Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rodgers To Receive Help From Technical Committee

Liverpool are to announce the creation of a “technical committee” of “football people” in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the transfer deadline day debacle that led to the club allowing Andy Carroll to go out on loan without a replacement striker being signed.

The committee will advise manager Brendan Rodgers but will also, interestingly, take on a much wider role as to how Liverpool is run, the type of football the club will play and all the 'technical’ aspects that are sometimes taken by a director of football.

Although Rodgers, as part of his negotiations to take over at Anfield, insisted he would not work directly for a director of football, despite Liverpool sounding out several candidates, including former Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, the club has not ruled out eventually making the appointment.

However, the likelihood is that it will soon reveal the identity of a number of people who will form a committee of advisers, some of whom are already acting as sounding-boards, for Liverpool’s owners John W Henry and Tom Werner.

The Americans are fully committed to adopting a “European-style model” of running the club and do not want to follow the typical British approach of a manager having top-to-bottom control of the club believing it is unsustainable and costly. The owners admire the approach taken by West Bromwich Albion. The club’s sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth, who is now wanted by the Football Association, was linked to a move to Liverpool in the summer.

Liverpool also point out that the wealthiest club in the Premier League, Manchester City, do not allow manager Roberto Mancini full control of transfers with Brian Marwood, the football administrator, playing a key role on behalf of the owners.

Liverpool’s owners will be careful not to cause tension with Rodgers who has made it clear that he will not tolerate interference in first-team matters although, crucially, the manager will be expected to discuss his targets with the technical committee who may also make their own recommendations on which players are pursued. Such an approach may set alarm bells ringing, given the inherent possibility that the manager might feel interference which could lead to conflict.

There were clear problems last week when Rodgers’ attempts to sign Clint Dempsey from Fulham were vetoed because Liverpool’s owners did not believe the deal – the American was valued at £6m – was value for money for a 29-year-old with only one year left on his contract. Although Liverpool insist they offered more than the £3m that Fulham sources have indicated was bid, they did not match the asking price and Dempsey eventually left for Tottenham Hotspur instead.

Liverpool had also proposed a swap deal with Jordan Henderson moving to Craven Cottage in return for Dempsey and although Fulham were interested, the 22-year-old England midfielder, who was signed for £16m last summer in a spending spree which Liverpool are still paying a heavy price for, did not agree to the deal and it collapsed.

The failure to agree a deal for Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool and Rodgers only wanted to loan the striker while Chelsea wanted a permanent transfer – meant that with Carroll going to West Ham United on loan on the Thursday night, Rodgers was left with just two senior strikers and one of those is 21-year-old Fabio Borini who is yet to score a goal in the Premier League.

There was also some discussion as to whether Liverpool could sign the Brazilian striker Leandro Damiao from Internacional but they could not reach an agreement and ran out of time for that deal.

Rodgers has already expressed his annoyance to the Liverpool hierarchy and spoke of how “operational issues” had to improve and is now casting around the 'free agent’ market to see if he can sign an emergency replacement until the January transfer window opens. Liverpool will be able to recall Carroll then but do not want to do so with Rodgers having made it evident that the £35m striker, who is out for six weeks with a hamstring tear suffered on his West Ham debut, does not figure in his plans.

There is irritation at Liverpool that so much attention - and criticism - has focused on their failure to replace Carroll with the club insisting that disagreements over the valuation of a player between executives and a manager - such as happened with Dempsey - are commonplace.

The focus on Liverpool’s failure to sign a striker fell on the club’s managing director Ian Ayre whose role has been under scrutiny for some time. There have been suggestions that Liverpool’s owners were considering returning Ayre to his former post of commercial director, where he successfully revamped the club’s activities, and bring in a more high-powered chief executive.

Although the rumours, from informed sources, persist that Ayre will be replaced - he also came under scrutiny during the summer when the owners sacked manager Kenny Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli – Liverpool insist there are no plans for a change to be made.

However, the club have confirmed that the technical committee is close to being formed with, intriguingly, some of its members already in place and others working their notice. At least one prospective member is thought to work for another club.

