Friday, 27 August 2010

Tom Hicks lies - this summer has only been big for Delta cabs

With Javier Mascherano close to completing a move to Barcelona only 4 days shy of the transfer window, I reckon it would be beneficial to look at our summer dealings; you know, in the face of transparency, and all that.

Here are the club's transfer dealings with summer, with thanks to Red and White Kop for the incoming transfer information:

Incoming transfers:

Joe Cole
Brad Jones
Milan Jovanovic
Christian Poulsen
Jonjo Shelvey
Danny Wilson

Standard Liege
Undisclosed (believed to be around £5m)

Outgoing transfers (including Mascherano's imminent departure):

Yossi Benayoun
Albert Riera
Alberto Aquilani
Philipp Degen
Kristian Nemeth
Diego Cavalieri

AC Cesena
Loan (fee believed to be £4m)
Loan (fee unknown)
J. Mascherano

Fee around £17.5m

Total transfer money received (after Mascherano): £34.2 million
Total transfer money spent: £13.5 million
Money going towards the debt: £20.7 million

£20.7 million - that's more than Fernando Torres' transfer fee, and more than any fee we've ever paid for a player. Roy may be held culpable for decisions on the pitch, but how can the puppet master play with both hands tied behind his back?

Of course, those figures are the basest figures available - wages/signing-on fees (which are now taken from transfer budget) aren't considered, nor is the loan fee for Degen. Paul Konchesky is also expected to replace Insua for a few million pound profit before Tuesday's deadline as well.

While trying to acquire some extra intelligence for this post, I stumbled across this article, written by Tony Barrett for The Times, on January 12 2010. Note the quotes in bold.

Tom Hicks has shrugged aside the controversial resignation of his son from the Liverpool board by claiming that the club’s debt problems are not as severe as those of Manchester United.

The Liverpool co-owner also vowed to spend “big” in the summer transfer window.

In a day of high drama for the two North-West giants, Tom Hicks Jr announced that he was stepping down as a Liverpool director after admitting sending an abusive e-mail to a fan.

United, meanwhile, announced plans to raise £500 million to restructure their debts after paying out £41.9 million in interest during the past financial year.

United’s problems gave Hicks an opportunity to divert attention from the storm at his own club and he duly took it.

In an e-mail of his own to a fan, he intimated that Liverpool’s debt — in excess of £200 million — is more manageable than that of their great rivals.

He also insisted that while Liverpool will not be splashing out in the present transfer window, they are already planning to invest heavily in the summer to bolster Rafael Benítez’s squad, and claimed the long-awaited new stadium will be delivered.

“Our debt is very manageable (see Man U) and we never use player sales for debt service,” Hicks Sr wrote in the e-mail, responding to concerns from a supporter that Liverpool will not be big spenders in January.

“Our interest on £200 million is about £16 million. The new stadium will be the game changer. January is a poor quality market. The summer window will be big.

“We are working hard on the new stadium. We have an excellent management team and manager. We know we need more depth on the squad and will address it this summer. We hope to have a stronger second half of the season.”

Liverpool’s search for investment is continuing, but there is evidence that the financial concerns that have plagued them for so long are beginning to filter down to Benítez’s playing squad.

Ryan Babel, the Holland forward, responded to a question on Twitter, the social networking site, about his opinion on Hicks and George Gillett Jr, his fellow American, by saying: “We need money for the club.”

It is that apparent weakness that has prompted fears that Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres or both could be prised away from Anfield should Liverpool fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Reports in Italy suggest that José Mourinho will launch his third attempt to sign Gerrard, this time for Inter Milan rather than Chelsea, next summer.

The chances of Gerrard leaving Liverpool for an Italian club are remote, but rivals sensing weakness at Anfield will give their supporters added cause for concern.

The resignation of Hicks Jr from the club’s board at least solved one problem, the Texan falling on his sword after he sent an abusive e-mail to Stephen Horner, a Liverpool fan, in which he said: “Blow me, f***face.”

The Liverpool hierarchy did not hesitate to accept Hicks’s offer to step down. His place has been taken by Casey Coffman, the executive vice-president of Hicks Holdings.

Manchester City added to the pressure on Liverpool when they opened a five-point gap to them in the Barclays Premier League thanks, to a 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at the City of Manchester Stadium, Carlos Tévez scoring a superb hat-trick as Roberto Mancini made it four wins in four games since succeeding Mark Hughes as manager.

No new stadium. Players being sold to service the debt. The only people this summer transfer window has been big for is Delta cab drivers driving our assets to John Lennon Airport and out of this football club.

