WELL RED INDEPENDENT LFC SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE
ISSUE ONENo.3 £2.70 £2.70 AUG/SEP 2010 APRIL-MAY 2010
EVERY LIVERPOOL MANAGER SINCE 1959 HAS WON A TROPHY (No pressure then, Mr Hodgson)
ROB JONES INTERVIEW
TONY EVANS'S FAR FOREIGN LAND
WELL RED INDEPENDENT LFC SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE
CONTENTS 3 6
16 20 24 26 30
38 40 44 46 50 52 56 58 60
Red All About It Fan news Hodgson Reaction: the good, the bad and the ugly New Season What do you expect from it? Two Red writers give their views Ta Rafa La Benitez tributes Xabi Alonso Why we still miss the Spaniard Rob Jones Interview with our former right back Far Foreign Land Extract from Tony Evans’s book, detailing Heysel, and the build up to the disaster David Morrissey The actor on all things LFC Your say We ask fans all about LFC issues Carra Neil Scott pays tribute to the defender Doing a Leeds Are we heading the same way? Buying the club The SOS credit union explained Is the future bright? Special report on the LFC youth set up Life in Liverpool Matches Tony Teasdale remembers Coventry away in 1987 Pepe Reina Neil Jones on the brilliance of our No.1 Keeping in the shade The goalies that didn’t make it
WELL RED is completely independent from Liverpool Football Club. It is produced by Liverpool fans, for Liverpool fans. If you would like to write for Well Red, get in touch with your ideas. Submissions that are well written, researched and show considered opinion will be printed in the magazine, regardless of whether we agree with your stance or not.
No.3 AUG/SEP 2010
All the reaction to Hodgson’s appointment
Editor: Gareth Roberts email: email@example.com Write to: Well Red Publishing Ltd, Ofﬁce 113, Imperial Court, Exchange Street East, Liverpool, L3 2AB Website: wellredmag.co.uk Blog: robbohuyton.blogspot.com
RED ALL ABOUT IT: NEWS ROUND-UP
FIGHTING FOR OUR FUTURE EFFORTS to oust hated owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett from Liverpool Football Club have stepped up a notch following the sacking of Rafa Benitez. Membership of supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly (www.spiritofshankly.com) has swelled to more than 6,000 and SOS believes member numbers were also boosted by former owner David Moores’s decision to publicly criticise Hicks and Gillett in The Times and call for the pair to sell the club. More than 5,000 fans turned out for the ‘LFC Independence Day’ rally on July 4 at St George’s Plateau in Liverpool (right). SOS launched a credit union scheme on the day – a first step towards the goal of fan ownership of the club (see page 50). Bill Shankly’s grandaughter, Karen Gill, ex players John Aldridge and Howard Gayle, comedian John Bishop and Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram were among the speakers on the day. The Liverpool Echo, too, has turned on the owners. After adopting a relatively neutral stance in recent times, the newspaper finally retrained its sights on Hicks and Gillett following a barrage of criticism from fans. A front page in May called for Hicks and Gillett to leave: “The message today to American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett is blunt, passionate, and heartfelt. For God’s sake, get out of a wonderful, treasured football club which so many of our readers, plus millions more around the world, love and cherish so deeply. “And get out now – before you kill their beloved Liverpool FC.” Liverpool politicians are also taking the fight to the Americans. Rotheram tabled an Early Day Motion asking the House of Commons to: • Express dismay at Tom Hicks and
George Gillett failing to be responsible stewards of LFC. • Note the departure of Rafael Benitez. • Regret the failure to provide a new stadium. • Support talks with supporters’ groups. • Look to an early change of ownership. Rotheram, supported by fellow Merseyside MPs Alison McGovern, Maria Eagle, Dave Watts, Derek Twigg, and Bill Esterson, said: “I am a Reds fan but this was started by Peter Kilfoyle who is a Blue. This is not about Liverpool FC, or even the stadium. Both the clubs are in my Walton constituency and this is about the negative impact this impasse is having on certain areas of Liverpool. “I don’t know if this will be debated but someone told me I could do this so I did. It’s just one way of putting pressure on the owners which is something we all should be doing.” Rotheram also used his maiden speech in the Commons to claim the actions of Gillett and Hicks “threatened the club’s existence”. He said: “England’s most successful football club is slowly being drained by the greed of two American asset strippers and this is having a negative impact on regeneration projects for the whole area.”
A CAMPAIGN designed to complement the work of SOS – Help Save Liverpool FC – has been launched by fans from the Red and White Kop website. A website for the campaign – which has the motto: “To bring Liverpool FC fans together, educate about the situation the club is in, and update members on what we can do to try and change that situation” – has just been launched: www. savelfc.org You can also find out more on Twitter (twitter.com/ saveliverpoolfc) and Facebook (facebook.com/ helpsaveliverpoolfc). An alternative kit (below) has been designed to help a boycott of official merchandise, t-shirts have been produced and a protest song has also been released with proceeds helping to fund the campaign. March of the Sons of Shankly was adapted from the Irish/Mexican protest song March of the San Patricios.
RED NEWS ALL ROUND ABOUTUP IT
Shop before you Kop
WITH official merchandise off the shopping list for a lot of Reds right now, the search is on for alternative match-day clobber. And Hat, Scarf or a Badge at 371 Walton Breck Road (by the Flat Iron) is well worth a visit for threads that won’t break the bank, pay Hicks & Gillett’s debt, or make you look like a whopper. The shop does what it says on the tin in that sells hats, scarfs and badges. But it also stocks Well Red (ahem) and is the only official seller on Merseyside for the Spirit of Shankly’s merchandise. All profits from SOS items go straight to the union. Hat, Scarf or a Badge also stocks a range of books and DVDs by fans and local authors. Order online at: hatscarf-or-a-badge.com
A SURVEY of fans by The Times found that Liverpool’s board of directors is the second most unpopular in the Premier League. The only surprise was it was pipped for the lowest rating by Portsmouth’s directors, who brought the south coast club close to extinction. Who gave Anfield’s suits the thumbs up? They might have changed their minds when their season ticket renewal arrived. A seven per cent pay rise after the worst league finish in 11 years? And 50 notes more if you ring up or turn up at the ticket office? Genius. 4
WORRIES OVER JUSTICE IT DIDN’T take long, did it? No sooner is a Tory government in power (is there a point to the Lib Dems?) and the same old slurs about Hillsborough are being trotted out. For those that missed it, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on live TV that he was “incredibly encouraged by the example set by the England fans.” He added: “I mean, not a single arrest for a football-related offence, and the terrible problems that we had in Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us”. For a government minister to believe the disaster that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans was caused by hooliganism is beyond belief. He may have apologised, but that’s just a career-saving move made with the benefit of hindsight. What he really thinks - and no doubt what many of those in power believe - was exposed by his initial quote, why else are there now doubts being placed over the Hillsborough panel, established by the Labour government to investigate the mountain of secret documents relating to the disaster? Former cabinet minister Andy Burnham (above, centre), orginally from Liverpool and central to the establishment of the panel, said Hunt’s comments about Hillsborough displayed “casual ignorance”. He added: “It is very depressing to hear a cabinet minister make this remark, it shows a casual ignorance about one of the biggest man-made
disasters this country has ever seen. We have been through this many times, and at the twentieth anniversary I thought the country had gone beyond it.” He called on Mr Hunt to give “full and unequivocal support” to the Hillsborough inquiry. He said: “I am pleased he has made this apology, but I would ask him to go further and give full and unequivocal support for the independent Hillsborough inquiry.” Regarding the panel, the Daily Mirror quoted a source from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport saying: “Things are not as simple as before.” Burnham added: “There are still misconceptions about the tragedy, even within the Cabinet. “This is precisely why I, together with (Labour former ministers) Maria Eagle and Derek Twigg, called for the full disclosure of all public documents relating to the disaster and the establishment of the Hillsborough Independent Panel - to give the people of Merseyside the full truth and to end these misconceptions once and for all.” Pointing to the newspaper report, he asked Speaker John Bercow: “Is it in order that on an issue of this significance and importance, that a change in policy can be dealt with by off-the-record briefings? “Don’t the people of Merseyside deserve the courtesy of a minister of the crown coming to this House today to tell them exactly what they are up to?”
And what a Hunt this fella is, too... EVERY heard of Councillor Russell Hawker? Thought not. This small-time MP wannabe decided to stick his oar into Hillsborough after Jeremy Hunt’s apology. Hawker, an independent councillor for Westbury, Wiltshire, used Twitter to claim Hunt should not have apologised. The former Tory wrote: “Hillsborough disaster WAS caused by hooligans pushing and shoving!!!” He followed it up with: “I sympathise with the victims, but just being real about the culprits. Pushing hard in a crowd is unruly, aggressive and dangerous. “I regard hooliganism as root cause of Hillsborough disaster but other faults also occurred. e.g. crass police incompetence.” The ‘tweets’ were later deleted. Unsurprisingly, Hawker was swamped with phone calls, texts, emails and tweets from angry Liverpool fans. Not only is his ignorance and prejudice offensive, it’s people like him that have hindered the fight for justice. For every clued-up fan complaining about Hawker, how many more around the world thought ‘no smoke without fire?’ It’s exactly the reason why The S*n is still boycotted - sh*t sticks. Hawker snubbed Well Red’s attempts to contact him by phone, text and email. It seemed, however, the publicityhungry no-mark was
happy to speak to other media outlets. In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, it was put to him that his views were misinformed and contrary to the findings of the Taylor Report. Lord Justice Taylor ruled South Yorkshire Police were solely to blame for the tragedy. The cretin replied: “I don’t think I’m misinformed, I have a different view, that’s all.” A petition calling for his resignation has been circulating in Westbury while fans have continued to contact him. But Hawker is standing by his comments. The closest he came to an apology was: “Some of my earlier comments are being taken out of context. “I was not talking about victims. I am very sorry to anyone who took offence.” His blog, and Twitter account continue to tell a different story, however. On his Twitter he revealed: “I’ve not received death threats yet but every other form of intimidation seems
to have been tried by Scousers, even arranging an accident claim.” He also tried to make light of it all, adding: “Ah well, Boris Johnson did well down south after apologising for several gaffes. Maybe I should.. no, maybe not.” The Wiltshire Times reported him as saying: “Quite clearly a large number of people from a certain part of the UK want to keep talking about it. Some of them are abusive and are obsessed about the matter. “I understand that they have lost relatives, but it was 21 years ago. “Things have moved on. I don’t know how to deal with it any more than I have already. I removed the Tweets. This will have blown over in a week’s time.” Mr Hawker admitted he has no connection with Hillsborough. “I can’t say I was there but I was watching the telly on the day and saw it all happen,” he said. Hawker’s contact details are online at: cms.wiltshire.gov.uk
NEWS ROUND UP
World Cup banner slashed
A STEWARD slashed a “Save Liverpool FC” banner during the World Cup. A group of Reds displayed banners at every match in South Africa that read: “Save Liverpool FC - Get Hicks and Gillett Out”. Nadeem Khan, 29, was at the Germany v Australia game with his wife and three-year-old daughter when a Fifa official accused him of being a hooligan. The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) is investigating. Khan, a member of the South African Liverpool Supporters Club, had displayed the banner, at the Durban Stadium just after kick-off. Half-way through the first half, Khan saw three stewards removing it and as he approached them he was asked to follow them to the security office in the ground. “I could not believe it,” he said. “All the other banners had been left there. “When I got into the office, they began to lecture me about football hooliganism and went through my mobile phone. “He cut my banner up with a Stanley blade and told me they would keep their eye on me. They noted down my ticket numbers, too.” There was better news for the campaign when TV commentator Jonathan Pearce mentioned the banner in the Spain v Portugal game live on BBC1. He said: “That Save Liverpool FC banner we’ve seen a few times is here again tonight.”
Bluenose sticker plan fails
EVERTON fans taking the piss out of Liverpool is always a good laugh – people in glasshouses and all that. But spare a chuckle for the bitters who went to the trouble of having the ‘hilarious’ Keep Rafa In Our City stickers printed up. Well they’re about as useful as Tony Hibbert now, aren’t they? While we’re here, why don’t the Toffees look at their own manager? While David Moyes has been in charge Everton have chalked up their lowest points total in a season in their history; they’ve never beaten any of the big four away; they’ve won nothing and Moyes has lost more derby league games than any other Everton manager (with the exception of Will Cuff who managed Everton for 17 years). Keep Moyes In Our City stickers, anyone?
IT’S not often the phrase, ‘We agree with Ken Bates’ is written. But in this instance, we do. You see old white beard wasn’t too happy that Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford decided to swap Elland Road for Woodison. He was caught on film saying: “Jermaine, thank you. It’s not too late to think about not going to a two-bob club like Everton and staying with a that has a great future, like Leeds United.” Shame about the last bit, Ken.
HODGSON IS A NICE BLOKE BUT...
HEY knew it, and we knew it. Roy Hodgson as manager of Liverpool Football Club is a step down. It’s an appointment that would never have happened minus these owners, minus this board. Yet happened it has, and now we’re stuck with him. Don’t get me wrong, the bloke seems a sound fella. But my dad’s a sound fella, and I wouldn’t want him as manager of Liverpool, either. Some of you will read this and think, ‘Come on, support the manager.’ Well, I will. When Liverpool run out against Arsenal for the first game of the season, I’ll support the team AND the manager. But I still don’t support the decision to appoint him in the first place. The suits at Anfield – and the tw*ts in America – they knew it would be that way. They knew appointing Hodgson would piss supporters off. But they did it anyway. Because they don’t care about supporters. And if they didn’t know, perhaps the graffiti near to Anfield on the day Hodgson was presented to the press served as a reminder. “Purslow FC. Purslow is a c**t.” The message was clear - fans know this is an appointment made for the wrong reasons. It doesn’t feel like a footballing decision. The whole process felt stage managed. From approaching managers that were clearly never going to come to Liverpool (Didier Deschamps announced a new contract with
BY GARETH ROBERTS
French champions Marseille shortly after Christian Purslow’s highlypublicised approach) to the overrehearsed answers in the Anfield press conference. It was all to say, ‘Look, we tried for some of the very best managers in the world, but Roy is the best option.’ There was even an answer in the press conference about foreign managers struggling in their first season to adapt to the Premier Leaugue. Roy, of course, knows the Premier League. Oh, and did we mention he’s British? Look at how desperate the club were to crowbar their key messages in when Hodgson was appointed. The official website told us over and over again that Kenny Dalglish had approved the decision to appoint Hodgson, as did (temporary) chairman Martin Broughton. The name of The King was used to legitimise the process. The message was, The King thinks it’s alright, so should you. Then Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were quoted. The Scouse heartbeat of the club thinks it’s alright, so should you. Then Broughton mentioned that Hodgson had won LMA manager of the year. The LMA think it’s alright, so should you. Thing is, Kenny DIDN’T think it was alright, did he? Why did he push so strongly to be given the role himself if he had confidence in the candidates the club was targeting? Kenny’s son, Paul, was quoted in The
That’s it, keep saying ‘Kenny’ and don’t mention the money... Telegraph as saying of his dad: “I do not think he is the best person for the job, but he is the best person of everybody available. “It is not as though Jose Mourinho is going to come and do the job. It is not as though Fabio Capello is going to leave England to be the next manager of Liverpool. “My dad wants to do the job and he feels he is the best person available to do the job. If Jose Mourinho was available and wanted it, my dad would not have any interest in the job, because all he ever does is act in the best interest of Liverpool. “If new owners come in to invest money in the team and they can attract a Mourinho or a Capello, he would happily step aside if it was in the best interest of the club. “My dad wants to do the job because he feels it is the best thing for Liverpool at this time. If that were to change, he would happily step aside.” Well that didn’t change, did it? But the board went ahead and appointed Hodgson anyway, claiming he ‘ticked all the boxes’.
HODGSON’S HIGHS 1976: First job in Halmstad, Sweden, where he won two titles. 1992: Becomes manager of Switzerland. Takes them to the 1994 World Cup and Euro 96. 1997: Loses UEFA Cup final while boss at Inter Milan. Repeats feat at Fulham in 2010. Well, Mr Broughton, what boxes would they be, I wonder? In his sixties (tick), journeyman (tick), blew a load of money and was sacked by Blackburn (tick). And as for bringing up the LMA as some kind of sign of quality? Nah. Past winners include Joe Kinnear, Frank Clark and George Burley. Say no more. It seems the board – none of them football men – became obsessed with appointing someone British. Someone that would curry favour with the nation’s hacks. Someone, apparently, who would do things with ‘class’ and ‘dignity’. Recognise those phrases? You may well do. They appeared in at
HODGSON’S LOWS 1982: Sacked as manager of Bristol City after run of poor results 1998: Sacked by Blackburn after winning nine points from 14 games 2001: Sacked by Udinese 2005: Sacked by UAE least five or six reports from senior national journalists (some before Hodgson had even been confirmed as manager). Not that those writers were briefed to pen those very words by ‘senior sources’ at Anfield, good God no, could you imagine? That would almost be like someone was trying to pull the wool over our eyes, wouldn’t it? Liverpool is, still, just, a formula one racing car. But thanks to the wisdom of the powers that be, we now have someone expert at steering a milk float driving it. And he’s on the back of the grid. With only a bit of fuel. Yet, still, he’ll be expected to make pole position… 7
Roy versus Rafa? Sorry, there is no comparison I
S it just me or is there a certain irony in being accused of blind faith for supporting Rafa Benitez in the darkest days last season and then being told you have to get behind Roy Hodgson this? It would appear that to question the club’s motives or Hodgson’s record at this juncture is unwelcome or a sign of all out mutiny to some. The ironic theme continues with the ongoing character assassination of Benitez from certain quarters (some people don’t seem to be able to let
BY TAF MCDONALD
go) and when you try and put the record straight the same people reply ‘he’s gone now, you need to forget about him. Oh, and get behind Roy’. For me the sense we have taken a step backwards while feverishly continuing to paper over the cracks can’t be shaken. Meanwhile, there seems to be some sort of lemming’s philosophy about ‘well it’s done now and we have to show support.’ But it’s not a question of not
ITAL DO NICELY: Benitez with Inter Milan’s sport director Marco Branca 8
showing support – something surely all Reds intend to do come kick off in August. In the meantime can we not question and discuss whether this was a good or bad appointment? This is the first manager appointment at Liverpool Football Club I can recall feeling I had to support the manager out of a sense of duty so I don’t rock the boat. It is an appointment which is symptomatic of a club which is heading only one way – backwards. It’s extremely difficult to not bring Rafa into any early conversations concerning Roy because of the palpable sense of downgrading. Having been asked several times what my thoughts on Roy’s appointment are, I always find myself saying ‘It’s a travesty and shouldn’t have happened, we had one of the top managers in the world’. It’s my immediate response, the words pop out before I’ve considered the reaction I’ll get (which all too often is a mumbling about ‘steadying the ship’). It would appear that seventh place put us on the same path as the Titanic heading towards the iceberg. When you list the achievements of both managers side by side there is no comparison. In terms of silverware, quality of silverware or league positions, Rafa always comes top. In fact when you list Hodgson’s achievements next to other managers linked to the job they don’t look as impressive. A strategy statement from the club just two months ago read: “The
strategy is to deliver the plans for growth and football success. “The immediate elements are to continue to strengthen the football squad and to implement plans for a new stadium.” Without getting bogged down in the stadium questions or our sell-tobuy transfer policy - how is replacing one of the top managers in the world with a likeable journeyman aligned to football success? He may be tactically capable, a good man motivator and liked by the media (a prerequisite for our club it seems) but when has he delivered significant domestic football success in line with the top managers in the world? We’ve downgraded our manager. That is not said with any malice intended, but when you take the records of both managers the one who left stands out. Meanwhile huge question marks hang over the heads of Torres, Gerrard and Mascherano; never mind some of the fringe players or those who need offloading (Riera springs to mind). We’re told that any player sales will see Roy’s transfer budget increase
but let’s be realistic - if Torres (below) goes for £60million how much of that £60m will Roy actually have to re-invest? I don’t see the banks allowing £60m to come in and go straight back out while they’re owed such vast amounts. So some downgrading of our playing squad is highly likely. Yet - and here’s the biggest danger - the club keeps talking itself up and some fans don’t downgrade their expectations. It was the failure of delivering expectations that slowly eroded Benitez’s ‘power’ last season, which was inextricably linked to performance and fan backing.
