Saturday, October 30, 2010

Roy Hodgson must ditch negative tactics ahead of Liverpool's clash with Bolton

Since arriving at Liverpool Roy Hodgson has made a habit of producing various statistics in order to explain why he is the right man for the job despite ever increasing pressure. 

One stat the former Fulham boss will not be quick to bring up however is the time it has been since his last away win in England’s top flight.

It’s been 442 days since Roy Hodgson last won an away fixture in the Premier League, and for Liverpool fans it will seem like an age since the Reds scored four without reply at Turf Moor against Burnley in what would be their last away win on April 25th.

At Fulham Hodgson may have been excused for his poor away form, but at Liverpool, where expectations are much higher, regressive tactics and poor performances simply aren’t acceptable.

In Liverpool’s four away fixtures this season they have been outclassed by both Manchester United and City, frustrated by a well-drilled Birmingham back-four and easily brushed aside by an Everton side who deserved their 2-0 victory.

Thanks to these performances Liverpool have picked up just one point out of twelve on their travels this season, a statistic befitting of, well, a side struggling to stay in the Premier League and position close to the bottom of the league.

These results are not due to the quality of opposition Liverpool have faced, rather the damage has been self-inflicted.

Against Manchester City there was little organisation, City’s two wide men, and in particular Adam Johnson, were allowed the freedom to get the ball in to the Liverpool box time and time again, with Liverpool looking weak at the back due to the unexpected absence of Javier Mascherano.

Birmingham were certainly strong at the back and had a great home record but the Reds could have done more, with the holding midfielders sticking rigidly to their defensive positions and should they have been allowed to press forward then Liverpool may have picked up a result at St. Andrews, as Everton shortly after.

At Old Trafford the Reds allowed United the time and space to build-up a two-nil lead and after fighting back to two-all they once again sat back, giving the hosts the opportunity to get a third and walk away with all three points.

Liverpool’s latest away trip to Goodison Park was probably the worst of the bunch, though that’s primarily down to the local rivalry. Hodgson again decided to tell his side to sit back and play on the counter, which as with the United game allowed Everton plenty of time and space on the ball.

The Reds lacked any sort of width and Fernando Torres looked a depressed figure isolated up front as Everton easily brushed aside their visitors from across the park.

If Liverpool stand any chance of moving up the Premier League table then the negative tactics employed in previous away fixtures must be ditched. This is a club known for its dominating performances and the side should be going out looking for victory rather than fearing defeat.

The midfield must be given the freedom to move around the pitch rather than being rigidly stuck in the positions, whilst the two wide men must utilise the space on either wing rather than continually hitting a brick wall by cutting inside.

A trip to the Reebok is no easy fixture, and should Liverpool once again sit back and hope for the best then another three points may well be thrown away.

Questions have been asked over Roy Hodgson’s ability to move Liverpool up the table, but if he isn’t willing to change his ways then he may not be given much longer to prove he’s not all talk.

(Photo provided by Mikhail Slain) 

Friday, October 29, 2010

New England Sports Ventures focus on value crucial to Liverpool's long-term success.

With recent reports linking Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres with a move away from Anfield it was crucial that someone at the club came out and issued a hands off warning to clubs showing interest in the two Spaniards.

Reassuringly, the person who looked to quell the rumours was new owner John W Henry, stating it’s integral Liverpool keep their top players in order to become a trophy winning side once again.

In an interview with Henry said "We have recently read stories about our intentions for the forthcoming January transfer window and have a sense of humour about this type of inevitable speculation.

"As everyone knows we are new to English football, but not to sport, and we are studying all options. Opportunities and value will drive spending in January and in the future.

"Our clear focus from day one of our ownership has been - and will be - to improve the club and focus on what it will take to put Liverpool FC consistently in a position to challenge for trophies.

"We intend to build this club the right way.

"Stories about our top players leaving are destructive and unwarranted but we realise that this kind of speculation is also common.

