Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Liverpool seeking stadium naming rights partner, says Manging Director

Liverpool FC are actively seeking a stadium naming rights partner, Managing Director Ian Ayre revealed today. 

Ayre, who was recently appointed Liverpool’s new Managing Director, made the announcement during the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester.

The Reds managing director did however state that the club would only consider selling the naming rights should the club move into a new stadium.

"We are actively seeking a naming partner if we move to a new stadium but will definitely not consider renaming Anfield," Ayre stated.

The news comes after sources close to the club revealed that Reds’ owners – Fenway Sports Group – have considered plans to redevelop Anfield, starting with the Anfield Road End of the stadium.

The redevelopment plan is believed to cause a reduction in capacity next season to 37,000, with the club applying to the Premier League for permission not to accommodate any away supporters during the 2011/12 Premier League season.

Directly following on from the expansion of the Anfield Road End the club will look to redesign the Main Stand area of the stadium, which could potentially reduce the capacity even further until the stand reopens in its larger and more modern form, which could see the stadium hold a capacity of between 55,000 and 60,000.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunderland 0-2 Liverpool: Suarez scores screamer as Reds beat Black Cats

Goals from Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez provided Liverpool with a crucial 2-0 win over ten man Sunderland, at the Stadium of Light on Sunday afternoon.

Kenny Dalglish's side travelled to the North East off the back of a disappointing European exit at the hands of Portuguese side Braga, and understood that only a top five Premier League finish would be enough for European qualification.

Ahead of the game, it was clear what the intentions of the caretaker manager were, with as attacking a line-up as any selected by the management team at Anfield this season. Luis Suarez was back, after two weeks of ineligibility, whilst Andy Carroll was handed his full Premier League debut. Daniel Agger was also back from injury.

The Reds were the first to create an opening, when Dirk Kuyt saw his shot on the turn kept out by the legs of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on five minutes. The Dutchman then headed over from the resulting corner, after pressure from his marker.

The hosts looked dangerous in the first half, despite being unable to ever really threaten the Liverpool goal. On seventeen minutes, Asamoah Gyan and Daniel Welbeck combined brilliantly down the left hand side, but the ball into the area wasn't attacked and the danger passed.

Liverpool responded instantly and Suarez linked up with Carroll to tee up Spearing but when the youngster passed up the opportunity to shoot the chance went begging, much to the annoyance of the Uruguayan forward.

Before the interval, Steve Bruce's side had to make two changes through injury; with both Sulley Muntari and Keiran Richardson having to depart. Preparations had been hampered, and Liverpool took full advantage of such problems, taking the lead in the thirty-third minute in controversial circumstances.

John Mensah was caught in possession by Spearing and as the midfielder broke towards the penalty area he was brought to the ground. Kevin Friend initially pointed for a free-kick, but after much persistence from the Liverpool players, and a change-of-heart by the linesman, a penalty kick was awarded. Dirk Kuyt stepped up, and slotted home his fourth goal in just two league games. The team celebrated in honour of Lucas Leiva, who had become a father for the first time on Saturday morning.

In the second half, with Sunderland feeling aggreived and frustrated, the visitors looked to take control of the match, with two chances to double their lead being squandered. First, Glen Johnson was denied an opportunity to score after some last-ditch defending from John Mensah, before a great header from Andy Carroll was somehow stopped on the line by substitute Lee Cattermole.

Luis Suarez then put a free kick inches wide of the post, as the away side dominated proceedings. Then it was Jay Spearing's opportunity to cap a hardworking display with a goal, but his twenty-five yard effort was fantastically stopped by the impressive Mignolet.

It was only a matter of time before a second goal was found though, and it arrived through Luis Suarez. Leaving Cattermole for dead on the right hand side, the recently-instated number seven cut inside before fizzing a rising shot beyond Mignolet from a difficult angle.

The home side were clearly frustrated and their afternoon was summed up just moments later when Mensah was shown a straight red card for a professional foul on Suarez.

With this result, Liverpool now find themselves just four points behind a fifth-placed Tottenham side who still have to travel to Anfield before the season's end.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish set to be offered permanent deal

Liverpool’s caretaker boss Kenny Dalglish has began negotiations with the clubs owners over extending his time in the managerial hot seat.

Principle owner John W Henry and club chairman Tom Werner met with Dalglish following the Reds exit from the Europa League at the hands of Portuguese outfit Braga on Thursday to begin negotiations over handing the Scot the managers job on a permanent basis.

Since replacing Roy Hodgson in January Dalglish has impressed in his caretaker role in charge of the Merseyside outfit, taking Liverpool to sixth place in the league and bringing stability to the club after a rocky seven months which has seen the departure of two managers and a set of owners.

Henry and Werner are believed to be ready to offer Dalglish a two-year contract despite the fact that the stand-in manager was speculated to want a more lengthy deal. It is unlikely however that Dalglish will turn down the offer to take the job he initially stated his interest in last summer following the departure of Rafael Benitez.

