Hodgson for England. With our blessing.

HAD a brief snooze. Saw Torres score a hat-trick. Chelsea’s Torres. Was I still asleep? Went out. The car said it was three degrees and flashed its warning about ice. There were bits of tree all over the road, at least in the bits of road that weren’t under water, and it’s May in a couple of days. Maybe I was still asleep.

No, a face-stinging walk in that horizontal freezing cold rain would wake anyone up. Water looked choppy, sky was dark, like it was the middle of winter. Everything’s strange. Back home, groggy again, phone out of earshot, computer out of reach, something boring on the telly and none of it news. No idea how Spurs went on, but otherwise not expecting much to have happened in the world of football. Eventually, the computer goes on, the email gets checked. And still everything’s strange.

Slap bang in the middle of an email that started off so normally is this:

“Hodgson for England”

What? Haven’t we done that already? He had a predictable draw yesterday didn’t he?

“Madness from the FA?”

Come on, it’s the wrong end of April for that kind of joke.

Wait; what? They’ve not. Have they?

I checked. “England have been granted permission to talk to Roy Hodgson.”

They had. They really had. Read more

"Pro" gets into bother on Twitter, needs a bit of help

“PRO”, a short film about a fictional professional footballer and the impact social media has on his life, is set for its first screening in Liverpool shortly.

The footballer, Thomas Ryder, uses Twitter but gets himself into a bit of trouble when using it – and is also being quietly stalked by a small boy. Co-written by (The Anfield Wrap presenter) Neil Atkinson and Daniel Fitzsimmons, who were also producer and director respectively, the movie’s cast includes Joe Macaulay, Lee Fenwick, Joshua French and Kelly Forshaw.

Neil explains what the film is about: “We wanted to look at the strange status footballers now have in society and in the way in which we interact with them. We switch them easily from hero to villain in terms of what they do both on and off the pitch and especially so as they share more of themselves on social media such as Twitter.

“There are those of us who want their approval and get irritated when we don’t get it. Those of us who get annoyed when they don’t acknowledge they have our approval and infuriated if they don’t seek our approval.
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“Pro” gets into bother on Twitter, needs a bit of help

“PRO”, a short film about a fictional professional footballer and the impact social media has on his life, is set for its first screening in Liverpool shortly.

The footballer, Thomas Ryder, uses Twitter but gets himself into a bit of trouble when using it – and is also being quietly stalked by a small boy. Co-written by (The Anfield Wrap presenter) Neil Atkinson and Daniel Fitzsimmons, who were also producer and director respectively, the movie’s cast includes Joe Macaulay, Lee Fenwick, Joshua French and Kelly Forshaw.

Neil explains what the film is about: “We wanted to look at the strange status footballers now have in society and in the way in which we interact with them. We switch them easily from hero to villain in terms of what they do both on and off the pitch and especially so as they share more of themselves on social media such as Twitter.

“There are those of us who want their approval and get irritated when we don’t get it. Those of us who get annoyed when they don’t acknowledge they have our approval and infuriated if they don’t seek our approval.
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Reds need tweaks, not scapegoats

A DEFEAT at home is disappointing, a defeat at home to the manager you wanted gone in place of the current one is even more disappointing. Even if you try to console yourself, deep down, that it might just help his England chances.

Liverpool’s league season ended, really, a week after winning the Carling Cup. Six days after, if we’re being accurate. Arsenal played like a team who’d have been happy with a draw and Liverpool played them off the park. But Arsenal had a bang-on-form van Persie and Liverpool were still struggling with penalties. Arsenal got all three points.

They weren’t the first ‘big’ team to come to Anfield this season looking like they’d be happy to go back home with a point; a sign of the respect, maybe, that opposing managers have for this Liverpool side and its manager. Respect that, sadly, some Liverpool fans just don’t have for this side or its manager. This side isn’t without its faults – far from it – but maybe those opposing managers have more of an idea of Liverpool’s qualities than the tabloid headline writers that some of Liverpool’s supporters seem to gravitate towards.
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Remembering the ninety six

On April 15th 1989 an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was, like yesterday, like any semi-final, the cause of much anticipation and excitement for supporters of the two teams involved.

