Ex-Liverpool defender Daniel Agger retires at 31

Former Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger takes to Twitter to confirm he is calling time on his playing career.

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Sad news from Daniel Agger as the ex-Reds defender today announced his retirement from football at just 31 years of age.

Agger’s career has been plagued with injury setbacks and although the Dane admitted it was “sad” to accept his playing days were over he said he was “proud” of the career he had.

Daniel used Twitter to confirm the news: “Thank you for your support,” he tweeted. “A great experience,” he added, in a tweet that also included a photo of a selection of his shirts, including a Liverpool one.

“It’s sad, but it is the right decision to stop. I’m proud of my career,” he wrote.

 

The centre-back was signed for Liverpool by Rafa Benitez in 2006 from boyhood club Brondby and left Anfield eight years later having established himself as a favourite for many fans, especially when he responded to transfer rumours linking him with a move away from Anfield one summer by getting “YNWA” tattooed on his knuckles.

Those injuries restricted his appearances in a Liverpool shirt but he still managed to turn out 232 times in his eight years and won a League Cup Winners’ medal in 2012 under Kenny Dalglish.

Perhaps one of the lowest points of his time at Anfield was when current England manager Roy Hodgson was boss for an ill-fated six-months. Responding to stories in the Danish media Hodgson said of Agger:

“I don’t give them mass media training. I would give mass media training to young players, but people like Agger who is knocking on 30 years of age… I wouldn’t want to pull him aside and say, ‘be careful what you say,’ because he understands those things.” Agger was actually 25 at the time.

“You’re going to get caught out,” Roy added, “But to be quoted, as he was on Sky, he doesn’t like our long ball approach, I think that’s not only tough on the boy that he’s been caught out but to be made to look a complete fool, because I think probably the one thing, at the moment, nobody in this room for one minute suggest, was that Liverpool are a long ball team.

“In fact there might be people who would suggest we should play a bit longer because we win the passing statistics every match but even our goalkeeper rarely kicks the ball beyond the halfway line so I think they’ve made him look a bit of a fool with that.”

In the same interview Hodgson also explained why Agger wasn’t playing – it was because Roy’s new signing had taken his place. “To play regularly you’ve got to be fit [which Agger was at the time]. I think most of last year he wasn’t fit.”

That was before Hodgson arrived, so why wasn’t he playing under the former Fulham boss? “He was fit at the start of this year but he had to play at left back until we signed Konchesky. Now of course Carragher and Skrtel have been playing in the centre of defence and doing well and he’s got to get into the team in the place of one of those.”

Agger’s appearances were few and far between and a few months later Hodgson was sacked, much to the delight of the vast majority of Liverpool supporters, and Agger was quoted later on how things were under Roy.

“Look at the team – we played awful, we were s**t,”  he said.

“When you look now every single player is better. Confidence can win you games and Kenny [Dalglish] and Steve [Clarke, his assistant] have put the confidence back in the players and we have shown that definitely in the last four games.”

Better still, the football was now of a style Agger – and most fans – would prefer to see from the Reds: “Kenny likes to play positive football, going forward, and keeping the ball on the ground and he is good among the players. The training sessions have been really good and everything starts at the training ground. If you get that right you have a big advantage in the games.”

Of course those good times under Kenny didn’t last as FSG sacked him just after that League Cup winning season. In his place came Brendan Rodgers and soon, as it had been under Roy, Agger found himself making limited appearances. In 2014 he moved back to Brondby, a year after rejecting reported advances from Barcelona to stay at Anfield.

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He told Danish TV what had led to him making that big decision to leave Anfield, pointing to his relationship with Rodgers. “There was much [distance] between us, and for me it was just enough,” he said.

“I felt that he didn’t appreciate the things I could do or contributed. When I feel that, then it’s time to move on.

“When you are a part of the starting eleven for several games in a row and the team have performed well, and you feel that you have played well, then you are left out of the team and don’t feel appreciated, it starts to get pray on your mind and you wonder.
“Then, at the same time, you see the statistics from your game – which are so important all around the world of football – and you don’t understand why you weren’t used more often.”

The defender did have some praise for Rodgers, but suggested he felt let down by a lack of openness from his former manager: “He’s an extremely, extremely competent coach. The things that went wrong between us is that I say things the way they are and I expect others to treat me the same way. Maybe it is wrong to always expect this.”

Agger, who also won 71 caps for Denmark, was recently linked with a reunion with the man who brought him to Anfield, Benitez, who is now Newcastle boss, but today’s news confirms that won’t be happening.

The willingness Agger showed to put his body on the line for Liverpool – despite all those injuries – showed an attitude that many Reds players have lacked in recent times. An excellent defender, his abilities going forward and his desire to turn defence into attack are qualities Jurgen Klopp needs to look for as he rebuilds his Liverpool side.

At £6m Agger, despite the injuries, turned out to be something of a bargain.