Liverpool, at present, are keeping the identities a closely guarded secret amid suggestions – again denied – that Henry has used the likes of former Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff to canvas opinion.

The expected structure is along the lines of proposals divulged when Rodgers was appointed in the summer by Ayre. Then he said that Liverpool were still keen to develop along the “more continental director of football-type structure, a collaborative group working around the football area”.

A key component will be the appointed of a chief scout, with more responsibility than that role usually suggests, and an experienced football administrator who can negotiate transfers and contracts. Interestingly there will also be a senior figure – likely to be a former player or manager although not one necessarily previously connected with Liverpool – who will act as a figurehead for the type of football Liverpool want to play and the philosophy the club want to follow.

The appointments will be closely scrutinized by Liverpool supporters who remain angry over the summer transfer dealings especially as the team have made an indifferent start to the season and do not appear fully equipped to compete for a Champions League place.

Rodgers Hails Allen's Impact

Brendan Rodgers has hailed Joe Allen for how quickly he has settled into life at Liverpool.

Allen linked up with Rodgers again earlier this summer in a £15million deal from Swansea.

The classy midfielder has impressed at Anfield during the early stages of his Liverpool career and Rodgers believes Allen will only get better over time.

"I think its remarkable how quickly he has settled," Rodgers told the club's official website.

"This is a young guy who has moved up from South Wales, he was first of all into a hotel then having to move into an apartment. His partner, Lacey, is giving birth to her first child.

"All of these emotional things have been going on in the background yet he still has come in and made the performances that he has done.

"Is it a surprise to me? No, because I knew what we were paying and I know the boy's qualities. I think the biggest testament that you can give him is that he has come into here and he looks like he has been a Liverpool player for the last 10 years.

"That's great credit to him, and I think you see the supporters are recognizing that he looks like a player who is a Liverpool player, because of how he passes the ball, his courage to get on the ball, but also his willingness to put his body on the line for the team and for the club.

"He has been outstanding and he will only get better."

Allen Believes Liverpool Can Reign Like Spain

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen wants Brendan Rodgers to embrace Spanish philosophy on Merseyside in the hope of emulating Barcelona.

The diminutive playmaker was a central figure in Swansea’s passing style of football last season and was recruited by the Anfield club for £15m in the summer.

Physical players like Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam have been shipped out by Rodgers, and Allen supports the technique-based ethos his boss is trying to recreate at Liverpool.

"For me, Luis Aragones [former Spain manager] has been a pioneer in this field, an apostle of the game, he has found that technique can achieve goals. Talent is the key," Allen told Spanish newspaper Marca.

"Physical strength is important but you can acquire that through training. Talent is innate. Otherwise you cannot play football.

"I think talent is essential in football. On the pitch the technique is what makes the difference, not physical force."

Henderson Admits He Still Has A Lot To Learn

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has vowed to carry on working hard after a 'whirlwind' 12 months as he strives for further improvement.

Henderson made the move to Anfield from Sunderland last year and ended the season by going to Euro 2012 after being called up to replace the injured Frank Lampard.

He has slipped down the pecking order under Brendan Rodgers at the start of the new campaign and is currently away on international duty with the Under 21 team, rather than the senior England squad.

Henderson recognizes that he is still not the finished article but he is determined to do whatever it takes to fulfil his potential.

"It's been a whirlwind of a 12 months, but I have really enjoyed it and learned a lot of things on the way," Henderson, who captained Stuart Pearce's U21s against Norway on Monday night, told Sky Sports News.

"I am still learning and if I can carry on doing that then hopefully the next 12 months and beyond will be even better."

The 22-year-old added: "I am starting to feel a bit older with the young lads coming in but I have still got a long way to go and a lot to learn.

"I think I will just keep working hard, keep my head down and hopefully I can become a better player."

Vorm On Rodgers’ Radar

Swansea goalkeeper Michael Vorm is said to be on Liverpool’s radar as doubts surround the future of Pepe Reina.

Reina has not made the best of starts to the new season and after dropping clangers against Hearts and Arsenal, reports have claimed Brendan Rodgers will target a new keeper in January if things do not improve.

