Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Is it time to leave Anfield?

After three years of debt, lies and broken promises new owners have finally arrived on Merseyside, replacing the lying parasites who proceeded them and making work on either a new stadium or redeveloping Anfield a realistic prospect.

Everyone connected with the club realises that something has to be done soon regarding the stadium issue.

We are struggling to compete with our main rivals on the pitch because we are miles behind them off it.

Manchester United have over 76,000 seats at their home ground Old Trafford. Arsenal can also house up to 60,000 at the Emirates. Combine this with their higher ticket prices and it is easy to see how a financial and sporting gap has developed between us and them.

Chelsea's Stamford Bridge may have only slightly more than 40,000 seats, however their obscenely wealthy owner and gargantuan ticket prices more than compensate for this fact, and mean that they continue to dominate on the pitch as a result of their massive income providing the funds to buy top stars on a regular basis.

Anfield remains the home of Britain's most successful club, however it is also part of the reason why we could soon lose that coveted status to the likes of United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Even with 45,000 people paying over £30 every fortnight to watch the Reds, it simply does not provide enough income for us to compete at the top level of English football season after season.

It's not like Liverpool couldn't fill a bigger stadium either. It takes years to get a season ticket because the waiting list is so long, and many people are left unable to purchase match-day tickets as they are snapped up so quickly, regardless of how the club are performing.

With the desperate need to get more people paying to watch the club every other week, Liverpool's new American owners are left to consider three options.

The first option appears to be the most logical, and has been suggested since before Hicks and Gillett arrived in 2007.

They could build a new 60,000-seater stadium on Stanley Park.

The club already has planning permission to build a new stadium there, and, although Hicks and Gillett drew them up, the designs for the proposed new stadium are admittedly very impressive.

Moreover, not only would the new stadium provide a magnificent and much needed new home for the country's best football club, it would also lead to significant and vital redevelopment for the wider Anfield area, which has been left derelict for far too long.

However, NESV must take into account the considerable costs involved in such a major building project. Yes, the extra 15,000 seats could prove to be a valuable source of income for the long-term, but would the immediate cost of the new stadium reduce the benefit of the additional seating?

Also, leaving the club's historic home would be hard to take. Some might argue that it is a necessary evil, however could we really leave behind a stadium that has been the setting for so many unforgettable occasions?

In response to the issue of financing a new stadium, some people have recommended a second solution to the problem Liverpool face; sharing a new stadium with neighbours Everton, who are also looking to find a new home.

These people, normally media men or Evertonians, argue that Italian giants AC and Inter Milan have shared a stadium, and therefore Merseyside's footballing rivals should take a similar route.

They rightly state that this would halve the costs, however they fail to realise the fierce rivalry between the two clubs. The Merseyside derby may have been dubbed "the friendly derby" in days gone by, but nowadays the friendship has almost turned into outright hatred for some supporters.

The clubs still appropriately unite in times of tragedy, such as after Hillsborough or the death of Rhys Jones, however the enmity existing between the fans means that a ground-share is unlikely to be accepted by either party.

Besides, there are also practical issues surrounding a ground share.

Would the seats be red or blue, or a hideous mix of both?

Where would the Paisley and Shankly gates be placed?

What about the Shankly statue or the Hillsborough memorial?

For the manifold reasons given above a ground-share between Liverpool and Everton is extremely unlikely.

This leads me to the third and most sensible option; redeveloping Anfield.

The club's historic home has seen many sensational nights of European drama that will live long in the memory, and the chance of staying put at Anfield while also generating essential extra funding must not be ignored.

Although there are houses surrounding Anfield, the redevelopment work could lead to the destruction of these old houses, replacing them through modern housing projects that would lead to the re-invigoration of the Anfield area.

This would not only provide the extra seats needed to increase the club's income, it would also finally deliver the promised redevelopment to the people living in the vicinity of the ground.

I am not an architect and cannot fully comprehend the building work needed to successfully redevelop Anfield. However, I am sure that it is a possibility that could easily turn into a reality with the backing of the new owners and the local council.

So, is it time to leave Anfield?

For me, and many other Reds, the answer is no. With the backing of the local authorities, NESV could regenerate Anfield in the same way that they transformed the ageing Fenway Park once they had purchased the Boston Red Sox.

The history, tradition and immense atmosphere at Anfield is second to none, and would take time to replicate in any new stadium.

With the need to compete financially with England's other top teams ever increasing, the desire to build a new stadium altogether remains. However, we can redevelop Anfield to generate more capital whilst remaining at our historic home, killing two birds with one stone.

Whatever route NESV decide to take, work must begin soon otherwise the financial gap between us and our rivals will quickly extend into a canyon, leaving us left behind both on and off the field.


Monday, 25 October 2010

Liverpool batter Blackburn to claim crucial win

Liverpool secured a thoroughly deserved three points yesterday after beating Sam Allardyce's Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at Anfield.

All three goals came in five frantic second half minutes, as Jamie Carragher's seventh Premier League own goal removed the one-goal advantage gained after Sotiriois Kyrgiakos had headed his second goal in only three games.

Thankfully, Fernando Torres quickly restored our lead with a neat finish to claim his fifth goal in four matches against Blackburn. A tense finale ensued, however we managed to hold on to collect only our second victory of the season.

The atmosphere before kick off was electric as Gerry Marsden sung a stirring rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" to welcome representatives of NESV, who were sampling the famous Anfield match-day experience for the first time.

This pre-match optimism was immediately transferred to the pitch, as the home side dominated the opening exchanges, creating numerous goalscoring opportunities.

The Reds went close after eight minutes when Torres fed Maxi into space in the box. Joe Cole turned the Argentine’s cross goalwards however Robinson made a good save to deny him. The rebound fell to Meireles but he could only fire his effort wide of target when well placed.

After that, a great pass from Lucas picked out Carragher storming down the right hand side. Unfortunately, Carra's cross was headed wide by Torres, as the Spaniard's search for that elusive goal continued.

On 17 minutes Gerrard's corner from the right was powered towards goal by the head of Kyrgiakos, forcing Paul Robinson to pull off a fantastic one-handed stop. The following corner, this time from the left, was cleared to the edge of the box by Blackburn. The ball fell to Maxi, who blazed over the bar.

Liverpool had been the early pacesetters, pressing forward immediately and pressurising the visitors from the start. In fact, it was only the expertise of former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson that kept Rovers in the game.

Pepe Reina was finally called into action mid-way through the first half, however that was only to pluck a Blackburn corner out of the air before releasing Steven Gerrard forward on a swift counter-attack.

Encouragingly, the midfield stormed forward in support, with Lucas spreading the play out wide to Meireles after receiving the ball from Gerrard. The Portuguese then squared an intelligent pass back to the skipper, who's brilliant first time effort was thwarted magnificently by the on-form Robinson.

It was an excellent counter-attack from the home side, as the midfield surged forward speedily to join in the attack, something that has been missing from our play so far this season.

The onslaught continued as Torres' shot was blocked before Meireles thumped the ball goalwards from the edge of the box. His shot slammed into Salgado's head, leaving the former Real Madrid right back grounded and Liverpool with yet another corner kick.

The Greek flicked Gerrard's corner on at the near post to Lucas, who did well to head just over the bar from close range as the ball was slightly behind the Brazilian, making it difficult for him to convert.

In injury time Liverpool should have taken the lead, as Gerrard whipped a delicious ball into the corridor of uncertainty between the keeper and the defence. Astonishingly, Maxi failed to connect when a single touch would have led to Liverpool taking a one-goal lead into the interval.

The first half had felt like the Benitez era, where we regularly dominated games at home to lesser sides, creating many chances and yet failing to claim all three points. Whilst it was certainly a welcome change to the dull, defensive rubbish served up so far this season, the fans remained anxious.

We really needed a goal to remove anxiety from the crowd, allowing us to play more good football and increase our lead further.