There it is, in black and white, clear as crystal: Tom Hicks tells lies - as does George Gillett, Christian Purslow, and possibly even Martin Broughton. Get out of our club.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Trabzonspor 1 Liverpool 2 - post-match thoughts

Never too keen to comment properly on matches when I've not watched it in the ground, so just a few bullet points on tonight.

  • Holding onto the 1-0 lead from last week was never going to be done with consummate ease, especially with a depleted squad travelling to a hostile atmosphere. We've never won in Turkey, unless you regard Istanbul as such.
  • With that in mind, it was a little perplexing to see an inexperienced right-footed 20-year-old play at left-back, especially when actual left-back Fabio Aurelio played just ahead of him in midfield. Once Kelly settled down, he looked as imperious as ever; there is a certain confidence he exudes on the football pitch, be it when he has the ball at his feet or staving off the attentions of the opposition player and ushering the ball out of play. He wasn't as productive with the ball as it was predominately on his weaker foot, but he looked like a fully-fledged left-back by full-time.
  • As obvious and cliché as it sounds, losing the first-leg lead so early was a massive blow - confidence plummeted from that moment and it took us an entire half to rebuild it. What would have been a defensive outlook from us manifested into sitting deep, playing safe balls and looking to spring N'Gog free; something which failed miserably throughout the first 45 minutes. As for the goal itself, Kuyt, Carragher, Soto and Johnson can all feel culpable in some way. I wasn't surprised to see Guttierez (known at 'that tiny no.9' last week to the Anfield faithful) score for Trabzonspor, he was impressive against us last week.
  • Second half was an improvement, although still operating nowhere near our full capability. N'Gog floundered between the sublime and the ridiculous, with his excellent hold-up play and perseverance tainted by profligacy in front of goal. One thing you can't fault him for is his effort - he and his elastic legs run the £1.5 million paid for him every time he strides on the pitch.
  • Trabzonspor shot themselves in the foot somewhat after about 60 minutes; they become anxious to get forward and commit which finally allowed Lucas (who had a poor game otherwise) to drive forward. If Lucas is to play alongside Poulsen this year, he needs to be allowed to get forward as much as possible; we looked more likely to equalise when he broke deep from midfield simply because there was another body in there.
  • Kacar's own goal was a fantastic advert of Glen Johnson's abilities when he is allowed to get forward, but it was again too much of a rarity. I can understand Roy wanting him to concentrate on his defensive ability but he does give an extra dimension, especially when two central midfielders sit so deep.
  • Pacheco had another impressive cameo and it was good to see him having a shot at goal which eventually led to Dirk Kuyt's tap in. I think, ironically, he could play the role Joe Cole is usually associated with. He seems to have that innate ability to ghost into space.
  • Not the best performance, but a very, very good result for a side without their two best players. All of this will be a distant memory tomorrow afternoon when I have Easyjet, Ryanair and other assorted airline websites open ready to book a trip to deepest, darkest eastern Europe.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Thoughts on Manchester City defeat

There was a moment last night, at around the 80th minute, which encapsulated how it feels to be a Liverpool fan right now.

Struggling to get a touch of the ball at 3-0 down, the wind blew the torrential rain into the faces of those who had the heart to stay after Tevez’s penalty. Hoods went up, heads went down; when it rains, it pours. Soon after, the City fans sang a ditty to their affluent deity who watched from the stand.

‘Sheikh Mansour, Sheikh Mansour’

If any City fan is reading this, don’t worry – this isn’t a dig at your team and how you’ve supposedly ruined football. Football had already become as polluted as the Mersey before Mansour spilt a couple of barrels of oil into it.

And it’s not as if we haven’t sung the names of our owners on the Kop, either. But where the City fans sang in adoration, we do so in anger; their happiness is the anthithesis of our hatred.

The fact that they’re rich and we’re poor is not what is to be lamented. Football has never been a sport for the socialist. Just ask Javier Mascherano.

It’s the fact that two teams from working class cities, historically supported by working class fans, feel the need to sing the names of footballing plutocracy.

Defeat to City

For Liverpool fans, any on-the-pitch criticism has to be made with the ownership situation in mind. Circumstances are problematic for Roy Hodgson, just like they were for his predecessor. It doesn't mean the team, nor the manager, can be exempt from it though. An eye on the ball airborne after a Carragher punt doesn't necessarily mean the other one is off-the-ball elsewhere.

