31 January 2008
A group of Liverpool supporters will today unveil an ambitious plan to buy the troubled Anfield club from its US owners. A group calling themselves Share Liverpool FC aim to create a stakeholder base of 100,000 fans to raise enough cash to oust Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
It comes after weeks of worry about the financial future of Liverpool, sparked when the pair took out a £350 million re-financing loan.
There have also been tensions between the owners and club manager Rafa Benitez, who last year criticised them over their financing of transfers.
Rogan Taylor (picture), a Kop season ticket holder and a director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool, is leading the buy-out campaign.
He said: 'It is time to answer the concerns that football fans have about the patterns of ownership developing at our major football clubs.
'Thousands of Liverpool fans have already demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.
'Large amounts of debt is often laden onto newly-bought clubs and the fans know that in the end, it will be them who will have to pay it off through increased ticket prices and other schemes.
'In such a case, why not simply buy the club yourselves?'
The model proposed by Share Liverpool FC will be a `member-share' scheme, aimed at raising £500 million to purchase the club from Hicks and Gillett and build a new stadium.
The group have pointed to Barcelona as an example of how the system works. Barca currently has more than 150,000 culis - members who own the club.
Mr Taylor added: 'What many don't realise is that there are other ways of financing and taking ownership of big clubs.
'In Germany and Spain, most top-level football clubs are simply `Not For Sale'. They are owned by many thousands of `member fans'.
'The Champions League has been won on six occasions in the last 15 years by clubs owned and run in such a way.'
The plan will be unveiled at 5pm tonight at the School of Management of the University of Liverpool.
The launch will also be attended by Phil French, former director of communications and public policy at the Premier League and now CEO of Supporters Direct, which advises supporters' groups about how to gain a shareholding in their club.
Kevin Jaquiss, of the Supporters' Trust, will also attend.
Liverpool FC did not want to comment.
I am ready and willing to participate in the plans. I hope they have allocations for international supporters to do so.
30 January 2008
Craig Bellamy (stomach), Bobby Zamora (knee), Nolberto Solano (hamstring) and Danny Gabbidon (groin) have resumed training but are unlikely to feature
Liverpool welcome Steven Gerrard, Jose Reina, Jamie Carragher, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso back to the squad.
The quintet return after being rested for the Havant and Waterlooville game.
West Ham (from): Green, Wright, Neill, Spector, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney, Bowyer, Faubert, Ljungberg, Noble, Mullins, Etherington, Boa Morte, Reid, Ashton, Cole, Tomkins, Collison.
Liverpool (from): Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise, Aurelio, Pennant, Babel, Alonso, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Kuyt, Torres, Crouch, Kewell, Itandje.
Having established a solid mid-table platform with one loss in six Premier League matches, West Ham take on draw specialists Liverpool.
The Merseysiders play their first Premier League match of the season in London, and take to the field for the first time since trailing Havant & Waterlooville twice in the FA Cup, before winning their home fourth round tie 5-2.
Rafa Benitez' side may be unbeaten in six league outings, but the last four have ended all-square and left them scrapping for a top four Champions League berth.
West Ham have lost three against the "Big Four" so far this season, and won one (against Manchester United).
Liverpool are unbeaten in 10 top-flight contests with West Ham, winning the last six.
WEST HAM UNITED
1. Lost only three of the last 14 Premier League matches; against Chelsea (a), Everton (h) and Arsenal (a).
2. Their 22 league games have yielded 49 goals (28 for, 21 against); at 2.23 it's the lowest goals per game average in the highest league.
3. Let in 21 goals in their 22 Premier League fixtures; only the 'Big Four' clubs have conceded fewer.
4. Not lost a league game in which they scored first; won six and drawn four of 10.
5. One of five clubs not shown a red card in Premier League competition so far this season.
6. All four penalties awarded against them in the Premier League have been missed.
7. Conceded one goal in each of five of the last six league games, and let in two in the other game. Not kept a clean sheet in seven, since the 0-1 away win over Blackburn on 9 December.
8. Lost one of the last seven home league games, and won the last two at Upton Park against Manchester United and Fulham.
9. Kept just one clean sheet in home Premier League matches; 3-0 against Middlesbrough on 15 September.
10. Away to Wigan after this, and home to Birmingham. Then the Eastenders go to the West End to play Fulham, before Chelsea visit Upton Park and the reverse fixture at Liverpool.
1. Undefeated in nine in all competitions; four wins, five draws.
2. On the joint longest sequence of draws in this Premier League season of four; Fulham drew all four of their matches in September.
3. Ended level with Manchester City (a), Wigan (h), Middlesbrough (a) and Aston Villa (h).
4. Lost just two Premier League games; only Arsenal have been beaten less often (once). Also, conceded 16 Premier League goals at one every 124 minutes (two hours four minutes); only Manchester United have a tighter defence (11 goals conceded).
5. The Premier League's draw specialists; 10 of 22.
6. Need a victory to pass 250 Premier League points under Rafael Benitez; on 248 at present.
7. Picked up 27 cards in Premier League competition (all yellow); only Everton have a similar low total, but theirs is comprised of three red and 24 yellow.
8. Their 22 matches have yielded 53 goals (37 for, 16 against); only West Ham's (49) and Chelsea's (52) matches have produced fewer goals.
9. Hold the third strongest away record in the Premier League (22 points), behind Chelsea (25) and Arsenal (22), and boast the meanest defence away from home; conceded just seven goals in 11 games on their Premier League travels.
10. A home game against Sunderland follows this, before the big match-up against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Then it's the FA Cup fifth round clash with Barnsley of the Championship at Anfield and the Champions League match, home to Inter Milan.
KEY PLAYER NOTES
WEST HAM UNITED
Dean ASHTON is West Ham's top scorer with six goals.
ASHTON is also the Hammers' top Premier League marksmen with five.
The club's Premier League goalscorers list is predominately comprised of English players (eight of 11).
Matthew UPSON and Robert GREEN are the only remaining players to have been on the field for every minute of every one of West Ham's Premier League matches this season. West Ham are the only club to have as many as two genuine ever-presents remaining in this Premier League campaign.
Lee BOWYER is a double shy of 50 career Premier League goals (Leeds, Newcastle and West Ham).
Nol SOLANO needs a hat-trick to total 50 Premier League goals (Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Ham).
Matthew ETHERINGTON will be making their 150th league appearances for the Hammers, and 300th club career appearance (Peterborough, Tottenham, Bradford City and West Ham).
James COLLINS will be making his 100th career league appearance (Cardiff and West Ham).
Craig BELLAMY will be facing a former club. The 28 year old Wales international made 42 appearances (27 in the league) and scored nine goals (seven league) for Liverpool between June 2006 and his £7.5m move to Upton Park in July last year.
Fernando TORRES is Liverpool's top scorer with 17 goals, and their leading marksman in the Premier League with 11.
Goalkeeper Jose REINA is the only remaining player to have been on the field for every minute of every one of Liverpool's Premier League matches this season.
REINA leads the race for the Barclays Golden Glove with Edwin VAN DER SAR of Manchester United and David JAMES of Portsmouth. They have all kept 10 clean sheets.
Peter CROUCH will be playing on his 27th birthday.
Yossi BENAYOUN will be facing a former club. The 27 year old Israel international made 72 appearances (63 in the league) and scored eight league goals in two seasons with West Ham from July 2005 before his move to Anfield.
Javier MASCHERANO will also be facing the club he controversially played for last season. The 23 year old Argentine international made seven appearances (five in the league) in five months with the Hammers before his move to Liverpool just under a year ago.
If on the field from the outset:-
Harry KEWELL will be making his 250th career league start (Leeds and Liverpool).
The Hammers have not experienced a home League win over Liverpool since the 1-0 Premier League triumph on 27 November 1999, when Trevor Sinclair scored the only goal of the game.
This is the 101st league fixture between these clubs.
