The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Youth


I’ve seen plenty of exciting young players turn out for Liverpool down the years, from Alan Hansen Ian Rush and Ronnie Whelan, through Rob Jones, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and onto Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy. This latest crop of youngsters at Anfield is both exciting and plentiful.

Usually one or two decent young players break through, but this time there is almost a whole team emerging at once. One could argue the Premier League hasn’t seen this amount of young talent in one team since Beckham/Neville/Giggs/Scholes saved Alex Ferguson’s bacon in 1995.

Martin Kelly made his debut under Rafa Benitez, Jonjo Shelvey made his debut under Roy Hodgson. John Flanagan and Jack Robinson got their chances under Kenny Dalglish, although Robinson’s first appearance was under Benitez. Kelly, Flanagan and Robinson all looked accomplished defenders straight away, although Flanagan has been found wanting since. Kelly is mainly a central defender, but has only been used as a right-back so far.

Add to those, the names of Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Adam Morgan and Suso Fernandez and you realise the embarrassment of riches that exist in the youth team at the moment. Nuri Sahin (24), Oussama Assaidi (24) and Samed Yesil (18) have been added to the team this season and contribute to reducing the overall age of the squad.

Danny Pacheco is another player who has been given a chance this season, although he actually made his debut under Rafa Benitez in December 2009, having been signed from Barcelona as an 18-year old.

A few weeks ago Jerome Sinclair became the youngest player to play in the first team for Liverpool. His record of age 16 and 6 days beat Jack Robinson’s by 244 days. These two may well form an important part of the Liverpool side in the future.

For the win over Norwich, Liverpool fielded their youngest side for 9 years with an average age of 24 years and 347 days. Only the inclusion of Steven Gerrard (age 32), stopped that average being even lower.

Many of these players have come through the Liverpool Academy, and there are others who have yet to break through, such as Conor Coady and Stephen Sama. The Academy was where Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher came from and has built a fine reputation over the years, since its inception in 1998. Although success at youth level is not always a guide to future riches as few of the Youth Cup winning sides from 2006 and 2007 ever made it to the full side.

One of the aspects I have been so impressed with about this current batch of kids is how they have settled in so easily. One could argue they have settled better than the likes of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson or Charlie Adam did last season. Raheem Sterling has shown a maturity beyond his years so far this season, forcing a regular place in the starting line-up. He possesses searing pace which has worried more experienced defenders. Suso Fernandez has looked a class act in the couple of games he has played, creating much from midfield.

One advantage they also have is they are being managed by a coach who believes in the old tradition of hands-on management which is what Liverpool’s success down the years was built on. Rodgers has taken a gamble in throwing these kids in so early, but it must surely shake up players like Henderson and Downing who will now have to fight for their places. We have already seen how they have played very well in the Europa League as well as in the Premiership against Manchester United and Norwich City.

The future certainly is bright for Liverpool, the future is youth.

Trial By Television


Something that really irritates me as an armchair sports fan? Expert pundits.

This opinion was reinforced at the start of the year, when watching our Carling cup clash with Manchester City.

There were two instances that Roberto ‘play-your-cards-right’ Mancini has got all hot under the collar about, and it highlights a deficiency in football when compared to some other sports.  TV replays.

Both incidents happened in the first half, with the first one occurring in Liverpool’s penalty area.  A corner from right and two players went for the ball, Dzeko and Adam.  A challenge was made, the ball bounced away and the play went on.  No one appeals.

30-40 seconds later, Skytv has a replay and when slowed down it appears Adam kicked Dzeko’s foot rather than the ball.  Suddenly, the resident expert who never misses a trick, Alan Smith, declares

‘ooh, that should’ve been a penalty!’

Well done, Smudger, on the button as usual.

A little later a fierce shot from outside the Man City area and Micah Richards ‘appears’ to put his arms up to stop the ball.

‘penalty!’, I shout.

The ref thinks the same and blows his whistle.  As Richards protests his innocence, the ref can be seen clearly demonstrating he believes Richards threw his arms up to stop the shot.

No comment from Alan ‘hawkeye’ Smith.