It wasn’t quite as much of an early start as yesterday – instead of heading 200 miles to Wembley for a 12.30 kick-off the 1989 semi was a 3pm kick-off 70 miles away in Sheffield.

By 3.06pm the game had been abandoned. There was no celebration afterwards, no disappointment at a defeat. The day ended in tragedy.

Behind Bruce Grobelaar’s goal people were dying.

In all ninety-six Liverpool supporters would die because of the events of that day at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

96 needless deaths. 96 people who will never be forgotten.

23 years later we are still waiting for justice to be done.

23 years later we are still waiting for the cover-ups to be uncovered and the liars to be exposed.

23 years later and we still have to educate people about what really happened because the lies told in 1989 persist.

Today we remember those 96 victims. Today we think of all those who survived the horrors of that day and continued to suffer long afterwards as a result. Today we offer our support, as always, to the families of those who died and to anyone else still hurting from the consequences of a disaster that could – and should – have been so easily avoided.

We also thank those people across the world, irrespective of who they support or where they are from, who take time to show their respects and send their support.

The 96 who died were Liverpool fans, but they could have been fans of any club, they could have been anyone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, dad, granddad. They are all missed.

In memory of the ninety-six.

John Alfred Anderson (62)
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19)
James Gary Aspinall (18)
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16)
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (67)
Simon Bell (17)
Barry Sidney Bennett (26)
David John Benson (22)
David William Birtle (22)
Tony Bland (22)
Paul David Brady (21)
Andrew Mark Brookes (26)
Carl Brown (18)
David Steven Brown (25)
Henry Thomas Burke (47)
Peter Andrew Burkett (24)
Paul William Carlile (19)
Raymond Thomas Chapman (50)
Gary Christopher Church (19)
Joseph Clark (29)
Paul Clark (18)
Gary Collins (22)
Stephen Paul Copoc (20)
Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23)
James Philip Delaney (19)
Christopher Barry Devonside (18)
Christopher Edwards (29)
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34)
Thomas Steven Fox (21)
Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10)
Barry Glover (27)
Ian Thomas Glover (20)
Derrick George Godwin (24)
Roy Harry Hamilton (34)
Philip Hammond (14)
Eric Hankin (33)
Gary Harrison (27)
Stephen Francis Harrison (31)
Peter Andrew Harrison (15)
David Hawley (39)
James Robert Hennessy (29)
Paul Anthony Hewitson (26)
Carl Darren Hewitt (17)
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)
Sarah Louise Hicks (19)
Victoria Jane Hicks (15)
Gordon Rodney Horn (20)
Arthur Horrocks (41)
Thomas Howard (39)
Thomas Anthony Howard (14)
Eric George Hughes (42)
Alan Johnston (29)
Christine Anne Jones (27)
Gary Philip Jones (18)
Richard Jones (25)
Nicholas Peter Joynes (27)
Anthony Peter Kelly (29)
Michael David Kelly (38)
Carl David Lewis (18)
David William Mather (19)
Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
John McBrien (18)
Marion Hazel McCabe (21)
Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)
Peter McDonnell (21)
Alan McGlone (28)
Keith McGrath (17)
Paul Brian Murray (14)
Lee Nicol (14)
Stephen Francis O’Neill (17)
Jonathon Owens (18)
William Roy Pemberton (23)
Carl William Rimmer (21)
David George Rimmer (38)
Graham John Roberts (24)
Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
Henry Charles Rogers (17)
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23)
Inger Shah (38)
Paula Ann Smith (26)
Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
Philip John Steele (15)
David Leonard Thomas (23)
Patrik John Thompson (35)
Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)
Peter Francis Tootle (21)
Christopher James Traynor (26)
Martin Kevin Traynor (16)
Kevin Tyrrell (15)
Colin Wafer (19)
Ian David Whelan (19)
Martin Kenneth Wild (29)
Kevin Daniel Williams (15)
Graham John Wright (17)

You’ll Never Walk Alone. Rest in Peace.

Brad Jones on Wembley derby win: "I didn't have a lot to do."

PEPE REINA ran to Brad Jones to congratulate him at the end of today’s FA Cup Semi-final, one of many signs of the obvious camaraderie on display at Anfield, not to mention the popularity the Australian international has with his team mates. Jones was in between the sticks for Liverpool as Reina served the last of his three-match suspension and did all that was asked of him as the Reds booked a third trip to Wembley with a 2-1 win over Everton.