Home and awayLeague (inc PL): West Ham 20 wins, Liverpool 52, Draws 28Prem: West Ham 4 wins, Liverpool 14, Draws 6
at West Ham onlyLeague (inc PL): West Ham 17 wins, Liverpool 18, Draws 15Prem: West Ham 4 wins, Liverpool 5, Draws 3
LAST SEASON'S CORRESPONDING GAME
West Ham United 1-2 Liverpool30 January 2007 - Ref: Martin AtkinsonWest Ham scorer: Kepa 77 Liverpool scorers: Kuyt 46, Crouch 53
29 January 2008
by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
MOMO SISSOKO says his move to Juventus has erased doubts about his future.
The Reds midfielder, who has suffered a severe loss of form at Anfield in the past year, has signed a five-year deal with the Italian club.
The Reds will receive £9m for Sissoko, who was signed by Rafa Benitez from Valencia in a £5.6m deal in 2005.
“I know my future now and it is a pride and honour to wear the colours of Juve,” said the 23-year-old.
Sissoko, currently playing for Mali, in the African Nations Cup, flew to Italy to complete his medical.
The £9m could be used to help fund the deal for Javier Mascherano. A £17m fee has been agreed with the Argentine star’s owners, MSI.
Midfielder to join up with new team-mates after African Cup of Nations
Staff and agencies
Tuesday January 29, 2008 Guardian Unlimited
Juventus have signed Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko on a five-year deal for £8.2m, the Serie A club said today. The fee could rise by €2m depending on Juventus's performance.
Sissoko moved to Anfield from Valencia in 2005 for £5.6m. He scored one goal in 86 appearances for Liverpool but fell out of favour following the arrival of Javier Mascherano and Leiva Lucas.
The Mali midfielder had a medical in Italy at the weekend before heading back to the African Cup of Nations in Ghana, where his country face Ivory Coast later today. Juventus could be without their new signing until mid-February if Mali reach the final of the tournament on February 10.
Juventus midfielder Argentine Sergio Almiron has made way for Sissoko, joining Monaco on loan. The Turin side, third in Serie A, have signed Lazio defender Guglielmo Stendardo on loan and announced that Aston Villa's Olof Mellberg will join the club in July.
Liverpool have been drawn to face Barnsley in the fifth round of this season's FA Cup.
The Reds will entertain the Championship side in a tie which will take place on February 16/17. The Tykes secured a mouthwatering clash with Rafael Benitez's team courtesy of a 1-0 win away to Southend United in Round Four and are currently 16th in the Championship table. Simon Davey's side last visited Anfield back in November 1997 in a Premier League fixture when they produced a superb display to clinch a shock 1-0 win over the Reds.
27 January 2008
With all this talk about refinancing are they placing Liverpool in financial shit ? is buying a new stadium a bridge too far ? will our teams tranfer dealings suffer as a result ?. What do you guys think about our new owners ? Listed below are the financial details set out by the Daily Telegraph, now I'm no financial genius but putting the club into this type of debt worries me, are Hicks and Gillet the right people to run this club ?
Liverpool by numbers:
01) £300 mil The cost of Liverpool's new stadium at Stanley Park.
02) £121 mil Liverpool's turnover in 2006.
03) £120,000 Steven Gerrard's weekly wage.
04) £220 mil The price paid by George Gillett and Tom Hicks to buy Liverpool last February.
05) £350 mil The amount they are looking to borrow to refinance borrowings used to buy the club.
06) £30 mil The estimated annual interest repayments linked to that refinancing.
07) £42 mil Liverpool's summer transfer spending on Ryan Babel, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun.
08) £25 mil The amount borrowed to help pay for those transfers.
09) £40 mil The amount of cash G&H are being asked to find to help fund the RBS and Wachovia refinancing.
10) 0 The amount of money Hicks and Gillett have so far invested in the club from their own resources
send by eddie888
Nicol, who made 468 appearances for Liverpool between 1981 and 1995, has been head coach of MLS club New England Revolution since 2002 and, though he may be detached geographically from goings-on at his old club, emotionally he remains connected to all that happens at Anfield.
A week before New England commence pre-season training ahead of the 2008 MLS season, Nicol admits it is difficult to watch what is unfolding in the red half of Merseyside and that he is particularly troubled that many of the dissenting voices are being heard publicly. It is not, says Nicol, the Liverpool he remembers.
'The one thing about Liverpool was that any business was conducted the way it should be, he says. 'It was between the parties concerned and not plastered all over newspapers. That's the biggest disappointment. The club's reputation is taking a bit of a bashing as far as that's concerned, which is something that shouldn't happen.'
After joining Liverpool as a 20-year-old from Ayr United, Nicol became an integral part of one of the most trophy-laden periods of any club in English history, an unprecedented run of success that came to be symbolised by the notion of 'The Liverpool Way'.
Calm leadership in the boardroom from chairman, Sir John Smith, and chief executive, Peter Robinson, meant that club affairs were dealt with internally, no simple task given that the period in question featured a number of high-profile events that affected Liverpool directly, most notably the Heysel and Hillsborough stadium disasters.
The efficiency of the boardroom was mirrored in playing matters, as continuity among the coaching staff enabled the club to barely miss a step on the filed, despite transitioning managers during the period, from Bob Paisley, through Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish, to Graeme Souness.
Nicol's collection of honours from his time at Anfield includes four league titles, one European Cup and three FA Cups, reflecting Liverpool's consistency of the time. On a personal level, Nicol was named Footballer of the Year in 1989, quite an achievement for a player who spent most of his career in the full-back position.
Back then, the famous 'boot room' was the only site in which any dirty laundry would be aired. However, over a dozen years since Nicol left Anfield, Liverpool is beset by turmoil.
Fans at the match against Aston Villa voiced their disapproval at the way the club is being run. That may not be uncommon among the paying public at any club. What is, however, is what is taking place behind the scenes.
In stark contrast to Nicol's time at the club, it seems that everyone from Liverpool's owners to its manager to its players has an opinion to publicly broadcast.
'It never happened at the club before and hopefully it will brush over quickly so they can get back to conducting things in a proper manner,' said Nicol.
In recent weeks, Liverpool's new ownership group of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, have been quoted regularly in the British media regarding goings-on at the club they bought in February 2007.
As a veteran of the English game, Nicol is wary of believing everything he reads, claiming: 'newspapers are renowned for fabrication' - but he does believe the club has serious issues that need to be dealt with. Privately. 'I'm only going by paper talk,' he says. 'But, if they are correct, then the owners have maybe spoken to them when they shouldn't. People are saying things when they should probably know a bit better.'
Liverpool fans show their displeasure with the club's American owners.
Hicks, in particular, has publicly questioned Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, questioning team selections and accusing him of 'pouting' over issues the Spaniard had regarding the January transfer window. Benitez's position was made increasingly precarious by the revelation that Jurgen Kilnsmann had been sounded out as a potential replacement.
The pervading feeling among Liverpool supporters is that Hicks and Gillett have little expert knowledge regarding how to run their football club. Indeed, given the long-running failure of the new men in charge to successfully refinance the club debts, without which a proposed new stadium is far from a foregone conclusion, doubts about their (lack of) business acumen have also increased.
As Nicol continues to observe from his distant view and pick his way through each day's Anfield updates, he is sure of one thing: recent results have not made for pleasant viewing. An upturn in form on the field would certainly help to replace what is happening off it, on the back pages.
'Because they have been dropping points,' he says. 'It just helps anybody who wants to have a go at them. Winning tends to solve most things, that's for sure.'
Hicks and fellow American George Gillett had a falling out with Benitez last year after the manager criticised them over their financing of transfers but both sides have since said they are now on good terms.
'We have a great manager who has our support,' Hicks told BBC Radio 5-Live on Sunday.
'We had a lot of consternation about Rafa. After our meeting of Dec. 16, where he really showed his real strong intent to do the right thing with us and by the club, he's been a gentleman ever since.
'We've had much better communication and he's got my total backing. We funded transfer requests in January, we are talking about more in the summer. We've never turned down Rafa's request for money for any player he's asked for.
'He's got a contract for two more years and hopefully longer than that.'