  • The squad is still taking shape and Roy hasn't been in charge long enough to fully implement his style of play. Early hints as to what that style will be is slightly troubling, though.
  • Playing 4-4-2 away to Manchester City showed a surprising naivety from a manager as experienced as Roy, especially with Gerrard alongside Lucas. Perhaps Mascherano's refusal to play forced Roy's hand, much like it did to Rafa's in Fiorentina last season. That aside, City's strength was always going to be in midfield as Mancini enjoys packing it with tough-tackling, hard-working, experienced players. Last night's trio: Nigel De Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure.
  • Two midfielders against those three was always going to result in City controlling the game and enjoying possession - something we, as Liverpool fans, are more accustomed to seeing from our own side. Gerrard and his tactical indiscipline when playing in the centre of midfield meant Lucas was overran by three very good midfielders. The first goal was the perfect exemplar. No one tracked Milner's run from Adam Johnson's ball inside, and no one tracked Barry's burst into the box.
  • Man City were good, but their fans should be wary of regarding this as the moment they 'arrived' given they were playing against a transitional side in an unfamiliar formation. I thought Adam Johnson impressed, albeit against a makeshift left-back - not that that's an excuse, because Lescott is regarded in a similar vein and we failed to capitalise on that. Tevez was his usual busy self, the midfield were good (although as previously explained, Roy's selection made things easier) and Joe Hart continues to impress me immensely.
  • Formation aside, we set up similar as we did against Arsenal and Trabzonspor. We let our opponents have plenty the ball and looked to counter. There has to be hope that this is not the only way we're capable of, as we look a much better side when we press and try to control the tempo of the game. I hate to label a side's style but we look very defensively set-up at the moment - Glen Johnson's reticence to venture over the halfway line is symptomatic of that.
  • Man-to-man marking: the new zonal marking? We've struggled with it since we've adopted it. It's worth keeping in mind that we had similar problems with zonal marking six years ago and it takes time for players to adapt to the new system. I doubt Tevez's first goals happens if we adopt zonal marking. Just proves that one is not necessarily better than the other, and certain sides suit different set-ups. We just have to hope Roy finds out what that is for this set of players and adapts accordingly.
  • Daniel Agger looked like a centre back playing left back, funnily enough. His insistence of showing Adam Johnson inside onto his stronger foot was infuriating - Johnson had threatened several times in the first ten minutes, but the warning signs were ignored. Both Barry's goal and the penalty award were a result of it.
  • David N'Gog is a great striker for £1.5 million but he should not be partnering Fernando Torres in a 4-4-2. Strike partnerships rarely work with two out-and-out strikers; one usually drops deep (the no.10) while the other is the goalscorer (no.9). Without that link between the strikers, and with Gerrard playing deeper, it means we struggle to give them the service. But above all else, Torres relishes playing alone up front.
  • Positives from the night? There were few. We looked sharp for a short period in between their second and third goals, and we could have nicked an undeserved goal if Joe Hart wasn't so sharp. The pie wasn't too bad, and Brad Jones' white boots looked quite interesting during his half-time warm up, as well. I suppose things can only get better from here as well, can't they? For the sake of our away-day sanity, we certainly hope so.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Hello my friend, we meet again

I wrote this last season as a response to people's worries about Xabi Alonso leaving Liverpool Football Club and what effect it would have on us.

You could say I was wrong about that, but the underlying message still remains strong: no matter what happens, we'll still be there on the first day of the season. It's just as poignant now, I feel, with Hicks and Gillett reaching endgame.

Last night was our first home game of the season. It was good to be with friends old and new. So I thought I'd post this up.

Warning: there might be a few swear words here and there - had to be realistic, like. ;)



Lime Street. Still there after two World Wars.

A grey, concrete backdrop, rapidly filled with hundreds upon thousands of trabs; blue with white stripes, black with yellow stripes, white with a darker shade of white. An abundance of Dassler littering the landscape. They hold up short lads, tall lads, fat lads, thin lads, brown-haired lads, ginger lads, men stylishly grey. And they hold up bottles of Fosters, cans of Skol, vodka, rum, gin.

Holding everything up, a train sitting upon the track with the destination ‘LONDON EUSTON’ illuminated on the front. It’s not just a support but the synergist. It’s the reason the police don’t say their goodbyes with heavy hearts or why the station’s concrete floor doesn’t cool. The trabs might come back a little worse for wear or the Skol cans cleared out, but the train’s function remains the same and it remains as efficient as ever. Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston, London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street.

Just another away day. The Liverpool boys are in town.