"We intend to build on the strength of the current squad, not undermine it. And I can reassure our supporters that we have no intention of allowing the team to be weakened going forward."

It wasn’t just a message to clubs interested in the pair, it was a statement aimed at any currently unhappy players and, of course, the supporters who are no doubt worried about the future of a number of star players.

It’s another example of the Red Sox owner making a calculated decision about what to say and when to say it. The statement is a firm dismissal of key players leaving but it also doesn’t give the media any fuel to add to the fire.

One sentence in particular sticks out “Opportunities and value will drive spending in January and in the future.”

It’s obvious to anyone that Liverpool now have money, but the boards reluctance to begin a new era with a number of marquee signings is an important long-term tactic.

If Roy Hodgson (or whoever is in charge come January) were to spend tens of millions on new players then in the future clubs would know Liverpool would be willing to spend big, and thus the price of their star players would increase.

A reluctance to be held to ransom will be integral to the future success of the club, both on it and off it, the team can improve at a natural pace and not face the same problems in trying to gel that have often hindered the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid.

The decision not to go all out in January also shows New England Sports Ventures long-term commitment to Liverpool. There’s no search for a quick profit here, everything will be done in the best interests of Liverpool Football Club.

(Photo from 

Friday, October 15, 2010

LFC Takeover latest

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Silence over impact of nine point deduction worrying as future of Liverpool hangs in the balance

Dependent on what paper, or website, you chose to read in order to catch up on the latest news on the Liverpool takeover situation, you get a very varied picture of the ins and outs of the New England Sports Ventures deal. 

There are some stable facts that run through all reporting at present, New England Sports Ventures have had a bid for Liverpool accepted by the independent members of the board, Managing Director Christian Purslow, Commercial Director Ian Ayre and Chairman Martin Broughton, however Tom Hicks and George Gillett looked to block the bid by replacing Purslow and Ayre on the board with Mach Hicks and Lori Kay McCutcheon.

Broughton responded by stating Hicks and Gillett were not in the position to remove the two board members without his expressed permission and thus the argument will now be taken to the High Court to find out if the bid being accepted was legally correct.

Now it seems as though George Gillett has defaulted on his £70million loan from Mill Financial and the financial institution have taken over his 50% of club, with the objective of backing Tom Hicks in the High Court battle in an attempt to see at least some of the money they lent to Gillett returned.

The Royal Bank of Scotland have set October 15th as their deadline for the sale of the club, and should the situation not be resolved by then Kop Holdings, the company that owns Liverpool Football Club, may find itself in administration, which will likely lead to the team facing a nine-point deduction in the Premier League.

This is where the confusion begins. Are New England Sports Ventures still interested in buying the club should they face a nine-point deduction?

A source close to the deal told The Guardian that should the club face the point’s deduction then "the economics of the club are devastated" and ultimately that would put New England Sports Ventures off continuing their interest in purchasing the club.

During an interview with BBC Radio 5Live on Sunday Purslow also failed to rule out NESV dropping out of negotiations. Asked if the Boston-based company would back out if the club go into administration the Managing Director said “I’m not even contemplating administration and nobody should be. Last Monday we had two very good offers to buy our business that would clear all our debts and I’m completely focused on making sure the sale completes.”

Its clear Purslow avoided the question, so in order to try and force an answer out of the Harvard graduate the interview then asked if NESV would carry on their purchase even if points were docked, to which Purslow replied “I have not discussed that possibility with them. I am completely focused on the sale.”

It would be staggering if, during the negotiations to sell one of the world’s most famous football clubs for £300m, Purslow had failed to bring up with the potential buyers potential administration and a nine-point deduction – the biggest hurdle, along with the court case, in the completion of the sale of the club.

What ‘sources’ have been leaking to various media establishments and what Purslow said during his radio interview would suggest that the nine-point deduction is a huge issue for New England Sports Ventures. If this is true then, the question has to be asked what exactly the company expect to do with Liverpool Football Club.