Hicks and Gillett completed a re-financing deal on Friday that should allow them to go ahead with the building of a new stadium and said they did not expect any investment from Dubai International Capital (DIC), after the group declined the chance to become a minority owner.
Asked if he planned to sell the club to the DIC, Hicks said: 'Absolutely not. That was never a serious possibility and certainly isn't today. I can't think of a price that I would think of having any interest in selling at all.
'I did talk to them once about a 10-15 percent participation. We gave them a valuation we would accept a minority investor at but they thought the valuation was too high.
'There is no question in my mind that I will still be an owner of Liverpool Football Club in five years.'
Liverpool are planning to build a new stadium on parkland adjacent to their current Anfield home, though the plans have changed and been delayed several times.
'I'm really excited about the future of the club, it will be the finest stadium in the world and everyone in Liverpool should be very proud of it,' Hicks said.
Hicks also owns NHL team Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers baseball club and said he had a 'real passion' for all three clubs.
'I want to win the support of our fans with my actions and get out of the tabloids,' he said.
'I think it's a great long-term way to invest my money with what I believe is going to happen with global TV and internet growth of teams.
'I love baseball, I love hockey and I love English football.' I'm a big fan. I watch every game on TV and wish I could come over to every game but it's a long way, though I hope to come to more.'
Of Liverpool's current situation, where they trail leaders Manchester United by 14 points and struggled to get past minor league Havant and Waterlooville in the FA Cup on Saturday,' Hicks said:
'We could do better, the players know that, Rafa knows that. It's all about how we play and it's time for this club to win.
'But we are on our way, we are going to build the greatest stadium, we have a great manager, we have great fans. It's time to put the press frenzy behind us and move down the road.'
Last Updated: 3:45am GMT 27/01/2008
The concerns that Liverpool fans are currently experiencing will strike a chord with the Manchester United supporters who resented their club falling into the hands of American owners three years ago.
When the Glazers took over at Old Trafford, I decided I would not be renewing my season ticket because I felt it wasn't my club any more and I have not been back.
At the time it was a very difficult step to take because United had been my club and any committed football fan knows what that means. But, like so many others, I didn't like what was happening and feared for the future.
We could all see that the Glazers weren't football fans and that they were taking out huge loans to secure the deal. From being a club with no debt, United were suddenly a club with heavy debts.
The cost was bound to be passed on to the supporters and that has proved to be the case. The price of the season ticket I had has more than doubled in the three seasons since I gave it up.
The Liverpool takeover was greeted very differently. There was a great fanfare for Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who made very public appearances, gave lots of interviews and made all the right noises. They gave the impression their regime would be nothing like the Glazers' and most Liverpool fans fell for the charm offensive.
We were approached by some Liverpool supporters and we cautioned them not to take everything at face value. Now, more and more Liverpool fans realise that the big PR front was exactly that. It seems they have the same way of doing things as the Glazers after all.
If anything, I think Liverpool are probably going to be in bigger debt that United. The refinancing deal and the new stadium could put them in even more trouble than the Glazers have inflicted on Old Trafford.
Far from benefiting from the investment of American money, Liverpool are likely to find themselves funding Hicks' baseball and ice hockey teams across the Atlantic. He has openly admitted as much. The fans want to see money coming into their football club, not going out of it.
The fact is that Liverpool are being treated like a franchise. That's the way of it in the US but it's not the way we regard our football clubs over here.
The Americans don't understand the game in England and everything about it - the fans, the traditions and what a football club means. Even a club like United, with a global following, has always been a community club.
This is not just a problem for United and Liverpool. It's a bad and dangerous situation for English football in general. The game here will eventually suffer because the loyal lifelong fans will be priced out of their clubs.
I don't have any pangs of regret about staying away from Old Trafford now because I see what a money-fixated club it has become. It's all about profit, profit, profit.
Sadly, that's the way football is going and I feel sorry for the game. It's going to get worse. Fans are being asked to dig deeper into their pockets to feed this commercial machine. It's becoming crazy.
I keep in touch with what's happening at United and I watch the matches on television, so to that extent I still feed the machine. But I don't have to fork out more than £1,000 a year to watch them.
The ticket prices have soared, just as we predicted, and this season we've seen the ludicrous automatic cup ticket scheme in operation at United.
Whether season ticket holders like it or not, they have had to buy a ticket for every home cup match as well. That included the Carling Cup tie against Coventry City, when United put out a reserve team. The club botched it up badly this season and they now realise that, so I am sure there will be changes for next season.
United are telling everyone how they plan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Munich air crash on Feb 6 and pay further tribute to those who died when they play Manchester City at Old Trafford on Feb 10.
They say there will be no commercialism and have produced a one-off Fifties-style shirt for the occasion without the sponsor's name. We understand there will, however, be an AIG logo on display with the picture panels of the new Munich Tunnel, which depicts the story of the Busby Babes and Matt Busby's rebuilding of the team after the tragedy.
That has, to say the least, not gone down well with United fans, but then it is a reflection of the route the club have taken. People may wonder why we complain and continue to campaign for the genuine fan. United are having another successful season, playing attacking, attractive football and Old Trafford is full to its 76,000 capacity. But many of the true fans no longer go and what will happen if United have a dip in fortune? Will they still turn up in such numbers to feed the commercial machine and pay off the interest on the club's debts?
More fans will be driven away and be restricted to watching their football on television. I'm currently in Sierra Leone on business and the Premier League is enormously popular here. It gives you an insight into the global appeal of English football.
But live football is getting out of reach for the traditional English football fan and I believe that is a trend that should sadden all of us.
John Mackin of supporters group Reclaim The Kop said: "Unless the owners come out and say they are giving Rafa Benitez a new deal, they are going to support him extensively in the transfer market, and that none of the money to fund that will put the club in debt, they have got no chance of winning us over.
"Such is the level of disquiet among the fans that a meeting is to be held next week when we will discuss the next phase in our ongoing protests against the owners.
"We have seen pretty pictures of stadium designs before and we're still waiting for a single spade to go into the ground at Stanley Park, something Hicks and Gillett promised would happen within 60 days of takeover, so it'll take a lot more than a new picture and a major PR offensive for us to be won over."
Despite being aware of the ongoing fans’ rebellion, Hicks is hoping the release of the new stadium plans will at least begin a process which will result in them being placated.
He said: "HKS has developed a more efficient design that, at the same time, is just as stunning as its original design.
"Liverpool supporters should have high expectations for the future: a premier sporting experience at their new stadium at Stanley Park and a winning club on the pitch for years to come".
Interestingly, George Gillett's name is conspicuous only by its absence on the press release which was issued to the ECHO by London PR firm Financial Dynamics today.
The new design incorporates the 18,500 capacity stand-alone Kop which Hicks had insisted was crucial to his plans, and KUD International has been selected as project manager for the stadium.
Laing O'Rourke, which is currently working with developer Grosvenor on The Paradise Project in Liverpool, has also joined the project development team.
Despite speculation that today's developments might signal the end of Dubai International's pursuit of Liverpool Football Club, the ECHO believes the opposite is true and that DIC has not given up hope of buying the club.
Hicks had been hopeful that he would be in a position to come up with a double whammy of a new stadium design and a completed financial package with details of both to be released at exactly the same time.
The loan on the table from RBS and Wachovia will enable Hicks and Gillett to repay the £298m they have borrowed over the past 12 months to buy the club, absorb existing debts of £44.8m, sign players and finance work on the new stadium.
The additional funds will repay interest and enable work on the stadium project to start.
Of the £350m refinancing package £105m will be saddled on Liverpool, with £185m secured on Hicks and Gillett's holding company Kop Investment.
The Americans are believed to have increased their personal guarantees from £30m each to about £55m.
In another sweetener, Rafa Benitez has been informed by Hicks that he intends to tie up the proposed £17m transfer of fans’ favourite Javier Mascherano at the earliest possible opportunity.
