Saturday, September 29, 2012

Norwich 2-5 Liverpool: Suarez scores three as five-star Reds triumph

By Michael Owen

On the anniversary of Bill Shankly's death, Liverpool did their legendary manager proud, firing five past Norwich to seal their first Premier League win of the season.

A hat-trick of well-taken goals by Luis Suarez was added to by a tap in from Nuri Sahin and a deflected shot from captain Steven Gerrard to give Liverpool all three points at Carrow Road.

Second-half goals from Morison and substitute Holt were only mere consolations for the home side who were thoroughly outplayed by the visitors.

It was an assured performance from the Merseyside outfit, with Suso pulling the strings in the middle of the park in the early stages, whilst Glen Johnson made up for some shaky performances at left-back with an assured attacking display against the Canaries.

The midfield three of Sahin, Gerrard and Joe Allen were too much for Norwich to handle, with the hosts not putting enough pressure on the Reds in the middle of the park, allowing the trio to find ample opportunities to find the in-form Luis Suarez.

The impressive performance put in by Liverpool's youngsters was taken into account by Brendan Rodgers, handing full Premier League debuts to both Andre Wisdom and Suso, with Nuri Sahin also being rewarded for his two goals against West Brom with a start at Carrow Road.

Chris Hughton made two changes to the Norwich side which lost to Newcastle at St James' Park last Sunday, bringing in Michael Turner for the injured Sebastian Bassong and preferring Simeon Jackson to Wes Hoolahan up front.

Liverpool got off the mark almost immediately, with Suso playing a ball across to the left flank for Glen Johnson, who broke forward and played it to Luis Suarez, and the Uruguayan was afforded too much time by the Norwich defence, allowing the number seven to place a shot into the bottom corner from just outside the box.

Brendan Rodgers side continued to dominate the early stages of the first-half, though as the game progressed Norwich looked more of a threat, with Jackson forcing a good save from Pepe Reina as he latched on to an in-swinging ball and hit it low from close range.

A poor refereeing decision denied Liverpool the chance to double their lead, with Suarez clearly brought down in the box by Barnett but his pleas for a spot kick were waved away by the official at Carrow Road Mike Jones.

A quick break by Liverpool saw the Reds come tantalisingly close to getting a second with ten minutes of the first half left as Suarez found space in the middle of the park and played a inch perfect ball over the top the the incoming Steven Gerrard, whose headed effort from the centre of the box was well-saved by John Ruddy.

Shortly after Liverpool finally did double their tally as Suarez turned his man well just outside the box, taking a few steps forward before hitting a well-controlled curling effort with the outside of his boot into the outstretched Ruddy's right-hand corner.

Norwich came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second-half, but a rapid counter-attack allowed Suarez to play the ball low into the centre of the box, with the ensuing goal line scramble leading to Nuri Sahin blasting in from close range to score his third in the week and Liverpool's third of the day.

The Canaries nearly fired back immediately, with a corner kick eventually finding Grant Holt, who was brought on at half-time, with Norwich's player of the year seeing his shot well deflected by Johnson before Andrew Surman scuffed his effort out of play from close range.

After Suarez had set up Sahin earlier in the game the Real Madrid loan star returned the favour, playing it to the Reds front man who shifted the ball onto his right foot before curling a low shot from outside of the box into the bottom left-hand corner of Ruddy's goal, giving his side a four goal lead.

Just after the goal Suso, who put in a solid performance for the Reds, particularly during the opening moments of the first half, was replaced by Oussama Assaidi, whose performance in Liverpool's League Cup game midweek showed many promising signs.

The home side did manage to get one goal back, with Snodgrass firing a shot which span quickly right, forcing Reina to fumble the ball back into the area where Morison capitalised by tapping into an open goal, reducing the deficit to three.

With 65 minutes played Brendan Rodgers made his second substitution of the game, taking off the impressive Nuri Sahin and bring on England international Jordan Henderson.

Liverpool ensured their performance was a five-star one when Raheem Sterling broke quickly down the right-wing, taking a moment to look up and pulling it back to Steven Gerrard, whose first-time shot took a slight deflection before finding the back of the net.

With five minutes to go Grant Holt got the better off Martin Skrtel, pushing the ball out to the left before quickly cutting back inside to go one-on-one with Pepe Reina, who for the second time in the game was caught out be a Norwich forward, with Holt finishing well to pull another one back.

Friday, September 28, 2012

LFC Scout Report: Norwich City

By Ben Hardy

After gaining back-to-back promotions under the guidance of Paul Lambert, Norwich City now embark on their quest to build on their impressive 12th position last season.

Over the summer, Lambert left for Aston Villa and former Birmingham manager, Chris Hughton was appointed to take over.

Hughton was very harshly sacked from Newcastle after taking them back to the Premier League and must feel like he has a point to prove that he can cut it in one of the best leagues in world football.

Similar to Brenden Rogers, Chris Hughton is still searching for his first league win with his new club and it is more than likely than one of these two managers will achieve this feat on Saturday.

The Canaries got off to the worst start possible after an opening day 5-0 thrashing away at Fulham. Since then, Norwich have achieved three draws (with QPR, Tottenham and West Ham) whilst losing to Newcastle last week.

Another alarming stat for the Norwich faithful is the fact they have only managed to score two goals in their five Premier League games so far with star striker Grant Holt failing to score since he reversed his decision to leave the club in the summer.

Despite the doom and gloom that has surrounds both team’s respective start to the season, both clubs progressed through to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup mid-week.

Norwich managed a 1-0 victory against Doncaster Rovers thanks to a debut goal by Alex Tettey in which they gain some momentum and now face Tottenham in the last 16.

Team News

Chris Hughton will be without young loan signing Harry Kane for the visit of Liverpool. The 19-year-old was stretchered off in the 49th minute of the Capital One Cup win midweek after going over badly on his ankle and breaking a metatarsal.

Kane will be out for around six weeks and Hughton described the injury as "a big loss" as many beleive the player holds huge potential.

Norwich also have doubts over Sebastien Bassong (hamstring) and Anthony Pilkington (back). Both players have been rated 50-50 whether to they will be fit in time for Saturday.

Key Players

Despite not managing to score this season so far, Grant Holt is always going to be a threat to every defence and cause problems . He is a natural leader, commands presence and still has an impact on a game, whether he is scoring or not. I'm sure it is only a matter of time before he recreates his goal scoring feats from last season.

Until then, Norwich will have to rely on the likes of summer signing Robert Snodgrass to chip in with a few goals from midfield, as he did against Tottenham. The former Leeds man has quickly become a crowd favourite at Norwich due to his work rate and ultimately his ability.

Liverpool have won in their last three successive trips to Carrow Road and Brenden Rogers will see this as his best chance yet to get that first win and move Liverpool out of the relegation zone.

A minutes applause and black armbands will be present as Norwich City remember their former manager, John Bond, who died aged 79 earlier this week.

This match could yet turn out to be one of the games of the weekend, with both teams and managers desperate to get their first three points and for that reason I expect an entertaining game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

West Brom 1-2 Liverpool: Sahin double defeats Baggies

By Michael Owen

A double from Nuri Sahin saw a Liverpool team primarily made up of youngsters see off West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns to progress to the fourth round of the League Cup. 

West Brom took the lead early when Brad Jones fumbled a free-kick into the box, allowing Gabriel Tamas to slot home from close range before Ben Foster made an equally bad mistake, allowing Nuri Sahin to get the better of him from 25 yards out.

It took until the final ten minutes of an impressive performance from Liverpool's young starlets for the Reds to secure the win, with Sahin latching on to a ball from substitute Suso before tapping in from close range to take the Reds one step closer to retaining their title.

