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  1. 6 points
    When Trent Alexander-Arnold first appeared in and around the first team squad, I saw flashes of the teenage Steven Gerrard in him. I may have even written it once or twice (albeit hesitantly), but generally I steered away from making any comparisons. After all, there’s a strong case to be had that Gerrard is the best to ever play for the club, so even mentioning anybody else in the same breath seems like lunacy, no matter how carefully chosen the words are. Nevertheless, having watched Trent coming through the Academy sides, there were times when he reminded me of Stevie. He wasn’t a carbon copy of course, but every now and then he’d do something that would make you think “there was a bit of Gerrard in that”. It might have been a crunching tackle (one against Spurs in a League Cup tie at Anfield springs to mind) or a raking cross field ball. Sometimes it was just the way he carried himself. Just little things that reminded me of the young Gerrard who first came into the side playing right back. Like Gerrard, Trent was a midfielder who initially could ‘do a job’ at full back. Unlike Gerrard, Trent looks like he might actually stay there. I still feel as though there’s a world class midfielder in there should Jurgen ever decide to unleash him, but he’s so special at right back there’s no rush to move him, especially as the full back position in this current team is massively important. More important than it’s ever been in fact. I’m not saying that in the past you could just throw anyone in at full back, but it was certainly the least important position in the side. You could ‘make do’ and we often did. For example, we nearly won the league in 2014 with Aly Cissokho and Jon Flanagan sharing duties at left back, and with Glen Johnson underachieving like only he could on the opposite flank. Djimi Traore was left back in a Champions League winning side. Now, the style we play under Klopp, it’s a whole different ball game. The two full backs need to be skilled footballers and terrific athletes because the way we play demands it. Not only do they have to defend, but they need to provide the creativity from wide positions because the wingers play inside. Traditional full backs just won’t get it done in this set up. That’s why I’m no longer as convinced that Trent is going to end up in midfield, at least not any time soon. He’d be incredibly difficult to replace at right back because of the quality he has and his knack for creating goals. Like Andy Robbo on the other side, Trent is essentially doing the job of two players. They’re both doing it incredibly well and earlier this season L’Equipe hailed them as the best full back pairing in the world. Credit to them for noticing that, because you rarely hear anyone else pointing it out. They are the best full back pairing in the world and I don’t even think it’s close. Who else would even be in the discussion? They’re part of the tightest back four in Europe so there’s no weakness defensively, but look at what they’re doing at the other end. It might be unprecedented actually. Look at the assists leaders in the Premier League. Trent (with 12) is equal third with Christian Eriksen, behind Eden Hazard and Ryan Fraser. Robbo is fifth, with just one assist fewer. Two full backs in the top five, having created more goals than the likes of Sterling, Sane, Alli, Pedro, Ramsay, Pogba, the Silvas, De Bruyne, Willian etc…. I don’t think enough attention has been paid to that. The last pair to make playing full back so cool were Cafu and Roberto Carlos. Trent added another four in the Champions League, giving him 16 assists from right back. It’s almost unheard of. Admittedly, unlike Robbo, some of Trent’s have been from set pieces, but even that is credit to how special he is. How many full backs are entrusted with taking their team’s free-kicks and corners? He’s a top player in just about every way. The only thing lacking is a few goals, but that’s not really his job, and besides, it’s only a matter of time before he’s chipping in with a few. So now, a little over two years later, I’ll have no qualms about mentioning Trent in the same breath as Gerrard because 20 year old Trent compares favourably with Gerrard at the same age. Yes, Stevie was brilliant even at 20 years old, but so is Trent. Whether Trent goes on to become anywhere near as incredible a player as Gerrard went on to be doesn’t matter. He might, he might not, but I’m saying that, right now, at 20, he’s in the same bracket. I’m aware that’s a bold statement but the body of work stacks up. By the age of 20 we knew Gerrard was special and was going to be a great player. We didn’t know that he’d turn into Superman and carry the team for several years, or inspire the greatest comeback in football history to clinch our fifth European Cup. We don’t know what Trent will do either. We do know what he’s done so far though, and like I say, it stacks up with what Gerrard had achieved at the same age. Trent was named in the ‘Team of the Year’ and played in his second Champions League Final in consecutive seasons. He is a key player in a side that has just collected a club record 97 points and won a European Cup. He’s not just a part of the team, he’s a vitally important player in it. A genuine difference maker. From bloody right back! How many right backs are true difference makers? It’s often been said that had Gerrard stayed at right back he’d have been the best in the world. I agree with that because he’d have been phenomenal wherever he played. He didn’t stay at right back though, he was moved into midfield because that was a more important position and he became the best in the world in that position instead. Trent, on the other hand, has been left where he was and is well on his way to becoming the best right back on the planet. He might be already. I don’t watch enough European footy to know, but I do know he’s already the best in the Premier League and will only get better. The belief back then was that Gerrard would have been wasted as a right back and a part of me thinks maybe Trent would be too. But then, as previously stated, being a right back in this Klopp team is unlike playing there for most sides. There are no restrictions on going forward and the full backs see plenty of the ball. I imagine it’s a lot of fun playing full back in this Liverpool team. Besides, Trent’s attributes are different to Gerrard’s anyway. He doesn’t tackle as fiercely, his long range shooting doesn’t compare yet and he seems to be a calmer, less aggressive type of character on the field. He’s not as rash as Gerrard could be and is far less likely to land himself in bother with refs. Maybe his skillset is better suited to full back than midfield, time will tell on that. What we do know is that in the two full seasons we’ve had from him at right back, it’s impossible to have asked for more from him. He’s ended this season in sensational form, creating goals on a weekly basis. He had an understandably slowish start to the campaign though due to reporting back late following the World Cup. It had been a long season anyway but his inclusion in the England squad meant he had virtually no summer holiday. Nevertheless, despite his lack of a pre-season he was in the line up for the first game and was an ever present until Klopp took him out of the line up for a couple of games in October. One of those games was against Manchester City, and he was then left out at PSG a month later. He was also on the bench at Old Trafford and for the trip to the Nou Camp, which could be co-incidence or it might point to a tendency from Klopp to go with a less ‘adventurous’ option in the most difficult games. His creativity was badly missed in that game away at United though and the point was emphasised a few days later when he claimed a hat-trick of assists against Watford at Anfield. It’s interesting to look back over the season at his assists, because prior to that Watford game he only had three. He had none for the following month and then went nuts in April and May when he had ten. TEN!! His performance level in the closing months of the season has been staggeringly good. Ten assists in two months from right back is nuts. Just think about it for a second, it really is astonishing, especially given the pressure of the games and the high quality of the opposition, such as Spurs, Porto & Barcelona. The rest of his game has been top drawer too. The effortless way he just sprays it around. Whether it's the crossfield balls to Robbo, the fizzed passes into the feet of Bobby and the midfielders or the pinpoint knocks into the channel to Mo running free, he can do it all. And we saw with that quick corner kick against Barca just what a great football brain he has. Only special players produce that kind of thing. It was Gerrard-esque. Defensively he’s been solid too. That side of his game isn’t as spectacular as when he has the ball at his feet, but he’s already very good and will only get better, as that’s something that comes with coaching and experience. That's why it was laughable hearing Martin Tyler question whether Trent is good enough defensively for international football. The standard of football in the Premier and Champions League is way higher than international football. If Trent can cope against Man City and Barcelona, I think he can handle Serbia and Malta. And on top of all that, he’s a local kid. I don’t think any of us really care where our players come from as long as they’re good enough and give us their all, but it’s also fair to say that there’s something special about one of our own coming through the ranks to establish themselves in the team. Especially now, in this era when it’s so difficult for local kids to make it due to the incredibly high standard of players at the top clubs. It was difficult enough in the 80s when the club were generally only signing players from this country, but it’s nigh on impossible now when you look at the competition for places. Youngsters have to be something very special to force their way into squads that are heaving with world class players from all around the globe, but Trent has managed to do it and there’s something heart warming about that. A kid who has been a fan his entire life, who was a ballboy at Anfield and has been at the Academy since he was six, is now a mainstay of the first team and one of the best players in the world in his position. And he’s only 20 years old. The sight of him whipping in crosses for his brothers on the pitch after the Wolves game showed you everything you need to know, as did the emotional scenes in Madrid when went to celebrate with all of his family. He’s just a young Kopite living the dream. Dare I say it, just like Stevie. Best Moment: The corner against Barca. That’s an iconic goal that will be remembered for decades, and it will be remembered as much for Trent’s quick thinking and perfect delivery as it will for Divock Origi actually finishing it off. Worst Moment: Tough one this. It would have been the handball on the line at St James’ Park had Christian Atsu not got him off the hook by burying the rebound and sparing the referee from having to produce a red card. Conceding a penalty and being reduced to ten men at that point may have been immaterial now with the benefit of hindsight, but at the time it would have been devastating. And besides, the last thing any of us want is Newcastle’s moronic hordes singing about costing us the league for the next couple of decades. Getting skinned twice in ten minutes by Mendez-Laing at Cardiff wasn’t Trent’s finest hour either, but that lad has Olympic sprinter speed so it’s pretty difficult to do much about it when it comes down to a race. So in short, I can’t really think of a ‘worst moment’, which shows just how good he’s been. Rating 9/10: Same rating as last year, but I wouldn’t bet against him getting higher this time next year, considering the rate at which he’s progressing. Please note, this is a free article but the rest of the 'Season Report Cards' will only be available to TLW subscribers. Subscriptions are just £2 per month and can be purchased here.
  2. 3 points
    As it turns out, Tommy Smith's bullet header in the 1977 European Cup Final wasn't to mark the end of his career, as Barry Davies famously declared in commentary. Smith played on at Anfield for another year, but at the time most felt that this would be his Liverpool swansong and it looked like a Roy of the Rovers style ending. Terry McDermott had given the Reds the lead against Borrussia Moenchengladbach, but a stunning strike from the Dane Alan Simonsen had levelled things up in the second half. Liverpool were wobbling and needed Ray Clemence to keep the Germans at bay. Then came Smith's moment. The following extract is taken from Tommy's first autobiography, entitled Tommy Smith: I Did it the Hard Way. Even Tommy himself thought it might have been his last game for the club, but he was still here the following season and had a big part to play. He appeared in 34 games in all competitions, but was cruelly robbed of an appearance in another European Cup final when a DIY accident at home cost him a place in the team that beat Bruges at Wembley to retain the trophy. As disappointing as that must have been, at least he had the memory of that header to ease the pain.
