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‘What would Shankly do?’ – Is Liverpool FC really a socialist football club?

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 22:15

It’s an evocative and passionate subject which feelings range far and wide on. Here, James Nalton looks at whether Liverpool FC retains the socialist heritage which Bill Shankly helped instil.

Liverpool is widely considered one of the world’s left-wing football clubs. Names such as Celtic, St. Pauli, Livorno, Rayo Vallecano, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Boca Juniors will appear in lists of left-leaning clubs, with Liverpool among them, but this only scrapes the surface of a complicated subject on clubs whose identity can change over time.

Liverpool, as a city, has matured into one based around left-wing politics. It has been a Labour stronghold since the latter half of the 20th century and its Militant council of the 80s used a slogan: “better to break the law than break the poor.”

It is a city which isn’t English or even European. The brand of socialism which exists in Liverpool is international. But though Liverpool FC is certainly now an international force, is it a socialist club?


 A statue of former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly pictured before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In an interview with Spanish outlet El Pais, Liverpool CEO Peter Moore spoke about the socialist influence on the club, and the constant reference by himself and others at boardroom level back to the question: What would Bill Shankly do?

Moore tells the interviewer that Shankly laid the foundations for the club to be built into what it is today, and the principles built into those foundations should be retained—but the way football has developed in the Premier League era, it’s not as simple as saying that Liverpool is a socialist club.

It’s rare for someone so high-up at such a big club to use this type of left-wing political language. The use of the word “socialism” can create a backlash, as it’s a widely misunderstood political ideology. In many ways, it’s a big step for the Garston-born CEO to use the word at all.

Shankly gave one of the best definitions of socialism when he said:

“I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day.

“That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life.”

The aforementioned Militant Labour council of the 80s believed that the city of Liverpool had long been denied its share of the rewards by central government in London, and looked to address that imbalance, which is the reason they are viewed as a more radical left-wing outfit.

Manager Bob Paisley (centre), who took over from Bill Shankly in 1974, is flanked by trainer Ronnie Moran (l) and assistant manager Joe Fagan. (Picture by PA PA Archive/PA Images)

In his own way, Shankly was also very radical.

He changed the course of Liverpool history during his 15 years in charge. He left a legacy and a line of succession which lasted until the late 90s and then saw a brief revival during Kenny Dalglish’s second stint as manager in 2011/12.


This type of manager succession, influenced by those who spent long hours discussing football Liverpool’s Boot Room, was unique in football, and when explaining the club’s “this means more” slogan, Moore referred back to Shankly’s ideas and ideals:

“To say that Liverpool is unique does not mean too much.

“As a marketing expert, I wanted to unravel exactly what it meant. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Dortmund, and Bayern are special too, so how do we distil this?

“We had this incredible historical figure: Bill Shankly, a socialist from Scotland who built the foundations.

“Even today, when we talk about business, we ask ourselves: ‘What would Shankly do?’ What would Bill say in this situation?

“He was a true socialist who believed that football consisted of working together. In the marketing department, we met and said: ‘Let’s put this into words.’

“The conclusion was that Liverpool’s essential idea is that this means more. More than winning or losing. More than going to football, more than a get together in the pub and then going home.”

Bill Shankly, 14-Apr-1964 (Picture by PA PA Archive/PA Images)

That the conclusion was a marketing slogan in itself brings to question any socialist intentions.

It’s difficult for anyone or anything to have socialist ideals in a world dominated by capitalism, consumerism and an increase in right-wing political parties taking power across the globe.

Any left-wing governments, or attempts to form one, are met with obstructions within their own country and often from abroad. Some people would prefer everyone working for them, and only they take the rewards.


 Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop with banners "Unity is Strength" and "We Told You They Lied, Justice for the 96" before the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match against Manchester United at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s even more difficult to hold socialist values in the Premier League, one of the most capitalist football divisions in the world (at least the TV money is divided out), but at each Liverpool game, there are examples of this left-wing identity.

“Shankly defined it as socialism — not in a political sense, but in the sense of solidarity,” added Moore.

“There is a banner in the Kop that says: ‘unity is strength.’ Liverpool is a socialist city, with a working tradition, very close to the port.

“Shankly expressed in the idea of working together on the pitch under the maxim of ‘passing the ball and moving.’ It’s not exactly tiki-taka, but it happens when you play freely with quick counter-attacks. That’s our brand.”

Another regular expression of socialist ideas comes from the most visible of the club’s leading figures, the manager, Jurgen Klopp.

In Rafael Honigstein’s book, Klopp: Bring the Noise, the Liverpool boss is quoted as saying:

“I’m on the left, of course. More left than middle. I believe in the welfare state. I’m not privately insured. I would never vote for a party because they promised to lower the top tax rate.