Former Liverpool assistant manager met up with his old club for the second time at The Hawthorns this season, hoping he could replicate the Baggies three goal opening day win in the Capital Cup on Wednesday night.

It was a much changed Liverpool side from the one which faced Manchester United at the weekend, with youngsters Dani Pacheco, Yesil, Assaidi, Wisdom, Robinson and Coates all starting for the Reds alongside the more experienced Jones, Carragher, Downing, Henderson and Sahin.

The hosts fielded a very strong side featuring many of the players that got the best of Brendan Rodgers side in August, including captain Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell and young starlet Romelu Lukaku.

West Brom were the quickest off the mark, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position which Brad Jones fumbled in the area allowing Gabriel Tamas to fire in from close range and give the hosts the lead with just four minutes on the clock.

Yesil had a chance to bring the Reds level within moments, with Assaidi breaking out wide and swinging a ball into the box, which the young striker managed to get his head to but couldn't direct, seeing his effort fly wide of the far post.

Ten minutes later Liverpool did manage to get an equaliser, with Andre Wisdom laying the ball off to Nuri Sahin, who took a few steps forward before firing a low, drilled, shot from distance which caught Ben Foster off guard and slid into the keepers left-hand corner.

The Reds continued to look good going forward, with Assaidi breaking down the left-wing, doing well to skip past a number of West Brom players before looping in a ball to Downing, with his header down eventually finding Pacheco, who saw his first-time shot well saved by Foster.

In the latter stages of the first-half Steve Clarke was forced to make his first substitution of the game, taking off the injured Ridgewell and replacing him with Dawson. Liverpool may have felt unfortunate not to see their opponents go down to ten men, with a rash challenge from Mulumbu on Henderson going unpunished.

As the second-half began Liverpool once again looked lively, with Yesil, with his back to goal, turning his man and firing a shot which nearly caught Ben Foster off-guard. Moments later Dani Pacheco came close, with a well-placed effort nearly putting Brendan Rodgers side in the lead.

Seventy minutes in Liverpool had another opportunity to double their lead, this time with Assaidi winning a free-kick from Dawson out on the left, which was swung in towards Coates who struck a powerful header, forcing a world-class save from Foster to keep the Baggies level.

The Reds finally nudged themselves into the lead with just under ten minutes left, with Suso, who had come on the replace Dani Pacheco, taking on a number of West Brom defenders before playing it across to Sahin who tapped it into an open net to double his own and the Reds goal tally.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Five Things We've Learned: Liverpool v Manchester United

By Robert Nevitt

1. A fitting tribute to the 96

Sunday's match was the first at Anfield since the release of the Hillsborough Independent Report which uncovered the shocking failings, and subsequent cover-up, that led to the death of 96 Liverpool fans.

With fierce rivals Manchester United the visitors, much of the pre-match talk centred on whether or not both sets of fans would behave and steer clear of the vile chants which both have been guilty of singing in the past.

Fortunately, the behaviour of most was impeccable as Anfield paid a wonderful tribute.

The tone was perfectly set as both sides emerged with the number 96 emblazoned on the back of their tracksuit tops, whilst Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra both finally grew up and shook each other’s hand to hopefully put their feud behind them.

Both sets of fans then followed Suarez and Evra's lead by impeccably honouring the ninety-six. United legend Bobby Charlton presented Reds counterpart Ian Rush with flowers, then as You'll Never Walk Alone reverberated around the ground with three sides of the famous stadium displaying a mosaic which spelled the words "Justice", "96" and "The Truth", team captains Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs released 96 red balloons.

Of course, there will always be a sad minority who try to make their own headlines, as shown by the Liverpool "fans" who, after the match, taunted the United faithful into their sickening chants. But the least said about that the better.

This was a day when rivalry was rightly put to one side, when football correctly took a backseat. Credit must go to both clubs for the parts they played.

2. Ref had a shocker but Reds need a cutting edge

The main talking point from Sunday's game was the performance of referee Mark Halsey.

His decision to dismiss Jonjo Shelvey was harsh, with Johnny Evans' tackle as bad, if not worse, than that of the Liverpool midfielder.

Halsey also failed to award Liverpool a penalty when Suarez was upended and further enraged the Anfield faithful by awarding United a dubious spot-kick, from which Robin Van Persie won the game.

But, the referee's performance cannot, and must not, be regarded as the sole reason as to why the Reds are still left searching for their first league win under Brendan Rodgers.

For the majority of the game, even with 10-men, Liverpool dominated proceedings. Their crisp passing and fluid movement continually opened up the United rearguard, but, as has so often been the case over the last 12 months, Liverpool's lack of a cutting edge meant they once again failed to take 3 points.

Seventeen attempts with only eight on target told the story, whilst there were at least two occasions when dangerous crosses saw no Liverpool attackers in the area to fire home. Only when Gerrard ventured forward did the Reds look like scoring.

It's a recurring theme, but four goals from five league games simply isn't good enough. Whilst Suarez is the focal point of the attack and will take much of the criticism for the lack of goals, the team as a whole must improve the attacking side of their game.

3. There's still life in the old dog yet

592 appearances for Liverpool. 151 goals. Has won everything but the Premier League. Captain. A legend, second only to Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool’s finest player.

But still, people have the temerity to question Steven Gerrard’s place in the team. On Sunday, the Reds' midfielder answered all of his critics with a wonderful performance.

Personally affected by the Hillsborough tragedy, his 9-year old cousin John-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest of all the victims, Gerrard looked a man possessed on Sunday.

He got about the pitch as if he were 5 years younger. His passing was crisp and inventive, his tackles ferocious. As captain, he lead from the front, capping a fine performance with a well-taken goal, then made a point of dedicating his goal to the 96 angels above.

Despite his aging years, Gerrard is still THE main man at Anfield. When the ball dropped to him inside the United area, there was no other Liverpool player you’d rather be lining up a shot.

Key to his performance was that it came after a week’s rest. After missing Thursday’s Europa League clash with Young Boys, he was fit, fresh and firing for United’s visit.

If Gerrard’s appearances can be properly managed allowing him to replicate Sunday’s form and Rodgers can work out a way to make sure his talismanic captain is utilised closer to the opponents’ goal, then it should only be a matter of time before Liverpool are back on the right track.

4. Threadbare squad about to be tested

As well as the disappointing result, Sunday's match also provided Reds' boss Rodgers with more worries about his paper-thin squad.

Shelvey's red card means the midfielder will miss three games through suspension, whilst Martin Kelly's knee injury will keep him out for the rest of the year at least.

To add to Rodgers' woes, Daniel Agger was stretchered off with suspected medial ligament damage to his left knee, whilst Fabio Borini suffered a bruised foot and swollen ankle.

Before the game, the Reds' squad already looked threadbare following a summer of mass departures. Following the weekend's action, Rodgers' options have been weakened further and with the transfer window closed until January, the Reds boss will once again have to look to the Reds batch of youngsters to fill the void.

5. The Kids are alright!

But, whilst the loss of first-teamers like Agger and Kelly may deal a blow to Rodgers, Sunday's game showed once again that the Reds' youngsters are more than capable of making the step up.

Until his sending off, 20-year old Shelvey had acquitted himself well, whilst 17-year old Sterling gave the experienced Evra a torrid time on the right flank.

Much credit must go to Rodgers for his faith in his younger players. When Borini was forced off injured at half-time, already down to 10 men, the Reds' boss could have gone for the safety-first option of Jordan Henderson or Nuri Sahin to bolster the depleted midfield. Instead, he showed bravery by opting to give 19 year old Spanish playmaker Suso his league debut.

