Dented but not Dead

That Liverpool match was frustrating to watch. The ball refused to end up in the back of the net. The negative tactics by Jose Mourinho worked. Chelsea capitalising on two Liverpool mistakes to damage the Reds’ shot at the title.

The mistake by Steven Gerrard could’ve happened to anyone. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. Importantly we can’t let this game affect us.

We play Crystal Palace next week and it won’t be an easy match. I see us going one of two ways. Either we let the loss get us down and we play without energy, or we stamp our authority once more on the Premier League.

Brendan Rodgers has said he wants to play attractive football. A style of football that is great to watch and brings results. In the words of fans it’s “Poetry in Motion.”

In full flight Liverpool are the best attacking side in the League, possessing fire power all over the pitch. It’s important we don’t lose sight of that. Remain patient and we’ll break Palace down.

I’ve been going over the numbers in my head constantly. Working out virtually every scenario for Liverpool to claim the title. It’s rather clear we can ill afford to drop anymore points. If we do, our Title dream is over.

With two matches left we can score a maximum of 86 points. That’s the same as City, although City have an extra 8 goals on us. 

We look to Goodison Park, our Evertonian neighbours, our historical rivals, to possibly put us back in control of the League. We don’t even need them to win, a draw will do. Ideally they want to reach the Top Four, so a win would help them and us immensley.

There is a strong chance that the Title won’t be decided until the final weekend. The ultimate irony may befall the title race. Liverpudlian offcasts, Stephen Downing and Andy Carroll will lead West Ham against Manchester City. It would be some form of poetry should one of those two score a goal against City to deliver Liverpool the Title.

The loss to Chelsea may have dented Liverpool’s title hopes but this season has had plenty of twists and turns, there may be just one more twist left. So for Liverpool, they’re still alive and kicking. We go to Palace, We Go Again. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

 

Advertisements

Anfield Giants Sleeping No More

The team that once ruled Europe are once again reminding everyone why they are considered a giant of world football. But since the heady days of 1989/90 they haven’t been spotted at the top of Premier League, the trophy they treasure most.

Sure the mighty Liverpool Reds have won the Champions League since then and plenty of silverware has entered the cabinet, but they have not won the EPL in the 21st Century. They have come close on a number of occasions, but close doesn’t win you the League.

It appears now though that Brendan Rodgers has instilled a self-belief in his side that has been missing since the departure of Rafa Benitez. Whilst they struggled for consistency in 2012-13 the team showed promise.

The signings of Coutinho and Sturridge improved the team towards the back-end of last season and have truly proved their worth during the 2013/14 season. 

The addition of Kolo Toure has improved the defence, albeit he has had to apologise for a couple of mistakes lately. Jordan Henderson has also fulfilled the potential seen in him last season, truly taking charge of the mid-field in the absence of Lucas Leiva. As always Steven Gerrard has been Captain Fantastic.

The key difference between this season and the previous several seasons has been the ability to win from tough positions as well as to hold together under pressure rather than gifting a win to the opposition.

Against Fulham the Liverpool of last season would’ve keeled over following their own goal. But not the 2014 team. They responded quickly before conceding a second. Once more they stepped up the pressure and equalized before sneaking out of Craven Cottage with the three points.

The type of feeling around Anfield Road is difficult to define. Whilst occasionally the side can gift an easy goal, they have the capability to destroy teams in 20 minutes as Arsenal found out. It’s a self belief that hasn’t been seen for a long time.

Sitting just four points from first position and facing both Chelsea and Manchester City at home later this season Liverpool is more than in the title hunt. The first thing to achieve is European qualification. 

But a Red can dream of Gerrard hoisting the Premier League trophy in May this year.

World Cup Draw Could See a Surprise

Australia have landed in Group B and will face Spain, Holland and Chile. It is the toughest group Australia has landed in, in the FIFA World Cup. The situation Australia is faced with could see a surprise from the green and gold.

In 2006 no one expected the Socceroos to make it to the Knockout stages, let alone hold Italy scoreless for nearly the entire match. Fast forward to 2010 and the weight of expectation was on the Socceroos.

Struggling for form and with their heroes of 2006 now four years older, they were bundled out in the Group Stage. Heads rolled with coach Pim Verbeek sacked and Holger Osieck taking over.

Now fast forward to 2013. The Socceroos qualified for the 2014 World Cup with Osieck as coach. Then, consecutive 6-0 drubbings at the hands of Brazil and France saw Osieck given his marching orders and Ange Postecoglou take over as the first Australian born coach of the Socceroos since Frank Farina.

Postecoglou has already welcomed the draw saying why not play the best in the world at the World Cup? I tend to agree with him here. It’s the competition by which all footballing nations are measured, why not test yourself against the best?