The penalty is taken, Gerrard scores and Richards continues his protest.  To be fair to him, he is still going at the ref as they all trudge off for half-time, and today in the papers he is still going on.

Another 30-40 seconds after the penalty and again skytv has a replay.

‘Oh, that’s a bit harsh’ declares our resident expert

‘Not sure that should’ve been given’, the Smudgster continues.

Get to half-time and the three experts in the studio are able to judge this decision after the umpteenth replay, and, quite rightly, they declare it shouldn’t have been a penalty.

But that is the problem, right there.

How many of these ‘experts’ called it straight away?  I called what I believed to be a penalty, so did the ref.  We can’t have been the only two people watching this game that thought so.

The ref, who won’t be paid as much as Alan ‘sharp-as-a-button’ Smith, did not have the luxury of a replay and had to make a decision immediately.  He did, slow-motion replay says he was wrong.

The ball hit Richards foot and bounced up and hit his arm.  You can argue it wouldn’t have hit his arm if it hadn’t been raised.  Had the shot been a little higher off the ground, it probably would’ve hit Richards arm full-on, and so you can argue intention.  However, you can’t give a penalty for intention.

I feel a little sorry for Richards, who obviously feels aggrieved.  However, given the same set of circumstances you can easily see how it was given.

My whole argument is about tv pundits who are paid fortunes to comment on what they see on the pitch.  If you’re just going to sit there and comment after dozens of replays, well skytv could save themselves a fortune and have a non-ex-professional like me, or millions like me, sitting there.

It’s not just in football this happens, you see it in cricket, tennis and rugby where video replays are used.  I am often shouting at cricket commentators who wait until the replay to decide whether a player is out.  Then they criticise the umpire for getting it wrong, when they couldn’t call it themselves first time round.

But football, and footballers, are a victim of their own ‘one-eyedness’.  Footballers appeal about anything.  They seem to spend most of their career conning the referee.  Is it any wonder refs don’t believe them when they protest their innocence?

Video replays would never work in football until they can be proved to be 100% correct, as they will always be used as blame for decisions.  In cricket they have used Hawkeye for a few years now, and yet it hasn’t completely removed the poor decisions as the system is not 100% infallible.

They have used that system in tennis and, to begin with, it was quite an interesting add-on to a match, especially as the crowd got involved.  Now, it’s a complete pain in back-hand as it stops the flow of the game.  Players, being cunning little individuals, will use it for ‘tactical’ reviews, such as when they need to slow their opponent’s momentum, or they need to catch a breather.

In cricket it is the same, as teams use up reviews because ‘they might as well, as they have 1 left’.  This disrupts the flow of the game.

It will achieve exactly the same outcome in football.  It’s bad enough you have to pay full price for a 90 minute game when the ball has been in play for just over 60.  How long will a game have to go on for, or will we still get fed what we thought was a 90 minute game, with the ball in play for barely 50?

I have said this many, many, many times over the past year or so.  Why can’t we do something about managers blaming referees for their teams poor performance.  How many chances did City create last night?  If only Alan Smith was here, he’d tell us.  How many chances did they spurn?  Yet the referee makes one mistake and the whole game is ruined.

Watch the build-up to Liverpool’s 2nd goal again and you’ll see that City have a throw in.  The ball is thrown to Lescott who slices his kick straight into touch again.  Then, from the resulting throw-in, Lescott misses a tackle on Kuyt, who then passes the ball into the area and a goal is the result.

Lescott makes an error of judgement, two in fact, yet the ref is the one who ‘changed the game’.

Brian Clough used to say ‘it takes a second to score a goal’, yet for some teams it can ruin their whole game.

For those who think using technology will stop all the complaining, I’m afraid you don’t understand the psyche of your average footballer or fan, and the technology will need to be 101% correct before it can be taken out of the dock when the blame trial comes around.

Gerrard: Goal should have stood


Steven Gerrard has expressed his bemusement at the ridiculous offside decision that destroyed Liverpool’s hopes of three points at Goodison Park on Sunday, and has leapt to the defence of team-mate Luis Suarez.