Fortunately, Liverpool fans didn't have to wait much longer because, only three minutes after the restart, Kyrgiakos rose to power Gerrard's corner home via a deflection off Olsson.

Liverpool's barnstorming start to the second half continued, with the home side pouring forward and winning another corner on 50 minutes. Gerrard's quickly taken set piece found Maxi, whose header was well stopped by Robinson.

Kyrgiakos was then barged out of the way as he tried to reach the loose ball, before it eventually fell for Maxi once again. Robinson came out on top for the second time though as he blocked the winger's strike.

There were loud claims for a penalty for the push on Kyrgiakos, however those fell on deaf ears as Rovers rapidly counter-attacked through Diouf. Konchesky attempted to clear the much-maligned striker's effort off the line, but he only succeeded in cannoning the ball against Jamie Carragher.

The ball then depressingly found the back of the net after deflecting off the vice captain. Although Diouf had not actually scored the goal himself, his ferocious celebrations only added yet more anguish to the despondent and desperate Hodgson.

Liverpool had battered Blackburn for the vast majority of the match and only managed to score once. Rovers on the other hand equalised with their first attempt on goal.

The injustice seemed unfathomable.

To the relief of most inside Anfield, Liverpool instantly responded through Fernando Torres, as the Spaniard finally ended his goal drought. Joe Cole chipped a beautiful ball into the six-yard box and Torres was there to neatly tuck the ball inside the post.

From then on Liverpool laid siege on the Kop goal, with Kyrgiakos meeting another Gerrard corner with his head. This time though his effort bounced into the ground and then over the bar.

Joe Cole's shot was then blocked as Liverpool searched for a third to seal the victory.

For the last 20 nervous minutes the home side retreated, looking to hold onto their lead as opposed to extending it further. This led to Rovers pushing forward and becoming increasingly threatening, despite no sign of this forward thinking emerging throughout the proceeding 70 minutes.

On 72 minutes Benjani was inches away from reaching a dangerous cross, before Olsson blazed high over Reina's bar less than ten minutes later.

The final moments were closely fought, however the Reds held on to a vital victory with Rovers failing to fashion any serious openings as Reina remained relatively untroubled.

This was by far our best performance of the season.

Torres seemed interested and involved in the action, Gerrard was instrumental and frequently bombarded the Blackburn box with some excellent corner kicks and Kyrgiakos was a constant menace in the air.

Most significantly, the midfield were all more than happy to bomb forward and join in the attack. Lucas, Meireles, Maxi and Cole all demonstrated their attacking abilities while also contributing to our defensive effort.

Although confidence should be taken from what was a much-improved display we must not go overboard with our optimism.

We are still in the bottom three.

We have still only collected nine points from nine League games.

And we are still nowhere near the level we should be at.

A victory during a barren run will inevitably be well received, however we should always beat the likes of Blackburn at home, arguably by more than a single goal.

With Bolton and Chelsea on the horizon the Reds must perform to a similar standard over the next two weeks otherwise we will be pulled into a relegation dogfight.

And those are words I never imagined I would be writing a full nine weeks into Liverpool's Premier League campaign.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Youngsters earn Euro point

A young Liverpool side battled to a goalless draw in Naples on Thursday night to keep Liverpool top of Group K with five points from three Europa League games.

Hodgson decided to leave star players like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres back on Merseyside to allow them to rest ahead of Sunday's vital League match at home to Blackburn. Instead, he started with a blend of experience and youth, as Spearing, Shelvey and Kelly were all given a chance to impress.

The pre-match attacks on Liverpool fans by Napoli's "ultras" left a distinct air of tension and anxiety as the game began with the home supporters creating a formidable and intimidating atmosphere, the likes of which have never been experienced by some of Liverpool's starting eleven.

However, despite the hostile atmosphere Liverpool managed to stifle the Italians for large periods of the game. In fact, the first opportunity of the match went Liverpool's way after 10 minutes had been played.

A great defence-splitting pass from Milan Jovanovic put Babel through on goal, but a terrible first touch from the Dutchman led him away from goal and the chance was lost. If he had kept control of the ball then he would have had a clear shot on goal and a great chance of grabbing the crucial first goal.

Napoli were keeping possession of the ball and controlling the play, however they failed to seriously test the Reds defence until the 17th minute. Ex-Liverpool player Andrea Dossena whipped a dangerous ball into the box, but Konchesky headed it behind at the back post.

From the resulting corner, Napoli went close to taking the lead as Maggio found the target with a strike, but Liverpool eventually scrambled the ball clear. Two minutes later Lavezzi smashed well over from distance as Liverpool continued to frustrate their opponents.

Cavani even resorted to an Alonso-esque effort from his own half minutes before the half hour mark. Thankfully, it sailed over the bar without troubling Reina, as Liverpool began to grow in confidence.

This poise was demonstrated by the visitors on 33 minutes after a good period of neat passing ended with Shelvey and Spearing swapping passes on the edge of the penalty area, before the debutant tested the keeper with a low strike from 25 yards.

It wasn't too taxing for the keeper, however the possession football beforehand and the link up between Spearing and Shelvey were reasons to hope that Liverpool could possibly sneak a win from a game the many fans expected to lose.

After that, Shelvey displayed his talent and potential once again as he played two wonderful balls into the box. Unfortunately, neither led to a goalscoring chance as Ngog headed the first pass down to nobody, before failing to anticipate the second beautiful ball.

Liverpool's positive finish to the first half almost turned sour during injury time when appalling defending from a Napoli corner gave the home side their first real chance. A goalmouth scramble followed, finishing with Konchesky clearing off the line to thwart Hamsik.

The first half had been successful for the away side, who almost certainly would have accepted a 0-0 scoreline going into the second period. The aim now was to maintain the current standard of defending, while also endeavouring to grab a goal on the counter-attack.

However, this plan was nearly destroyed on 54 minutes when the home side opened Liverpool up. An incisive attack eventually ended with Cavani's weak shot being stopped by Reina, after he had received the ball in a threatening position around the penalty spot.

Good pressure from Konchesky had denied him the chance to power the ball home, allowing Reina to make a much easier save than anticipated.

The home side went close again on the hour mark, as Maggio raced to the by-line on the right before cutting a cross back to Cavani, who rose above Skrtel and Kyrgiakos to drop a header narrowly wide.

Napoli had been making the majority of the opportunities so far in the second half, however the best chance fell to Ryan Babel with just over 20 minutes left, as the game began to open up slightly.

The impressive Jovanovic brilliantly cut inside from the right flank and found Babel in space on the left hand edge of the penalty box. The angle and position were perfect for him, but the shot was anything but as De Sanctis kept out his weak, close range effort.

Liverpool had another great chance on 81 minutes after an excellent turn from David Ngog in the area earned him a yard of space close to goal. Ngog tried to quickly convert, but Aronica blocked his shot well to keep the scores level.

Napoli had one last chance to break Red hearts late into injury time when Liverpool casually lost possession inside their own half. Lavezzi attempted to make us pay for our laziness, but he shot high and wide to the relief of the away side.

Although Hodgson's men showed little in the way of attacking football for large spells, overall there were many positives to take from the match. Most prominently, the performance of Jonjo Shelvey was a major plus point.

The former Charlton man looked composed on the ball, and showed a great passing range throughout the match. He also managed to last for the whole 90 minutes of the intense battle that was his Liverpool debut.

Jay Spearing also played well, displaying a confidence and control on the ball going forward rarely shown by his rivals for the role in the centre of midfield, namely Lucas and Poulsen.

I was also delighted with the display of Milan Jovanovic. Although he has been left out recently, he didn't let this affect him as he was our main threat in attack. His strength on the ball was also key to keeping possession.

Martin Skrtel was another played who impressed me, as the Slovakian remained resolute at the back.

This game can hardly be considered a turning point in our season, however it is one of the many stepping-stones needed if we are to return to winning ways.

Let's hope another stone arrives on Sunday.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hodgson- Stay or go?