Immediately Suso impressed. His guile and trickery saw him beat Paul Scholes wide on the left to provide a cross which ultimately led to Gerrard's goal.

The young Spaniard looked comfortable in possession, nearly scored when teed up by Suarez and then returned the favour with a wonderful slide rule pass from which the Uruguayan fired across goal.

His fine performance was marred when his misplaced pass led to Valencia's surge to win the penalty, but, that aside, it was an impressive debut by Suso.

Already in his short time at the managerial helm, Rodgers has shown he is not scared of calling upon any of the Liverpool youngsters. He has stated 'if they're good enough, they are old enough', so with Liverpool's impressive array of young talent, expect to see more young players make the breakthrough in the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United: Reliant Robin Downs 10-man Reds

Robin van Persie fired home a penalty ten minutes from time to down 10-man Liverpool on an emotional afternoon at Anfield.

But on a day where Anfield remembered the 96 victims of Hillsborough and celebrated the recent release of the real truth about what happened in April 1989, Liverpool were this time left to bemoan an injustice on the pitch as a combination of dubious decisions by referee Mark Halsey as well as a lack of cutting edge, left the Reds still looking for their first league victory under Brendan Rodgers.

Pre-match, all the focus centred on the memory of Hillsborough and how both sets of fans would react. The tone was perfectly set as both sides emerged with the number 96 emblazoned on the back of their tracksuit tops, whilst Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra both finally grew up and shook each others hands to hopefully put their feud behind them.

Both sets of fans then followed Suarez and Evra's lead by impeccably honouring the ninety-six. United legend Bobby Charlton presented Reds counterpart Ian Rush with flowers, then as You'll Never Walk Alone reverberated around the ground with three sides of the famous stadium displaying a mosaic which spelled the words "Justice", "96" and "The Truth", team captains Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs released 96 red balloons.

The tribute carried on as the match kicked-off with "Justice for The 96" drowning out the first 60 seconds of play as football rightly took a backseat.

As the action settled down, the home side asserted early control, with a clearly emotionally-charged Gerrard the focal point.

The Reds' captain's early touches signalled he was in the mood and he nearly opened the scoring when a cleverly worked short corner from Jonjo Shelvey resulted in Gerrard firing just wide of the Anders Lindegaard's near post.

With United struggling to get a foothold in the game, Liverpool dominated possession.

Youngster Raheem Sterling continued his fine start to his fledgling career as he consistently got the better of left-back Evra. It was from a Sterling pass that the Reds nearly opened the scoring, when Suarez cross-shot caused panic in the United defence, though there were no Liverpool attackers on hand to capitalise.

Fabio Borini then made a fine run to get on the end of a Suarez throughball, though his first touch sent him away from goal allowing United to clear the danger.

The visitors briefly threatened when Ryan Giggs shot wide from the edge of the box, but it was the hosts who were in the ascendancy, with their failure to score the only blot on their copybook.

But on 39 minutes, referee Halsey took centre-stage.

Shelvey dispossessed Giggs midway inside the United half and as the ball broke free the Liverpool midfielder threw himself into a challenge with United centre-half Johnny Evans, which left the defender writhing on the floor in agony. Surrounded by United players, Halsey quickly issued a red card to Shelvey, though replays suggested the decision was a harsh one, with Evans' two-footed lunge as bad, if not worse, than that of the Liverpool midfielder's.

Rocked by the decision, the Anfield crowd upped their volume and despite being a man down, the home side still looked most likely to score as a 30-yard Suarez free-kick forced Lindegaard into a fine save low to his right.

With the game's dynamics changed by Shelvey's dismissal, half-time saw both sides make substitutions. For United, 37-year old Paul Scholes was brought on to bring guile and an air of calmness to the visitors' midfield at the expense of the ineffective Nani, whilst Liverpool boss Rodgers avoided the temptation to shore up his depleted midfield with a defensive body, instead opting to introduce exciting Spanish youngster Suso down the left flank in place of Borini.

Within 60 seconds, Rodgers bravery had paid off. 19-year old Suso cleverly skipped past Scholes before clipping a cross into the box. The ball was partially cleared to Glen Johnson who returned the ball into the area for Gerrard to chest down and volley a low left-foot drive past Lindegaard into the bottom corner.

As he wheeled away in delight, the Liverpool captain pointed to the sky to say that was for the 96, and in particular youngest victim, and Gerrard's cousin, 9-year old John-Paul Gilhooley.

But rather than be buoyed by the goal, Liverpool visibly sat back allowing United to get hold of the ball and equalise within a matter of minutes, when right-back Rafael superbly curled an effort in off the far post.

Undeterred though, Liverpool continued to take the game to their opponents.

Suso forced Lindegaard into a tip over, whilst Suarez fizzed a cross across the face of goal though once again there were no Liverpool attackers there to take advantage.

Referee Halsey further riled the home fans when he failed to award a spot-kick when Suarez was felled in the United box. But soon after he was pointing to the spot, though this time at the other end.

Suso's fine performance was marred as his misplaced cross-field pass saw the ball run free on the halfway-line. Johnson and Daniel Agger collided, with Agger later stretchered off, allowing Valencia to bear down on goal. As the Ecuadorian winger entered the box, Johnson's attempted recovery saw Valencia fall to the floor after minimal contact, with ref Halsey pointing to the spot.

Van Persie waited patiently to take the penalty as Agger received treatment for his injury and left the field on a stretcher, whilst the Kop showed their anger towards referee Halsey with a chorus of boos. Eventually the Dutchman was able to stride up and plant his penalty high to Reina's left to give United the points.

Liverpool tried to find an equaliser but as had happened in much of the game, they struggled to penetrate the visitors goal. Having made all of their substitutions, the Reds finished the game with 9-men after Martin Kelly limped off in injury time.

For Rodgers, the result will be another disappointing one after having seen his side dominate for long periods. The sending off and penalty decisions certainly did not help, but the worrying thing for the Reds boss will be the lack of cutting edge his side possesses.

The challenge for Rodgers is to now turn their impressive passing game into one which heralds goals. If he fails to do that, then Liverpool's worst start in 101 years could get even worse.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

LFC Scout Report: Manchester United

By Ben Hardy

Sunday’s match marks Liverpool’s first game at Anfield since the revelations of the Hillsborough report, with fierce rivals Manchester United the visitors.

Source:  Linksfuss   
There is also the matter of pre-game handshakes, with Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez possibly coming face to face for the first time since the debacle at Old Trafford last season in which Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand after a race row.

A handshake between the two however can only improve the relationship between the two sets of fans and would show how football can unite rivalries.

However, the sense amongst the footballing community is that the handshake saga has become vastly insignificant due to the events last week regarding Hillsborough and has somewhat put the handshakes and the game into perspective.

The Liverpool – Manchester United rivalry is one of the fiercest in world football and many high profile figures have pleaded to the fans and for the game to be played and supported in good spirits.

Sir Alex Ferguson has written a letter which will be handed to every United fan who passes through the turnstiles at Anfield on Sunday in which he comments on the greatness of both of these two clubs and how he expects the fans to act accordingly. The contents of the letter can be found on the official Manchester United website.

This has been received well and seen as a great gesture of respect by Sir Alex and the fans now need to do their part to keep all talking points and focus about the football on display.

Both teams had to come through difficult European fixtures during the week in which both teams won.

Liverpool were able to rest a number of their first team players against BSC Young Boys in the Europa League whereas Man Utd were forced to field a very strong line up in the Champions League against a resilient Galatasary .

Defensive problems have hindered the Red Devils' start to the Premier League as they lost to Everton and then uncharacteristically conceded two goals against both Fulham and Southampton.