The derby clash with Everton was level at 2-2 until Suarez got on the end of a Sebastian Coates knock-down in injury time, but the goal was ruled out by the linesman – despite replays clearly showing the Uruguayan to be be in an onside position when he received the ball.

Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo: “I’ve seen it again and we can feel sorry for ourselves because it was a clear goal.

“We should be taking away the three points rather than just one. There is no offside and it’s difficult for me to explain it. The only person who can explain it is the linesman.

“I asked him after the game if it was offside and he said ‘I think so’. That’s not good enough. If every decision in this league is based on ‘We think so’ then we’re in trouble.

“The linesman got it badly wrong. The benefit of the doubt is supposed to go to the attacking player anyway.

“And for their second goal, it’s a clear throw-in to us. The linesman gives us the throw but the referee (Andre Marriner) saw something different. He gave Everton the throw and their second goal came from that.

“I feel sorry for our lads because I thought we were fantastic today and deserved to win.

“We had a young, small team out there but they were all men today and stuck together. There was one team here who came to play football and win the game and that was us.”

David Moyes had spoken about Suarez in the buildup to the match, advising referee Andre Marriner to watch out for theatrics from the striker. However the one booking of the game for simulation was dished out to Everton captain Phil Neville, after a dive on the edge of the Liverpool box that left Gerrard incensed.

“His manager did every paper, every radio station and every TV channel talking about Luis Suarez and then his captain, who is meant to be setting an example, blatantly dives.

“With what he said about Luis Suarez before, David Moyes was trying to get in the referee’s head, which is fine, that’s all part of the game, stuff like that, but you don’t expect your captain to dive like that.

“Luis Suarez was fantastic for us again today. I can’t control what he does when he scores a goal, I was just happy to see it hit the back of the net. He doesn’t need David Moyes to fire him up. But if people want to try to get in Luis’s head and wind him up then it’s the wrong thing to do.

“You saw from today’s evidence that it seems to inspire him rather than go against him.”

Everton 2 – 2 Liverpool


By EddieC, 28-10-2012, 18:03:29

Liverpool had to make do with a point at Goodison Park after having a perfectly good injury-time winner by Luis Suarez inexplicably ruled out for offside.

The Reds had taken a two goal lead, but an Everton fightback combined with some poor defending saw the scores level at half time thanks to goals from Leon Osman and Steven Naismith.

As is always the case in the Merseyside derby tensions were running high, with both sets of fans in good voice.  On 13 minutes though, all that could be heard round the stadium was the red half of the city celebrating.

Jose Enrique – out of favour under Brendan Rodgers but starting in the absence of Glen Johnson – fired the ball across the box towards Raheem Sterling, who was bundled over by Leighton Baines. The inevitable shout for a penalty went up, but referee Andre Marriner played a good advantage. The ball found it’s way to Suarez, who took a touch before firing a shot which Baines diverted into his own net.

It didn’t take long for the Reds to double the lead. Steven Gerrard curled a free-kick in behind the Everton defence on 19 minutes, and there was that man Suarez again – left with an easy header to make it 2-0.

The second goal seemed to kick Everton into life, and within minutes the lead was halved. Brad Jones made a poor punch from a corner, which landed perfectly for Leon Osman to drive home.

Liverpool were on the back foot, as the home side grew in confidence. Everton were in the ascendency, and it seemed only a matter of time before they got an equaliser.

The fears of the fans that had made the short journey across Stanley Park were confirmed on 35 minutes when Naismith connected with a Marouane Fellaini cross to bring the scores level. Goodison erupted as if Everton had won the title – no doubt they’ll be releasing a DVD of the game next week!

Half-time couldn’t come quickly enough for the Reds, who were looking worse and worse as the game went on. Kevin Mirallas was a constant thorn in the side of the Liverpool defence with some tricky footwork.

Everton boss David Moyes had spoken before the game about Luis Suarez, warning Marriner to watch out for him diving. How ironic then to see Phil Neville booked for taking a ridiculously theatrical tumble on the edge of the box. Maybe Mr Moyes should concentrate on the behaviour of his own players rather than jumping on the Suarez-bashing bandwagon?

