Thursday, July 28, 2011

Galatasaray 3-0 Liverpool: Baros strikes twice as Reds lose another friendly

Two goals from former player Milan Baros, along with a stunning strike from Johan Elmander, saw Liverpool sink to their second friendly defeat in a row against Galatasaray. 

Kenny Dalglish named a side compiled of fringe players, with the likes of Emiliano Insua, Philipp Degen and Christian Poulsen all starting for the Reds. 

A handful of youngsters were also on the Liverpool team sheet, with John Flanagan, Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson and Jonjo Shelvey getting a run out in Istanbul. 

Galatasaray, on the other hand, named a strong squad, with former Liverpool striker Milan Baros starting up front alongside ex Bolton forward Johan Elmander. Highly rated Turkish winger Arda Turan also started for the hosts with new signing Fellipe Melo, formerly of Juventus. 

It was former Liverpool man Baros who opened the scoring, catching the ball with a half-volley from inside the box and placing his shot in the bottom right-hand corner, giving the hosts the lead with just eight minutes having been played. 

The first-half was scrappy throughout, with two bookings being made in the opening twenty five minutes, one for either side, with Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and Galatasaray defender Hakan Balta both finding themselves being shown yellow by the referee. 

Galatasaray came close to increasing their lead with just over half an hour played as Servet Cetin connected with a cross from the right and forced Doni to make a great save to deny the hosts another goal. 

Minutes later and Liverpool had their best chance of the first-half, with Sotirios Kyrgiakos connecting with a long-ball into the box and heading it down to Martin Kelly, who fired his shot wide despite being clear through on goal with only the keeper to beat. 

With half-time fast approaching, Milan Baros doubled his own and Galatasaray's goal tally, heading the ball in past Doni at the far post following a corner.

Liverpool started the second-half much better than they had finished the first, pressing high up the pitch and passing the ball at pace, denying the hosts the possession they had in the opening period. 

Dalglish had opted to bring on seasoned players such as Dirk Kuyt and Alberto Aquilani to try and help with the attacking play after Carroll had been isolated up front for much of the first period. Brad Jones was also brought on in place of Doni. 

With just over an hour played Liverpool's improved performance nearly paid dividends, with Joe Cole spraying the ball out wide to Kuyt, who cut inside and played it to Aquilani, with the Italian firing a low shot towards the right-hand corner which forced Ceylan to make a great save. 

Jay Spearing, who impressed in the latter stages of the last campaign, was brought on with 70 minutes to go, replacing Jonjo Shelvey in the middle of the park. 

With just ten minutes to go Andy Carroll had another chance to get Liverpool a goal back, latching onto a cross from Kuyt, but his header was easily collected Ceylan at the near post, with Conor Coady and Andre Wisdom both coming on shortly after. 

Galatasaray extended their lead shortly before the end of the game, with Johan Elmander, the former Bolton man, catching the ball perfectly on the volley from just outside the box, giving Brad Jones no chance of saving the shot as the Reds back four failed to close down the front man. 

Kenny Dalglish will be unlikely to worry too much following the result. The Liverpool team was comprised of fringe players and youngsters, with Andy Carroll being the only player being almost guaranteed a position on the Reds team sheet come the start of the season. 

Galatasaray, who were expecting to start their season next weekend, were also clearly further along in their pre-season training, being more than capable of out running their visiting opposition. 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Government forced to release Thatcher's Hillsborough files

The government has been ordered to release any files about Hillsborough related to Margaret Thatcher, the former Conservative Prime Minister. 

The information commissioner has decided that releasing files containing discussions that the then in power Prime Minister had about the disaster would be in the public interest.

The news came after families effected by the Hillsborough disaster suggested Thatcher had moved to ensure blame was not placed on the police, with chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Trevor Hicks stating: "We believe that a decision was made at that meeting that the police would not be blamed for what happened,"

The information commissioner said in his judgement that: "specific content of the information in question would add to public knowledge and understanding about the reaction of various parties to that event, including the Government of the day, in the early aftermath".

He went on to add: "there is a diminishing case for withholding information over 20 years old".