Since his appointment both Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez have been brought in to help bolster a Liverpool squad which struggled throughout the first-half of the season. Similar or greater transfer activity is expected to be sanctioned by Fenway Sports Group – the clubs owners – in the summer, with Dalglish having to work with Liverpool’s Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli to identify potential targets.

Initially FSG were believed to be interested in appointing a young manager who was both experienced and willing to work with a director of football, with Jurgen Klopp of Dortmund, Porto’s Andres Villas-Boas and Marseille’s Didier Deschamps all touted as potential candidates to take over the position in the summer.

However Dalglish’s performance thus far - which has seen Liverpool win away to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and comfortably push aside Manchester United at Anfield - has made the clubs owners reconsider their position, with any attempts to replace Dalglish having the potential to seriously damage their stock amongst Liverpool’s supporters.

A season without European football could do wonders for Liverpool's long-term future

“I did not imagine leaving Liverpool but then the train to Chelsea passed by and I had to catch it, because of the dream I have of winning. I want to win the Premier League, and I felt I had to go.” Fernando Torres said shortly after his arrival in London.

The timing of his departure, and the way in which it happened, was upsetting to Liverpool supporters. The Spaniard had committed his future to the club in the summer and fans expected the World Cup winner to at least stay on Merseyside until the end of the season, when there was time to find a new replacement.

Though the way in which he left will have left a bitter taste in the mouth of most Liverpool supporters, the reason he decided to leave is much easier to comprehend. Torres is now 26, at the peak of his game, he wants to win trophies in the near future, whilst he’s still at his best. Chelsea, in his eyes, could offer that, whilst Liverpool could not.

If Torres had decided to stay at Liverpool he would be facing the possibility of not playing in Europe next season, with the Reds knocked out of the Europa League against Braga on Thursday night and facing an uphill struggle to catch either Spurs or Chelsea to clinch fifth place in the league – the minimum required position for European football.

Thankfully for Liverpool they are not looking to sign players like Fernando Torres in the summer, players who are at their peak and looking for the quickest possible route to silverware. The vision of Liverpool’s new owners is of a team based on strong youth development, signing young players and turning them into complete footballers.

These young players have their whole careers ahead of them and a year without European football, especially without the second-tier Europa League, will not impact upon the attractiveness of Liverpool FC. They know the club have a long-term plan, with the hopes of the Reds being back in the Champions League sooner rather than later, a plan which they can be an integral part of.

The lack of Europa League football next year, should Liverpool not qualify, will be far from a disaster, quite the opposite in fact. Not being in a competition which many supporters consider to be an unwanted distraction will allow Liverpool to focus on getting back into the top four, not to mention performing better in the domestic cups next season than they did during the current campaign.

Liverpool will undoubtedly spend big once again in the summer to help bolster the squad and help add some much needed strength-in-depth. Couple this with the emerging talents in the youth side, such as Raheem Sterling, and next seasons starting line-ups at Anfield begin to look much stronger than they have throughout this campaign.

Last summer Liverpool were facing the possibility of losing Torres, Gerrard and Reina, three of the Reds key players. This season the only star whose future is in doubt is the latter of the three, with Manchester United and Arsenal both believed to be interested. Though he has kept quiet over his future there is no doubt Reina is loyal to Liverpool, and, in my opinion, the announcement of Kenny Dalglish as permanent manager will ensure the Spaniard stays on Merseyside for the foreseeable future.

Dropping out of the top four – and hence the Champions League – last season was a disaster for Liverpool Football Club, but not being in the Europa League offers minimal impact on both the clubs financial performance and its attractiveness to the young and upcoming players it looks to bring in. Indeed, with an increased focus on the league a lack of European football could well be a blessing in disguise.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish left frustrated after Europa League exit

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has admitted his frustration at seeing his side drop out of the Europa League to Portuguese outfit Braga. 

The Reds failed to score at Anfield meaning the penalty converted by the visitors in the opening  leg was enough to see them through to the quarter-finals of Europe’s second-tier cup competition.

"Over the two legs it was a penalty kick that decided it. That's about right. There was not much between either side.” Dalglish stated at his post match press conference.

"They were very well organised and we knew before the game that the responsibility was on us to score a goal. Maybe if Andy Carroll's header goes in during the first half it would have been a different outcome.

"As I say, the fact the goal that decided the tie came from a penalty kick is a reflection of how tight it was between the two teams."

The Reds boss was particularly disappointed with Liverpool’s failure to muster up chances throughout the two legs, stating the side were lacking in creativity.

"You don't need to work the goalkeeper if you put it past him. But we didn't put anything past him.

"You need to be strong creatively if you are going to break down a really organised side. Or you need a bit of luck.”

£35 million January signing Andy Carroll made his first start for the club against Braga, though Dalglish admitted he would have preferred the striker to not have played the full 90 minutes.

"He stayed on longer than we hoped he'd have to stay on. Necessity meant he had to stay on the pitch because we needed to score a goal." Dalglish added.