He’ll be missed from the game but left us with plenty happy memories. Good luck in whatever comes next for you Daniel.

New feature length documentary tells LFC’s 1986 double winning story

Documentary tells the story of an amazing season for Liverpool as Kenny Dalglish stepped up from player to player-manager – 30 years on.

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30 years after Liverpool’s historic League and FA Cup double in Kenny Dalglish’s first season as player manager, a new feature-length documentary has been produced and will air exclusively on the club’s LFCTV GO service.

With a running time close to 90 minutes, the programme features in-depth interviews with the men who played such an important role in that special season, including Kenny of course, his captain Alan Hansen and many more including Jan Molby, Jim Beglin, Ronnie Whelan and Craig Johnston.

The season began after the darkness of what happened in Heysel on May 29th 1985, 39 supporters dying after crowd violence before Liverpool’s European Cup final with Juventus. Liverpool, along with all other English clubs, were now banned from Europe.

Joe Fagan, who had taken the reigns from Bob Paisley, himself taking over from Bill Shankly, had retired and for once Liverpool had broken with tradition by not handing the job onto another member of the famous ‘Boot Room’. Sort of.

As Kenny explains in the documentary, he had the continued support of the Boot Room with the likes of Tom Saunders, Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans a part of his backroom staff, just as they had been for his predecessors. He also had one of those illustrious predecessors on hand as an advisor – a certain Mr Paisley.

“I had fantastic knowledge, help, support,” Kenny says.

“Tom Saunders was there, Ronnie and Roy stayed, old Bob came in to help me.

“If you’re given a managerial job and you’ve got arguably the most successful manager in football history beside you, who’s totally humble, supportive, appreciative and a fantastic help, then you’ve given yourself a bit of a chance.”

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The documentary is narrated by ITV Sport’s Clive Tyldesley, at the time a familiar voice to any Liverpool fan who had to get their LFC fix through the radio, in his case the local commercial station Radio City. For many a young Reds fan he was the voice that described the scenes over what sounded like a telephone line from distant places across Europe as the Reds marched through the continent picking up their first four European Cups. As this documentary explains, those days were now gone and would be for quite some time to come.

Entitled ‘Double Winners ’86 – On The March With Kenny’s Army’, the show is to be released exclusively to LFCTV GO subscribers today, Tuesday 31st May, reliving what still remains one of Liverpool FC’s greatest ever achievements.

The dramatic story of the Reds “forgotten season” is told with the help of extensive archive footage, some of which has rarely been seen due to the 1985 television dispute that kept all Football League and FA Cup matches from television screens until the start of January 1986.

“It was a fairy-tale season for us,” said Dalglish. “It’s unbelievable to consider the amount of success that the football club had enjoyed but they had never won the double.

“It was a fantastic achievement. It doesn’t get any better.”

The documentary will be available to view for current LFCTV GO subscribers from 31st May 2016 at 2pm BST.

Fans can access exclusive official LFC content on LFCTV GO, whether that’s the latest interview from a first team player, the manager or behind-the-scenes access to the Club’s backroom activities, plus full match replays and exclusive live coverage of U21, U18 and Ladies matches through. For details and to subscribe to LFCTV GO, visit: www.liverpoolfc.com/watch.

Liverpool to play four friendlies across the north of England

Liverpool confirmed earlier this week that they will be playing in a big friendly game against Barcelona in August at Wembley and today added four more dates to the pre-season calendar for games that are certainly not going to be quite as high profile.

 

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With construction work continuing on the rebuilt Main Stand there is no chance of the club playing any home friendlies this summer.

The four UK matches are to be held across the north of England, starting very locally across the water at Tranmere Rovers on 8th July. Five days later they head north to the seaside town of Fleetwood before a game around twenty miles from Anfield against former Premier League side Wigan Athletic who have just secured promotion to the Championship after a season in League One.

The final game announced today takes place in Yorkshire, the Reds playing Huddersfield Town on July 20th.

The full fixture list is:

 

  • Tranmere Rovers v LFC, Friday 8 July, Kick-off 7pm BST
  • Fleetwood Town v LFC, Wednesday 13 July, Kick-off 7pm BST
  • Wigan Athletic v LFC, Sunday 17 July, Kick-off 4pm BST
  • Huddersfield Town v LFC, Wednesday 20 July, Kick-off 7.45pm BST

The club will then continue their pre-season preparations Stateside with two International Champions Cup games on the West Coast of the US against Chelsea (July 28th) and AC Milan (July 31st), before rounding it all off with that game against Barcelona in London on August 6th.

The new Premier League season begins a week later.

The club say that tickets for the pre-season friendlies in the UK will soon be on sale and asks fans to keep checking www.liverpoolfc.com/tickets/tickets-availability for latest news.