Then I see expectations for this season ranging from the squad just needing a few tweaks to be top four competitive to others banking on Champions League qualification to the truly delusional talk about winning the title. Pressure could mount quickly and relentlessly on Hodgson, especially when you look at our opening fixtures. Unless we keep hold of all our star players and add some fresh faces then expectations need lowering and quickly. The Premier League is set to be at its most competitive next season. Spurs are yet to improve their squad, but in the time we’d taken to offload the capable Yossi Benayoun, Manchester City had added David Silva and Yaya Toure to their ranks. The quality of a machine is the sum total of the quality of its parts. Much can be said the same for a football club and those ‘parts’ include the manager. We’re like a BMW and the six cylinder petrol engine has been transplanted for a diesel one. It’s reliable and cheaper but the performance just isn’t quite there. 9
Liverpool’s great expectations will haunt Hodgson T
HE LIVERPOOL job comes with a level of expectation unmatched in English football. No other manager is expected to deliver the title without the money that rival clubs have so freely spent in the past to land the coveted prize. What about Arsenal, you might say. Arsenal who haven’t won anything for five years. Arsenal where the manager, Arsene Wenger, guaranteed silverware last season but didn’t get torn to shreds for not delivering on the promise – unlike some other manager I could mention (alright Rafa, la?). It seems many demand number 19 whatever the circumstances at L4. ‘We are Liverpool,’ they cry before reeling off the honours list that, while a source of pride for anyone connected to the Reds, is increasingly becoming a millstone around the neck of our managers. In the past six years, only Chelsea have broken the Mancs’ stranglehold on the title – and they spent £225million in 2005 to add to a squad that was already in and around the top four. Harry Redknapp has blown a fortune (£150million in 16 months) yet he is lauded as a genius for finishing fourth at Spurs. Since Martin O’Neill has been in charge at Aston Villa they have spent more money than any other Premier League club (apart from Manchester City), yet the suits and the fans at Villa Park are happy for him to stay in charge, seemingly accepting of a sixth-place finish and a cup final in which they didn’t manage a shot on target. For Roy Hodgson, that kind
BY GARETH ROBERTS
of spending is something he will only be able to do when he registers his fantasy football team. While Tom Hicks and George Gillett remain in charge, the money needed to add numbers and quality to a squad lacking in both will not be forthcoming. Even the most optimistic reports suggest the most the new manager can expect is £20million and whatever he recoups from sales. Of course the goalposts could quickly move once Hodgson gets his feet under the table – it wouldn’t be the first time. But let’s just assume they don’t, for the sake of argument. Once upon a time, it was possible to pluck decent players from the lower leagues and fuse them with a smattering of locals to form a decent team. Throw in a couple of superstars and you’re away. Now? Well local lads who could make the grade seem to be thin on the ground and so much is invested into scouting that lower league gems rarely seem to emerge. It’s big bucks you need if you want to win things these days (especially the title). Big bucks we haven’t got. The continuing off-the-field problems at the club should mean supporters lower their sights now that Hodgson has taken the reins. Don’t bank on it though. You see not all people who ‘follow’ Liverpool are supporters. Some are consumers. They buy tickets, shirts, merchandise, a Sky subscription, an ESPN subscription, and they want a return. It’s not about support, it’s not
appreciation of where the club is at, where it is going and the resources at its disposal – it’s about being satisfied. And if these consumers are not satisfied, they complain. They’ve been brought up with the motto ‘the customer is always right’. And they think it applies to football, too. So if Roy Hodgson crashes to three defeats inside a month (highly feasible given the fixture list) these ‘fans’ will complain. They’ll moan on phone-ins, bombard the forums and gripe at the match. They’ll ignore the evidence of what happens when you change the manager on a whim (see Manchester City, see Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and so on) and start to suggest the new man is the wrong choice. Perhaps we need a new approach, new ideas, a new manager, they’ll say – and the process starts again. Over the top? I don’t think so. The fact some ‘supporters’ began calling for the head of Rafa Benitez after the European Cup final defeat in 2007 says it all. The very fact we were there in the first place represented progress. Pre-Istanbul, the last time Liverpool lined up in a European Cup Final was 1985. It’s that kind of unrealistic expectation Hodgson will have to endure. Then add into the mix that no permanent manager at Liverpool since 1959 has ended their reign potless. What other club can point to pressure like that? Good luck, Roy.
OPINION KENNY THRILL: Dalglish lifts Liverpool’s last top flight title back in 1990
LIVERPOOL MANAGERS SINCE 1959 RAFAEL BENITEZ (2004-2010) Champions League 2005 FA Cup 2006 GERARD HOULLIER (1998-2004) League Cup 2001, 2003 FA Cup 2001 UEFA Cup 2001 ROY EVANS (1994-1998) League Cup 1995 GRAEME SOUNESS (1991-1994) FA Cup 1992 KENNY DALGLISH (1985-1991) First Division 1986, 1988, 1990 FA Cup 1986, 1989 JOE FAGAN (1983-1985) First Division 1984 League Cup 1984 European Cup 1984 BOB PAISLEY (1974-1983) First Division 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983 League Cup 1981, 1982, 1983 European Cup 1977, 1978, 1981 UEFA Cup 1976 BILL SHANKLY (1959-1974) First Division 1964, 1966, 1973 Second Division 1962 FA Cup 1965, 1974 UEFA Cup 1973 11
ROY DOESN’T NEED TO RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN BY RORY SMITH, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH’S NORTH WEST FOOTBALL WRITER
N the six weeks after Rafa Benitez’s six years at Anfield came to a close, the official history of his reign was established. In the boardroom and the stands, in the press and the pubs, it was a story written, as always, by the victors. The doctrine of Benitez as failure had become fact. He failed because he did not, could not win the Premier League title. He failed because he lost the support of his players, a squad he – with two notable exceptions – brought to Liverpool. He failed because he favoured quantity over quality, but then somehow found himself deprived of both. He failed because he sold Xabi Alonso. Whatever the reason, he failed. It is a harsh judgment on a man who won the Champions League once, reached another final, returned the FA Cup to Anfield, orchestrated Liverpool’s first true title challenge in almost a decade, and brought some of the world’s best players to the club. Some would say Benitez’s legacy, in silverware and market value, is proof that he was a success. Which of those views is correct is a debate that has raged between Liverpool fans with increasing intensity over the last couple of years. The former has won out, of course, but then that is what happens at times of regime change. History, in football as in politics, is malleable. It
RAFA: A success and a failure bends and it twists to suit the dogma of the time. Debating whether that is right or wrong, though, is of no merit. Not because it is futile, nor because it distracts from the real issue that Liverpool face, its absentee American overlords, but because for the club to move on, there needs to be an acceptance that Benitez was a success and a failure. The word George Orwell, a man who viewed football as a game “bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence,” coined for such occasions was “doublethink”. It is the ability to hold two mutually contradictory views as truth at one and the same time. It is a skill Liverpool must learn to develop. Yes, Benitez failed. He failed last season, in particular, and while it is easy to suggest it was caused by Tom Hicks and George Gillett moving
the goalposts in terms of funding, he still failed. Even in an era when fourth place is considered a form of qualified success, thanks to the imbalance in the game created by the financial behemoth of the Champions League, seventh is nothing but failure. In such circumstances, the temptation for Roy Hodgson, the man nominated as Benitez’s replacement, to rip up the Spaniard’s template must be considerable. It is a fine footballing tradition, after all: a new manager is supposed to gut the squad, banish the backroom staff, start from scratch. It is vital that Hodgson resists that lure, that a thoughtful, considered manager acknowledges that he has not inherited a long-term legacy of failure, that his predecessor, for all the criticism and vitriol he received in the dying throes of his tenure, has bequeathed him plenty of evidence of his success. Naturally, much of the talk this summer will be of the fate of Liverpool’s crown jewels. Javier Mascherano is agitating, again, for a move closer to his home in San Lorenzo, just north of Buenos Aires. To accomplish this, he wishes to move to Barcelona (400 miles closer than Liverpool) or Internazionale of Milan (50 miles further away). Fernando Torres is contemplating his future as Chelsea and Barcelona hover, concerned not by the identity of the man who takes training but by
the signature of Hicks and Gillett on his £110,000-a-week pay-check. Steven Gerrard, too, faces a dilemma over whether he sticks or twists, whether he can afford to hand the Americans one more chance to sell up and move on. But such decisions are not especially difficult ones. Yes, Hodgson must take into account whether it is better to have money in the bank – though which account it goes into remains an issue – or the player on the pitch, but it is safe to assume that, in an ideal world, he would like to keep all three. They are, after all, among the best in the world in their positions. Instead, it is with those players viewed as Benitez’s chaff that Hodgson must acknowledge that Liverpool’s recent history is not black and white, not good or bad, but
defined in the finest shades of grey. At the time of writing, Fiorentina are signing Emiliano Insua, Palermo monitoring Lucas Leiva. Juventus are thought to be interested in Martin Skrtel, while the likes of Diego Cavalieri, Nabil El Zhar, Dani Pacheco, Daniel Ayala and Albert Riera have all been linked with moves away. All of those players have been used as proof of Benitez’s folly, cast as monuments to the Spaniard’s great failure. Some of them will leave, of course, to raise funds, and some should go, having outlived their usefulness. But this is a squad, for all of the hyperbole concerning Liverpool’s shortcomings, which finished second in the Premier League just 14 months ago. There is no need for a revolution. It is the same behind the scenes.
Hodgson will bring in his trusted lieutenant, Mike Kelly, and an expanded role should be found for Kenny Dalglish, to make best use of his experience. There is, though, no reason to undo all of the good work Benitez did at the club, particularly the Academy. No bloodletting, then, is needed if Hodgson, brought in to steady the ship, is to steer Liverpool through the most troubled waters in the last 50 years. He must fine-tune, of course, but he does not need to overhaul. The only place there must be a purge, in fact, is the one area there can be no doubt over whether a reign has been a success or a failure and, sadly, the only sphere in which Hodgson has no influence. In the boardroom, the lair of Hicks and Gillett, there is no need for any doublethink.
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE... BY STEVE LILLIS, FREELANCE SPORTS WRITER AND FULHAM SUPPORTER
HERE are plenty of diehard Liverpool fans whose shoulders sank when Roy Hodgson came in for the Spanish waiter – but they are in for a shock. No, ‘Woy’ isn’t Bill Shankly or Bob Paisley. And he won’t win so many trophies that even the most dedicated fan will lose count. But one thing’s for certain when Hodgson leaves – either for England in 2012 or if silly money owners come in – Liverpool will be in a better position than the sorry state your club is in now. Liverpool might be a big club in name, but in my book 11 league losses (two more than Everton, two less than Stoke City) and a thirdround FA Cup exit to Reading is the sort of stuff mid-table clubs are made of. Hodgson can hardly do worse and will bring stability at a time when Liverpool are being trampled all over and spat out by rival teams you love to hate. Christ, you are even looking up at two Manc clubs! You all know what he did at Fulham on the field – after all that is what landed him the Liverpool job. Off the field speak to any player who was under him at Craven Cottage and they will sing his praises. He has more eye for detail and precision than a bunch of crooks planning a bank heist for a year and hours will be spent on the training ground getting it right with repetitive drills. Fulham players used to laugh because Hodgson’s training regime was so dull – but it brought results 14
OPINION and respect for Roy from the players – especially men like Aaron Hughes, Dickson Etuhu and Chris Baird who went from donkeys to thoroughbreds. Liverpool players can expect the same, and it’s no surprise that I heard he couldn’t give a damn whether Kop galacticos like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres do one or not. He doesn’t go for big names, never has, and while he sorts out the mess expect the transfer budget to be spent on a few decent Scandics and rising British youngsters. He wants Brede Hangeland from Fulham but Mohamed Al Fayed would
rather have a night on the keg with Prince Philip than sell to Liverpool. Good for us, but a shame for Liverpool – Hangeland would be the new Sami Hyypia. Mighty Mo feels let down by Hodgson as do half our fans. For me it is thanks for memories and hoping he is a success. It won’t be samba football, just neat, methodical and almost 1990 Italian – but my money says Liverpool sneak a top-four place and win the Europa League. If he can get Paul Konchesky and Baird to master two-legged football against continental opponents, then the superior players he has at Anfield
should find it a walk in the park. Honestly fellas, you had a result when Kop hero Kenny Dalglish didn’t get the job. He has been out of the game too long and can’t match Hodgson for contacts and footballing brain. Hodgson will change your fortunes, and while he won’t bring back greatness, the foundations will be laid for Liverpool to become kings once more. Good luck to Roy, the team and Liverpool fans – with the exception of the patronising mugs who pitched up at the Europa League final, sang Fulham songs and were Cottagers for the day!
Just give Roy a chance THE world’s worst kept secret finally came to fruition when Roy Hodgson took over the reins. Silver goblet or poison chalice, we wonder? Well, we can hypothesise all we like, but not until the season takes on something of a pattern will anyone be really able to assess the new manager’s impact. Nor, I suggest, should we jump to any conclusions about how the guy will structure the team. And indeed, in saying that, what kind of personnel he will have at his disposal. As I write the futures of several players in red shirts seem hardly guaranteed. Many of Hodgson’s critics keep looking at his past and predicting we’ll become a boring team. But my instincts tell me otherwise and that a guy who has coached top-flight footballers from right across Europe, is hardly likely to apply rigid formations to flair players. He need only look at Capello and England to see the futility of that. No, I am confident that Roy Hodgson is a very pragmatic kind of guy. He might stick to patterns of training that have served him well – it seems he’s very much an advocate of ‘coaching in the
BY MIKE HOPPER
game’ and likes to make his point that way. However, I’d be shocked if a man with his wealth of expertise and experience tried to restrict or confine attackminded players. Imagine anyone trying to tell Torres how to score goals! To that effect many at Melwood, even those who were strong supporters of Rafa’s more scientific and technical methods, will likely be happy to adapt to a change in routine, most certainly in the short term. But anyway, with the savage early list of fixtures, I’d be more than delighted to think we could get through the first five games without conceding a goal. Wouldn’t you? As a staunch supporter of the previous manager, it hurt to see a change in leadership; I certainly hadn’t seen the need for one. Neither did I necessarily presume that Hodgson was the obvious man to take over. But none of us know what sort of impression the interviewees created or the demands they (or their clubs) were making. Words come cheap and it’s far too easy for you and I to get dogmatic about the merits of others when in truth we know nothing about how the interview
processes unfolded. What we do know is that Roy Hodgson came through with ticks in all the right boxes. And for sure, after the press conference, it’s easy to see how he created such a good impression. And just for good measure, RH is a tracksuit manager and we can feel reassured that he’ll be out on the training ground and directly involved with training. That is most certainly a big plus for this supporter at least. Still, for all that said, I know that these few words are unlikely to impact on those of you with a mindset against the man. However, to those critics I will say this: that Liverpool Football is far more important than any individual coach, player or supporter. Now is the time to stick together; to establish a climate of collectivity; a call to arms if you like. So that when Arsene Wenger’s men arrive at our stadium for the first game, the unity of purpose will be there for all to see and feel. All of a sudden, after weeks of limbo, I’m starting to perk up. I’m feeling that it’s the visitors who could well be thinking Anfield might not be the best place to be starting their season. Go for it Roy and good luck! 15
THE NEW SEASON
AND WE’RE GONNA WIN THE LEAGUE HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT THE NEW SEASON? DO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT SHOUTING ‘LEVERAGED BUYOUT’ OR DO YOU MUNCH ON YOUR CEREAL DREAMING OF NUMBER 19? TWO RED WRITERS TELL US THEIR THOUGHTS.
HIS season we’re going to win the league. Despite the turmoil that’s engulfed our club in recent times – the managerial upheaval, the speculation surrounding key players, the ownership debacle – I say this with complete conviction. In fact, I say it with the exact
BY NEIL SCOTT (Mr Glass Half-Full)
same conviction that I do at this time every year. When pre-season optimism is at its height and the inevitable setbacks, distractions and recriminations to come lie as far in the distance as Kate Moss at an All-You-Can-Eat buffet. Because this is the one time of year when all teams are equal, in theory if not in practice. Even supporters of those clubs routinely dismissed by the media as being unfashionable no-hopers – Stoke, Wigan, Blackpool, Everton – privately harbour dreams of glory, although logic and good sense suggest that their actual chances of success are roughly similar to the chances of Paul Merson expressing a coherent opinion. For the most part, it generally takes about two-and-a-half games before giddy expectation is replaced by crushing despair and the realisation that a third round Specsavers Cup triumph at Morecambe is as good as the season is ever going to get. But at Liverpool things are different. Our heritage demands that we challenge for silverware every year. Our dreams are rooted very much in reality, a reality underpinned by twenty-odd years of unbroken success, followed by twenty years of disappointment, rebirth, absurd triumph and deflating uncertainty.
And it is precisely because our dreams came true, again and again, that we are able to look at the start of each campaign as the gateway to a glittering future and as an opportunity for the next set of legends to weave themselves into the Anfield tapestry. So it is in this vein that we approach the start of another new season. We count down the days between each friendly. We scour the back pages and the internet forums for news of the latest transfer target, clinging desperately to the belief that a flagship signing will somehow galvanise our challenge and lead us out of the metaphorical wilderness. We feverishly scan the Channel Five TV listings in the hope that our mid-tempo kick-about with a gang of Austrian insurance salesmen will be enough to oust that film where Jean Claude Van Damme punches himself in the face from the schedules. And all the while, we quietly convince ourselves that this year, more than any other, will be our year. Well that’s the way it’s meant to work. That’s how it always worked in the past. When the gloom of Keegan’s departure was tempered by the realisation that his replacement was a player of even rarer gifts, we could sense that a seamless transition to greater heights was assured. When Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge gave the first glimpses of a unique and thrilling chemistry in a
OPINION pre-season exhibition against Bayern Munich, we knew we were heading for a footballing epiphany Every year was the same. Even when our decline from greatness was well underway, we still clung to the idea that the dawn of each new campaign would herald the resumption of normal service. For a while, I was personally convinced that the signing of Paul Ince was the long-awaited signal that the stars were once more in alignment and our coronation as champions was a mere formality. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It is probably fair to say though that this summer feels different. Even the most blinkered of supporters can see that our prospects for the forthcoming season are as bleak as a Grimsby nightclub. Coming off the back of a massively disappointing campaign, both on and off the field, we have subsequently plunged headlong into a period of even greater instability. We have witnessed the unseemly removal of the manager, a decision owing as much to the internal machinations of an increasingly
dysfunctional organisation as it did to a wholly unsatisfactory series of results. We watched helplessly while a procession of ill-informed experts and ex-players regurgitated a set of well-worn clichés to back up their lazy anti-Benitez agendas. On a daily basis, tabloid muckspreaders have gleefully trumpeted the imminent departures of our most talented performers. And, most significant of all, we are firmly mired in the financial equivalent of the End of Days, with a debt spiralling wildly out of control, a new stadium that seems further away than ever and owners that increasingly resemble a grotesque superannuated version INCE HIGH: I thought ‘The Guv’nor’ of Laurel and Hardy (albeit a version was the final piece in the jigsaw... of Laurel and Hardy where an endearing inability to manoeuvre an moderate their on-field expectations. oversized piano down a suspiciously There is a wearied acceptance narrow stairway has been replaced that we face a mighty struggle by a propensity for bare-faced lying to replicate last season’s seventh and rapacious corporate greed). place finish, with the prospect of In short, our club seems to be Champions League qualification approaching meltdown. widely dismissed as a pipedream. Amid such enveloping The script has been written, the despondency, it is understandable roles cast, and we are merely the that many supporters have chosen to carcass swinging limply as Rocky Balboa repeatedly pummels us, whilst Chelsea, United, even City, flex their biceps and squabble over who will make the best Stallone. There is, of course, another scenario. One where, despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdles, Roy Hodgson inspires a response of unexpected defiance and resolve. Where a set of players roundly condemned last season for their inconsistency, faint-heartedness and frequent mediocrity reveal themselves to be worthy heirs to the great teams of the past. Where a group of supporters that have been buffeted and splintered and let-down and enraged by the fall-out of an unsustainable ownership regime regain their pride and remember exactly what it was that made them Liverpool fans in the first place. And where, some time in May, we can look back on the previous nine months with a mixture of relief, satisfaction and genuine, chestbursting delight. And maybe, just maybe, with another title in our trophy cabinet. That’s what I’m dreaming of. Is anyone with me? NICE PAIR: Barnes and Beardsley Read more from Neil at: gave us some magical moments screamingwaves.blogspot.com
THE NEW SEASON
LFC:IT’S :IT’S NOT THE SAME ANYMORE THE WORLD CUP WAS CRAP BECAUSE OF IT, PEOPLE DOUBT THE MANAGER BECAUSE OF IT, AND I CAN’T BUY THE KIT BECAUSE OF IT...
HIS year’s World Cup was the worst one I’ve ever watched. It had nothing to do with the japes of the Jabulani ball, Luis Suarez’s divine digits or many sides’ insistence to not only park the bus but clamp the wheels and swallow the keys. In fact, the outcry of South Africa hosting the worst tournament in history after a solitary round of games was a consummate media overreaction. I actually enjoyed the World Cup, but there was a vital component missing which usually makes it that extra special; and because it was missing, it’s automatically the worst for me. Cast your minds back to World Cups gone by. Davor Suker putting Germany to the sword in 1998; the follicle-deprived Hasan Sas running riot for Turkey in 2002; Maxi Rodriguez’s wonder volley against Mexico four years ago. None of these moments will be deposited in the average football fan’s memory bank, nor are they woven into the World Cup tapestry. I remember them, though; I remember them because their actions were accompanied by my words. Seven simple words which we’ve all uttered at some stage at some World Cup: “They could do a job for us.” That’s not to say we should sign players on their efforts at a World Cup alone. We did that with Phil Babb, and the only mark he left at Anﬁeld was a spherical one on a goalpost at the Anﬁeld Road end. There’s something wonderfully
BY KRISTIAN WALSH (Mr Glass Half-Empty)
nostalgic about World Cups, though – probably because it is something we’ve all experienced as a child, be it Mexico ’70, Espana ’82 or USA ’94. I’m a ﬁrm believer that football is the purest form of escapism. For 90 minutes, your travails are forgotten watching Torres, a player who makes defenders look old and supporters feel young. It’s that childlike innocence that makes the World Cup special. The thrill of needing
CLASS: But we’ve no chance of luring stars like Schweinsteiger
Sergio Batista to complete your Italia ‘90 Panini sticker book; the thrill of seeing the Adidas Tango ripple the net for the ﬁrst time; the thrill of imagining, for just a month, Roberto Baggio linking up with Robbie Fowler for Liverpool. But there’s no chance Wesley Sneijder will be playing off Fernando Torres next season. There’s no chance of Bastian Schweinsteiger forming a defensive blockade with Javier Mascherano and no chance of Jesus Navas playing a quick one-two with Steven Gerrard. In fact, there’s no chance the aforementioned trio who currently belong to us will all line up against Arsenal on the opening weekend. The problems Hicks, Gilett, Purslow and Broughton have bestowed upon us have ruined that innocence. Two Texan snakes slithered into our Garden of Anﬁeld and offered David Moores the fruit of his labours, and he greedily devoured it. Now, Liverpool supporters have to suffer for his sin. This isn’t about the World Cup though, although it does serve as a microcosm to how it feels being one of us right now. Nothing is how it used to be and it has nothing to do with happenings on the pitch. Even when we were losing to Bristol City in the FA Cup, we could have a laugh with our mates on the Kop. Now, there’s friction about where to channel our voices and energies at the match. Even when we were losing at home to Leicester City on the same night those across the M62 were reaching a European Cup ﬁnal,
OPINION TWIT AND TW*T: Since this pair crawled into Anfield (below) things just haven’t been the same at the match
our supporters were still treated with respect by those in charge of the football club. Now, respected match-going reds in the journalism industry are spoken down to and treated with contempt at a press conference by a chairman who has a season ticket at Stamford Bridge. Even when Everton were finishing above us in the league, the only financial worries we had were how to afford the next European away. Now, the Solly might as well be the offices of the Salomon Brothers; the King Charles might as well be KMPG. To outsiders, sitting down with a pint and discussing who you want to sign and why Djimi Traore is better at left-back than centreback is at best dull; at worst, lamentable. For us, it was escapism, talking football with mates and immersing yourself in a world where things like the much-maligned Malian’s positioning mattered. Now, it feels like you need a degree in accountancy to talk about a football club. It’s an oft-repeated phrase that football is being ruined by money, but never does it feel so
real as it does now. It’s just not fun anymore. The four horsemen of the boardroom are even causing some fans to pass judgement on how to support the team and whether the famed ‘Liverpool Way’ even survives. Having a laugh at the match, being treated with respect by our boardroom and having talks about football over a pint are three of the aspects that embody being a Liverpool supporter. We don’t do that anymore. Another stipulation is that we always back the
manager. We don’t do that anymore? Roy Hodgson’s appointment has been met with, what would seem to the outside world, an acute apathy. The outside world don’t understand our internal problems though - not just in the boardroom, but within ourselves. It’s not apathy, it’s mistrust; mistrust at every level of the football club, mistrust which unfortunately extends to the new
manager hired by those who are directly responsible. People don’t know how strongly behind Roy they can get. People don’t know how voiciferously they can support the team. People are betraying their own beliefs in the Liverpool Way and berate the manager of Liverpool Football Club. It’s not their fault. We didn’t used to be like this. We used to unanimously back the manager and talk football. We used to buy replica shirts for our children and younger brothers, emblazon a player’s name on the back and allow them to emulate their heroes with their mates in a park like we once did without fear of lining unworthy and unscrupulous snakeskin pockets. I genuinely believe the question of what a Liverbird actually is will eventually be answered: a phoenix that rises from the ashes of the smoking carcasses of Hicks, Gillett, Broughton and Purslow. We’ll even own our club. I’ll just be happy to enjoy our club again; I’ll just be happy to enjoy the World Cup. Kristian writes for The Telegraph.