Exclusive by Tony Barrett, Liverpool Echo
TOM Hicks today announced that he and Liverpool co-owner George Gillett have completed their long promised refinancing deal.
The conclusion of the £350m loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland and American investment bank Wachovia follows on from the new stadium plans which were released this morning, the club will take on £105m of the new debt, Kop Holdings (the holding company set up by Hicks and Gillett following takeover) will take on the other £245m.
Tom Hicks said: "This new financing package is a strong vote of confidence in the Club's financial strength and a recognition of the exceptional opportunity represented by the construction of the club's new state-of-the-art stadium at Stanley Park.
"The successful completion of this financing package is particularly significant in light of the currently challenging credit-market environment.
"With the refinancing process now done, club supporters can look forward to the timely commencement of construction work on the new stadium and renew their focus on actions on the pitch."
Hicks also gave his public backing to Reds boss Rafa Benitez, saying: "Since the meeting with Rafa on December 16, at which some widely reported communications issues were discussed, Rafa has been assured that he has continuing and enthusiastic support as the club's manager.
"Reflecting that support, Kop recently approved his transfer payment request to sign Martin Skrtel for £6.5 million and is in discussions with Rafa and club management regarding additional player signings this summer.
"Rafa is under contract for two more seasons following this season. I am solidly behind Rafa and am confident of the team's competitive prospects under his continuing leadership."
Liverpool and their ownership wrangles may currently be a manifestation of so much that is bemoaned about the modern game but, for 45 glorious minutes here, the unlikely names of Richard Pacquette and Alfie Potter helped bring some much needed football romance back to Anfield.
Not once, but twice, the gas fitters, binmen and cabbies of Havant & Waterlooville took the lead against the five-time champions of Europe. Even the Kop, mired in their internecine war with the club's owners, appreciated the magic that was unfolding before them.
Inevitably, a 15-minute hat-trick from Yossi Benayoun put paid to anything too outrageous occurring but, while Liverpool players can return to blaming American owners for their under achieving season and Rafa Benítez can continue his politicking with the same, Havant's 6,000 supporters and players will long remember this day, and rightly. They will remember the warm reception they received before kick-off from Liverpool fans and the stunned silence that greeted the eighth-minute opening goal from Pacquette, a truant officer by trade.
They will remember that silence giving way to heartfelt applause from an Anfield crowd who have a keen sense of their football history and they will certainly remember taking the lead for a second time when Potter's strike led to Martin Skrtel's own goal.
Surely, they will also remember the standing ovation that greeted them from 40,000-plus on the whistle and the Kop chanting 'Havant' in unison, the prelude to a lap of honour and a further 20 minutes of fans celebrating on the Anfield Road terraces.
'They will have fantastic memories after this game,' said Benítez. 'The atmosphere was good and it was fantastic for them to be here. It was even better for them to score one and two goals at Anfield.
'The FA Cup is like this, it's a fantastic competition. You can see a team progressing through the rounds and playing at Anfield even though they are five divisions below. That's how good, how amazing the FA Cup is.'
Surprisingly, given the hype that had surrounded the build-up to the tie, it was the visitors who settled far more quickly than the hosts, aided in no small part by some appallingly shaky defending from Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje and new £6.5million signing Skrtel.
A wayward back-pass from the latter gifted Havant their second corner of the game in the eighth minute, from which they scored. Mo Harkin picked out the unmarked Pacquette and his unstoppable six-yard header put his team into a most unlikely lead. How unlikely? Bookies were offering healthy odds of 700-1 on a 1-0 Havant victory with Pacquette the scorer.
Itandje, transmitting uneasiness through his team, almost gifted Neil Sharp a second goal before the £6m Brazilian Lucas curled in a fantastic 20-yard shot to equalise in the 27th minute, but still Havant would not lie down.
On the half-hour, Jay Smith's cross was cleared but headed back into the area by Tom Jordan, allowing Steve Finnan to make the most incredible, unforced error, on the edge of his penalty area, slipping and allowing Potter to advance and score via a deflection off Skrtel.
As Benítez later pointed out, it was imperative that his team equalised quickly and, a minute before half time, Benayoun duly obliged. Ryan Babel and Jermaine Pennant picked holes through a stationary defence to set up the Israel winger for a training-ground finish from 15 yards.
And thus were balance and sanity restored to the football universe. Eleven minutes after the restart, Benayoun turned to beat Sharp and convert Pennant's cross before completing his hat-trick with a tap-in after Kevin Scriven failed to hold Babel's shot.
Havant enjoyed a final flirtation with the implausible, but Itandje blocked Jordan's powerful 87th-minute header on the line before Peter Crouch tapped in from a clearly offside position in the dying seconds.
'To come to Anfield and produce a performance of that magnitude, I'm immensely proud of the players,' said Havant manager Shaun Gale. 'People laughed when we said we would come to Anfield and have a go. But we well and truly came and had a go. That's the only way we can play.
'We have had a fantastic run, so for it to end at a stadium like this, you accept that. We frustrated them in the first half but, unfortunately, in the end class has shone through.
'I will remember everything about this day. It has been fantastic for the players. I told them to enjoy it but that they were not coming here for a party, they can have a party afterwards.
'When you get a standing ovation from the whole ground on the final whistle, that sums it all up and the lads deserved it. It has been a fantastic achievement and I'm proud to be their manager.'
The FA Cup now has its annual air of inevitability - the big four, including Liverpool, are still in contention and it would be no surprise if they constituted the semi-final field, should the draws keep them apart. But every football fan in the country would do well to remember the occasion at Anfield yesterday as a reminder of the magic the competition can still generate.
Javier Mascherano The heart recommends naming one of the Havant part-timers who contributed to a remarkable 45 minutes at Anfield. But the simple fact was that Mascherano was one of the few Liverpool players who looked as if he belonged five leagues and 123 places above his opponents.
hmmm... do you think Chelsea, Arsenal or Manure will get the same treatment as LFC, if any of them were in the same scenario? I think not. I don't quite understand thoroughly what is the problem between the London-based nexpapers with LFC. Evidently, Rafa chose to play his 2nd choice team, in particular with Carra in absentia for most of the game. New boy Skrtel had a hand in both of the goals conceded, though the 2nd was more because of Finnan's inability to hold the ball effectively before it was stolen by the H&W forward. But above all... it was a suprising game. We can withstand many other top teams onslaught but were easily penetrated by a lowly team in the space of 30 mins... hhahaha
25 January 2008
And it is a measure of the growing despair at Anfield that manager Rafael Benitez wants his side to bag some goals to boost their confidence.
Liverpool's American owners' have again delayed an announcement of a successful refinancing deal but an agreement should be made public either on Friday or Monday.
Co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are on the verge of sealing a £350million package and had been expected to announce on Friday that it had gone through.
There are no serious hitches however and it is understood the deal is all but signed off, and the announcement will include details of the chosen design for a new stadium at Stanley Park.
But Havant, whose Hampshire ground is used by Portsmouth for their reserve games, have captured the hearts of the nation with their cup heroics.
And they will have 6,000 fans roaring them on in their fourth-round tie on Merseyside.
The last time Liverpool faced semi-professional opposition in this competition was at home to Altrincham in 1981, when the Cheshire club put up a fine, battling display before losing 4-1.
Kenny Dalglish scored twice that day against a side full of Scousers, many of them Liverpool fans.
Havant have their fair share of Liverpool fans in their ranks, but a team who are 120 places below Liverpool in English football's rankings should not remotely trouble Benitez's men.
But following the disappointment of Monday's 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa, Benitez said: "Now we have a cup tie with a non-league team, it will be a great occasion for everyone but maybe we can score some goals to give us confidence."
Liverpool certainly need a boost with Chelsea and a Champions League tie with Inter Milan on the horizon in the next few weeks.
Benitez, not surprisingly, needed to have it explained to him exactly where Havant & Waterlooville hail from when the draw was made.
And he said: "Getting videos of them will not be easy. Normally you want to see your opponents and study them, but that will not be as easy as usual."