Despite mounting pressure, Liverpool managed to make it to half-time without conceding further. Rodgers made two changes at the interval – Nuri Sahin coming off for Sebastian Coates and Suso being replaced by Jonjo Shelvey – changing formation to play three at the back. Rodgers has received criticism from some quarters for not appearing to have a plan b, the changes seemed to be unforced so maybe this is an indication that he does have more than one tactic up his sleeve?

Everton started the second half as they’d left off in the first, and things did not look good for the Reds. Seamus Coleman in particular was playing well and but for a wasteful header from Nikica Jelavic would have had an assist to his name.

In a reversal of the opening 45 minutes though, Liverpool got stronger as the half went on, and the final 10 minutes was one-way traffic in the visitors favour. Phil Jagielka managed to deny Gerrard with an outstretched leg on 82 minutes and was there again to stop Suarez after he had skipped past several defenders in the style we have all become accustomed to.

The match ended in controversy as Suarez found the back of the net in the last minute of injury time. The Uruguayan was already celebrating following a simple finish from a Coates knock-down, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside. Replays have subsequently shown that not only was the goal legitimate, but it wasn’t even close to being offside. It seems that match officials are getting more decisions wrong than ever these days, and this decision will only strengthen the argument for the use of technology to assist their decision-making.

On balance a draw was probably the fair result, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth (no pun intended!) to see three points snatched from us in such a manner.

Kopworld man of the match – Luis Suarez.

Liverpool 1 – 0 Anzhi


By EddieC, 26-10-2012, 00:09:52

A Stewart Downing goal put Liverpool top of Europa League Group A as Anzhi Makhachkala were beaten 1-0 at Anfield.

Despite the narrow scoreline the Reds never looked in danger of losing to the Russian league leaders, managed by former Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink.

Anzhi have been splashing the cash in the past couple of years – listing talents like Samuel Eto’o, Christopher Samba and Yuri Zhirkov amongst their ranks – so were not to be taken lightly. Indeedsports betting websites believed a Liverpool win to be only slightly more likely than a draw.

However the Reds were undeterred, and could have easily won the game by more than a one goal margin.

Liverpool started the brighter of the two teams, with Luis Suarez in particular looking lively. Within the opening 10 minutes the Uruguayan had nutmegged two defenders, swivelled past another inside the box before over-hitting his cross, and taken up an excellent position to collect Oussama Assaidi’s cross before shooting straight at Anzhi goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.

With little to do defensively the fullbacks pushed forward, and Glen Johnson made the goalkeeper work with a fierce shot  on 21 minutes. The first clear-cut chance of the game fell to Jonjo Shelvey, when Suarez played the England youngster through with just the keeper to beat. Inexplicably though Shelvey skied his shot and almost reached the back of the Anfield Road stand.

Liverpool continued to press, with Assaidi looking particularly bright. The Moroccan was a thorn in the side of the Anzhi defence, consistently probing their back line with some skillful footwork.

Despite having the lions share of possession and being on the front foot, the Reds were unable to find an opening goal in the first 45 minutes.

Half-time brought a change for Liverpool, with Raheem Sterling replacing Johnson, and Downing dropping deeper to play at left back.

The Liverpool defenders seemed determined to get on the scoresheet, with first Agger then Skrtel having attempts on goal. Steven Gerrard was next to come close, connecting with Shelvey’s ball into the box before heading narrowly wide.

On 53 minutes the goal finally came when Downing cut in from the left flank and hit a right-footed shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards. The winger-come-fullback looked delighted to score his second goal in Europe this season.

Downing almost undid his earlier good work with a haphazard ball across his own box, but the Liverpool defence were able to avert trouble. Samuel Eto’o gave the home fans a scare collected the ball in a central position on 70 minutes but the striker’s powerful effort was too close to Liverpool’s stand-in goalkeeper Brad Jones.

Anzhi stepped things up a notch in the final 10 minutes, but the Reds were able to stand firm. The final shot of the night came from Gerrard, whose attempt from range came close to making it 2-0.