 

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LFC former players set to honour more Liverpool greats

The 2016 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association Gala Awards Dinner takes place early next month in Liverpool city centre

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Reds legends past and present will be in attendance at the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool on May 9th as the 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association hold their annual Gala Dinner, raising funds for charity whilst paying tribute to some of LFC’s most decorated and celebrated players.

Every year the event sees the club’s former players select their Player of the Season as well as picking new entrants to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Much like the Association’s annual Christmas dinner, the event is well supported by players and staff from the club. Brendan Rodgers attended the dinner when he was manager and handed out awards, whilst current boss Jürgen Klopp surprised the attendees at the Christmas event when he made an unannounced appearance – despite it falling on a day where he was busy not only with training sessions ahead of a game but also his press and media duties.

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Last season’s Awards Dinner was attended by members of the first team including Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Simon Mignolet, with Olympic medallist Beth Tweddle and comedian John Bishop amongst the guests on previous occasions. Fans are also invited to the event, which also raises funds for charity.

Gerrard’s attendance in 2015 was one of his last public appearances whilst still officially a Liverpool player and the former players wanted to mark the end of his amazing career by presenting him with a special honour. Handed over by the chairman of the 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association, John Aldridge, the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone Award’ was in recognition of everything Gerrard did in that Red shirt over all those years. In many ways it served as a welcome gift to Steven as he joined the distinguished ranks of sportsmen who can proudly refer to themselves as former Liverpool players.

Similar thoughts were in the minds of the ex-players back in 2013 when another recent legend was about to bid farewell to the club he’d been at since childhood. Jamie Carragher was set to embark on what we now know turned out to be a very successful career working as an analyst for Sky Sports, but he must have felt quite reassured at the reception he got from the Legends he would soon be joining as a former player.

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Carragher was inducted into the Liverpool FC Hall of Fame, picked for the honour by the ex-players, and went in as a representative for the decade starting in the year 2000.

This year will be the fourth in succession that the Legends pick out someone who made a difference in each decade from the sixties onwards.

The Hall of Fame entrants for the 1960s so far are Ron Yeats, Ian Callaghan and Ian St John, with Phil Thompson, Phil Neal and Chris Lawler honoured to represent the 1970s.

Ian Rush, John Barnes and Alan Kennedy represent the 1980s Liverpool era with Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Jan Molby recognised for their efforts in the 1990s.

Completing the Hall of Fame are Jamie Carragher, as mentioned, along with fellow heroes of Istanbul Didi Hamann and Steven Gerrard.

The medal haul of all those legends is phenomenal.

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Next month’s dinner will see the fourth set of entrants in the Hall of Fame but the former players are keeping their identities a very closely-guarded secret, even from those they have actually picked.

As Alan Kennedy said last year, after finding himself with a place for the 1980s, the honour was a huge surprise: “I’m on the committee!” he said. “They’ve gone behind my back – I was waiting for Alan Hansen to come in!”

The event helps 5Times in its quest to raise funds for charities close to the player’s hearts and forms part of a number of initiatives involving the former players over the course of each year. 257211_109195139288452_1050469571_oBy holding events like the Gala Dinner and by taking former players all around the world the Former Players Association keeps the Legends in touch with the fans and helps numerous good causes.

5Times Liverpool Former Players Association have taken players as far away as Australia and the West Coast of the USA as well as embarking on regular trips all over the UK and Ireland. It’s not just about formal dinners, the 5Times stage shows that have toured the world have all been priced at an affordable level meaning fans who lives miles away from Liverpool and who can otherwise only dream of meeting their heroes are given a real chance to get close to the Legends who made all those great stories happen.

All the 5Times events include auctions and raffles for special, rare and often unique prizes and help boost the funds raised for good causes.

When current boss Jürgen Klopp made that unexpected appearance at the last Christmas dinner he also gave the fundraising a massive boost. When he arrived he was asked to sign a Liverpool shirt which of course he gladly did. When this went up for auction he was taken aback at the fact it attracted a very generous bid of £1000.

klopp-with-robbie-and-aldo“Why don’t I sign some more?!” he asked – and so another four shirts were quickly rounded up for the manager to sign – and every single one raised another four-figure sum.

This year’s event is being held in honour of Liverpool’s ‘three lions’, the trio that represented England in their victorious 1966 World Cup campaign 50 years ago – Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan and the sadly recently departed Gerry Byrne.

When last year’s 1960s entrant into the Hall of Fame, Ian St John, collected his honour he humbly pointed to the quality of the teammates he had back then, not only Hunt, Callaghan and Byrne but also the likes of Tommy Lawrence, Ron Yeats, Peter Thompson and Tommy Smith. It was a squad became the blueprint for Liverpool teams for decades to come: “It was a fantastic team which set out how Liverpool would be for the next 50 years,” the Saint said.

“I was fortunate to play with some great lads,” he added.

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Some of those players from the 1960s were of course still around into the 1970s and Chris Lawler recalled the difference it made that everyone understood each other’s way of playing: “We all knew each other’s play,” said Lawler last year. “I spent my wedding night with Tommy Smith, he kept me awake with his snoring!” he laughed.