The Spaniard has also struggled to adapt to Rodgers’ style of play when he encourages his defense to build up from the back and exchange passes with the keeper.

The departure of Reina, who has been a fantastic servant for the Reds, would come as a big shock and will not go down well with the fans but it could be on the cards.

It is no surprise that Vorm is being linked with a move to the club, while there have also been suggestions that Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a target.

Rodgers is already planning for the January transfer window following the catastrophe of the last one that left him at least one striker short.

Roy Defends Raheem Call-Up

England coach Roy Hodgson insists that he has not called up Raheem Sterling just to make sure he is not lured away by Jamaica.

The teenage winger was called into the senior England squad on Monday as Hodgson lost Theo Walcott through illness.

Sterling has only just made the breakthrough into the Liverpool side, but Hodgson has wasted little time in fast-tracking the 17-year-old.

However, Hodgson insists it has nothing to do with the fact that Sterling - who was born in Jamaica - is wanted by his homeland.

"Raheem might have Jamaican roots but he has been born [sic] and brought up in England and has got the ability to play for the England national team," said Hodgson.

"I'd like to think he would prefer that and would choose us over Jamaica but if that is his desire, we would have to accept that.

"I've not invited him here because I'm worried about overtures from other countries but because he is a potential England player of the near future, not distant future."

He is aware of the attention the call-up has been given due to Sterling's age and the fact he has only made seven senior appearances for the Merseyside giants.

"When you bring in a young player who has only burst on to the scene in the last couple of games, I'm causing headlines to be written," said Hodgson.

"I understand and take that responsibility.

"I've spoken to Brendan Rodgers and explained the thinking behind him coming in. I'll also make it clear to Raheem.

"He will be pretty lucky to get close to the field because there were plenty of players who were chosen in front of him.

"I can only hope he takes it in the right way. He mustn't think he's become part of the set-up and has made it.

"He has to try, next time, to make sure he is one of the original 23."

Gerrard - Don't Rush Sterling

Steven Gerrard says England need to be patient with young stars such as Raheem Sterling, as preparations continue for a difficult encounter against Ukraine.

Liverpool winger Sterling has been added to Roy Hodgson's squad, along with midfielders Adam Lallana and Jake Livermore of Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, after Theo Walcott became the latest player to be ruled out of the Wembley clash.

Sterling's call-up is a reward for his strong start to the season at Anfield, and Reds team-mate Gerrard is excited about the talented 17-year-old.

But the England captain says the likes of Sterling, Lallana and Livermore should be allowed to develop without being put under too much pressure.

Asked about Sterling, Gerrard said: "I think he deserves this call-up. The impact he has made has been sensational and he has been one of our shining lights.

"The results we have had this season haven't been good enough but he has still stood up and his performances have been really good.

"I think the important thing now is that he keeps his feet on the ground, keeps learning and keeps trying to find a consistency in his game, but I don't think it's going to be long before he is in this set-up as a regular because he is that kind of talent."

Gerrard added: "These young lads are fantastic talents. I think it is important to be patient with them because they have all the tools.

"Let's not build them up and put too much pressure on them. Let them just progress and become good players naturally."

While the experience of being around the England squad will help players such as Sterling develop, it will be the senior figures like Gerrard who must shoulder the responsibility of getting the job done against Ukraine.

The two teams met at Euro 2012, where England needed fortune on their side as they battled to a 1-0 victory, and Gerrard is expecting another tough clash.

He is determined to pick up three points, though, and push on from a convincing 5-0 win over group minnows Moldova on Friday.

Benitez Shocked By Liverpool Snub

Rafa Benitez has expressed his surprise at the fact he was not approached by Liverpool to replace Kenny Dalglish at Anfield this summer.

The former Reds boss, who guided the club to Champions League and FA Cup glory during five successful seasons on Merseyside, feels his achievements should have at least earned him the opportunity of an interview, after declaring his interest in the job.

However, Liverpool's American owners Fenway Sports Group, led by principal owner John W Henry, overlooked Benitez instead plumping for former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers to take charge of the side.