TA RAFA LA
Whether you liked Rafa or not he deserves a bit of respect T
HAT some fans should question a £96,000 donation to the Hillsborough Family Support Group says it all. The debate over Rafael Benitez became a farce. People on both sides of the fence, the lovers and the haters, twisted every fact, every incident, to suit their mindset. The arguments played out endlessly, particularly on the internet, a faceless medium which promotes extreme views which you wonder would ever be aired were the protagonists face to face. 20
BY GARETH ROBERTS But say what you want about Benitez, and everyone did, he deserves respect. Yet some were so bitter in their assertion that he must leave, they couldn’t even bring themselves to acknowledge that making a large donation to such a worthy cause was a touch of class. It backed up the view that Benitez ‘got’ Liverpool. He understood what was important to fans, he immersed himself in the culture and he was genuinely touched by the fight for justice for the 96.
Back in 2009, Benitez gave an interview about Hillsborough. He said: “In Spain we didn’t really realise the real problem initially, but after hearing the stories on the news we then realised the full extent. “But after I became Liverpool manager in 2004 I have received a lot of information from the people and staff at the club, so it has helped me understand just how important it is for the people here.” “It is important not just for the foreign players but everyone in football. It was a tragedy that was so important, it is vital it is
BENITEZ remembered. I think that for the fans of football in any country, for any club, it is important to remember what happened. You look at your own daughters and imagine what it would be like for yourself, it is then you realise what a disaster it would be to be involved in something like that. “You think about this when you are reading the names (of the 96 who died), you see the families and you can see what it means for everyone. “I have been really impressed with the families and the effort they are putting into retain good memories of the victims of Hillsborough.” People that questioned Benitez’s donation as a publicity stunt should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of questioning the amount donated, and what percentage of his severance pay from Liverpool it represented, those fans should ask themselves when they have put money to the cause. Ask also, what other person connected to Liverpool FC has made that kind of donation? If the issue is big pay-offs, well isn’t a certain Rick Parry’s bank account awash with cash gleaned from L4? It’s the issue of respect that has bugged me all along with Benitez – and still does. Yes, his tactics were negative at times. Yes, he bought some dud players. Yes, Benitez was all too quick to engage in media battles when he would have been better advised to keep schtum and yes, he was stubborn. But to make out Benitez to be as some kind of clueless flop, a failure, like he was totally inept at his job? Come on. The fact he walked straight into a job with the reigning European Champions said it all. He was, and is, a world-class manager. Critics can bang on about money all they like, but Rafa never had the opportunity to blow the cash Jose Mourinho did. And while he almost certainly spent money, he HAD to bring it back in, too. Balancing the books was always part of the job. Was it for Mourinho? No. And maybe that’s why Chelsea was the only team other than Manchester United to lift the Premier League during Rafa’s reign. Given the gap in finances, in my book a second-placed finish in the Premier League with the club’s highest points tally in the
DID YOU KNOW THE REDS UNDER RAFA: • Set a new club record of 11 consecutive clean sheets (2005) • Went 762 minutes without conceding a league goal (2005) • Won 10 league games in a row for the 1st time in 15 years • Beat Manchester United for the 1st time in the FA Cup for 85 years • Recorded their biggest away win in the FA Cup (7-0 at Birmingham) • Beat Besiktas 8-0 to equal the biggest ever Champions League win • Scored 119 goals in a season (07-08) – more than any team in England • Ended Chelsea’s 84-game unbeaten home record • Became only the second English team to win in the Bernabeu • Recorded their biggest win at Old Trafford for 72 years • Lost just twice in a league season – equalling best for 105 years • Won 56 per cent of games (2nd highest for any post-war LFC boss) HIGH FIVE 1. May 05: CL Final: AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (LFC win 3-2 on penalties) 2. February 07: CL: Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool 3. May 05: CL Semi Final Second Leg: Liverpool 1- 0 Chelsea 4. March 09: CL: Liverpool 4 Real Madrid 0 5. March 09: Premier League: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4 competition WAS an achievement. So, of course, was winning the FA Cup and European Cup. And so was reaching a second European Cup final in 2007. Yet the anti-Benitez mob – so entrenched in their view, and so desperate to discredit EVERYTHING Rafa did – will knock every single one of those achievements. So second becomes nowhere. Not only that, it’s Benitez’s ‘fault’ that we finished there (i.e. he ‘threw away’ the league). A European Cup win (something Chelsea and Arsenal among others are yet to achieve) becomes lucky, and an achievement made with Gerard Houllier’s squad. And Istanbul, like the FA Cup win, is somehow lessened in the eyes of the critics because we won on penalties. No matter that it was AC Milan we were playing. No matter that
Juventus and Chelsea were beaten on the way to Turkey. No matter that Manchester United and Chelsea were swept aside on the way to Cardiff in 2006. And all that without even a mention of the owners. Or the board. Or the media. Rafa Benitez was far from faultless, but what manager is? Ferguson is stubborn, set in his ways, has signed his fair share of duds and has made plenty of questionable decisions (Rooney on the left wing, anyone?). Arsene Wenger has his team playing nice football but Arsenal won one trophy – the FA Cup (on penalties) – during Benitez’s time at the helm. But now he’s gone and what’s done is done. But whether you were proBenitez, anti-Benitez or somewhere in between, just sweep aside the negatives and give the fella a bit of respect. He more than deserves it.
TA RAFA LA
I was born Spanish, I’m not thin and I serve dinner
BY PAUL TOMKINS
“I WAS born Spanish, I am no longer as thin (the anxiety doesn’t help), and yes, sometimes I help serving the dinner.” This was Rafa Benitez in an email to me after I’d written a piece explaining that senior ﬁgures within the media referred to the Liverpool manager as “the fat Spanish waiter”. Just another example of a ﬁne sense of self-deprecating humour, from a man portrayed as almost robotic by many critics. I met Rafa at Melwood last October and I maintained a dialogue with him after that. Any help with stats or tactical advice, I was free to ask. And in turn, he’d occasionally drop me a line to thank me for an observation here and there. Now that he is sadly no longer manager, I see no harm in bringing this to light, as a way of paying my respects to a much misunderstood man, and manager. After that meeting in the autumn, I wrote 5,000 words on the encounter. The article was circulated widely and a friend of Benitez’s family saw the positive reaction to it. The next day, I was awoken early as my mobile phone rang. It was Rafa, thanking me for the article. We hadn’t met with one in mind, but
I had been suitably inspired after four hours of chewing the fat on all things LFC. Two days later the Reds deservedly beat Manchester United, 2-0, although the team never really escaped the pressure brought to bear by two defeats in the ﬁrst three games. Half asleep that Friday morning, and with Rafa’s English harder to discern on an imperfect line, he also wanted to correct me on a small factual error. But he did so in a very polite manner – he just wanted to be clear
on the matter. There’s no doubt he’s a perfectionist, but I saw that as one of those good things that, like almost anything positive in life, also comes with its drawbacks. Indeed, when people ask me what mistakes he made, or what his faults are, I ﬁnd it hard, because, as with all managers, attributes are perceived as either strengths or weaknesses depending on recent results. Too distant with players? Well, isn’t that Fabio Capello’s style, and wasn’t being ‘pally’ seen as a fault of Steve McLaren? Not a good man manager? Well, Harry Redknapp’s famed skills are ﬁne when they work, overlooked when it comes to insulting his own players (Darren Bent) or leaving expensive stars on the bench (Keane). Too negative? Well, was there anything more negative than Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in Europe last season? Some call it negative, others call it tactical. Contrary to what some believed – such as Jamie Carragher, when he phoned to take exception to something I’d written (and which I put him clear on) – Rafa wasn’t feeding me criticisms of senior players. Frankly, I didn’t want them. That was one shitstorm I didn’t want to
BENITEZ get in the middle of. I was always wary of how Houllier used Chris Bascombe at the Liverpool Echo, and in fairness to Rafa, he never tried to sway my opinions. That is not to say that he didn’t make observations. He noted how, after the Aston Villa game, he’d had ‘problems’ with Carragher and Gerrard but he immediately added that he’d sat down with both and had productive conversations. Mostly, when talking of players, he spoke of his charges’ strengths and weaknesses but only stuff he’d have already made them aware of. The only player he expressed dissatisfaction with back in October was Albert Riera, whom he felt had let his Spain call-ups go to his head. Subsequent developments bore this out. But more than anything, Benitez was keen to pass on tactical insights: the deployment of subtly different midﬁeld formations and roles, etc, in different games – when to the untrained eye it looked like the Reds were playing the same system – speciﬁc jobs at set-pieces, the united movements of the back four and so on. Having said that, at times he did express frustration with how the club was being run (such as when Martin Broughton had been in charge for a week but not been in touch. ‘After one week, the new chairman has not contacted with the manager, in a football club is not normal’ said Rafa, via his personal email account). I got the impression he saw the writing on the wall back then. A lot of the stuff we spoke about in October was along the lines of what he ended up telling The Times’ Tony Evans a few weeks later. The problem I had (due to the fact that I’m not a trained journalist) was being unsure of what was conﬁdential and off the record, and not wanting to cause any problems for Rafa – and his ability to get the best results – by divulging anything he’d said that he’d preferred remain private. In the end, Evans spilled many of those beans, such as transfer targets that got away. Indeed, even though it was a couple of years on, Rafa was still angry that young players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Pato had all been approached well before they ended up moving to other big clubs, and
that the two British teenagers had even been in his ofﬁce for transfer talks. But much to Benitez’s chagrin, Rick Parry felt there were better players already at the Academy, and refused to sanction a bid of just £1.5million for Ramsey. A manager is judged on his transfer record, but time and time again Benitez wanted a top player (Simao Sabrosa, Danny Alves), but had to make do with a cheap alternative (Pennant, Arbeloa). Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. One signing that remains controversial is the acquisition of Alberto Aquilani. In early March, Rafa explained his thinking on the Italian: “Aquilani wants to improve, but now it is difﬁcult to give him games. Really it depends on him, he has vision for the pass and is dynamic, but still has to adapt to the pace in England, we will see in the next months.” And in the coming months, we did indeed get to see some of that vision and dynamism, but also that the stamina wasn’t yet what was required. And so, in the main, Rafa did what he’s known for – talking football, obsessively. For me, all the books sales and positive feedback I’ve had since 2005 pales compared to a double La Liga and European Cupwinning manager telling me that he
respects my work, and that I have a good understanding of the game and, in particular, his methods. After all, that was what I saw my role to be: to try and explain the methods of an overseas manager whose English is not perfect, and whose approach to the game is often at odds with the old-fashioned ex-pros in the media. This sums up Benitez’s attitude to my work, and how I will continue to approach writing about Liverpool FC: “For me it is important that you defend your manager, not Rafa Benítez.” Finally, in the past year I’ve spoken to a lot of people who know Rafa and his family on a personal level. They all speak very highly of the Benítezes, and of their great work in the community. These were not casual interlopers, but people who threw themselves into the local culture. Perhaps Rafa is not the easiest man to work for – his standards are exacting, and probably draining – but then again, plenty of the Valencia players thought Rafa’s successors were more warm and welcoming – unfortunately, none have yet been anywhere near as successful. Nunca Caminarás Solo, Rafa. Paul Tomkins is the author of eight LFC books and runs the website: tomkinstimes.com
SO XAB TO SEE YOU GO
THERE CAN’T BE A RED ALIVE WHO WATCHED ALONSO IN THE WORLD CUP AND DIDN’T FEEL A TWINGE OF REGRET THAT HE IS NO LONGER AT ANFIELD. JOHN ROACHE WAS NO DIFFERENT.
T IS New Year’s Day, 2005. Location: Anfield. Opponents: Chelsea. Xabi Alonso picks up the ball in the centre circle, flashes a look around the pitch and pulls back his leg to execute yet another life-affirming pass. Before the foot can connect with the ball, Frank Lampard slams his studs into the Spaniard’s ankle. Yellow card. Broken bone. The very shirt Alonso wore that day was donated to a local auction for a young lad with leukaemia; there was no way anybody was out-bidding me that night (and they did try – I’ve got the bank statements to prove it). In his first few months at Anfield, the ex-Sociedad midfielder had swept away the hangover from Houllier’s last year in charge with masterclass after masterclass on what to do with a football. The ‘puppet-master’ metaphor has become something of cliché in recent years, with observers trying hard to describe the vice-like yet fluid control exerted by players like Veron, Pirlo and Scholes from deep-lying positions. But Alonso seemed able to work on a level quite apart from wiry strings and wooden marionettes. His authority over the flight, velocity and destination of the ball was extrasensory, telekinetic: Xabi on a good day reminded more of an oracle than a puppeteer. So when the opportunity arose to get hold of a top worn by this nailedon future Liverpool legend, I wasn’t going to miss out. Now it hangs before me on the wall, both an artefact of Alonso’s 24
JOY OF EX: Former Reds Arbeloa and Alonso with their World Cup medals brilliance and a sad nod to the fact that his Anfield career ended under a cloud of quiet backroom discord. Even more presciently, it has often been said that the injury inflicted by Lampard on that day induced the returning Alonso’s 18-month dip in form, and Rafael Benitez’s subsequent wish to sell him on. Something must have gone quite cataclysmically wrong in order for Benitez, in the transfer window of 2008, to attempt to flog his playmaker for a mere £12-14million. Even more alarmingly, no clubs were willing to pay that price, less than half of what Real Madrid would happily fork out just a year later. Theories abound on the root causes of Xabi Alonso’s somewhat uneven Liverpool career. John Toshack, who mentored the Basque-born midfielder during his formative years at Sociedad, reckoned that the big clubs were
loath to take a gamble on him due to his remarkable lack of pace. Benitez put his hand in the fire, banking on Xabi’s technique and intelligence to overcome a lack of athleticism. But add a frail ankle joint to the equation and the outcome is potentially very bleak. When Alonso first arrived on the scene, he had time, space and confidence. His early 04/05 performances, particularly at home, were imperious. On returning from injury, the rules of the game had changed. Teams now closed him down in split seconds rather than seconds. He looked nervous about being clattered and all too often gave possession away inside his own half, robbed by opponents whilst ponderously searching for the next pass. Benitez has been blamed for reining in Alonso in an attempt to
create a more solid central spine, something which was dismally lacking during the Spaniard’s first season at the club. In 05/06, Alonso was suddenly hitting passes no longer than ten yards, rarely ventured forward and looked to be pre-occupied with the tactical and positional side of his game. Benitez’s reputation as a control freak does not help. His desire to mechanise each individual in his team is well-documented; his titlewinning Valencia XI was nicknamed ‘The Machine’. Thus there was outrage on some sides when, having failed in his alleged attempt to turn Alonso into an effective defensive enforcer, the manager looked to sell him at a cut price and bring in Gareth Barry (for £18-20million, no less). Barry is a player I like: versatile, intelligent, consistent. However, whilst Alonso is capable of conducting a sublime symphonic orchestra, Barry is a functional but flat speaker system, the kind you get softly humming muzak in elevators. He can ‘do a job’, but you’d much rather have the real deal. And some have denied that Alonso’s performances were ever that bad anyway; certainly he never showed the same lag in Europe as he did domestically, contributing memorable displays in crucial games against the likes of Juventus and Chelsea. Those supportive voices were joined by the many fans who, despite admitting to the midfielder’s less polished performances, referred more strident critics to the old cliché about the fleeting nature of form and the permanence of class. To them, having even an out-ofform Alonso on the books was more valuable than having an in-form Gareth Barry. These were the people who, in 08/09, could sit back smugly as Alonso rose back to his former heights and beyond, liberally peppering Liverpool’s best season in 20 years with immaculate demonstrations of defensive capability and attacking prowess from an ideal position, just ahead of Mascherano. When Alonso handed in a transfer request last summer, there was inevitably a brigade of fans quick
XABI ALONSO FACTFILE Age: 28 Signed from: Real Sociedad £10.7m, August 2004 Sold to: Real Madrid £30m, August 2009 LFC games/goals: 210/19
to jump on the manager’s back for upsetting the No.14. Indeed, his departure for Madrid is often cited as a key moment in Rafa’s demise and eventual sacking. How easily they overlook the fact that the well-rounded, nigh-on complete central midfielder who emerged out of that unforgettable season was a result of Benitez’s insistence on discipline alongside creativity. Alonso’s crunching tackles and ability to read opposition attacks elevated him to the realm of the ‘world class’, but such vital defensive attributes were not as noticeable a part of his game when he arrived in Liverpool. They emerged as elements of Alonso’s game only after a slow and difficult transitional process, instigated by Benitez. Perhaps Alonso was temporarily ‘stifled’ by his manager, perhaps his manager grew frustrated and lost patience with his player’s prolonged
attempt to evolve his game beyond the awesome passing. Whatever the case, it is hard to deny that Alonso would not be plying his trade at so glorious a club as Madrid right now (and clutching a World Cup winners’ medal) if it wasn’t for his ex-manager’s constant criticism and demands. Finally, perhaps understandably, it all got too much for Alonso; yet he should not forget that the code which has brought him such success was formed not just in Sociedad, but also in Benitez’s Liverpool. The shirt hanging above me shall thus continue to be one of my most prized possessions, signifying so many things: the joy of watching Alonso, the third goal in Istanbul, Benitez’s hard-headed determination never to stand still (for better or worse), and the season I nearly got to witness us win the league. In short: many of the reasons why I love football – and Liverpool. More from John at: allthingsred.co.uk
THE BIG INTERVIEW ITâ€™S ELEVEN years since Rob Jones was forced to make the heartbreaking decision to hang up his boots through injury but fans still speak fondly of the attacking full-back who famously swapped Crewe for Liverpool and made it look easy. BY GARETH ROBERTS
OB JONES is rightly hailed as one of Graeme Souness’s success stories. Plucked from the obscurity of Fourth Division Crewe, 48 hours after signing for Liverpool in October 1991 the defender from Ellesmere Port was marking Ryan Giggs out of a televised game at Old Trafford. By the end of the season he had been capped by England and was an FA Cup winner. Yet it all could have been so different for Jones who, instead of playing against Giggs, could have been playing with him for Manchester United. “About a year before Liverpool came in for me, Man United were interested,” revealed Jones, 38. “Alex Ferguson sent Gordon Strachan to watch me and he reported back that I had no pace! I was the fastest in the team so I think that was the end of his scouting days!” When Souness arrived at Gresty Road with Tom Saunders around 12 months later he had in fact been interested in another Crewe player. But Jones, playing in an unfamiliar left-back role where he was later employed by Roy Evans, caught the eye of the Scot. “I was playing left back because there were a few injuries,” Jones explained. “I had a good game and Souness later said he noticed there had been a free kick on the right-hand side and I’d come over to take it and whipped it in with my right foot and we’d scored off it. “He was obviously impressed that I was playing left back and had a right foot as well. I don’t know whether he thought I was left footed, I just use that to stand on! He sent Tom Saunders to watch the next game on the Wednesday and on Thursday morning Dario Gradi (Crewe manager) left a message on the answer machine saying Liverpool wanted to sign me.” A bid of £300,000 secured the signature of Jones, a Liverpool fan. For a 19-year-old lad who stood on the Kop when his playing career at Crewe allowed it, it was a dream come true. “It was a big, big shock – it didn’t sink in for ages,” he said. “The next day after Dario had rang, Kenny Swain, who was at Crewe at the time, picked me up and took me in to see Graeme Souness and Tom Saunders. I signed straight away. “That morning I was training with John Barnes, Steve McMahon, Steve Nicol – all these legends that I had watched for the last 10 years winning trophies, it was unbelievable. After
training Souness took me back to Anfield and in the car he said to me ‘Do you think you’ll be able to cope with playing against Man United on Sunday?’ Obviously I was a bit nervous but you can’t say no and I said ‘Course I can, yeah.’ “I was supposed to be playing on the Saturday away to Darlington in the Fourth Division. All of a sudden I was playing against Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford live on the television. It was a massive step up but it worked for me. I was quite fast and I did OK against Ryan.” Most thought he had done much better than OK and Rob had soon caught the eye of England manager Graham Taylor. Taylor handed Jones his international debut in a 2-0 win over France at Wembley in 1992 to make it a remarkable five months for Jones. With Liverpool and England appearances under his belt, the
he used to come and watch my games but he’d leave me just to play. I think if you’ve got natural ability you’re halfway there and he used to just let me go and play and enjoy it. That’s what I’m doing with my son, Declan. He’s only nine, and he’s a good little player but I don’t say too much to him. “All through school I was in the teams and I played for Cheshire but there were players better than me – there’s a bit of luck in making it, I think. Some players grow and get stronger, some don’t.” Rob did and he was snapped up by Crewe at 12, making his debut for the Railwaymen at 16 while he was still at school. “I played the last four games of the season while still at school,” he said. “It was weird. We played Tranmere away on a Tuesday night (just down the road from Rob’s hometown of Ellesmere Port). My mum and dad said it was a big game so I could take the day off school - I think we told them I had a cold. “I played Tranmere that night and the next day at school I got called in by the headmaster. He said ‘How’s your cold?’ and I was like ‘Loads better, thanks.’ And he said ‘Funny that, I was at the Tranmere game last night and I saw you running up and down the wing! “He’d caught me out and he just warned me he could stop me playing for Crewe straight away and that I had to ask their permission so I didn’t get away with that one!” Jones’s dramatic rise to the upper echelons of English football is rarely seen in the modern game and this is often put down to clubs preferring to invest in experienced foreigners rather than plumping for raw homegrown talent in the lower leagues. But Jones doesn’t see it that way. “Jamie Carragher said in an interview recently if players were good enough they’d move up the divisions and I think he’s right,” he said. “The players are still out there but clubs have got their academies sorted now and they’ve already got all the talented young lads on the books. In my day, Crewe had a great academy – Liverpool didn’t have one, none of the big clubs had them.” Unfamiliar route to Anfield or not, Jones quickly settled at Liverpool and was soon a fans’ favourite – no mean feat considering the huge leap in class of opponent. But while his performances in a red shirt oozed class and confidence, Jones admits it wasn’t quite like that behind
