Kenny reminds Reds players of all ages they have to earn their shirt

SOMEONE close to Raheem Sterling seems to be pushing for him to get a move out of Anfield and back to London – but that person might just be messing up the player’s hopes of developing into the kind of player he was showing the potential to be. There is a world of difference between the reserve league and the first team and clubs have got to be careful about how they manage the transition for each youngster.

Fourth might well be out of reach for Liverpool but Kenny Dalglish says he still wants his side to battle for every point. Kenny wouldn’t, publicly at least, give up on fourth until it was mathematically out of reach and always avoids giving the kind of answers the reporters want when asked if a game is a “must win” or if a defeat means “season over”. But it is out of reach now, in real terms, and that has led to calls for the boss to blood some youngsters.

Liverpool’s injury problems seem to be starting to mount now – Charlie Adam could be out for the season, alongside Lucas Leiva, with Craig Bellamy, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger definite absentees for today’s visit of Wigan and Martin Kelly a doubt. Injury problems can often force a manager’s hand when it comes to trying out the youngsters – it’s either that or play a more experienced man out of position. But injury problems can also make it more difficult for a manager to consider risking a youngster, particularly if that youngster plays where someone more experienced is already available.
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Great expectations

A FEW short weeks ago Liverpool won the Carling Cup, not the most prestigious trophy in the world but a trophy nonetheless and the first bit of silverware of this decade. Something to build on, something to look back on, something to please all those who said the club only exists to win trophies when they were complaining at the club being runners up in the two biggest competitions it can win in 2007 and 2009.

The game itself, the Carling Cup Final, wasn’t the best Liverpool performance in history, it was against a team from a division below and it went to penalties – but it was enough to win the cup. And in getting to that final Liverpool had defeated three Premier League sides, including both Chelsea and Manchester City.

As fans celebrated and spent a couple of days recovering and getting their voices back the players had no such luxuries, in some cases not even getting enough time to fully recover from the exertions of playing for over two hours at Wembley. Some of them went off to join up with international squads the next day and in some cases were injured when they got back to their club later that week. Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson were two of Liverpool’s casualties and with Daniel Agger breaking a rib in the final itself they were watching from the sidelines with Lucas Leiva for the club’s next league match, six days after the final.
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Reds drawn against Blues – if they beat Sunderland

GOALS from Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing gave Liverpool a 2-1 win and a place at Wembley for the second time this season as they made the FA Cup semi-final with victory over Stoke City. Peter Crouch scored Stoke’s goal.

The draw was made immediately after the game and Liverpool were drawn against the winners of the replay between Sunderland and Everton.

Everton were held at home yesterday but knowing they face a possible Merseyside derby next month might just give them the extra incentive to get victory in the North East. David Moyes spoke out a few times in the lead-up to the derby this week about how much importance he places on trying to beat the Reds. Liverpool won 3-0 on Tuesday.

The other semi-final is between Tottenham or Bolton and Chelsea. The Tottenham and Bolton match was abandoned yesterday after Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba collapsed shortly before half-time. Muamba is currently critical in hospital.

The semi-finals are scheduled for the weekend of April 14th and 15th, which means Liverpool would be expecting their semi-final to be held on the Saturday. April 15th is the 23 anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

No charges against Reds fan accused of abusing Adeyemi

IT WAS revealed today that the Liverpool fan arrested following an incident involved Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi will not be prosecuted. Adeyemi, on loan from Norwich City, alleged that he’d heard the fan shout racial abuse at him towards the end of Liverpool’s 5-1 win in the FA Cup tie. The 20-year-old fan, from Aintree, denied the accusations and after reviewing the evidence the CPS made their decision not to bring charges.

The decision was made by Jane Roden, Head of the Complex Casework Unit at CPS Mersey-Cheshire. She was quoted today outlining her reasons: Read more

SAFC v LFC: Coates in for Carra, Gerrard on bench

AFTER dominating but losing last weekend against Arsenal the Carling Cup holders Liverpool are in desperate need of a win today at Sunderland. They start the second game in a row without Gerrard, Johnson or Agger, although the captain does at least make the bench today.

Martin Kelly keeps his place at right back in Johnson’s absence but Jamie Carragher has been dropped to the bench. Sebastian Coates starts in Carra’s place, allowing Skrtel to play on the right side of central defence, the position he usually takes up when Agger is fit.

Jordon Henderson starts at his old ground, joined in midfield by Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing. We’ll have to wait and see where Bellamy and Kuyt start, but Luis Suarez is up front against a team he’s scored against on both occasions he’s played against them.

Former Reds centre-back Soto Kyrgiakos is on the bench for home side who have had a change of manager since the Anfield meeting at the start of the season. Martin O’Neill replaced Steve Bruce, who was manager in 2009 when the beachball goal was scored.

Sunderland are missing captain Steve Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon, both red-carded last weekend in the local derby with Newcastle.