Many experts have already written off Australia’s chances saying that if they come out of the group stage with a solitary point it will be a good campaign. I don’t necessarily agree with that.

Australia usually performs at the their best when they are the underdogs, when no one expects them to win. It’s the siege mentality so ingrained in the Australian sporting landscape of cheering for the little guy.

This is a world cup where Australia could shock the world and beat one of these sides. Their younger players have more experience than in the past and their old heads are looking for one last hurrah. Surely this will be the final world cup for the likes of Lucas Neill, Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill. They’ll want to go out on a high.

Australia has the ability to play tough football, they’re known as some of the toughest and fittest players in the world. They may not be able to match-it skill wise with Spain but they can definitely match them physically.

The Socceroos have nothing to lose, the pundits have already written them off. That’s when teams are at their most dangerous, when they are underestimated upsets occur.

Our players need only to look at their crest featuring the kangaroo and the emu. Why are they there? Because they can’t take a backwards step. And that’s what our players have to do. Don’t go out there focusing on the opposition, focus on the game at hand.

At the end of the day football is a simple game and, like any sport, the game isn’t won on paper, it’s won on the pitch. It’s won by the team who wants the victory most.

Their nation is behind them, so who says there won’t be an upset in Group B during the 2014 FIFA World Cup?

Schwarzer Hangs Up the Gloves

Australia’s number one goal keeper for over a decade, Mark Schwarzer, has announced his retirement from international football. The 41 year old shot stopper will retire with 109 caps next to his name, having debuted 20 years ago.

Schwarzer has been an integral part of the Socceroos squad for almost his entire career, having played in five world cup qualifying tournaments and two world cups. 

He made his senior debut for the Bossley Park based Marconi Stallions in the National Soccer League in 1990. Since then he has played for Dynamo Dresden, FC Kaiserslautern, Bradford City, Middlesborough, Fulham and current EPL heavyweights Chelsea.

Schwarzer won the League Cup with Middlesborough in 2003-04, Fulham player of the year 2008-09, Australian Footballer of the year 2009, 2010, Premier League player of the month February 2010. He was also awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2009.

He famously saved two penalties in the 2005 World Cup qualifier against South American heavyweights Uruguay to help deliver Australia to the 2006 World Cup.

Schwarzer’s retirement will leave a hole between the sticks for the Socceroos with no clear deputy ready to step up. Liverpool’s Brad Jones has been mentioned having represented the Socceroos in the past but does not have time on his side.

Mitch Langerak has been raised as a replacement given he has been the most recent Australian goalkeeper to serve as Schwarzer’s back-up. New Socceroos coach, Ange Postecoglou, will have his work cut out for him with the upcoming match against Costa Rica on November 19.

Mark, you have been one of Australia’s best for two decades. Good luck with the future. The Socceroos and Australian football will miss you.

Welcome Home King Kenny

The man who called the Kop home for over 14 years is returning to Anfield. “King” Kenneth Dalglish played 355 matches for Liverpool and is widely regarded as the club’s greatest ever player. He formed a formidable combination with striker Ian Rush.

Dalglish has returned as a “non-executive” Director at the request of Fenway Sports Group. Current manager, Brendan Rodgers, has made a point of enlisting the help of former Liverpool players to assist in lifting Liverpool back to the pinnacle of European football.

Just last week Rodgers signed former Reds Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Rob Jones as mentors at the Liverpool Academy. 

Dalglish said he has always held Liverpool close to his heart and was more than willing to return to the club, after leaving the club at the conclusion of the 2011/12 season.

“Liverpool has given me and my family so much since we came here just over 36 years ago and my priority is and will always be to have the Club’s best interests at heart.” Said Dalglish. 

Dalglish began his Liverpool career in 1977 and took over as player-manager in 1985. He ended his first stint as manager in 1991 with the Hillsborough disaster a contributing factor.

Dalglish answered an SOS from Liverpool in 2011 after the sacking of Roy Hodgson. He led the Reds to their first trophy in six years when they won the League Cup. However, Dalglish was dismissed when Liverpool were unable to return to the Champions League.

His return to Liverpool has been welcomed by owners, players, management and fans alike.

Back in town: Former manager Dalglish is to return to Liverpool as a director

 

Liverpool set for return to European football

Last season, Liverpool suffered the ignominy of not playing for a European trophy. In fact, no silverware arrived at Anfield last season but the Red army stood by their team in the hope that 2013/14 would bring a renewed vigour.

With this season in its infancy, Liverpool has shown they have what it takes to return to the most illustrious club competition in the world – the UEFA Champions League.

The five-time champions last held the cup aloft in 2005, but have either failed to make an impact in recent years or haven’t even appeared.

Brendan Rodgers’ side appears to have finally reached the balance he has been looking for. Young Brazilian Philippe Coutinho has continued the form that earned him the nickname ‘The Magician’ from the Kop.