Tapes of Havant's two matches against Swansea in the previous round have been forwarded to Benitez, but the chance to have the Hampshire side watched last weekend was ruined by their match being called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
Benitez's expensive side should be able to see off Havant without the aid of videos, and the Spanish coach admits his side owe their fans a few decent performances, having won just 10 of 18 of their home games this term in all competitions.
One win in their last six matches and five wins in their last 11 overall has started to stretch the patience of the Anfield faithful.
Benitez said: "The fans are magnificent to the team, to me, and we owe them some good games and some good victories."
The Reds boss, though, could field several fringe players against Havant with West Ham to come on Wednesday, but he will want to make absolutely certain there is no chance of an embarrassment.
It is likely that players who did not start against Villa will play against Havant.
And that could mean Steve Finnan, Charles Itandje, Lucas Leiva, Peter Crouch, Xabi Alonso and Ryan Babel being in the starting line-up.
Full-back Alvaro Arbeloa (abdominal injury) and striker Andriy Voronin (ankle) are both out of the match.
The Hawks are mid-table in the Blue Square South - six divisions below Liverpool - but Gale is planning more than just a fun day out on Saturday.
"Anything is possible in football and I would never send a side out just to enjoy it," Gale said.
"It's the FA Cup and we will be going out to win like we do every game."
Havant began their campaign against Bognor Regis in September and face their eighth game in this competition against the side looking for their eighth title.
The Hampshire club secured a fairytale fourth-round trip to the five-time European champions after knocking out League One leaders Swansea last week.
Sir Alex Ferguson has invited the squad to train at Manchester United's training ground before the game and the players will all be VIP guests at United's game against Tottenham at Old Trafford on Sunday.
And instead of following their usual routines of making their own way to the ground, the Havant players will arrive in style at Anfield using the official England team coach.
Gale added: "We're going to go with the attitude that we can get something."
"The boys have come up with a fantastic achievement in earning the right to play a club steeped in history, with millions of pounds worth of players.
"But it can't be a day trip, we have to treat it like we treat all our games.
"The day that any team turns up at a football ground thinking they can't win should be the day they pack up.
"It doesn't matter who you play, you've always got to have that belief that you've got a chance. The boys have got nothing to fear."
The assortment of plumbers, plasterers, dustmen and taxi drivers are trying to achieve the biggest upset in the 136-year history of the tournament against the seven-time winners.
Liverpool's Spanish international Xabi Alonso is fascinated by the fact that a Premier League club can face a non-league side in the Cup.
"In Spain you can only play teams up to two divisions below you," he said.
"But this is all part of the glamour and the prestige that the FA Cup has. This is why it is so interesting.
"It is the oldest football competition in history and it means so much to the supporters in this country.
Liverpool's superstars were held at home by Aston Villa on Monday and Alonso insists the Reds will approach the Cup tie against the minnows in the same mindset.
"By reaching this round they deserve as much respect as we gave Aston Villa. It's going to be a dream come true for some of them and it will be interesting," he said.
"(Manager) Rafa Benitez always tells us about the opposition players and he won't change that this time.
"He will briefly show us about the way they play and the players they have."
Hawks captain Jamie Collins, a 23-year-old schools football coach more accustomed to crowds of 600, will lead his team-mates out alongside Steven Gerrard in front of 40,000 passionate supporters in full voice.
"It's like a World Cup final for us," he said.
"To get to the fourth round and play Liverpool is a dream come true. To walk out in front of 40,000 singing 'you'll never walk alone' - any player in the world who hears that has the hairs on the back of their neck standing on end."
25 Jan 2008 The Times
The striker better known as Rocky Baptiste was named by his father after the Brazil forward who scored in every round of the 1970 World Cup. The young Baptiste’s interest in boxing led to the nickname Rocky, which was also less of a mouthful, but he has still done his best to live up to his original moniker.
He has scored at Wembley Stadium and against Arsenal at Highbury. His scoring rate since joining Havant in August 2005 is about two goals every three matches. And his goals at home and away against Swansea City in the third round helped to set up tomorrow’s match.
That he grew up within sight of Wembley’s twin towers also made it inevitable that he would make his mark in cup football. His Wembley goal – “a penalty, for Willesden Con-stantine in a local Brent competition,” he said – was not his most memorable. That came five years ago today, in the 71st minute of Farnborough Town’s 5-1 defeat by Arsenal, also in the FA Cup fourth round.
“I spun Pascal Cygan and I was one-on-one with the ’keeper [Stuart Taylor],” he said. “I tried to tuck it between his legs but he blocked it, so I followed through and got a toe to it to lift it over him.
“It was an amazing feeling, playing against all those stars. The adrenalin kicked in, but it was so hard against them. It made it 3-1 when I scored, but they just stepped up a gear – and they brought on Dennis Bergkamp. It was unbelievable how they could change the game.”
Baptiste, 35, began his career as a Chelsea junior, but few of the squad of which he was a member advanced to the club’s first team. “Frank Sinclair and not a lot of others,” he said.
His only chance at a League career came with Luton Town, when he was signed by Ricky Hill. “I think I would have done well in the League if I had had the chance,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that Ricky Hill got sacked when I signed there – unlucky.”
Some might have been bitter, but Baptiste, a Liverpool fan, is famously laid-back – a quality that he will need in his new day job as a London cabbie. “I had to drop back to the Conference, but it has been good and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “And I’ve been lucky to have not one but two days like this.
“Playing at Highbury was a great day, but it showed that it is possible to score against these teams. We’re not going to go there [Anfield] and just let Liverpool walk all over us.”
25 Jan 2008 The Times
It would be easy to believe that there is nothing in common between Liverpool and Havant & Waterlooville. Easy but entirely wrong. They share a sponsor, for one thing, and at Anfield tomorrow, while Liverpool’s shirts bear the Carlsberg name, those of their opponents will invoke the brewer’s familiar commercial with the word “Probably”.
Their mountainous task, in a fourth-round tie that defines the rarefied values of the FA Cup, suggests it should instead be “Probably Not”. Yet the 6,000 travelling fans – ten times the average gate at the Hampshire club – will take more than blind hope. They carry the message that a merger between sworn enemies, as is periodically raised on Merseyside, really can work.
Liverpool and Everton are separated by the width of Stanley Park, Havant and Waterlooville by the A3(M). Ten years ago, these nondescript towns, the dormitories of Portsmouth, conducted an arranged marriage that aroused the sort of wrath familiar to the European City of Culture when a ground share between the Reds and Blues is mooted.
Trevor Brock was secretary of Havant Town and explains: “Both teams were in the same league – we got gates of 130, they got 110. In many ways it made sense but they were our biggest rivals and there were people saying they wouldn’t cross the road to come to us.”
Malcolm Jamieson, who supported Waterlooville, said: “I was one of the loudest voices against it. Havant were our hated enemy and I didn’t want anything to do with them. We didn’t get on with Havant at all.”
Yet somehow the jagged edges of this non-League jigsaw fitted together. Brock – bluff, balding and blazered in the best administrative tradition – is into his 45th and most momentous year as a nonLeague secretary. Jamieson is now one of his volunteers, this week working on the logistical conundrum of sourcing enough coaches to travel north for the last great giantkilling attempt of this year’s competition.
“I had tears in my eyes the night we beat Swansea,” he said. “Drawing Liverpool is just surreal – especially as my wife, Alison, supports them. I can’t sleep. I feel sick every time I think about the game.”
Brock, the son of a naval officer, has to balance his swelling football agenda with a day job in the civil service. His pleasure comes in contemplating the profile and the profit (about £300,000) that his club will gain. That, and his savoured seat in the directors’ box.
With the aid of Blue Square, sponsors of the Conference South in which the club languish in mid-table, Brock has arranged for Havant to use The Cliff, Manchester United’s indoor training facility, this afternoon. Tonight they will receive a motivational talk from Kenny Dalglish, who may be risking his iconic status at Liverpool if he performs too well.
