Thursday, September 06, 2012

Spirit of Shankly Calls On LFC Owners To Appoint Liverpool-Based Chief Executive

Liverpool FC supporters union Spirit of Shankly has released a statement calling for American owners Fenway Sports Group to increase their presence on Merseyside and appoint a Liverpool-based chief executive.

The club face playing half the season with only two senior strikers after failing to replace loaned-out Andy Carroll before the end of the transfer window and principal owner John Henry yesterday wrote an open letter to supporters explaining the club's transfer policy and admitting to 'mistakes' made in the owners' first 23 months in charge.

The statement reads:

Following yet another summer where off the pitch activities at Liverpool Football Club have dominated the headlines, we once again find the club ownership attempting to explain away business decisions that have overshadowed footballing matters.

Spirit of Shankly reiterates its stance that the position of manager at Liverpool Football Club should be supported with all of the resources at the club’s disposal.

However, events of last Friday and the subsequent “open letter” from the club’s Principal Owner, John W Henry, indicate that almost two years into FSG's ownership of the club this is not yet the case.

As pointed out by the union in May, there remains no ownership presence on this side of the Atlantic. It is our opinion that this situation has led directly to the "mistakes" alluded to in Mr Henry's open letter.

Should the club’s absentee owners not wish to establish a full-time base in Liverpool, it remains imperative that they appoint a Chief Executive of a calibre commensurate with the club’s global status, to act with the full authority of the owners in their absence.

Rodgers Urges Patience

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes his players need to be more patient at the top end of the field if they are to overcome their goalscoring problems.

The Reds have found the net just twice in three Premier League matches - both goals coming in the 2-2 draw with champions Manchester City.

Their problem has been compounded by the limited options Rodgers has up front, having sent Andy Carroll on loan to West Ham and failed to bring in a replacement after a deadline-day move for Clint Dempsey broke down.

It leaves Luis Suarez, who has yet to find a consistent goalscoring streak, and inexperienced new signing Fabio Borini as the two senior strikers.

The Reds boss has stressed it is not just the responsibility of the forwards to score goals and admits it will take time for his methods to bear fruit.

"It's something you continually work on all the time," he said. "We're still getting the balance in a couple of areas of our game.

"We build the game very well through the thirds, but it's about making sure that when we arrive in the final third, if we can't find the moment to score straight away, we maybe have to have that bit more patience.

"That has a knock-on effect to the team. When you are that little bit more patient at the top end of the field, everyone else behind that then can get into position.

"We've created enough chances to score goals in the games. That's been pleasing.

"It's finding that football intelligence at the top end."

Liverpool have endured their worst opening three results since 1962 but Rodgers has stressed there should be no need for concern just yet.

"The message is to keep the faith," he told Liverpool's official website.

"West Brom, the first half was very good; we showed in the Manchester City game that we could be competitive; and then against Arsenal we weren't quite at our best.

"There are a number of reasons for that, a lot of players were playing their third game in a week and you could see that played a part.

"It's still very early on. We hope as time goes on we progress and can improve.

"I never get too disappointed when we lose or too carried away when we win."

Johnson Confident Liverpool Can Be Successful Under Rodgers

Glen Johnson says Brendan Rodgers has made his philosophy clear to the Liverpool players and he has backed the manager to be successful in time.

The Reds have made a disappointing start to the new season under Rodgers, picking up just one point from their opening three Premier League matches.

Rodgers was appointed earlier in the summer after building a reputation with Swansea, and Johnson has called for patience as a long-term project develops.

"Anything new is going to take time but the lads are working hard to try and make the success come together," the full-back said in the Daily Star.

"Everyone needs to be patient, including the players."

Rodgers has left the players in no doubt about how he wants the game to be played and Johnson is keen for Liverpool to start dominating opponents, particularly at home.

"We need to make Anfield a place where no team wants to come or can enjoy their football," he explained.

"We need to get on top of teams from the start and try and make it as difficult as possible for them.

"When Brendan is talking, you're so focused on what he's saying.