This season’s campaign has been terrible thus far, and even on the current points total Roy Hodgson, or any other manager, would find it hard to get Liverpool close to a European position, never mind a top four spot, meaning Liverpool face a rebuild which will continue well past May if 2011 and the end of this season.

Liverpool can still finish in a stable position in the Premier League, even with a nine-point penalty, and to back out of a bid based purely on the deduction seems nonsensical and Liverpool supporters should be cautious of the potential new owners should the reports be correct that this is a major issue for them.

Friday, October 08, 2010

NESV must look to the Football Quarter when deciding on the future home of LFC

According to Liverpool Football Club’s last annual accounts, in excess of £50 million has been spent on the proposed new stadium, yet Stanley Park – the site for the 60,000 seat ground- is almost identical to what it was when the plans were released. 

Under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett Liverpool have suffered incredibly financially, which has meant the development of the new stadium has come to a complete standstill.

Even if the American duo had found the capital to begin the project, the mortgage for the new stadium would reportedly have needed a deposit of £100 million – an outlay, in total, of £150 million before a spade is in the ground.

Now, with the club looking likely to be under new ownership by the end of the month, Liverpool have the chance to push on with plans for a new stadium.

First, though, I’d implore New England Sports Ventures to look at present day Anfield. I’d like them to think about the clubs history and what has gone on at this stadium, one of the great venues in the history of football.

I’d also like John Henry and co to take a look around the local area, to see what damage the club have done.

Building a self-serving stadium in the middle of Stanley Park, in my opinion, isn’t the best option for Liverpool Football Club or the city itself, despite what the local council may seem to think. NESV should instead look toward redeveloping Anfield under the strategy laid out in the plans for the Football Quarter.

The Football Quarter is the brainchild of two Merseyside fan groups, Keep Everton in our City and Spirit of Shankly – the Liverpool Supporters Union. The plans see the redevelopment of both Anfield and Goodison, with the addition of centres for sports excellence in the local area.

Should the plans be put in to practice then around 14,000 jobs will be created, with and additional £2bn coming in to the city through tourism revenue.

It’s the ideal solution, both clubs have stadiums tailored to their needs, the city further builds upon the excellent work done during the Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008 and the local area will be greatly improved after years of neglect.

A ground share may seem like an affordable option, but it’s not a long-term option. Both clubs have very different needs and very different identities. Arguments would no doubt ensue over who would need to pay how much for the stadium, with Liverpool expected to front the bill.

If John W Henry wants to make a good first impression he needs to take a long, hard look at what the Football Quarter proposal has to offer not just the club but the local community and the long-term prosperity of the city.

For more information on the Football Quarter click here 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

New Liverpool owners must offer a voice to the supporters with fan representation at board level

New England Sports Ventures may been seen as a welcome change after the troubled reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but the soon-to-be new owners must make swift changes if they are to win the trust of Liverpool supporters.

The debt currently placed against the club will be the first major hurdle the new owners will have to overcome. Club chairman Martin Broughton has stated that the acquisition debt will be fully paid off as a part of the deal, which is supposedly worth around £300m, but that still leaves a chunk of debt on the clubs accounts which will need to be addressed.

Since February 2007, when Hicks and Gillett arrived on Merseyside, debt has been a word thrown around almost constantly, and certainly not in a good way. In truth Liverpool can handle the burden of some debt, but the debt has to be sustainable and not have a negative effect upon Liverpool’s ability to compete with those at the top of the Premier League.

Another point of financial concern would be the investment in the squad. NESV will have to invest a fair amount in the squad so that Roy Hodgson, or potentially a new manager, can build the team to a level where they have the ability to compete for a place in the Champions League.

This does not have to represent an endless pit of money to be spent on players, if enough is spent to take Liverpool back to the top four then the increased revenues that come with Champions League football and considerably smaller debts should provide the manager with funds for players in the future through the reinvestment of the profits the club makes.