This is living the dream. The Havant players are right to relish it. After all, their football earnings are about 1 per cent of Liverpool’s top salaries. And while Anfield boasts the world-famous Kop, Havant’s West Leigh Park has the tiny “Don’s Doors Stand”.
The hype, though, has got overheated this week. The local evening paper ran a feature on a Havant “WAG” and Showaddywaddy, the Seventies band whose Under The Moon Of Love is sung on the Havant terraces, have got in on the act.
Meanwhile, the tale of the team getting a trip to Las Vegas for their cup glory was exposed as a joke that went too far. In truth, Las Vegas, and even Liverpool, are a world apart from this forsaken conurbation. Leigh Park is the postwar development that rehoused thousands of evacuees from the Portsmouth bombings. It was to be a brave new world, carved out of the countryside near such bucolic villages as Hambledon. It turned into the second-biggest housing estate in Europe, a dour, grey breeding ground of resentment.
The ground is framed by hideous 1960s office blocks and factories and by relentless streets created in haste and repenting at leisure. What it lacks in aesthetics and amenities, though, it compensates in sheer numbers. Simon Lynch, who edits the club programme, said: “Leigh Park is not the best area but they are great people and this is our chance to attract more of them to watch us regularly.”
Havant itself is not exactly on the tourist trail. Even one of the club directors described it as “a dour little place” and he was not wrong. Thankfully, there is a town museum, which reveals that glovemaking was a source of prosperity and that hockey, rugby and sail-boarding – though not football – gave the area “national status”.
Yet even this sanctuary is short-lived: council funding withdrawn, the museum must close next year and even the life-enhancing romance of FA Cup football has taken time to permeate this characterless landscape. Yesterday, the Post Office windows were bedecked in “Giantkillers” flags and match souvenir scarves were selling outside the shopping arcade. Lynch, who also runs the club shop, reports a rush on replica shirts, with orders from New Zealand, Chicago and Richmond, Virginia.
Lynch will board one of 26 coaches leaving Havant at 6am tomorrow. They might be back before closing time and some, doubtless, will file into The Heroes, the Waterlooville pub, named after the soldiers who returned from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
A band is booked tomorrow, called The Four Kicks. Returning supporters will hope that does not describe their team’s labours. They will hope, indeed, that the pub name is more appropriate. But probably not.
Though at this very moment, me - like most of LFC fans are engrossed a little bit with the ownership issues we have now. Captain Gerrard did said that it has affecting the players too. Certainly, it has affecting the fans... all over the world.
Would love to play against Inter Milan (which we adore too... especially most of the players were the ones we defeated when they were in Juventus colour...hahaha) but on Saturday we have this supposedly entertaining game against a minnow. We had one against Luton and hell...! we had a scare as we had to replay the game, just to allow us to score 5 goals!
As for Inter Milan... I think... it's still a moment away. We have a few serious matches to attend to. In particular against Chelsea on Feb. 10 (if I'm not mistaken). In accordance with Rafa, we would prefer to talk one game at a time. As for Mr Checco... I Salute U. You must be from Italy. Hey... I landed at Milan airport a couple of years ago but only transit as we were going for a road-trip to St Moritz before returning to Lake Como. Mama mia! BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY!
Wish you luck, too Mr Checco!
24 January 2008
by Andy Simms, Liverpool Daily Post Correspondent
HAVANT & Waterlooville manager Shaun Gale is preparing for arguably the biggest FA Cup mismatch of all time by insisting: “We can beat Liverpool”.
The Hawks, languishing in mid-table in the Blue Square South – six divisions below Liverpool – secured a fairytale fourth-round trip to Anfield after knocking out League One leaders Swansea last week.
The five-times European champions are not expected to have too much trouble sweeping past the one-time Southern League champions.
But the 38-year-old former Barnet and Exeter defender maintains his collection of plasterers, plumbers, binmen and taxi drivers are not merely out on a day trip.
“It’s fantastic for a club of our level to have achieved what we have – to be going to Anfield in the last 32 of the biggest cup competition in the world,” said Gale.
“We are under no illusions how difficult it’s going to be, but every football match we go into we prepare the players right and we’ll be going there to give it our best shot, and not just to have a party.
“Anything is possible in football. I would never send a side out just to enjoy it.
“You don’t know what side Liverpool will put out. It’s the FA Cup and we will be going out to win like we do every game.
“If Liverpool play fantastic and we play fantastic, then there is only one winner. But if Liverpool don’t play so well and we’re at the top of our game, then anything can happen.”
Havant also have Premier League leaders – and Liverpool’s arch-enemies – Manchester United in their corner as they attempt the greatest giant-killing act in the competition’s history.
And Gale is hoping the boardroom rumblings and the recent pressure on Benitez will also help them.
“We asked Manchester United if we could train up there and we’re using their indoor facility at The Cliff,” added Gale. “If there’s ever a good time to play Liverpool then it could be now. But he’s done a fantastic job there and I don’t suppose he’s losing too much sleep about playing us.”
Captain Jamie Collins said: “To get to the fourth round and play Liverpool is a dream come true. To walk out in front of 40,000 singing ‘you’ll never walk alone’ – any player in the world who hears that has the hairs on the back of their neck standing on end.”
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Hicks and Gillett have been claiming for months that refinancing is imminent. They plan to borrow £350m to repay the cash they used to buy Liverpool last year and start work on a new stadium. A sticking point has been a reluctance by the Americans to put a penny of their own money into the deal. Another fundamental block has been that Parry does not want the new debt piled on to the club's books secured against club assets.
For the refinancing to go through in such a fashion, Parry's signature, as a key player on the board, would be required, as well as those of Hicks, Gillett and the banks. If Parry refused to sign, his job could theoretically be at risk. If he signs, he risks the kind of fan backlash suffered by David Gill at Manchester United since the Glazer takeover at Old Trafford.
The sense of restlessness that has sparked Havant's remarkable surge through the rounds of this season's FA Cup could hardly be better embodied than by the club's general manager, Adrian Aymes, who, with one distinguished sports career to his name, might have chosen early retirement on the South Coast.
But, at 43, the former Hampshire wicketkeeper has impressed his formidable work ethic and fitness regime upon the Havant part-timers, galvanising them into dedicated athletes who hold no fear of facing even Liverpool.
Of necessity, Aymes' duties at the Blue Square South club extend much further than physical conditioning. When he is not checking the floodlights at Havant's ramshackle Westleigh Park ground, he is carefully leafing through their allocation of 6,000 tickets for Saturday's Anfield adventure.
Where cricket made his name - and this is a man who could count Shane Warne and Malcolm Marshall among his team-mates - football plainly remains his game. Relishing the thought of the Liverpool test, Aymes, once a protege among Bristol Rovers reserves, admitted: "I'm so pleased for these players. They have their chance to play at a great stadium - it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
An enjoyment of this most implausible Cup run can be detected in Aymes' every utterance. "I've seen too many gifted footballers not enjoy playing," said the 43-year-old, who has been instrumental in setting up an academy from which every youngster earns a diploma. Such a project seems to define Havant, modest in means but extreme in ambitions.
With a 30 per cent share promised of the £800,000 in Anfield gate receipts, Aymes can only feel more empowered - indeed, he reflects that the money will be more than enough to ensure long-term stability and perhaps even a football in the community scheme.
He is an earnest disciple of peak fitness in non-League football, as attested by goalkeeper (and bricklayer) Kevin Scriven's sacrifice of spending almost every morning in weight training.
Such an attitude can be found elsewhere in the team. Tom Jordan, son of Portsmouth assistant manager Joe Jordan, is a fitness trainer who can count Carol Vorderman among his clients.
Aymes has sensed the terror that has struck Havant's opponents throughout this Cup campaign. Once Notts County were vanquished in the second round, his prediction that Swansea City would be distracted by the apparent slenderness of their opposition proved eerily prescient.
"Football was my first love," he claims, and the affection is echoed in the passion of his players' Cup performances.
ACCORDING to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, public relations originated in the USA in the early 20th century. In the early 21st, they seem to have lost their touch.