After the game Brad spoke to ESPN but was modest about his own part in a win that might be talked about as much as the final in years to come: “We knew that the game was going to be fairly even,” Brad said, “and we know that they have a lot of quality players and a good front-line, so we just had to deal with it.

“The boys at the back are fantastic players and I think they dealt with it well. I didn’t have a lot to do.”
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Brad Jones on Wembley derby win: “I didn’t have a lot to do.”

PEPE REINA ran to Brad Jones to congratulate him at the end of today’s FA Cup Semi-final, one of many signs of the obvious camaraderie on display at Anfield, not to mention the popularity the Australian international has with his team mates. Jones was in between the sticks for Liverpool as Reina served the last of his three-match suspension and did all that was asked of him as the Reds booked a third trip to Wembley with a 2-1 win over Everton.

After the game Brad spoke to ESPN but was modest about his own part in a win that might be talked about as much as the final in years to come: “We knew that the game was going to be fairly even,” Brad said, “and we know that they have a lot of quality players and a good front-line, so we just had to deal with it.

“The boys at the back are fantastic players and I think they dealt with it well. I didn’t have a lot to do.”
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FA Cup semi-final: Agger, Carra and Skrtel start – Maxi on the bench

THE FA Cup semi-final derby sees Liverpool start with their third-choice keeper protected by a strong back-four.

That’s assuming it lines up as a back four – with Daniel Agger in for Jose Enrique there’s a possibility of three at the back but Agger did play at left-back in his recent games coming back from injury. Brad Jones is the goalkeeper, Peter Gulacsi on the bench if the Reds have yet more goalkeeping issues. Jay Spearing is also on from the off providing more protection for that defence.

Suarez and Carroll both start, something of a surprise perhaps, but Carroll certainly earned a start with his performance – and winner – against Blackburn on Tuesday.

That leaves question marks as to who plays where in the rest of the midfield. Gerrard, Downing and Henderson all start.

There’s a bit of a cavalry on the bench for Liverpool should it be needed, Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy amongst those raring to go if the 11 on the pitch don’t get going.

Everton have built themselves up as the underdogs for this match but after the run Liverpool have had and the red cards between the sticks that isn’t necessarily the case, particularly with the blues having been on a good run of their own. The blues rested a number of players on Monday but still managed a 4-0 win.

Both sides have players capable of being the stars of the show – let’s just hope referee Howard Webb hasn’t got his own eye on that particular title.

There will be a minute’s silence in memory of Hillsborough before today’s game. Tomorrow is the 23rd anniversary of the disaster that saw 96 Liverpool fans lose their lives. Supporters are also going to be handed posters – blue or red as appropriate – telling the world: “Don’t Buy The Sun”.

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FA Cup Semi-final: Reds release Merseyside rap song

IT might only be the semi-final but tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final has already got the feel of being a final in its own right. Liverpool against Everton at Wembley, no cup to lift but no better way of lifting the spirits of whichever side wins. And this is not time to talk about what it will do the side that doesn’t.

It’s not just a trophy that’s missing from this ‘final’. There aren’t any cup final songs. Or at least there weren’t.

Robbie Fowler, Bill Shankly, Rhys Jones, Gary Ablett and the Hillsborough 96 all get namechecked in a new hip-hop song released by LFC and local rapper Jamie Broad ahead of tomorrow’s match.

Twenty eight years ago, Liverpool and Everton met in the League Cup final at Wembley. Supporters from the two best teams in the country travelled down to the capital together and ended up chanting ‘Merseyside, Merseyside’ as both sets of players completed a lap of honour.

Five years later and Wembley was again the setting for another final – the Hillsborough final. On that day, in 1989, Everton fans stood side by side with their Liverpool counterparts as they remembered the 96 fans who went to a semi-final and never returned.
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Comolli should be the first change of many at Anfield

THERE was a sense that something had to change before too long but Damien Comolli’s departure wasn’t expected today, two days before the FA Cup semi-final, and Comolli’s departure wasn’t necessarily seen by all as the change that needed to be made or the one that would be made.