There were no more goals to be had though, and the game finished 1-0. Whilst not the most resounding victory it was the second home win in the space of a week for Liverpool, and is bound to leave the team brimming with confidence ahead of this weekends derby match against Everton.

Liverpool 1 – 0 Reading


Victory over Reading secured Liverpool’s first Premier League win at Anfield this season, Thanks to a 29th minute winner from Raheem Sterling.

Teenager Sterling, who became the second youngest Liverpool player to score in the Premier League (behind Michael Owen) began what Brendan Rodgers hopes will be the reconstruction of Anfield back into a fortress. The winger underlined why he’s been so rapidly promoted to starting duties at just 17 years of age.

Rodgers must hope this represents the end of what was becoming an Anfield curse. You would think with owners who run a baseball franchise that Liverpool would know how to secure a magical home run.

Even Reading’s arrival offered a reminder of home discomfort, McDermott’s last trip here three years ago – an FA Cup third-round victory – was the catalyst for him to go from a caretaker to full-time manager.

Luis Suárez was in full flow on Saturday but failed to convert chances, the Uruguayan coming closest when he forced Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to scurry backwards as a delicate chip dipped just over the bar. He missed numerous sitters, but he made amends by creating the winner.

Andre Wisdom’s powerful header found Suárez in centre-field, the South American nudged the ball onto Sterling, and the England winger showed composure to fire right-footed beyond McCarthy.

The applause was of relief as much as acclaim, and a greater ovation followed, not for a goal, but for the award of a free-kick for the battered and bruised Suárez.

Referee Roger East continued the tradition of viewing Suárez’s constant appeals for protection unsympathetically – often with justification – but he also ignored blatant free-kicks.

Indeed, Suárez needed treatment at half-time for a dead leg following what seemed an obvious trip, leaving his team-mates enraged that no free-kick was given.

He showed no ill effects in the second half, creating and missing chances with a regularity that thrill in their construction but often infuriate in their execution.

Liverpool’s lack of ruthlessness was almost costly when Brad Jones — deputising for Pepe Reina who has a tight hamstring – was finally called into action. Garath McCleary had only the Aussie to beat but shot unconvincingly at the keeper’s legs, but the chances were frequent at The Kop end.

“I honestly thought we were going to get a point in the second half,” said McDermott. “We had some chances, so we will move on with positives. We just need to start at 3pm rather than so slowly.”

Suárez, Jonjo Shelvey and Daniel Agger all wasted chances to ease Liverpool’s nerves, the anxiety towards full-time tangible in a stadium which was finally reacquainted with that winning feeling in the league.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rodgers.

“We should have had three points long before today. “We need to improve our finishing, which is an ongoing theme, but the win is the most important thing.”

Rodgers hasn’t considered recalling Carroll


Brendan Rodgers has admitted that he hasn’t thought of recalling Andy Carroll from his loan at West Ham to help solve Liverpool’s striker shortage.

The Reds have just one senior forward available for selection, after Fabio Borini picked up an ankle injury on international duty with Italy, and many had expected the Anfield boss to cut Carroll’s loan deal with the Hammers short.

But Rodgers claims that thought hasn’t crossed his mind.

He said: “It isn’t something I have considered, to be honest. Andy has obviously gone out to get games. We have people watching when he plays and they report back on how he is doing. But with Fabio’s injury just coming up we will assess it from there.”

Luis Suarez will have to shoulder the goalscoring burden during the injury crisis, and Rodgers admits he’s disappointed he won’t be able to rest the Uruguayan star during that time.

“I’ve rested him a couple of times knowing the squad we have and the games we have, looking to prioritise, but like most footballers he wants to play every minute of every game,” said the Northern Irishman.

“It is something I need to assess. The most important thing is winning games – that is what we need to do and in order to do that as often as we can I need the best players on the field.

“Luis will absolutely love playing three times a week but I need to try to nurture him because there are still many games to play between now and January.

“And even in January if we bring someone in it may not be January 1, so that is something which, over time, I need to assess and we’ll look to manage the squad.”

Suso set to sign new deal


Spanish youngster Suso is set to sign a new deal to keep him at Anfield.