Two consecutive clean sheets against Wigan and an attacking Galatasaray is a much more encouraging for United however and they’ll be hoping they can keep their first choice defenders playing together more regularly.

Team News

The major team news is that Wayne Rooney has not recovered in time and will miss the trip to Anfield.

There were some reports that Rooney would be fit for the clash with Liverpool; however Sir Alex Ferguson has stated he’s still at least another week away as he continues to recover from a gashed thigh sustained early in the season. Robin van Persie is widely expected to lead the line ahead of the likes of Hernandez and Welbeck.

Ashley Young is another player to set miss out because of a knee injury that will keep him away from the squad for another three weeks.

Darren Fletcher made his comeback during the week and will be a welcome sight for the United fans as he starts his fight for his place in the starting eleven.

Goalkeeper David De Gea hasn’t done his starting chances any harm by keeping a clean sheet mid-week and could start ahead of Lindegaard.

Ferguson could end the hand shake saga before it begins by dropping Patrice Evra to the bench and start new signing Alexander Buttner, who scored on an impressive debut last week against Wigan.

Other than Rooney and Young, there are no new injury concerns for United and have the same set of players available as they did against Galatasaray mid-week.

Key Players

The Man Utd back four will be vital to how Man Utd cope at Anfield – a place in which the Red Devils haven’t won in the last five attempts.

The Liverpool attackers might want to target Nemanja Vidic as his disciplinary record against Liverpool is abysmal with three of his four red cards coming against Liverpool.

The other obvious threats come in the form Robin van Persie, who enjoys a good goal scoring record against the Reds and the midfield maestro, Paul Scholes, who must be prevented from controlling the midfield.

With Brenden Rogers’ Liverpool still searching for their first league win this season, three points against the old rivals would certainly ease some of the over-the-top criticism that has come his way and would mean so much to everyone connected with Liverpool FC. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

View from the Opposition: Manchester United

By Michael Owen

With Liverpool set to face Manchester United at the weekend we talked to United fan and Sky Sports News presenter Hayley McQueen about the North West derby.

A shock defeat against Everton aside Manchester United have had a good start to the Premier League season. Do you think the good form is set to continue or are there a few parts of your game that worry you?

Ten goals from the first four games sounds good but conceding five is just not good enough, two games on the bounce United have needed to score three to get a result, very un-United like.

The defence has been makeshift due to key players being injured which has meant they have by no means been at their best but the 4-0 win over Wigan has given United a real boost and the clean sheet was needed.

Manchester United's midfield last season simply wasn't good enough which was exposed in a poor Champions League campaign. With Jones, Smalling Rio, Vidic, Evans, Evra all fit (which is rare) there is an abundance of talent at the back but across the midfield the Reds are a little thin. Defence will yet again be key to Uniteds season.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have had a stuttering start to the new campaign. Is it just a case of Brendan Rodgers philosophy taking time to sink in or do you think the Reds will struggle this season?

I’ve got two Liverpool players in my Fantasy Football team so I'm hoping you do alright. Like everything in life it will take time to bed in. I saw there were 17 shots on goals towards Arsenal and 20 towards Sunderland, as well as Liverpool having the majority of possession away from home at Sunderland so things aren’t as bad as results would show.

However, lack of depth in striking options is obviously a problem, not being able to convert is ridiculously frustrating. It’s coping with what you have got until January I guess and letting the new players bed in, patience is the key. Conceding just 1 in 4 games in the Europa League is promising maybe a little of this will start to rub off into the league.

It’s been a big summer of spending for United, most notably adding Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie after prolonged negotiations. What do you think of Sir Alex’s business in the market?

I think its fair to say Powell and Buttner weren't names high up on fans wish lists for this season but they couldn't have had a better start to their careers at United both scoring on thier debuts and I liked what I saw from Buttner, a defender who revels in attack.

I think Kagawa has been Fergies best signing, he delighted the Old Trafford crowd against Fulham with a very intelligent passing display, one that suggests there's much to look forward to from him. as he's not just for now but for the long term and possibly even the heir, dare I say it, to Scholes’ throne.

I was really excited to see Robin Van Persie despite his age and injury issues, he was bought at the top of his game & has already delivered with THAT hat-trick, (payback for me taking him out of my Fantasy Football) I just hope he continues that.

The problem United have is the reliance on our stalwarts across the middle to make a difference. The last  four seasons I've hoped United would sign Sneijder I think he's the type of player United need but we’ve missed the boat with that now.

If Owen Hargreaves' career hadn't been killed by injury we'd have a much stronger midfield and things would have been different the last two seasons, I genuinely believe that.

As I say though Kagawa was a big surprise and I'm really enjoying what I'm seeing so far. Both Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa started against Fulham scoring on their Old Trafford debuts so its been a great start for them.

Do you think Liverpool have added well with the likes of Joe Allen, Fabio Borini and Nuri Sahin?

Allen has already made a big impression and has made a seamless transition. Rodgers he knows how to the get the best out of him, as he does with Borini. I think having players Rodgers has already worked with will work wonders.

Nuri sahin COULD be a wonder stoke, intelligent on the pitch and off it, the guy is fluent in five languages!

He is desperate to rediscover his form of old and Rodgers’ has put a lot of faith in him to do just that. He probably feels the pressure but if he plays to the best of his ability he could be key to where LFC finish in the league, he is desperate for Champions League football. His style of plays fits the Rodgers philosophy he is trying to install at LFC but its all about time and we all know how impatient us football fans are.

And which Liverpool players do you think are most likely to cause United problems?

One word, Steven Gerrard, enough said. I was at Wembley for the England game and he did look tired towards the end but he’ll grab the game by the scruff of the neck, it’s at Anfield and these games are what players like him thrive on.

I know it’s always hard for these games, but can you give us a prediction for the score?

I'd take a point now. United haven't won at Anfield in over five years in all competitions so I think it'll be close but I'm going for a score draw.

If I was to go off form rather than history then I'd have United with a good win BUT at Anfield that goes out of the window and  emotions will be high of course this week for Liverpool fans and players. You might not have Andy Carroll but you’ve got the twelfth man in your fans.

Finally, after all the revelations regarding the Hillsborough disaster over the past week, do you think we’ll see a somewhat less heated North West derby?

I am hoping so and really hoping that the fans respect one another, the atmosphere has always been volatile but this vile chancing MUST stop.

I was really upset to hear that allegedly a section of Unted fans were singing songs aimed at Liverpool fans at the weekend. Hillsbrough is not about football it's about the loss of innocent human life and 23 yearsof hell for the friends and family waiting for the truth to finally be uncovered.

It's about time both set of fans have respect for lives that were lost and put rivalries aside, distasteful chants about death is simply unacceptable and disgusting.

Evertonians did Mersyside proud showing their solidarity before their match and I expect United fans to be the same. I was only a kid when it happened but my Dad of course brought us up to have an understanding of it.

Dad played with Kenny Dalglish for Scotland and was beside himself when realising Paul Dalglish was at that match with friends, I'm a similar age to Paul and  have known him since I was born, could easily have been him.

 I know it still haunts Paul to this day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Young Boys 3-5 Liverpool: Shelvey Nets Brace as Youthful Reds Go Nap

A youthful Liverpool side got their Europa League campaign off to the perfect start as they came from behind to win an eight-goal thriller against Young Boys of Bern.

After finding themselves 3-2 down with less than half-an-hour to go, Brendan Rodgers' young side showed great character to score three times, with substitute Jonjo Shelvey the pick of the bunch as he netted a late double.

But, with the average age of the Reds' side combined with the name of their opponents already putting a schoolboy theme on the encounter, the manner of some of the two sides' defending was more akin to a playground kickabout.