The stadium is the next major issue the new owners would have to handle. Speaking on Wednesday Martin Broughton said that all options would be considered when it came to increasing the numbers which Liverpool can take in every home game, and the option to redevelop Anfield wouldn’t be ruled out as an alternate to a new stadium.

Indeed with their other major sports investment, the Boston Red Sox’s, NESV opted to redevelop Fenway Park as opposed to building a new stadium, in doing so they increased the clubs capacity to accommodate supporters whilst also keeping the history and tradition of the club intact.

Possibly the most important thing the new owners must do, though, is engage with the fans so as to get an idea of the best way in which to take the club forward.

This is something Tom Hicks and George Gillett never did, and they paid heavily for it. Liverpool is a club of great history and tradition, it’s clear the new owners will not have an expert knowledge of such things but a willingness to learn is all that is asked.

Fan representation should be seriously considered, a fan base which feels as though it’s voice is being heard is a happy one. The happier the fans are the more willing they will be to part with their hard earned money on merchandise, tickets and other such items.  It’s a win-win situation, the fans get sympathetic owners and the owners see stable and large revenues through products aimed at supporters.

Whether any of this happens will be seen in due time. Liverpool is at yet another crossroads and after going backwards under Hicks and Gillett it now must be built back up into a respectable club fighting for honours in England and Europe. Then and only then can it begin to progress, as was expected in 2007, in to a club among Europe’s elite.

These are of course businessmen, as with Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but there is good, respectable, ways in which to do business and then there is the Hicks and Gillett way. Should all the legal issues surrounding the civil war in the boardroom be sorted, and the takeover finalised, then Liverpool supporters will have to hope John Henry and co are respectable businessmen and will treat the club how Hicks and Gillett never did- the Liverpool way.

(Image provided by Webjedi)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Dear Mr Hicks

I'm sure Tom Hicks has read many different letters starting with the words ‘Dear Mr Hicks’ over the last three years.

Some will be from banks, demanding money he knows full well he can’t pay back, some will be from bidders for Liverpool Football Club, all of which he and his partner George Gillett have rejected, and many will be from angry supporters, demanding his departure from Anfield.

None, however, will have sent as much of a chill down his spine as when he turned on his computer today and read the multitudes of internet content entitled ‘Dear Mr Hicks’.

The three word phrase, for those who don’t know, is the slogan for the viral video campaign against the Texan businessman’s continued presence as the owner of Liverpool Football Club.

The video, created by Hollywood producer Mike Jefferies, features a number of famous Liverpool supporters from music stars, to actors to local celebrities.

John Bishop, Steve Graham and John Aldridge are just some of the famous faces who have featured in the just under seven minute long video, alongside a host of everyday Liverpool supporters simply expressing their opinions about one of the main offenders in Liverpool’s downfall.

The video has been an instant success, racking up thousands of views within hours of being posted on video sharing site YouTube, with the Twitter hash tag associated with the video (#dearmrhicks) being one of the top trending comments on the social networking site.

There’s no doubt this will soon be passed on to Hicks, who is rumoured to still be searching for refinancing whilst the independent members of the Liverpool board currently consider two new bids for the club.

On behalf of The Anfield Opinion I would like to thank Mr Jefferies for his work on the video, not to mention those who gave up large parts of their weekend to star in the clip.

The video can be viewed here

Saturday, October 02, 2010

More worries for Liverpool after poor Utrecht performance

Roy Hodgson's perfect start to life at Liverpool, from a European if not domestic point of view, came to a dull, predictable yet painful end on Thursday, as his team once again looked second best against what should have been, in theory at least, distinctly inferior opposition.

Not on Thursday night though, nor on the preceding Saturday, nor on the Wednesday before that, nor on the Saturday another ten days previously to that etc. In reality the list is endless and the game against FC Utrecht was merely the latest installment. So, let's pause for a second to consider where it went wrong, yet again, for LFC.

