UEFA to deal with any racism issues and admits he will wait on them to give them any guidelines on what they should do if they are confronted with any racism

"I have great faith in UEFA," noted Hodgson. "It will be up to them to give us, the FA and the football team the guidelines in certain situations."

Gerrard Will Be Stronger Wearing The England Captain's Armband On Merit

Steven Gerrard has worn the England armband on numerous occasions, but he will head into Euro 2012 believing, for the first time, he has the authority of a captain.

I know how thrilled he was to receive the phone call from Roy Hodgson confirming he was the choice to lead his country. I also know how desperately disappointed he felt when the caretaker manager, Stuart Pearce, decided he would not be given the captaincy in the England friendly with Holland.

For us who know Stevie so well, it was a surprise such an experienced player with proven leadership qualities was overlooked. He carries himself with understated authority, preferring to lead by example rather than walk around like he is God’s gift to the England shirt. He’s never been big-headed or arrogant.

I’ve witnessed the different ways star players approach an England call-up. When you go away with your country, you’re with players who all have the same reputation within their clubs and there are different ways to express yourself.

There are those who walk into the team hotel on their first day, broaden their shoulders and believe they belong there. They won’t be shy of exerting their authority in training. I quite admire that kind of self-assurance because, psychologically, that’s as effective a way as any of convincing yourself you deserve to be in such an esteemed environment. It may seem brash, but managers like that in a player.

Stevie has always had a different approach, confident within himself that he is exactly where he was always destined to be but feeling no obligation to broadcast it so openly. During the course of his England career, I think he has suffered because of this sense of humility, particularly in recent times over the issue of the captaincy. Despite his enormous talent, he has never behaved in a fashion to suggest he felt superior to anyone else in the squad.

I suspect Fabio Capello expected to see Gerrard strutting around like a superstar and demanding the armband as, perhaps, top Italian players might have done. Stevie would try to inspire those around him in other ways.

At Liverpool, it’s a slightly different dynamic. Since he was a teenager, everyone has known he was destined to be our best player. He has carried an aura from the moment he made his debut. For more than 10 years at Anfield, every young player or new signing has looked to him for guidance. He has often brought this approach to England, exerting his authority in important but inconspicuous ways. When Wayne Rooney first broke into the England squad it was Gerrard who helped him most to settle in.

There was another occasion when Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross was called up amid a media frenzy regarding a tackle on Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey. Again, it was Gerrard who made a point of ensuring the new boy was brought into the group and felt he belonged in the squad. Such incidents go unseen because others’ perception of leadership is about shouting all the time, or being seen to clench your fist a lot.

I’ll give you an example of the subtle difference between how it’s been for Stevie playing for Liverpool and England. For his club, say we were 0-0 in an important cup tie, 10 minutes left on the clock and we’ve just won a penalty, this is what would happen. Without hesitation, Steven Gerrard would pick up the ball and calmly score to win us the game.

Now imagine the same situation for England in recent years. Frank Lampard would have picked up the ball. I’d be thinking to myself Stevie has as much right to be taking this penalty as Frank but he’s allowing his own modesty to work against him. Frank, as he was entitled to do, would use the strength of his personality to make sure the penalty was his. Even without Lampard being injured Gerrard would now know he has the authority to back himself in such a situation. He will be more comfortable assuming the responsibilities he previously may not have felt he had.

Even at the last World Cup, although Stevie was captain throughout the tournament, behind the scenes you always felt Terry still felt like he was the real leader in the camp. There’s justification for clear boundaries to be drawn now. Gerrard has the captaincy on merit and has no need to feel he is looking after the armband for someone else.

For his club, he has thrived on that kind of pressure. He is now approaching 100 caps for his country over the course of 12 years. That’s some feat for any player. I suspect he’ll want to carry on beyond Euro 2012, even though we have discussed how retiring from the international scene to concentrate on club football, as I did, can impact on your form. If the next four weeks go as planned, I don’t see any reason why this tournament should be a swansong for Stevie’s international career.

Coates Nets First Uruguay Goal

Sebastian Coates scored his first goal for Uruguay during their 4-2 FIFA World Cup qualifier victory over Peru in Montevideo.

There was confusion as to whose goal it was when Coates powered a header towards goal on 15 minutes and his Liverpool teammate Luis Suarez appeared to have got a touch to the ball.

However, replays proved otherwise and the centre-back was awarded his first international goal.

Earlier Maximiliano Perriera had made it 2-0 to the home side but the Uruguayans were pegged-back nine minutes later when Coates' central defensive partner Diego Godin scored an own goal to make it 2-1.

Jose Guerrero levelled the scoring for Peru three minutes after the interval before Diego Forlan spurned the opportunity to restore Uruguay's advantage from the spot.

The Liverpool connection was evident in the build-up to the game's third goal, when Coates headed a Suarez free-kick at the 'keeper and Cristian Rodriguez turned the ball home on the rebound.

Agger Shines In Denmark Win

Daniel Agger skippered Denmark to an unexpected victory in their Group B opener against one of the tournament's favourites Netherlands on Saturday night.

The Dutch side boasted an attacking line-up that featured some of the most talented players in European football, like Arsenal's Robin van Persie, Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder and Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben.

However, after Denmark sprung a counter-attack and snatched the lead in the first half thanks to a well-worked Michael Krohn-Dehli goal, Agger came to the fore defensively to keep the opposition at bay.

The Liverpool centre-back was solid alongside defensive partner Simon Kjaer, intercepting passes across the back-line, making crucial clearances and reading the game to his usual high standard.

The Dutch peppered the Danish goal with a total of 27 shots and at times during the fixture in Kharkiv, Bert van Marwijk's side was relentless in their movement and pressing.

However, Agger and his side brought a five-game losing streak against the Netherlands to an end with their first win since June 22, 1992 and Kopites will be hoping for more of the same from their Great Dane.

Troops Remember The 96

Members of the British Armed Forces, stationed at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, held a special memorial service in memory of the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives at the Hillsborough tragedy.

The service took place on April 15, 2012, the 23rd anniversary of the disaster, and was dedicated to 'the 96 men, women and children who tragically died and the countless people whose lives were changed forever'.

The troops held a minute's silence before bidding prayers were read in memory of the 96.

During the service, the following was read by Camp Bastion's Padre: "As we gather in this place, though far from home, we are united in mind and heart and prayer with all those who will pause to remember on this day."