Former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge has been Liverpool’s best player so far this season, having netted in five of seven games this season. One man challenging Sturridge as Liverpool’s best is goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

The Belgian shot-stopper has been in terrific form of late with Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher describing him as “a beast”. Mignolet has been a key reason for Liverpool’s terrific start.

Luis Suarez has played two matches so far this year after returning from his ban for mistaking Ivanovic’s arm for a steak. His efforts on the ball against United brought praise from his manager.

Suarez well and truly announced his return when he scored two goals against Sunderland.

The evergreen Steven Gerrard has been playing near his best this season. Whilst on limited occasions he has appeared to be running on tired legs, he has been doing everything he can from the middle.

His two free kicks against Southampton drew terrific saves from goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Liverpool look like they may make it to the top four at the end of the season as their early season form hints at a self-belief that was missing last season. They back each other and trust in their abilities.

Brendan Rodgers has said he wants to coach Liverpool in the Champions League and that type of ambition will definitely rub off on the players.

The promising aspect for Liverpool is that they are yet to play a game with their full roster available. Joe Allen continues to have trouble with his hamstring whilst Suarez has only just served his 10-match ban. Coutinho is also out for another five weeks.

One more heartening piece of news for Liverpool fans is the rumoured courting of Xabi Alonso. Brendan Rodgers has apparently been given permission to approach the former Red about a return to Anfield in the January transfer window.

Alonso is a champion player who formed a terrifying combination with Steven Gerrard when both players were at their peaks.

His passing accuracy and distance is an attractive proposition for Rodgers, who is trying to institute his passing style of football.

The EPL season is long and tough, but come next year, I would bet that Liverpool will be sitting comfortably in the top four.

Liverpool celebrate with the 2005 Champions League Trophy

A day at Anfield

The Spion Kop stands to attention as the men in Red make their way towards the stand. The ground goes quiet apart from a small section of Southampton supporters. Then it begins, Gerry Marsden’s voice breaks the mid-afternoon air; “When you walk through a storm…”

The Kop picks up the song and before you know it every man, woman and child dressed in Red is belting out the world famous tune. It comes to a heavy crescendo as more and more emotion bubbles to the surface before a deafening roar signals for everyone to focus on the centre of the pitch and wait for the match to get underway.

As you’re probably aware by now I’m a Liverpool F.C. fan and I attended the match on 21st September against Southampton. I decided on the full stadium experience, beginning with the Stadium Tour followed by the Boot Room pre-match meal and finished off with a seat at the Anfield Road End.

Unfortunately for us the museum tour was unavailable due to refurbishments taking place but that didn’t mean it impacted on our fun. We began at the players entrance where we bumped into the Southampton kit managers busily unloading their gear.

We moved through the entrance, looking into the media rooms and stopping at the top of the tunnel. There it hung, the famous “This is Anfield” sign. Then through the tunnel we went, emerging next to the player’s dug-out.

After that it was on to sit in the famous Spion Kop. For those who don’t know, the Spion Kop was so named after 300 men died in the Boer war, the majority were from Liverpool who stood at that end of the ground.

It is now the voice of the stadium, leading everyone in the famous chants and songs. Any Liverpool players who are fortunate enough to score at Anfield get their name chanted following the goal.

With some time to kill following the tour which ended at the Kop it was off to the stadium gift shop. Luckily for me it was well before kick-off and so was nowhere near as packed as it was later on. Some half an hour later and lighter in the bank account I emerged with plenty of Liverpool merchandise.

Upon leaving the gift shop the UEFA Cup had made an appearance and so what better way to commemorate my visit to Anfield than a photo with the European trophy. About three hours prior to kick-off and it was time for lunch.

Up the stairs and I was welcomed by the friendly Boot Room staff with a personalised envelope containing my match-day ticket and itinerary. Seated at my table I was met by three fellow Reds. One from Singapore, one from Japan and one from Auckland.

Over a lunch of chicken, baked salmon and cheesecake we discussed the upcoming match as well as learning about our own experiences of supporting LFC from different parts of the world.

Then it was time for the main attraction of the day. The match between LFC and Southampton. The Southampton fans were small in number but loud in voice. Of course being only 2,000 strong in a 45,000 seater stadium they were always going to be droned out by the home fans.

Any energy and effort on the ball by a Red was met by a loud applause. Any call against Liverpool and the boo’s directed at the officials were deafening.

Whilst Liverpool showed endeavor early on, they failed to impress on the score-board. Ultimately it was Southampton who took their chance early in the second-half with their lone-goal being the difference at full-time.

Apart from the match-result the day was one to be savoured. For any true Liverpool F.C. supporter a trip to Anfield has to be on the bucket list. It is unlike any other ground in the world and you will truly be swept up and pushed along by the Red tide. And remember, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Image