With a crunch Premier League game with fierce rivals Manchester United coming on Sunday, Rodgers opted to allow no less than 8-first team regulars to stay on Merseyside with their feet up. In their place, the Liverpool boss took a young squad to Switzerland, with teenagers Andre Wisdom and Suso handed their first-team debuts, whilst winger Oussama Assaidi made his first start in a Reds' shirt following his summer move from Heerenveen.

With several players looking to impress Rodgers' the Reds made a confident start knocking the ball around well and were rewarded with an early goal.

Stewart Downing' did well to reach the byline, but his cross looked from the right flank looked far from dangerous until Christoph Spycher's headed clearance rebounded off defensive partner Juhani Ojala past keeper Marco Wolfili to put the Reds one-up.

Almost immediately, the hosts were nearly level. A lovely lofted through ball from Argentine Gonzalo Zarate set Raul Bobadilla away, but the striker's powerful effort was well turned away by Reds' stopper Brad Jones.

But it was the Reds who looked the better of the two sides with winger Assaidi always looking to run at his opponents, whilst Suso displayed the guile and creativity which has led to many Reds' fans calling for his inclusion in the first team set-up.

In fact, the Spanish playmaker could, and maybe should, have doubled the visitors lead when he ran at the Swiss defence but opted to try to square for countryman Daniel Pacheco rather than shoot himself.

That only served to finally awaken the Young Boys team, who equalised with seven minutes of the first half remaining, though it was more down to shambolic Reds' defending rather than Swiss brilliance.

Jose Enrique did well to cut out a through ball, but the dallied in possession in his own area before toe-poking the ball to Raphael Nuzzolo, who fired the ball into the empty net, though Jones did manage to get a hand to it as he backtracked.

Within two minutes the Reds were back in front. Nuri Sahin floated in a corner from the left, from which the impressive Wisdom rose majestically to power a header into the bottom corner and mark his debut in perfect fashion.

Alexander Farnerud struck a post for the hosts just before half-time, but they didn't have to wait long for a second equaliser as it came seven minutes after the break.

Reds winger Assaidi flashed an effort wide of the far post and Zarate fired over, before Young Boys' defender Ojala atoned for his earlier own goal when he outjumped Sebastian Coates to head Bobadilla's cross past Jones to make it two-apiece.

Looking for the win, Rodgers brought on first-teamer Fabio Borini for Pacheco but the Reds soon found themselves behind.

Once again the powerful Bobadilla was the creator as his strength and quick break saw him play in striker partner Zarate, who showed great composure to chip the ball over the onrushing Jones and into the net.

But within four minutes a topsy-turvy game saw the Reds draw level as Borini's presence in the six yard box for a corner saw Sebastian Coates' header evade everyone and creep in at the far post.

With Shelvey now on and dictating things in the centre of the pitch and Borini's movement stretching a tired-looking Swiss defence, the Reds sensed victory.

Borini capitalised on a poor 76th minute defensive pass to advance towards the hosts' box. When he looked up, he picked out Jordan Henderson on the edge of the box, whose brilliant first-time lay-off saw Shelvey fire home from 12 yards.

Rodgers threw on exciting seventeen-year old Raheem Sterling for the last 10 minutes to stretch a ridiculously open game even further and, despite a late headed chance for Michael Frey, the plan worked as Shelvey dribbled his way to the edge of the box before scoring with a left-footed drive.

With the likes of Pepe Reina, Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez all back at home resting ahead of Sunday's lunchtime clash with United, pre-match Rodgers stated this was a chance for his younger players to stake their claims. Despite conceding three goals, the Reds boss will be suitably impressed with both the result in Bern and the character his young team displayed.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Five Things We've Learned: Sunderland v Liverpool

By Robert Nevitt

1. Lack of goals a cause for concern.....

Last season we knew it. When Brendan Rodgers arrived he knew it. As the transfer deadline came and passed, everyone knew it. Liverpool are short on goals.

Luis Suarez' strike on Saturday was only our third goal in four league games and our first from open play. More worrying, yet again we had over 20 attempts at goal, but once again failed to score the goals to give us 3 points.

Suarez himself has been one of the main targets for criticism for missing chances, whilst the well documented lack of attacking summer arrivals hasn't helped the cause. For me though, the problem runs deeper than just our forward line, it is a team issue.

Look at Saturday's starting line-up. Suarez is the main goal threat, albeit a misfiring one, but after our number seven, where did we expect the goals to come from?

Steven Gerrard would be an obvious shout, but, apart from his effort which struck the outside of the post, our talismanic skipper is playing too deep to add to his 150 Reds' goals.

Up front, despite offering a tremendous workrate, Fabio Borini is yet to convince that he is capable of notching 10-15 goals a season, whilst as good as Raheem Sterling looks to be, he seems more of a creator than a goalscorer.

In midfield, Jonjo Shelvey likes a shot, but 2 goals from 43 appearances suggests most of his efforts don't trouble the opposing keeper, whilst it's unlikely Joe Allen will net 5 times this season.

Even from left-back, Glen Johnson would probably feature high on most people's list of who could score, but Martin Kelly doesn't offer the same threat from the other side. Martin Skrtel has improved his contribution in the opposition box, already scoring against Man City, but Daniel Agger

On the bench, Jamie Carragher, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing would all struggle to score in a house of prostitution, whilst the jury is out on what new boys Nuri Sahin and Oussama Assaidi can offer.

Last year it became a recurring theme that we created chances, but failed to take them. Already, this season's script is following suit. But rather than blame just the forward line, somehow Rodgers needs to find a way of making the whole team more of a goalthreat.

2. ... whilst defence is fast becoming a headache!

Whilst a lack of goals is the obvious problem currently occupying Rodgers' mind, he must also be starting to worry about the Reds' backline.

Steven Fletcher's 29th minute strike was the eighth goal Liverpool have conceded in only four games, with Pepe Reina yet to keep a clean sheet.

If all the goals conceded had been of the standard of Zoltan Gera's terrific strike on the opening day, then Rodgers would simply dismiss the statistic as hard luck. But the fact that they majority of them have come from mistakes, will cause concern.

Fletcher's strike on Saturday could, and maybe should, have been prevented a number of times. Firstly, both Suarez and Johnson were beaten far too easily by Craig Gardner, before the resulting cross in the box saw Reina dive and miss the ball when he would have been better standing on his feet. Finally, Fletcher was able to get the wrong side of Skrtel allowing a simple tap-in.

Obviously trying to introduce the new formation and style of play is not helping the defence. When possession is given away cheaply, with both full-backs so far advanced, gaps are appearing down the flanks, often leaving attackers with clear runs at the centre of our defence.

But individual performances aren't helping either. Martin Kelly has started the season slowly, whilst despite looking excellent going forward, Johnson's well-documented defensive frailties have not disappeared. Last season's Player of the Year Skrtel has already struggled with Rodgers' notion of playing football from the back, whilst every shot at Reina seems to end in the back of the net.

It's true the Reds need to improve their quality in the final third in order to take the pressure off the defence, but the likes of Reina and Skrtel also need to up their game and provide the Reds a solid base to work from.

3. Sterling going from strength to strength

The major plus point from Saturday's game was once again the performance of Raheem Sterling.

In only his third league start, Sterling produced a man-of-the-match performance to help the Reds earn a point.

After receiving a call-up in midweek to join Roy Hodgson's England squad, the hype around the young winger is increasing by the minute. During the first half at the Stadium of Light, it looked like it might be starting to catch up with the seventeen year old as he struggled to make an impact down the right flank, but his display after the break silenced the doubters.