“I was supposed to be playing Darlington in the Fourth Division. All of a sudden I was playing against Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford, live on the television.” Wrexham-born full-back had now mirrored the achievements of his granddad, Bill Jones, an Anfield centrehalf who won two caps for his country and famously took Bob Paisley’s place in the 1950 FA Cup Final, the Reds’ first appearance at that stage of the competition. Bill made 256 league appearances for Liverpool and later worked as a scout, unearthing talent including legendary striker ‘Sir’ Roger Hunt. “I went on a few scouting missions with him when I was five or six,” said Rob. “We went around the Ellesmere Port area looking for players. He picked up Roger Hunt from Stockton Heath and took him to Liverpool and he went on to win a World Cup winners’ medal so it was a good spot. I see Roger at the Liverpool Christmas dos and he still asks about my granddad.” Although there was football talent in his blood, Rob says there was no pressure from his granddad to succeed: ”He was an inspiration and
ROB JONES the scenes. “I was shy for ages,” he admits. “I’d watched them from the Kop, John Barnes and all that, and suddenly you’re with them – it was weird being on the other side. “There was a two-week break after the Man United game for the internationals and then it was my first game at Anfield which was another nerve-wracking experience. But it was a good experience, too and thank God I’ve done it. “I was trying to stay focused, I knew I had a job to do and things went right for me. I liked to get forward and I was fast. With Crewe, it was very tight, people were at you all the time, but when I moved up to the Premier League the pitches were much bigger, there was more space and Anfield was like a carpet – at Gresty Road there were bobbles everywhere! It suited me. “I don’t know what the lads were thinking about a young kid from the Fourth Division coming in but after five or six games I think they realised I had some ability and wasn’t a bad signing. That was the October and by the February I was playing for England – another big step up. “I had played for England U18s but I was never sure I’d play for a top team. It’s all about taking your opportunities, that game at Old Trafford could have gone the other way – what would have happened if I had cocked things up? You just never know in football.” Jones made 243 appearances for the Reds in his eight years at Anfield, a figure that would have been much higher had it not been for a string of serious injuries culminating in the patellar tendonitis (also known as jumper’s knee) that forced his retirement at just 27. “If I had an injury it was a big injury,” reflected Jones. “I never suffered with hamstrings or calf strains, thigh strains, anything like that and I had a couple of seasons without injury.” Shin splints put paid to Jones’s chances of playing in the 1992 European Championships and his England curse reared its head again four years later after the FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United (the ‘cream suit’ final – the clobber being David James’s fault, according to Jones). “I’d had back trouble for a while but scans hadn’t picked anything up,” he said. “We played Man United in the FA Cup final and I was in agony 28
THE RIGHT STUFF: Rob Jones never let England down at right back
FACTFILE »» Birthplace: Wrexham, Wales »» Games at LFC: 243 »» Honours: FA Cup 1992, League Cup 1995 »» International caps: 8 »» Liverpool debut: October 6, 1991. »» Last appearance: April 25, 1998 Source: LFChistory.net
for the whole match. I went to a specialist and I had a series of scans which showed I had been playing for around 10 months with a stress fracture in my back. I was out of Euro 96 and couldn’t do anything for five months, I was literally away from the club.” But it was Jones’s knee that eventually forced him to hang up his boots. “I had the injury for 18 months – every time I came back it would go again and I was playing through the pain barrier all the time. I’d had six operations. Owen Hargreaves has the
same problem and Ronaldo was out for two years with it. He came back but it was never the same for him.” Jones’s knee injury led to a falling out with Gerard Houllier who, after the short-lived joint-manager role with Roy Evans, had taken control of the club in the twilight of the defender’s career. “We never hit it off from day one,” recalled Jones. “He wanted to show he was in control and with some of the rules I think he wanted to just piss everyone off and say ‘I’m the boss’. He was given too much power, he took over the club. “He brought in a strict teacher style, the atmosphere went right down. He brought all these rules in and some of them were fair enough – you’ve got to be into training on time, I don’t think I was ever late, but other things – he banned mobiles in the training ground. Ok, have them turned off in the changing rooms but when you come out I can’t see anything wrong. “There was one occasion he told the press I was acting, that I needed to get out of the treatment room and just train on my knee. He told the press it was in my mind. As soon as that happened that was it for me – my knee was bad, as if I wanted to stay in the treatment room.” With his time at Liverpool over, Jones joined West Ham on a non-contract basis with the carrot of a deal if he could impress boss Harry Redknapp. But Jones admits he knew he was fighting a losing battle to revive his career and it wasn’t long later, in 1999, he was advised to call it a day. “Day one at West Ham my knee was like a balloon,” said Jones. “I played in an Inter Toto match away in Norway and Harry told me to have my knee looked at again. “The surgeon said it’s just tearing away, there’s no hope, you won’t be able to train every day and it won’t hold up to the Premier League. “You never expect those words: ‘That’s it’ – you always think there will be some miracle operation. I was gutted, I was 27. It’s supposed to be the peak of your career.” Jones admits the sudden change in lifestyle – from going to training and matches to facing daytime television – was hard to take. “One minute you’re in the changing rooms having a banter with the lads and going to training every morning then it just stops,” he said. “You wake up, you come downstairs and you can have a laugh with your wife but it’s not the same, is it? A lot of players go
NATIONAL SERVICE: Jones (left) with fellow Reds Collymore, McManaman and Redknapp
into depression, I don’t think I did but I was down. It was hard to know what to do.” Jones was offered the chance to link up with former team-mate Mark Wright, who was managing non-league Southport. But he admitted it didn’t appeal and that, coupled with medical advice and complications over insurance on his knee, meant he decided to walk away from the game completely. “I didn’t even watch Liverpool for a couple of years”, said Jones. “It was hard going to watch thinking ‘I should still be out there’. I didn’t even watch games on the telly. People used to ask me to go on panels on Sky
minutes each way and you can really just stand there and do a bit of passing so the knee is fine! “It doesn’t whet my appetite though, that’s gone now, I tried a bit of coaching, it wasn’t for me.” No Rob Jones interview would complete without the mention of his goals record – or rather lack of it. Despite being an attack-minded fullback with a decent shot, Rob never got off the mark at Liverpool – something he is reminded of to this day. “Fans always say to me, ‘I used to put a pound on you – you lost me so much money!’ “I was so close so many times, and I got the opportunities to score the goals. I must admit I cocked some of those chances right up but I hit the post a couple of times, crossbar and I remember one, Man City away and I just had no luck. Ian Rush had a shot, it hit the keeper, and it came to me five yards out and I slid in to knock it in and a City player come in and he sat on it – on the line – it just wouldn’t go in! “I never had the luck but a big thing for me was getting forward and creating chances for other people. It would have been nice to get one, though!” Jones though, who boasts FA Cup and League Cup winners’ medals, has no regrets over his career and admits he now looks back proudly at his time at Liverpool. He adds: “I’ve watched a few games from when I was playing on LFC TV recently and I was talking about it with Jason McAteer and Steve McManaman. The football was attacking, fast, it was exciting. I achieved quite a lot in a short space of time and I’m proud of that.” 29
‘It was hard going to watch thinking ‘I should still be out there’. I didn’t even watch games on the telly’ but I used to say, ‘Listen, to be honest, I wouldn’t know who is playing’.” Rob’s wife, Sue, gave him the necessary kick up the backside and in 2001 they launched the Kids Academy Nursery Group and the company has gone from strength to strength. They are now looking to expand into care homes for children with learning difficulties. Jones has also rediscovered his love for football, although he says after running his own soccer school for a while he has no desire to return in a professional capacity. “With my son Declan growing up I started going to the match again and I enjoy it now, he said. “I also play for the Liverpool Legends. The games are only 35
1984 AND 1985 EUROPEAN CUP FINALS
END OF THE INNOCENCE Football Editor of The Times — and lifelong Red — Tony Evans looks at the two infamous European Cup finals that changed Liverpool fans forever
T had to happen one day, but no one was prepared for it on March 18, 2005. At the quarterfinal draw, Liverpool came out first and then Juventus. Twenty years on from Heysel and the 39 deaths at that European Cup final, the two sides were facing each other for the first time. How the teams could have failed to engineer a match before, to find some level of rapprochement, seems ludicrous but no one wanted to think about what happened in Brussels two decades earlier – not Uefa, the clubs or their fans. The only people who kept what happened to the forefront of their minds were the families of the dead, who had been fighting for recognition and justice to no avail. In 1985, there were a few attempts by the people of Liverpool to reach out to Turin. Peter Hooton was instrumental in
bringing over a group of young Italians to the city, where they were treated to a cruise on the Mersey, with John Peel as disc jockey and The Farm performing live. The crowd was emotional and keen to put the youngsters from Piedmont at ease. However, it was a night of outstanding drunkenness and featured the sort of shenanigans that sent Peel back to London shaking his head in amazement. There was no violence, but the inebriated abandon probably confirmed every prejudice the Turin teenagers had against Scousers. Others tried to build bridges, too, but without the clubs involved, it was an uphill task. Otello Lorentini, whose son Roberto died at Heysel, had long campaigned for the clubs to play a friendly match in tribute to those killed. Roberto was a doctor and was giving one of the injured mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation when the wall collapsed and the tumble of brickwork and people came smashing down. Like the other 38, Roberto had been forgotten by the world at large. Most of us had reached an accord with ourselves over the years. It was easy to rationalise for Liverpool supporters. The fault lay with Uefa for scheduling such a big game in a stadium that was so transparently ill-equipped to hold it. A wall collapsed. If the wall had done its job, no one would be dead and the past 20 years would have been very different. It had been said a million times on Merseyside and any debate ended with a shrug. The twentieth anniversary was due in May, at the end of Champions League final week, so there had been some stirrings of regret and remembrance, but it was hard to think too much about Heysel before April 15, when we had our own disaster to mourn. Now the draw had left us with no choice. Heysel had emerged from a collective memory lapse but, if fate and Uefa had kept Liverpool and Juventus apart, most people would have been happy to ignore the issue for another 20 years. It was time to face up to the past. But before we got to Brussels, or Turin, there was Rome. In this place of so many historic events, what happened to us in the Eternal City changed the nature of Liverpool’s support in Europe and had consequences that were still rumbling on in Istanbul. Rome has never been a centre of football power. Before 1980, Lazio and AS Roma, the city’s largest clubs, had won the domestic title just once each. Riot police on the Heysel pitch, 1985 So it was unfortunate that the
FAR FOREIGN LAND Heysel Stadium, Brussels
European Cup final should be scheduled for Rome’s Olympic Stadium in 1984, the year after Roma won the league and qualified for the competition. Playing such a huge game at a team’s home stadium should not have been allowed to happen, but Uefa has never shown the greatest ability to apply common sense. Even today, the risk of a similar situation occurring is taken almost every year. The inevitable happened in 1984 and Roma reached the final, along with Liverpool. Uefa probably thought it was entirely in keeping with the city’s reputation for throwing people to the lions. The headlines in the Roman papers said: ‘The Barbarians are coming,’ which was worrying. A riot when tickets went on sale at the Olympic stadium increased the sense of foreboding and barely more than 8,000 fans travelled to Italy to support Liverpool. More than 25,000 had made their way to the city seven years earlier when it was a neutral venue and headed off home flushed with victory and the praise of the local police and politicians. This was a special place for Liverpool fans, the stadium where the greatest feat in the history of the club had been achieved. All fondness for the city itself would evaporate on one terrifying night. From the moment we landed at a small airport some way from the city it
“Often at away games there were expansive rumours of stabbings. But these came from the proto-hooligans. This time they came from reputable sources” was clear that it was going to be a long and difficult day. Paramilitary police in combat fatigues and riot gear met us and loaded us onto buses. Those who were hoping to see the Sistine Chapel complained until they saw the reception we got on the ring road. Carloads of youths in cloth-topped Fiats shadowed the coaches, pulling alongside while an occupant popped up through the roof to fire a flare or hurl a brick at the bus – all at motorway speed. Burgundy and yellow flags were everywhere in the blocks of flats that sit on the seven hills and there was a clear feeling that the result was a formality. Liverpool could not win. We were taken to a disused funfair and kept there under armed guard for most of the afternoon. So we sat and drank beer. Bored, we decided to see if it was possible to get away and see some of the sights. The carabinieri were surprisingly amenable
to us leaving. ‘Wanna go the Vatican, mate,’ I said, blessing myself. The policeman pointed up the street. After two steps, we were going no farther. In the direction the man had indicated stood a huge mob of Roma fans, who immediately became alert when we came into sight. We went back into the funfair. I blessed myself again, indicating that I was praising the Lord for seeing me through the valley of the shadow of death. The policeman smirked. He understood. We arrived at the ground 90 minutes before kick-off and what we found in the streets around the stadium unsettled us even more. They were deserted. Only Scousers wandered about, but what they had to say was unpleasant. There had been much trouble in the tourist areas, with gangs of locals on scooters chasing down small groups or stragglers among the Liverpool fans and slashing them as they passed. Often, at away games, there were expansive rumours about stabbings and beatings but they almost always came from the proto-hooligans. Here, they were coming from reputable sources. We found a bar, not far from the stadium and had a final drink in the beer garden. There, we relaxed. Despite the pastoral setting, it was like the Yankee. As we walked in, ‘I am a Liverpudlian’ started. Hands on hearts, we joined the thrilling, discordant cacophony and the worries evaporated temporarily. Not everyone was happy though. A ‘Munich’ song began, mocking the 1958 air disaster that killed seven Manchester United players and a number of others after a botched takeoff in Bavaria. A middle-aged man with a Lancashire accent came out of the bar and called all the singers ‘scum’ before quickly disappearing to catcalls. It just made everyone laugh. The songs were funny, we thought, and we hated United. That vignette sums up the era. The song, repugnant and offensive as it is, was chanted in a setting where it was extremely unlikely to lead to confrontation. For those outside the small world of ordinary trains and the Yankee, it enhanced the image of violent, unpleasant hooliganism in action. The singers liked to be viewed this way – outside the law, at odds with society. It felt good to be outlaws, even 31
1984 AND 1985 EUROPEAN CUP FINALS if most would never throw a punch at an opposing supporter. What was more important was the shared knowledge, the sense of exclusivity, the feeling of belonging. It was naughty, but for the most part pathetically and stupidly innocent. What innocence we had, we were about to lose. Real violence was literally around the corner. Inside the ground it was back to reality. There were people with bruised faces and patched-up shallow slash wounds that they dismissed as deep scratches; proof, if we needed it, that there was the potential for violence here on a scale to which we were unused. We had barely got through the turnstiles when we met John, whose father is Italian. He’d travelled by train, stayed with relatives near Turin and had driven to Rome with a couple of cousins. He explained why the streets were deserted. Italian fans, he said, like getting inside the ground early. His cousins had insisted that he go into the stadium three hours before kick-off. ‘We were the only ones in our end for two hours,’ John said, aggrieved. ‘I didn’t mind the abuse of the whole ground, but I didn’t like the flares. ’ Every Roma nutter with a firework had set his sights on this pathetic little group. There had been plenty of action once the main body of Liverpool fans arrived. A hail of missiles came from the Roma fans adjacent to the away section, so the police baton-charged the foreigners. Stevie, another mate, had seen his camera broken by an Italian nightstick. There was no protection. The police felt like another arm of Roma’s hooligans. A volley of flares thrilled the locals and they began to sing, a noise as fearsome as in any ground I’ve visited – and this without a roof to funnel the noise. Thankfully, the game took our mind off the reaction on the terraces. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and went to penalties. Steve Nicol missed the first and the Roma fans celebrated like the cup was theirs. However, Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani also missed and the Liverpool end went crazy. I have a photograph taken a moment after Alan Kennedy had scored the decisive penalty to seal the victory. While friends and family celebrate to the camera, I am standing in the background, looking away with a 32
Juventus fans pay their respects at the Heysel memorial
strange expression on my face. I was watching the angry Roma supporters throw their scarves and banners into piles and set them alight before leaving. It was surreal. A ring of fire hemmed us in. I know exactly what I was thinking: Shit, we’ve got to leave the stadium and go outside soon. Some 20 minutes later, as we walked up a ramp to road level, the attack started. Metal bins were set aflame and hurled down the steep grass verges, supplemented by bricks, bottles and sticks. At street level, the Romans charged, a surge that seemed uncomfortably well timed to coincide with tear gas the police shot into the rear of the Liverpool fans. As a contribution to crowd control, it was not the carabinieri’s finest hour. From behind came another roar. ‘We’re screwed,’ I remember saying to no one. And then more Italians arrived, only this time wearing the light blue scarves of Lazio. They were coming to our aid – or at least to fight the Roma. Either way, those of us who had any sense – or were in the right position – made their escape in the confusion. At the relative safety of the coach, I needed to empty a nervous bladder. As I moved into the bushes, Big Al came with me, ‘just in case’. It was just as well. A few seconds into the piss, he called out my name.
Behind me, 15 yards or so away, were two Italians in Roma ski hats and one had a knife. I turned, shouted, peed all over my trousers and watched them weigh up the situation and decide to back away. As a general rule, I’d advise against getting into circumstances where you’re facing a man with a knife and your knob is hanging out. Everyone on the coach had a good chortle at me, but the laughter was panicky. People were very scared. However, bravado grew in direct correlation with our distance from the ground and by the time we reached the airport some of the shirt-wearers were claiming to have ‘run the Roma’. It was typical. The big talk of football supporters rarely had a mooring in reality. Back in Liverpool, the local news said that about 10 fans had been stabbed. Then, the night after the match, we saw Ian being interviewed. He didn’t say much and had a large plaster across a broken nose. What he said when he came home was shocking. Ian was the youngest of three brothers, the eldest, Kevin, being part of our little group of match-goers. We’d bump into Stephen, the middle brother, at away games. George, their father, was a fine man, strong, full of integrity and not to be trifled with.
FAR FOREIGN LAND Once, he happened upon some Liverpool supporters beating up a Manchester United fan. He could not walk on. He dragged the youth from the fray, ignored the insults and took him home before seeing him to Lime Street in a taxi. In Rome in 1984, he again saw something he could not let pass. A large group of Italians were kicking a boy in a red shirt all over the street. This was at a time when the majority of Liverpool fans were backing off, trying to get away from the violence. George didn’t and dragged the lad, who happened to be Italian, away from the mob. But in the moments it took, the police and away supporters had disappeared. Only predatory, angry Roma fans remained. ‘We had our backs to the river,’ Ian said. ‘And hundreds of them just stood there, looking at us. ’ There were police lines not far away, and father and son decided the only way out was to head in that direction at full pelt. ‘In Britain, you would have met a wall of kicks and punches,’ Ian said. ‘But the mob opened up, swallowed us, and the next thing I know they were kicking me and hitting me with branches. ’ His father had somehow managed to push back the crowd, pick up two branches – which the Roma fans had stripped off trees before the game to use as weapons – and rush over to attempt to rescue his son. ‘The crowd split and as he was telling me to get up, a young lad ran across behind him. I could see the knife. He stabbed him hard here. ’ Ian gestured to the lower back, in the area of the kidneys. ‘The blade went all the way in. ’ Helped up by his dad, Ian rose and walked across to two policemen who were sitting on the bonnet of a squad car some 20 yards away. ‘They’d seen it all,’ Ian said. In the few short steps, it was clear that George was losing a lot of blood. Ian gestured to the policeman to help. He was shocked by the response. ‘The copper punched me in the nose,’ Ian said. Farther down the road, another policeman reacted differently. He threw George into the back of a squad car and rushed to hospital. There, Ian recalled, ‘there were about 80 or 90 Liverpool fans all bleeding, lying all over the floor’. One by one they disappeared over the next few hours until he was alone. He
was 17 years old. ‘The doctors couldn’t speak English,’ he said. ‘There was a lot of head-shaking. A nun came in and the nurse sent her right across to me. ‘She couldn’t speak English, either, but I was sure he’d died.’ For Ian, the nightmare continued until he was taken to see his father the next day after an operation. George had barely survived and it took him a long time to get back on his feet. This was the worst story, but across Liverpool similar tales were being told and smaller scars and bruises displayed. None of us wanted to see another Italian again. But, by God, if we did, we’d be ready for them next time
12 MONTHS ON . . .
UST before 6am on May 30, 1985, on a ferry limping across the Channel, Robert, a big Ulsterman, woke me. He handed me a beer. Shivering and in the throes of the worst hangover I’d experienced to date, I shook my head. ‘You’ll need it,’ he said. He led me to a television, where the news was about to start. ‘Forty-two Italians killed in riot at Heysel,’ the presenter said. Appalled, I took a large swig of beer and then rushed to the toilet to vomit. It felt like every muscle was tearing as the dry-retching heehawed louder and louder. It took a while to compose myself but when I did there was an acquaintance in the toilet, grinning at my discomfort. ‘What do you think?’ I asked, rinsing my face and fighting another heave. ‘Shocking,’ he said. ‘It was never a penalty. ’ Off he went laughing. The year that followed the European Cup final in Rome in 1984 was as bleak as any in Merseyside’s recent history. Unemployment was chronic and common – I knew young men in their mid-20s who had not worked legally since leaving school. The Government were embroiled in a battle with the City Council that was growing more fractious.