"It was strange not to be approached," the Spaniard told the Irish Independent. "We know the club, the players, the Academy and we have even more experience now. The fans were positive about the idea."

Benitez has been out of work since leaving Inter Milan in 2010, but believes despite a disappointing last season at Anfield his overall record stands up to the test.

"We used to play so many important games that it seemed it was normal and it wasn't," he explained. "People were talking about 'the past', but just a few years ago Liverpool FC was No.1 in Europe."

Under Rodgers, Liverpool have made a disappointing start to the 2012/13 campaign, losing two and drawing one of their opening three games, and currently lie 18th in the Premier League table with a solitary point.

Liverpool Unites As Hillsborough Families Close In On The Truth

On Wednesday, 23 years, four months and 28 days on from the Hillsborough Disaster, the families of those who died hope to hear the truth.

At Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, an independent panel led by the Bishop of Liverpool and put together with the purpose of examining evidence withheld for so long, will give its findings to a group of people who have been unable to rest since April 15 1989.

Ninety-six people were crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final clash between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest that day, a figure which survivors have long contested could have been considerably less. And they hope that previously unseen documents released only recently to the panel will prove them right.

The initial inquests into the tragedy provided few answers to the bereaved and that they have had to fight so long for closure has only compounded their grief.

The 3.15pm cut-off time imposed by the coroner, on the false assumption that all those who died at Hillsborough had done so by that point, was the first in a long line of injustices in the case. Despite 15-year-old Kevin Williams clearly showing signs of life at 4.00pm, an hour after the start of the match which was abandoned at 3.06pm, no evidence beyond the allotted time was allowed.

The unjustness continued with a request that the blood alcohol levels of all victims be read to the court – even that of a 10-year-old boy – in an attempt to set the tone over how supporters needlessly died at a stadium without a valid safety certificate.
All of this helped ensure that a verdict of accidental death could be recorded, absolving the police, whose responsibility it had been to protect the crowd, from all blame. And, while the families do not seek to place culpability as a method of gaining revenge, or on some flawed ‘eye-for-an-eye’ logic, they still wish to hear the truth about how their loved ones died.

The truth about why just two of the 42 ambulances which arrived at the scene made it onto the pitch to help dying fans. Why Gate C of the Leppings Lane end was opened, effectively starts the crush which killed 96 people. Why in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, it was alleged by a senior police official that this gate had been forced open by Liverpool fans.

The families, led by the Hillsborough Family Support Group and Hillsborough Justice Campaign, have often seen their efforts undermined by such malicious untruths as this, peddled as early as the day of the disaster itself.

The infamous story from the Sun newspaper which falsely stated that Liverpool fans beat up policemen, picked pockets and urinated on the dead also entrenched an incorrect perception of events in the public consciousness. That these sickening claims came under the headline “The Truth” only strengthened their reach, despite not one of the several thousand people in attendance corroborating the story, and have led to a lengthy boycott of the tabloid on Merseyside which stands to this day.

Unfortunately, further myths regarding ticketless fans or drunken behaviour being contributory factors to the 96 deaths will be hard to fully dispel. They are deep-rooted, insidious claims which stem from the statements made by police and the media over 20 years ago, and they linger despite being dismissed by a number of subsequent reports.

However, whether these lies originated from as high up as the Tory government then in power will now finally be shared. It has been alleged by survivors that a cover-up was orchestrated from the very top, an argument they insist is supported by the two-decade gap between the initial inquest and this most recent inquiry by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

But, while survivors and bereaved families still face a lifelong war against these lies, their battle for the facts, the one thing they have long craved, may finally be coming to an end.

If Wednesday’s evidence is as explosive as the families hope, then it will doubtless lead to further inquiries and possibly a fresh set of inquests with no cut-off time wrongly imposed. Should this happen then the lack of care shown towards the fans in attendance that day may well be revealed, and pertinent questions about why it has taken so long to expose it will be asked.

Of course evidence of a cover-up will provide no consolation for those who lost loved ones on that day, nothing could. But finally understanding how these avoidable deaths came about may be the first step in allowing them to bring a 20-year fight, one which they should never have had to start, to an end.