The police have been scrutinised on a number of occasions for the way in which they handled both the disaster and the aftermath, with Lord Justice Taylor noting in his report on the disaster that: "It is a matter of regret, that ... the South Yorkshire police were not prepared to concede that they were in any respect at fault."

"The police case was to blame the fans for being late and drunk ... It would have been more seemly and encouraging ... if responsibility had been faced."

The government will now either have to release the documents or move to appeal the decision, though with the case being such a sensitive one it may be seen as a bad decision to take the order to a tribunal.

For more information on the Hillsborough disaster and the ongoing campaign for justice visit The Hillsborough Family Support Group and Hillsborough Justice Campaign websites. 
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are Liverpool shelling out too much in transfer fees?

Luis Suarez - £22m. Andy Carroll - £35m. Jordan Henderson - £16m. Charlie Adam - £7m. Stewart Downing - £20m. Since acquiring the club in October, FSG have spent over £100m in the transfer market.
With each transfer swoop though, comes stinging criticism. Following the news that Aston Villa have reluctantly agreed to sell Player of the Year Downing to the reds, I was greeted with the usual apathy towards the deal. “Good  player, but far too much money” was the cry coming from rival fans. I heard the same thing last week when Adam was purchased, with even more when Henderson arrived. No doubt the same conversation will be had if King Kenny dips into the transfer funds again this summer.
£20m is a huge fee, so do they have a point?
Firstly, there is no getting away from the fact that for the average person, £20m is a lot of money. But for the top teams in the country, £20m is a standard transfer fee. With the price of success so high, clubs have to speculate to accumulate. If Stewart Downing performs well and helps Liverpool regain their place in the Champions League, Liverpool will recoup the £20m and much, much more. If he fails, then £20m will be seen as too much. A fee can only be deemed too much or too high in hindsight.
Over the last 10-15 years, Liverpool have won their fair share of trophies. FA Cups, League Cups, UEFA Cup and of course, the biggest of them all, the European Cup, have all arrived. However, the League has still eluded the reds. One of the main reasons for this has been Liverpool’s reluctance to really spend big. But Rafael Benitez spent hundreds of millions is the familiar reply. He did, but he also managed to recoup alot of that. When I say spend big, I mean spend big on the right player.
In 2003, Liverpool scouts checked on Sporting Lisbon winger Cristiano Ronaldo. Impressed, Liverpool wanted to buy the Portuguese youngster, but were put off by the fee. Weeks later, Manchester United came in with a huge fee and Ronaldo ended up at Old Trafford. League titles followed, before Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid in a massive £90m deal.
Three years later, Liverpool were heavily linked with Sevilla’s promising right-sided player Dani Alves. Liverpool wanted to pay so much, Sevilla president Jose Maria Del Nido valued the Brazilian higher. Weeks of negotiations lead to nothing, so Liverpool switched their attentions to the cheaper Birmingham winger Jermaine Pennant. After a couple of seasons, it was clear Pennant wasn’t the answer and he was shipped on. In the meantime, Alves stayed another year at Sevilla before transferring to Barcelona. He is now one of the best right-back/right-sided players in the world.
The same mistakes were made with Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and many others. Liverpool’s reluctance to spend big on the right player, meant the fall-back option had to be brought in. When that player was deemed not good enough, Liverpool were forced to sell and start their search over again, ultimately spending more money than they were previously unwilling to do.
Under FSG, Liverpool now have a clear transfer strategy. They have identified their targets and will do everything to get them. Of course, they will bide their time to pay as little as they can, but ultimately they would rather pay that little bit extra than miss out on the deal.
The fees paid out so far may be high, but they are all prices that John W Henry, Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish were willing to pay. They are the people who run our club. They are the people who know what direction we are heading. By criticising the transfer fees paid, people are criticising the judgement of the people in charge of our club. After the tumultuous reign of cowboys Hicks and Gillett, it is good to see Liverpool willing, and in a position to spend the cash. If this means £20m on Stewart Downing, then so be it. In Messrs Dalglish, Comolli and Henry we trust.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guangdong 3-4 Liverpool: Coady gets debut goal as Reds win first game in Asian tour

A senior debut goal for Conor Coady sealed a win for Liverpool in an action packed game against Guangdong in what was the first tie of the 2011 Asia tour.