The players also select a Player of the Season each year and no explanation is needed as to why the winner of the 2013 and 2014 awards was selected, just to mention his name will suffice – Luis Suarez.

Last season was a difficult campaign for Liverpool and the former players would have had a tough job selecting a player of the season for a campaign most fans wanted to forget. They did pick one, Simon Mignolet, and although that might have surprised a few people the Legends felt they had good reason to pick him based on his turnaround – from the first half of the season where he was eventually dropped after much criticism to a second half where he kept numerous clean sheets.

One Legend said afterwards: “As former players judging these awards through a player’s eyes we appreciate how much of an achievement it is to go through some very tough times and to come back. Mignolet has been brilliant this second half of the season.”

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Like the new entrants into the Hall of Fame, the former players are keeping the identity of their Player of the Season close to their chests but as Liverpool settle into a new era under a new manager they will have no shortage of candidates. Candidates who one day might just find themselves being referred to as Legends just like their predecessors.

Join the former players and their surprise guests at this year’s Gala Awards Dinner at the Hilton in Liverpool on May 9th. Tickets can be purchased through the 5Times Liverpool Former Players Association website at 5times.co.uk/dinner.

 

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Opinion: Stop thinking about money and start thinking about cups

Football in England is growing increasingly obsessed with the importance of finishing in the top four – but not for the right reasons, argues Jim Boardman.

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Liverpool take on Manchester United at Anfield tonight as the two sides meet for the first time ever in Europe. The prize on offer over the two legs – the return is in a week, on St Patrick’s Day, at their place – is a spot in the last eight of the Europa League.

Yes, the Europa League. The competition derided so long as the inferior sibling of the big-bucks Champions League, a competition billed as an inconvenience by fans, pundits, players and managers alike. It’s like the League Cup of Europe, a tournament looked down upon by snobbish supporters with blinkered eyes focussed on bigger prizes, snobs who see these trophies as pieces of tat and consider the whole idea of being involved to be beneath them.

How many of them then complain that football is losing its soul, that players are being paid too much, ticket prices are too high, club owners are out of touch, that the atmosphere inside the grounds has become sterile?

 

Before it was called the Champions League, you had to actually be a champion to take part in Europe’s main club competition, either the champions of your own domestic league or the Champions of Europe. Nowadays countries like England get four places – a fifth of their top flight – in what we used to call the European Cup. How many of them set out at the beginning thinking they could actually win the thing? How many of them are just happy to be playing in UEFA’s posher, more lucrative, tournament?

How often do you hear people talk about the importance of finishing in the top four?

How often do they say it’s important because it then means they are in with a chance of winning the European Cup next year?

It’s never important for that reason is it? It’s only ever important because of the financial benefits of finishing in the top four.

You’d be forgiven for thinking nobody wants to be in the Champions League to win it these days. They are in it for the money, the money that makes their club’s owners, managers and players richer but doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to how much it costs them to pay on the door to get in and see it. At least that’s how it seems.

It’s not just the money, of course, it also gives them the chance to see some of the world’s best players visit their ground. It’s like a series of exhibition matches because nobody really seems all that bothered about ending another season without that famous trophy in their hands.

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Meanwhile the Europa League is seen as some kind of penance that has to be served for not finishing high enough on the league for one of those ‘lucrative Champions League places’.

Now, all of a sudden, people are talking about the Europa League being a competition worth winning. Is it for the chance to lift a trophy, once known simply as the UEFA Cup, that has been lifted by so many illustrious sides down the years?

No, it’s because you get a place in that ‘lucrative Champions League’.

Luis Van Gaal, Manchester United’s current manager, said: “United and Liverpool is always a big game. It’s historical and even bigger now because both teams are fighting for a Champions League place.” Or fighting for the chance to see their captain lift that trophy? No? He probably didn’t get asked that, to be fair.

Klopp, who says “It’s a great tournament,” found himself answering questions about his priorities and whether this was an easier route to one of those lucrative Champions League places than trying to get into the top four. “We will try to keep focused on the games rather than working out the best way into the Champions League,” he said.

“Now you can see the finish line in this tournament there are only good teams left,” he added.

“It’s something like a small version of the Champions League in its own right.”

Exactly, Jürgen. It’s a tournament in its own right with its own lump of silver at the end. At least someone is looking at it that way.

Tonight, at Anfield, Liverpool take on Manchester United for the chance to make it into the last eight of the Europa League, which would be one step away from the semi-finals, another step to the final and the chance to lift a trophy that remains iconic, regardless of how much effort is being put into making it little more than a token exchangeable for money and exhibition games next season.

There’s a reason why fans don’t have songs about finishing in the top four or the money their clubs will make for playing in a particular tournament. If money finally does win in football there won’t be any songs at all, unless they’re piped in, the customers will expect to be entertained, not to be part of the entertainment themselves.