  3. 3 points
    We are Liverpool. This means more. When the club rolled out its latest marketing slogan to accompany the yearly jersey refresh, I cringed a bit. ‘People are going to have a field day with that,’ I thought. Nobody does self-reverence like the Reds and, even from the inside looking out, it can be a bit much. For me, it’s like Ric Flair, to this day, walking around saying: “To be The Man, you gotta beat The Man.” Well, like Flair, we’ve had our moments, but we haven’t been The Man in about 30 years. This means more? Tell that to fans of clubs around the nation for whom very little means more than a crest on a jersey. Sure, they may not have our story – our highest highs and our most desperate lows – but it’s friends, it’s family, it’s work, it’s play, it’s life. Just like us. No more, no less. Which brings us to Palace on Saturday. This is the type of game Kopites have often had to gee ourselves up for, knowing there’s little at stake beyond the best-loser award that clears a path to European riches and maybe some new signings. Those games where short-sleeved August optimism has long been replaced by the cold, dark realisation that another year in the trenches beckons. Not this year though. I’ve been away for a couple of months, but the anticipation before going into the ground and the nervous energy before kick off and throughout the first half just felt different. Speaking to a mate at half time, neither of us could really get the words out. The clouds had descended; logic and trust had been abandoned. No-way we were getting two in 45 minutes. We’d seen this movie before, dozens of times. I’m not sure I’ve celebrated an equaliser that wildly since Xabi slotted the rebound in Istanbul. The sense of relief was tangible, building from the initial cheer into a visceral roar – part joy, part excitement, part acknowledgement that things really could be different this time. Five minutes later, all bets were off. The belief we’d prematurely abandoned had been fully restored; not over 45 minutes, but in eight. 4-3 at the final whistle. Palace at home in January and we’re living and dying on every rotation of the ball. This clearly means more than it has. Anfield’s a really different place these days isn’t it? And I suppose a lot of that is down to Klopp. Not getting to the games as often as you’d like, you notice micro changes on a macro scale. Something that’s been building over months is so much more apparent when you’ve been away for it. The place is undeniably a fortress again. It’s intimidating, it’s loud, and it’s raucous and it’s one. Social media and that fella literally bouncing around Europe with the acoustic guitar helps, but there’s more enthusiasm for creating new songs as I can remember and everyone knows the words to them. I’m also struggling to recall us having a team where everyone was so damn likeable. There isn’t a single member of that squad who seems like he isn’t a great lad and, again, that’s down to Klopp and the characteristics he looks for in a player. I love them all (even Lovren) and haven’t felt this connected to the team since GH and the boys were swaying in front of us, arm in arm at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion in 2001 – seven years before Klopp turned up there and changed everything too. Look, there have been title chases before. Those aren’t new. People will mention 1997, 2002, 2009 and 2014, which prefaced everything immediately falling apart thereafter. Perhaps as a direct result – none of those felt the way it does today; six whole days before our next game at home to Leicester. It’s become difficult to focus on anything else between games now. The wait between City away and Brighton was agonising. I even surprised myself with the vociferous scream when Mo’s pen hit the net. Every game’s going to be like that now: Anticipation, crippling anxiety and maybe even a few moments of enjoyment along the way. Another 15 like Palace and Brighton await… each meaning more than the last. 13/14 was different. It was a self-professed “dream” none of us saw coming, rather than an expectation. A wild ride that soared and crashed in such an unspeakably cruel manner I’d resigned myself to that being our lot in life. Today, there’s both determination and an expectation that we can finally shed this almighty burden, along with the ghosts of ‘The Slip’ and ‘4th Place in a Two Horse Race.’ Forget the romantic notions. I’m not daring to dream, I'm just desperate to get it done. And if it happens everything before will have been worth it. So yeah, the club wasn’t far off with that slogan after all. Just not in the way it intended. We are Liverpool. This means more. Chris Smith
  4. 2 points
    This season TLW will give the readers a look into the opposition camp as we progress through what should be another thrilling season. The opening game against newly promoted Norwich on Friday night is the perfect launching point for this piece. Connor Southwell (@cjsouthwell1902) and Anita Byrne (@anitajbyrne) from @NorwichCityMFW give an insightful viewpoint about what it means to be back in the Premier League, the impact of their impressive manager Daniel Farke and who their key players are to keep an eye on throughout the season. Before we look ahead, belated congratulations for your return to the Premier League. Can you talk our readers through what it means to be back in the top tier of English Football and perhaps a personal highlight or two from your outstanding Championship winning season? CS: Thank you! The majority of the Canary nation would proclaim that the feeling is one of profound sweetness. To contextualise, you have to rewind two seasons previous, where Daniel Farke had just been installed, and the club felt like it was in somewhat of a slump. Disconnect between the players and the supporters became fractious with the general perception of underachievement because of the highest ever wage budget Alex Neil oversaw. The last two years have proved transformative. Sporting Director Stuart Webber has instigated the most significant culture change the club has ever experienced, with a lower budget being embraced and youth were provided with a chance. The bridge between the first team and the academy has been non-existent for a while. From there, it was all down to Farke. He’d experienced a tough first season which was put down to the transitional state of the club. Recruitment was a key factor, but the German deserves all the praise for sculpting a side to play football that was aesthetically pleasing but equally effective. The combination of youth and entertaining football made for a season that will be confined to the history books forever. That underdog spirit was something special and, at times, Carrow Road was a cauldron of noise. In terms of highlights, there are two that stand out in my mind. That win at Elland Road where Norwich schooled Marcelo Bielsa’s men and tactically outthought them. That was the night many Norwich fans became believers and then Blackburn at home, the game that secured promotion. It’s good to be back, but now they need to prove they deserve to stay there. Can you give an insight into your manager Daniel Farke. From an outsiders point of view he has come to the club, assessed what needed to be done and went about it in a methodical fashion, much like what his countryman Jurgen Klopp did for the Reds. What has impressed you most about the man and his methods? CS: I think there’s an assumption about every German coach who comes to these shores that their methodology and philosophy is identical to that to Jurgen Klopp because of the impact he’s made at Liverpool. The influx of German coaches with Farke, Wagner, Siewart, Stendel and Hassenhuttel (although Austrian) has altered the dynamic with fresh ideas and a style of football that places entertainment at the forefront of the game. Spanish possession and tika-taka have been developed with ideas of pressing. However, with Farke, Norwich has seen a more Thomas Tuchel approach whereby it’s all about being the protagonists in-game and using that possession-based approach to create overloads with an emphasis on attacking phases. The full-backs occupy high positions, and the wingers become number tens. It’s all about locating space between the lines. His ability to get an extra percentage out of players has been a massive strength. Players like Moritz Leitner, who was on the bench for Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League Final and have lost their way slightly, he’s managed to rejuvenate players careers on a shoestring with a style suited to the Premier League. He’s proven himself to be an adept and pragmatic operator. What’s impressed me more than anything is his temperament. Regardless of the club’s fate or situations, he always remained level headed. After a 4-0 defeat to Millwall, he was calm and rational, and equally so after the game that sealed promotion. Football is an emotional game, but it shows his composure. For fans all over the footballing landscape, the new season breeds plenty of hope especially in terms of a newly promoted club. Some promoted clubs like Huddersfield and Cardiff see the first season almost as a free hit and a true adventure, whilst others like Bournemouth, Burnley and Wolves seemingly have a structure in place to have a long term stay. Of course there are plenty of variables to take into account throughout the course of a season, but do you feel the club have a strong structure in place to become an established Premier League club? CS: The structure has been built over the last two years. I don’t see anything dramatic changing, particularly. They are ahead of the curve in terms of their long-term project to become established. They’ve developed the training ground and also have several assets on the pitch in terms of young talent so relegation wouldn’t be harmful in that sense. Naturally, the aim is to survive and prosper in the Premier League, but it’s about cultivating that underdog spirit and thriving off it. Every pundit, predictor and supporter outside of Norfolk will undoubtedly have Norwich in their bottom three, that’s what Norwich have developed momentum from. That attitude of overcoming adversity and proving people wrong. The group they’ve constructed has been designed purposefully to have the characteristic of being on the football rejection line. That culture they’ve installed is due to stand the test of time, regardless of who occupies the dugout. So in that regard, Norwich won’t alter their core beliefs irrespective of the league they are in. There was a point where relegation was feared, now, because of that strong structure, if they go down, then there is a belief they’ll come back. If they stay up, then the potential is there to sustain themselves. AB: Norwich have not changed our squad significantly or spent big money in the transfer market, which has targeted the club for some negativity and accusations of “lack of ambition” and “naivety." However, if you look at Fulham and its spending last season it doesn’t always amount to success. We have a team we don’t have individuals that think they’re bigger than the club. The camaraderie and bond has extended itself to the fans, which in return has increased atmosphere, it’s a double-edged sword. Any players that would come into the club would have to buy into its philosophy. Also making too many changes could alter that balance, let’s reward our players that got us promotion. Some of our players proved they are worth more than our rival teams are spending. Talk us through some of your squad. Who are some of your key players that Liverpool need to keep a close eye on and who do you feel have the qualities needed to thrive at this level? CS : Teemu Pukki is going to be a primary protagonist for Norwich’s survival mission. His 30 goals in all competitions were bettered only by James Norwood in the EFL. In terms of free transfers, he has to be one of the best in the club’s history: a natural goalscorer but an intellectual mover who can finish from all angles. Another is Emi Buendia, a name that I’m sure will be accustomed to all come May. The Argentinean is one of those footballers capable of provoking emotion with his creative style. His ability to impact games and produce moments of genuine quality excites the Canary faithful. Buendia can unlock doors that many can’t. His temperament is a concern, and his relentless graft often becomes aggression. Another intelligent operator, Buendia’s game, is reliant of locating those spaces between the lines and turning on the half turn. He’s a technical footballer whose ceiling is way beyond his current level — one to watch. Then, of course, there is a plethora of young talent at Farke’s disposal. Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, the two full-backs, have been pivotal for asserting Farke’s possession-based philosophy. Their dynamism and physicality are vital to providing width and an out ball when the space in the central phase is condensed. Which of your summer signings have impressed you most in the pre-season? AB: Man City winger Patrick Roberts (pictured below) who has joined on a season long loan is a player I could see getting some valuable minutes on the pitch, lets hope he can reproduce his success at Celtic. Injuries have hampered him and our coach has already got the best out of players who feel they need a second chance and got it all to prove. This could also apply to former West Ham and Leeds right back Sam Byram. Just as being the first match on centre court for the Wimbledon Championships or facing the first ball in a Lords test match is a massive occasion, there must be great sense of pride for the club to be involved in a stand-alone season opener under the Anfield lights? AB: In my eyes Anfield is the best way to kick off our start in the top flight of football. Klopp v Farke, two German coaches both from Borussia Dortmund, with mutual respect. Klopp was known to be following the Canaries results closely last year having worked with Moritz Leitner, Mario Vrancic and Marco Steipermann in the past. First game against the champions of Europe, a huge stage to start on. I would love Farke to become as successful as Klopp, there is no doubting how both have won the hearts of their fans. CS: This is what the players worked so tirelessly for last season, for nights and opportunities like this. Without pressure, they can go and showcase themselves on one of the most famous sporting backdrops in the world. There is pride, but Norwich has a group who will travel to Anfield with a desire and belief that they can win. They don’t fear anyone, nor will their natural inclination to be to put men behind the ball. Norwich will come to Anfield believing they can return with three points, of course, they won’t possess the same amount of the ball, so it’ll be interesting how they approach it but, of course, it’ll be an uphill battle. Thankfully for the Canaries there is no Luis Suarez in the Liverpool lineup. But in an opposition fans’ opinion, who are the key men that Norwich need to contain in your quest to get a result? CS: Haha! Thank goodness for no Luis Suarez! Whoever Liverpool deploy will ooze quality, so dismantling the Reds system and nullifying the supply line to that potent front three is key. What Liverpool possess is a game that doesn’t provide respite, whether they are on or off the ball or in transition. It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Canaries… Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are undoubtedly the operators Norwich to somehow contain but reducing Liverpool’s time in possession and attempting to stop the ball as it travels through the thirds is the challenge. It’ll be a counter-attacking performance at Anfield from Norwich; I think that’s the case for every team who finds themselves in the opposing dressing room. I’m intrigued to see how it pans out, but that front three is mortifying for every team in the division. With their extended summers for varying reasons, hopefully, they have a rare off day come August 9th. If money was no object who is the one player which current Liverpool player would you love to have in your lineup? AB: Without hesitation PFA player of the year... Virgil Van Dijk would be the player I would jump at having in our line up. He must be one of or if not the best Centre back in the world. He has it all! Good on the ball, pace and can even use his head. A defender who is as equally great in both boxes, hard working and still young enough to improve. Worth every penny of his huge transfer fee, not something us as Norwich fans could ever believe we could spend under our current module. CS: The obvious answer would be to say any of the front three. That would be tremendous fun to consume every week. Instead, I’ll apply it to Norwich at the moment; the goalkeeping situation is still not fixed, so Alisson would be perfect for occupying that spot. With the youthful exuberance in the defence, then an assured, positive influence in goal who can win points singlehandedly, that could be a massive asset in the bid for survival. One of the best goalkeepers in the world, you can’t turn your nose up at that! So what is your score prediction for this fixture? CS: I think it’ll be an exciting game with a curious dynamic, but I’ll be pragmatic and go with a humbling 3-0 defeat. As long as it isn’t humiliating, then Norwich can dust themselves down and go again. And in broader terms where do you think you will finish in 2019/20? AB. Survival is crucial this season for us to then learn and build the following season. I would be happy with 15th however if we could finish above that i would class that as a huge success. Watching Nuno’s Wolverhampton proves that a club can come up from the Championship and build on their success, let’s hope Norwich can do just that.