Christian Poulsen opened the scoring for Liverpool midway through the first-half, connecting with a chipped ball from the right by Joe Cole, which alluded both Liverpool and Guangdong players before falling at the feet of Poulsen who placed it confidently.

The Reds Asian supporters only had to wait a couple of minutes before the second goal of the game, with David N'gog waiting for the goalkeeper to rush off his line before firing home after connecting with a well placed ball from Jonjo Shelvey.

As the first period was coming to an end Guangdong got their first goal of the game, with Lu Lin breaking well down the right hand side before playing a brilliant ball into Ricardo Steer, who's powerful header got the best of Peter Gulacsi to half the deficit for the hosts.

It was debutant Conor Coady who scored Liverpool's third in the second-half, latching on to a well-placed ball from Andy Carroll before breaking into the box and placing his shot well to re-establish Liverpool's two goal lead and get his first senior goal for the Reds.

With less than ten minutes remaining Liverpool got their fourth, with Maxi Rodriguez playing a great one two with Carroll, with the England international playing it out to the left before the Argentine returned the favour, playing it into the box for Carroll to blast into the back of the net.

Just when it looked like Liverpool were going to win comfortably Guangdong scored two goals in quick succession, with Lu Lin getting a deserved goal, cutting in and placing his shot well with his right foot before Yin Hongbo got the better of Agger and beat Martin Hansen to get the third.
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Liverpool v Guangdong Live!

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Anfield or Stanley Park? What makes the most sense for Liverpool's long-term home?

Fans are split on whether Liverpool should move to a new stadium or redevelop Anfield. The financial analysis suggests it's not an easy decision to make. 

It's been one of the longest running issues in the history of Liverpool Football Club, the desire for a new stadium often being kept at bay by poor designs, a lack of funds and neglectful owners. But now Liverpool have the boardroom setup to proceed, but there's still a lot of factors to consider before Liverpool begin to build a new home or renovate their current one.

In a recent press release Ian Ayre, Liverpool's recently appointed managing director, suggested that regardless of whether a new stadium is built or the current one is refurbished the capacity will only come to 60,000 - a total increase in capacity of 16,000 on what Anfield can currently hold.

However further analysis would suggest it isn't just a simple case of 16,000 extra seats. The value of the additional seats varies when considering an all-new stadium or a refurbished Anfield, with a new stadium offering the opportunity for more corporate hospitality situated in modern, state-of-the-art, facilities which will attract more affluent clients.

General admission tickets also tend to be higher after a new stadium has been developed. Arsenal, who moved from their long-time home at Highbury to The Emirates Stadium, were the first club in the history of English football to announce a general admission ticket that costs over £100 after all taxes and charges were included - £52 higher than the most expensive Liverpool tickets for the 2011/12 season.

The club would make further financial gains by selling the naming rights to a new stadium, something they cannot do at Anfield due to strong supporter disapproval of such an idea. Arsenal sold the naming rights to their new stadium, originally named Ashburton Grove, to Emirates Airlines for 15-years at £100m, one of the major contributing factors to the stadium having already taken in enough revenue to cover the cost of the build.

If Liverpool did move to a new stadium than the area currently occupied by Anfield could also be profitable for the club, with the potential to build luxury real estate set around open public areas as has happened at Arsenal's Highbury stadium. Should the development of the current Anfield stadium area, along with the building of a new stadium, also be perceived by the local council to considerably add to the local economy there is also the potential that any project could be subsidised, further increasing potential profitability.

John W Henry, Liverpool's principle owner, also stated that in order to compete at the top level Liverpool needed as big a stadium as Manchester United, with the current league champions ground Old Trafford currently holding 75,000. The expansion of Anfield to 60,000 has already been questioned due to the difficulty with securing residential land around the ground, going even further - beyond - 70,000 could be much easier in a new stadium rather than a refurbished Anfield.

But despite the difficulties of both expanding and achieving substantial increases in revenue at a redeveloped Anfield it isn't something which should be written off.