“Words that became a catchphrase for the year began to look ominous: No Italian will do that to us again”
There was even talk of suspending the local authorities and bringing the army on to the streets. We all made sure we knew how to make petrol bombs. On a national scale, the Miners’ Strike had split the country and violent images from the picket lines were on television every night. Blood flowed nightly in Belfast and Derry. It felt, at least in my circles, like revolution and civil war were at hand. And we expected to be the losers. Football, which should have been a welcome distraction, made everything worse. Liverpool supporters were bitter at the way the trouble in Rome had been reported – or not reported, from our point of view – in the national press. There was a feeling that if it had happened to any other club, people from any other city in Britain, then there would have been outrage in the papers and questions in Parliament. Like the miners, though, we were the ‘enemy within’. The standing of the city was endorsed by an Observer review front page piece on the Northeast, which said gratuitously: ‘The way the Liverpool accent is associated with violence, the Newcastle accent is…’ Football was at a low point, too. Hooliganism appeared rampant. It seemed that the only people who went to games were thugs. The mockheroic gibbering on the trains had slipped into the general domain and the media and their consumers took it at face value. There was a growing sense of anarchy that drew more youths towards the trouble. Organised hooliganism was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In early April, it became clear that Liverpool would be playing Juventus in the European Cup final in Brussels. The words that had become a catchphrase for the year began to look ominous: ‘No Italian will do that to us again. ’ The events in Rome were a bad memory but, fertilised by fear, they had grown into overpowering and filthy legend. Three days after the first leg of the European Cup semi-finals, which effectively settled both ties, there was another semi-final, this time in the FA Cup against Manchester United at Goodson Park. The teams had tossed a coin to see which city should host the game. Liverpool won. It is difficult to explain what happened at Goodison that day. There has always 33
1984 AND 1985 EUROPEAN CUP FINALS been an antagonistic relationship between the two cities, with the industrial centre that grew around Manchester needing and resenting the port of Liverpool. Although the rivalry has its roots in economic competition, the football teams became a focus for resentment and hostility. Even now, both Manchester clubs have a sailing ship on their badges – the ship canal was an attempt to undermine a real maritime city. The power of the Mersey port over the Lancashire hinterland may have disappeared, but the residual hostility remains. The enmity of the football fans from the respective cities has grown to unacceptable levels down the years, especially between Liverpool and United. Yet the events at Goodison Park in 1985 exploded into insanity on a different scale. All the anger, bitterness and fear that infused daily life suddenly dovetailed into an uncontrollable rage that hinged itself to a football match. Supporters from both sides fought, stabbed and hurled missiles at each other throughout the day. Inside the ground, there was brawling in every section, with magnesium flares fired into crowds from close range and golf balls studded with six-inch nails flung at the opposition pens. These were not the gangs of elite, hard-core hooligans that had become a fixture in the popular imagination; these were ordinary men – and some women – caught up in madness. Liverpool were a goal down early but scored a last-gasp equaliser to take the game into extra time. United scored again and another very late goal made it 2-2. From a crowd control perspective, it was the worst way the game could have developed. That night the Yankee was out of control. They were singing the full repertoire of Munich songs. A manic joy surged in the voices of the boys. For once we were not joining in. I said to Big Al: ‘It went too far today. Everyone lost perspective.’ He agreed. Neither of us were fighters, but we moved easily in the scally world and yet we were unnerved. One of the more dangerous characters we knew passed by. ‘What the f**k happened today?’ he asked, awestruck. There was no answer. But this was not funny. The city was rancid with aggression. As we left for Al to get the last bus
MEMORIAL: Phil Neal and Juventus player Sergio Brio back at Heysel to mark the 25th anniversary in May home near 11pm, a group of dolled-up girls, carrying their high heels even at this early stage of the night, passed us singing: ‘Who’s that dyin’ on the runway…’ Everyone expected a repeat performance for the semi-final replay at Maine Road in Manchester, but both sides seemed to realise the enormity of what had happened four days earlier and the game passed off without trouble. Liverpool lost and thoughts turned back to Brussels. On the trains, in the bars, it was said over and over: ‘It won’t be like Rome.’ On a sunny Brussels morning, there was a moment that, more than anything that would happen over the ensuing 24 hours, continues to haunt me. Our train had just arrived at Jette station and a long column of Liverpool supporters set off downhill towards the centre of the city. I lingered and watched them, chequered flags flying,
and thought it looked like a medieval army on the move. Above the narrow street, the locals hung out of open windows and watched, half-grinning but nervous. As I set off for the Grand’Place, I thought: ‘We can do what we like today. No one can stop us. ’ The mood in Brussels was complex. In the aftermath, most commentators would ignore the effect of the events in Rome the previous year and even those who alluded to 1984 saw Heysel in terms of ‘hooligan gangs looking for revenge’. It was very different, much more complex and consequently more frightening. We were radiating aggression. The ultras had made us suffer once, but it would not happen again. There were few direct attacks on opposition supporters, but there was an eagerness to take the upper hand in any potential conflict. No one wanted to be a victim. Minor misunderstandings quickly escalated into full-scale confrontation, much to the shock of the Italians. Turning into a narrow street in the centre of town, my brother and I saw about six Juventus fans in their twenties lounging outside a cafe, trying to look cool and tough at the same time. When one looked me straight in the eye, giving me a classic hard-case onceover, I snarled: ‘Go on gobshite, say something.’ They did not take up the offer. But the tone was set. And the drinking had not even started. The Grand Place was less tense than might have been expected. Liverpool fans were here in numbers and small groups who had travelled independently met up, felt safe and relaxed into an afternoon of drinking. Clustered around the bars, we sang, bare-chested in the sun and, briefly, bonhomie abounded. It was almost idyllic. The morning had passed off quietly and the fear of ultras began to dissipate. Juventus fans ran across the square with their forty-foot Piedmont flags merging seamlessly with the seventeenth-century backdrop. It was breathtaking. Then the drink kicked in. The common belief was that Belgian beer was weaker than the booze at home. In the heat, young men used to drinking a gallon of weak mild were quaffing strong lagers and ales as if they were lemonade.
FAR FOREIGN LAND Small incidents started to mushroom and suddenly the mood changed and the bars began to shut down. By now, there were four of us in our little group. We were reluctant to leave the square because other friends were probably heading for the rendezvous. I went to find some beer, taking a red-and-white cap I’d found on the road to give some protection from the sun. Walking down a narrow street, I saw a crew of scallies laughing almost hysterically. Seeing my quizzical look, they pointed at a shop. It was a jeweller with no protective metal grating over the window. All you could do was laugh. Farther on, I saw a group of Juventus supporters, and one was wearing a black-and-white sun hat. It would give me more cover in the heat, so I swapped with him. Only he clearly did not want to part with his headwear. He had no choice. Sensing danger, he let me have it and looked in disgust at the flimsy, filthy thing I’d given him. This was not cultural exchange: this was bullying, an assertion of dominance. I remember strutting away, slowly, the body language letting them know how I felt. There was a supermarket by the bourse and, at the entrance, there stood a Liverpool fan. ‘You’re Scouse?’ he said. There was no need for an answer and he knew what I was there for. ‘It’s free to us today,’ he said, handing me a tray of beer. The rule of law was over. On the way back to the square, the group of Liverpool fans by the jeweller had been replaced by riot police. Glass was scattered all over the street, studded with empty display trays. There was hysteria - and pride - in my laughter. This was turning into an excellent day. We set off for the ground and there seemed to be more and more small confrontations. On other days any cultural misunderstandings would end in hugs and an exchange of memorabilia. Here, with the hair-trigger tempers, it was tears, and we were determined they would not be ours. We boarded a tram to head north to the ground, slurring and swearing and exuding threatening, drunken boorishness. At our stop, we stood up to get off and Robert collapsed, the alcohol that had been nastily overriding a collective sense of decency was now severing the physical links between brain and body.
ANGER: Juve fans turned their back on the pitch when the clubs met in the Champions League at Anfield
We hauled him from the middle of the road towards the stadium, two of us with his arms over our shoulder while his feet dragged behind. He appeared unconscious. Then, on the approaches to the ground, a group of young men up ahead snatched the takings from a stallholder and ran away with his strongbox. The man went in pursuit, leaving the stall unattended. Without seeming to open his eyes, Robert deftly unhooked his arm from around my shoulder and pocketed a Juventus scarf. It was unbelievable. He immediately resumed his comatose state and we dragged him on until we reached a grass verge to lay him down. Similar madness was everywhere. People were staggering, collapsing, throwing up. A large proportion of Liverpool fans seemed to have lost control. We met a group of mates who had come by coach. A fellow passenger we all knew had leapt off as soon as they arrived and attacked two people, one an Italian, with an iron bar. That we’d long believed him to be psychotic did not lessen the shock. John, who had been in the line of fire in Rome the year before, dodging flares in the empty Liverpool section, was greeting Juventus fans in heavily Scouse-accented Italian. Naturally friendly, he is a man almost
incapable of violence. A group wearing Liverpool shirts attacked him and beat him to the floor. ‘I’m Scouse,’ he was shouting. Few people have a stronger accent. ‘No you’re not, you Wop,’ they said. It took a riot policeman to rescue him. We thought it was hilarious. What wasn’t funny was the state of the stadium. Even in a drunk and deranged state, it appalled us. The outer wall was breeze block and some of the ticketless were kicking holes at its base and attempting to crawl through. Most were getting savage beatings from the riot police, who were finally making their presence felt. It was easier to walk into the ground and ignore the ticket collector, some of whom were seated at what looked like card tables. I went home with a complete ticket. Four years later, on another dreadful day, I would enter another ground without needing to show my ticket. It is not just the Belgians whose inefficiency had deadly consequences. Inside the stadium, we sat the still inert Robert down and waited until he woke up. He emerged from his torpor with a start and was shocked by the Juventus scarf. ‘You robbed it,’ I said. ‘Oh, no. ’He was appalled. ‘I didn’t hit an Italian, did I?’ ‘No. It’s new. You robbed it in your sleep from a stall.’ ‘Thank God I didn’t hurt anyone,’ he said. ‘I think
1984 AND 1985 EUROPEAN CUP FINALS
I was out of control. ’Section Y, where we were standing, grew more and more crowded and, in front of us, a crush barrier buckled and collapsed. Next door, Section Z was supposedly a neutral area. It looked to be mainly Italian, with plenty of room available. We eyed the space with envy. The rough treatment by police drew a response and most disappeared from the back of the section after skirmishes. Seeing a policeman beating a young lad who was attempting to climb over the wall and was caught in the barbed wire, I pushed the Belgian officer away. He turned to hit me with his baton and I punched him - not hard - through his open visor. He ran away. It was the second time I’d hit someone in almost 10 years of travelling to football matches – and the other punch was aimed at a Liverpool fan. With the police gone, groups of youths swarmed over a snack stand and looted it. I climbed on to the roof and was passed up trays of soft drinks to hand around. It felt like being on top of the world up there. Back on the terraces there was an exchange of missiles - nothing serious by the standards of the day. I went to the toilet and, by the time I came back, the fence was down and people were climbing into the neutral section. Unable to locate my group, I joined the swarm. In section Z I wandered around for a while. 36
There seemed to be very little trouble. People backed away but there were no charges, just a minor scuffle or two. I climbed back into section Y, unaware that 39 people were in the process of dying. It was clear that a huge commotion was going on at the front and we began to get tetchy about the delayed kick-off. Then there seemed to be a long tirade in Italian over the public address system - someone suggested it was a list of names - and all hell broke loose. Juventus fans came out of their end, around the pitch and attacked the corner where other Liverpool supporters were standing. My mother, youngest brother and sister were in that section. Everyone went crazy. Men tore at the fences to get at the Italians and, at last, the police did an effective job of holding back Liverpool fans. The brother with me said: ‘If those fences go, football will be finished. There’ll be hundreds dead. It will be over.’ Finally, the police drove the Italians back. The game? Juventus won 1-0, with a plainly unfair penalty, and the team celebrated wildly on the pitch. There appeared to be as much joy on the terraces. That added to the shock later. Surely no one could have been badly hurt before the game if the players reacted like they did when they received the cup? How naive we were. Afterwards? Tiredness kicked in with
the disappointment but the nervousness over Italian knives lingered. A Belgian policeman gave us a sendoff from the stadium by opening the bus doors, throwing in a canister of tear gas and locking everyone in. At Ostend it was a passive, depressive struggle through overcrowded departure rooms. The police were angry, aggressive and scared. They made sure their guns were very visible and kept dogs snapping at the Liverpool fans. ‘You were glad enough to see us in 1944, you f*****s,’ someone said. No one mentioned death. When the news spread on the boat there was silence and head-shaking. The enormity was overwhelming. How did this happen? The unspoken question perplexed everyone. But instead of admitting our own culpability, seeing how our bad attitudes and fear created a situation where people would die, we immediately found other guilty parties to blame and put the victims out of our minds. Hillsborough brought some empathy for those who died at Heysel. But even that was paltry to the point of insult. Now the dead reached across two decades to knock people out of complacency.
This is an extract from Tony Evans’ book FAR FOREIGN LAND. For more details see www.farforeignland.co.uk
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Every issue, Well Red tracks down a famous Kopite and asks them all about LFC. In this issue we speak to actor . . .
DAVID MORRISSEY Why do you support Liverpool?
I come from a house of Blue. My dad and elder brother where both blues and then my next eldest brother, Tony, decided to go against the grain and support the Reds. When my mum was pregnant with me, my dad was convinced she was having a girl and Tony persuaded him that if it was a boy he’d let him be a Liverpool fan. Tony spent all his pocket money on getting me a Stevie Heighway shirt and the rest is history.
The ﬁrst game I went to was Liverpool v QPR. I stood on the Kop and was thrown around all over the place.
What sticks in your mind about that game?
What I remember most about that game is the Liverpool fans giving Stan Bowles loads of stick. I think there was something in the papers about him playing away from home with someone else’s wife. At one point he came up to the Kop and bowed in front of us which was brilliant, and for the rest of the game we all applauded like mad whenever he got the ball. I also remember (I think) Tommy Smith taking the piss out of Joey Jones.
Best Liverpool FC moment? It has to be Istanbul, I watched it at 38
Stan Bowles was a bit of a character
home with my son, also a Red and my wife ran into the room after our third goal worried that someone had been killed. She couldn’t believe the noise we made.
Other than Istanbul?
Besides that I would say it was Tommy Smith’s header against Monchengladbach (whatever happened to them?) and then Keegan’s run for the penalty afterwards. It’s one of my ﬁrst memories of being gathered around the TV with my brother and even my dad was screaming for us.
Any good at footie yourself?
I play in goal and always have done. But these days I don’t get much of a chance to play. I use to play ﬁve-a-side every week for years but work has put paid to that.
Kenny is my favourite of all time. What can you say? The man is a legend, but Stevie G is well up there now.
Best goal you’ve seen?
There are so many but I think Xabi Alonso’s goal from his own half against Newcastle was brilliant. A great player who I miss a lot.
Would you like to see Liverpool move to a new, bigger stadium or would like to see us stay at Anﬁeld and why? Obviously Anﬁeld is a great stadium full of wonderful memories but I do think a club that has the ambitions of Liverpool need to be playing in front of 70-80 thousand a week. And for that we’d need a new stadium. As long as the design doesn’t take away that Anﬁeld magic.
THE KING: Kenny Dalglish is a ﬁrm favourite with David Morrissey
What are your opinions on a ground share with *them*? I wouldn’t like to see a ground share with Everton for many reasons. I don’t think it would make sense for either club to be honest and I don’t think either sets of supporters want it.
Rafa Benitez getting the sack - good decision?
I thought Rafa left by “mutual consent”. Again he gave me great Liverpool memories and I thank him so much for that. But I never look backwards and for me it’s all about who will come in and take us on to that Premier League win.
What do you think about the appointment of Roy Hodgson as new boss?
Very happy about Woy. Just hoping we can keep Stevie G and Torres....a vain hope I guess.
What are your expectations for next season?
MUCH MISSED: Xabi Alonso
I just want to see the players competing. I see no reason why the players we have in that dressing room can’t challenge for all competitions. Too many players disappeared on the pitch during matches last season and you want them to step up this year. But as to adding to the squad that would depend on how much is in the pot I guess.
Do you get to Anﬁeld much? I get to games as often as I can, work depending. Last season wasn’t good for me as I was working throughout but I got to a few London games.
What do you think about LFC’s owners?
I’m not enamoured with the American owners. I worry about the debt we’re in and the amount we have to spend on players. But I know many football fans feel the same about their own teams. Any successful team needs a strong and supportive board that is not ﬁghting among themselves and I don’t think we’ve had that for some time.
Do you preach LFC to your acting friends — and if so, what do they make of it?
I’m constantly going on to my work colleagues about Liverpool. Working in London of course I’m surrounded by Man U fans and that’s been hard for a while but at least they didn’t get the Premier League this season.
What’s your next project?
I’ve just ﬁnished doing a new drama for SKY called Thorne-Sleepyhead based on the Mark Billingham books about a detective in London. However I play him as a scouser which was great for me. It should be out in October on SKY 1 so look out for it. 39
FANS’ WORD ON THE NEW BOSS
RAFA AND ROY: YOUR VERDICT
We asked what you thought about Rafa Benitez exiting stage left and Roy Hodgson taking the helm . . . DAVE KIRBY, match-goer 43 years, writer 11 years, Scouser 50 years.
How did you feel about the sacking of Rafa Benitez? Was it the right decision? Tell us why/why not. Benitez wasn’t sacked — he wanted to leave. If Juve would’ve coughed up £16 million he’d have left us a month before. He wanted the Milan job so came to a compromise with his severence pay. After watching the football served up last season — seeing beauts like Lucas picked week-in week-out — stubborness with tactics which at times were obscenely negative (Pompey, Wigan, Wolves away) also we won nothing for four years...then for many Reds his departure couldn’t come soon enough. Don’t get me wrong Rafa was a lovely man especially to strangers and his touch regarding donations to the Hillsborough families and cancer centre were fantastic humanist gestures and he will always have my total respect for that and what he achieved on the ﬁeld in those ﬁrst two years. But sadly his warm nature to others was never shown to his players some of whom completely lost faith in him last season. How do you feel about the appointment of Roy Hodgson? I’d prefer to wait till at least this Christmas before I judge Hodgson. Liverpool’s woeful, unacceptable away form last season was relegation material — but Fulham’s was actually worse — they only won one away game. Any repeat of that then Roy’s got serious problems. In my opinion the Kop’s acceptance and support of Roy will be 150% but will initially only be skin deep. But If we get off to a ﬂyer playing ﬂowing football 40
he’ll win everyone over — it’s as simple as that. The fact that he’s Liverpool manager has me fully behind him. His press conference was brilliant. If he can transfer that warm, wise, considered, articulate manner to his players and on to a footy ﬁeld we’re laughing. Many fans wanted to see Kenny Dalglish reappointed as manager — where did you stand and why? In my heart I was desperate to see Kenny back in charge. He’s been around the club for the last 18 months watching everything — he knew the backstage issues and problems and also has total reverence and respect from fans and players including Gerrard and Torres. I’ve heard some people say that he’s been out of the game for too long — my answer to that is simply ‘So f****n’ what!’. He’s a football man throughand-through which doesn’t leave you... it’s in his blood. He’s younger than Hodgson and younger than that senile old pensioner down the East Lancs road. Maybe I’ve got my red-tinted glasses on, but to me Kenny will always be King. The one saving grace is that in his present role as club ambassador we know he’ll be at the club for the rest of
his life (similar to Bobby Charlton) — whereas if he’d got the manager’s job and it wouldn’t have worked out he’d have probably had to leave the club under a cloud...which would’ve hurt him and all of us much more. Do you think Hodgson is a big enough name to persuade Torres and Gerrard to stay and to attract players to Anﬁeld? Hodgson has respect throughout the game including from Jamie Carragher and Stevie Gerrard who I believe we’re well impressed by him at a recent private meet. I don’t know if he can win Fernando over as well but if anyone can I reckon Hodgson can.... at least to persuade Nando to give him one season. If he achieves that then I believe other top players will still come here. As Roy said LFC are “the biggest and most successful British team in history”. Even through the present ownership sh**, that title and prestige still packs enough weight to attract good players. What are your general feelings towards the board and the owners? Broughton seems like a typical cold corporate old boy who’s been brought in
to oversee the sale of the club so I can’t work him out. I just hope he hasn’t got any hidden Yankee agendas. Regarding Purslow...people will always say that he’s Hicks and Gillett’s man. The only way he’ll shake that tag off is if the Yanks sell up and he stays...then the team start doing well. I think that if Hodgson’s tenure brings success and we get new owners then none of us will give a sh** about the board. And that’s the way it should always be. What are your expectations for Liverpool next season? Where do you expect them to ﬁnish in the league and what type of performance are you expecting in the cups and in Europe? When Rafa ﬁrst arrived the football we played was like a breath of fresh air compared to the stagnant onedimensional negative sh** that we’d been forced to watch during Houllier’s ﬁnal seasons. To me...Rafa’s last season was like Houllier de-ja-vu. Whatever negative demons wrecked Houllier’s mindset in his ﬁnal days also wrecked Rafa’s. After seeing Fulham’s style of play last year I don’t think Hodgson employs that kind of slow, negative approach. If we win our ﬁrst few home and away matches then go on a decent run and we do it with a bit of pace and style it’ll tell us a lot about Hodgson’s football philosophy...it could be the launch pad that wins over even the most sceptical anti-Hodgson Reds. I fully expect strong runs in the Europa and FA Cup and if Stevie and Nando stay I think we’ll win one of those trophies. If our top players do stay I’d say that next season is the best ever chance we’ll have of breaking back into the top four. Champions League football is still fresh in the memory for most players — the squad know what it takes to achieve a top four ﬁnish....they’ll also be hungry to make amends for last year’s failure. The longer we’re outside the top four the more difﬁcult it’ll become psychologically to break back into it. So come on Roy lad — we’re full-on behind you.