Tom Hicks may well have thought that he was clearing the air earlier this week when he revealed his dangerous liaison with Jurgen Klinsmann, but he succeeded only in clouding it further.
Despite his assertions that the co-owners’ ruckus with Rafa was behind them, and that they now stood full square behind him, Hicks’s comments brought about exactly the opposite result, serving only to undermine him further and revitalise speculation over his future should Liverpool’s results not improve.
Although the talks with Klinsmann were presented as an insurance policy should Benitez decamp to Real Madrid, Hicks left no doubt that the threat of an early exit from the Champions League was a key motivating factor in their hasty search for a possible replacement.
It’s clear, then, that a failure to finish in the top four this season will see Rafa’s P45 despatched quicker than a Riise free-kick entering the Kop, regardless of any trips to Moscow or Wembley in May next year. Hardly the professed backing for Benitez’s long-term vision is it?
Given his undoubted commitment to the cause, it’s no wonder that Benitez was at pains recently to rubbish stories that he expected to be sacked at the end of the season, and was therefore seeking his next post.
From across the Atlantic, this would have been seen not just as shooting yourself in the foot, but loading both barrels and asking someone else to do it for you.
Whatever the provocation, there’s little doubt that Benitez’s authority has been seriously undermined by Hicks’ comments, not least with the players.
The sad experience in the modern game is that if players are offered the opportunity not to perform, they’ll take it. If you tell them they’re tired, they’ll play like they’re tired.
If there’s a suspicion that the manager is unlikely to be around too long, then their motivation to impress him is lessened – even Manchester United fell victim to this when Fergie prematurely announced his retirement a few seasons ago. Could this explain their lacklustre performances over the last month or so? Don’t bet against it.
Another bewildering aspect of Hicks’ pronouncement was his declaration that he spoke to Klinsmann to “learn all we could about the English game”. Excuse me?
Jurgen’s experience of this is what – a few years playing in it?
Do they not feel there’s anyone at Anfield who can impart this specialist knowledge?
If it’s not bad enough that we have to turn to an Italian to coach our national team, now we have to talk to a German who lives in California about how to succeed in the Premier League!
Hicks and Gillett would no doubt defend their flirtation with Klinsmann as sound business practice – succession planning I think they call it.
This is a fair argument, but what they need to appreciate is that English football business is played out in the full glare of the national press, and they need to think through how they go about it in a considered and discreet manner, mindful not least about the need to keep the fans onside, and avoid the ‘dead man walking’ situation they have now placed Benitez in.
The on-line encyclopaedia Wikipedia notes that “a number of American precursors to public relations are found in publicists who specialized in promoting circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles”.
It looks like the new owners need to bring themselves up to date in this particular field.
JAY AIMS TO TAME TORRES
By Mike Walters 24/01/2008
Quantity surveyor Jay Smith has al ready measured up the task of marking £26million Fernando Torres - and it's a case of mind over matador.
Havant and Waterlooville defender Smith believes in judging footballers by performance on the day rather than the name on a shirt. Even if it's Liverpool's No.9 shirt and record signing Torres is wearing it.
With 123 places in English football's food chain separating Smith and the Spain striker, the chances of Havant keeping a clean sheet in their dream fourth-round tie at Anfield on Saturday are slimmer than a supermodel's size zero.
Smith, 26, once of Brentford, said: "Although there's bound to be a frightening aspect when you play against someone of his calibre, I'm not worried as such about marking Torres. All the pressure will be on Liverpool.
"If I end up marking him I will be trying to tell myself that it's only a name on the back of his shirt. If I try and mark the reputation I will be chasing shadows - but we came up against a Spanish striker in the last round (Swansea's Guillem Bauza) and that turned out all right. I might be lucky, he might have an off-day, so I won't be thinking about Torres and his £26m price tag too much."
Smith will benefit from maintaining a close proximity to Torres, if only when the final whistle sounds and the day's biggest race, the 4.45 Shirt Swap handicap, comes under starter's orders.
He added: "I want to remember it as a special day in my career: I want to remember running out in front of the Kop and hearing 40,000 people singing You'll Never Walk Alone.
"And I will probably touch that sign above the tunnel which says 'This is Anfield' - just because it's so different from Westleigh Park, where you enter the pitch from behind the tea hut and the only sign should say, 'Please shut the gate'."
One sore point for the Hawks is the FA's insistence that defender Justin Gregory will be suspended for the Liverpool game.
Havant switched their Blue Square South match at Thurrock to last night so his ban was served before the Cup tie on Merseyside.
But FA rules forbid fixture changes which manipulate the disciplinary system. And the match was called off after 24 minutes due to floodlight failure.
Gregory will join Brett Poate, who was sent off at Swansea in the last round, in the stands at Anfield.
Gregory had initially been ruled out of the fourth-round clash at Anfield after accruing five yellow cards but a rearranged Blue Square South game at Thurrock looked like giving him an early chance to serve the one-match ban.
But the Football Association intervened and, by deeming the moving of the Thurrock game a deliberate attempt by the club to manipulate the fixture list, ruled that Gregory's suspension must stand for the Liverpool match.
Havant & Waterlooville responded by bringing in a QC to examine whether that ruling contravened regulations - but their efforts became academic after floodlight failure forced the abandonment of the Thurrock match.
A light went out after 19 minutes at Thurrock's Ship Lane ground and, although play eventually restarted, a second failure forced the referee to call off the match.
Gregory told Sky Sports News: 'I'm so disappointed, I'm devastated. I believe in fate and it was obviously fate that I wasn't going to play at Anfield. Unfortunately the dream has ended there.
'It seems to be very convenient and it seems to have got the FA out of a big hole, as it were. A floodlit failure is a floodlit failure.
'I was pleading with the referee at half-time to get the game on. Both sides wanted to play but the referee was adamant the game was not going ahead. Obviously he has his responsibilities, he doesn't want to get anyone injured, but I am devastated.'
Thursday January 24, 2008
Sir Alex Ferguson has entered the debate about Rafael Benítez's increasingly precarious position at Liverpool by accusing the club's owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks of lacking "class". The Manchester United manager said for the first time that he believes Liverpool are out of the title race and he questioned whether they would ever be regarded as serious challengers while there were so many political problems behind the scenes at Anfield.
Ferguson believes Gillett and Hicks are to blame and, referring to "a closely knit and well-run club 20 years ago", he highlighted the manner in which the two Americans had admitted talking to Jürgen Klinsmann about replacing Benítez. "That was a bad piece of business on Liverpool's part, there's no doubt about that," he said. "At big clubs it's paramount that the board shows its class. That sort of thing can be very upsetting for a manager."
Ferguson made it clear he had sympathy for the Spaniard and he likened Liverpool's pursuit of Klinsmann to the revelation earlier this season that Tottenham Hotspur had offered Juande Ramos the manager's job while Martin Jol was still in charge. "As a manager there are a lot of moments in every week when you feel very much on your own," he said.
"People don't want to knock on your door because they think you're busy all the time when the truth is you can be sitting there twiddling your thumbs. You can fill your time by phoning other managers but there are a lot of hours spent on your own and, in moments like that, Rafa must feel very alone right now. The thing in his favour is that Rafa seems quite a stubborn character who can put aside emotion whereas Martin seemed to be more affected when it happened to him."
United return from their trip to Saudi Arabia today and Ferguson is convinced that Liverpool, 14 points off the top, no longer pose a credible challenge for the title. "They will concentrate on trying to win the European Cup rather than the league," he said. "I say that because there are three clubs ahead of them [discounting Everton] rather than just one. If it was just one club they were chasing, you couldn't write them off but it is very difficult to think that three teams could drop that number of points and be caught."
He also suspects that Benítez might have missed out on players during the transfer window because of the uncertainty surrounding the club. "The important thing in all of this is that the big clubs should be seen to be acting like big clubs," he said. "Most players would want to play for Liverpool but when they see a club that they think is topsy-turvy, with a divide between the manager and the directors, they might think twice. When the choice comes, they want to join a stable club.