In many ways, it already seems like a cliché, but the Poulson-Lucas reared its ugly head again against the Dutch outfit, offering hard work and grit but little else in the centre of the pitch. Most sensible fans don't seem to hold any particular grudge against either, individual player (though many have noted the Dane’s transition into English football is somewhat less than seamless); it is, instead, when are picked together, at the heart of Liverpool's midfield, that seems to strike a nerve with more than a few of these observers. Lacking both the real authority to command the game, as well as the natural creativity and passing ability to influence the game from a more attack-minded point of view, it was partnership that never really got going. Not that either played terribly, but their respective limits as players are mercilessly exploited when they find themselves lining up alongside one another.

It would be unfair to lay too much blame at either player's feet, however. As mentioned above, neither had a particularly bad game and the respective and collective failure to significantly influence the game were entirely predictable from the outset. At the end of the day, though (to use that beautiful clichéd expression, that is a favourite among many a manager and player alike) this was just one, admittedly rather big, reason behind Liverpool's ultimate failure on the night.

The lack of influence from Joe Cole was far more worrying for Liverpool fans. Bizarrely voted the team's man of the match by the official website's journalists he was, somewhat belatedly removed by Hodgson and replaced with Maxi Rodriguez with just over ten minutes of normal time to play (even more strangely was that this was Roy's only substitution throughout the course of the entire evening, but more on that later). Aside from a few early decent shots at goal, it is hard to remember any the former Chelsea man making any other remotely significant contribution on behalf of his team. Perhaps this is just me, I'm genuinely not sure, but, Cole certainly seems to present a genuine area of concern for Hodgson. Thus far, ineffective on both the left and as 2nd striker, is central midfield the place for him? Or would he present similar tactical indiscipline to what Steven Gerrard does? Is he even a definite starter for Liverpool? In his defence, he seemed somewhat slightly short of match fitness, and is still adapting to the demands of a new club and it would be hugely unfair to come anywhere close to dismissing him but, equally, these should be areas of concern for Liverpool fans. As ever, time will tell.

I don't want to drag on too much (although I realise I have probably already failed in that aim) so I will quickly point out the other areas of concern that Thursday presented. Martin Skrtel was once again not up to standard and, whilst he is still fairly young, it is hard to remember, the Arsenal game aside, the last time he had a genuinely good game for his employers. Unconfident and lacking authority in his defensive duties, the sooner Daniel Agger returns, the better for Liverpool. Once again he hardly played particularly badly, but equally it seems a long time since the Martin Skrtel of two or three seasons ago last took his place so fearlessly at the heart of the club's defence.

Without wishing to state the obvious, Fabio Aurelio is another whose reputation seems to enhance with every passing week he finds himself in the club's treatment room rather than on its grass. This is in no way a criticism of Martin Kelly who, aside from 2 moments of defensive naivety did himself proud with his mostly solid display. Instead, this is more a general observation. Paul Konchesky is not up to standard, and the sooner Aurelio is able to return, the better. (/stating the obvious)

Whilst this was almost entirely a negative display, there was one moment that had the vague air of optimism surrounding it. Unsurprisingly, Pepe Reina was 85% responsible for it. As he collected the ball into his hands to denote the end of a period of sustained Utrecht pressure on the LFC goal. Without batting an eye-lid, let alone pausing for a sigh of relief as is the custom of many other goalkeepers, the Spaniard, instead, instantly sought to turn defence into attack and, for not the first time, it worked a treat. His astonishing powers of distribution finding Dirk Kuyt on the edge of his onetime employers’ penalty area. He, in turn, carved out an opening for Torres who was only denied by an exceptional save from the Utrecht goalkeeper. It may not have led to a goal but it still demonstrated the overwhelming value that Pepe Reina presents to his team and, was thus, worthy of note, in my book at least.

Well, that concludes all I really have to say about this rather forgettable clash; Liverpool have more important matters awaiting them in the league and, even more so, off the field where the issue of ownership and the club's long term future still cast a huge shadow over the team's on-the-field affairs, whether that means Utrecht or Unirea Urziceni.

(Photo provided by Ryu Volkel)
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