Sunday’s showing was painful, humiliating and frustratingly typical of the season so far. It was embarrassing, depressing and pathetically poor.

The match wasn’t much better either.

Roy Hodgson’s post-match interview was almost as bad as his team’s performance during the 214th Merseyside derby.

Following yet another dreadful and depressing display from his side, Hodgson illogically claimed that it was the best he had seen them play during his reign as manager.

He said: "Of course the result is very bad but frankly I refuse to accept it was a bad team performance. I cannot have any real qualms in terms of that because that’s as good as we have performed under my management. I thought the shape, the passing and moving was good. I refuse to sit here and accept we were in any way outplayed and in any way inferior."

And I thought Tom Hicks was the most deluded person associated with our great club!

Hodgson's blind defence of what was a shocking performance can be easily explained as just another manager sticking up for his players amidst the glare of the media spotlight that is currently concentrated on his under-performing stars.

However, to come out with such rubbish after a defeat in the derby was insulting to the supporters who expect more honesty from a manager deemed to be a media darling upon his arrival.

Yes, he can defend individual players from specific criticism (although he didn't when Torres was criticised by Alex Ferguson) but he cannot so brazenly brush aside the legitimate criticisms of his team's performance without expecting to receive a backlash from angry fans.

One of the main attributes of Hodgson that was championed when he took the managerial hot seat was the respect that he received from the media. Through his general polite posture and his overt "Englishness" in both his personal character and football-thinking, Hodgson has gained many journalistic friends.

This relieved the almost incessant battering of Liverpool in the media, and allowed Hodgson time to implement his ideas within the Liverpool squad. However, the worst start from a Liverpool manager ever cannot, and will not be ignored by either the media-men or, more importantly, the supporters.

Hodgson has failed to live up to the picture that the media painted of him when he replaced former boss Rafa Benitez.

Firstly, Hodgson has not proven to be the attacking manager that many people irrationally believed he would be. The common view was that Rafael Benitez had restricted the side with defensive tactics that failed to utilise the full attacking abilities available to him.

Hodgson was seen as a more positive manager who would remove the supposed shackles imposed by Benitez and revive our fortunes through a change from Rafa's 4-2-3-1 to a more offensive and more English 4-4-2 formation.

This unreasonable view was seemingly solely based upon the fact that his Fulham side adopted a 4-4-2 formation throughout last season, when the Cottagers reached a European final for the first time in their history.

However, it ignored several key facts that suggested quite the opposite would occur. Roy's preferred formation may have been 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1 depending on the opposition) but his style of play remains conservative.

Whereas Benitez encouraged players to press further up the field, placing the opposition under pressure and helping us to gain possession closer to the goal, Hodgson prefers his players to regimentally remain in their positions, creating two solid rows of four and a defensive barrier to protect the keeper.

While Benitez's policy was risky as it allowed opponents space to counter-attack if we had failed to win the ball back, it also meant that if we did re-gain possession then we could quickly hurt opponents, as the ball would be close to their goal.

All that was needed was a quick pass to Gerrard or Torres and a goalscoring chance could be created.

The problem with the sitting and creating a defensive barrier approach adopted by Hodgson, is that it means the opposition can keep possession for large periods of time.

This eventually leads to opponents dominating and controlling the play whilst we soak up pressure and try to counter-attack.

Moreover, remaining so deep means that the ball has to travel a long distance to reach the opposition's goal, and Hodgson simply does not have the players available yet to be able to pass through teams starting from the back.

This style of play is particularly employed in away matches. It may be acceptable for a mid-table team like Fulham to play in this way, however it is not suitable for Liverpool, a team expected to control proceedings both at Anfield and away from home.

It certainly is not the release from the "shackles" of Benitez's team. In fact, if anything Liverpool have become more negative under Hodgson.

Rafa Benitez's Liverpool, when they were at their stunning best during the 2008/2009 season, found the perfect balance between attack and defence.

During that epic season Liverpool usually started with a total of six attack minded players. Dirk Kuyt and Albert Riera provided the balance needed on the wings whilst Fernando Torres received support from the superb Steven Gerrard.

Meanwhile, Xabi Alonso sprayed passes across the pitch from his role alongside Javier Mascherano, who acted as the destroyer in the team, breaking up attacks before giving the ball to his Spanish team-mate.

Danish defender Daniel Agger would also confidently stride out of defence when the opportunity arose, adding an extra player who could begin attacking movements from deep.

This superbly balanced side took Liverpool as close as we have ever been to claiming our 19th Championship title. Liverpool managed to bag second place, with 86 points and a total of 77 League goals scored, the best record in the League.

Whilst it would be unfair to compare Benitez's best season against Hodgson's mere eight League matches in charge, the general styles of play for both managers can still be judged on the basis of what we have seen so far and the players available to them.

Hodgson's Liverpool have normally set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with the occasional foray into 4-4-2 proving unsuccessful (think Manchester City away).

Hodgson has paired Lucas and Poulsen in the centre of midfield, leading to a lack of imagination and creativity from the middle of the park.

Lucas and Poulsen are very similar. Both of them like to sit deep and keep the game ticking over in the middle with short passes. A single player of this type is acceptable, however two "water carriers" leave the midfield stagnant and slow.

£11.5 million central midfielder Raul Meireles and under-performing Argentine Maxi Rodriguez have rotated roles on the right side of midfield, with Joe Cole the preferred choice on the other side.

Why Hodgson would spend such a large chunk of his inconsiderable transfer budget on a central midfielder and then play him on the right wing is beyond me. Meireles is undoubtedly a good player, and he showed that with his performances at the World Cup. However, he is nowhere near his best on the right wing.

Joe Cole can do a job on the left wing, however he is another player who likes to cut inside and join the action in the middle of the pitch. Moreover, the main reason he left Chelsea was because he didn't enjoy being played out of position.

He wanted to play in his favourite position, just behind the main striker, however he has been moved out to the left, where he is less effective and less productive.

Employing two central players on the wings in Meireles and Cole severely restricts the width of the side, and denies Torres the service he desperately needs from the wide positions.

Moreover, both players want to cut inside, which narrows our attacking play into a small section of the pitch. This makes it easier for opposition defences to cope, as they concentrate bodies into that area as well, leaving Liverpool little room to manoeuvre.

In this formation Torres is also left isolated for large periods because not only is he feeding on scraps from the wings, he is also failing to receive support from the centre of midfield, as Lucas and Poulsen prefer short passes designed to retain possession, rather than to split defences in half.

With the side struggling to score goals, defensive solidity is a necessity if we are to pick up points. As a result, Hodgson has paired two no nonsense defenders together in the form of Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel. He has also relegated Daniel Agger from first choice centre back to second choice left back.

The below par Glen Johnson and simply average Paul Konchesky have featured in the wing back positions. Johnson has always struggled defensively, however Konchesky was brought in to be the steadying presence to compensate for Johnson's ventures forward.

He was the ying to Johnson's yang.

However, that hasn't proven to be the case, with the rigid structure of a 4-4-1-1 failing to fully utilise the attacking potential of Glen Johnson. Moreover, Konchesky has shown little defensive stability on the left.

Spending £5 million on a left back who was hardly sensational at mid-table Fulham is another Hodgson transfer I cannot understand. At his best, I do not doubt that Konchesky is an adequate left back. However, this adequacy will only last so long as the 29-year old nears the end of his career.

In contrast, 21 year-old Emiliano Insua has been shafted out on loan, with little hope of re-claiming his spot in the side. He had a bit of a shocker last season, but the difference in potential between him and Konchesky should have led to the Argentine remaining at the club for at least a season more.

Admittedly, due to both asset stripping from the previous owners and the dead wood left behind by Benitez, Hodgson has not adopted a squad capable of realistically challenging for even the Champions League, let alone the title.

What he has adopted is a top seven or eight side that should, with the right management and a bit of good fortune, be on the fringes of the top four. He has certainly not inherited a team worthy of the relegation places.