"You can be in a meeting for half an hour but it will feel like 10 minutes. It's clear for everyone to see the way Brendan wants us to play. He did fantastic at Swansea and he is a fantastic coach."

Agger - Keep The Faith

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has warned nobody at the club can afford to lose faith as they seek to turn around a worst start to the season in half a century.

Defeats to West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal have sandwiched a draw against Manchester City to leave the 18-time champions of England with just one point in the Premier League.

It has been a baptism of fire for new boss Brendan Rodgers and after the international break the fixtures do not get any easier as a trip to Sunderland comes before Manchester United visit Anfield.

Much has been made of Liverpool's failure to sign a striker on transfer deadline day as a factor in their struggles but centre-back Agger insists his mood remains positive.

The Dane, who was this summer linked with a move to City, told the Liverpool Echo of the club's worst start since 1962: "I'm still upbeat about the quality in the group. Everybody has to believe in it, otherwise they shouldn't be at a club like this.

"Nothing is easy to fix - not in football and not in life - but we are working on the manager's ideas every single day, so hopefully we can get better and better during the course of the season.

"We are trying everything we can and we have to get the best out of the squad that we have."

A lack of goals having allowed Andy Carroll to join West Ham United on loan has seen Liverpool linked with a long list of free agents.

But Agger, who was sent off in the loss at West Brom, knows it is not just strikers who should be contributing to hitting the back of the net.

"Of course the lack of goals so far is a concern. You could see against Arsenal that it wasn't only one player," he said.

"It wasn't two players, it was three, four, five, six players who had chances, including myself.

"The chances are there and that's the most important thing but we all need to start taking them."

Allen Embraces Added Pressure

Joe Allen claims to have 'massive belief' in his ability and to have embraced the pressure which accompanies a big-money move to Liverpool.

The Wales international moved to Anfield during the summer transfer window in a £15million switch from Swansea.

He may only be 22, but Allen is now regarded as a key figure for club and country.

Liverpool are looking for him to keep their midfield ticking over, while he is now considered to be a leading light in Chris Coleman's national side.

Allen insists he is happy to shoulder added responsibility, with any player setting their sights on the top of the game having to push themselves to be the best they possibly can be.

Ahead of Wales' 2014 World Cup qualification opener against Belgium on Friday, he said: "There is a difference for me now. I think it's quite easy to see that. From my point of view, I'm looking forward to that level of pressure.

"You aspire to play at the highest levels and be the best player you can, and these are obviously the things that come with it.

"You have to have massive belief, it has to border on arrogance at times. I think you can see the difference of a top player playing with belief or without it. That's something you have to cope with in football and something we strive to achieve."

He added: "There is a new pressure, an added pressure that comes with situations like mine but I've had the experience of being part of the Olympics, which was a help in terms of starting this Premier League season.

"I said to myself that I'm going to approach this year the same as I've approached any other in my football career and give it everything I can, and at the end of the day say to myself: 'Have you given your best?' If you have, you can't do any more than that."

Much of the build-up to Wales' clash with Belgium has focused on the Premier League contingent within the visiting ranks - with the likes of Moussa Dembele, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini in contention to figure in Cardiff - but Allen believes the hosts have enough quality of their own to compete.

"I think it's natural sometimes to focus on the opposition, the players they've got and the stars they've got in their team," he said.

"But I think it's important sometimes to remember the talent and ability that we've got in our team.

"I think it's been well documented, especially over the summer, the players they've got in there and the transfer fees they've commanded. We'll all have to make sure that we're on our toes because it's going to be a very tough encounter."

Suso, Yesil, And Pacheco In Europa League Squad

Once the international break and its mind-numbing two weeks' worth of action wraps up, Liverpool are faced with taking part in three different competitions in one week. That'll be terrific from a viewing standpoint or just the worst, like everything else but remarkably difficult for the players, who'll have trips to Sunderland and Norwich as bookends of matches in the Europa League, Premier League, and League Cup that take place on September 20th, September 23rd, and September 26th respectively.