Sterling consistently caused the Sunderland defence, Danny Rose in particular, no end of problems with his trickery and blistering pace. He caused panic in the Black Cats' defence which saw Gerrard strike a post, before he bamboozled Rose to gain a yard to deliver a cross from which Suarez netted at the second attempt.

He may only be seventeen and three league games into his Reds' career, but already Sterling is establishing himself as one of Liverpool's main players.

4. Suarez needs to keep out of the Ref's little black book

One worrying aspect to come out of Saturday's game was another booking for Luis Suarez.

When the Uruguayan fell to ground under the challenge of John O'Shea, referee Martin Atkinson deemed the striker had dived and issued him a yellow card. Replays suggested there may have been contact, but such is Suarez' reputation, Atkinson reached for his pocket.

It was the Uruguayan's third booking in four games and leaves him already only two cautions away from a one-game suspension, something which the team can ill-afford with striking options already thin on the ground.

He may have been unlucky with Saturday's caution, but Suarez' previous two yellows this term have both been for dissent, something which cannot be excused. He may wear his heart on his sleeve and do anything to win, but Suarez having to sit games out due to suspension is something we could do without in our current predicament.

For the good of the team, it's imperative Suarez knuckles down and stays out of trouble, though next weekend's visit of Manchester United, and a certain Patrice Evra, may not be the ideal stage for him to start.

5. We will never walk alone in fight for justice

It's been an emotional week in the city of Liverpool following Wednesday's Hillsborough revelations.

After 23 long years, the truth finally came out about how 96 Liverpool fans died on the Leppings Lane terrace. The full details of the shocking failings and subsequent police cover-up were revealed, with Reds supporters fully exonerated.

Since the release of the report, all corners of the footballing world have expressed their respect for the 96 victims and support for the fight for justice. At many of Saturday's fixtures, clubs displayed their support by either playing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' or by offering a minute's applause. At Everton, a club whom have helped the 96 so much, plans are also in place for a huge show of public support ahead of Monday night's televised clash with Newcastle United.

At the Stadium of Light, Saturday's opponents Sunderland were no different. In a fantastic show of support, the Black Cats' faithful applauded the visiting chants of 'Justice for the 96', all flags flew at half-mast around the ground and a message of support was displayed on the big screen.

After 23 long years of fighting for the truth, it is both heart-warming and incredibly emotional to see that we will never walk alone in the fight for justice.


Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool: Suarez Rescues Point for Reds

Luis Suarez' struck 19 minutes from time as Liverpool's emotional week culminated in a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light.

After Wednesday's Hillsborough Independent Panel report finally outed the truth that Liverpool supporters have demanded for 23 long years, the Reds return to on-the-field matters didn't quite go to plan as Sunderland's record signing Steven Fletcher gave the home side a first-half lead.

But Brendan Rodgers' side's reward for dominating possession came in the 71st minute, when Uruguayan Suarez netted at the second attempt to earn the Reds a point, though, worryingly, the draw meant this is the first time in over 100 years that they have failed to win one of their opening four league fixtures.

Pre-match, all the build-up was dominated by the Hillsborough findings. The visitors took to the pitch wearing tracksuits with 96 emblazoned on the back, whilst credit must go to Sunderland and their supporters as the club displayed a message of support, flew all flags at half-mast and the Black Cats' faithful applauded as the visiting section blasted out 'Justice For The 96'.

Almost inevitably, after the emotion of pre-match, the first 10 minutes of the game saw both teams struggle to get any sort of rhythm going, with Jonjo Shelvey's third minute shot wide the only thing of note.

With Sunderland happy to concede possession to their opponents, Suarez hit an effort wide from 20 yards before Fabio Borini nearly capitalised on a weak Carlos Cuellar headed backpass, only for home keeper Simon Mignolet to react well to block from close range.

Apart from a Sebastian Larsson inswinging free-kick which missed the far post by inches, the home side had rarely threatened. But after Liverpool had gone close through Borini again, the Black Cats first real foray into the Reds' half saw them open the scoring.

Craig Gardner somehow evaded the challenges of Suarez and Glen Johnson down the right, before delivering a low cross into the box which saw Fletcher escape the attentions of Martin Skrtel to tap home from six yards, to mark his home debut in style and take his tally to three goals in two games since his £12m move from Wolves.

Liverpool's main route back into the game looked to be in the shape of the lively Suarez, but the Uruguayan's threatened to break the earlier show of solidarity amongst the two sets of supporters after he riled the home crowd when he was booked for diving after going to ground in the Sunderland box.

The Reds were very nearly celebrating an equaliser only five minutes after the restart when makeshift left-back Johnson, cut in and fired a fine curling effort against the bar with Mignolet well beaten.

Liverpool's lack of a cutting edge was evident when Johnson's brilliant cross from the left flank saw no Reds' strikers anywhere near the vicinity of the six yard box, but with Raheem Sterling starting to have a greater influence on the game, the Reds started to look more threatening.

The young Liverpool winger, who was called into Roy Hodgson's England squad earlier this week, had struggled to make an impact in a disjointed first half. But, with Sunderland's backline starting to tire, the seventeen-year old took advantage.

Displaying skill as well as his blistering pace, he produced a cross which Sunderland struggled to deal with resulting in Steven Gerrard stroking a shot against the outside of the post

Then, on 71 minutes, Sterling's trickery wide on the right finally found the Reds an equaliser.

After outfoxing left-back Danny Rose, Sterling gained a yard of space to cross to the near post. Suarez was waiting and after his first effort had been blocked by Titus Bramble, the ball popped back up for the Uruguayan to volley home from close range for his third goal of the season.

With the home side stuck in defensive mode, the visitors nearly took three points when Shelvey wriggled free in the box only to see Mignolet keep out his 12-yard drive.

At the final whistle, Rodgers will have been disappointed be left still searching for his first league win as Liverpool boss. There are signs of improvement though as his side once again bossed possession, whilst they had more than three times as many shots than their opponents.

But, in a week when football has rightly taken a backseat on Merseyside, the Reds will be happy to settle for a point, with their more important victory having arrived three days earlier.

Friday, September 14, 2012

LFC Scout Report: Sunderland

By Ben Hardy

In a week that has provoked so many different emotions for everyone connected with Liverpool FC and the city itself, the away trip to Sunderland has very much taken a back seat, and rightly so. A lot has been written and said of the facts that were released on September 13th 2012 regarding the Hillsborough disaster, and this is not a place for me to add my views although I am obviously pleased for everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club and football that the truth is finally out and that justice can now be done. 

Instead the focus will turn to Saturday evening's match at the Stadium of Light. Many expect a very subdued atmosphere from the away fans, and for the Liverpool team, staff and supporters to be somewhat distracted by the off-field events of this week.

It is a match that could either end up in a lack lustre display from the Redmen for obvious reasons, or a match that really kick-starts Liverpool FC's season. If a good performance is put in by Liverpool, the fans will respond, and like we saw against Man City, the noise from the supporters can really encourage the players and produce much needed goals.   

Neither team has registered a win yet this season however Sunderland have put in some good performances to earn draws with Arsenal and high flying Swansea respectively. The Sunderland fans will be encouraged by how they have performed so far this season, and with the additions of Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Danny Rose, could they be this year's surprise package? A win against Liverpool would undoubtedly help cement that theory.

Whilst Sunderland boast the best chance to goal ratio, it is Liverpool who unfortunately have the worst and too add to that, Martin O' Neil possesses a good record against Liverpool as a manager. (W6 D6 L5)

Team News

Winger Adam Johnson is fighting to be fit in time for Saturday evening after a thigh injury kept him out of the England games against Moldova and Ukraine. He will be assessed by manager Martin O'Neil and the fitness team during Friday's training session.