Yes, the players definitely must accept a portion of the blame for the recent sub-standard displays, but their motivation and desire must arrive from a tactically aware manager who understands the intricacies of top-level football management.

I had my doubts about Hodgson from the start. As regular readers will know I was, and still remain a big Rafa fan and would love to see him back in the Anfield dugout.

However, it would be unfair to sack Hodgson at this stage.

He has by no means impressed me, but he must be given both time to develop his ideas, and, if he can prove his ability, money to invest in strengthening a weak and thin squad.

I believe he should be given until Christmas to lead us back into the top seven or eight. Otherwise, he must be shown the door and a new manager must arrive with experience of managing several prestigious club sides.

This new manager will then have the ability to immediately invest in the squad in the January transfer window.

In the mean time, we must support both Hodgson and the players.

While this doesn't mean we must refuse to criticise or blame them all together, it does mean that we back them to improve the situation, and encourage them with support.

I am certain that this support will be given by the ever-faithful Anfield crowd. It must be, otherwise Liverpool will suffer even further heartache for the rest of the season.


Monday, 18 October 2010

Derby disaster for dreadful Reds

Liverpool were left lingering in the relegation zone this weekend after a dreadful display in the 214th Merseyside derby handed Everton a 2-0 win at Goodison Park.

Goals either side of half time from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta sealed victory for the Toffees on a day that Hodgson and his troops will quickly want to forget.

The Reds were not only dull and unimaginative going forward, they also lacked the passion, fight and commitment that are normally inherent characteristics of any Liverpool side, especially in the derby at Goodison, which is still considered to be one of the biggest games of the season.

An unfamiliar back four lacked cohesion and leadership, whilst the midfield showed a stunning lack of creativity once again, with Maxi, Meireles, Lucas and Cole annoyingly anonymous for large spells.

Torres was also ineffective as he struggles to regain form, however you can hardly blame the Spanish striker considering the scraps he had to feed on.

Above all else, Hodgson's tactical ineptitude and his defensive, conservative approach, alongside his failure to change the game with either different instructions or fresh legs, has done nothing to convince me that he is good enough to manage Liverpool FC, the country's most successful club.

A typically scrappy start to the derby failed to yield any goalmouth action until the tenth minute, when Skrtel brought down Yakubu after the Nigerian had turned well on the edge of the box. The home side had a free kick in a dangerous position, however it was initially wasted as Arteta clipped his effort into the wall.

The danger wasn't over though as the ball eventually returned to the penalty area, where England centre back Phil Jagielka fizzed over the bar when he should have at least called Reina into action.

Three minutes later Distin's shot was deflected just wide as Everton asserted their dominance on the proceedings, with Liverpool rarely venturing out of their own half. The Toffees also controlled possession of the football, leaving Liverpool chasing blue shadows for far too long during the first 45 minutes.

Liverpool's first and only opportunity arrived after 22 minutes when Joe Cole whipped an inviting cross into the area, where Torres' flicked header forced Howard into a good save.

Ironically, despite Everton's dominance, it was the best chance of a game that, in classic derby style, had been mainly contested in the middle third of the pitch.

This was where Everton were dominating though, as Liverpool's midfield lacked the battle and fighting qualities that are needed to emerge victorious from close derby clashes.

A clear demonstration of this came on 24 minutes, as Yakubu dispossessed a floundering Lucas Leiva before barging Raul Meireles out of his way. It was a tremendous shoulder barge from the Everton striker that grounded the stunned Portugese midfielder.

He then continued to surge forwards and exchanged passes with Cahill before firing in a low shot, which Reina did well to stop.

It was this rugged determination and desire that was missing in what was an appalling first half performance from the visitors.

Liverpool were finally punished for a slow and sluggish performance minutes past the half hour mark, as Seamus Coleman fearlessly raced past several challenges before pulling the ball back across goal to the on-rushing Cahill, who smashed home from close range.

Our first half display was epitomised five minutes before the break. Paul Konchesky put a good ball into the box, however Meireles was denied a clear shot at goal by Torres, who accidentally blocked the midfielder's path to the ball.

It would have been a great time to get back in the game, however instead Hodgson was left with some stern words to dish out during the half time interval. The Liverpool manager should have given his troops an absolute rollicking because the performance level was unacceptably low.

He should have reminded them what it means to wear a red shirt, however, either that rollicking was not given or the players failed to respond to it, as Everton doubled their lead only five minutes after the restart.

Mikel Arteta's thunderous strike from the edge of the box zoomed past the keeper and into the back of the net, after the Liverpool defence had failed to properly clear an Everton corner.

In a weekend full of controversial offside decisions this goal was another to add to the ever-growing collection, as the officials failed to spot Yakubu standing in an offside position right in front of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

The home side sat back for the rest of the match, happy to preserve their lead whilst searching for a third on the counter-attack when the opportunity arose. Liverpool seemed all too willing to conform to this plan as they failed to threaten the Blues defence, who restricted their visitors to speculative efforts from range.

Just past the hour mark Meireles shot straight into the grateful arms of Tim Howard from 25 yards, before Torres blazed well over the bar, deepening both his and the team's sense of frustration and despondency.

Cole and Meireles both saw efforts from distance fail to breach the Everton net as Liverpool unsuccessfully looked for a way back into the game. Unfortunately, little inspiration came from the touchline, with Roy Hodgson leaving it until only 20 minutes were left before making a positive substitution.

Young French striker David Ngog replaced the unproductive Lucas as Hodgson reverted from a 4-4-1-1 formation to the even more "English" 4-4-2 system. It failed to pay dividends though as Torres and Ngog couldn't manage to spark a connection, with neither striker performing anywhere near their potential.

In fact, it was the Toffees who went closest to scoring the next goal when former Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford smashed a great shot just over the top corner after the 26-year old had been put through on goal.

The enigmatic Ryan Babel stung the palms of Howard with a fierce strike from range deep into injury time as Liverpool threw everyone forward to try and salvage something from what was a game to forget for Reds supporters.

Under normal circumstances this match could be adequately described as a "bad day at the office". However, after only one win in eight Premier League games the storm that Liverpool are currently weathering cannot be sufficiently depicted as a mere light shower.

The players appear to lack the passion and the excellence needed to pull on the famous Red shirt every week. The stark reality is that, due to the asset stripping parasites Hicks and Gillett, our squad contains far too many average players.

All the same, our squad is certainly far superior to that of a team worthy of the relegation places. Barring a few changes, the players are essentially the same as those who finished in seventh position at the end of the last campaign.

Unfortunately, we seem to have replaced a world-class manager with a nice bloke but only an average football manager. Without the tactical expertise of former manager Rafael Benitez, the players are struggling to cope and the paper-thin nature of our squad is being revealed.

A marked improvement from both the manager and the players is required before we really do slip into a relegation dogfight.

Personally, I believe Hodgson should be given until Christmas to improve and to lead us into at least the top eight or nine. Otherwise he'll have to be sacked, and replaced with a tactically astute manager, who will have the ability to immediately invest in the side during the January transfer window.

Maybe then we'll finally be able to add some depth to our paper-thin squad.


Saturday, 16 October 2010

From Groundhog Day to a perfect day

The last few days have felt like the movie "Groundhog Day" for most Liverpool supporters.

In the 1993 American comedy film the main character Phil Connors finds himself reliving the same day over and over again, leading to inevitable frustration and despondency.

Unfortunately Liverpool fans have experienced the same continual anger and despair that haunted Connors this week as the club's long and drawn out sale process ended in turmoil with the civil war that had developed at boardroom level being fought to a conclusion in both the British High Court and, somewhat bizarrely, in a Texan Court.

At first it all seemed so simple. The independent members of the board, namely Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre, had to prove to the High Court that co-owner Tom Hicks broke his contract with RBS by attempting to sack both Purslow and Ayre after they had approved the sale to NESV.