That's a heavy load for any squad, particularly with the amount of travel involved, and for Liverpool it's even more daunting considering the lack of experienced and reliable depth available. Brendan Rodgers spoke of the ill effects of consecutive matches in a short period of time after the Arsenal loss; this is essentially that plus another match, with two rounds of international action recently finished for many of those in the first team and a couple of other Premier League matches to polish things off on each end.

So maybe it's not entirely surprising that the Europa League squad Liverpool released yesterday includes a few of the names many have been clamoring for, and a few that are somewhat unexpected. Suso and Dani Pacheco, both of whom were omitted from the first two rounds' squad, are included, as is newboy Samed Yesil, who was confirmed the morning of deadline day and had approximately ten minutes of senior squad action to his name prior to joining Liverpool from Sami Hyypia's Bayer Leverkusen.

Being named in the squad certainly doesn't guarantee appearances, but with the aforementioned fixtures coming thick and fast after the World Cup qualifiers, I'd be surprised if we don't see at least one of the three names mentioned get a few minutes in either continental or domestic competition. Caution and patience will be needed, of course, but it's not as though Rodgers has much respite once September's flurry ends October starts with two matches in six days, and November and December promise the same punishing run of matches that the season typically offers.

Johnson Wants To Guide Sterling

Defender Glen Johnson accepts the senior players at Liverpool have to step up and show leadership to the less experienced members of the squad, including Raheem Sterling.

The Anfield club has made their worst start to the season since 1962 after defeats by West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal came either side of a draw against Manchester City.

Teenager Sterling, though, has been a real bright spot so far and Johnson knows the winger has to be given the right support from his team-mates in order to be able to flourish.

"We've got a great bunch of lads and everyone makes everyone feel welcome," he Liverpool's official website.

"Raheem is 17-years-old but you make him feel like one of the lads because he is and he deserves to be here.

"It makes him feel more comfortable - and more comfortable when he's going into games, which is going to help him and the team.

"You have to encourage the young lads. When I first came through, I had people like Stuart Pearce and other big players helping me.

"Raheem is a fantastic player as it is, so if he keeps working hard and doing the right things, he's going to be a great player."

Del Piero Surprised By Late Liverpool Interest

Alessandro Del Piero has admitted he was "surprised" by Liverpool's interest in signing him this summer, after being unveiled by Sydney FC on Wednesday.

The forward saw his 19-year allegiance with Juventus severed earlier in the summer, but will now continue his career with the A-League club, where he has agreed a two-year deal worth around €2 million [£1.6m] per season.

Del Piero had been reportedly coveted by the likes of Celtic, Tottenham and Sion, while Liverpool were also credited with an interest following their failure to land a striker on transfer deadline day, and the 37-year-old confirmed he had been contacted by Merseyside officials.

"They were one of the clubs, amongst the non-Italian sides [interested], and I was surprised to be contacted by them," Del Piero said of the Reds' interest at his first Sydney press conference.

The Juventus legend also talked of his excitement at being offered the chance to sample a new culture and write his own legacy into Australian football.

"For the next two years, I am Australian," he said. "I'm happy to have signed with Sydney and for the next two years I will play with them.

"A lot of clubs contacted me, Italian teams too and I thank all of them. Today my new adventure starts and my emotions are mixed.

"I thank Sydney for this opportunity and their fans that have already adopted me. I will discover a fantastic city and a fantastic country. I am grateful to my family for being with me at every step of the way.

"I will continue to cheer for Juventus. In Australia I will be able to deepen my passion for rugby. Above all I'm here to score a lot of goals and to try to improve Australian football with my experiences.

"I hope Australian people love football."

But it appears the delegation of Sydney CEO Tony Pignata and Australia-based agent Lou Sticca, who visited Turin to clinch the signing, was enough to convince the World Cup winner that his future lies in the A-League.

"This signing is a major coup for Sydney FC and marks a historic day for football in this country," Sydney chairman Scott Barlow said in a club statement. "This is for all Australian football fans.