David Vaughan managed 45 minutes for Wales against Serbia earlier in the week and looks set to be included in the match day squad after overcoming an ankle injury.

New loan signing Danny Rose will be hoping to make his debut after a deadline day move from Tottenham.

James McClean is set to be involved after being handed a warning by Martin O'Neil due to an outburst on Twitter, where he openly critisced Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni about his squad selection. He has since apologised but it is yet another example of a footballer misusing social networking websites.  

Source:[email protected]
However, defenders Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown are still long term absentees and need to work on their fitness before they can be considered.

Key Players

Sunderland enjoyed a productive summer in terms of transfers with a late flurry of signings, and it is the new boys that will look to cause Liverpool the most problems.

Nobody in the Premier League has scored more headed goals than Steven Fletcher since the start of the 2011-12 season, no easy feat for a player who was relegated last season. The aerial threat of Fletcher is only enhanced at Sunderland with dead ball specialist Sebastian Larsson and fellow new signing, Adam Johnson who can terrorise any defender.

Fletcher has already notched up two goals on his debut a fortnight ago against Swansea and will no doubt be looking to carry his form and repay some of the £12m that was splashed out him.

The Sunderland camp will be optimistic about achieving a good result against Liverpool if recent form and their new look attack is anything to go by.

However, Luis Suarez is always going to be a key player in every match this season, and if he can finally start converting his chances this season then the Sunderland back four will face problems.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The true facts of the Hillsborough disaster are out, now time for justice

By Michael Owen

Botched operations by emergency services, a quick cover-up to exalt any blame that may be directed at those in charge and a smear campaign designed to spin the victims to look like the culprits. Hillsborough was a tragic day in the history of English football.

For years South Yorkshire Police looked to have gotten away with their gross misconduct surrounding the events that unfolded on April 15th 1989, they were helped by a scathing and now infamous editorial by The Sun newspaper, headlined “The Truth”, which outright blamed supporters for what happened on that day in Sheffield.

The Taylor Report went some way towards exonerating the families of the victims and the disaster. With the findings suggesting that supporters were not to blame for what unfolded on the Leppings Lane terrace that day. But not enough evidence was produced, what the Lord Justice Taylor could get his hands on didn’t tell the true story of what happened at the FA Cup Semi Final.

Now, after years of tireless work by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the truth is out in the open. South Yorkshire Police did doctor reports – some 164 to be exact – to paint themselves in a better light, whilst “a failure in police control” was sighted as the cause of the disaster, and there was no evidence to back claims by the police on duty that supporters were drunk and aggressive.

It wasn’t just the police who have to hang their heads, either. 41 of the 96 that died could have been saved if all of the emergency services, including paramedics on scene on the day, had reacted properly, whilst both Sheffield Wednesday and the Football Association had ignored Hillsborough’s evident safety issues when coming to the decision to hold one of the most important games in the domestic calendar at the ground.

HIP’s report is huge for everyone surrounding Liverpool Football Club. It allows the families, who have long fought for the truth, to feel that a true picture has been painted of the events that unfolded 23 years a go, a picture which shows those lost as innocent people wanting to watch a game of football, not drunken hooligans as those who truly are at fault would like them to be perceived.

Survivors of the disaster, too, can take great comfort in the findings. Again, the report dismisses the lies of The Sun newspaper as a complete work of fiction, showing the rest of the world, many of whom have misguided views on the disaster, that they did not rob the dead, but instead worked tirelessly to help the injured as those who should have been handling the situation looked on helplessly.

The apologies have rung in from all corners, with statements from Sheffield Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron and South Yorkshire Police being largely welcomed by those who have long wanted an admittance of fault from those in command on that day. The Football Association took their time to issue a full apology, though chairman David Bernstein did release a video apology on the day this article went to press.

One apology that was rightfully roundly rejected was that from former editor of The Sun newspaper Kelvin McKenzie. His statement read like that of a schoolchild trying his hardest to absolve himself of blame when facing the wrath of the headmaster, instead looking to point the finger at a Sheffield news agency rather than just accepting it was ultimately down to him what went to print on April 16th. Even had his apology have been sincere – it is still 23 years too late.

The Sun newspaper has tried its hardest to build the bridges left in ruins by McKenzie and his reporters, but to no avail. An apology after so many years of hurt was never going to be enough, nor was a “The Real Truth” headline. Had the News International tabloid have run with “We Lied” as they were once told to do by Reds Legend Kenny Dalglish then heads may have been turned, but even still it would have been too little, too late. The boycott will continue.

Other newspapers have been remarkable in their coverage of what has happened. Every major British newspaper except three ran with the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel as their lead, with the Financial Times understandably focusing on business matters, The Daily Express, predictably, looking at immigration with The Daily Telegraph inexplicably deciding not to run the story on the front page, most likely because of its heavy right-leaning stance.

All of this exposure helps educate the nation, and the rest of the world, on what really happened at Hillsborough. It helps to dismiss the myths created about drunken fans, it helps reduce the number of opposition supporters singing grotesque songs about the tragedy, and it unites all English football supporters in the knowledge that, had matters on the pitch played out differently, it could well have been them in that pen.

The mass media coverage of the exposure of the truth helps the families move onto their next major goal – getting justice for those that died. Something which has been hindered by hurdle after hurdle over the last two decades, but now has the momentum of massive support from around the country alongside a raft of new evidence found by the Hillsborough Independent Panel during their investigations into the disaster.

The fact evidence has been found to suggest many of the victims of the disaster may have died after the 3:15 cut off point cited in the Taylor Report is a huge boost for the campaign for justice. Such a scenario would mean unlawful killing charges against authority figures on the day may be handed out, whilst the doctoring of files by South Yorkshire Police has a strong case of being pushed as an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

This will help the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Hope for Hillsborough and all the other organisations who have worked relentlessly for years to ensure that justice would eventually be done and the truth would be exposed. People such as Trevor Hicks (HFSG), Kenny Derbyshire (HJC) and Anne Williams (HFH) should be applauded for their efforts in exposing the truth alongside the many others who have helped along the way.

So should former managers Kenny Dalglish, who was a pillar for the community in the weeks and indeed years after the disaster, and Rafael Benitez, who quickly adopted the call for justice as his own personal fight, showing great support to the various Hillsborough groups and even donating a sizeable sum upon his departure from the club in the summer of 2010.

During the 20th anniversary ceremony at Anfield, Labour MP Andy Burnham, when making a speech, was faced with four sides of the ground, on their feet, chanting for “Justice for the 96”. That message was took back to Downing Street and acted upon in the created on the independent panel. Now, more than ever, it is important that the message is continued to be broadcast around the world.

The truth is out, now it is time for justice to be done. 

The Truth

By Robert Nevitt

Eighteen League Titles, five European Cups, seven FA Cups, eight League Cups, fifteen Charity Shields, three UEFA Cups, three UEFA Super Cup and a High Court triumph over American owners Hicks and Gillett in 2010

There have been some momentous days in the 120-year history of our great club, but, yesterday, Wednesday 12th September 2012 surpassed them all as finally, after 23 long years of campaigning, the real truths surfaced about what really happened at Hillsborough on 15th April 1989.

After 18 months of studying over 450,000 documents relating to the tragedy, a nine-strong Hillsborough Independent Panel, led by the Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, revealed the shocking failings and subsequent cover-up which led to the death of 96 Liverpool fans. The report also categorically left all Liverpool fans that were present on that fateful day, exonerated.

Of course, this is what we have known all along.

It is why the Hillsborough Family Support Group and Hillsborough Justice Campaign, for nearly a quarter of the century, have never given up fighting for the truth despite coming up against a number of hurdles.

It is why the city of Liverpool, Reds and Blues, have stood side by side and continually demanded Justice despite a barrage of abuse from authorities and a minority of mindless rival supporters.