The Europa League is still a pot worth winning, it shouldn’t take a Liverpool v Manchester United fixture to show that.

Liverpool to face Manchester United in Europa League last 16

Europa League Draw sees two old enemies pitted against other for the first time in Europe.

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Liverpool must overcome arch rivals Manchester United if they are to progress all the way to Basel for this year’s Europa League Cup final.

The draw was made this lunchtime for the last 16 and ended with the two north west giants drawn against each other. The two sides have had some memorable battles down the year but surprisingly never before in a European competition.

The last 16 is unseeded and is also the first stage of the Europa League where country protection doesn’t apply.

Liverpool have won the competition, formerly known as the UEFA Cup, three times, putting them one behind record holders Sevilla. Manchester United are yet to win it.

Both clubs would, of course, prefer to be competing in the more prestigious Champions League, which Liverpool have won five times to United’s three, but these days UEFA’s secondary competition offers its own route into their premier tournament.

Liverpool qualified thanks to an early James Milner penalty last night against Augsburg, the only goal of the whole tie putting the Reds through 1-0 on aggregate.

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Whilst Klopp’s new look Liverpool were unable to find the net from open play against the Germans in either game they found it six times in their last match against English opposition, the 6-0 hammering of Aston Villa a fortnight ago in the Premier League. That result, with six different LFC scorers, suggests there is plenty of firepower there for Liverpool if they can just gel.

At times against Augsburg it felt like there was just one pass too many when a shot might have been the better option and at times the players just unable to anticipate what their teammate would do next. All issues that can be improved with time together on the field.

Next up for Liverpool is the first of two games against Manchester United’s neighbours City. A Premier League clash at Anfield on Wednesday awaits, but first it’s a trip to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final and an opportunity for Klopp to pick up his first silverware as Reds boss. It would also be the Anfield side’s first trophy in four years. That was also the League Cup, when Kenny Dalglish was at the helm.

The first leg of the Europa League clash with United takes place in just ten days’ time at Anfield on March 10th, kick-off 8:05pm. The return leg is at Old Trafford a week later on March 17th with an early 6pm start.

Europa League Round of 16 draw in full:

Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v Anderlecht (BEL)
Basel (SUI) v Sevilla (ESP, holders)
Villarreal (ESP) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Athletic Club (ESP) v Valencia (ESP)
Liverpool (ENG) v Manchester United (ENG)
Sparta Praha (CZE) v Lazio (ITA)
Borussia Dortmund (GER) v Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
Fenerbahçe (TUR) v Braga (POR)

 

FSG make full u-turn on LFC ticket prices – and issue an apology

Boston-based Fenway Sports Group, owners of Liverpool Football Club, openly apologise to fans and admit they got it very badly wrong on ticket prices, not only reverting the changes announced last week but also announcing a series of further positive changes to their ticket pricing policies. A victory for common sense and the ‘normal’ fan.

Black flags were flown on the Kop in place of the usual see of Red and White. After 77 minutes over a quarter of the fans walked out.

Black flags were flown on the Kop in place of the usual sea of Red and White. After 77 minutes over a quarter of the fans walked out.

 

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group tonight apologised to Reds supporters for the distress they admit they caused to the club’s fans when the club announced massive price hikes to ticket prices for next season. In an astonishing u-turn FSG have not only rescinded many of those price rises but have extended some of the more palatable offers they made at the same time.

When the announcement was made last that Anfield was to have general admission tickets going on sale for club record £77 in 2016-17 the anger was instantaneous from large pockets of the support. Fans groups announced that there would be a walk out on 77 minutes – a significant number both in LFC history and in terms of that ridiculous new ticket price – and cynics didn’t expect it to be taken up by very man fans or to make a big difference.

An estimated 10,000 fans left the stadium when the 77th minute arrived – after renditions of “Enough is enough” aimed at their club’s owners and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the team they had to heartbreakingly leave behind.

The shockwaves hit Boston.

Last week Ian Ayre put himself in front of the cameras to talk about the price rises in about as patronising a way as even he could manage, shortly after the club had made it clear reporters weren’t to ask manager Jurgen Klopp for his thoughts on the mess.

Today Ian Ayre was left out of it, today it was head office on the US East Coast that wanted to do the explaining – and the apologising, and the massive attempt to put things right.

It was Fenway Sports Group themselves who said sorry and explained what they had decided to do to replace last week’s awful plans. The three men listed on the club’s official site as having at least a 10% share in the ownership of the club, Principal Owner John W Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and President Mike Gordon, sent the message to the club’s fans.

Their statement was released on the club’s official website and is reproduced in full here:

Dear Liverpool supporters,

 

It has been a tumultuous week. On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club, we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season.

 

The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense. Quite the opposite is true.

 

From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football. In the world of modern football, growing the club in a sustainable way is essential to realising this objective.

To that end, we have never taken a single penny out of the football club. Instead we have injected vast sums of our own money to improve the playing squad and modernise LFC’s infrastructure – exemplified by the £120million advance from FSG to build the new Main Stand. This massive undertaking was made in order to provide more supporters access to Anfield and also to produce additional revenue to help us compete financially with clubs that have greater resources. When it opens in August this year, the stand will accomplish those goals, thereby fulfilling a promise we made upon acquiring LFC in 2010.

 

We were strongly engaged in the process to develop the ticketing plan for 2016-17. We met directly with representatives of LFC’s Supporters’ Committee and along with LFC management, wholeheartedly agreed with major concerns raised, notably: access for local and young supporters; engagement and access to Anfield for local children; access to Premier League matches for those in Liverpool most challenged by affordability.

 

We believe the plan successfully addressed these concerns and are disappointed that these elements have been either lost or, worse, characterised as cynical attempts to mask profiteering in the plan as a whole. Rather, we prefer to look at them as the parts of the ticketing plan we got right.

 

On the other hand, part of the ticketing plan we got wrong.

 

In addition to the other elements of the plan we proposed price increases on a number of tickets. These pricing actions generated growth in general admission ticketing revenue on a like-for-like basis exclusive of revenue from newly-added GA seats.

 

We believed by delivering a vastly improved seat offering in what will be the newest stand in English football, concentrating the price increases on those tickets typically purchased by fans least sensitive to affordability, and for LFC to begin repaying the £120million advance from FSG for the new Main Stand that these increases were supportable even in the context of growth in revenues from the new Premier League TV deal.

 

However, the widespread opposition to this element of the plan has made it clear that we were mistaken.

 

A great many of you have objected strongly to the £77 price level of our most expensive GA seats and expressed a clear expectation that the club should forego any increased revenue from raising prices on GA tickets in the current environment.

 

Message received.

 

After an intense period of consultation with LFC management we have decided to make major revisions to our ticketing structure for 2016-17:

 

  • Removal of game categorisation – regardless of the opposition fans will pay the same price for matchday tickets.
  • The pricing of tickets will be readjusted to result in zero revenue growth from GA ticketing on a like-for-like basis.
  • Though individual ticket prices may move marginally from this season, we are freezing our 2016-17 GA ticket revenue at the 2015-16 level exclusive of newly-added seats in the new Main Stand.
  • The price of our highest general admission ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £59.
  • The price of our highest season ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £869. The lowest price reducing a further £25 from the 2015-16 level to £685, as well as all other tiers being frozen or reduced.
  • £9 GA seats will be offered for each and every Premier League match, an allocation of more than 10,000 tickets across the season.

We would hasten to add that the other initiatives announced last week in the 2016-17 plan will remain:

 

  • 17-21 young adult concession – 20,000 tickets across the Premier League season available at a 50 per cent reduction for young people.
  • 1,000 tickets to Premier League matches across the season will be given away free of charge to Liverpool schoolchildren based on merit, as recommended by their teachers.

As a sign of our commitment to this improved ticketing structure, we are further announcing that this plan shall be in effect for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. For the next two seasons, LFC will not earn a single additional pound from increasing general admission ticket prices.

 

We believe we have demonstrated a willingness to listen carefully, reconsider our position, and act decisively. The unique and sacred relationship between Liverpool Football Club and its supporters has always been foremost in our minds. It represents the heartbeat of this extraordinary football club.

 

More than any other factor by far, that bond is what drives us to work tirelessly on behalf of the club and its future. We have great conviction in our world-class manager and our young, talented squad and know that in time the on-pitch success we all crave will be realised.

 

We look forward to sharing in that success with you.

 

John W Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon

The club also released updated detailed pricing information for next season:

2016-17 ticketing information, Liverpool Football Club.

Now if they could just see their way fit to addressing the problems with player recruitment….

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COMPETITION: Win 2 tickets to LFC v WBA at Anfield

Fancy seeing a match at Anfield? Enter our competition and you and a friend could be at the game this weekend.

It’s back to the Premier League again on Sunday at Anfield as Liverpool play host to West Brom – and you could be there.

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The Reds will be looking to put last Sunday’s defeat away to Newcastle behind them and get back to winning ways in the league.

With a number of players rested for the trip to Sion – Liverpool of course already through to the Europa League group stages – Jurgen Klopp’s side will be raring to go and will need the crowd behind them.

This is your chance to be part of that crowd!

If you’ve already got a ticket why not enter anyway? If you win you could always help a mate out!

Entry is free and all you have to do is answer the very easy question (there’s even a clue on this page), add your details and send it to us.

Competition closes at 5pm GMT Friday 11th December 2016. Terms and conditions apply, which you must accept to enter the competition.

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Pics: Anfield Road

Will Firmino help Liverpool to banish the gloom of last season?

Liverpool announced the signing of Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim this morning, subject to a medical, in a deal that reports say could cost the Reds up to £29m. Does his arrival signal a return to what was so good about 2013-14?

This is one of times in Liverpool’s history where fans are at loggerheads with each other, arguing amongst themselves about who is to blame for all that is wrong with the club. Blame is thrown at the manager, the owners, the transfer committee, the medical staff, individual players and even supporters in an attempt to work out how on earth to stop the rot that set in last season. At least fans do seem to be in agreement on something – LFC couldn’t carry on as they were and something had to change this summer. Today Liverpool announced a £29m signing, an attacking player, in an attempt to address arguably the most glaring problem of this depressing last year or so.

At least Liverpool did announce it. Fans got to learn about the sackings of Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, Brendan Rodgers’ assistant and first team coach, through the press and still await official confirmation of the decisions. News that one of the vacant posts would see the promotion of Pepijn Lijnders from his existing role as coach for the U16s is also yet to be confirmed by the club, who continue to look for someone to fill the assistant’s role.

Announcing today’s signing, the club said:

“Liverpool Football Club are delighted to announce the signing of Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim, subject to a medical which will take place immediately following the player’s participation in Copa America 2015 for Brazil.

“The 23-year-old has agreed a long-term contract with the club.”

 

That announcement followed a string of announcements of deals that fed the cynical and pessimistic side of the Reds support, including free transfers and new contracts for youngsters. Finally there was something to really shout about, even if only in money terms, although given it’s not even July yet the problem of transfer window impatience seems to be getting worse year on year.

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89% of fans who voted in a poll on this site said they felt it was time for Brendan Rodgers to go, a figure that will probably drop as the new season draws closer and fans try to wipe the slate clean. The problem is that for many of those 89% it won’t take much to conjure up memories of dismal days last season like the FA Cup semi-final, the visit of Manchester United or that final day trip to Stoke and with them their calls for him to step down or be sacked.

Not that any of those fans want to go through any more depressing days or miserable months, despite what Rodgers’ most infatuated supporters might claim. If all the changes being made this summer lead to the same kind of buzz that surrounded the team for most of the second half of the 2013-14 season then those more gloomy more recent memories will fade fast.

This is where Robert Firmino comes in, but Liverpool – and in particular Brendan Rodgers – really need to be careful about that. His price tag is a hefty enough weight to carry on his young shoulders, weigh them down that bit more with the kind of expectations that were placed on “the return to full fitness of Daniel Sturridge” and he might just be beaten before he even gets off a plane in England.

Even without the gift of hindsight it was obvious that Liverpool had done nowhere near enough to address not only the loss of Luis Suarez last summer but also the pressure on the fitness of other players that the addition of a clump of extra high-profile fixtures brings.

Daniel Sturridge had a history of injury problems – admittedly not as bad as last season’s turned out to be – and was out of action before Liverpool even got near their first Champions League game, meaning that Brendan Rodgers and his backers spent much of the first half of the season telling everyone not to panic, that it wasn’t surprising that Liverpool were struggling with both their previous season’s top scorers out of the picture and that all would be well as soon as Daniel was fit again. No mention of the fact £75m came in from the sale of Suarez, most of which was not used on replacement forwards, no mention of the fact that Sturridge would never have got through a whole season playing twice a week with the kind of intensity expected of him.

To this day it’s difficult to fathom what kind of decision making went on to allow such a situation to develop and it seems that, so far, nobody involved in those decisions has been blamed for them. Maybe they were given one last chance – here’s hoping that’s true and they aren’t rewarded for failure again, but more importantly here’s hoping they intend to take that chance with both hands.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty just how good Firmino will be for the Reds, and most people talking about him disagree on what his position is, with midfielder, forward and striker all words used to describe him. He’s said to be a number 10 who can also play up front on his own and based on that description it’s easy to picture him as someone who could maybe resurrect something like the Suarez role. That’s not to say he’s the new Suarez, just to say that prior to the Uruguayan’s final season at Anfield many fans and pundits alike were saying that Suarez wasn’t a centre-forward, he was as much creator as goalscorer and perhaps that’s what Firmino has been bought for, rather than as the source of most of next season’s goals.

That’s where expectation comes in again. Instead of trying to manage fans’ expectations down to a level where they think Europa League qualification is an amazing achievement, the club perhaps need to make sure Roberto isn’t expected to make Champions League qualification a certainty all by himself. It would be amazing if he did, and Champions League qualification will be a minimum expectation for many, but if Liverpool do get top four we should be able to share the credit around.

It might take time for Firmino to settle into English football, just like it might take time for Danny Ings to adjust to life at a much bigger club than the one he’s just left. James Milner will bring some much-needed experience – but he isn’t Steven Gerrard in his prime and can’t be expected to lead a disjointed and uninterested squad very much further than the sixth place it was probably lucky to get as high as last season. Dejan Lovren has to improve, Mamadou Sakho has to play more and something needs to be done about the full-backs and fast so that the goalkeeper can go into the new season full of confidence and trusting those around him.