A mad scramble for a decent seat - one by the toilet to avoid the inspector, or one where the day’s papers can be read in comfort. John and Billy are seasoned veterans; they’ve been on the train innumerable times. Both blonde, in their mid 30s and with a whisky in their hipflask, they settle down with the day’s newspapers. John has worked on the docks all his life, whilst Billy took a night class twice a week for two years and is now a pastry chef at a French restaurant in town. But they’re both on the 6/1 shot in the 1.45 at York.

“Good form and from a good stable, 6/1 is a sound price Billy.”

“Yeah, yeah, not bad. I’ve gorra couple of bob on it like.”

There are a lot of scientific peculiarities on this train, but none more so than the ability to hear individual conversations amongst the gentle buzz of mass communication. Other conversations through the carriage about horses, football and the missus work together to provide background noise for the interesting individuality of your conversation about football, the missus and horses.

“What you reckonin’ about today then?” asks John, with the same glint that’s been there for 20 years. “Nice day out in London, few scoops with the lads, and three points for the Redmen.”

“Hope so, John,” says Billy, with his usual enthusiasm lacking – something which John picks up on.

“What’s wrong with your gob eh? Face like a smacked arse today lad,” says John.

“Xabi Alonso,” responds Billy, instantly.

“Yer wha?”

He folds up the paper, sighs and looks out the window as the train begins to depart. Welcome to Lime Street Station, even though it’s saying goodbye.

“He is an individual talent. How can we ever replace him? He is the heartbeat of the team, the conductor who waves the baton as his team-mates dance to the music. Torres and Gerrard will get the plaudits, but Alonso will prove to be just as important as them and to our system. Xabi controls the play perfectly, sitting in the centre of midfield and dictating tempo. At Anfield, it helps us break down teams. When he is on the ball, it will very rarely be wasted; he will use the possession effectively and efficiently. Away from home, he makes sure we’re never under pressure; he has the calmness and intelligence to relieve any pressure we’re under. No superlative can explain his range of passing. He’s a decent free-kick taker. And those shots from the halfway line...he’s irreplaceable, there is no other like him.”

A dejected Billy looks outside the window. Blue skies – it is summer, after all. The train edges nearer to its destination, but the two towering Liverbirds still preside over the city, still there after two World Wars.

“It’s not even about individuality, it’s about the team. Our game was based on his controlling of the tempo. Squeeze the life out of the opposition and then strike. That is our game. Like a pack of pythons. So close to the title, so close, and now it all has to change. We won’t play as well as we did with Alonso there. No one can replace him, so we’ll have to change to a less effective style. The balance was right, it was near enough perfect; all the players knew their functions. Now, there will be players who struggle to adapt to their new role and consequently, results will suffer.”

Another sigh. It accompanies the gentle chug of the train which is still moving. Another thing in motion is the crease upon John’s forehead.

“Billy,” he begins, with all the intent of responding to the soliloquy in kind, “who the fuckin’ ell is Zabby Alonso?”

The question doesn’t really compute, much like the book on Mill he picked up from the second-hand shop three years ago.

“Billy, you’re a fuckin’ crank, yer know that? Xabi Alonso, Torres? Gerrard? Who are they? This is another one of your mad arse visions, innit?”

“But they’re so vivid,” explains Billy.

“Look lad, you need to go the doctor. You’ve been having these dreams…visions…worreva you wanna call ‘em since you got twatted on the head in Rome in 84 with a baton. That was four years ago and you’re still havin’ trauma?”

“You don’t know that’s why I’m having these though mate, you’re not a doctor.”

“No I’m not, but I’m sane. It was funny at first, comin’ on the specials, tellin’ the boys about these Liverpool teams of the future. But then they become unbelievable and, to be honest, a few of us are worried. A six foot seven striker scorin’ overhead kicks and white suits at a cup final? Christ, you even told us we’d win the European Cup from three-nil down against AC Milan. We’re not even allowed in the effin’ competition! Go the shrink lad, there’s something funny in your head.”

“You’re right, I’ll get it sorted this week. I’ll go the doctors.”

“I’m not saying it to be nasty lad, you know it’s ‘cause I’m concerned. Us boys on this train, we’re a brotherhood; we’re here rain or shine. If the Redmen are playing, we’ll be there. As long as this train is moving, nothing else matters.”

“I know, ta mate.”

Both are content to sit quietly for a minute, hearing their supporting cast fill the silence with talk of horses, the missus and football. As always.

“Cheer up anyway Billy, we’re league champions and we’re going to celebrate in style at Stamford Bridge today. 1-0 at home to Spurs last week and Bob’s yer uncle, champions with four games to spare. Pissed it. Liverpool FC, league champions 1988 and a trip to Wembley still to come.”