  5. 2 points
    Seventeen “Title Deciders” Remain: In the days leading up to the match at the Etihad, many pundits billed it as a “title decider” between the league’s top two teams. Liverpool’s lead has in fact shrunk to four points, even with Guardiola’s men on goal difference, and there’s no arguing a Liverpool victory – and a resulting ten point gap - wouldn’t paint a dramatically different picture at this stage in the season. Judging from recent history, however, it’s not this result between the holders and the leaders that will decide the title. As Andy Robertson reflected to LiverpoolFC.com after the match “they’ve closed the gap but it is all about how we react.” Liverpool entered last Thursday’s match as the favourite to win the league in large part because of the consistency they’ve shown throughout the first twenty matches of the season, and despite this loss, Liverpool remain a damn good football team. They remain a side that have won all fourteen matches against teams outside of the Top Six and they have earned three wins, three draws and a single loss against those Top Six, having played one more match away than at home and with both Manchester City matches in the rearview mirror. They’ve lost once in twenty-one matches - and have yet to be beaten at Anfield – and they’ve conceded less than a goal every other game. Liverpool’s mission must now be to maintain their form over the next seventeen matches. If they do that, they’ll be champions. Defensive Acquisitions Prove their Worth yet Again: Crucial to Liverpool’s mission will be the efforts of its league-leading defence, which again showed its quality in Manchester. The visitors were undone by two world-class finishes (as well as a few defensive mistakes – more on that below), but City’s goal tally could easily have been doubled if not for the interventions of Liverpool’s two defensive bedrocks, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. The Dutchman was everywhere Liverpool needed him to be in the first half, smartly tracking Sane’s central run to cut out David Silva’s cross inside the opening half hour, blocking the Spaniard’s close-range effort after Sterling’s layoff moments later and heading away Sterling’s chipped ball through towards David Silva shortly before the break. There was nothing the Dutchman could do about Aguero’s opener and while he might have done well to step to Sterling and prompt a defensive shift to account for Sane on the game-winner, there was hardly a blemish on another sparkling performance from the Reds’ defensive lynchpin. Nearly every time City threatened, Van Dijk’s positioning and execution thwarted the attack to prevent the home side from testing Alisson. Of course, test the Brazilian they did and he repeatedly rose to the challenge. While one might quibble that the keeper could have done more to get a piece of Aguero’s rocket inside the near post, there are few – if any – keepers in the world who could have done so, and many of the world’s finest would struggle to produce the pair of saves Alisson provided in the second half. First, he was quick off his line to force Aguero wide after a through ball from Sterling, denying the Argentine’s low-angle show with a sprawling save. Then, he reacted brilliantly to deny Bernardo Silva’s close-range effort to keep Liverpool in the game in the 90th minute. While he was unable to influence the attack as directly as he has done in recent matches, Alisson’s distribution was once again sharp, as he sought to set Liverpool on the front foot more often than not. Robertson deserves a mention as well, as the Scotsman once again kept Sterling mostly quiet, stepping up to be counted on a number of one-on-one duels with the former Red. After conceding a paltry seven goals in the first half of the season, Liverpool’s defence will remain key to its title challenge, and on the basis of this performance, the key defensive acquisitions will be equal to the task, even against the most challenging opponents. Depth Issues Remain: In addition to the strength of Liverpool’s defence, many supporters – including yours truly – have cited our side’s increased depth as a key factor in our impressive start to the season. To be sure, the acquisitions of Fabinho, Shaqiri and Keita, the emergence of Joe Gomez and the improved consistency of Daniel Sturridge have all played a meaningful role in the Reds’ ascension. However, the City match highlighted the gulf in depth that remains between Liverpool and Europe’s best. The home side coped with the long-term absence of Benjamin Mendy and Fabian Delph’s recent suspension by shifting the classy Aymeric Laporte to left-back, brought Danilo off the bench to spell the out-of-form Kyle Walker and was able to call upon Vincent Kompany and Jon Stones at centre back in Laporte’s absence. Meanwhile, Guardiola was able to protect Kevin De Bruyne as he continues to recover from a long layoff, relying instead on David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho, while Ilkay Gundogan came in off the bench, as did speedy striker Gabriel Jesus. Liverpool, on the other hand cannot boast the same embarrassment of riches. Weakened at centre back by injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, Liverpool have relied heavily on Lovren next to Virgil van Dijk. While the Croatian has been generally solid when called upon this season, he had a night to forget in Manchester, to add to a startling collection of poor performances in red. He could have stuck more tightly to Aguero for the opener - which would admittedly have been difficult to stop – played Sterling onside and then failed to shift onto Aguero for the game-winner, headed the ball straight to Sterling to send the winger away on the break in the second half, played Aguero onside for his late breakaway, served up a potential insurance goal on a plate to Sterling late in the game and tossed away Liverpool’s last attacking chance with a woeful straight ball into the box. Hopefully Gomez and Matip will soon return to the fold, but until then, Liverpool appear forced to rely on Lovren. Similarly, options are few and far between behind Lovren’s right-sided defensive partner Alexander-Arnold. The youngster had several bright moments – effectively quieting Sane for much of the match and setting up the equaliser with an incredible cross on his weaker left foot – and was given little help on the right, but he struggled at times against a flurry of City attackers and gave away the ball too cheaply at times. Like a few others in this Liverpool side, however, he can’t count on much of a rest, particularly given the fact that his top “backup” is both out injured and our second-best centre back, while his only true like-for-like deputy was just sent on loan for the season. While there’s plenty of depth in midfield (more on that later), Klopp risks running a handful of key players – most notably Van Dijk, the fullbacks and the front three – into the ground, and an injury to any one of them could prove very costly. While we don’t appear likely to dip into the January transfer market – and have little need for upgrades to the First XI – backup options at fullback, centre back and/or a versatile attacker to deputise for the front three should be considered. Too Conservative in Midfield: To a chorus of groans from Reds supporters, Klopp selected a midfield three of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum, opting for experience and solidity and leaving Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri on the bench. Wijnaldum was a no-brainer after he built on an impressive run of form with a masterclass against Arsenal, and Henderson – in addition to offering leadership in a crucial away match – has shown improvement of late (often when played alongside Fabinho) and played Salah through against City for what would have been a late equaliser. But the exclusion of the Brazilian was a surprising one, and he showed why he might have deserved the start, helping Liverpool gain control almost immediately upon his introduction. It’s clear Klopp trusts the veteran trio in the most challenging away matches, but defeats in Kiev, at PSG and City have revealed a lack of both control and dynamism in that unit. Liverpool have been at their most devastating with players breaking the lines between midfield and attack – as Salah himself notably did on to set up Mane’s early chance – and while Wijnaldum has the ability to do so, there’s no one in Thursday’s trio who truly thrives in that role. It seems likely Klopp will revert to the 4-2-3-1 for many of the remaining matches, and while I won’t go as far as Jamie Carragher in suggesting the German completely ditch the 4-3-3 (which we may well see in Munich), a change in personnel is needed. Fabinho and Wijnaldum appear the most natural – and in-form – partnership, and while I trust Klopp has his reasons for keeping Keita out of the starting lineup, I hope the Guinean will soon earn his manager’s trust. Keita made a name for himself in the Bundesliga making attacking runs from midfield and he could offer Liverpool an element they’ve lacked since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury, whether on the outside of a three-man midfield or as the more adventurous of a pair. While necessity and Father Time may consign Milner to a role offering crucial cover at fullback, Henderson should continue to factor into the midfield rotation – albeit hopefully with different partners. Moments of Brilliance – even in Defeat All supporters – from Huddersfield to Madrid – know all too well the feeling of losing an important match to a rival, particularly when the match is decided on such fine margins. That this particular match ended an historic unbeaten run only adds to the harsh disappointment felt at the final whistle. However, even in such a bitter defeat, our Reds gave us plenty to sing about, no least in this brilliant sequence for the equalising goal. An ocean away from the action, a now-familiar tune rang out from my favourite Liverpool pub in New York, the volume rising with each pass: We’ve conquered all of Europe - Trent flicks forward to Mane, who slides the ball to Gini. We’re never gonna stop - Gini and Fabinho take a single touch each, switching the ball wide to Robbo. From Paris down to Turkey - Robbo back to Fabinho, who shifts inside and sprays the ball wide to Firmino. We’ve won the fuckin’ lot – Bobby collects the pass, dribbles inside and lays off to Trent. Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly – A pinpoint Crossfield pass from Trent to Robbo, who takes a touch, looks up and plays back to Fabinho. The fields of Anfield Road – Fabinho shifts to Henderson, who sprays it back out to Trent. We are loyal supporters – Trent fakes a cross on his right, takes a touch inside and lifts an inch-perfect ball to Robertson, waving his arm as he darts towards the far post. And we come from Liverpool – Robbo chips the ball just over the head of Stones, to Bobby who finishes at the back post with a sprawling header. Allez Allez Allez – Our players converge on Bobby and Robbo – then all together – to celebrate the goal, while our mad Jurgen reaches wildly for a water bottle on the bench before trying to explode it with all his strength. And at a basement bar in the Financial District of Manhattan, a host of grown men and women jump, shout and sing wildly, filled with love for our Redmen and drunk on possibility, and filled with love for a side who, for the second time in a week had erased a 1-0 deficit against a fellow Top Six side. To be sure, the atmosphere was quite different eight minutes later, and then at the final whistle. Losing will do that, of course. But in a season full of brilliant moments, Liverpool managed to produce a few more – albeit in defeat. We may no longer be Invincible, but we’re a damn good football team – and we’re going to be a lot of fun to watch over the next four months. Joel Tracy