DAVE MOLYNEUX, HUYTON
RAFA’S SACKING – I was nothing short of utterly disappointed. Here was a man who guided us to umpteen cup ﬁnals winning two of them, guaranteed us qualiﬁcation for the Champions League in all but one season, ﬁnished second the year before last and was one of very few managers who took on Slur Alex Ferguson without giving a s**t what the press thought and, most important of all, brought in some superb players that nobody had ever heard of (Alonso, Garcia, Mascherano, Reina, Torres – being a few examples). The man basically had one bad season and was given the boot. You get the
feeling the Yanks wanted him to put one foot wrong and they were gonna ‘force’ him out with the smear campaign that followed. A shocking way to treat one of Europe’s top managers. ROY HODGSON – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the guy, but I know a lot of people who have a feeling of deﬂation about it. That’s about it, pity really as he is an experienced manager who has an impressive CV and he should be backed by the fans. If he has been brought in as many people think, to be a ‘yes man’ that has to be another matter to take up with our illustrious owners as it’s not really Hodgson’s fault. Another bonus is that Hodgson talks like Terry Tibbs from Fonejacker. The press conferences and after match interviews alone will be worth it: “Fank ye good nart, much lav.” KENNY DALGLISH – As much as every fan loves him, Dalglish has been out of the game for a long time. We need a manager that has recent experience at handling a club. I also think he didn’t get the job as there is no doubt Kenny likes to speak his mind. That’s the last thing the owners want in a manager. OWNERS – This question doesn’t really need answering as everyone I know associated with our club feel exactly the same way about these two jokers. The quicker they leave our club the better. Two words: not welcome! COMING SEASON – Tough one that. It’s gonna be pretty hard to make a guess with all the press speculation (otherwise known as bulls**t) going on at the moment regarding our top players. Good to hear Roy has spoken to Carragher and Gerrard. Also good to read their comments as well. Makes a change from the endless tabloid stories about Gerrard buying a house in Milan, Madrid or Chelsea doesn’t it? Football wise, I’m looking forward to Hodgson’s style of play at Liverpool. I was very impressed with the way Fulham played last year as
IAN KNIGHT, LIVERPOOL, ON RAFA: I was ﬁrmly pro-Rafa and believe he had achieved enough in his six years at the club and allied with the work he’d put into the Academy I think he deserved to secure at least a further season and hopefully the chance to work with new owners. Clearly we underperformed last season and there are many much discussed reasons for this including lack of form and injuries to key players. If a transfer budget had been in place I believe that a strengthened squad may have seen us achieve a higher position. In my opinion Rafa was sacked for standing up for his principles against the owners and as such, with no new owners on the horizon, his position became untenable. GUY MAINS, LANCASTER, ON NEXT SEASON: I do not think we will be a Premier League club after this season if we cannot keep our players. Leeds and Newcastle spring to mind. We have to stop kidding ourselves, the best support in the world cannot keep the club up. I wish people would have listened two years ago when the writing was on the wall, but most just put their heads in the sand. JOEY BURNS, LIVERPOOL, ON HODGSON: It’s easy to say it’s a step down from Rafa, he’s a middle of the road manager, etc. But we’re now looking at middle of the road ambitions for our club. We’re aiming on staying as high as possible in the league and keeping as many good players as we can. I think Hodgson is a nice man, and he can work with a squad while managing on a tight budget. So for those reasons, he’s a good choice. YOHEI KUROYANAGI, LONDON, ON OWNERS: They are totally to blame for the situation we now ﬁnd ourselves in. A new manager that the majority of fans did not want.. why spend reportedly £8m to achieve this? Hicks and Gillett came in with all these promises,none of which they’ve actually kept: new stadium.. not; investment in players..not if you count having to sell to buy, I call that balancing the books. Yes they can blame it partly on the downturn in the economy but the majority of it rests ﬁrmly on their shoulders. MATT SHAW, SOUTHAMPTON, ON NEXT SEASON: To be honest the football is secondary to the ownership saga for me at the moment. I may feel differently when the whistle blows for the ﬁrst game, but I can’t get enthusiastic about it. Who knows. If we’re in contention for the top four I’ll be happy I guess.
FANS’ WORD this club is almost breaking the Geneva convention and normal laws of decency. Being Catholic I can’t wish death on them, but I can wish for them to listen to George W. Bush speak. COMING SEASON: Seventh with no cups, is what my brain says. My heart says the 19th title and all the cups!
there was a good free-flowing style to it. As regards the league, can’t really see us challenging unless there is significant change at the top and someone with rather deeper pockets than the current two tits in charge takes over.
NINA ROBB, 36, WOOLTON
Rafa’s sacking: I don’t believe Rafa was actually “sacked” in the conventional sense. I think his record at LFC deserved another season but the constant bickering with the owners and various chief executives had taken its toll and he took his eye off the ball last season. His failure to have a decent reserve striker in the squad was unforgiveable while the outlay of a large part of his transfer budget on an unfit and injury prone Aquilani was a gamble we could ill afford. ROY HODGSON: Only time will tell if Hodgson is a good appointment. However, I’m not sure who else was out there and realistically available. It would have been great if Guus Hiddink had been persuaded to take over and repeat what he did at Chelsea – turn the same underperforming squad into winners. Given the uncertainties over the ownership issue, I think whoever took over from Rafa has a somewhat poisoned chalice. There is no doubt Hodgson did a good job at Fulham but he did a poor job at Blackburn and was hardly a roaring success at Inter Milan. It is a sign of our predicament that certain people are questioning Hodgson as to why he should take the Liverpool job when the England job may soon become vacant. WILL BIG PLAYERS GO?: We shouldn’t be dictated to by Gerrard and Torres that we must have a big name if they are to stay. However good they are, LFC is bigger than those two. If Gerrard plays as he did last season and Torres remains as injury prone, then there is an argument that we should cash in. However, if we did sell them, then we would be seen as a selling club and would not be as attractive to any potential new signings. Moreover, the money raised from their sale would not be given in its entirety to the new manager. It is for that reason that they must be encouraged to stay. OWNERS: My view on the owners is unprintable. Our great club has been pillaged by those two Americans and, despite well meaning protests, we 42
Colin Tyrrell, Wexford
appear to be powerless to prevent further debt being loaded onto the club. The new stadium seems further away than ever. COMING SEASON: As a result of all of the above, my expectations are lower than they have been in all my time of watching LFC. However, it is when we are at our lowest that we often exceed our expectations. I thus tentatively predict a return to the Champions League and perhaps a long awaited trip to the new Wembley (and not just for the FA semi!)
Stephen Brandt, 31, from: Buffalo, USA
BENITEZ SACKING: It was a poor piece of business. If the Three Stooges wanted to alienate fans, they did it. Was he the best manager ever? No. But given the resources he had, fourth to eighth place was good enough. I think getting another manager at this time will hurt the club more than anything. Roy Hodgson: I have no issue with Roy as a person, or a manager – I just wish the board had gone for someone with more top-level experience. KENNY DALGLISH: Kenny is the reason why I’m a fan. It would have been an awesome appointment to have him back. But I don’t know if he can coach anymore and if he had been poor would it have harmed his reputation? WILL BIG PLAYERS GO?: I don’t think either of them are leaving anyway. Gerrard doesn’t seem like a moneygrabber, and Torres, I think, loves Liverpool. OWNERS: What they have done to
RAFA’S SACKING: I thought it was a poor decision. But I predicted it 12 months ago. I also felt he wouldn’t have got the fan support he received if the owners weren’t so objectionable. I never felt he was going to win the league. His gameplan wasn’t suited. He has left Liverpool while held in massively high regard. He got a substantial payoff, and has walked straight into a top job. But he hasn’t won a trophy for four years. History will suggest it was the right decision if we improve, but history may forget the disgraceful way in which it was carried out. HODGSON: Hardly an inspired decision and one that may prove very costly for the club if he doesn’t improve the team rapidly. Is he a yes man? Is he a media darling? Is it a decision based on keeping the board happy, rather than a footballing decision? All ‘Yes’ I suspect. KENNY DALGLISH: I think this is based on nostalgia. I felt excited about the prospect until I thought it through. Perhaps that’s because I don’t want him to fail, and tarnish his reputation. Basically it would be a position that would be impossible to do properly. WILL BIG PLAYERS GO?: A big name manager is over-rated when it comes to attracting players. I wouldn’t use this as a factor to write off Hodgson. Players want to earn money and win. Silva to City? He wasn’t attracted by Mancini. I think Torres and Gerrard will stay. OWNERS: They’re out to make money. Their aspirations therefore are completely different to the fans. Once every extra penny (within reason) was pumped back into the squad. That’s no longer the case. They want to have the extra cash rediverted. As a Liverpool FC fan, I have nothing but contempt. But football is bad business — running it is rarely profitable if you aim to buy big players and win trophies. COMING SEASON: Sixth to eighth position; I think playing on a Thursday could have a very negative effect on our weekend games. I suspect our squad will be cut down too. But the squad needs to be cut down - too many average players. Unfortunately those average players need to be replaced by better ones - that won’t happen.
Erik Sørli, 37, Trondheim, Norway
RAFA’S SACKING: I felt sad for Rafa, and more so for the future of the club. The sacking of Rafa says much about the ambitions and motivations of Hicks and Gillett. No matter how we feel about Rafa, he is a top manager and given the money to buy his favoured players would ultimately have put the title back where it belongs. There’s no way Hicks and Gillett could bring a better manager to the club, so instead they hire someone that is used to less money and someone that probably will cause less turmoil against the ownership. The main goal for the Yanks is to sell the club with huge profit. They have given up on the club and our title ambitions. HODGSON: Who else could we get? Not many. I guess an English manager is a safer bet than some unknown foreigner. But I’m not to happy. KENNY DALGLISH: I would like to see King Kenny back as manager, he sure would have the fans behind him. The Yanks have made a poor decision. But I guess they knew too well Kenny would never be their puppet. WILL BIG PLAYERS GO?: I guess the players are more concerned about which players will be signed. If Hodgson has enough money he sure could attract some good players, but I don’t expect he will be given much. OWNERS: The Chelsea man can take a hike back to London, he can do no good for us. I don’t even want to mention the owners. They make me sick. COMING SEASON: I have no expectations at all. I guess we’ll be between fifth and 11th in the league. I can see no trophies. Hopefully Hodgson will bring more of our youngsters into action. I would love to see Kelly, Pacheco and Spearing.
KIRSTY WHITTAKER, 20, W’HAMPTON
RAFA’S SACKING: I thought it was a very harsh and brash decision but at the same time we could all see it coming. Was very disappointed to see him go but a part of me felt as though we needed a complete change, a total clean slate but that of course would include shipping the owners out. I really liked Rafa’s style of management and although I did question some of his decisions I think what he did
in his time at the club was fantastic. Can’t say whether it was the right decision and i don’t think we will be able to make judgement until we see how the new manager gets on. I personally don’t think it was the right decision but it was getting to a stage where it was Benitez or the board and we all knew who was going to win that battle. I wish Rafa all the best, true gentleman and a great HODGSON: Wouldn’t have been top of my list if i’m honest but he certainly wouldn’t have been bottom. I feel he has a good knowledge of the game and with age comes wisdom too. Feel he offers a more retro traditional approach to football similar to how Liverpool used to play in the glory days. Concerned as to whether he will be able to hold onto the likes of Gerrard and Torres and am a bit weary of his transfers reputation but i shall certainly support him and have realistic expectations. KENNY DALGLISH: I would have loved to have seen King Kenny back in the hot seat but I was very worried about how his time with us now in this current situation at the club and how it may ruin his legendary status. There is no doubt in my mind that Dalglish would have been a successful manager again with Liverpool but i just wouldn’t want to put him through all the stress and the trouble. If it was an ideal world and Liverpool had an ideal situation I would say yes straight away but unfortunately things aren’t running as smoothly as that at Anfield. WILL BIG PLAYERS GO?: This does concern me. I have heard that Gerrard has approved of Hodgson but don’t know whether that has any truth to it. If Hodgson could ensure Gerrard that he would be played in his suited role and not messed around and talked to him about him being the centrepiece of his plans then I think he may be convinced. As for Torres, i have no doubt that he loves the club and the city/fans but he is realising he is young and one of the best players in the world. Unfortunately at the moment we can’t offer him silverware and he deserves trophies to his name. OWNERS: It’s hard to describe my feelings towards the owners without it turning into a complete mindless rant but to put it simply I am sick to death of them. They are dragging our proud tradition and our superb club down to hell, they are liars and don’t have a care in the world for the fans. If they had any sense and any self respect they would sell up and do the right thing. As for the board again, it’s hard to describe. Christian Purslow and Martin Broughton did a great job of fooling me at first but I have since learned not to take things at face value. I just can’t see what Purslow is doing and Broughton doesn’t seem any better either. The sooner all four men are out the better.
SNAPSHOTS KEN O’BYRNE, CORK, ON RAFA: I was gutted when I heard that Rafa was going, for me this was proof positive that the powers that be at board level at LFC were NOT concerned with the best interests of Liverpool. I remember when Gerard Houllier was leaving I was sorry to see him go but excited at the prospect of a new hungry manager coming in. This time I held no such hopes. We were in no fit position to let one of Europe’s top managers go, never mind one as committed to the development and success of the club as Rafa. The one good thing to emerge from Rafa’s sacking though was the outing of Christian Purslow as the lickspittle of our illustrious owners. Rafa’s sacking was a political manoeuvre and demonstrated that Purslow was not as much a man of the people as he tried to paint himself in the meeting with SOS. PAUL McHUGH, LIVERPOOL, ON OWNERS: The board and owners have lied so many times they can’t even keep their story straight — “we never said we wouldn’t leverage the debt against the club”, “we never mentioned 60 days for a spade in the ground”, “it’s going to be a big summer for transfers”, “we have backed the manager financially”. MIKE KENNEDY, CHESTER, ON HODGSON: I think he’s a safe pair of hands and we could’ve done a lot worse. That said, I honestly believe we’ve swapped one of the best managers in the world for merely a decent one. Whichever way I look at it I can’t help but feel it’s ultimately a downgrade. BECCI HEARD, MANCHESTER, ON OWNERS: I absolutely loathe them. They’ve near on destroyed the club that I have grown up to not just love but obsessively adore with such a passion that it genuinely hurts to see that The Liverpool Way is almost just a distant memory in our glorious history. Hicks, Gillett and Purslow need a one way ticket out of Liverpool as fast as possible and they should never return. As my hero once said: “At a football club, there’s a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques.” That is sadly not the case at Liverpool any more. Thanks to everyone who replied to the survey — the response was overwhelming and we could have filled the entire magazine with your comments. Sorry we couldn’t fit everyone’s comments in. 43
Neil Scott on the player who, more than any other, is the Kop’s man on the pitch
ERHAPS more than any other sport, football is about individual moments. Those snapshots of genius, of madness, of calamity or despair which, taken in isolation, act as a kind of symbolic shorthand for a particular match, a season, sometimes even a career. Great players are frequently deﬁned by such moments. Think of Maradona. For all the unmatched ball-wizardry, the stunning individual goals and the off-ﬁeld turbulence, he is most likely to be remembered, in this country at least, for punching the ball into Peter Shilton’s net. Similarly, Paul Gascoigne’s tears in Turin became part of the cultural landscape and ominously signposted the personal struggles that would later envelop him. Closer to home, Kenny Dalglish will forever be frozen in time gleefully leaping over the Wembley hoardings in 1978, having secured the European Cup with a typical moment of magic. For many Liverpool supporters, Jamie Carragher’s deﬁning moment is inextricably linked to him lying ﬂat on his back, racked with exhaustion and pain. To be slightly more precise, it captures him dredging up every last sinew of determination to overcome that exhaustion and pain in the execution of a perfectly timed, impeccably delivered, lastditch intervention, denying Andrei
HEART Shevchenko the opportunity to mark his Istanbul appearance with the winning goal instead of the abject misery of penalty failure. Typical Carragher. Committed. Uncompromising. Unﬂinching. In fact, that wonderful night in Istanbul, with its uncertain beginning, expectation-defying recovery and ultimate glorious triumph, provides a handy metaphor for Jamie Carragher’s career. It is worth remembering that, prior to the commencement of the Benitez reign in 2004, Carragher’s position in the Liverpool team was far from certain. His versatility, which initially saw him occupy a midﬁeld berth before periods in both full-back roles, had become a barrier which served to inhibit and frustrate his progression. To some observers, his obvious qualities – of tenacity, strength and ﬁerce willto-win – were in danger of being outweighed by his limitations. He lacked pace, they said. He couldn’t pass. As a creative force, he offered little. In short, he came to encapsulate the safety-ﬁrst, unadventurous approach that characterised Gerard Houllier’s ﬁnal years in charge. The fact that he was constantly being asked to plug holes in the starting eleven for the overall beneﬁt of the team, to sacriﬁce his own advancement as a player for the collective good, was generally overlooked. It was far easier to bemoan Jamie Carragher for what he was not than to recognise his value as the type of player Liverpool would need if we were ever to regain our place among the elite. It was Benitez who gave him the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. In establishing a Carragher – Hyypia partnership in the centre of the Liverpool defence, Rafa not only ensured that his recast team had the
FINEST HOUR: Carra’s courage won us the European Cup in Istanbul
necessary solidity on which his longterm plans relied; he also engineered the kind of individual transformation not seen at Anﬁeld since Bob Paisley re-imagined Ray Kennedy as the most complete left-sided midﬁeld player of his generation. Within a season, Carragher was being widely recognised as one of the most effective and consistent defenders in Europe. It’s fair to say that, for all the heroics of Gerrard, Garcia and Dudek, it was Carragher’s single-minded deﬁance above anything else that propelled Liverpool forward to the unimagined heights of Champions League success in 2005. Think back to his performances in that campaign. To Turin, where his innate leadership and organisational qualities repeatedly dashed the efforts of Juventus to overturn a narrow ﬁrstleg deﬁcit. To Anﬁeld, where an increasingly fevered Chelsea onslaught was deﬁed time and time again, by boneshaking blocks, last-gasp tackles and impeccable interceptions, in perhaps the most unyielding and wilfully obdurate defensive display given by a single player in Liverpool’s long and illustrious history.
And to Istanbul, where he recovered from the trauma of conceding three ﬁrst-half goals to emerge triumphant, ultimately vanquishing the combined triple threat of Shevchenko, Crespo and cramp to conﬁrm his status as a true Liverpool legend. Equally as impressive, though less obviously headline-grabbing, Carragher maintained that level of performance for much of the next ﬁve years. He ﬁrmly established himself as the bedrock of the team, cajoling, directing and, when necessary, rebuking those around him and, in the process, became the player that all Liverpool supporters could most readily identify with. You never saw Jamie Carragher splashed across the cover of celebrity gossip sheets. He was never snapped falling out of an exclusive west-end nightclub blinged up to the eyeballs or spotted sharing a cocktail with Peaches Geldof. “We all dream of a team of Carraghers” was more than just a song – it was an expression of solidarity with the values and work ethic of someone who always remained true to his roots. In an age where players are increasingly seen as being disconnected from their fan-base, where astronomical transfer fees and obscenely high
salaries are accepted as the norm, it is easy to conclude that football is no longer relevant. Take a closer look however, and it becomes clear that, for all the greed, egotism and self-absorption typically on show, isolated pockets of decency remain. Jamie Carragher is a prime example. Through his ongoing commitment to charitable causes (as illustrated by the formation of his 23 Foundation, set up to beneﬁt local children) and his involvement in a host of community initiatives, Carragher has maintained a measure of integrity and awareness not always apparent in his peers. Both on and off the pitch he evokes all the qualities that Bill Shankly held dear honesty, dignity, dedication, humility - and there can be no praise greater than that. On 4th September, Anﬁeld will host Jamie Carragher’s testimonial match, with his boyhood idols Everton providing the opposition. All of the money raised will go to local charities. It is an opportunity for Liverpool supporters to show their appreciation for one of the club’s most distinguished servants and to celebrate a unique career. Few players have deserved it more. 45
HARD TIMES AT ANFIELD
JOANNE GREENWAY on why Liverpool are in a much worse position than our indebted rivals
ootball may be far more important than life but that does not mean it can escape from its realities. Just as the ‘current economic climate’™ has affected businesses with waves of job cuts or closures, so it has inevitably impacted a game built extensively on borrowing to compete. The levels of debt in the game are why football couldn’t expect to avoid the credit crunch, only delay its impacts. It has been swimming in the same high ﬁnance waters – once a warm bath, now more like the North Atlantic – as other global institutions. As Dion Fanning observed in the last Well Red, ‘think of the world and its money now and you have Liverpool’. In the manner of nervy Northern Rock mortgagees awaiting the bailiffs, fans have been left wondering if the guarantee to meet all ﬁxtures next season is worth the glossily-headed corporate paper it is printed on. A football fan’s biggest fear is no longer ‘Maybe we’ll go down,’ but ‘Maybe we’ll go down and large men in polo shirts will come to rip out the seats to melt down to pay back the angry hedge fund owners.’ This is not so much ‘liquid football’ as ‘liquidation football’. Liverpool fans facing those fears and wondering what might follow in the post-crunch ﬁnancial world order have no shortage of horrifying examples at hand. The over-conﬁdent among us
O’DEARY: Leeds’ money trouble got worse when they failed to make the Champions League
may believe that as Benitez has been shown the door all problems will melt away with him, but that is not the view of many, including this writer. At the opposite extreme are doom merchants warning that Liverpool is now more than capable of ‘doing a Newcastle’… or a Portsmouth or a Nottingham Forest or even... whisper the name that causes a shudder down the spine and a sick feeling in the gut... a Leeds? There are many reasons for football clubs taking on debt, from chasing glory to the more mundane realities of staying aﬂoat, just as some of us keep the credit cards for the big purchases
while others pay for petrol and groceries with them. Borrowing is not a problem when the debt can be managed. In the early part of the last decade Leeds were doing just that, a club with a glorious history and plans for the future, who looked to ﬁnance their reasonably-achievable ambitions for Champions League football and shoulder-rubbing with the European elite via loans. Many would no doubt have seen it as taking a calculated risk to get the club back where it belonged. With that in mind, it is worth seeing what Liverpool can learn from what the Yorkshire Evening Post has described
HARD TIMES AT ANFIELD as ‘the chance to see what a historically famous club looks like when it falls upon seriously hard times’. Hard times at Elland Road began after they borrowed against income not yet received and not certain to come in at all from future seasons’ Champions League gate receipts. Finishing behind Newcastle in fourth and winning a UEFA Cup place instead was the shove in the back along a downward slide that eventually led to the sale and leaseback of their training ground and stadium in the autumn of 2004. That slide became the Cresta Run when HMRC, owed £7.7 million in unpaid tax by the club, challenged a Company Voluntary Arrangement agreed with creditors. This led to a delay in exiting administration within the allotted time limit which resulted in a 15-point deduction and a catastrophic summer-long transfer embargo. HMRC later dropped the challenge, but the damage was done. However bad Leeds’ situation at its worst point – with total debts of £127.5m and monthly interest payments of £1m recorded in October 2003 – certain clubs now make them look like models of ﬁnancial restraint in comparison (see table below). Liverpool has taken on levels of borrowing similar to that of rivals Arsenal and Man United, yet leveraged it against a much lower level of turnover. Arsenal’s debts have in part gone towards achieving the cash injection supplied by their new stadium while Liverpool’s have largely disappeared into American bank accounts. However, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Writing in the Guardian when Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool, ﬁnancial journalist Tom Bower compared the sale to the situation at Thames Water. There, foreign investors bought a British company, raised loans against it and spent that money in another country.