Comolli arrived shortly after FSG took the club over and was appointed as Director of Football Strategy. In a matter of a couple of months Roy Hodgson, never a popular choice, was replaced as manager on a temporary basis by Kenny Dalglish – the popular choice by some distance. When Kenny’s role was made permanent towards the end of last season Comolli’s job title was also changed and he got what seemed to be a promotion to Director of Football.

The change of manager happened when the January transfer window was already open and by the end of it Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel had left, with Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll coming in.

With Dalglish still only a caretaker boss at the time those signings were bold ones and although it always seemed unlikely that Comolli would buy a player a manager didn’t want it was also unlikely he’d buy players he thought the next manager – if Dalglish didn’t stay on – wouldn’t see as valuable members of the squad.

The statement from the club about Comolli’s departure gave the usual vague “mutual consent” reason for the separating of ways but mutual consent usually means an agreement on a severance package regardless of who made the decision to end the relationship – or why they made that decision.

LFC Statement:

Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool FC confirmed today that Director of Football Damien Comolli has left the Club by mutual consent.

Principal Owner John Henry said: “We are grateful for all of Damien’s efforts on behalf of Liverpool and wish him all the best for the future.”

Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner added: “The Club needs to move forward and we now have a huge game on Saturday. It is important that everyone joins us in supporting the manager and gets behind Kenny and the team and focuses on a strong finish to the season.”

Damien Comolli commented: “I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at Liverpool and am happy to move on from the Club and back to France for family reasons. I wish the Club all the best for the future.”

It isn’t clear from the statement if it was family reasons that prompted the departure or if Comolli decided that he’d go back to France after being told he was no longer required at Liverpool. However, it’s understood that it’s the latter, that Liverpool decided to make some changes and Comolli didn’t fit in with those changes.

Kenny Dalglish was quick to tell the media that the signings made since his own return weren’t made against his wishes: “I had a fantastic working and personal relationship with Damien, since he came in he was really helpful in every transfer target we went for.

“Everybody that has come into the club since Damien has been here has been my choice. Whoever I wanted, Damien went away and did a fantastic job in bringing them in. “

Kenny was hardly like to list players he didn’t really want or even hint that there were any he wasn’t happy about being signed. But a large part of the criticism of Liverpool’s signings hasn’t so much been their abilities; it’s been more about the price paid for those abilities. Had Liverpool paid £8m a piece for the likes of Carroll, Henderson and Downing it’s unlikely there’d be as much criticism – although that wasn’t the case with Charlie Adam, who cost much less and has been criticised on and off over the course of the season.

When Rafa Benítez was Liverpool boss it was clear that the manager was not getting what he’d asked for in terms of transfers. Although the latter days of his reign saw promises broken (and plans messed up) the issues earlier on were with the way the money allocated was being spent.  Delays in moving for players saw bargain buys turned into overpriced signings and although Rafa was not entirely blameless in terms of the success of his signings it was clearly not the best way to work. And many of Rafa’s signings were hugely successful, both in terms of what they did on the pitch and what they earned the club if sold.

Whatever blame might be apportioned outside of the club what matters more is who is responsible for transfer strategy inside the club. Calls have been made for Liverpool to have the same philosophy on football at all levels, something Rafa Benítez started to implement, meaning the academy would be far more likely to produce the kind of players the first team needed. Coaches from Barcelona were brought in to help start this policy, but that project wasn’t seen through to the first team because before it had really got going Benítez was sacked and Hodgson arrived as boss.

By the time Kenny arrived the dust hadn’t really settled on the events of the previous 18 months and perhaps Liverpool were still unsure of exactly what they needed. Purchases made haven’t been used in the way observers would expect – Andy Carroll rarely starting, Stewart Downing rarely playing with Carroll, Suárez and Carroll not getting many opportunities to form a partnership. All of this makes Carroll – a last minute signing to replace Torres in that first transfer window under FSG – look like a signing made in haste.

In the summer Liverpool made a bid in excess of £20m for a defender who ultimately chose to join another club – but that wasn’t followed up with the pursuit of an alternative of the same kind of quality. Coates is seen as one for the future – as shown by his limited appearances – so why didn’t Liverpool buy a defender ready to go straight into the first team after failing with their first attempt?