  6. 2 points
    Continuing our View to the Future series, we make a trip to the continent to see how Marko Grujic has been getting on at Hertha Berlin. Since signing for the Reds in January 2016, the young Serbian international has only made a handful of first-team appearances for the club. Grujic has had loan spells at his original club Red Star Belgrade, Cardiff and currently at Hertha. Undeniably talented, Grujic has a frustrating ability to pick up an injury just when he is reaching his peak level of form. After being widely been praised for his terrific performance last weekend against Eintracht Frankfurt, he has since picked up an ankle injury in an innocuous training incident, which will see him on the sidelines until after the New Year. It is his second significant injury of the season, after initially spending close to two months out of action earlier in the campaign with a Capsular rupture to his opposite ankle. TLW's Jason Harris asked Jack Woods from the U.K. Branch of the Hertha Berlin supporters club his thoughts on the progress of the Defensive midfielder. What was the feeling among the fanbase when it was announced that Hertha had signed Marko on loan for the season? To be honest, signing anyone on loan from a PL club is great, first team experience or not. It was obvious he’d been loaned out to get game time and it’s great to see him get so many minutes and have such an impact as he’s had. There’s always a bit of a buzz when the two leagues interact with each other as so many exciting young prospects are now heading to the BL for game time. Marko had his fitness issues in the past so suffering an (ankle) injury so early in his spell was untimely. How has he performed since his return? He’s been a fantastic asset to the starting 11, never mind the squad. His experience coming from a massive club like Liverpool working with world-class players (and a manager like Klopp) really shows. You can see he’s a step above everyone else and his winning goal Saturday shows just how good he has been! What has caught your eye in terms of Marko's overall game and is there any improvements you might like to see? His controlled aggression is a huge part of his game and he’s not one to shy away from a challenge or two and he can pass a ball (simple or through the eye of a needle) with ease. He’s also so versatile, he has shown he can play anywhere across the midfield and is the player we’ve been searching for a good few seasons. Is there one particular stand out performance that sticks in your mind? MOTM performance against Frankfurt last weekend summed up perfectly with Pal Dardai’s follow up comments that Grujic is the best midfielder he has seen in his 22 year stint as player/manager at Hertha. He was all over the game and it was topped off with his winning header. Looking at Hertha’s record for this season, you are unbeaten when Marko has started (Four wins and two draws). In your view is that a sign of his importance to your side? I think with stats like that it’s always a teller that he’s clearly an integral part of squad - pinning those undefeated games purely down to Marko are maybe a bit of a stretch but it adds values to that undefeated set of results. Marko spent the second half of last season at Cardiff in the 'rough and tumble’ of the Championship. Now he is playing a more cultured league like the Bundesliga, do you think that spell in Wales would have helped his overall game? I think hats off to any young player that ventures down the lower leagues for experience and game time. No disrespect to the Championship but it’s a level lower than the PL/BL technically but physically it can make or break a player. Perform in the Championship and keep up with the physicality of the game there and all that’s left to do is hone in on the technical part of his game. He’s certainly got the physical side of his game down to a tee and although still raw, is a hell of a talent. As you touched on previously, Hertha manager Pal Daldai has been absolutely glowing in his praise of Marko. What (if anything) have you noticed that Pal has worked on with the midfielder in their time together? I think it’s probably a combination of working with Klopp and Pal that Grujic has managed to tone his game down to having the right balance of aggression and control mixed together. Pal seems to be exposing him to the right amount of game time whilst trying to keep his feet on the ground. Jurgen Klopp is renowned for displaying a great deal of loyalty to his players. Given what you've seen so far, do you think he can have a future at the Reds or indeed another Premier League club? Ideally I’d love it if we tied him down in Berlin. He’s got the right attitude and fight to become a top, top player, be that in the BL or PL. With Liverpool’s packed midfield at the moment he’s doing the right thing in getting game time under his belt in a top European league against good competition week in, week out. We have constantly seen the Bundesliga become a great nurturing ground for young footballers. Why do you think that is so, and what can Premier League clubs learn from your model? I think the whole culture of the Premier league is different to the BL. Aside from Bayern, the BL finances are nowhere near what the PL draws in from TV/sponsorship and I think this is a massive reason why most BL clubs nurture young talent and develop players from academy through to first team instead of paying through the nose for bang average players. Some of the signings in the last transfer window in the PL just goes to show the market has gone through the roof. If you have the talent coming up through the academy, then why not put your all into getting those players into the first team.
  7. 2 points
    Continuing the series looking at the Liverpool youngsters who are aiming to become household names in the years ahead, we look at Doncaster Rovers loanee Herbie Kane. It is fair to say that the 19yo midfielder has made quite an impression on the Rovers faithful with a number of their passionate supporters stating he is already one of the top players in League One. Doncaster season ticket holders Mark Railton, Scott Hibbett, George Kefali and James Carlyle shared their views on the encouraging progress that the youngster has made at their club so far. TLW’s Jason Harris asks the questions… What were your first impressions of Herbie Kane when he arrived at the club? MR- I wasn't sure if (Doncaster manager) Grant McCann had done the right thing in taking a chance on a young midfielder for such a tough division, especially when a lot of teams go for big strong central midfielders. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily he slotted in and for me he would now be the first name on the team sheet every week. He has been outstanding since arriving and if he could add goals to his game he would be the best player in the division. Have you seen steady improvements in his game from the early part of the season to now, and if so what are they? MR- His ability to hang onto the ball in tight situations. He never flaps and always seems to wriggle free and release his pass. Think since he has come in, he has grown in stature and confidence and has now got the belief that he can do anything he wants when in possession of the ball. He’s also not shy at putting his foot in either. What is the one key part of Herbie's game that you really like? SH - He always seems to have so much time, he is always wanting the ball in tight spaces or with the opposition on his back and for someone at such a young age, that is impressive. He rarely gives the ball away and is not afraid to put his foot in and win back possession for the team. So far this season he is the leading player in that category in League One. GK- I just love how technical he is. He’s a standout player in this league for how quickly he can make a decision to pass or dribble on, his quick feet and determination really don’t get the credit they deserve. MR- His calmness in possession of the ball. Herbie never panics and 90% of the time makes the right decision. In your opinion, what is the one main improvement he can make? SH- Herbie is not fully-grown yet so he has the opportunity to grow a few more inches in the next year. Like most players who make it at the top level, it's pace that they need. While Herbie is certainly not you would define as slow, if he can add an extra yard, it will be very handy. What he lacks in pure speed, he makes up for with his ability to shield the ball which was very similar to (former Man Utd junior) Richie Wellens when we had him in a couple of stints a few years back. I think those players who are nurtured at top clubs learn to do that well - learn to use it and shield the ball under pressure. Those qualities really stand out with players who drop down from the Premier League into the Championship or League 1. JC- The one improvement he can make is probably scoring more goals. He just needs to keep doing what he is doing. Keep progressing and working hard because it is showing in his performances that he is working hard on the training field. I have no doubt at all if he continues this he will make it into Liverpool’s first team. Is there a performance by Herbie that stands out for you so far this season? JC- I think the first few performances took everyone by surprise as we weren’t expecting him to be that good and now the performances he puts in are fantastic. However, even though we lost to Sunderland 1-0, he controlled the game for me. We all know what Lee Cattermole is like, and Herbie had him in his pocket all game. You would have thought Herbie was the experienced pro and not Lee. GK- His standout performance this season has to be Chorley away in the FA Cup 1st round. Bagging the only 2 goals of the game, including a peach from outside the box to save our managers arse in all fairness. That and he drew a very nasty foul which led to an opposition red card which I still can’t believe wasn’t given as a penalty but a free kick. Who does he link up well with in the Rovers team, and do you think his presence has made you a better team this season? GK- I think there’s no doubt that Kane’s presence has sparked something in everyone else and as a central playmaker he’s at the heart of most of our play. With being so technically gifted, he’s exactly what we need to play possession football. He links up well with both (Thomas) Rowe and (Ben) Whiteman beside him in the midfield in passing and movement along the pitch. How do you think Grant McCann has worked with Herbie so far this season? GK- Grant McCann seems to praise him a lot and I believe he would be interested in a season long loan extension for Herbie too. Taking the first step into professional ranks can be difficult for any youngster, so what do you think makes Doncaster a good club for players from Premier League youth academies to spend time at. JC- I think if you look at other professionals who have been here in their younger days and you look at them now, they have all gone on to play at a higher level. Jordan Mutch, he was on loan here and he ended up playing for Crystal Palace and QPR in the Premier League. The majority of the time when people leave our club, it is for better things. Richie Wellens, he left to join Leicester, George Friend left to join Middlesbrough, James Husband came through our youth team, he went to Norwich. So I think it does show we treat our younger players well and hopefully put them in good stead for their careers.