After a Tuesday full of twists and turns, RBS and the Liverpool board eventually succeeded the following day, with Hicks' lawyer unable to persuade Mr Justice Floyd that his client had been isolated and effectively removed from the sale process by the English members of the board.

Hicks used this argument to justify his blatant breach of contract, however the excellent Lord Grabiner, who represented the board throughout the case, devastatingly destroyed his arguments.

At 10:42 am on Wednesday morning the judge paved the way for the sale to NESV to be completed without the permission of Hicks and Gillett, as he granted the mandatory injunction wanted by RBS against the owners.

Liverpool supporters saw the rest of the day as a time to celebrate and rejoice at what appeared to be the end for two parasitic liars who have left our club on the precipice of both sporting and financial oblivion.

The parasites in question had different plans though, as they appeared before a Texan judge confident of obtaining a restraining order to prevent the completion of the sale process.

With the day almost over Reds supporters eagerly anticipated news of an NESV takeover that night, however we were left distraught as the news that Hicks had managed to stop the sale filtered through to fans.

This restraining order valued the club at over £1 billion, and demanded that Broughton, Purslow and Ayre face trial before the Texan judge for trying to finalise the "illegal" sale of Liverpool Football Club.

It also claimed that the "English establishment" (presumably meaning RBS, the board and the High Court) had attempted to pull off a conspiracy by "epically swindling" the owners out of the vast sum of money that this ridiculous injunction claimed they deserve.

Liverpool supporters reacted angrily, with many voicing their opinions through emailing Judge Jim Jordan and posting on his Facebook page.

The injunction that he had imposed was the personification of insanity. The massive valuation of the club within it ignored Liverpool's gargantuan debt and the fact that this debt had to be paid off by Friday.

Also, it was littered with spelling mistakes and scribbles, which characterised this hastily written piece of legal toilet paper. The Texan judge also failed to realise that he had no jurisdiction whatsoever over the case as Liverpool is both UK based and UK owned. It has nothing to do with America or Texas.

To add to this Hicks' lawyer claimed that Liverpool's Chairman, Martin Broughton, had tortured the Texan people with his actions and therefore should face imprisonment until he could face trial on 25th October.

This despite the fact that Broughton, to the best of my knowledge, has never set foot in Texas and that the vast majority of Texans don't have a clue who he is.

Liverpool's board were confident of removing this Texan injunction, however they had to go to the High Court for the third day in a row in order to prove their legitimate grievances.

This set up yet another nervous day for Liverpool supporters desperate to see the ownership situation resolved quickly so that the threat of administration and a points deduction could be eliminated.

The owners were comprehensively defeated once again in the British High Court and Mr Justice Floyd granted an anti-suit injunction that made all injunctions imposed on the sale outside of the UK null and void.

"This case has nothing to do with Texas," the judge added.

Although this anti-suit injunction was met by untimely jubilation from some supporters, the majority preferred to remain cautiously optimistic instead as we were fearful of both the Groundhog day cycle continuing and the possibility of Hicks attempting another desperate stunt to try and block the sale.

With a court in Dallas set to rule on whether to lift the injunction or not at 1pm on Friday afternoon, Liverpool fans had to suffer through a restless night once again.

The fear amongst fans grew as Thursday night turned into Friday morning, as news that Mill Financial, a US based hedge fund, were interested in either re-financing Hicks or taking control of the club saturated the media.

The "internet terrorists", as Hicks so profoundly calls us, went into action once again as thousands of fans spammed Mill Financial with angry emails threatening to boycott their business interests if they managed to re-finance Hicks.

Friday 15th October arrived the next morning. Liverpool's D-day. It may not have been the biggest day in our history, but it will almost certainly turn out to be the biggest day in our club's future.

Thankfully, it started off well as Liverpool announced that club legend Jamie Carragher had signed a two-year contract extension. Even better news was soon to follow as it was revealed that Hicks and Gillett had decided to lift the Texan injunction that was currently halting the sale process.

However, this was not an admission that the club should be sold to NESV. Firstly, Hicks wanted to remove the threat of him being prosecuted for contempt of court in Britain. Moreover, the restraining order had limited his ability to complete a re-financing agreement with Mill Financial.

It was now a race between Mill Financial and NESV to pay off RBS before the deadline. Liverpool supporters were backing NESV as we were worried at the prospect of being owned by a hedge fund, who would have the sole aim of milking the club for as much money as possible.

Fortunately, NESV had the upper hand because they had both the approval of the Liverpool board and the Premier League.

Conversely, the Premier League correctly refused to deal with Mill Financial after they had sought approval under the owners' and directors test. This was because Mill Financial had not received authorisation from the board to buy the club.

The Groundhog day experience of the last few days had now been replaced by what seemed to be a perfect day for Liverpool Football Club on Friday, as NESV managed to complete the purchase of the club just minutes before 4pm.

It was fantastic news for fans, who could finally celebrate as the Hicks and Gillett era had finally come to an end. It had been a long and disruptive process, however the club is now out of the hands of two lying parasites, and is now owned by a group with an excellent track record of transforming sports teams fortunes.

On top of that perfect day, the evening's entertainment was provided by a certain Mr Hicks who, in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, proceeded to tell another round of lies.

He claimed that him and George had spent £150 million on players.

He claimed that he had new owners lined up who would spend the same amount on Liverpool as Sheik Mansour has at Manchester City.

He claimed that he had the money to pay off RBS.

And he claimed that he had been committed to selling the club.

He lied, he lied, he lied and he lied again.

But now, instead of providing agonising viewing for fans, it was very entertaining because we know that he can harm us no more.

He may sue for a ridiculous amount of money in court, however we know that he has not got a leg to stand on. He will fail in court, like he has failed before and will certainly fail again.

Now, with new owners in charge, Liverpool can move towards a bright new future. With NESV in charge Liverpool are now in a secure financial position. NESV have wiped out all of Hicks' acquisition debt, leading to a dramatic decline in the amount of interest we are paying every year.

Under Hicks and Gillett we were paying £25-30 million a year to service the debt that they had put upon the club. As the majority of the debt has now been paid, the club will only have to pay £2-3 million a year. This immediately leaves Liverpool with an extra £22-28 million to spend in the transfer market.

Moreover, NESV have a track record of re-vitalising the Boston Red Sox through consistent investment into the playing squad and the stadium.

They have an excellent financial and, more importantly, sporting record, which is something nobody could honestly say about the lying parasites who previously owned us.

We should reserve judgement on them until they have proven their words with their actions, however I am confident that NESV can provide the necessary investment and expertise to transform Liverpool.

Liverpool have now entered a new era. Let's get back where we belong.

The top of the Premier League.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

At the end of the Court, there's a Golden Sky

Legendary status amongst Liverpool fans is normally earned through years of dedication, passion and commitment from football players performing in front of 45,000 at Anfield every fortnight.

However, for the first time ever three board members will go down in history as Liverpool legends after Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre (with a little help from RBS) comprehensively defeated and humiliated our parasitic owners in the High Court, paving the way for a takeover of the club, most likely by the well-respected New England Sports Ventures (NESV).

Lord Grabiner successfully argued that Tom Hicks had breached his contract with RBS by attempting to sack both Purslow and Ayre after they had approved the sale to NESV.

As a result, the judge granted the mandatory injunction wanted by RBS against the owners, allowing the sale of the club to go ahead without the approval of Tom Hicks.

With George Gillett already out of the picture after defaulting on a £75 million loan, the board are now free to sell to whoever they deem to be the right custodians of the club for the long-term future.

The first day of the case was full of twists and turns, with Hicks' representative admitting the breach of contract barely 13 minutes into the trial. However, he argued that Hicks only tried to change the board after being isolated from the sale process by the English members of the board.

Hicks, who has become accustomed to lying through his teeth over the years, had written a letter to the court claiming that he had "become excluded from the sale process by the board."

In an attempt to add credence to his ridiculous views the Texan cowboy claimed to have had no knowledge of a board meeting regarding the sale of the club on 5th October.