John O’Shea, who is expected to play with a protective cast on his hand, takes the Sunderland arm-band. Pepe Reina is Liverpool’s captain for the day, at least as long as Carra and Gerrard stay on the bench.
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Johnson and McGrath entitled to their opinions

GLEN JOHNSON’s interview with the Daily Mail has seen him come in for some criticism from the usual types. He spoke out in response to questions he was asked and gave his honest opinions. He’s entitled to do both, especially if it’s in response to criticism from others.

Paul McGrath was critical of Glen Johnson after Johnson joined his team mates and wore a Suarez t-shirt before the match. McGrath said at the time: “If I was in Glen Johnson’s position, I would have thrown the shirt to the floor,’ said McGrath.”

Johnson’s response to that, in today’s article, basically suggest McGrath needs to look at himself before commenting on others: “The McGrath thing… that’s actually racist. Saying what he said is racist. He is only saying that to me because I was the only black lad wearing the T-shirt. He’s targeting me because of my colour.

“I haven’t spoken to Paul McGrath about it. I don’t care what he thinks, really. I don’t know anything about him. But for someone to say that, it sums them up. It’s their problem.”

McGrath has since responded, tweeting: “It saddens me that Glen Johnson has called me a racist, but he is entitled to his opinion.”

He’s right. Both players are entitled to their opinions and both players should be entitled to a fair response to any airing of their opinions.

McGrath made assumptions about Johnson’s opinions when he made the comments Johnson referred to.

But McGrath seems to have inconsistent views about racism anyway.

The following was written on this site on Christmas Eve, after the Suarez verdict but before the written reasons were released:

MUCH has been written and said about the Suarez-Evra case, particularly in the few days since The FA announced the verdict, and it’s safe to say that little new can be added, at least until the written reasons for the verdict are made public.

Opinions vary on how right or wrong the verdict was, how suitable the punishment was and how appropriate the response has been. People have opinions on people’s opinions and it’s practically impossible to find an impartial opinion.

Yet these opinions are all based on ‘facts’ that are still rather vague, few of which are actually on record anywhere. Words like “negro”, “negrita” and “sudaca” are getting mentioned almost everywhere as being part of the exchange between the two players – but haven’t been mentioned anywhere on the record, in public, by any of those remotely involved in the case.

The opinions being voiced now may well change when, eventually, the full facts of the case are known. The opinions may still be polarised even then, but at least by then it will be possible for those who really care to base their opinions on something other than speculation, sensationalised snippets and spin. There will always be those who struggle to see beyond club v club and those who see no issues in using a situation like this to suit their own needs in some other way – but this spiteful debate could actually become positive if it was based on fact and not innuendo. Individuals normally critical of decisions made by football’s officialdom are suddenly blind to any possibility that there could be a problem – minor or major – with the verdict.
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Glen Johnson gets the chance to explain

GLEN JOHNSON was doing some promo work as part of one of his commercial deals and that work included making himself available for interviews with the media. Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail interviewed him and asked him about the Luis Suarez saga, in particular the t-shirts the players wore with Suarez’s face on them and the handshakes before the league match at Old Trafford.

The options are pretty limited when it comes to dealing that situation. Liverpool aren’t going to send their own press officers with every player doing work as part of his own commercial deals so there isn’t going to be someone there interrupting on the player’s behalf to deflect questions on certain topics. Even so, deflecting those questions, whether by a press officer or the player himself, isn’t always going to look good in print. It’s not hard to imagine a story talking about the player looking uncomfortable or embarrassed as he tried to deflect the questions on that particular topic.

Should the club be banning players from answering questions on that topic anyway? Johnson has more reason than most in the Reds squad to talk about the story – he’s been on the receiving end of abuse about his own part in the whole circus ever since he joined his team-mates in wearing those t-shirts in December. He was mentioned in the written reasons issued by the FA for the Suarez decision – not for what he said but for what he might have had said to him – and got abuse for that too.

He had a rugby player calling him an “Uncle Tom”, an insult that has racial connotations much like Piara Powar’s “coconut” jibe.  (Powar, incidentally, is still to apologise for that insult and the FA, Kick It Out, Show Racism The Red Card and FARE seem intent on brushing it under the carpet.) He also got some criticism from Paul McGrath, criticism that was not only hypocritical but ill-informed.

Sooner or later Glen Johnson was going to be asked about this topic and given what’s been said about him it was always going to involve him explaining his own actions and sharing his own opinions on the story. If he’d not answered them today he’d have probably found himself having to answer them on England duty in the summer.

The criticism Glen is getting today isn’t so much about what he’s said – but that he’s said it. One news agency headlines a short report on his comments as “Johnson reignites Suarez row” – yet Johnson was merely answering the questions he’d been asked. If anyone reignited it then it was the reporter who asked the questions and printed the answers.

The report itself points out that Johnson was answering questions he’d been asked, but those having a go at the player seem to have missed that. Maybe they didn’t read it all. Where have we heard that before?