  8. 1 point
    New details have emerged over the altercation between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez while on England duty.The much discussed incident has created a deal of embarrassment for the national team ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier with Montenegro.It caused national team manager Gareth Southgate to take the step to stand down the Man City star from the fixture.The friction between the pair began in the last few minutes of Liverpool's 3-1 victory on Sunday when they clashed and words were exchanged.The incident on the day looked pretty innocuous and when the English players gathered in camp, the mood was said to be quite relaxed. However The Mirror (via The Athletic) reports that things took a different turn when the two players came face to face.Gomez had initially said "Hello" to Sterling to which the forward replied.“So you think you're the big man? That line saw plenty of laughter to everyone in the room but Sterling.He then reportedly rose to his feet and attempted to get Gomez in a headlock, knocking food over on the table in the process.A eyewitness to the incident claimed that “It was a pretty full-on thing and food went everywhere. “Sterling behaved like a bit of a child."Gomez was left with a noticeable scratch mark on his face following the incident. Leicester City defender Ben Chilwell said that both players have since aired their differences in front of the squad and put the issue well and truly to bed.“Raheem wanted to apologise and Joe wanted to get stuff off his chest as well. It's not been spoken of since."[Raheem] was apologetic, he said it's not in his nature, which it's not, but we all know as football players emotions can run high. “No one's trying to make excuses for him.“Raheem has come out and said what he thought. We are in the changing room this morning and everyone is fine.“Joe is OK. He's good. Himself. “He's a great character and has done very well. It wasn't on anyone's mind this morning"It is very important not to forget what Raheem has done for English football. Yes he has made a mistake but he's a very important character in the dressing room."While Sterling's international teammates and coaching staff may want to forgive and forget the incident, its fair to say Reds fans will keep the matter firmly in the forefront of their minds.
  9. 1 point
    Jurgen Klopp is keeping a lid on expectations after Liverpool moved nine points ahead of main title rival Man City with a 3-1 victory at Anfield on Sunday.The Reds once again took everything in their stride on a big occasion quickly going out to a 2-0 lead within 15 minutes after a thunderbolt of a strike by Fabinho and a wonderful sweeping move involving both full-backs and finished off by Mo Salah.The visitors were clearly furious when a penalty claim for handball by Trent Alexander-Arnold was turned down by Michael Oliver and dismissed by VAR, but they managed but they put that behind them and kept the Liverpool defence on their toes. However, Sergio Aguero was missing his usual clinical touch in front of goal as his Anfield hoodoo continued.The captivating first half did not let up in the second 45 minutes and a inch-perfect Jordan Henderson cross for Sadio Mane which went along a long way to sealing the three points.Once again City were chasing the game and grabbed a lifeline through Bernardo Silva with just under 15 minuted left but the defence stood strong and were able to see the game out.Speaking after the game, the manager was quick to keep focus on the present moment and not looking too far ahead.ESPN reported Klopp as saying:“We don't feel the pressure, to be 100 percent honest. "Where is the pressure? Look, the things will come up now, we know that, and if you are with us you say, 'Wow, nine points.' “There is a long way to go and lose here a point, lose there a point and stuff like this, what will probably happen. Other people 100 percent said already from now on Liverpool can only lose it, but that's a very negative approach.“You can see it like this, but we don't care. I promise you we don't care. We were today completely focused on this game and not the situation in the table or whatever, how many points we are ahead of City. “That's crazy. Nine points, you cannot imagine that something like this happens, but it is not important because who wants to be first in early November?“We want to be first in May and not only in November. We all know that, but we don't have to say that because it is clear. “We just try what we can and in the end we will see what happens. Just like the fans watching on, Klopp was spellbound by the way that the second goal transpired. “ I don't think I ever saw a goal like this.“Probably not. A right full-back with a 60-yard pass to the left full-back; two more touches and a cross over 40 yards, 50, and a header. That's pretty special.“ It was a good moment to score a goal like this. “And the third goal very, very good as well, a sensational cross and Sadio in the right position. That was all good, and all around these three goals it was hardest work, and so the boys deserved these three points. Great."The players will now disperse all over the globe for international duty before returning for a clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on the 23rd of November .
  10. 1 point
    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain feels that he is steadily returning to his top form after a man-of-the-match performance in Liverpool’s 2-1 Champions League victory over Genk on Tuesday night.The roaming midfielder was a constant threat all night for the Genk defence and made it four goals in as many games in all competitions when he combined beautifully with Mo Salah to put the Reds back in front after they were pegged back on the brink of half time by Mbwana Samatta.Gini Wijnaldum opened the scoring on the evening on 14 minutes after being set up by James Milner but the visitors levelled when the Reds failed to deal with a set-piece. Just like bestusacasinosites though Liverpool delivered as Oxlade-Chamberlain fired in low at the Kop end.The Official site reported the 26 year-old as saying that while he is not at his sharpest, he is feeling better with every game he plays.“When I took one on the ankle and went down, I was a bit disappointed because usually when I feel sharp I manage to get past him there.“I maybe underestimated him a little bit but they're the type of moments where I feel like I've not just quite got that fully back yet. “I feel like a need to be sharper in those moments to burst through and get running, change things and break lines.“I think that's coming and I'm getting my feeling back with that."“I've been trying to sort of dribble a bit more and get that side of my game back because that sort of stuff can take a bit of a while when you've been out for a while.“Overall, I think there's more to come from me for sure." The England international said that a key to Liverpool’s success is the standards that they set. There's a reason why the Reds are six points clear and if they can overcome Manchester City this weekend then they will be in pole position to win the title, which will no doubt be reflected by sports betting online odds.“To get into the team you've got to be able to press in a certain way with a certain intensity.“I take the Tottenham game, the way that Gini, Hendo and Fab did it in that game was brilliant and even the boys up front as well were second to none. “So you look at that and they're the sort of standards that we set for that“If you're not sort of hitting those standards then you'll struggle to get a game regularly, so I've been battling to try to get that side of things back. I think I can improve on that.“Also on my attacking as well, I think I can improve on that, but I'm confident it will come and I'll keep working as hard as I can. I'll make sure it comes.With Napoli’s draw to RB Salzburg, Liverpool moved to the top of Group E ahead of the showdown with the Italians at Anfield on Matchday 5.Despite being five points clear of the Austrian outfit with two games to play, Oxlade-Chamberlain is taking nothing for granted.“With the other two playing each other, we knew this was a big chance for us to sort of get three points and hope they took points off each other and make the table look a lot better for us. “We knew that going into tonight, so I'm glad that we've come out of that. “But we've got big games coming up still and a lot of work still to do, a lot of improvement still to make and more convincing performances [needed] to progress.”
  11. 1 point
    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the latest Liverpool player to commit his future to the Reds by signing a long term deal.The decision to sign the midfielder from Arsenal in August 2017 raised some eyebrows at the time and he went through the usual acclimatising period when joining a new club.The start of 2018 saw the England international truly come into his own and his drive from midfield pushed the Reds to the next level especially when they came up against elite opposition such as Manchester City.Just when ‘Ox ’was becoming a indispensable part of the starting lineup, he was cruelly cut down by a very serious knee injury in the first leg of the semi final tie against Roma at Anfield.So began a year of blood, sweat, and tears in the rehabilitation room as the 26 year-old played the role that no footballer wants to be be - a spectator.The team evolved further in his absence, perhaps not as dynamic, but certainly more pragmatic as they found ways to win and displayed the resilience that Oxlade-Chamberlain was showing in his rehab.The popular member of the squad took his first steps back to first team football at the tail end of last season, but it has been in the early part of this campaign where he has become a starting member once again. There was little doubt last season that the Reds missed his dynamism and drive from midfield, and speaking after signing the contract, Oxlade-Chamberlain was clearly looking forward to moving on the next phase of his career. The Official site reported Oxlade-Chamberlain as saying:“I’m really, really excited - it’s been in the pipeline for a little while, so it’s nice to finally get it done and just extend my time here, which I am really looking forward to.“I feel like I missed out on a year, which I obviously did, so it’s really exciting for me to be able to sign. “It’s something that I feel is an opportunity to give that year back and make up for lost time – and hopefully put in some good performances to make amends for not being around last year”“You’ve got to count your blessings every time you get an opportunity like this, you don’t get the chance to play for Liverpool Football Club every day. “I am really excited to be able to extend my time here.”You get a sense that the hard times that the midfielder has experienced has made him want to make the best of every opportunity, as well as respecting those who put their hard earned money into the club. “I can promise the supporters that I'll give them absolutely everything moving forward.“As a footballer, I think the least you can do is respect the fans, the club and who you play for and give them everything you can. “When you get the support back that you do, you can't really have any complaints. It's [Liverpool] a hard place not to embrace. It's such a full-on culture, so much passion from everyone that is associated with the club – it's really endearing.“There might be times where I have bad games and good games and moments where it's not so good, but I'll always work through those moments and give my everything to correct them and keep pushing this team for.Meanwhile, the manager was just as delighted to see Oxlade-Chamberlain commit to the club.“When I heard Ox had signed his new contract with us, I am sure my emotions were the same as every Liverpool fan hearing the news tonight – absolutely delighted.“We all know Alex’s story since he came to the club, and yes there have been disappointments as well as highs, but what has impressed me and everyone is his attitude to dealing with setbacks and his character.“That’s why none of us were ever in any doubt about him fighting his way back in the way he did. “To see him play almost the whole game at Southampton on Saturday was such a positive moment for all of us, especially him.And Jurgen has a request for the fans in relation to Alex.“Maybe this is the season we hear the Kop sing an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain song. " I can tell you it would mean a lot to me and the boys to hear that, let alone him!”
  12. 1 point
    In TLW's ongoing series focussing on our upcoming opponents, next up is Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday evening. Dave Seager (@goonerdave66) of gunnerstown.com was able to give an insight about what to expect from our North London rivals. Two wins from two, you must be happy with the solid start to the season? Yes delighted. Neither victory has been pretty but when you are waiting for stars to return from summer international duty, as well as blending in new signings and youth players, that is to be expected. In addition to that, you must be delighted with the business you did in the summer on a somewhat minimal budget? Oddly, we did end up with a net spend of around the rumoured figure but with spread payments on the purchases, obviously a loan and many players leaving who were surplus to requirements, we did exceptionally well. Who of all the new signings have impressed you the most and what has made them stand out in your view? We have only seen two cameos from (Nicolas) Pepe but enough to know we have an exciting talent to give us the pace and trickery on the flanks we have lacked. (Dani) Ceballos however, with a full 90 minutes last weekend looks a shining gem of a player. It remains to be seen if he stays at 10 or drops deeper as we progress but his ball retention and speed of thought will be vital against high pressing teams like yourselves. He reminds me of Santi Cazorla and that is high praise. David Luiz raised an eyebrow or two, but at £8 million he brings a winning mentality and will assist us in playing out from the back. Which members of your first team squad do you think can progress to the next level this season? I am looking forward to seeing (Lucas) Torreira’s second campaign, now he is fully adjusted to the league and I am perhaps not in the majority but feel the sky is the limit for (Matteo) Guendouzi. That said he will face a stern challenge from young Joe Willock (below) who now seems ready to challenge. The first season at a new club is a tough one for any manager, let alone someone who is coming to a foreign league and taking over from an iconic figure such as Arsene Wenger. How do you think Unai Emery has adapted to the club and what would you like to see him improve on in his second season? I think that most are wiling him to succeed but he lost a few supporters as we tailed off at the end of last season. He now has a large majority of his own squad and has been well backed by the club, so we need to see not only an improvement but also what his style of play is. For so long under Wenger we had a style and I am not sure we yet fully know what Unai’s is. I hope that having Edu and Ljungberg in and around the coaching set-up will help him. Arsenal has enjoyed some memorable moments at Anfield over the years, but it has been tough going of late. What are your thoughts heading into this fixture on Saturday evening? I suspect Emery will go with an alternative approach and play cautiously at the outset with three at the back and wingbacks. He will hope to stay in the game and play on the counter, exploiting space left by your advanced fullbacks. If we are in the match in the second half I think he will add pace from the bench. I would be happy with a draw. Where do you think Liverpool’s strength lies and conversely, do you believe there an area that Emery can expose? Liverpool’s obvious strength is the front three, fabulous fullbacks and well-drilled high press. If there are weaknesses, as I said above it is when the fullbacks bomb on they leave gaps and your midfield is not overly creative, whichever three Klopp selects. I am not sure of the stand-in keeper either. If there was one Liverpool player that you could put into the Arsenal line-up who would be and why? VVD for obvious reasons, given our defensive frailties. Do you have a score prediction for Saturday? Goals for sure – 2-2 would be what my heart says, but my head says 3-1 to LFC.
  13. 1 point
    James Milner scored a double in Liverpool's 3-1 pre-season win against Bradford on Sunday, however his contribution to the day was a whole lot more meaningful than his performance on the pitch.It was a highly poignant day for individuals from both clubs as they paid homage to Stephen Darby, someone who came through the ranks at the Reds before having a distinguished career at the Bantams where he was club captain.Football is so important to so many people, but nothing is more important than your own health and so it proved when the right-back had to retire from the game he loves at just 29 when he was diagnosed with the dreadful terminal neurological condition Motor Neurone Disease.Milner was one of the main architects in making this day such a special one for all involved donating £30,000 to the Darby-Rimmer MND foundation as well as £10,000 to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.Speaking after the game, the veteran midfielder said it was the least he could do to help.The Official site reported Milner as saying:Obviously I’m in a fortunate position to help, we help some great causes and Darbs’s foundation is one of many. "How he’s conducted himself, how he is going about what he’s done, setting up the foundation, him and Steph [Houghton] together – we obviously want to help as much as we can. "We’re having another ball this year on December 1 and hopefully we can raise more funds again and some of those will be going to that again.Milner said the awful prognosis that comes with this sort of disease puts life well and truly into perspective."Football becomes secondary. We know how important it is, how much it means to people, how much it changes lives and how happy it makes people. "You see the parade after the Champions League and what it means to people. "Maybe when they’re going through hard times football gives them a bit to take their mind off it. "That’s secondary obviously to everything else and what the disease can do to people and families. "So, the more money we can raise and the awareness to learn more about it because there’s not too much that’s known about the effects and what can help it.Milner said the selfless attitude of Darby along with his nearest and dearest is something incredible to witness first hand. Incredible. I’m proud to know him. Losing his football career like he did, that’s one thing. And then dealing with the disease, having Steph around him, she’s doing incredibly as well – carrying on her football and being there for Darbs at the same time, going through it together. "(He is) thinking about himself and his family but also thinking about others in setting up the foundation and how it can help other people going forward. "He is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. It’s unfortunate what happened. "Today shows how much everybody thinks of him, both the clubs he’s played at and all the people who have come out today. We obviously wish Stephen and his family the very best during this awfully difficult time, and it also highlights what a special guy James Milner is and how lucky we are to have him at the Reds. A true professional in Football and in life as well.
  14. 1 point
    When you think of guile and grace as a midfielder, one name that personally comes to mind is Xabi Alonso. To this day, Xabi remains in my top three all-time favourite Liverpool players for many of the qualities that will be discussed in this piece.Signed for a absolute snip at £10.7 million from Real Sociedad at the start of Rafa Benitez's tenure in the summer of 2004, the Spaniard's arrival in England was at the peak of a pre-eminent era for central midfielders in the Premier League. He joined the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makalele while having a pretty handy teammate in Steven Gerrard. Alonso displayed a point of difference to some of his contemporaries. While the English game was largely built on power, pace and work ethic, Alonso's brought a high level of technical skill to the forefront. The Liverpool midfield of the mid 2000s had a terrific blend. Didi Hamman and Mo Sissoko were the glue, Gerrard the talismanic figure, Luis Garcia the crafty X factor, while Alonso was the player who made the team tick. When he played well, more often than not Liverpool were on the winning side.Creating goals was the main strength of Alonso's game, however when he put the ball in the back in the net himself, he did it in style with some substance attached for good measure. Some examples included a superb free kick which helped turn round a two goal deficit against Fulham, finishing off a terrific flowing team move with aplomb against the Gunners (both were in his first few months at the club), along with scoring the vital equaliser in the Champions League final against AC Milan later that season. However it is a goal in the early part of the 2006/7 season which underlined Alonso's brilliant game sense, vision and technical quality in the one passage of play. The Reds had made a pretty miserable start to the new campaign, claiming four points from as many games which included losses to Chelsea and a galling 3-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.Having scored just two goals in those four games, the Reds were desperate to kick start their season. Newcastle were the opponents for the midweek game and summer signing Dirk Kurt opened his account for his new club in the first half which was Liverpool's first goal in over 300 minutes. Alonso was at the heart of the move, playing a defence splitting ball to Steve Finnan who crossed it to the Dutchman who scored with a sliding finish.With the pressure of scoring finally off their shoulders, the confidence began to grow with the home side looking to double their lead. Their opponents were offering little threat going forward and it became a matter of when Liverpool would double their lead. Step forward the Spanish maestro.With Newcastle looking to produce a rare attack, Alonso took the ball from the feet of Charles N'Zogbia and while assessing what options were able on the counter attack, saw Magpies goalkeeper Steve Harper off his line.Alonso had a history of scoring from his own half, having done so in the third round of the FA Cup in the previous season against Luton. While that strike had a slight sense of good fortune as it took a few bobbles before going into the empty net, on this occasion he struck the ball with venom from 70 yards, taking one bounce before lodging in the back of the net giving a backpedalling Harper no chance. Anfield broke into a rapturous cheers as Alonso leaped into the arms of Pepe Reina with the goal helping secure a second home win of the season. Many players have tried to follow Alonso's lead and it can look quite ugly if not executed correctly. The ability of the Spaniard to assess the situation and get his technique right was simply sublime. In all, Alonso made 143 appearances for the Reds over five seasons contributing 15 goals. He played for the club in a time where the record in Europe was top class, but unfortunately could not find the consistency needed across a domestic campaign.Xabi's departure from the club was much like Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez in that it left a sour taste and still does to this day. There was a lot of speculation that Alonso was offput by Benitez's pursuit of Aston Villa's Gareth Barry in the summer of 2008 which ended up being a fruitless chase.There was also a wide held belief that the friction between the pair began a few months prior when Alonso missed the second leg of a Champions League quarter final clash against Inter Milan to be at the birth of his son. According to Alonso, he offered to fly out to Milan after the birth but it was refused by the manager. Alonso ended up staying for the 08/09 season, but soon after he departed to join Real Madrid.Whatever the reason, his unfortunate departure was widely felt from the fans to the players itself. Gerrard openly admitted he was devastated when Alonso left, a player who he described as the best midfielder he played with.What is a known fact is that Alonso left a indelible mark on the club, and as fans can be extremely thankful for his contribution.
  15. 1 point
    I’ve always been grateful for la sécurité sociale, as the French equivalent of the NHS is known. Some of the best general practitioners around and a plethora of specialists. They know how to deal with stress, nerves, insomnia, irregular heartbeats, etc., etc. as well as anyone. Well, at least I hope they do, because I’m going to be needing them over the next six months. I thought this would be enjoyable. But it’s not really, is it? Maybe that’s because I’m a miserable old sod or maybe it’s just a defence mechanism against the inevitable disappointment that we’ve become used to – in terms of the Title at any rate – in the last 30-odd years. Whatever it is, the “enjoyment” is ephemeral – when we go close, when we score, when I engage in a flurry of WhatsApp messages after the game. And then, when the lights go out and you’re waiting for the next game, three days later, looking at the different permutations, a thousand scenarios going through your mind, you realise that the next five months are going to be unbearable. Millions of Reds’ daily existence and possibly state of mind dictated to by what goes on during those 90 minutes… In the last few days Klopp has tried to douse the fires of optimism. And while you can’t blame him for that, you also can’t blame Reds for believing our time has come (again). Of course, there’s plenty of drivel too: I saw someone refer to us as “Champions-elect” last week. But most of the enthusiasm is justified based on a) years of pent-up hope which is looking more and more justified and b) our first half of the season. I did a piece for the site at the start of the season and I mentioned that I couldn’t believe the optimism going into a new season, mainly because we had finished 25 points behind City! To make up that gap, we would have to effectively win NINE GAMES MORE than last season, assuming they maintained their level. We are on course to do that: we’ve won 16 out of 19, as against 21 out of 38 for the whole of last season. City can only get to 100 points if they win the rest of their games. So, the optimism – with the hindsight of half a season – was well founded. I don’t know if it was blind faith in Klopp and this team or some solid reasoning or a bit of both, but whatever it was, I wish I were more like those Reds! The other reservation I had was our goals against column, as I wrote at the time: “From 1.33 goals a game conceded in his first season, we progressed to 1.10 a game in 2016-2017 and to 1 last season (2017-2018). The hope is that Alisson will finally win us points. We haven’t been able to say that for years; decades, perhaps. When was the last time we would say a keeper was worth X number of points a season to us? Often, it’s been the opposite: they’ve cost us points and more recently trophies. The plus/minus on that front will go a long way to dictating our season. I’ve said it before: Salah, Bobby and Sadio (and maybe even Daniel now!) can’t be expected to go to the well week after week. They need to know that ONE will be enough sometimes. Again, this is an area in which we’ve progressed immensely. In 2016-2017 we kept 11 clean sheets, last season we were up to 18. We’re going to need to produce those numbers this season to sustain a Title challenge and all the while be as prolific up front as we were last season.” Ask and you shall receive! Alisson has been a revelation, one or two faux pas aside, but that comes with the territory with him. Virgil has just got better with every game and has also made everyone else better. 12 clean sheets out of 19 tells its own story. We concede an average of a goal every 244 minutes, essentially a goal every three games! And we’ve managed to do all this while still averaging well over 2 goals a game. We may not be as exciting as we were last season, although there are signs that this could be changing, but we are certainly a more clinical outfit. That Klopp has managed to do all this while having to contend with numerous injuries – Trent, Joe, Lovren, Keita, Hendo and Milner have all been out at different stages – is to his eternal credit. His man management, notably of Fabinho, has been just right. And his signings have improved us – no given in terms of Liverpool managers over the years. Shaqiri was a steal and the bargain of this team. Apart from The Great Andy Robertson. I hoped at the start of the season to improve on last season’s total of 75 points. That should be doable now! But things can change very quickly. City have had a blip, one from which they could roar back. Spurs, since losing to us, have won 12 out of 14! The next month will tell a lot. If, after our next five games, we are sitting on 60 points, then I might start believing. And making medical appointments. John Brennan
  16. 1 point
    It has been a fantastic last ten days or so for the Reds. Three wins in the league and a terrific all-round (albeit wasteful) performance in securing our place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Those performances have defined our season in a nutshell and to this point it has been a campaign to be quietly proud of. While the football hasn’t been as scintillating to watch as previous campaigns, it is clear that we are a much more balanced side and not purely dependent on one individual. If has been a credit to Jurgen and the squad that we have been able to go toe to toe with the colossus that is Man City, who if you believed the pre-season pundits, would stroll away with the league. That constant pressure along with a highly motivated Chelsea side caused them to blink first in the title race, but it has to be noted that they are still the favourites with their depth across the board. However with ever growing confidence, we certainly have the opportunity to keep pushing them all the way. If you were to highlight an area of why we have started so well, it would undoubtedly be the improvement of the defence. As we fans know all too well in the past, the back four has been a lingering black cloud over our progression as a side. While there were capable individuals in their own right, there appeared to be a real lack of belief that they could produce on a game-to-game basis. The talismanic figure of Virgil Van Dijk and the clear confidence of goalkeeper Alisson have completely transformed that mentality in a matter of months. Add those elements with the continuing growth of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez, and dependable backups in Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, and we have arguably not had this level of depth in our defensive ranks for well over a decade. Unfortunately in the past week we have lost Gomez and his central defensive replacement Matip to long-term injuries at a crucial juncture of the season, while the immediate playing future of Alexander-Arnold is up in the air after a foot injury sustained against Napoli. The next man up is Lovren to partner the big Dutchman, but as we have noted this season, he has certainly not been immune from picking up niggling injuries of his own. With the January transfer window looming ever closer on the horizon, there is a now a fascinating discussion to be had. Do we stick with what we have and put our faith in some makeshift options for the next few weeks (e.g. Fabinho at CB which has been discussed in dispatches) or do we look to see what is around in the market place? For most teams, their mind is already set over whether they delve into the market next month or let it pass through. In an ideal world, you would be reluctant to have an interest as there isn't a whole lot of value around, and savvy clubs are likely to up their selling price knowing there will be a 'sucker' willing to pay a crazy fee. There is always the loan option, something that Klopp did early in his early tenure with Steven Caulker. While that example wouldn't classify as a success by any measure, when you are down on numbers, it is certainly wise to look at experienced reinforcements. Klopp is a big advocate for giving youth a opportunity on the big stage, but he is not the type of manager to throw the likes of Nat Phillips and Conor Masterson into the heat of the battle without some decent preparation first. Bar the Van Dijk purchase last January, the German is someone who sticks to his lot at this time of the season, which over time has caused some consternation among the fanbase. A personal opinion is that it never hurts to look around in our current situation. You don't want to look back in the off season and say - What if? It definitely doesn't have to be a world-beater, but just someone who can fill a need, taking some heat off 'big Virg' who has played all but 35 minutes in the league this season. At the end of the day Klopp is a far better person than you, I or anyone else to make a judgement. But it is always a lot of fun pretending we know best. Jason Harris
  17. 1 point
    When Steven Gerrard decided to take on the extremely daunting challenge of being manager at Rangers, he made sure to take some familiar faces north of the border with him, one of them being Liverpool academy graduate midfielder Ovie Ejaria. Ejaria is a player who seems to have been on the scene for quite a while, but the former Arsenal junior is still only 21 years old. Having spent the second half of last season on loan at Sunderland where he played 11 times, he has already made double the number of appearances for the Glasgow giants (25). In the latest instalment of our 'A view to the future series', Jason Harris caught up with lifelong Rangers fans David Brown (@sharpdiv7) and CJ Novo (@CjNovo992) to discuss in depth the impact Ovie has made in the SPL so far. What were your first impressions of Ovie Ejaria when he arrived at the club? DB- When Ejaria arrived at the club it was exciting. He was young and coming from a great club, but many times Rangers have loaned young players from top clubs in England and been let down so there was still a lot of doubt with the fans. We had heard he was a creative midfielder with good dribbling skills and he would be able to breeze through the Scottish league, but like most players Ovie found this wasn’t the case and in his first 3-5 games he really underperformed. He spent way too much time on the ball and gave it away persistently, but Steven Gerrard kept playing him. What I noticed though was even when playing bad by 85 minutes he was still fresh and the fittest on the park. It goes without saying that when you put on a Rangers shirt a lot of expectation goes along with it. How has Ovie dealt with that pressure and adapted to the Scottish Premiership in your opinion? CJ - I think the big man handles it well and seems to thrive on it. Every kick or late push he gets he seems to relish it and even sometimes welcomes the contact as he holds off players. He's been kicked a few times now and every single time he gets up and gets on with the job, his temperament has been really impressive. Along with regular first team action in the league, Rangers are battling it out on the European front. How has he performed under the bright lights of Ibrox in the Europa League? DB- One game in particular comes to mind. Rangers went over to Russia to face FC UFA knowing avoiding defeat would allow us to progress to the group stages of the Europa League. In the first 15 minutes he unleashed a curling effort from outside the box to put us 1-0 up away in Russia. Ultimately this goal put us through as we went on to concede later in the contest. In other matches he has been immense. He was a key player at home to Rapid Wien in a 3-1 victory. He gives Rangers a different dynamic, a composed midfielder who can dribble past players making them tired as they chase after him. He has the ability to play the killer pass and links up very well with Ryan Kent. What is the one key part of Ovie's game that you really like? CJ- His biggest asset is definitely his strength on the ball his ability to pick the ball up in tight areas and hold off a few opponents. He reminds me a little of (Mousa) Dembele at Spurs in the way he welcomes the challenges and looks to hold off people as he moves with the ball. In your opinion, what is the one main improvement he can make? DB- He has to keep his concentration levels high and track runners. In our 1-0 defeat to Celtic he is seen letting Oliver Ntcham run off his shoulder on a Celtic counter attack and ultimately score the winning goal. He has also said that he must get more assists and goals. Is there a performance by Ovie that stands out for you so far this season? CJ- I think his best performance so far for me was against UFA in the Europa league group stages. Playing away to a hard working team was always going to be difficult, but Ejaria really made a statement scoring a thunderous shot from outside the box bending it brilliantly into the top corner to set us on our way Constantly being on loan can end up having a negative impact on a young Footballer. With that said, how important for Ovie is it to have familiar faces like Steven Gerrard and Jon Flanagan there to keep his morale up during any difficult moments he may have during the season? DB- It is very important for him to have familiar faces around him. Flan, Stevie and Ryan Kent are key figures, but I also think he is a lad who would take great guidance from experienced pros who have experienced a lot in their careers. For example Allan MacGregor or Scott Arfield who has had Premier League experience with Burnley in the same position. He will learn from these players and I think he has gained more experience than Liverpool would have thought at this stage, because I don’t think anyone thought Rangers would get through four qualifiers to get into the Europa League group stages. Ovie will be fine and I believe he will come back to Liverpool and try his very hardest to break into that senior squad. We regularly see Premier League clubs send their young players into the Championship to gain first team experience. Do you think it is a clever move by the Liverpool hierarchy to send prospects to a club like Rangers where you have to have a sharp focus as every game is like a cup final for your opponents? CJ- I really do. Playing for a team like Rangers every performance is crucial, every game especially these days is vital to win in the league, fighting on all fronts that is what the supporters demand. So I think its a great move by Liverpool instead of sending him down to the Championship, he gets to come up and feel that pressure and demand from the fans, whilst also experiencing European football which will make him and (Ryan) Kent better players in the long run.