His psychic interlude forgotten, Billy is back with the rest of the train, moving towards Euston. Gerry walks down the aisle and brushes past him, smiling. 78 years old, Gerry went to Anfield for the first time in 1919 - a 3-3 draw with Bradford Park Avenue. Still there after two World Wars.

“Do you reckon Molby will be fit today?” asks Billy.

“Hope so, the fella deserves it – he was our best player in ’86 and he’s been dead unlucky with injuries. Would be nice to see him passing the ball about in the middle a few more times this season.”

“Hope Kenny puts himself on and all.”

“Defo. Who woulda thought it ten years ago, eh? Just over four-hundred grand. Bargain. Not only did he turn out to be one of the best ever on the pitch, but he’s on his way to becoming one of the best off it too. Three league titles speaks volumes, doesn’t it?”

Billy doesn’t need to answer. The sound of the train as it continues to move towards its destination, synthesised with the familiar static of his fellow Redmen heading along with it, answers for him.

“Lets have a look at that paper please John,” says Billy.

John was passing it to him before he asked.

He starts at the back page of the paper and begins to work his way to the front, but stops after three turns of the page. Continental football, page 56.

“Fucking hell,” exclaims Billy, in a rare outburst of profanity, “Rushie’s having a terrible time at Juve, isn’t he?”

Monday, 2 August 2010

An open letter to the Royal Bank of Scotland

Dear Mr. Hester,

Grobbelaar; Harkness, Hysen, Tanner, Burrows; McManaman, Molby, McMahon, Walters; Rush, Saunders

These names will mean nothing to you. In fact, these names, collectively, will probably mean nothing to most Liverpool supporters.

To me, it’s that biting October wind. It’s the moment the door is knocked upon and your granddad stands there. It’s a hat, cap, badge or a scarf as you walk down Walton Breck Road and catch sight of what will come to define you as both a football fan and a person.

Port Vale, Rumbelows Cup third round, 29 October 1991. My first match at Anfield. It wouldn’t be the last.

I studied Dickens and Shakespeare at great depth in university, but my memory can hardly differentiate between Macbeth and Magwitch. The midfield of McManaman, Molby and McMahon is a different story.

I remember seeing the ball hit the net from Rush’s header and hearing the sparse Kop roar. I will never forget the touch of my granddad’s hug as we scored as the smell of celebratory cigarettes filled the night air. My first taste of Liverpool Football Club.

Ask any Liverpool fan about their first experience and they’ll be similarly encyclopaedic, because that’s what supporting this football club is about. A mosaic of memories in your mind displayed every time you see your team play.

This football club has the most impressive mosaic of all. That famous Anfield roar on a European night originates from the voices of the thousands who have gone before us. Inter Milan, St. Etienne, Auxerre, Roma, Olympiakos, Juventus, Chelsea. Layer upon layer of the club's history being created by us, the fans.

Football is the purest form of escapism. For 90 minutes, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, married or single. For 90 minutes, it doesn't matter if you're a lawyer, a librarian or a landscape architect. You get lost in the experience of innocence; part of you drifts back to that night against Port Vale, or that league match against Norwich; that time when all that mattered in the world was who started up front.

That innocence has been ruined by snakes who slithered into our garden and offered David Moores the fruit of his labours three-and-a-half years ago. Moores greedily devoured, and now Liverpool supporters have to suffer for his sin.

Now, it feels like we have to be chartered accountants to understand the football club. We’re sending letters to your bank using words and terms it’s not our job to fully comprehend. When my grandfather took me to that Port Vale game in 1991, he was taking me to watch a football match, not a business venture.

All of our actions and efforts to remove Hicks & Gillett are necessary evils. Just because we do it doesn’t mean we enjoy it. It will make us stronger and it will bring the fans of this football club together once more, but I look forward to the day we can all stand united over our support for a new left-back, as opposed to disdain for leveraged buyouts.

I don’t know what to believe regarding Kenny Huang’s bid. I don’t know how much control RBS have, or how much control Christian Purslow or Martin Broughton have, for that matter. The fact that this sort of business is our business is the most lamentable part of it all – Shankly’s holy trinity of manager, players and supporters is not sacred anymore.

Perhaps there should be intentions from those in power to do something with Liverpool Football Club that hasn’t happened from the moment David Moores accepted Hicks and Gillett’s bid.

Act with the best interests of the club, and its supporters, in mind - give us our football club back.