PROTEST: Leeds fans felt the same way about their board as we do now
Thames’ new owners resisted demands for investment in the company’s creaking infrastructure, introduced increases in tariffs to meet loan payments and paid their managers millions in bonuses before selling the company on to another foreign investor at a proﬁt. Bower may have realised before any of us what the Americans had in mind for Liverpool, but the business model was clear and established. Football fans, like water company customers, are an exploitable asset as solid as the stadiums the teams play in: their loyalty and commitment considered a constant. Liverpool can avoid Leeds’ fate so long as they keep the revenue streams open, continue to extend into new markets and thus safeguard their proﬁts. They need us to keep the tills ringing at a time when the ‘current economic climate’ is
WHY ALL REDS SHOULD BE WORRIED Leeds Arsenal Liverpool Man United
Debt £m 9.5 461 473 507.5
Annual interest £ Turnover £m Operating profit £m 52,000 23 4.5 26m 222.5m 36.7 40.1m 161.8m 10.2 41.9m 278.5m 48.2
impacting dramatically on household expenditure. This is no time to have your fans querying if match tickets provide enough of a return on the investment to justify the outlay or considering boycotts as a method of protest. Such actions could do more to harm the fabric of the club than hurt the owners. Leeds could have gone on partially clearing and reﬁnancing their borrowing for another decade if they had avoided the loans being called in when gate receipts dropped. Their rescue has come in part from unprecedented-for-League-One attendances averaging over 26,000 per game and a loyal fan base prepared to pay almost-Premiership matchday and season ticket prices. It is perhaps a strange twist that one of the factors which helped Leeds United ﬁnd some relatively sound ﬁnancial ground beneath its feet was the gate money from the Carling Cup tie against LFC. Let’s hope, should things get as bad for us, that they can return the favour. ■Joanne Greenway writes the blog ‘ten minutes hate’ as Julia Smith at http://10mh.net. Additional LUFC-related information supplied by Mark Woffenden (@markwoff on Twitter)
THE FALL AND RISE OF LEEDS UNITED
After a few years, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope it’s not a train coming Leeds United fan DAVE WOFFENDEN on the special relationship that’s endured between Elland Road and Anfield since the 60s
ince the mid/late 60s there has been, for me at least, a special relationship with Liverpool, not a head‑up‑arse Blair/Bush‑style special relationship but a grudging admiration that the ‘Pool had the boot room management mentality while we went for a succession of old boys to try and maintain winning ways. The current results of this are clear: both clubs need to get back there. Like Liverpool, Leeds United — the Marmite of football — has been in the news since the papers discovered sales are in direct proportion to the numbers of lies, distortions and smokescreens they can squeeze in. From the far‑off Don Revie days of brown paper parcels, cynical professionalism and Brian Clough’s drunken ravings, to Ridsdale’s goldfish, never in the field of media has so much piffle been published by so few hacks about one ordinary football team. As a lifelong supporter (the words should be inseparable), much amusement, frustration and anger has been vented over the years at the stories following football like flies follow cows’ bottoms. After the latest round of heady excitement supporting Leeds around Europe in the Champions League, holding our heads up in the newly‑formed Premier League, it all
RIVALS: Leeds and Liverpool were the Big Two in the 70s
came crashing down rather too rapidly to actually believe it was happening. How could the same eleven that had rattled Real Madrid suddenly play as bad as Bolton? In fact, worse, seeing as it was Bolton that sent us down to the Championship, 4‑1 in 2004? That was the cue for rumour control to get into top gear. The little niggling details that came out, the Bowyer/ Woodgate trial, O’Leary’s book, boardroom jealousies, all took a share of the blame according to which redtop needed a sales boost. As a fan, I could do nothing but hope it would all go away, but everyone had an opinion, especially non‑football fans who would not understand why I wasn’t personally taking any blame. Then it all simmered down to Money, Money and more Money, or lack of it in real terms. It’s like having a bookies’ in the bank, with the Chairman borrowing money from one counter and placing a bet on the other counter. Sooner or later, the lender says ‘I’ll have that money back now please.’ ‘Ah,’ says the Chairman. ‘Time for one last bet. I’ll put it all on us winning the Champions League next season… Oh bollocks!’ Call in the receivers, administration, down and out… prices go up, all the best players go out, and then in steps the FA to assist the club back to normality. ‘Right, we’ll start by docking you 10 points.’ ‘But… it’s financial irregularities, not football misdemeanours. Why punish the players and fans?’ ‘Because it’s easier this way and we are protecting the other clubs’. I didn’t understand this argument then and I don’t understand it now. Ridsdale, the facilitator of Leeds’ downfall, is still plying his borrowing ways in other parts of the country, and nothing is done by the FA except to issue glib statements about ‘fit and proper people’ being in charge, and of course if you believe that, the Moon is a baboon’s backside and Simon Cowell is the sole arbiter of talent in Britain. Meanwhile this fan looks on as another ‘entrepreneur’ volunteers to run his club by selling everything except the corner flags and putting up the prices because it’s good for you in the long run. I reached the stage where I thought if we went totally belly‑up and ceased to exist, at least I could say I was loyal to the last and spend my season
THE FALL AND RISE OF LEEDS UNITED RESPECT: Leeds fans and staff helped give Shankly an emotional send-off in the 1974 Charity Shield
ticket money on several cases of wine instead, taking Saturday afternoons off for something useful. Of course, the ‘lifelong’ bit says ‘You can’t do that, hang on, the good times are just around the corner…’ After a mercifully short few years of wilderness football, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope it’s not a train coming. I have learned to enjoy the good when it’s good, and there is some good football in the lower echelons, so Youse Reds shouldn’t worry – just in case, I mean… There will always be wind‑up merchants to take the piss too, but ‘1‑0 in yer cup final’ works both ways, and when I’m singing it I’m as happy as anyone. Looking back again, in the days of Revie we won the league at Anfield after a spectacular 0‑0 draw, and Bremner led the team to the Kop not knowing what to expect. The rousing chorus of ‘Champions, Champions’ was better than ‘Careless Hands’ the season before. I remember well going to Wembley for the charity shield game between us when Shankly had announced his retirement and a standing ovation with every single Leeds fan chanting
‘Shankly, Shankly’ started the game. Of course, it did end in handbags from Keegan and Bremner, and eventually penalties, but Liverpool only won those because Clemence chickened out on the goalies’ promise to take a pen each. Later still, our mini renaissance in the 90s saw some great games at both stadiums, including — who could forget? — Viduka’s four goals after 3‑0 down, and my favourite back‑and‑forth chants of all time, concerning Dom Matteo, Pinocchio and a number of car stereos. I suppose we always thought, if we can’t win it, it may as well be Liverpool, just to stop those clowns in the middle of the M62 having it. During 1971 I was working in Liverpool and witnessed a late goal from Bremner that saw us win in the semis of the UEFA, at what was then a fortress – but there was no animosity, no jibes, just free beer from the lot of them. Thanks guys. Hard times may be on the way to Anfield, but Woy may be the man. One thing is for sure, you don’t have to come down to visit Leeds. WE ARE COMING UP! Dave Woffenden has been in the Lowfields since 1964. 49
THE POWER OF NUMBERS
CREATING A CREDIT UNION IS AN IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD IN THE BID FOR FAN OWNERSHIP OF LIVERPOOL FC SAYS CLAIRE JONES
HE Spirit of Shankly supporters’ union’s new plan for fan ownership has at its heart the creation of a credit union to collect payments from supporters to buy a stake in Liverpool Football Club. Spearheading it is Peter Furmedge, a member of Spirit of Shankly who was formerly a board member of Share Liverpool. Having become frustrated with the snail’s-pace progress of Share Liverpool, and having had a merger proposal rejected two days earlier (further meetings took place in early June, with Share Liverpool agreeing to a merged structure. But, to date, the heads of terms remain unsigned by Share Liverpool), Spirit of Shankly chose to activate a contingency plan it had been working on for six months. This plan is based upon that agreed with Share Liverpool prior to the launch of the £500 share scheme last July. However, there is a difference in that Spirit of Shankly wanted to make certain that any scheme to buy a stake in the club was as accessible as possible and, to achieve that aim, proposed the credit union model. The Spirit of Shankly Liverpool Supporters Credit Union will allow fans to save towards the cost of a £500 share in a supporter-ownership bid by making regular deposits of as little or as much as they can afford once they state their intentions to
buy a share. The Share Liverpool plan called on fans to make a oneoff payment of £500 into a Share Liverpool FC-nominated account. Money saved would remain in fans’ hands until they sign it over to buy a share in the supporter ownership bid. If the scheme does not work, then fans will retain all of the money in their account plus any interest accrued. Spirit of Shankly approached the Merseyside-based Partners Credit Union to see if they would be willing to allow a Spirit of Shankly credit union to operate under their umbrella in order to establish a viable means
an expected change in the common bond rules required for Partners, which at present limits to those that live in Merseyside, will hopefully see those from elsewhere able to subscribe shortly after. The proposal presents a significant step forward for three reasons. First, being able to say to the media and commercial partners alike that there is X amount of cash sitting in a credit union devoted to the cause is far more compelling than saying you have X number of pledges. It is a very effective piece of propaganda. Members of Spirit of Shankly such as myself know that if we can convince the entire fan base to cooperate, then we have the financial and intellectual might to have a marked impact on the future of Liverpool Football Club. Others are sceptical in the extreme. This will go a long way in helping to convert them. Second, the use of the credit union model is very much in line with the broader ethos of Spirit of Shankly. Like the union, credit unions are grassroots organisations based on communities working together in order to promote their financial wellbeing. They are both democratic cooperatives run by and for their members. Credit unions allow people to borrow at affordable rates – they are set up to stop poor people being mugged by snidey loan sharks,
In a survey carried out by Co-Operatives UK 72% of Liverpool fans who responded felt their club would be in better hands if it was owned co-operatively. Across the country, 56% of fans felt the same way
of holding fans’ contributions to a share-ownership fund while money was collected and the terms of any bid agreed among those seeking to invest. The Partners Credit Union is regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme so deposits up to the value of £50,000 are insured. It was established in 1993 and brings together many of Liverpool’s older credit unions and the City Council’s own employees’ credit union. It is expected that those on Merseyside should be able to start subscribing to the credit union from August. Following this pilot period,
Spirit of Shankly to stop fans being mugged by snidey suits. The model is also in line with the ethos of Spirit of Shankly in that it is all-inclusive, allowing those who cannot afford £500 up front to hold a stake in the club they love. Third, revisiting the point above on cheap borrowing rates, the credit union could enable Spirit of Shankly members to leverage their savings in order to provide more capital for the ownership bid. If fans wanted to contribute more in order to fund the purchase of a larger stake for the club, never then after three months walke.they could apply for a loan alon of up to three times the value of their savings, taking their total contribution to a potential £2,000 (the credit union offers life insurance on all loans and can also arrange cover against accident, sickness and cover). And, in the worst case scenario, should a supporter ownership bid not materialise, at least fans will be able to save and borrow for the likes of season tickets and European travel without resorting to expensive overdrafts and credit cards. However, though not specific to the credit union model, three important issues regarding the fan ownership bid remain. Before I go into these, let me say that fan ownership is the only way we as fans can protect both the club’s cultural heritage and its longterm financial health. I have every confidence that Spirit of Shankly will consult with its members on all of these issues in a democratic and transparent way. First, the Spirit of Shankly model m differs from that of Share nkly.coin aLiverpool h s f o t i r that – though ithe union would prefer ww.sp – it would settle for a fullw ownership shareholding that will offer supporter representation on the board. However, it needs to be clear to those that wish to contribute to the credit union and, hence, the shareholding, what the minimum share is that they would accept and what this would likely cost. Any decision on this must be based on how much of a stake we need to have to be able to force motions to
improve the club, or block proposals that are to its detriment (Furmedge has said that all investors will be consulted and vote on this and that, at the very minimum, the investment must give fans not only a seat on the board but, in his view, also pre-emption rights to the purchase of shares in any future sale or partial sale of
Royal Bank of Scotland as this was the amount that the bank would eventually sell the club for (it is part of Spirit of Shankly’s strategy to pressurise RBS to force a sale). As of the end of the previous financial year, Liverpool’s debts amounted to £378.6m, £234m of which was through bank loans, the vast chunk of which are with RBS, with the remainder owed to Hicks’s and Gillett’s Cayman Islands venture Kop Football Limited (which is charging interest at a rather unreasonable 10 per cent per annum – the Bank of England’s bank rate is 0.5 per cent). Given that the union would appear to value the club at £234m, it’s necessary for Spirit of Shankly to determine the maximum they would pay. Even if what the credit union raised fell short of £234m, the rs’ union might be able to secure pporte u S l o additional financing should fans o p r e v Li support this. But would they raise their bid if another possible buyer put forth a higher offer? Would they form a deal with a commercial partner who valued the club at, say, £400m? Third, as with the Share Liverpool scheme, it is unclear what Spirit of Shankly’s stance is on what is, for me, the key factor in determining our financial health: the building of a new stadium (or perhaps the redevelopment of Anfield). An architect has approached both Share Liverpool and Spirit ip wnersh orter o p of Shankly with what p u s able ! Furmedge views as · Afford d savings the few t o n y te n c a · Prote ible - for the m t of your Club viable plans for the ar ss · Acce ance to be a p redevelopment of Anfield h c · Your at a significantly lower cost than that quoted by Hicks’s associates in Dallas. The union is also intent on investigating the club.) Second, at Spirit of Shankly’s several options for stadium financing, so there may be some more insight extraordinary general meeting held provided on this in the near future. in central Liverpool on June 12, More information will be sent Fran Stanton, the chair of Spirit of out to existing SOS members Shankly, agreed with suggestions and made public on the website: that Tom Hicks and George Gillett www.spiritofshankly.com If were vastly overvaluing the club at you are not a member you can £600million. register your interest by sending It was, he said, the view of the an email to: creditunion@ union that the club was only worth spiritofshankly.com the value of its debt owed to the
Union t i d e r C
WITH MONEY TIGHT, AND RIVALS DISAPPEARING OVER THE HORIZON, LIVERPOOL MORE THAN EVER BEFORE NEED TO START PRODUCING HOME-GROWN TALENT. IN THIS SPECIAL REPORT PAUL GRECH ASKS:
IS OUR FUTURE BRIGHT? N
EIL MELLOR left Preston to join Shefﬁeld Wednesday on a year’s loan deal this summer. It isn’t the sort of transfer many Liverpool fans will have picked up on but it is signiﬁcant for one particular reason: Mellor is one of the most successful graduates to emerge from Liverpool’s academy in the past ten years. In fact, apart from Stephen Warnock, no player from the academy who made his senior debut in the past decade plays in the Premier League. A handful - David Raven, Jon Otsemobor, Stephen Wright, Darren Potter - have gone on to establish themselves as good players in the lower leagues. But none have shown they could have made the grade at Anﬁeld. Pinpointing a reason for that is tricky. It is far too easy to get bogged down in arguments involving Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez’s reluctance to give younger players an opportunity. Inevitably, these arguments turn into a debate about whether this was down to players not being good enough or players not developing because of a lack of opportunites. The truth is there isn’t a single reason – just as it isn’t talent alone
KOP OUTS: Mellor (right) and Potter were sold on that is needed for a player to make it in professional football. Indeed, there are a number of factors - luck, injuries, physical strength, mental resilience, tactical awareness - that always have to
be kept in the forefront of any discussion about young players. The temptation to build them up as potential stars is often hard to resist when in reality, sad and cynical though this might seem, it takes
THE ACADEMY First-team players train at the academy in 1999
much more than talent to be able to get a chance in the game. The nineties witnessed the largest number of home-grown players in the modern history of the club – Mike Marsh, Dominic Matteo, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, David Thompson, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard. Yet this was also the worst decade in the modern history of the club as far as results were concerned, something that played a factor in all of those players getting opportunities as early as they did. Of course, most of those players were fantastically talented individuals who would have made it in any case. Then again, the injuries that plagued Gerrard early on in the ﬁrst team could have easily ruined his career. It was Carragher’s mental strength rather than his playing talent that saw him carve out a place in the team, despite a number of supposedly better players being brought in. Such factors are often overlooked, yet they are what really makes a difference. This doesn’t answer the question as to why an academy such as Liverpool’s, one that had been so successful, stopped churning out players. The methods certainly didn’t change and the talent pool available remained the same. So what happened? The most probable reason, strange as this might
seem, is that success happened. When Houllier arrived and started overhauling the ﬁrst team to bring it in line with his view of the game, results improved markedly. By the end of his ﬁrst season expectations had risen and so too the pressure on him to succeed. Houllier, of course, was a great believer in young talent. One of the reasons that he had been chosen for the Liverpool job was the success of the French youth system which he was credited with shaping. In his ﬁrst months at the club, he had picked two young players from the reserves and included them in his ﬁrst team. The ﬁrst one, Steven Gerrard, went on to become the club’s ﬁnest player in recent history. But, for the sake of this piece, it is the second of those players who is most important. That player was Stephen Wright, a good right back who seemed to have everything needed to make the grade: strength, speed, willingness to work hard and knowledge of what to do with the ball. What he lacked, obviously enough, was experience – and that was the root of the problem. By the time Wright came to play for the side, Liverpool were on the rise and Houllier probably felt that he needed someone more experienced to rely on if his hopes of success were to be realised. So he turned to Abel Xavier. The move for Everton’s defender was a controversial one and not only
because of the club from which he was joining. Xavier was seen as something of a joke and his playing skills weren’t exactly admired. But he knew how to deal with the pressure of playing in big games and that is what Houllier was looking for. The manager was more than justiﬁed to reason this way but it meant that, all of a sudden, Wright had vanished off the radar. Within months he was sold to Sunderland where he went on to be a good player – with the potential to be more than that until his career was curtailed by a series of injuries that greatly limited his progression. That move for Xavier didn’t just kill off Wright’s Liverpool career, it sent the wrong message to the academy. And it wasn’t the only one. It has long been rumoured that Houllier was irked by the lack of say he had in the running of the academy and, although that was never really conﬁrmed, the fact that he chose to turn to young French players (remember Patrice Luzi and Carl Medjani?) in order to ﬁll his reserves was a clear indication of his lack of faith. Once Houllier left, the hope was that the issues between Melwood and the academy would be sorted out. They weren’t and, if anything, the situation worsened. Like his predecessor, Benitez wanted a say in how the academy was run but he too was rebuffed. So he set about building his own mini-academy with the reserves. A host of players (most of them from Spain) were brought in and they seemed to be guaranteed starting slots whilst players were left at the academy regardless of whether they were better than those ahead of them. At that point the club needed to be strong and impose its mentality. Benitez shouldn’t have been allowed to stock up so many young players but, at the same time, he should have been given some say in matters involving the academy. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead the academy became the focus of the stand-off between Benitez and Rick Parry – so much so that when Steve Heighway left in 2007, Benitez wasn’t even consulted about his replacement Piet Hamberg. In turn, his stance against the players coming out of the academy hardened amid rumours that Gary 53
SPECIAL REPORT Ablett was allowed to pick players from the Under-18s for his reserves. Ironically, during all this the Academy was apparently prospering. The FA Youth Cup was won twice in a row and, as far as results were concerned, everything seemed fine. Yet, at this level, results tell only half the story. Potential players looked at their prospects of making it through the system and concluded that their prospects were probably better served elsewhere. That is, for instance, what led Liverpool fan Jack Rodwell to opt for Everton. Liverpool no longer was the focus for the area’s best talent as it had been in the past when its reputation was enough to convince former Blues like Carragher, McManaman and Fowler to join. So, whilst youth cup winning teams were being produced, this was down to the presence of a good group of players rather than a couple of exceptionally talented individuals. Nevertheless, the successes raised expectations that a handful of those players would make it into Benitez’s plans. That didn’t happen and whilst the political in-fighting certainly didn’t help, it wasn’t the only reason SWEET FA: Charlie Barnett holds up that prevented any of Liverpool’s the FA Youth Cup in 2007. He was double FA Youth Cup winners from released by Tranmere this summer. 2006 and 2007 from getting an opportunity. happening at Liverpool’s academy In fact, success in the FA Youth was wrong. The appointment of Cup rarely equates to progression to Malcolm Ellias as head scout was the first team. particularly inspired as he started Of the Manchester United team to transfer the knowledge that had that was beaten in the second of seen him spot Theo Walcott at those finals only Danny Welbeck has Southampton. got a look-in and even he doesn’t If Andre Wisdom, one of the seem to be developing as well as had trio of Liverpool players that this been anticipated. summer won the European UnderAs for the City team that was 17 championship, fulfils his early beaten a year earlier – a club that, promise it is Elias that Liverpool will until recently, had limited funds and have to thank for spotting him in therefore youth was more likely to be Bradford’s youth team. given a chance – the only player that Sadly, Ellias left when Benitez got through was Micah Richards. finally won his battle and got That City team provides another control of the academy and his was case in point: Michael Johnson. one of the few truly disappointing The midfielder was said to have departures of the purge that the dynamism of Steven Gerrard happened over the last summer. after making an impression in the Yet the academy also gained Pep Premier League as an 18 year old. Segura and Rodolfo Borell, people with a track record of success at a Four years down the line and club as famous as Barcelona. injuries have limited him to just four By the end of the season, their appearances in the past two seasons. imprint could easily be seen as the Once again a reminder that talent by Under-18 side coached by Borell was itself isn’t enough. technically and tactically much better Of course, not all that was 54
than the one that had started the season. Things, again, were looking up. This was one of the biggest worries when Benitez left – would Borell leave, too? Would all the progress shown over the previous 12 months be washed away? These doubts quickly brought to the fore the problem of having the first-team manager in charge of the academy. That system works when you have people like Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger in charge, whose job is virtually theirs for life. Benitez may have been given a five-year deal when he was given control over the academy but the feeling was always that he was one bad season away from being dismissed. Until Liverpool have a manager who is in such an unsackable position, therefore, it doesn’t make sense to give them any control over the academy. After all, that doesn’t happen at Ajax or Barcelona where the club have thought up and live by pretty visionary ideals for their youth sector. Any manager coming in has to buy into that philosophy. Of course, that these systems continuously produce some pretty amazing players helps. And that is the other part of the equation. Houllier and Benitez became frustrated with the youth system not because their desires to control every aspect of the club were being thwarted (much as there are those out there willing to see it this way) but because the players that were coming out of the system were simply not good enough. The real building blocks, therefore, have to be at the academy itself. It must continuously try for the best coaches (which, by targeting the likes of Borell, is what Benitez did), have the best facilities and adopt the best approaches. At Manchester United, for instance, they have done research to see what ages the kids should be playing on full-size pitches with full-size goals. The message here isn’t that Liverpool have to copy what is out there but, rather, the opposite: Liverpool have to be at the forefront of innovation. Every step of the process has to be analysed to determine what can be done to help these kids become better players. Above all there must
THE ACADEMY be a philosophy to which the club holds and which got lost amid all the political in-fighting. And, at Liverpool, that philosophy has to based on the pass and move system. That is why it is vital to have someone like Kenny Dalglish at the academy. In that respect, Roy Hodgson got it right when he said that Dalglish has a vital role to play linking the academy with the first team. Somewhere along the line that link was lost and instead it became an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Dalglish can bridge all that as he is the perfect link between the club’s past, its present and the future. He knows how the club’s academy teams should be playing and can ensure that everything is done with the ideal of getting them to play that way. All of this, however, doesn’t solve the problem facing every manager at Liverpool FC which is that of constantly being under pressure to attain success. Going back to Stephen Wright, in the long term he was the better option but at that stage Houllier needed immediate results so, for him, Xavier’s experience increased his chances of achieving that. And it will always be that way unless a way is found to give players the experience that they need. Sweeping statements like ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’ simply aren’t true. Players have to make their mistakes elsewhere – where they can learn rather than be castigated for them as happens at a top club like Liverpool. You only have to look at someone like Emiliano Insua who was the standout player for the reserves for a long time but who has suffered badly from playing constantly for the first team. Quite simply, his rapid progression to first-team regular – which was brought about by the lack of alternatives – has potentially burnt him out. It would probably have been better for him to spend some time at a Premier League club with lower ambitions. That, however, was never going to happen. One of Benitez’s main problems was that he had very few contacts in the British game – meaning there were limited
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
AS England proved this summer, there is no such thing as a golden generation that can guarantee success. Yet there’s little doubt that Liverpool’s current crop of youngsters is a talented group of individuals. Jack Robinson being a central defender he rarely Playing him for a looked out of place few minutes in last when used as a right season’s final game midfielder for the Under at Hull was a bit of a 18s. Another member publicity stunt by Rafa of the English side Benitez but there’s no that won the European doubting his talent. Championship - he scored at both Combines strength and speed with ends in the final - he should be a good use of the ball. Makings of a regular for the reserves this season. great left-back. Thomas Ince Tony Silva There was always a A supremely-talented winger signed hint that Ince was a from Benfica, Silva started the season talented player but it playing for the Under-16s but became wasn’t until the latter a regular in the Under-18s and made half of last season his debut for the reserves. Needs time that he really started to develop his tactical awareness but showing it with technically as good a player as there consistency. Whether has ever been at the academy. it was working with Rodolfo Borell or Conor Coady simply down to the added maturity, Captain of the England he seemed a totally different player Under-17s that and a much better one at that. won the European Raheem Sterling Championship this The club’s self-serving summer, Coady isn’t publicity which marked a spectacular player his arrival won’t do but focus on him and Sterling any favours you notice how much work he puts as it needlessly raised in, how much ground he covers and expectations and the the precision and intelligence of his pressure will be on him to deliver in passing. every game. Even so, this kid has Andre Wisdom talent and speed in equal measures Brought to Liverpool from Bradford, and can become a top player. it says a lot of his ability that despite outlets when sending out players on loan. Whereas someone like Ferguson, who knows most of the managers out there, can easily pick a Championship or even a Premier League club to send someone who needs games. At Liverpool the destination for players was often a League One or League Two club. Again the need is for someone like Dalglish – who has the contacts and the charisma to get players the moves that they need at that particular stage in their career. With reserve football being the shambles that it currently is, that need is likely to become more pronounced in the future. The good thing is that, fortunately, that future seems to be quite bright for Liverpool because there is a core
of very good players in the Under 18s who seem good enough to keep on progressing. It would be foolhardy to try and predict which players will actually make it because who knows what might happen to them. The important thing is that they are handled in the right manner and given the opportunities that they need to progress. More important, however, is the need to ensure the direction in which the academy is going. At this point in time it might be too much to ask for the club to have a real vision for the academy rather than simply the notion that it is there to produce players but, given the direction football is heading, it might be the best hope for future success. Read more from Paul Grech at: aliverpoolthing.com
AUGUST 1987: COVENTRY CITY 1 LIVERPOOL 4
A Life In Liverpool HES BY TONY TEASDALE
We were 15, like The Beatles...only
with better trainers
“CAN I go?” “Do Nicky’s mum and dad say it’s alright?” “Yeah, yeah – ’course they do, they’ve said he can go to the aways on his own for the last year.” The last year! Mum pauses. “I think it’ll be OK. I’ll talk to your dad.” This is a big deal. Since their divorce five years ago in 1982, my 56
folks have barely spoken a word to each other, apart from frosty debriefings after parents’ evenings. But it’s 1987, now, early August and the start of the new football season. I’m 15, just the right age to begin those treks across the country to follow Liverpool. As it’s never more than a fiver to get in anywhere, I sell it as a relatively cheap way of getting rid of me for the day. In May, there was a trial run for the Littlewood’s Cup final (where we lost
despite Rushie opening the scoring), but I want real away games now – where there’s a chance that things might get ‘interesting’ off the pitch too! And if I was my folks, I’d want me to go too – all I talk about is football and clothes. Plus there’s my habit of storing copies of Knave, bought from ‘Mr News’ in Aughton, under my bottom drawer. Who needs someone like that hanging about on a Saturday afternoon? Not my dad, certainly. I’m given the all-clear.