"Alessandro Del Piero is a global icon of the game and we are honoured he has chosen Sydney FC, ahead of many other options, as the club where he will begin the next chapter of his illustrious football career."

Rodgers Wanted Spiranovic At Liverpool

Recalled Australia defender Matthew Spiranovic could have joined Brad Jones at Liverpool this season - but instead landed regular first-team football in the Middle East. The 24-year-old centre-back, who signed for Qatari Stars League outfit Al Arabi on a lucrative two-year deal in July, received an approach from new Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers the same month, after the Northern Irishman had earlier tried to sign him for his former club Swansea City. 

Rodgers became a fan of Spiranovic after being impressed by his performance for Australia in its 2-1 win over Wales in Cardiff in August, 2011. "Brendan likes ball playing defenders and was impressed with what he saw of Matthew in the game against Wales," a source at Liverpool said. "He initially wanted to take him to Swansea and when he got the Liverpool job, he asked the question. "But the timing wasn't quite right with Matthew already committed to Al Arabi. "It's a tribute to him that Brendan Rodgers rates him so highly." 

Rodgers remains keen on the defender and could conceivably launch another approach in the January transfer window, but is currently far more concerned with recruiting strikers having seen free agent Michael Owen opt for Stoke City, Clint Dempsey head to Tottenham Hotspur and Andy Carroll go out on loan to West Ham United. Former Urawa Reds and Nurnberg defender Spiranovic knew he would have been consigned to the bench at Anfield behind the first choice centre-back pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel. After struggling for game time in his final season in the J.League, Spiranovic readily embraced the certainty of first-team action in the Persian Gulf and a significantly larger wage packet to boot, despite the lure of Anfield - a ground graced in the past by Australian greats Craig Johnson and Harry Kewell. 

Back-up goalkeeper Jones, also recalled to the latest Socceroos squad as a replacement for the injured Adam Federici, and head of fitness and conditioning Darren Burgess remain the club's resident Australians. Spiranovic's switch to Qatar was greeted with incredulity by Socceroos coach Holger Osieck, who said at the time: "I'd rather have him in one of the western European leagues like the Bundesliga or maybe in England. "I think he's got the potential. He is one of the boys I really rate for the future. "I'm not sure if it's an ideal move but I must also say that it is a personal decision. I definitely wasn't involved and was quite surprised when I heard about this move." 

 A run of national team starts ended for Spiranovic after the Socceroos were dispatched 2-0 by Denmark in a pre-EURO 2012 friendly in Copenhagen in June, his place going to veteran Sasa Ognenovski for the subsequent 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan. Spiranovic didn't make the squad for last month's 3-1 loss to Scotland but after Ognenovski and skipper Lucas Neill were badly exposed at times in Edinburgh, he has returned to the fold and is a genuine chance to start against Lebanon at the Saida Municipal Stadium on Friday morning and then the World Cup qualifier against Jordan in Amman five days later.

Liverpool Attempted To Offload Trio In Pursuit Of Dempsey

Liverpool’s desperate attempts to lure former Fulham star Clint Dempsey to Anfield included offering Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing to teams around the Premier League in order to meet Fulham’s valuation of the player. 

The Daily Mail report that Brendan Rodgers attempted to sanction the sale of the three players before last Friday’s transfer deadline in hope of raising the funds needed to complete a move for the 29-year-old. It is suggested that £20 million signing Downing and left back Enrique were offered around to various Premier League clubs through a group of agents, before Tottenham Hotspur eventually closed in on Dempsey and bought him to White Hart Lane.  

Liverpool had hoped that a swap deal involving former Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson would be enough to tempt Fulham into agreeing on a deal with the Merseyside club. The move was widely reported as the transfer window reached its conclusion, but turned out to be another effort that ended in vain for Rodgers’ side. 

Liverpool saw their summer transfer plans restricted by a meager wage structure and a limited transfer budget, which left Rodgers with little option to sell before he could buy. The club’s failed attempts to sign Dempsey, as well as their futile pursuit of Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge have left Liverpool with just two recognized strikers at the club in Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini.