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Topics - Gurdeep

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Alyson Rudd (The Times)

A perch. Liverpool. An expletive. These were what motivated Sir Alex Ferguson in his early years at Old Trafford. But to defeat your enemy, you need to know your enemy and Ferguson could see that at Anfield they had a boot room philosophy.

It was not perfect but it did produce the one British manager that makes you stop to wonder if Ferguson really is the most successful of all time. Bob Paisley, who won three European Cups in the space of five years, was the ultimate boot room success story. He played for Liverpool, he managed their reserves when his playing days ended, he acted as the club’s physio and became an assistant manager to Bill Shankly.

All that time he quietly soaked up the tricks of the trade and was probably the only man who could handle replacing his enigmatic predecessor.

Ferguson could not realistically keep a potential replacement in his own boot room for 26 years. By anointing David Moyes, he has done the next best thing. The Everton manager knows the United business plan having been involved in all manner of transfer deals with the club. He knows what you get with a United player and what kind of player United like to buy. He respects Ferguson and Ferguson clearly feels paternalistic about Moyes.

The manner in which Ferguson spoke dismissively about Wayne Rooney’s transfer request would have been odd had José Mourinho just been named United manager. But Ferguson gave the impression that what he thinks about the striker is what Moyes thinks about the striker who started at Everton. Heck, that is almost the same, now that Moyes is taking over, as Rooney starting out at Old Trafford with Moyes as his youth team coach.

“Your job now is to stand by our new manager,” Ferguson said out on the pitch on Sunday. Our new manager. Not, your new manager. In one fell swoop he created the illusion of a boot room appointment, of seamless transition, of inevitability, of a line of Scottish succession, of decency, of hope.

It can’t all be true of course. Moyes was not to be found carefully folding the shirts of Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the Champions League Final of 1999 nor listening in on the half time team talk. Neither was he at Wembley in 1996 to have a quiet word with Eric Cantona before he scored the winning FA Cup Final goal. Nor was he at Ferguson’s side for every league match since November 1986, seeing how United won, how they lost -and, as Ferguson said in his farewell speech, those defeats were instructive too.

Still, as City fans squirm at how little Roberto Mancini seems to know about anything political at their club, there is a pleasantly cosy sense of family values for United fans to coo over. The more cynical observer might, though, conclude that as taking over from Ferguson has been regarded as a poisoned chalice for the past 12 years, there is nothing remotely cosy going on.

United had to find someone who would both be flattered to be asked and unafraid of comparison, yet who commanded respect. The only possible solution was an internal appointment and so the club has created the illusion of finding one. Ferguson’s final act was a tribute to the Liverpool Way. It is a path strewn with pot holes now but in its prime it both taunted and inspired him.

Liverpool FC, football, sport / Comolli wanted more time.
« on: December 14, 2012, 10:01:19 AM »
Tony Barrett (The Times)

Damien Comolli has broken his silence over his dismissal by Liverpool with an admission that he remains “frustrated” and “annoyed” at the way his brief tenure as director of football was brought to an abrupt end.

Comolli was removed from his post in April, with Tom Werner, the Liverpool chairman, adamant that it was “time to act”, having determined that the Frenchman “was not the right person” to implement the strategy that the club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), had put in place.

Privately, FSG cited misgivings over Liverpool’s transfer policy under Comolli’s direction, with their chief accusation being that he had failed to achieve value for money in a number of transactions, most notably the £35 million deal that resulted in Andy Carroll moving to Liverpool from Newcastle United in January 2011.

Comolli, though, maintains that judgment was passed far too early and selectively, with insufficient time being given for Jordan Henderson, José Enrique, Stewart Downing and the like to prove their worth and not enough credit being given for signing Luis Suárez, from Ajax, in particular. Comolli recently won a wrongful dismissal case against Liverpool, having reluctantly taken his former employer to court. FSG flew Ed Weiss, its American-based general counsel, to Merseyside for the tribunal, but his costly trip did not prevent it from settling in Comolli’s favour.

But eight months after he was ousted, the 40-year-old’s sense of disappointment remains, not only as a result of the way he feels he was treated but also because of FSG’s decision to dispense with the services of Kenny Dalglish in May, despite the Scot guiding Liverpool to Carling Cup success and the FA Cup Final in his first full season as manager second time around.

“First of all you need to look at the big picture,” Comolli said. “We did 26 deals, and to think we would not make any mistakes in such a huge number of deals in and out would be totally unrealistic. I don’t think we made any mistakes on the players going out, and whether we made mistakes on the players who came in I think, first of all, time will tell.

“I am very uncomfortable for players to be judged after six, eight or even 12 months. Sometimes it takes two or three years. In two or three years you can say, ‘Damien and Kenny, you were wrong.’ Or you can say, ‘They just needed time.’

“I don’t know if my reputation has been damaged by what happened. I speak to people and they ask, ‘What about that deal?’ I explain and they say, ‘OK, I see where you’re coming from.’ ”

John W. Henry, Liverpool’s principal owner, has gone on record saying that the fee for Carroll was dependent on how much Chelsea paid for Fernando Torres, with Liverpool seeking a £15 million profit, which they secured, on the two transactions. But with Carroll spending this season on loan at West Ham United, having failed to live up to his transfer fee, it has put pressure on Comolli to justify the most expensive signing of his own career.

“If you want to talk about the Carroll deal, the situation was quite clear,” Comolli said. “The way we looked at it, we were selling two players, Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, and we were bringing two in, Luis Suárez and Carroll, and we were making a profit and the wage bill was coming down as well. It was a four-player deal.

“Chelsea kept bidding higher and higher [for Torres], until we got to a point where the difference between their first and final bid was double. They [FSG] asked me what the risks were and I said that if things don’t go well you’ll lose something on Andy, but it is difficult to measure whether you will make money if things go well because Liverpool aren’t a selling club and he could be here for ten years.

“They asked Kenny and myself if we were happy to do the deal. We said ‘yes’ and they said they were happy to take the risk because Fernando had to go.”

Comolli missed Carroll’s most significant contribution as a Liverpool player because of his decision to fly home to France two days after losing his job. Instead of being at Wembley for the all-Merseyside FA Cup semi-final against Everton, Comolli was on a flight to Nice and was not even aware that Carroll had scored the game’s decisive goal until he landed and turned on his mobile phone.

“I made sure I took off when Liverpool kicked off in the FA Cup semi-final versus Everton — I couldn’t watch that,” he said. “I landed in Nice, saw the texts that they had won. I saw Andy had scored the winner. I thought, ‘We know he is a good player, but we will see where he is in a few years.’ It’s not one game — good or bad — that would let me think we were right or wrong. You have to look over the length of their career.”

Even as Liverpool were celebrating at Wembley, Dalglish’s future as manager was in doubt, with FSG’s dissatisfaction over a struggle for goals leading to questions being asked of their manager’s ability to take the club forward.

“I went to Florida in March to stay at John Henry’s house for three days,” Comolli said. “They weren’t happy about the fact that we were not scoring enough goals. They thought we were not playing enough positive football, so we had a discussion about that.

“Tom Werner said, ‘Do you think Kenny is the right person?’ I said, ‘Definitely.’ John Henry agreed with me. Kenny deserved longer and I told that to the owners many times. I never felt it [sacking him] was the right thing.”

The plans that Comolli and Dalglish had for this season — Shinji Kagawa, Olivier Giroud and Demba Ba are understood to have been their main transfer targets as they sought greater firepower — did not come to fruition and Comolli regards that as a missed opportunity, particularly given the progress he feels had been made.

“We had three players lined up,” he said. “One player who could play attacking midfield and on the right, with a very good scoring record, and we had two strikers. It was up to us to pick one. We knew where we were looking. The big turning point was the game against Arsenal the week after we won the Carling Cup. If we could win, anything would be possible. We missed a penalty and lost in injury time.

“But you were still looking at progress. Look at the academy. We signed fantastic young players, the owners said it was what they wanted, but I kept saying that it was a five-year plan.

“Getting a trophy in year one, getting to the FA Cup Final, I think financially we were in a very good position. We managed to lower the wage bill a lot. The owners were delighted with that. I still struggle to watch Liverpool. I’m p***ed off, frustrated and annoyed because there is unfinished business.”

Comolli has had job offers since his 17-month stay at Liverpool, but he awaits an opportunity that suits him and he believes that his future lies in the Barclays Premier League, which he expects to go from strength to strength in the coming years.

“When you look at the economic situation that the leagues in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Holland are in, it is very tough,” he said. “With the new TV deal, the Premier League will take off and leave everyone behind, except maybe Germany. The future is here.

“I’m not talking about money for myself. I’m talking about the ability to run the club, scout good players, have good facilities and being able to sign good players thanks to those resources. I’ve been talking to clubs in different countries, but staying in the Premier League would be ideal.”

Striking differences of opinion at Liverpool

 Comolli on Luis Suárez “Suárez is an incredible player. Suárez is in a group of players behind Messi and Ronaldo. If you take those two out of the frame and then consider how much we could have got for him then he is in that second group of players. He is a top player, a top person. It is rare to see someone who creates as much as he does and scores as many as he does. When we signed him I said he is a 15 to 18-goals-a-season player in the Premier League, but then he will give you so much more in terms of what he creates.”

Comolli on the partnership that never was — Suárez and Torres “If you look at the stats, Luis scored 41 in 44 games with Ajax before we bought him. I knew that was not going to happen in England with anybody. We never saw him as a finisher who would replace Fernando. I kept saying to Fernando ‘stay here, we are signing a very good player who is going to play with you,’ but he said he was going anyway. I said ‘you want more support, we are bringing a top player who will create for you’ but it didn’t matter. But we signed him to play with Fernando and I would have loved to have seen those two play together.”

Comolli on Jordan Henderson “I am convinced with what Jordan Henderson has done at Sunderland, with the under-21s and also at training there is so much more to come from him. He has so much ability. Time will tell. I am comfortable with Jordan all the way.”

Signings of the times

Luis Suárez From: Ajax, January 2011. Cost: £23.5m. Now: Leading scorer. Success? Never far from controversy, but his ability, his spirit and, this season, his scoring record make £23.5 million look a bargain

Andy Carroll From: Newcastle United. Cost: £35m. Now: West Ham United, on loan. Success? Could yet prove to be a top-class forward, but his time at Anfield seems over

Jordan Henderson From: Sunderland. Cost: £14 million. Now: Liverpool, mainly used as a substitute. Success? Chosen ahead of Mario Götze, the Borussia Dortmund playmaker, he is slowly forcing his way back into contention

Charlie Adam From: Blackpool. Cost: £9m. Now: Joined Stoke City for £4 million. Success? Lasted a year. Neither most disappointing nor most expensive of the errors

Stewart Downing From: Aston Villa. Cost: £20 million. Now: Liverpool’s reserve left back. Success? As the fourth-most expensive player in the club’s history, he has been a failure

José Enrique From: Newcastle United. Cost: £5m. Now: Still at Anfield. Success? Started well, tailed off alarmingly, and is now rediscovering his form under Brendan Rodgers

Sebastián Coates From: Nacional, Uruguay. Cost: £7 million. Now: Liverpool’s fourth-choice centre half. Success? Coates may develop into the player he promised to be, but his career has stalled on Merseyside

Think things are bad at Liverpool now? They were worse a little more than three years ago. The club was mired in penury, relations between the manager’s office and the boardroom had broken down completely and Anfield was in a state of open revolt against its American owners.

Liverpool also happened to be ranked, according to Uefa, as the best team in Europe. Over the previous five years, Rafael Benítez’s side had conquered each one of the continent’s most prestigious citadels, winning in San Siro, the Nou Camp and the Bernabéu. They had welcomed all of Europe’s superpowers to Anfield, and beaten each one. They had won one Champions League, and reached the final of another.

In his first memoir, Champions League Dreams, released on Thursday, the Spaniard offers an insight into the key factors that helped him mastermind those victories, the wins that turned this troubled club into the kings of Europe.

Research Stretching several metres across the wall on the right-hand side of my Melwood office stood shelves and shelves of DVDs. Hundreds upon hundreds of hours of footage, all neatly categorised, organised and numbered so that, after consulting a database on my computer, I could find any film I needed quickly and easily. Aside from my coaching staff, this was my most valuable resource as I attempted to prepare Liverpool’s players during the season: not just a record of all the games I had managed and training sessions I had overseen in my career, but an extensive library of football around the world.

Some of the DVDs contain recordings of games from my days as a youth coach at Real Madrid’s Castilla side. Some of them have footage from Tenerife and Extremadura, and I have film of all of my games at Valencia, too. There are plenty which have been compiled on opponents, on specific players we will have to face and on others who we might like to sign.

Then there are the discs which contain games from leagues from every corner of the globe, not just matches in Spain and Italy, but across Europe, from South America and from Africa too.

There are DVDs that have been prepared with specific players in mind, to showcase a certain aspect of the game. There were some prepared for Jamie Carragher, for example, on how my side at Valencia defended. We would show our players certain clips from other teams to illustrate how we wanted them to play, what we wanted them to do. In later years, as the ideas the coaching staff had introduced sank in and we improved, more and more of the clips we used were not of other teams, but of Liverpool. Seeing themselves excelling in action often gave players more confidence, more motivation, and a clearer idea of their responsibilities and role.

Training Our season-long training schedule is broken up into micro-cycles of a week, or perhaps 15 days, each one with a specific aim, depending on the time of season: early on, maybe, we will target training to build up stamina, while perhaps later in the campaign our emphasis is on recuperation, or retaining possession, or a technical aspect of the game, such as refining our counter-attacks or honing our patterns of play. Sometimes we plan sessions that present the players with problems they have not encountered before, while at others we try to perfect things we have already worked on.

A typical training session would contain four or five different exercises, each of them lasting around 15 minutes. Take, for example, a morning designed to improve our finishing. We would start with a small-sided possession game, perhaps two against two, keeping the ball away from the players in the middle. Then we would move on to a shooting exercise in small goals, perhaps two players against one defender.

Then perhaps a larger version: three on three, maybe, before finishing off with a game of five-a-side. That could be one touch, two touches or “all-in”, if we are encouraging them to improve their dribbling skills.

Those games are not just a chance to have fun. Often, we would set the teams involved scenarios: one side is a goal up with five minutes to go, say, or both sets of players can only score goals with one touch. If we finish the session with a game of 10 against 10, on a full pitch, perhaps the situation can be more specific: it is the final of the Champions League, one team is leading by a goal to nil with 10 minutes left. What do you do?

It is crucial that as many players as possible are involved at any one time. Most of our sessions are designed for 16, 18 or 20 players, with each one taking a turn before standing aside for someone else, briefly catching their breath, and then going through the exercise again. It is not ideal to have lots of players standing and watching. It is best for them to be enjoying themselves, learning, practising and playing.

Tactics At the centre of our plan for our away leg against Juventus in 2005 was Xabi Alonso. He had not played since January 1, spending three arduous months recovering from his broken ankle. We knew, though, that we would need him in Turin.

We had targeted this game for his return as soon as we had progressed against Leverkusen in the previous round. He had slowly, steadily, stepped up his recuperation, but he would still be short of match fitness, more fragile than we would like. We would require a system to protect him.

Rather than play in our usual 4-2-3-1 formation, I decided to switch to three central defenders — Carra [Jamie Carragher], [Sami] Hyypia and [Djimi] Traoré — with Steve Finnan and John-Arne Riise deployed as wing backs. In the middle, Xabi would play deep, with Igor Biscan and Antonio Nuñez acting almost as bodyguards, doing the running that he simply was not fit enough to do.

It was imperative, too, that we did not sit too deep. Even on nights like that, when keeping a clean sheet to protect your 2-1 aggregate lead is all you need to do to ensure qualification, I would never encourage my team to sit back, to drop right to the edge of our box. If you play deep, you will make a mistake. My idea is always, always, to push out, to get the ball as far from our goal as possible.

That was our idea, but we had one more trick up our sleeves.

Instead of instructing the team to line up in our specially-designed formation, I told them to play for the first two minutes in the 4-2-3-1 that Fabio Capello and the rest of Juventus’s coaching staff would probably have been expecting.

Only after the game was underway would we move, organically, into the 3-5-1-1. It is a little trick that, sometimes, managers use. Often, if your opponents see you start the game in a different way to the one they had anticipated, they will react, adapting their own system to counteract yours. That is the manager’s job, of course, to change his approach depending on circumstances. If you change after a few minutes, it can look more natural. Sometimes, your rivals will not alter a thing.

Know your opponents When we played Barcelona in 2007, it was not simply a matter of doing anything we could to stop Lionel Messi. We were just as concerned with how to cope with Ronaldinho. The Brazilian played on the left wing, nominally, but would drift inside, occupying space between the lines.

That would create a problem for Steve Finnan, our right back. If he tracked Ronaldinho, he would leave space for Barcelona’s left back, Gianluca Zambrotta, to exploit. The threat of Barcelona’s No 10, though, was more important. I instructed Finnan to follow his man, to push him, not to allow him a moment to play the sort of penetrating pass which could cut a defence apart.

On the opposite side, we would play Álvaro Arbeloa, signed as recently as January from Deportivo La Coruña, against Messi. It would be Arbeloa’s first start for Liverpool. His opponent was just a teenager, not yet talked of as one of the finest players in history, but it was still one of the more intimidating debuts in world football.

Arbeloa is not the sort of player to get scared, though, and he was confident he could do what was being asked of him. Besides, a manager does not simply come up with an idea and then tell his players about it an hour or so before the game. In Portugal, and upon our return to Melwood, we worked extensively on what we hoped Arbeloa would do.

The principle was relatively simple. Messi, playing wide on the right, favoured cutting inside on his left foot. By playing Arbeloa, naturally right footed, at left back, we would be able to prevent him embarking on those dangerous, slaloming runs. Arbeloa would have to stick close to his man, too, not allowing him to breathe. If Messi has time to turn, he can inflict substantial damage. We had to be on top of him all the time.

We drilled our new, makeshift left back extensively in the days before the game. We prepared DVDs for him so he knew Messi’s movements. In training, we played him at left back, against a left-footed player, to get him used to the job he would have to do in Barcelona.

 And we prepared the rest of the team, particularly our defenders, not to use Arbeloa too much when we had possession. The danger of playing a right-footed full back at left back is that he has to turn his body inside to play the ball, which cuts off his options and slows down counter-attacks. It was crucial we did not give him too much of the ball.

The dangers of team-building In the stands, Steven Gerrard had his hands raised to his head and a look of horror on his face. Beneath him, Dirk Kuyt was catching his breath, trying to stumble to his feet. Peter Crouch was careering round at high speed and with no way of stopping. It was a week before the 2007 Champions League final, and our centre forward had just come within a whisker of running his strike partner over.

We had been advised to travel to the south of Spain, to La Manga, a hotel and resort near to Murcia, for a few days in the build-up to our rematch with AC Milan. We trained twice a day, taking care not to ask too much of the squad. We knew, though, that we could not let the players get bored, so we agreed to let them spend an afternoon go-karting, at a track near the hotel.

It was as they were racing round, at speeds reaching 30 miles an hour, that Crouch suddenly realised his brakes were not working. I was standing, with Kuyt, by a pile of cardboard boxes at the side of the track. Crouch, fearing he would not be able to stop normally, decided to try and crash into the boxes.

He was aiming straight for Kuyt, who had to jump out of the way at the very last second. Crouch thumped into the boxes, came out of the other side and carried on round the track, waiting to get to the straight before jumping out of his kart and rolling away, thankfully unscathed. How he managed to do that, given his height and the small size of the kart, I have absolutely no idea. His knees were pointing out of the kart even before things started to go wrong.

Kuyt dusted himself down and checked he was OK. Gerrard, not involved in the race, waited anxiously to find out if we had lost either one of our forwards to one of the more preventable injuries in football: ruled out of the most important game of their careers by go-karting. Thankfully, Crouch emerged a little sheepish, but physically fine and so, too, was Kuyt.

How I signed Fernando Torres I knew that we would have to complete the deal as soon as possible, so I flew out at the first available opportunity to Madrid, alongside Rick Parry, to open formal negotiations with Atlético (Madrid). They progressed reasonably well, but after a day we had not quite managed to finalise terms. Rick was resigned to flying back that night. I convinced him to stay on for one more day. “If we don’t do it now, we might lose him for good,” I said.

By the time we returned to Liverpool the following evening, we had the basis of a transfer in place. We would need to get everything signed and sealed as soon as possible, though. I did not want another club to get wind of our interest and try to outbid us. I arranged for Fernando, his agents and his girlfriend, Olalla, to fly to England. We would continue conversations there.

The party was picked up, the next night, at John Lennon Airport, and whisked to a beautiful waterfront apartment in the city, complete with underground parking. Nobody was to know Fernando was in Liverpool. We could not afford for the news to leak out. Only four or five people at the club knew how advanced the deal was, plus a handful of his close associates and the directors at Atlético.

The weather — for that week, at least — was glorious. Liverpool is a particularly wonderful city in the sunshine. From their luxury flat, Fernando and Olalla had a great view across the Mersey and of the city’s skyline.

They would have plenty of time to enjoy it. For two days, they were not permitted to leave the apartment. Their agents would leave, to join us for contractual discussions, and progress was relayed to Fernando on the telephone. He had plenty of work to do, though: as well as providing all of his food from restaurants in the city, we sent him countless books and DVDs of Liverpool’s greatest players and finest moments, descriptions of the club’s history, images of its achievements. For 48 hours, we deluged him with Liverpool’s folklore. And all the time, I spoke with him by phone, telling him how I wanted the team to play, what I wanted him to do, how he could help us win trophies and titles.

Eventually, the deal was done. Fernando was a Liverpool player.

© Rafa Benítez 2012

Extracted from Champions League Dreams by Rafa Benítez with Rory Smith, published by Headline Books on September 13 at £20.

More great publicity for LFC!

The Times
Miles Costello
Last updated at 12:01AM, August 7 2012

Standard Chartered was fighting to save its reputation last night after it was accused of illegally channelling billions of dollars to state-backed institutions in Iran in breach of US sanctions.

One of America’s top financial regulators claimed that the bank had “schemed” with Tehran for almost a decade to hide at least $250 billion in “secret transactions”, including with the Central Bank of Iran.

Standard Chartered’s actions had made the US financial system “vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes” who could have used the funds, the New York State Department of Financial Services said as it threatened to revoke Standard’s New York banking licence.

In a damning indictment, the department claimed that the bank hid almost 60,000 of transactions, with the knowledge and endorsement of at least one executive in London, between 2001 and 2010.

“For nearly a decade, Standard Chartered Bank programmatically engaged in deceptive and fraudulent misconduct in order to move at least $250 billion through its New York branch on behalf of client Iranian financial institutions that were subject to US economic sanctions, and then covered up its transgression,” the department said.

In its breaches, the bank demonstrated an “evident zeal” to make hundreds of millions of dollars in fees “at almost any cost”, it said.

The department summoned Standard Chartered to New York for a meeting next week to explain its actions. The bank, whose shares closed more than 6 per cent lower as the alleged scandal began to unfold yesterday, faces the threat of its US dollar clearing operations being suspended and could also be hit with a bumper fine.

As part of a 27-page report issued yesterday, the department said that its “extensive investigation” had reviewed more than 30,000 documented pages. Its report featured details of an extraordinary exchange between the chief executive for the Americas and the executive director for risk at Standard Chartered in London, in October 2006.

The unnamed US executive warns that the US branch’s dealings with Iran had the potential to cause “very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage” to the bank and even criminal liability for management.

In response, according to the department, the director replied: “You f***ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.”

The accusation will be extremely embarassing for Standard Chartered, which is listed in London but carries out extensive business activities in the emerging markets. The bank, which is led by Peter Sands, its chief executive, is among the most respected of London-based lenders. Mr Sands, and the bank’s finance director Richard Meddings, have been seen recently as candidates for top vacancies at Barclays and the Bank of England.

Standard Chartered has also avoided the mis-selling, rate-rigging and money-laundering accusations that have dogged its competitors. But the New York department described Standard Chartered as operating as a “rogue institution” for more than nine years. It said that it had engaged in “willful and egregious violations of law”, including stripping wire transfers of information that could be used to identify sanctioned countries. It also said that it had uncovered evidence of apparently similar schemes involving Libya, Burma and Sudan, also sanctioned countries.

Standard Chartered said last night that it “strongly rejects the position or the portrayal of facts” set out by the department. It said that it was reviewing its compliance and was in discussions with US enforcement agencies and regulators. “The group cannot predict when this review and these discussions will be completed or what the outcome will be,” it said.

...what's next?  Cheerleaders with red pom poms?  Stupid organ music (I think) like they have in NBA between throw-in's/free kicks/corners?

Who da f comes up with this stuff???


Liverpool have unveiled a new mascot - a life-size Liver Bird called 'Mighty Red' - in a bid to appeal to younger fans.

Traditionally, Liverpool have never had a pitch-side mascot at Anfield and it seems Liverpool's American owners want to continue this.

But the character, which made its first appearance at a children's party on Sunday afternoon, is loosely based on the Liver Bird, a symbol of the city, and is seen on the club badge.

It will be used to entertain kids at community events.

While Mighty Red's appearance - which is strikingly similar to Arsenal's Gunnersaurus Rex - seemed to entertain the kids, some parents were not enamoured.

One fan said: 'It looks ridiculous. We'll be a laughing stock if this thing appears on the touchline. It's just more Americanisation of the club.

'While it's fine for the kids - it will be good at children's parties - and is marginally better than the utterly dreadful Olympics mascots, just keep it away from Anfield.'

It is still unclear if that fan will get his wish, although it seems likely that Mighty Red will be used solely in Liverpool's community work and will not be present on match days.

The introduction of Mighty Red is not the first time a mascot has been poorly received on Merseyside.
Entering a new era: But Mighty Red had at least one fan seeing red

Entering a new era: But Mighty Red had at least one fan seeing red

In the 1990s Everton tried to introduce the ill-fated 'Mr Toffee' (or Dixie as he was known).

Evertonians were not enthralled with Dixie and he was abandoned after one season and not seen again at Goodison.

However, one Liverpool fan present at the kids' party thought the club was being progressive.

'I was there for the launch of Mighty Red and he went down brilliantly with the kids, who are the intended targets for this mascot.

'They ran like mad to get their goodie bags off him, they danced around him and queued up to have their pictures taken. They loved him!'

Liverpool FC, football, sport / New addition to the LFC Family
« on: September 16, 2011, 11:03:53 AM »
Hi all,

My beautiful wife has given birth to our second daughter.  LFC baby kit on order....hehe

Liverpool FC, football, sport / So this is where Staunton ended up
« on: August 22, 2011, 11:42:26 AM »

Former Republic of Ireland boss Steve Staunton has joined Sunderland's backroom staff.

The 42-year-old has been recruited as the club's match assessor, a role which will see him evaluate forthcoming opponents and draw up detailed reports for manager Steve Bruce and his coaching staff.

Bruce said: 'We are looking to Steve to bring a high level of expertise based on his long experience of football at the top level (LOL). He joins a very experienced backroom team here at Sunderland and I'm sure he will be a great acquisition for us.'

Staunton, who had a spell in charge at the Black Cats' north east neighbours Darlington, made his name at Liverpool and Aston Villa during a distinguished playing career which saw him capped 102 times for his country.

Liverpool FC, football, sport / Rafa reborn
« on: November 02, 2010, 07:26:31 AM »
Rafa reborn

By Sam Sheringham

At the start of the season, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about the implications of Rafael Benitez replacing the Real Madrid-bound Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.

"They favour Madrid, no doubt about that," was the characteristically blunt response from Ferguson.

While the lingering animosity between Ferguson and his former Liverpool sparring partner Benitez made his assessment predictable, the Scot's view reflected the general consensus that Madrid were getting the better deal and that all-conquering Inter would be weakened under the stewardship of a coach whose reputation nose-dived during a dismal final season at Anfield.

Three months into Benitez's tenure at the Italian and European champions and opinions are starting to change. Slowly but surely, the Spaniard is winning over the hearts and minds of fans, pundits and the all-important Italian press, who fell out so dramatically with Mourinho.

A solid if unspectacular start to the Serie A season - Inter are second, four points behind surprise leaders Lazio - has been overshadowed by a confident opening to the defence of their Champions League title, which resumes against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Tuesday night.

A 2-2 draw at FC Twente was followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Werder Bremen and a first-half demolition of Spurs at the San Siro, during which Inter played with a flair and swagger rarely seen under Mourinho. Although Gareth Bale's stunning hat-trick for the north Londoners narrowed the scoreline to 4-3, it did little to alter the impression that the holders would take some beating in this season's competition.

"In some ways their football is even better than last season," said John Foot, author of Calcio: The History of Italian Football . "It's less cagey, less Catenaccio-esque than Mourinho would play.

"The first half hour against Tottenham was pretty expansive football and the team can almost play with its eyes closed now. It's already clear that they are going to be in contention for all these trophies right to the end of the season."

Italian football analyst Tor-Kristian Karlsen says Benitez's Inter are less liable to sit back and soak up pressure than they were under Mourinho during the 2009-10 campaign.

"The team keep the ball more under Benitez and the defensive line is usually pushed higher up the pitch," added
a well-travelled scout and regular columnist for Calcio Italia magazine.

"Mourinho was more focused on defence and relied more on counter-attacks and the magic of individual players than the collective, rehearsed moves favoured by the Spaniard."

By any measure, Benitez had a hard act to follow. Mourinho's achievement of winning an unprecedented Treble of Italian league, cup and Champions League ensured any successor was almost certainly doomed to a degree of failure.

Whereas Serie A rivals AC Milan and Juventus spent heavily to enhance their squads for the 2010-11 season, Inter chose not to add to their resources, instead offloading the volatile but talented striker Mario Balotelli to Manchester City.

Benitez has kept faith with the 4-2-3-1 formation preferred by his Portuguese predecessor, but the subtle adjustments he has made to the side are reaping rewards.

The Spaniard's main alteration has been to end Samuel Eto'o's period of exile on the right wing and restore him to his favoured role as a central striker. The former Barcelona frontman has responded with a blistering start to the season, scoring 13 goals in 12 games.

Benitez has also given youth a chance, with 18-year-old Brazilian Coutinho and 22-year-old Jonathan Biabiany of France both returning from loan spells to force their way into the side. The duo were outstanding in the victory over Spurs, adding flair and dynamism to Inter's attacking play.

"I think Rafa is giving more players a chance," Foot commented. "All Mourinho teams have a backbone of the older guard. It's nice to see Rafa experimenting a little bit more. There's a lot of pressure on Wesley Sneijder to create everything but they need someone else. Coutinho looks to have that spark about him."

Mourinho's two-year tenure at Inter was characterised by extraordinary success on the field but plenty of ill-feeling off it. The former Chelsea and Porto boss had countless fallouts with journalists and other managers, his polemical behaviour prompting Catania director of football Pietro Lo Monaco to claim he "deserves a smack in the mouth".

In March, Mourinho declared he was unhappy in Italian football "because I don't like it and it doesn't like me." He expressed a yearning for a return to the Premier League, where his charisma and arrogance drew nostalgic comparisons with legendary Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough.

In contrast, Benitez's reserved character and guarded discourse with the press seemed to irk fans and journalists in England, but it makes him a much better fit for the old-fashioned ways of Italian football, according to Karlsen.

"Unsurprisingly his entry has been a lot less controversial than Mourinho's. Whereas the Portuguese set his own agenda from day one, Benitez has been somewhat more diplomatic, on the whole showing respect to fellow coaches and the football environment. This is important to Italians who value their own school of thinking and traditions," Karlsen reflected.
Benitez is a much better trainer than a finder of players. Others might have a better eye for a player, but they wouldn't know how to train them like Rafa Benitez does
Benitez biographer Paco Lloret

"I don't think Benitez got the credit he deserved in England. Partly because he didn't offer the sound bites and easy conclusions that make you a tabloid favourite, but also because his thinking and ideas on football may have been too prudent and unsexy to win over the ever so demanding supporters.

"It's interesting to see how even the Liverpool supporters are spilt when it comes to Rafa. It's either love or hate, genius or idiot. I can't remember a manager or even a player stirring up the same mixed emotions."

One area in which Benitez divides opinion is his dealings in the transfer market. Pundits such as former Reds defender Alan Hansen have lambasted the Spaniard over big-money flops like Robbie Keane, Alberto Aquilani and Andrea Dossena, while his successor in the Anfield hot-seat Roy Hodgson last week bemoaned the number of "expensive failures" at the club.

Others such as
has argued that Benitez has been unfairly maligned and prefer to highlight success stories like Pepe Reina, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano.

Wherever the truth lies, Benitez is unlikely to play such a central role in buying players at Inter, where sporting director Marco Branca and owner Massimo Moratti have the final say in new signings.

According to Paco Lloret, Benitez's biographer and close friend, this system will suit the Spaniard, as it more closely resembles that which was in place during his time at Valencia, where he won two Spanish league titles and a Uefa Cup.

"Benitez is a much better trainer than a finder of players," Lloret stated. "He knows how to design systems and work with a team. Others might have a better eye for a player, but they wouldn't know how to train them like Rafa Benitez does.

"Benitez likes working behind closed doors. Everything which surrounds a club, like the media, Benitez knows it's important but he doesn't see it as a priority."

In returning to White Hart Lane on Tuesday night, Benitez is revisiting the ground where his Liverpool tenure began to unravel in August 2009. Having taken Manchester United right to the wire in the 2008-09 season, Liverpool went into the following campaign with high hopes of ending their 20-year wait for the title, only to suffer a morale-shattering 2-1 defeat to Spurs on the opening day.

Early exits from the Champions League and both domestic cups followed and a seventh-place Premier League finish in May brought a sorry end to a regime that had begun with an stunning European Cup triumph over AC Milan in 2005.

And while many fans directed their ire at detested former American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, there is little doubt that Benitez departed Anfield with his status considerably diminished.

"Right now Rafa faces a challenge to restore his reputation because his departure from Liverpool wasn't good," Lloret continued. "He's made a good start but there's a long way to go."


Liverpool FC, football, sport / Fantasy Premier League - Anfield Road
« on: October 30, 2010, 09:01:17 AM »
Not sure why I didn't think of this at the begining of the season but I have created a fantasy football league for members of the Anfield Road forum.  The league will begin the 6th of November so that gives folk a week to get their teams chosen and entered.  There is a limit of 15 teams - first come served.

ps.  Jim I hope you don't mind but I named the league after your site.

Please find details below:
Code to join this league: 1501678-430106

Rafa Benitez will have to sell to buy in January

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has revealed that there will be no transfer funds available to manager Rafael Benitez for him to strengthen the European champions' squad in January.

Benitez has been told he will have to sell first if he wants to bring in any new faces to a team which finds itself third in Serie A behind their city rivals AC Milan and leaders Lazio.

Their only summer signings were goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi and defender Davide Faraoni on free transfers, meaning Benitez has not yet had any cash to spend.

"I don't know if we will do something,'' said Moratti. ''We are looking around.

"But to buy we must sell. We will see if we are able to do both of these things."

Moratti also said his comments about signing Lionel Messi from Barcelona were meant in jest, but left his comment hanging in the air.

"Everything will be a joke, maybe," said Moratti. "Anyway, we have time. Messi said never say never and he speaks the truth."

Meanwhile, Sulley Muntari insists he will not discuss a possible move away from the club until January.

He told Sky Sports: "I am working hard to get back in the good books of the manager. Transfer time is in the market, so I am not talking about moving. We will talk around January."


1341 BST: Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has admitted it will take a £50m offer to persuade him to sell star striker Kevin Doyle.

"Look, if Manchester United come in and offer the club £50m and give him 200 grand a week, I can't keep him," said McCarthy.

"Doyle will be a player for us unless someone comes in offering the earth, moon and stars for him." (Press Association)

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