The Liverpool side for the 1987/88 season that Kenny Dalglish has assembled is, to my eyes, about as perfect as a football team can be. In eight months he’s bought John Aldrige to replace Ian Rush (off to Juventus), Peter Beardsley and John Barnes – a trio I’m convinced will lay waste to the First Division. Throughout July, me, Nick and our Everton mate, Wayne go down to Anfield every day just to meet the three of them when they come back from training. Each time we’re there I ask Beardsley for his autograph, usually on behalf of my mum. “Aye, what’s her name, son?” “It’s Sheila, Peter.” “Right. Here you go.” “Thanks, Pete!” And each time, he signs it ‘Sheba’. Early August. I ring up Nicky. “Right, it’s Coventry, second away of the season after Arsenal.” “Sound. Not too far. Your mum and dad say it’s alright?” “Yeah, they’re OK.” “Boss.” “Boss.” Tickets for the game aren’t a problem, not now we also luxuriate in the title of Kop season ticketholders (I have a mock-leather wallet with the club crest on it to hold the little book in). We’re on football’s Easy Street, able to pick and choose what games we go to, when we want to – as long as our pocket money covers it and the matches don’t interfere with our school attendance. To facilitate our trip to Coventry, we’ve joined something called the Anfield Travel Club. In our earlier trial run to Wembley we’d used a coach laid on by Barnes Travel on County Road, perhaps the most chaotic travel agent in the world. Now, though, we’re official and we get the bus from Anfield. They might as well just be done with it and make us part of the playing staff. The day of the game is hot. Not a surprise as the first six weeks of the season are always hot. The coach takes us down the M6 through Stoke, Wolverhampton, Birmingham. We pass other similar vehicles full of Reds making their way to the match, scarves flying out of windows, flags in the back of windows, centre-spreads from gentlemen’s magazine waved at more
IN GOOD NIC: Two-goal Nicol is congratulated by Johnston and Aldridge
HOW WE LINED UP 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Bruce Grobbelaar Gary Gillespie Barry Venison Steve Nicol Ronnie Whelan Alan Hansen Peter Beardsley John Aldridge Craig Johnston John Barnes Steve McMahon
Subs 12 Paul Walsh 14 Nigel Spackman Goals: Nicol 20, 49, Aldridge 52 (pen), Beardsley 83 innocent motorists. There’s none of this behaviour with the Anfield Travel Club though. Our steward – yellow bib with ‘LFC’ stamped on it – runs our coach like a personal fiefdom. “Don’t be f***ing about on here, lads,” he warns us from his little throne next to the driver. Bet he has his own ale stash though, the tw*t. And then we’re there. Off the motorway, into the city, past detached houses, then 1930s semis, until we get to the terraced streets, always a sign that we’re in footy ground territory. Outside a chip shop near Highfield Road, a big lad, the sort of fella who’d be useful in pub scrap, catches my eye and gives me the thumbs-up. He’s not alone. People are happy to see us. You start to realise that being a Liverpool fan gives you certain privileges in towns like Coventry. We’re like The Beatles, but with better trainers. Inside, we’re all
stuck on a terrace with a floodlight at the back, with hundreds of lads perched on fences and ledges around it. For some reason, the photos from this match are always used in books as evidence of Liverpool’s well-dressed ’80s support, though in truth, the golden age of scally has passed. Today, the likes of Tacchini and Ellesse have been superceded by baggier, 1950s-influenced items by Maccano and C17. Within three months people will be going on the Kop with cartoons of Fred Flintstone on their jeans. But on the pitch we’re a revelation. Without Rush and with Dalglish looking to spend more time on the bench, the attacking slack is taken up by Beardsley, Aldridge and John Barnes. And from the off, they click. The trio’s understanding is telepathic, Beardsley feeding balls to Aldo from the right, while the left wing becomes nothing less than a pedestal for John Barnes to show off his breathtaking array of skills. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best player I’ve ever seen. One more thing. Barnes, signed for £900,000 from Watford, is Liverpool’s first black player since Howard Gayle. There’s been occasional racist chanting on the Kop for years – though never sang with any great enthusiasm – but with Barnes it stops dead. Simply put, how can you be racist to other footballers when your best player is black? Instead, the song from the sunbaked terraces at Highfield Road is loud, happy and gloating. “Johnny Barnes!” we shout, “Johnny Barnes!” He’s ours. And so’s the league. 57
REINA SUPREME by NEIL JONES
FOOTBALL can be a cruel game. Just ask Jerzy Dudek. No sooner had the Pole woken, bleary eyed and drunk on euphoria, following Liverpool’s epic Champions League triumph in Istanbul in 2005, than he was facing up to the prospect of being bombed from Rafael Benitez’s plans. His improbable block, penalty heroics and wobbly legs had played a major part in the Reds’ fifth European Cup success, but Dudek’s time was patently up – harsh though it may have seemed. Despite Liverpool’s outrageous fightback that night, Benitez knew his side (and his squad) needed serious strengthening. A side containing Dudek, Djimi Traore, Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros
was never going to take the Reds where they wanted to go. And, with funds limited (at Liverpool – surely not?) he needed to get his signings spot on. Good job he did then, eh? Bolo Zenden on a free transfer may not have been the kind of pulse-racing signing that could liven up a pedestrian left-wing, but Benitez’s next piece of business should have earned him a Queen’s award for industry. In came Pepe Reina from Villarreal to succeed Dudek. The price? A paltry £6million. Liverpool fans had seen him before. As a 19-year-old, the Madrid-born keeper had played against the Reds for Barcelona in the UEFA Cup semi-final of 2001. Then, the nervous youth may not have commanded his penalty
area with the confidence he now possesses, but over two legs he was beaten only by a faultless Gary McAllister penalty. And in the season prior to his arrival at Anfield, he had helped guide unfancied Villarreal to Champions League qualification – where they would hammer, amongst others, Everton en route to the semi-finals in 2006. Make no mistake – £6m was a snip. Fast forward five years, and Reina must surely rank among the best signings of the Premier League era. In an age where ordinary footballers – I’m looking at you Mr Fellaini – can command fees in excess of £10-15m, Reina is a superstar without the superstardom. A class act without the ego. The best ‘keeper in the
Premier League, bar none.The statistics alone should back this fact up; Reina has collected the ‘Golden Glove’ award for keeping the most clean sheets four times in five years. Last season he shared the award with Chelsea’s Petr Cech – Reina matching the double-winning keeper’s tally of 17 clean sheets. It is some achievement. Benitez might be a phenomenal defensive coach; able to set up and drill his side superbly, but Reina’s clean sheets have still been obtained with the likes of Traore, John Arne Riise, Jan Kromkamp and Andrea Dossena ‘protecting’ him. But beyond the statistics, there is the intangible element, the security, the presence, the continuity, that Reina brings to Liverpool. If Dudek’s style – left footed and full of spring and angular movements – was reminiscent of Fabien Barthez, Reina is more Peter Schmeichel. At just 27, and having recently penned a new six-year contract, the Spaniard has time to equal and even surpass the ‘Great Dane’ before his Anfield career is up. Last season was undoubtedly his finest in a Liverpool shirt. While many in Red – including the forever reliable Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard – found consistency almost impossible to come by, Reina dominated his penalty box like a colossus. His distribution was almost flawless. Where Liverpool would have finished last season without him is almost unthinkable. Of course there were teething problems during his adaptation process. His first season saw a few mistakes, including a wacky moment at Chelsea and a highprofile fumble in the FA Cup final which allowed Dean Ashton to give West Ham a two-goal lead, but such is the strength of Reina’s character that he rarely allows his performances to dip below the ‘excellent’ level for too long. That FA Cup final ended with him making a miraculous last-minute save from Nigel Reo-Coker, and then keeping out three penalties as Liverpool won after a shoot-out. Little wonder that the likes of Steven Gerrard have spoken openly of how he should be a contender to captain the club in the future. Many
“Something that will always stay with me is the special reception I got when I made my way to the Kop goal. Everyone was clapping. I thought it must be for some of the Liverpool players, so I turned round but there was nobody there. When I realised it was for me I started applauding the crowd. I returned their respect and the Kop cheered loudly. It was magnificent. I have never seen anything like that anywhere else. I was an opposition player – I didn’t imagine I’d be on the other side in a couple of years. When Rafa asked me if I wanted to come to Liverpool, that was something I immediately thought of. I was very proud to move here because we have some of the best fans in the world.” – PEPE REINA
fans feel the same way. Others get plenty of plaudits – some pundits’ praise of blatantly inferior ‘keepers such as Tim Howard or Edwin Van der Sar still baffles – but Liverpool
fans know who they’d prefer to have in between the sticks. Reina has all the tools to become the greatest Anfield No.1 since Ray Clemence.
KEEPING IN THE SHADE by MARTIN SMITH
HE job of a goalkeeper is obvious: keep the ball out of the net. Throw yourself around the box, bark out orders and organise walls. Save shots, collect crosses and, now and again, make yourself a hero. Warming the bench is not usually on the job description. But ask 20 to 30 of the Premier League’s shot stoppers and they’ll tell you it is a huge part of what being a goalkeeper is about in the modern game. Like the Oscars, there is always a leading man, and a best supporting award. For every Bruce Grobbelaar, there was a David James lurking in the background. Ray Clemence made the position is own in the seventies, watching on as keepers came and went.
Tony Warner was consistently the Peter O’Toole of the team – always being nominated for the Golden Globe but never winning the best actor award. Even Champions League hero Jerzy Dudek did what Robert DeNiro, Denzel Washington and four others have done by going from leading role to best supporting actor in 2006. So when these supporting stars are put in the limelight you’d like to think they would take the opportunity with two hands and make themselves a hero. After all, it could be months or even years before they are back between the sticks. But it often doesn’t go to plan. We take a look at ten of our Premier League back-up goalkeepers who, for whatever reason, never managed to keep hold of that number-one position during their time at Anfield.
The goalies that got more splinters off the bench than games under their belts PATRICE LUZI Games: 1 Promising French stopper Luzi was being tipped for big things when he was signed from Monaco in 2002. The then 22-yearold was expected to challenge for the number one jersey but within months he found himself in the reserves and stuck on the subs’ bench. Bench warming for 26 games, his sole appearance for the club came when he replaced an injured Jerzy Dudek against Chelsea. With Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek injured, it was thought his chance would come, but he found himself behind loaned stopper Paul Jones for a number of games. Luzi now plays for Stade Rennais FC after being released on a free in 2005. MICHAEL STENSGAARD Games: 0 Stensgaard joined Liverpool back in 1994 after collecting Under-21 caps for fun representing Denmark. He was brought to the club to compete with David James for the No.1 jersey and was expected to be a future star for the Reds. However, a number of injuries for our unlucky number thirteen soon hampered his progress, including a bizarre shoulder injury whilst taking down an ironing board. He eventually left the club in 1997 having spent 28 games on the bench and with no appearances on his record. The shot stopper was later named as the goalkeeper in the Liverpool Echo’s “Merseyside Lost 11” – a squad comprising the worst players to play for Liverpool and Everton. BRAD FRIEDEL Games: 31 Roy Evans brought Friedel to the club in 1997 for £1million but the 61
American (above) failed to establish himself as the club’s number one goalkeeper. He did play 31 times but failed to impress consistently with his Anfield career partly remembered for his disastrous performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Warming the bench on 61 occasions, Friedel played second fiddle to Sander Westerveld for much of his career at Anfield and after just three seasons the former MLS goalkeeper of the year was sold to Blackburn Rovers. Now playing for Aston Villa, he is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the top flight. TONY WARNER Games: 0 Brought through the local academy, Tony Warner is something of a cult hero. Warner will be remembered for warming the bench rather than his stunning performances. With no
appearances to his name, he kept bench for a record 121 games, mostly deputising for David James during his Anfield career. Warner is perhaps the most unfortunate Liverpool player to ever grace the team sheet, while his persistence, professionalism and character deserves much praise for sticking with the club. His talent was clear, as he went on to pick up one cap for Trinidad and Tobago and also went on to play 200 games for Millwall, leaving Anfield after nearly ten years at the club and five in the first-team squad.
DAVID MARTIN Games: 0 Son of former West Ham defender Alvin Martin, David was seen as one of the hottest young goalkeepers around when Liverpool snapped him up in January 2006. Having made his MK Dons debut at just 18, and with England Under-20 caps under his belt, Martin was expected to have a bright future in the Liverpool ranks. However, his first-team opportunity never arrived despite being named as a substitute on 19 occasions. Having impressed on various loan spells in the last few years, Martin’s finest hour was when he kept goal and helped Leicester City to the League One championship in 2009. Having won the reserve league title at Liverpool, Martin had loan spells with Tranmere, Leeds and Derby last season. His Anfield deal ran out on July 1 and he signed a three-year contract with MK Dons. PEGGUY ARPHEXAD Games: 6 Pegguy Arphexad definitely had a unique Liverpool career. Leaving Leicester to join Gerard Houllier’s revolution at Anfield, Arphexad went on to win six medals at the club – the same amount of games he played in the three years he spent with the team. Of course, much of Arphexad’s career was spent as the back up to Sander Westerveld, but during the treble winning season the shot stopper certainly played his part at the club. Aprhexad’s best performance at Anfield was possibly the season before he joined the Reds when he pulled off several stunning saves to deny Liverpool an important victory against Leicester. A fantastic penalty stopper with great agility, he warmed the bench on 99 occasions but couldn’t budge the inconsistent Westerveld during the Dutch stopper’s run between the sticks.
CHRIS KIRKLAND Games: 45 Bought from Coventry for £6million, Kirkland came to Anfield on the same day as Jerzy Dudek to form a bizarre glove triangle with Sander Westerveld. Touted as the future England goalkeeper, he went on to make just 45 appearances between 2001 and 2005. His longest run in the team, 14 games, was his milestone for the Reds, while he kept the bench warm on 76 occasions. Hardly one of the most benched goalkeepers in our history, but inactive enough to make the list, Kirkland’s highlights include setting up Neil Mellor’s winner against Arsenal and playing an important role against Olympiakos in the Champions League decider at Anfield. His heroics, however, simply couldn’t budge Dudek from the number one spot. JORGEN NIELSEN Games: 0 Danish stopper Jorgen Nielsen joined Liverpool in 1997, but the Under-21 international left Anfield five years later having never played for the club. A dedicated professional, he was forced to watch on as Sander Westerveld, David James and Brad Friedel battled for the number one jersey during his time at the Reds. Nielsen remains among the players in Premier League history to never have played a game for his club but at least his jersey got dirty during a derby match with Everton. Steve Staunton donned Nielsen’s jersey when he went in goal during the Merseyside derby in 1999 after keeper Sander Westerveld had been sent off and Liverpool had used all three substitutes. Warming the bench on 55 occasions, Nielsen struggled to make an impact and headed back to Denmark. CHARLES ITANDJE Games: 7 Frenchman Itandje joined the club in the summer of 2008 and was expected to play understudy to Pepe Reina for much of his time as a Red. However, his Anfield career ended in disgrace. After conceding
two goals to Havant and Waterlooville at home, Itandje was also at fault for Brian Howard’s injury-time winner that knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup to Barnsley. He found himself as third choice during the 2008-09 season, but hit the headlines following his inappropriate behaviour at the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Having spent time on loan at Greek club Kavala, it’s almost certain that he won’t add to his seven starts or 47 unused substitute appearances. SCOTT CARSON Games: 9 Carson joined the Reds from Leeds in 2005 to compete with Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek. A fantastic performance against Juventus at Anfield in the Champions League, including two world-class saves, was marred by a mistake to let Fabio Cannavaro score and hand the Italians an away goal. Despite not playing he picked up a Champions League winners’ medal in Istanbul. Carson was loaned to Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Aston Villa before leaving for West Bromwich Albion. 62
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Published on Dec 24, 2010