On the whole, it is much more affordable to expand Anfield to 60,000 rather than build a whole new stadium of the same size, building work could begin relatively soon, whereas with a new stadium it is likely that the current plans for a new stadium - set out by the former owners- will likely have to be reviewed by the new regime.

Fenway Sports Group - the clubs owners - are publicly known to want to be as popular as possible with the supporters, and staying at Anfield helps achieve that goal. What wouldn't however help their cause is building Hicks and Gillett's stadium, not only were fans split on its design in the first place but building it now would be a disheartening reminder of the previous owners and all the wrong they did at the club.

This could mean a total new design is needed for the stadium, meaning more architects and, most importantly, more costs to the club. Hicks and Gillett spent £50 million on their stadium plan which never saw a spade in the ground. The question is how much more would it cost for a new, fully functional, design in comparison to the cost of redeveloping Anfield?

Also, whilst the ability to raise ticket prices at a new stadium increases revenue for the club, it can lead to more supporters being left behind, unable to afford to see their team play. Liverpool is a club which is deep-rooted in the local community yet even the current ticket prices have forced many to make the decision to no longer go to the game. continuous, above inflation, ticket increase will only speed up the process of the match day crowd becoming unrecognisable from those that made the old standing Kop famous throughout the clubs history.

Anfield itself is also a profitable asset. People want to be part of the history, it's why stadium tours are so popular and places at corporate events so scarce. For many Anfield is the one of the only remaining things - aside from the man in the dugout - which still represents old Liverpool FC, the one that won trophies year-on-year and went about things in the Liverpool Way - set out by Bill Shankly.

It has been suggested that the argument to stay at Anfield is purely a sentimental one, but clearly there is some serious financial factors that suggest otherwise. John Henry and the rest of the board have a major decision to make in the near future, one which, whatever way it goes, will not be met by unanimous approval and will change the image of Liverpool Football Club.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Could Liverpool's signing of Charlie Adam lead to midfield exits?

With the arrival of Charlie Adam, Liverpool have a host of options in the centre of midfield. With such an abundance of players Kenny Dalglish may look at who is surplus to requirements.

The 25-year-old is expected to complete a medical and agree personal terms over the course of the next week after Liverpool and Blackpool agreed on a fee following drawn out negotiations, leaving the Reds with a large number of players who can play in and around the centre of the park. 

With so many players able to occupy one position there is unlikely to be room in Kenny Dalglish's plans for all of them, potentially leading to some departures from Anfield over the coming weeks as the club look for money to further strengthen the squad. 

Alberto Aquilani, who has recently returned from a loan spell at Juventus, has just arrived back on Merseyside after the Turin outfit failed to meet the fee which Liverpool expected for the midfielder, believed to be around £14 million. 

As it became increasingly obvious Juventus would be unwilling to meet the fee required to retain Aquilani's services the agent of the player made it abundantly clear that the Italian international did not want to return to the Premier League, linking him with moves to many clubs including AC Milan and Napoli. 

“Aquilani to Napoli? I dont think it would be an easy negotiation but if the will is there why not?" The players agent said when the link was first touted in the media. 

However Kenny Dalglish has left the door open for the player to return to Anfield and earn his place in the squad, stating:  "If he was to come back here, for me that would be like a new face coming in." But should Aquilani still insist he wants to stay in Italy then Dalglish may happily let the player move so as not to have an unhappy player on the books. 

Raul Meireles, who was signed by Roy Hodgson last summer, is another player who has been linked with a move away from Liverpool this summer due to the arrival of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam. 

The Portuguese made a slow start to his time at Anfield, but when Kenny Dalglish arrived he had an upturn in form, scoring a number of crucial goals in a succession of matches. However his critics have suggested that he has not maintained this form and, as he is not getting any younger, he could be shipped out. 

Inter Milan have been linked with a move for the 28-year-old, and should they or anyone else make a bid of equal to or more than what was paid for him last year then he may well be heading to Italy, especially when Fenway Sports Group's philosophy of buying young and getting value for ageing players is taken into account. 

Follow the author on Twitter @mfowen91
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