The excellent Grabiner devastatingly destroyed this argument, as he revealed that Hicks and Gillett had a lawyer listening via telephone to the very meeting he had claimed to be excluded from.

Grabiner then insisted that the owners had simply refused to turn up, which would certainly be in-keeping with their lackadaisical approach to Liverpool Football Club.

Hicks' representative had also stated that the board rushed through a deal without considering the alternatives available, because they were so desperate to see the back of his client.

This was the foundation of the owners argument, however it was swiftly removed by Martin Broughton's QC, who informed the judge that it had been a "thorough and well thought process" with 130 parties receiving approaches from the board about a takeover.

The nerves of supporters were tested further just after 4:00pm yesterday as the judge said that it would be a "little ambitious" for the case to be settled by Friday.

The possibility of administration had haunted fans for days before the trial, however we had still held out hope that it could all be sorted without the club suffering a points deduction.

Now, it seemed almost inevitable that the club would be placed into administration, leaving us stranded at the bottom of the table. With a resolution before the weekend deemed unlikely by Mr Justice Floyd many fans were frightened that not only would the club plummet to the bottom of the table, but that the case would also drag on for weeks, leaving Liverpool in limbo.

Thankfully (and somewhat confusingly) the judge later declared that he would make a judgement on the case at 10:30am on Wednesday morning. This arrived only 44 minutes after he had said that a resolution to the case was unlikely to arrive before the weekend.

This sudden change of heart was good news for fans. Hicks' only hope of clinging onto power was that a lengthy court process would discourage bidders, causing them to retract their offers.

With that option seemingly removed both the board and the supporters were confident of victory.

The final verdict, which had been moved forward half an hour to 10:00am, was finally announced at 10:42am, with the judge granting an injunction against the owners, allowing us to finally move on from the parasites who have blighted our club for far too long.

Mr Justice Floyd confirmed what we already knew, namely that the parasites didn't have a leg to stand on in court. He later stated that it would be "inappropriate" of Hicks and Gillett to appeal.

The vermin probably don't understand the word "inappropriate" after a lifetime of acting in a manner that scarcely even deserves that term. I fully expect them to appeal however it is incredibly unlikely that any appeal will be able to stop the sale process.

Hicks and Gillett have to prove that their appeal has a reasonable chance of success to even achieve another hearing in Court. Even then the most they will be able to claim for are damages.

A board meeting has now been arranged for 8:00pm this evening, where the re-constituted board consisting of Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow, Ian Ayre and the owners (if they decide to show up) will discuss whether to complete the deal with NESV or to consider a bid of £320 million from Singapore billionaire Peter Lim.

NESV remain in the front running because the sale of the club to them has already been agreed. Therefore, if the club was eventually sold to another party then they could end up suing us for millions of pounds, which is something that the club could do without during this critical period.

I would like to see the club sold to NESV. Their financial and sporting record is impeccable, and they have proven their credentials by re-vitalising the Boston Red Sox.

Moreover, John Henry is seen as one of the best baseball owners across the pond, and has begun to develop a rapport with Reds fans by following both "Spirit of Shankly" and "Help Save Liverpool FC" on Twitter.

I must say a massive thank you to Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow, Ian Ayre and RBS for all the great work they have done to help us reclaim our club from the crutches of a cowboy.

Liverpool supporters have also shown their commitment and passion for the club through endless emails and protests.

A Manc mate of mine even admitted to me recently that we have the best fans in the country. Of course this was common knowledge before the parasites arrived, however the fantastic work from Liverpool fans has filtered this fact through to even our arch rivals, who could suffer a similar fate to ours in the not too distant future.

Tom Hicks must now be ruing describing Liverpool fans as "noise he could deal with." We've proven the parasite wrong, now let's party!

Roll on NESV ownership, and roll on the good times!


(Thanks to Djordje Pavlovic from the Facebook page "LFC Transfer Speculations" for providing the title of this piece.)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Are we heading towards the golden sky?

The recent dramatic developments regarding the sale of Liverpool Football Club have left most fans in a state of shock and surprise at how stunningly swift the deal was agreed and, pending a few conditions, will soon be completed.

After such a lengthy process where nothing much seemed to be happening once Chinese bidder Kenny Huang had retracted his interest, supporters were left dazed and confused.

Above all else we were frightened.

Frightened that Hicks would somehow be able to re-finance the club and claim sole ownership.

Frightened that Hicks would mortgage Anfield, Melwood and the players in order to afford to pay back any new loans he managed to secure.

Frightened that we would "do a Leeds" and plummet down the divisions whilst facing financial ruin at the hands of a Texan cowboy.

Now, after a night of U-turns, tension and drama Liverpool fans can rest assured that new owners are poised to take control of the club, stabilising our finances and providing a much needed confidence boost after a dreadful start to the season.

It all started at around 9 o'clock last night as BBC Sport revealed that two more bids had been made. Then, over the next four hours the gory details of a civil war at board room level were publicised on nearly every sports website, including the club's official site.

It emerged that the board had received two "excellent" bids that would wipe out the club's debt and allow us to return to firm financial ground whilst also investing in the development of both the new stadium and the playing squad.

A meeting had been called to discuss these matters, however Tom Hicks, realising that he was about to lose the club without making a profit, attempted to sack both Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre, replacing them with two of his puppets, namely Mack Hicks and Lori Kay McCutcheon.

Hicks attempted to do this so that he could gain majority control of the board, and therefore only sell to a buyer who was willing to pay his frankly ridiculous asking price of £800 million.

All we were told at this stage was that the matter was now subject to legal review, however that didn't stop the fans frantically spreading rumours all over forums and social networking sites.

After a restless night's sleep trying to forget the perilous situation clouding our great football club I was awoken two hours early by a text from a mate.

It read, "Boston redsocks have brought Liverpool. So they no lo(ng)er have any debt."

Despite my friend's inability to spell correctly and my sleep depraved state the sight of positive news immediately awoke me. I rushed to the laptop to check it was true, and there it was.

"Liverpool Football Club today announces that the Board has agreed the sale of the Club to New England Sports Ventures (NESV)."

I was excited and ecstatic, and couldn't return to my slumber following the news that had just made my year.

It would be like asking a kid to return to bed after waking up too early on Christmas morning!

However, this great news was later tempered as I read the brief statement more closely.

"The sale is conditional on Premier League approval, resolution of the dispute concerning Board membership and other matters."

At first, this news appears menacing. The inevitable legal battle was a source of worry to most fans as the possibility of the parasites clinging onto power seemed very real.

However, with more considered thinking this legal battle should be seen for what it is; the last act of a man desperate to claim the blood money of Liverpool FC.

The legal battle is about whether the board acted validly in drawing up the sale documents and eventually sealing the deal. The board were given the specific job, most probably by RBS, of finding an investor willing to primarily pay off the debt, but also to be a suitable custodian of the club.

This is what they have done, with the board extolling the virtues of both bids. RBS have also approved the sale of the club to either of the two bidders, clearing demonstrating that they were bids that, if accepted, would be in the best interests of the club.

Tom Hicks attempted to sack both Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre from the board for accepting a bid that he claimed devalued his stake in the club. However, Martin Broughton later revealed that Hicks has no right to change the members of the board.

When the Yanks appointed him they signed an agreement allowing only Broughton to change the members of the board, meaning that Hicks' actions have contradicted his deal with RBS.

As a result, the chances of Hicks succeeding in his legal case against the board are virtually zero. Even if he did somehow manage to win the legal case it would only delay the sale of the club.

He would still need to re-finance before 15th October otherwise the bank would take control and immediately sell to the board's recommended choice. Tom Hicks not only has to succeed in his legal challenge, but must also find someone willing to give him £300 million.

It's simply not going to happen.

So, with the parasites Hicks and Gillett almost out of the picture, are we approaching the golden sky that is so famously promised by the profound words of the club's anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone"?