The 18-year-old, signed from Cadiz in 2009, made his senior debut in the 5-3 Europa League win over Swiss club Young Boys on September 20th, adn has made three Premier League appearances for the club.Manager Brendan Rodgers is keen to secure him long-term following some assured performances.The Spain Under-19 international, who can play in an attacking role, is likely to get more opportunities to impress following news of Fabio Borini’s three month layoff with a broken bone in his foot.Rodgers spoke highly of the young Spanish midfielder, stating that he is a big part of future plans at Anfield.”I’ve been really impressed by young Suso,” he said. “He’s a good boy as well. He’s very keen to learn. He’ll sign a new contract, which shows our commitment to him and shows that he’s very happy here and has got hope, which is very important. He’s a wonderful technician.

“He’s very bright. He’s a thinking player, which I like. He needs to add goals to his game, but when you’re a young player coming into the team, you’re really just trying to settle in. He’s very creative and he works very hard, so he’s done very well. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s shown excellent progress.”

Reina injured on international duty


Liverpool face a goalkeeping headache with then news that Pepe Reina has been injured whilst on international duty with Spain. The Reds’ first-choice stopper will undergo a physical examination upon returning to Merseyside.

Manchester City’s David Silva was substituted in the game after picking up a hamstring injury, while Alvaro A
rbeloa was also withdrawn with a similar knock.Reina told reporters: “The injury is not serious. I go
t injured at half-time. Today [Wednesday] I will do more tests at Liverpool.”The goalkeeper has only missed four Premier League games for Liverpool since May 2007, with a run out of the team being e
nforced on him towards the end of last season due to suspension.

Liverpool 0 – 0 Stoke City


Liverpool had to settle for just the one point after a hard-fought clash against Stoke at Anfield ended in a goalless draw.

Luis Suarez and Martin Skrtel went closest for the Reds but ultimately they failed to turn their domination of the game into a victory.
Suarez hit the post with 10 minutes to go after previously slicing wide from inside the area while Skrtel shot inches wide of Asmir Begovic’s far post in the dying minutes and Stoke held firm for a point.An early scare after early on in the game threatened to gift Stoke their first Anfield goal since 1983. Nuri Sahin under-hit his pass to Martin Skrtel after Pepe Reina caught him unawares with a short goal-kick. Former Reds midfielder Charlie Adam seized possession but after some frantic defending the ball was hooked to safety.

At the Anfield Road End, Suarez danced his way along the touchline in the manner we have all become accustomed to before poking the ball back for Sahin but the Turkish international’s side-footed effort crashed into a Stoke defender.

Whelan whipped an inviting free-kick across the blindside of a retreating Reds defence but Skrtel was strong and alert to scramble the ball clear as Peter Crouch stood poised to turn it home at the far post.

Stoke were the physical presence that everyone expected them to be; for better and for worse. The wall of claret and blue they formed ahead of the ball was mostly impenetrable and the Reds were unable to settle into a rhythm on the ball.

When the home side did look to retain possession, however, tough challenges came raining down upon them. First Robert Huth clattered Suarez off the ball and then Michael Kightly received a yellow card for a late, lunging tackle.

After the interval the Reds came out full of drive and determingation. Gerrard, Suarez and the excellent Suso connected with deft passes and flicks as Sahin dropped deep sporadically and Allen lurked patiently to pick up the pieces.

On 51 minutes Gerrard opened up the Stoke defence. Head raised, the skipper clipped a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Glen Johnson, but the full-back blazed the ball over the bar.

Suarez let the ball roll across his body before embarking on a mazy run through the heart of the Stoke defence. But with a trail of floored defenders in his wake and the whole of Anfield on its feet, poised to explode in celebration, the Uruguayan sliced the ball wide.

Agger, who had carried the ball with real purpose from the back throughout the game, sprinted to the edge of the Stoke penalty area from where he crossed into the centre for Sahin to attack. The ball evaded him but broke for Sterling, who smashed it against Begovic’s near post.

Joe Cole, on as a second-half substitute whipped the ball into the box for Skrtel but he could only fire hide and the Reds were forced to settle for a draw.