"He has tremendous assets and we need to learn how to get the best out of him. We've also got assets that he has to learn so he can get the best from us.

"Overall we are pleased to see him back on the pitch. We weren't disappointed with his contribution in any way.

"He was a bit unfortunate he didn't score a goal. He had a header in the first half that was just wide and in the second half another one where Dirk Kuyt got in the way."

Liverpool 0-0 Braga (Braga win 1-0 on aggregate) - Carroll's full-debut best forgotten about.

Liverpool's hopes of silverware in the 2010/11 season came to an end on Thursday evening, as a goalless draw with Braga at Anfield sent the Reds crashing out of Europe at the 'Round of Sixteen' stage.

Kenny Dalglish's side were unable to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit, and must therefore finish in one of the top five Premier League places in order to qualify for continental competition, next season.

It should have been an evening to remember, what with principal owner John Henry witnessing Jose Manuel Reina's 300th appearance as a Liverpool player, coupled in with the full debut of £35 million acquisition Andy Carroll, who was deemed fit to start for the first time since his arrival in the January transfer window.

The recently instated number nine's (thought he had to wear '29' in this match, due to UEFA regulations) first opportunity to show his new supporters what he can conjur up came in the eighth minute, as his towering header made its way through to Joe Cole, who found the angle too narrow to force the ball past goalkeeper Artur. From the loose ball, Carroll attempted to steal his first Liverpool goal, but saw his shot deflected wide.

The Portuguese outfit found it difficult to settle down in the opening stages of the game, but enjoyed the better of the chances in the first half, with Alan, who scored in the first leg, and Lima both coming close to handing Domingos Paciência's side a crucial away goal.

Over the course of the game, Liverpool had several shouts for a penalty denied, with claims of a handball and a foul on midfielder Lucas Leiva being waved away by the officials.

The final chance of a somewhat underwhelming first half again fell to Carroll, though it was always going to be difficult for him to inject enough power into the Maxi Rodriguez left-sided cross.

The Reds' territorial advantage continued in the second period, as a Rodriguez volley and a looping header from Raul Meireles saw Liverpool come close to levelling the tie before the hour mark, but the frustration was beginning to creep in as the score remained goalless.

Dalglish made changes, with Joe Cole and Maxi making way for the Wirral-born Jay Spearing and the rarely used David Ngog. This did breathe life into the hosts once more, with the young Frenchman forcing a tidy save from Artur almost immediately.

With the clock slowly but surely ticking towards elimination for Liverpool, a Martin Skrtel scissor kick was denied by Artur, as the Braga goalkeeper flung himself at the ball to keep the home side out.

There was then further agony in the final few minutes of the match, as an unmarked Ngog appeared inches away from saving his side; but the match concluded with the joyous visitors progressing, and hopes and dreams of another European final for Liverpool being put to bed (for another season, at least).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Liverpool youngsters lose out to Manchester United in FA Youth Cup

Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup today as Manchester United came back from two goals behind to win 3-2 at Anfield in a game marred by indiscipline from both sides.

Reds striker Adam Morgan fired in from close range either side of half-time to give the Reds a two goal advantage before a second-half penalty from Laurel Cole and a brace by Ravel Morrison gave United the win they needed to progress to the semi-finals.

Steven Sama gave away the penalty just shy of the 60th minute and was sent off having been adjudged to have denied a goal scoring opportunity. United’s Paul Pogba was then sent-off for a foul penalty and continued arguments with the referee.

Eventually the spot-kick was converted by Laurel Cole whose composed strike into the bottom right-hand corner sent Tyrell Belford the wrong way to reduce the deficit.

With both teams down to ten men the visitors continued to press and hot prospect Ravel Morrison – who is tipped to be a future England international – scored two goals to reverse the score line and put United into the lead.

There was more controversy in the final stages of the game as Liverpool captain Connor Coady and Tyler Blackett clashed in front of the Kop and were both handed red cards by the match official.

Though the defeat represents a disappointing end to what had been a promising cup run for Rodolfo Borrell’s side there were certainly positives to take from this year’s cup campaign.

Raheem Sterling has put in some stellar performances for the u-18’s, most notably scoring 5 goals in the Reds clash with Southend United to the visit of Manchester United, whilst Coady, Suso, Flannigan and many others within the side all look like potential first-team players.

Previous U-18 sides have gone on to win the FA Youth Cup yet the majority of the players have failed to make the breakthrough to the first-team. The important thing for everyone at tha academy is to ensure the incredibly talent bunch of youngsters currently at the Kirkby facility are properly prepared for the move to Melwood.

Should Liverpool qualify for the Europa League next season the it will likely be seen as an unwanted distraction as the Reds look to ensure they climb back into the top four, meaning the competition –as well as the League Cup – could be used to give many of the players currently at the academy the chance to play soem first-team football.

It’s been far too long since Liverpool’s academy has produced a star player, but based on the performance of some of the current crop that isn’t likely to be a problem for long.

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