Sporting investment company New England Sports Ventures, whose bid has been accepted by the board, have a credible record of returning success to American baseball team the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox have a proud and prestigious history, however they experienced a barren spell where they failed to win any silverware. Since New England Sports Ventures took control they have won the World Series twice.

From my scant knowledge of baseball I'd say that is effectively like us winning the Champions League twice in quick succession soon after their arrival.

Now, I'm not saying that that is necessarily going to happen, however they have a history of developing the winning mentality needed to succeed at the highest level of the sporting world.

Moreover, they have committed to either developing Anfield into a 60,000-seater stadium or building a completely new stadium on Stanley Park. Although, this is bad news for Evertonians wishing to share a stadium with their far superior neighbours, this news will be welcomed by Reds supporters.

Not only will these stadium developments provide crucial funding with which to invest in the side, they will also allow for the possibility of staying at our historic Anfield home, something which Hicks and Gillett never took into consideration.

There will inevitably be lazy, stereotypical and vaguely xenophobic comments from members of the media and certain supporters claiming that having new American owners will only result in the same calamitous situation that ensued following the takeover of Hicks and Gillett.

These people should be ignored, as they fail to realise that their nationality was not the reason for us desiring their departure.

There is no doubt that the differences in sporting cultures shocked both us and the Americans, however they were so vehemently opposed because of their leveraged buy out, debt-laden financial structure and blatant and repeated lies to supporters.

They were certainly not detested for their nationality.

I'd like to reserve a special mention for Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre. I used to slate these people as I, alongside most other fans, saw them as Hicks' henchmen working in the interests of the lying parasites instead of the club.

I am thrilled to say that I have been proven absolutely wrong. They fought for us in our civil war. That should never be forgotten. In helping us to rid our club of Tom Hicks and George Gillett they could possibly be the catalysts of a revolution not seen since the days of the great Bill Shankly.

Writing such a positive piece about our club is extremely strange for me considering the crisis that has engulfed us for so long, however it is a very welcome and refreshing pleasure.

Nonetheless, I hasten to add that we must remain vigilant. We cannot allow someone to rape and pillage our club in such a disgusting manner once again. Yes, be positive and patient in regard to the ownership situation, but do not expect immediate success either on or off the field.

The destruction of Liverpool Football Club has been so severe that it will take time to re-build.

However, with hope in our hearts, and the likelihood of new owners in the boardroom, finally we can faintly hear the sweet silver song of the lark, and we can glimpse the edges of the golden sky up ahead.


Monday, 4 October 2010

Liverpool left traumatised by the Tangerines

Embarrassing. Humiliating. Disgusting. Disgraceful.

The list of adjectives (or expletives, if you prefer) that one could use to describe not only our performance yesterday, but also our current plight, is seemingly endless.

Liverpool fell to a 2-1 reverse at home to Blackpool this weekend to add yet another chapter to the worryingly large catalogue of pain and shame that has summarised our abysmal season up to this spirit-sapping point.

Two first half goals from Adam and Varney gave the dominant Blackpool a substantial lead to cling onto for the second 45 minutes. Kyrgiakos' headed goal on 53 minutes failed to spark the expected comeback from the home side and the visitors managed to hold out for an historic victory.

With Jamie Carragher filling in at left back for the first time since 2004 an unstable Liverpool defence suffered a deluge during the opening stages as the Seasiders fearlessly took the game to their under whelming hosts.

Only two minutes in Charlie Adam forced Reina to make an excellent save from the Blackpool captain's free kick as he thundered a low strike goalwards after Martin Skrtel had brought down DJ Campbell on the edge of the Liverpool box.

A minute later Joe Cole was inches away from tapping Torres' right wing cross home, before Blackpool threatened again as Taylor-Fletcher’s low ball into the box just evaded the run of the menacing Campbell.

On 10 minutes Liverpool were severely weakened, as Fernando Torres had to be replaced by young striker David Ngog after the Spaniard had pulled up with a suspected groin injury.

It was a demoralising moment for Liverpool, and must have left Torres devastated as he was just starting to build up his match fitness again after a large spell on the sidelines.

With a quarter of an hour played Campbell fired over the bar from close range at the back post after a searching cross had picked him out in the penalty area. It was a very good opportunity and he should have at least tested Pepe Reina with an effort on goal.

Liverpool then had two attempts on goal themselves as Kyrgiakos' headed effort was cleared off the line after Gerrard's shot had been easily collected by Gilks in the visitors' goal minutes earlier.

However, it was Blackpool who were controlling the game and creating clearer chances, and they eventually claimed a dramatic lead on 29 minutes as Glen Johnson unceremoniously dumped Varney on his back side in the penalty area after the counter-attacking striker had cut inside the England right back, exposing both Johnson's bad body position and other defensive frailties.

It was a stonewall penalty which Adam managed to squeeze past the keeper and into the net, beating Reina even though the Spanish keeper got a big hand to the ball and could (quite possibly should) have done better.

Taking the lead at Anfield and scoring in front of the famous Kop Grandstand only spurred Blackpool on further as they continued to put the Reds backline under pressure, with both Campbell and Crainey stinging the palms of Pepe Reina with strikes from the edge of the area minutes before the break.

In contrast, Liverpool were lacking imagination and purpose in their play (how many times have I typed that this season?) and failed to call Gilks into any serious action.

Kuyt's header and Cole's 18 yard shot were the only times the keeper was even remotely tested, and even then he only had to make routine saves as Liverpool simply lacked any sort of firepower.

In the first minute of first half injury time Liverpool's situation got even worse as Luke Varney grabbed a second for the visitors to double their lead and quadruple our agony. Taylor-Fletcher found the well-timed run of Varney who slammed in the ball into the corner of the net, leaving Reina with no chance.

With Torres substituted and a two-goal deficit hanging over our heads the atmosphere was flat as misery clouded over Anfield forebodingly. It was going to take a comeback of Istanbul-like proportions for us to recover from this humiliation, and our form suggested that that was incredibly unlikely.

On 47 minutes Ngog stretched to reach Kuyt's cross but unfortunately he could only head wide. After that a clever, quick free kick from Steven Gerrard was headed home off the cross bar by Kyrgiakos.

It was a good goal from the big Greek, which sparked hopes of another epic Anfield turnaround to add to the vast array of treasured memories from other enthralling, and often European, home games.

We went agonisingly close to fulfilling that hope on the hour mark as the advancing Jamie Carragher controlled a long throw out from the quick-thinking Pepe Reina. Carra then slid the ball into the path of Joe Cole, however the Londoner's shot somehow trickled inches beyond the far post, with most Reds already convinced that he had grabbed the leveller.

Liverpool kept on probing, searching for an equaliser, however clear-cut opportunities were few and far between as the away side defended resolutely whilst we toiled in vain. Gerrard's left footed volley spun wide of the goal before Meireles' shot was blocked as the frustration within Anfield grew.

This irritation was heightened further on 71 minutes when the Reds were denied an obvious penalty by referee Mike Jones. The ball blatantly hit both of Charlie Adam's hands just inside the box and yet Jones ignored the cries for a spot kick.

It just wasn't going to be our day. By that stage it was clear, as we failed to fashion any serious chances with the midfield struggling to support Ngog, who was plying a lone furrow up front.

Two minutes before injury time Gerrard's probing ball picked out Kuyt at the back stick, however Kuyt's position meant that his header lacked power. It was easily stopped by the keeper as Blackpool became increasingly confident of victory.

In a desperate attempt to salvage something from what had been a terrible match Hodgson threw Kyrgiakos up front, and it nearly worked as the tall centre back arrowed a header goalwards. Unfortunately Gilks was on top form to push Soto's bullet like header away to safety.

After such a diabolical display boos rightly rung around Anfield as the fans, who had intended to witness a comfortable victory before demonstrating against the American owners, turned on both the players and the manager.

The protests against Hicks and Gillett remained, however the chants demanding the departure of the despised duo were interspersed with calls for the sacking of Hodgson and the re-appointment of Kenny Dalglish as manager.