  18. 1 point
    Let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you signed for the reds? I signed as an apprentice when I was 15. I was a mad Liverpool supporter but I didn't see them play an awful lot because when I was at school I played for them in the morning and the boys club in the afternoon. When I signed at 15 the club missed out on promotion quite a few times, but you just got the feeling when Bill Shankly arrived that something special was going to happen, and it did of course. You succeeded Billy Liddell in the Liverpool side. Was he a big help to you, and did you get to know him very well as a person? Yes he was, and I did get to know him quite well. He was a lovely man and was always prepared offer advice and encouragement. Years later we were on the spot the ball panel together, so I got to know him again in later life. You were put into the side as a 17 year old, did you find that hard? No, I actually had a really good debut. Everyone helped, I had all the senior players around me and everything went well. I suppose the following season I thought to myself that I was going to be in the team, but obviously I wasn't. But I was only 17 so I had a lot of time on my side and it wasn't long before I was a regular. So you had to go back into the reserves for a while then? I did go back into the reserves, yes. They had thrown me in the 1st team towards the end of the season, and in the close season they signed a guy called Kevin Lewis from Sheffield United. Kevin played half the promotion season and I played half as well. I got a second division winners medal, but it wasn't until we got in the first division that I became a regular. For a while it seemed the reds were never going to get out of the second division. Many people say it was the arrival of St John and Yeats that proved the catalyst for the clubs rise to the top. How influential were they? Obviously Bill Shankly paid a lot of money for Ian and Big Ronnie. Well it was a lot of money in those days, about £35,000 I think it was. They came in and made a big impression. Big Ronnie at the back and Ian scoring the goals. So Bill built the team around them, and clearly they had a big influence. How good was Roger Hunt and where would you rate him in comparison to the other great strikers you've seen and played with? He's one of the best there's ever been. You look at his record, the amount of games he played and the goals he scored, and he's definitely up there with Rushy and Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen. Did having Hunt and St John up there make it easier for yourself and Peter Thompson? Yeah, we complimented each others games well. We were direct wingers and our aim was to get to the byline and cross the ball, which we did, and Roger and Ian went on to score a lot of goals. You were around when the Kop really started to make a name for itself. Do you have any specific memories about the singing or atmosphere back in those days? Well there was 28,000 people on the Kop and they always made a lot of noise. The one particular incident which stands out is a famous one, when the Leeds' goalkeeper Gary Sprake threw the ball into his own net, and the Kop started singing 'Careless Hands.' It was brilliant, very quick and clever. In 61/62 when the 2nd division title was clinched and the players had to come back out of the dressing room as the crowd wouldn't go home. What do you remember about that? I remember it was a long time ago! I don't know how long they stayed after the match, but they were just so elated that we'd got promotion. They'd missed out for a lot of years, and they were just so happy that it had finally happened. It was a really special day. Was your 1st goal against Everton in 1963-4 the best of your career? Oh God! Well I didn't score many, but I suppose it's memorable when you score against Everton in a derby match. I don't know if it was the best, but it was a special memory. I didn't score many as I say, but I got some important ones I suppose. What about the early days in Europe? It must have been exciting. We played our first game in Europe against Rejkavic, and we won over there and at Anfield. It was all a new experience playing abroad and playing against foreign players. I think that's what made Liverpool a great team to begin with, playing in Europe and picking things up from foreign sides. It definitely made us a better team. What are the most outstanding memories you have of travelling around Europe? I suppose they were all fantastic experiences, but playing in the San Siro in ‘65 was an unbelievable experience. We won 3-1 at Anfield but we got beat away and didn't get through. Another one which stands out is going to Trabzon in Turkey, when we were all in the dressing room beforehand and all the lights went out. Nobody could see what they were doing before the match, but I think that's part and parcel of their tactics. The atmosphere was electric and it was all a fantastic experience. Managers now always use midweek Euro trips as an excuse for poor league performances. You didn't travel in the luxury players do now, and you also had a much smaller squad. Did all the travelling make it more difficult for you do you feel? Well the game has changed so much now and it's a lot quicker. Even from the start we went on chartered flights and if we could get back straight after the game we did do. It all helped, because if you play midweek and you can get back early it gives you a day more to recover, especially if you've got a knock. We did really well in Europe when you think about it. When you look at the squad system clubs use these days, I wouldn't have liked it. I wanted to play every week and it would have frustrated me having to sit games out to be rested. From that point of view I don't agree with rotation. I think you play your best team and unless somebody gets injured you keep on going. Winning the FA Cup in ‘65 was a monumental achievement. How did that compare to winning the title. Winning the cup in 65 made history for the club, as they'd never won it before. For me to be part of it is brilliant because it's like you're making history for the club. I always feel as though the first time you do something, like the FA Cup or the European Cup in ‘77, it's always a special occasion when you first do it, and of all the great memories I have from my career, I'd say the ‘65 FA Cup and the ‘77 European Cup stick out because it was the first time Liverpool had ever done it. When did you first realise that Gerry Byrne had broken his collar bone? Well I didn't know during the game, I don't think any of the players did. We knew he was badly injured but we'd no idea what had happened. It was just one of those things that happened, but when I think about it, and when I look at old videos and see him playing the whole second half with a broken collar bone it shows you how hard Gerry was. He was a hard player, one of the hardest players I've ever played with. The Inter Milan home game followed shortly after Wembley, and it’s famous for Shankly ordering Byrne and Milne to take the FA Cup onto the pitch just before the game to whip up the crowd and intimidate the Italians... Yes, it was a great psychological ploy really. To take the FA Cup round, knowing we'd never won it before, against Inter Milan who at that time were the best team in the world as they'd just beaten the South American champions, well it got the fans going and made a great difference to the game. We were really up for it. Do you think the Inter players were intimidated? I don't know if they were intimidated, I mean they played in the San Siro which was a very intimidating place of course. I think they may have been surprised at the amount of noise and what was going on though. Is that the loudest you've heard Anfield? Well the Inter Milan game and the St Etienne game were the most memorable ones of my career. Great games, noisy games. But fantastic football matches. At the time did you think that the away leg of the Inter Milan tie was fixed? Well at the time you don't know whether its fixed or not, but things happened which shouldn't have happened. They kicked the ball out of Tommy Lawrence's hands from behind and then put it in the net. But we didn't win the game, we lost the tie and even though it was proven years later that the ref had taken a bung, at the time you just play the game and get on with it. It must have been sickening though? Yeah it was, because we would have been close to the final, and to get to the final of the European Cup is a great achievement, but it just wasn't meant to be. When you got injured in 1970-71 and Brian Hall took over at right midfield, did you think your Anfield time was up or did Shanks always reassure you he'd find room in the team? I had a cartilage operation and it took a long time to come back, I was out for about two months. In the meantime Brian Hall had come in on the right wing and done very well, so I knew I wasn't going to automatically get back in the team. It wasn't until a guy called John McLaughlin - a local lad and a very good player who was playing centre midfield - got injured that Shanks put me in the side in centre midfield, and I created a whole new career there. It must have been a huge shock when Shankly resigned. What are your memories of it? Well I just couldn't believe it. It was in the close season and I was on my way to the Lakes with the wife and kids, and as we left the house the phone went. My wife said leave it but I went back in and answered it. It was a guy from the Echo and he said "Have you heard the news? Bill Shankly has resigned" Obviously I couldn't believe it, but we headed off to the Lakes. I was very recognisable in those days with playing for Liverpool, so we had a weekend up at the Lakes and everyone just kept coming up to me wanting to know about Bill Shankly. Would you say there was much difference between Shankly and Paisley were in terms of how they wanted the team to play, or did Bob just carry on the way Bill left off? I don't think there was a great deal of difference really. There was a great difference in personality of course. Shanks was a great motivator and a bit of an extrovert, whereas Bob was an introvert, a very quiet man. But both got the best out of players with their own methods. But in terms of change, no, everything just continued as it did before. Same training, same way of playing, things just carried on and Bob went on to win 19 trophies in nine seasons or something. Incredible. Everyone has stories about Shankly, and I'm sure they've all been told now. But what's your favourite 'Shankly moment'? Oh there's that many stories that you hear about Shanks. They’ve all been told now I’m sure. My favourite though? I don't know really… I suppose the one which stands out for me was when he signed Alec Lindsay. Alec was one of the worst trainers there could ever be. He had a fantastic left foot, but when we were doing pre-season training Alec was probably last at everything. Then we got the ball out and were doing reserves v 1st team, and Alec wasn't showing anything at all. So one day, Shanks called him aside with Bob and said: "Listen Alec, when you were at Bury you were up having shots at goal, you were back defending, you looked a different player." So Alec said to Shanks "No, that wasn't me up and down the field, it was a guy called Davie Kerr." So Shanks says to Alec "No son, the red hair" Alec replied "Yeah, Davie Kerr had red hair" So Shanks turns to Bob and says "Jesus Christ Bob, we've signed the wrong player!" Of course Alec went on to be a great full back and had perhaps the best left foot I've seen in my life." Tell us what you remember about St Ettienne? Not a lot actually. It was a great game, a great occasion. I've seen clips of it since, but the great thing about that game of course was the David Fairclough goal. When you think about David, he scored a lot of goals but this was probably the best he ever scored. Such control, he took it brilliantly, and to do it in the heat of the moment the way he did, it was absolutely brilliant. And Rome? I said before that the first time you ever do anything its always the best, so obviously this was an unbelievable occasion. Paying in Rome, at that stadium, with so many Liverpool fans…. I've never seen so many travelling fans. It was just Liverpool's night. It was Kevin Keegan's last game, and I thought he was the best player on the pitch that night. It was a fantastic occasion in the clubs history. Who was better, Keegan or Dalglish? Oh I don't know, they were two different types of players. I suppose if you ask me who was the best player Liverpool ever had, I'd have to say Kenny Dalglish. Billy Liddell was brilliant for me, but in my time at Liverpool I'd have to say Kenny Dalglish was the best. What did the other players make of Keegan's 'superstar' status? Did it cause any problems? No, no problems. Kevin was the first player to have an agent, and he was a big, big player. Probably the biggest player since George Best in terms of being a 'superstar.' He was a smashing guy though Kevin, and everybody got on well with him, he was definiteley one of the boys. Who was the best player you played against? George Best, without a doubt. What was the best Liverpool side you played in? That’s difficult to judge, because each team has it’s own merits. There were the 60’s and the 70’s teams, I didn’t play in the 80’s. The two sides I played in were great sides, and I’d hate to say which was`better. I just feel fortunate to have played in such great teams. Was there much difference in the style of play between those sides? No I don’t think there was. Obviously Shanks was still there for the early part of the 70’s, and when Bob took over it was still the same players and we played the same way. We trained the same way too as Bob just stuck to the tried and tested. You were famously only booked once in your entire career. What do you remember about that incident? I remember it well. It was the replay in the league cup against Nottingham Forest. We’d drawn at Wembley and the replay was at Old Trafford. Pat Partridge was the referee, and he’d give a penalty against Phil Thompson, which was an awful decision. He tackled the guy about a yard outside the area. The guy fell inside the area and he gave them a penalty, which upset us. Then I just went for a ball with Peter Withe, a scouser. Anyway, the two of us went for a ball and he was a tall lad and I caught him in the chest. I think everyone was surprised when he took my name. It was unfortunate, and it’s been a talking point ever since. I think at the time Liverpool tried to get it scratched off but it wasn’t. Players now earn absolutely obscene amounts of money. Even the crap ones are millionaires. Someone as good as yourself would be making money hand over fist if you played now. Do you ever think about that? No I don’t look at it that way. I enjoyed every single minute and I think I was fortunate to be signed by Bill Shankly, who was probably the best manager ever, not just at Liverpool. I played in successful teams with great players, and the money wouldn’t have changed my life. I’ve enjoyed my life, and still am doing. I’ve had a lovely life and still do have. Being an ex-player means I still get to do interesting things, like last weekend I was in Athens as a guest of the Greek branch of the Liverpool supporters club. I’ve got my family round me, all my friends, I enjoy where I live and everything I do. So the money would have been nice, but at this particular time I look at it think it doesn’t matter to me. So you wouldn’t swap your success and medals for a less glittering career and a 50k a week pay cheque? Oh God no I wouldn’t, no. Not at all. I feel myself to be very fortunate to have played at a time when Bill Shankly arrived, we were in the second division and I was there for the whole change of Liverpool football club. History was made, and I regard myself as a part of that history because I was there for such a long time. I wouldn’t change that for any amount of money.



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