Lucas went out with a long term injury halfway through the season and Liverpool did not bring in cover for him during the January transfer window. Since then the Reds have struggled to find a central midfield that works, with any number of combinations of players used.

Kenny isn’t the type to say publicly if he did have any problems with Comolli, but he made it clear there were no hard feelings between the two as far as he was concerned: “It is sad to see anyone leave the football club. He goes with my best wishes and I hope it is not long before we can meet up again. For me, we had a good relationship.”

Asked if it was disappointing to see Comolli leave he said: “It is disappointing – but I suppose nothing much surprises me in football.”

The news was announced as Liverpool were making their final preparations for Saturday’s cup semi-final and Dalglish was asked if it would mess their plans up: “We are having a meeting with the players this morning so it may have delayed that a bit. It is a big game on Saturday. It is a cup semi-final with more added to it because it is a local derby.”

More added to it perhaps because of how much it means to Liverpool to get into that final and then to get their hands on a second trophy.

More added to it perhaps because Comolli’s departure isn’t necessarily a sign that the owners have full faith in Kenny Dalglish.

In the eyes of the more impatient fan the Carling Cup isn’t enough, but the FA Cup alongside it isn’t enough either. The more considered supporters – as frustrated as they’ve been by Liverpool’s performances and results in the league – know that it takes time to fix a problem as big as the one Roy Hodgson left behind and know that mistakes are going to be made along the way.

It’s not just on the pitch where mistakes have been made and there have been questions asked about who is actually steering the club at the higher levels.

The owners are obviously in touch long distance and keep an eye on things from the States – but is that enough for what Liverpool need? Ian Ayre has been MD since FSG came in, temporarily at first and then permanently, but the club have never filled the vacancy of CEO. Efforts were made and Liverpool were reportedly close to bringing in José Ángel Sánchez for the role but the search would prove fruitless.

A question that also needs to be asked is if the club is being steered in the same direction at all levels. Is the ‘unity’ Ian Ayre spoke of recently still there? As the dust settles on that turbulent period the new owners walked into some of the other underlying problems and bad decisions of, particularly, that last six months under Hicks, Gillett and Purslow, might just be standing out like a sore thumb.

Also imminent are the club’s first accounts since the owners took over, due by the end of this month.

Short of some genuine personal crisis hastening his departure Liverpool would be highly unlikely to remove Comolli without having someone lined up to at least take over some parts of his job.

A new CEO – of the right kind – would be able to negotiate transfers and contracts, a role that doesn’t seem to be one that Ian Ayre would relish, but that would still leave a requirement for someone to take charge of the scouting part of the role Comolli was doing.

A new CEO might just help out in other ways. Liverpool lack the influence other clubs have at The FA and The Premier League, another issue that needs to be addressed.

A new CEO – of the right kind – would also be able to share some of the load heaped on the manager by the press. Despite Comolli playing a large part in what would ultimately lead to Luis Suárez losing his case with the FA he wasn’t heard speaking out in support of either the player or his manager. The MD and the owners also kept very quiet throughout and despite denials of leaving Kenny ‘out to dry’ there was a lot of anger from fans at the silence from everyone at the club from Kenny upwards.

Communications from the club aren’t the best, especially with the press, and something definitely needs to be done. Changes already made in the area of press relations haven’t improved those relations.

It’s no surprise the club are suspicious about some media, but when they’re acting suspicious towards those who actually have the club’s best interests at heart perhaps it’s time for a change there too.

Comolli leaving should be the first of a number of changes – but not just of personnel. The club’s structure needs to be looked at again.

A new CEO wouldn’t necessarily leave Ian Ayre out of a job but it might lead to him shifting his focus full time back to the commercial side. The boardroom would be a little cluttered with a CEO, an MD and a Director of Football all treading on each other’s toes.  A CEO, a commercial director and someone acting as the bridge between the boardroom and the manager and the academy and the manager (not necessarily given the title of Director of Football) might give each member the room to do what they do best.

For now Kenny Dalglish has to get his players focussed on what comes next, which is what he does best. And what comes next is that FA Cup semi-final, a game Liverpool really need to win.

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