It makes sense to express a desire for everyone to move on from the whole event but that’s not going to be as easy for some as it is for others. Suarez might have decided he’ll put it all in a book some day, Evra may feel the same – both players probably have enough material to be able to do that with it.

Johnson has said his bit now and the chances are that he’s not got anything more to add to that.

It’s not just those involved who feel it’s impossible to just ‘move on’ from what happened but maybe that won’t be seen until the  outcome of the Terry case is known or the next time an incident of this nature happens in the game.

Daily Mail and PA

Daily Mail and PA's headlines and captions

There are far too many attention-seeking anti-discrimination campaigners, who seem to be looking for publicity more than equality, who are stirring up trouble that seems to do the opposite of what they claim to be trying to do. The non-story about a Spanish TV advert was laughable and embarrassing.

The focus for some of the outlets who have take Johnson’s quotes is on what he said about the handshake, and for others it’s on what he said about Paul McGrath. What none of the focus seems to be on is trying to keep racism out of football.

The author of the article in the Mail isn’t responsible for the captions under the photos it was accompanied by. Whoever was seems to find it worthwhile to make a pun out of the word “race” in one of the captions, in much the same way as someone working at the Daily Mirror did ahead of the game where the handshake row kicked off.

The author does make the mistake many have of assuming the word Suarez used was “negrito”, which of course wasn’t the case, the word only getting a mention in the written reasons when discussing the evidence given by one of the Manchester United players, but the article itself is otherwise very fair to Johnson. It’s given him the chance to say what he no doubt feels needed to be said.

What’s interesting to note about initial reaction to the article by those critical of Johnson is which issues seem to concern them most. It’s not the words Suarez was alleged to have used or that he admitted to using (they often don’t actually know what those words were). It’s not the issue of racism itself.

It’s the wearing of a t-shirt and the shaking of a hand.

Johnson explained why he wore the t-shirt: “The reason I wore the T-shirt is because I know 100 per cent Luis Suarez is not racist. With the media these days and the way it was going to be blown up, maybe the T-shirts thing wasn’t the right thing to do. How should I say this? We wore them to show our support for Luis. It wasn’t to send a message to everyone else. It was just for him.”

So he wore the t-shirt because he thought his team mate hadn’t done what he was accused of doing and because he felt it showed him – not the world – that his team mates felt this way. All they knew at the time was that they had seen nothing, certainly no written reasons, that made them think their team mate was in the wrong. They wanted to show him they were still behind him so they wore a t-shirt.

No big deal, it’s just a t-shirt.

He now recognises, having seen the backlash, that the way things get blown up by the media (and certain types of individual) in this country it doesn’t take much for a gesture of that nature to be taken the wrong way. He’s got no regrets about being supportive of Suarez and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing a t-shirt showing that support – other than it giving the more sensationalist types the opportunity to criticise.

Also less of a big deal than it’s made out to be is the shaking of a hand. Where Suarez went wrong by not shaking Evra’s hand is that he must have known what the reaction would be if he didn’t. It’s no big deal – but it was always going to be turned into one.

Johnson feels that Evra was reluctant to shake Suarez’s hand and if it was as important as it was made out to be it would be worth debating whether Johnson’s reasons are valid or not. But it’s just a handshake, a handshake that should never have been made into such a big issue.

Suarez was charged on the day the English media attacked Sepp Blatter for suggesting incident of racial abuse on a football field could be solved with a simple handshake. Suarez was attacked by the English media because – for whatever reason – he chose not to try and solve the issues he has with Evra with a simple handshake.

The time for handshakes was somewhere else, in private, at some point before the day of the match. The animosity between the two clubs (despite claims that there’s no animosity between the two boardrooms) was too great to expect a simple handshake to sort things out. As Sepp Blatter, no doubt, now knows.

The British participants for this year’s Olympics have reportedly been advised not to shake hands with participants from other nations due to the risk of picking up infections. If they take that advice there’ll be many a big deal to be made from it all this summer – especially if the football team decide to go along with it.

What won’t be a big deal in the coming months, unless there’s a change of attitude, is exactly how to deal with real examples of racism. What won’t be a big deal is how important it is to just educate people about the issue of racism, to show people why one phrase might be offensive and another might not. What won’t be a big deal is the underlying issues that all these little deals are being nailed onto.

Expecting Liverpool and its players to keep quiet isn’t going to fix that underlying issue. Education doesn’t come from keeping quiet. Education doesn’t come from not listening.

Everyone can learn something from what happened with Suarez and Evra.

The Anfield Wrap on the radio with City Talk 105.9.

JUST seven months after launching as a weekly football podcast The Anfield Wrap today announced their take on LFC will now also be available on the radio in Liverpool via City Talk 105.9.

Since its first episode at the start of the season the show has featured guests like former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez and former Reds midfielder Dietmar Hamann and a string of journalists from national and local media but it’s the insight and passion of the regular guests that has made it so popular for many.
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