The times are desperate at our once great football club. The players and the manager are under-performing and, more importantly, Hicks and Gillett still have control in the boardroom.

I have already accepted that this season will almost certainly be much worse than even last year and I, along with the majority of fans with the club's interest at heart, am now concentrating on ousting the Yanks. Their debt and lies have constantly undermined the team's performance and it is time for them to leave.

If we can rid ourselves of the parasites this October then I'll be happy with a top-half finish.

Let's keep on fighting and making our opinions heard.


Friday, 1 October 2010

Good result, but bad performance as Reds nick a point

Liverpool nicked a 0-0 draw last night as Dirk Kuyt returned to the Galgenwaard Stadion to face former side Utrecht. The game ended in a stalemate with neither side possessing the necessary strike power to penetrate the opposing sides backline.

In the context of our Europa League campaign an away draw should be considered a positive result as it leaves us top of Group K, two points ahead of Napoli and Utrecht, and three points above Steaua Bucharest, who were involved in an enthralling 3-3 draw against Napoli yesterday.

However, in the wider, and far more significant context of our season this result, and the depressingly dull display that inevitably accompanied it, does little to bolster the faltering confidence of Hodgson's severely deflated side.

Roy Hodgson selected a strong starting eleven, with Torres and Kuyt forming a front partnership whilst Cole and Meireles played on either wing. This was in the hope that we could rack up three points, whilst also addressing our poor form with a good performance and a couple of goals to boot.

In fact, the opposite occurred as playing two attacking central midfielders on the wing restricted our play and, with the right footed Martin Kelly playing at left back, Liverpool's only attacking threat down the wings was Glen Johnson.

Moreover, Kuyt and Torres rarely looked like combining to frighten the home team's defence and were generally left redundant as a result of the frustrating lack of service from the uninspiring, and overly similar Lucas Leiva and Christian Poulsen.

Liverpool had the better of a scruffy opening period where neither side asserted themselves on the game and clear-cut opportunities were at a premium. After 6 minutes Edouard Duplan fired the first shot of the match wide from 25 yards.

Then, Raul Meireles showed good footwork to turn into space and strike a low, left footed drive towards goal, however it was straight at Michael Vorm allowing him a comfortable save.

A minute later Lucas took Cole's pass in his stride before hitting a low shot that almost turned into a fantastic pass for Torres on its way wide of the far post. If the Spaniard had been a little more alert then he may have got on the end of the Brazilian's effort and turned it into the net.

Soon after Cole cut inside from the left once again, but he could only disappointingly drag his shot wide of the near post. By this stage it was Liverpool who were controlling possession and asking the majority of the questions, however the home side's strong defence restricted us to long-range efforts, which failed to test the keeper.

Just after the 20-minute mark Meireles had another good opportunity as Johnson clipped a lovely ball into the box, however the Portugal international's header was weak and went straight into the grateful arms of the keeper. The new signing should have done better because he was well placed to aim a header home, and the delivery from Johnson was perfect for him as well.

From that moment onwards Utrecht became more of an attacking threat, and began to put the visitors under some pressure. The home side carved Liverpool wide open down the right on 25 minutes, however Johnson was alert and managed to cut out Mulenga's cross to avert danger from the goalmouth.

After that another superb move down the right ended with a fiery cross being centred into the box. Reina did well to push the ball to safety with van Wolfswinkel lurking.

Fernando Torres had been quiet so far, however he nearly broke the deadlock on 32 minutes as his 20 yard strike curved a couple of yards wide of the far post after the Spanish World Cup winner had cut back onto his right foot.

It was an excellent shot from Torres, however unfortunately he showed little else throughout the match to suggest that the poor form and injuries, which have plagued him since before the World Cup, had disappeared.

Dreadful defending from Dirk Kuyt allowed Mertens to skip past the returning Dutchman and fizz a shot towards goal from close range, which Reina did well to block, before giving Kuyt an absolute rollicking for his lack of awareness that almost led to Utrecht claiming the lead at a critical stage of the match, only five minutes before the half time interval.

From the resulting corner the home side went close again as the unmarked Tim Cornelisse rose highest to head a right wing corner just over the top.

Although it had been punctuated by sporadic goalmouth action, the first half was a stalemate with little to write home about, and both managers would have been looking for more from their respective sides going forward.

The first flowing move for the Reds came after eight minutes of the second half had been played, and ended with the ball dropping for Fernando Torres in a fantastic position only 12 yards from goal. Frustratingly El Nino hooked his volley over the bar, when he should have done better.

Minutes before the hour mark the game sparked into something resembling attacking action, as there were goalmouth incidents at both ends in quick succession. First, Martin Skrtel was forced to head off the line after Reina had flapped at a left wing corner.

Reina then quickly punted the ball forward to Dirk Kuyt on the right wing. Kuyt, who had been deployed in what has become an unfamiliar role as a striker, found himself on the ball in the far more comfortable position of the right side of midfield where, ironically, he set up Torres for the best opportunity of the match.

The Dutchman played Torres through on goal for what should have been the opener, however Vorm made a wonderful save to stop the Spaniard breaking his European duck for the season.

On 62 minutes a brilliant free kick into the box found Schut, but thankfully the centre back could only stab his volley wide of goal. Two minutes later Martin Skrtel headed Meireles' floated free kick onto the cross bar as the game became more open, with both sides willing to throw a few more men forward when the opportunity arose.

Torres, who had already missed three very good chances, was gifted a clear run on goal thanks to an incredibly bad back pass. The keeper rushed out and made a rash challenge, however Torres was brave and remained on his feet.

However, he eventually ran out of pitch in his attempt to find the empty net. It was a good shout for a spot kick, and he might have won us a penalty if he'd gone down, however I applaud Torres for staying on his feet.

In an era where foreign players of all shapes and sizes saturate the Premier League, I am proud that we still retain the distinctly English hatred of stimulation and love of fair play. I am glad that Torres appears to have adopted these values by not falling over in order to "win" a penalty for us.

With 20 minutes to go Carragher miscued a poor clearance to allow the slipping Silberbauer to flash an excellent effort just over Reina's left hand post. It was a disappointing defensive clearance from Carragher, however the strike was of the highest quality as he was losing his footing on the wet surface.

After 76 minutes Mertens' attempt at an "Xabi Alonso" style goal from all of 65 yards was nowhere near testing Reina in the Liverpool goal. Three minutes later a corner travelled through to Silberbauer, who forced Reina to stop his low, rasping effort.

As the closing stages approached Maxi Rodriguez replaced the quiet and ineffective Cole and nearly made an immediate impact as he acrobatically fired an overhead kick over the top.

It was an audacious attempt, however the Argentine should have been more spatially aware and taken the ball down before turning and having an effort on goal.

There was only time left for one more goalscoring chance, and that went to the home side with just over five minutes remaining.

Martin Skrtel's frankly ridiculous attempt at a headed clearance from a long punt up field caused confusion in the Reds backline, allowing Mulenga to exploit this puzzlement to storm past both Carragher and Kelly.

To the relief of Roy and his Redmen Mulenga slotted wide with Reina vulnerable and the frontman favourite to score what would have been the winner.

As the title of this piece implies, the result was good but the performance was anything but. A European away draw is never to be belittled, however the display of the side only heightens the sense of disillusionment with the manager and the players.

Hodgson's job description could be summarised in a single sentence. "Steady the ship." He simply has not done this. Liverpool have had their worst start to the season since the 1992/1993 season and, whatever way you look at it, that is not good enough.

It would be ok if Hodgson was in it for the long haul and needed time to build a squad, however his age and previous record suggests that he is just a stopgap until new owners come in and appoint a new manager.

He knew this. He knew he had to "steady the ship" but at the moment it seems like that ship is sinking faster than ever, causing fans to rightly forge a mutiny against the ultimate cause of our plummet towards mid-table mediocrity.

Hicks and Gillett.