What the HIP's revelations have done is wake the rest of the world up to what really happened on that Leppings Lane terrace.

On Wednesday morning, we all woke hoping to see the truth finally come out. But, accompanying the hope was a sense of worry that not everything would be revealed, with authorities reluctance meaning some key information would remain hidden.

However, as early as 9:34am the signs looked good as even before the findings had been released, Sheffield Wednesday, whom had given up a number of documents for the HIP to interrogate, released a club statement in which they issued an apology to the families of the 96.

When details about the 395 page report started circulating around midday, it was clear that our early morning fears were to be unfounded as the findings unequivocally set the record straight.

The key findings highlighted:-
  • Sheffield Wednesday and South Yorkshire Police ignored warnings from previous Hillsborough matches, to instead leave the safety of fans on the Leppings Lane terrace "compromised at every level"
  • The main reason for the disaster was a "failure in police control"
  • Up to 41 of the dead could have been saved had Emergency Services reacted properly, with many having survived past the 3:15pm inquest cut-off time
  • No evidence to support police account that fans were drunk and aggressive
  • Police took blood alcohol levels from the dead or injured (even children), then when nothing untoward was found, carried out criminal record checks on the deceased in order to discredit them
  • 164 police statements were changed, 116 of which were to "remove or alter comments unfavourable to South Yorkshire police"
  • The S*n's "The Truth" story originated from a Sheffield news agency after junior police officers had been encouraged to spread lies to the media about Liverpool fans stealing from the dead, beating up or urinating on officers who were attending to the injured
Immediately, David Cameron, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives who were in power at the time of the tragedy, read a statement in which he declared the findings as "deeply distressing", said there was no doubt "that Liverpool fans were not to blame" and issued a "profound" apology "on behalf of the government and indeed the country" to the families of the 96 for the "double injustice has been left uncorrected for so long".

As the HIP report and all 450,000 documents became available online for all to download, the real truth resonated around the world.

As News channels, websites and newspapers all highlighted the findings, the false allegations which have clouded people's views on the disaster were discredited.

And so the apologies came.

First, former S*n editor Kelvin MacKenzie issued a "Sorry" for his infamous "The Truth" headline, though the statement stunk of self-preservation rather than an heartfelt apology. Thanks, but no thanks Mr MacKenzie.

Today, the backtracking continued with Mackenzie's former paper The S*n printing the "Real Truth" on their front page, whilst Mayor of London Boris Johnson apologised for comments he made in 2004 where he claimed Liverpool as a city "wallowed in victim status" and that Liverpool fans "failed to acknowledge the part played by drunken fans" at Hillsborough. Again, it's a question of too little, too late.

Yesterday's findings were a victory for the 96, the families of the 96, for Liverpool as a city and for football fans as a whole.

Congratulations and thanks must go to all involved in outing the Truth. The sterling work of the HJC and HFSG has been rewarded. Trevor and Jenni Hicks, Margaret Aspinall, Anne Williams, Sheila Coleman and Peter Hooton are just a few of the names that will go down in Liverpool folklore, whilst special thanks must go to MP's Andy Burnham, who instigated the HIP, Steve Rotheram and Alison McGovern.

But there are many, many others who have been instrumental in the fight for the truth. As well as the loyal campaigners, journalists such as Brian Reade and Tony Evans have helped to spread the word. Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish held the club together in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and even football's current bad-boy Joey Barton, has been an avid ally in the fight for justice.

Of course, the HIP's findings will never undo what happened on that darkest of days, but what they will do is change the attitude of people towards the tragedy.

The High Court inquest verdict of 'accidental death' must now be quashed and a new inquest should be launched to bring charges against anyone found guilty of any wrong doing.

As Trevor Hicks commented last night, "that's the truth, now for justice".

Justice For The 96.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Short-term struggles show Liverpool's owners need to reassess long-term philosphy

By Michael Owen

Liverpool's deadline day disaster leaves the Reds with only two senior strikers until January at the earliest, but the consequences of what played out on August 31st could last much longer than that. 

Upon his arrival at Anfield Brendan Rodgers was promised full control over football matters at the club, something the clubs owners - Fenway Sports Group - were initially looking to avoid, instead preferring to have the new boss as part of a technical team who made joint decisions.

But to ensure Rodgers, who was highly successful during his time at Swansea City, would take the helm FSG backed down from their demands to dilute the control of the manager, with the Northern Irishman free to control on the pitch matters without interference from potential football-based directors such as Lois Van Gaal.

But on Friday night the clubs owners made it quite clear that they would only allow Rodgers to have control over on the field matters should it fit in with their philosophy, with FSG deeming Clint Dempsey to be too old, and thus too much of a short-term fix, in order to justify the £6 million required to acquire his services.

"Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years. " claimed John W Henry in an open letter to supporters, giving a glimpse into the thought process behind what made the board come to the decision not to sanction any more than a £3 million bid for the American front man. 

But to consider a players actual value based purely on the number of years he can positively contribute to the side plus his potential resale value is naive from the Boston-based owners. Each Premier League position provides an additional £750,000 in prize money, and qualifying for the Europa or Champions League massively boosts revenue. 

Clint Dempsey, even at 29, could contribute goals to more than cover his asking price, and signing the now Tottenham man and having to sell him for a loss a few years later may well have been worth it if the extra fire power ensured the Reds moved into, or close to, the Champions League positions which the owners continually state the clubs needs to be. 

A dedication to spending modest fee's on young players with plenty of potential is an astute move from Fenway Sports Group, but in order to ensure those young players have time to bed into the squad and live up to their potential they must be coming into a team that is already packed full of quality players who can help and support their development. 

Liverpool simply do not have that. In the starting line-up against Arsenal the only players in front of the defensive line who had scored league goals for the club were Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, with the Reds only attacking option from the bench, Stewart Downing, highlighting the lack of depth amongst the senior squad at Anfield. 

Building a squad of young players without a solid backbone of experience is much like building a house before first laying the foundations, it's a flawed concept which not only hampers the development of the club but also the development of the young players brought in. Raheem Sterling, at 17 years-old, was Liverpol's most threatening player against consistent Champions League qualifiers Arsenal. Too much pressure. 

This philosophy has already proved costly, with Andy Carroll, at £35 million, and Jordan Henderson, at £16 million, being brought into the club at a young age, thrown straight into the first-team and expected to adapt quickly in order to boost what was then Kenny Dalglish's side into the top four place which would seemingly have ensured he kept his job.

After an incredibly disappointing season for both players Carroll finds himself on loan at West Ham United, with his loan fee of £1 million potentially being made permanent in an £18 million switch, a loss of £17 million  whilst Jordan Henderson nearly left the club for next to nothing as he was offered to Fulham as part of the deal for Clint Dempsey. Where's the resale value FSG? 

This summer Liverpool needed to make some signings with the experience and quality needed to make up the ever increasing gulf between the Reds and the clubs in the Champions League places. The additions of youngsters such as Nuri Sahin, Joe Allen and Fabio Borini were good ones, but adding Clint Dempsey and his twenty plus goals per season could have been invaluable. 

Ensuring Liverpool have a strong enough squad to compete in the short-term, even if it means buying players with little resale value, should be FSG's main priority then once the squad is competing for a top four place with a quality squad the owners can look to implement a system by which young players are brought into the club and allowed to grow in the long-term.

"We are not just looking at the next 16 weeks until we can buy again: we are looking at the next 16 years and beyond." Henry stated, but what he doesn't realise is the lack of spending to suit his philosophy may well cause serious damage in those 16 weeks, and all the criticism will be once again piled at FSG's door.

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