All of this needs to happen within the confines of systems the players are comfortable and confident to play in.

Patience and understanding will be vital in the early stages of this season – just at a time when patience and understanding is in very short supply having been used up so readily last season.

When the Sturridge excuse began to wear thin last season the transition excuse took over, one that hardly helps boost optimism for this coming campaign given how many more changes there will be to contend with.

Perhaps that’s where the changes to the coaching staff can be key. Staff who can work with individuals or smaller groups to get the best out of them might just be the difference that helps bring about another season like 2013-14 – or maybe one just a little bit better.

In fact rather than using transition as an excuse for a poor start that leads to more excuses about a poor continuation Liverpool need to use all of these changes, large and small, expected or unexpected, to turn themselves into a brand-new and deadly surprise package.

Firmino is just one part of that package, and whatever our realistic expectations might be or should be, it’s surprising what a bit of hope and belief can do for a side. Here’s hoping Firmino helps us to carry one where we left off a few games before the end of 2013-14.

We need excitement.

 

2015-16 fixtures: LFC start away to Stoke

It’s the time of year when tennis and cricket invade the back pages – when they can muscle football transfer rumours out of the way – but for one day only football has another weapon to assert itself as the sport more people care about: the release of the Barclays Premier League fixtures. So, how does Liverpool’s new season look?

Depending on how full or empty your half glass of water is Liverpool have got possibly the best – or worst – start to the 2015-16 season they could ask for. Brendan Rodgers has to take his Reds side straight back to the scene of last season’s final-day despair – Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium. In fact Liverpool’s first seven away games are about as tough as it’s possible for them to be.

It was on that very Britannia pitch that Steven Gerrard played his last game for Liverpool as the Reds went down to a pretty unforgivable 6-1 defeat against a Mark Hughes side that basically seemed to care a lot more than the visitors. Gerrard got Liverpool’s goal in one of the most embarrassing defeats Liverpool have suffered in decades.

But that was last season. The club have – according to reports, not according to anything helpful like an official statement – made some changes to the coaching staff with Rodgers losing both his No.2 Colin Pascoe and No.3 Mike Marsh. Rodgers stays, three free agents have been brought in and Liverpool are looking at spending a little bit of money on a couple of defenders. More transfer rumours will follow, of course, but today is more about fixtures.

When the fixtures are first released all the weekend games are down as 3pm Saturday kick-offs, but in the coming days the UK TV companies will be working out which games they want to show live as part of their expensive coverage of the League and many will be switched. For Liverpool there is another reason many games will be moved – the return of Europa League football on a Thursday night.

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Liverpool had asked if their first game, set for the weekend of August 8th, could be an away one to help them with the works still under way on the Main Stand refurbishment. The request has been met but, with Premier League ‘rules’ stating clubs can’t play both their first two games away or at home, it’s only bought the club a week. Liverpool’s first home game is a week later against newly-promoted Bournemouth.

Just a matter of weeks since the dismal end to that dismal last season fans can now start putting it all behind them and find that optimism that the sunshine always seems to bring. Could this be Liverpool’s year? We’ll see.

In the meantime, to help kick that optimism off, it’s time to ask those traditional mid-summer questions: When are the derbies, when do we play Manchester United, where are we over Christmas?

The derbies see Everton at home first, with the Goodison match played on October 3rd. The return fixture is planned for February 27.

Liverpool will be away first against Manchester United, heading to Old Trafford on September 12th, with the Anfield clash being played a week after the FA Cup 3rd Round on January 16th.

Sandwiched in between the FA Cup 3rd Round and the visit of Manchester United is another home game – against Arsenal. The Emirates game will be Liverpool’s third of the season, on August 22nd.

The festive period sees Liverpool at home to Leicester City on Boxing day, followed by a trip to the North East on December 28th to play Sunderland. The players get an extra day to recover from New Year’s Eve before playing West Ham, away, on January 2nd.

Liverpool have to play five sides who finished above them last season, of course, including champions Chelsea who they play on the 31st of October (Halloween) and March 12th. Manchester City – who seem favourites to sign Raheem Sterling from Liverpool – host Liverpool on November 21st and visit Anfield on March 1st.

The Reds in fact play away against all five of the sides who finished above them last season within their first seven away games, the other two trips being that clash with Stoke and the derby at Goodison. How many shopping days to Christmas again?

Jamie Carragher jokingly wondered if there had been any hand in the fixture list from Gary Neville, his Sky Sports colleague and one time nemesis.

The final game of the season is, like last season, another away trip for Liverpool, this time to West Brom on May 15th. Here’s hoping the Reds can pick the league title up in time to parade the trophy around Anfield a week before, for the last home game of the season on May 7th against new boys Watford.

Fixture list in full (official site) >>

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Images: Wikipedia / Ellisons Travel

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