"One thing for sure is that Rafa has brought in a lot of his players because of his Spanish connections. If, for example, an English manager was then to come into Liverpool, that connection would suddenly be gone." The tension at Anfield has led to mass protests in support of Benítez from the club's fans, reminiscent in some ways to the campaign against the Glazers that has been orchestrated by United's followers. The difference is that Ferguson seems happy under the regime at Old Trafford, where he is allowed the kind of power that is denied Benítez.
"I've been very fortunate because I have had good directors - people like Bobby Charlton and Martin Edwards - who always supported me very well," Ferguson said of his 21 years at Old Trafford. "There have been times when we have had to budget but, on the whole, I have never been refused money and I have more or less got any player I wanted. Arsène Wenger has always had great support at Arsenal as well. So there's unity there. And that's right. You should allow a manager to get on with his job."
Thursday January 24, 2008
The Liverpool Supporters Network, a coalition of fanzines and leading websites, polled members this week in response to the uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the club and of the manager, Rafael Benítez, following Hicks' revelations that he and Gillett approached Jürgen Klinsmann about the Spaniard's job.
Unsurprisingly 99% backed Benítez over the co-chairmen when asked who had the best interests of the club at heart and 98% said they did not trust Gillett and Hicks after they reneged on their promise not to burden Liverpool with debt similar to the Glazer family's takeover of Manchester United.
That may become a reality today, however, with the Americans hoping to announce a £350m loan with the Royal Bank of Scotland and the US bank Wachovia that would refinance their initial takeover and strengthen their control on the club in the short term at least. They will then be in a position to unveil their revised stadium proposals.
Liverpool are facing £30m annual interest repayments should the Americans refinance and continue to resist offers to sell from Dubai International Capital, and supporters intend to exert their own financial pressures should Gillett and Hicks stay. The survey found 76% were willing to withdraw their financial commitment to the club in the form of match tickets, merchandising or subscriptions to the official Liverpool website. The Supporters Network will also propose extending the boycott to include club sponsors Carlsberg, the kit suppliers Adidas and even the RBS should the loan go through.
A spokesperson for the network, Neil Atkinson, said: "The results of this survey are indicative of the strength of feeling among Liverpool fans that the club is very much in the wrong hands at present. Tom Hicks and George Gillett are not trusted by Liverpool supporters and that three-quarters of fans would consider withdrawing their financial support of the club should the present owners remain in charge demonstrates how committed Liverpool fans are to seeing the club removed from the control of the present owners."
by Tony Barrett, Liverpool Echo
LIVERPOOL co-owner Tom Hicks remains confident the long awaited refinancing deal will be signed, sealed and delivered tomorrow.
Sources close to Hicks told the ECHO that it is now just a matter of ironing out a few minor details with the Royal Bank of Scotland and American investment bank Wachovia, and that the American’s stance that he is not interested in selling the club to DIC has not altered in any way.
As well as privately committing himself to announcing the financial restructuring deal tomorrow, Hicks has informed confidantes he will also reveal finalised plans for the new Anfield at the same time.
“Tom is in no doubt that the deal with RBS and Wachovia is going through and he is looking forward to revealing the new stadium design which is every bit as spectacular as promised,” said one source.
“There are a few minor glitches to be ironed out but nothing major – it’s pretty much just standard procedure for a deal on this scale.”
Should the deal be completed tomorrow it will result in a £350m loan being taken out. But, under the terms on the table, the entire debt will not be taken on by Liverpool.
The ECHO understands the club will take on £105m, Kop Investment, the holding company set up by Hicks and Gillett in the immediate aftermath of last year’s takeover, will take on £190m, with the co-owners having been asked to put up £55m of their own money.
The fact that the loan is being arranged in this way represents a minor victory for David Moores and Rick Parry, who successfully argued with Hicks that the entire debt should not be loaded onto the club.
Moores and Parry, who remain on the Liverpool board, refused to budge from this position and their stance was one of the main reasons why the financial restructuring deal is only now nearing completion.
Had they capitulated, the likelihood is Liverpool would today be saddled with a debt of £350m.
But should the duo be removed from the board for any reason at any point in the future, there would be nothing to stop the entire debt from being shifted onto the club.
If Hicks’ plans come to fruition tomorrow as planned, the next stage of his plans will be the hunt for a further £300m loan to finance the construction of the new stadium.
23 January 2008
by David Higgerson, Liverpool Daily Post
MORE than 90% of Liverpool FC fans feel let down by American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks’s first year in charge, with most now wanting them to just sell up and go.
That is the stark fact revealed by an exclusive survey, commissioned by the Liverpool Daily Post, which also shows that recent events at Anfield have galvanised fans behind club manager Rafael Benitez, despite a recent run of poor results.
A week after Hicks admitted the club tried to line up Jurgen Klinsmann to replace Benitez, and as speculation over a possible sale of the club to a Dubai consortium reached fever pitch, more than 2,500 fans took part in our online survey.
And it comes as a club source last night told the Daily Post that Hicks and Gillett were expected to complete a £350m refinancing deal on Thursday or Friday.
Fans fear this will include putting the debt initially used to acquire LFC on to the club itself.
While 72.9% described themselves as happy when Gillett and Hicks took over last year, our survey found:
* 90.5% feel the last 12 months have been worse than they expected;
* 83.1% think the owners should have done more to sup- port Benitez in the transfer market;
* 90% blame the owners for the falling out with Benitez;
* 92% think it was wrong of the owners to approach Klinsmann, with 93% feeling it was wrong to make that approach public last week;
* 94% want Benitez to remain as manager, but 77% expect him to have left Anfield by the end of the summer;
* 93% would prefer the club to still be in the ownership of the Moores family, with 89% also saying they would prefer the DIC consortium, from Dubai, to now take over.
The impact of speculation that Gillett and Hicks are now preparing to saddle Liverpool FC with £350m of debt, is also proving to be a major concern for fans.
Asked what should be the owners’ priority if they remain in charge, 53.6% said keeping debt placed on the club’s books to a minimum should be the number one aim.
It compares with just 31% who think making funds available for transfers is the top priority, and 15% who believe confirming the new stadium should be the most important item on the agenda.
Only 47.4% of fans consider a new stadium – which is back on the drawing board after Gillett and Hicks decided their most recent plan was now too expensive – to be essential, although 35.5% consider a move to also be important.
THE damning findings from fans come less than a year after the American duo spoke of a “special relationship” with Liverpool fans as they took over the club on February 7, 2007, and promised to respect the traditions of the Anfield club.
Les Lawson, secretary of the official LFC supporters group, said: “This survey shows how let down Liverpool fans feel.
“When Gillett and Hicks arrived, they were embraced by the fans. There were American flags at Anfield and banners with Uncle Tom and Uncle George in the Kop. We really wanted it to work. But over the year it has become obvious they don’t care about the club, they just care about making a quick buck.
“They have made this club a laughing stock with the way they have treated Rafa, and I don’t think there is any way back for them now.
“We won’t be able to trust them again. They’ve made promises, like not putting the club in debt, and then gone back on their word. Even if they offered Rafa £100m to spend, we’d still be thinking that there was some-thing else going on. We need the club to be owned by people who actually care about it.” The emergence of a six-month- old video interview Hicks gave in America will also do little to placate fans’ concerns.
In the same interview, Hicks explains how he treats his sports teams as business commodities. He said the Dallas Stars had been a “lousy franchise” in a “crumbling arena” which he felt he could change. “I figured I could change all that; put them in a new arena, make them worth a lot more money and sell it and make money, because I'm a businessman. What I didn't count on was that I fell in love with hockey and don’t want to sell.”
Many will wonder if he fell in love with Liverpool – the fans have made clear that their side of the affair is over.
John Makin, of Reclaim the Kop, said: “It [the interview] just proves him to be duplicitous, he’s just telling people what they want to hear, either that or he’s completely stupid.
“I would agree with the people who say ‘I would have DIC in’. At the minute, there’s no other option.
“It’s imperative to get rid of Gillett and Hicks.”