“My political understanding is this: if I am doing well, I want others to do well, too. If there’s something I will never do in my life it is vote for the right.”

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp applauds the supporters after the UEFA Champions League Group E match between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC at the Studio San Paolo. Napoli won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sounds familiar.

Klopp regularly calls upon the fans to assist in the club’s quest for success. This isn’t done to generate neat soundbites or quotes for fansites, or to curry favour with the supporters — it is something he genuinely believes helps his team win matches, and at the same involves everyone in any success.

Those who observed the early managerial career of the man from Germany’s Black Forest region, and his later success with Borussia Dortmund and interaction with their equivalent to the Kop, the Yellow Wall, knew his work at Liverpool would involve geeing up the fans as much as improving the team.

In almost every press conference Klopp issues some kind of rallying cry, and when looking at the overall message he is trying to convey, there are often socialist undertones.

And why wouldn’t there be? This is football, where teamwork and the collective is vital to success.

 A Liverpool supporters' banner of goalkeeper Alisson Becker on the Spion Kop before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

“If everyone does all the small jobs to the best of their ability, that’s honesty, then the world would be better and football would be better,” Shankly once said.

“What we want is hard work, and no football club is ever successful without hard work.”

This busts the myth that socialism can lead to laziness, and shows it is an ideal philosophy when it comes to football.

Klopp is not trying to be the new Shankly, it just turns out that one of the best ways to manage a football club is to have everyone working for each other, then everyone gets a share of the rewards.

This has been increasingly the case at Liverpool since Klopp’s arrival. There isn’t the discord behind the scenes which existed during the Rodgers era, and people are trusted to do the jobs they are assigned.


 Liverpool supporters' banner "Justice for Grenfell" before the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The current owners may not be socialists, but as Moore has pointed out in a couple of recent interviews, they don’t take money out of the club as others at the helm of similar sized clubs do.

“Our owners have not taken a penny,” he says.

“They do not have a dividend, and they have never collected the profits. In fact, the money goes in the opposite direction. It is invested in the club.

“We spent on Anfield’s new Main Stand, on building the new sports centre in Kirkby, on supporting technology.

“The valuation of a football club produces long-term benefits. Maybe they will wait 10 or 20 years and then reap the benefits. That is called patience. Take care of your assets, keep going, and surely good things will happen.

“If you buy good players, you improve the team, if you improve the team you win titles, if you win titles you increase your income. It is the classic virtuous circle.”

While investing the profits back into the club in order to increase the overall value of the asset are the moves of capitalists, it is probably the best type of ownership you are likely to get in the Premier League at this moment in time.

 Liverpool's owner John W. Henry and co-owner and NESV Chairman Tom Werner during the 214th Merseyside Derby match at Goodison Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FSG aren’t socialists. They redeveloped the Main Stand in order to bring in revenue through extra corporate areas, but when there were protests against rising ticket prices, they listened.

The attempts to trademark certain parts of fan culture, such as the “Allez Allez Allez” song, “6 times” and even the word “Liverpool”, has left a sour taste, but though they aren’t a left-wing ownership group, neither are they the capitalist leeches some Premier League owners are—not least the Glazer family in charge of Liverpool’s historic rivals, Man United.

Some will also point to the fact that Liverpool FC was founded by a Conservative, a member of the Orange Order no less, John Houlding, which is true.

But though the club was formed by a conservative-unionist at a time when the Labour party didn’t exist and the Scouse melting pot was still mixing, there is no doubt that the Liverpool we know today was shaped by the city, on foundations laid by Shankly and supported by Reuben Bennett, Tom Saunders, Geoff Twentyman, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish, Ronnie Moran, and, later, Roy Evans.

The only Bootroom Klopp can visit is the Boot Room Sports Cafe, a restaurant inside Anfield, and another example of the capitalists making money from socialist values, but Klopp has the Bootroom spirit and he and his coaching staff have gone some way to reviving it.

“Klopp is classic Liverpool,” says Moore.

“Shankly used to say ‘I was made for Liverpool and Liverpool was made for me’ and Klopp can say the exact same thing.

“He understands the socialist elements within the club and the city, the challenges and the emotion. The Beatles were a symbol of the city during one era. Now it’s football.”

Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited is not a socialist business venture. The club is owned by capitalists, not by supporters, but even if clubs are not owned by their fans, they are often defined by them.

Liverpool, defined by its fans, its history and its present, has a strong case for being a socialist football club.

The aforementioned ‘unity is strength’ banner bears the images of current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a true left-wing Labour leader at a time when the powers-that-be are trying to convince people that the centre is the left in order to make the extreme right appear more palatable, and make Labour seem more extreme when it has merely returned to its roots.

It shows shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who was born in Liverpool, and it also shows support for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, the Shrewsbury 24 campaign and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

It’s also no coincidence that the banner containing the portraits of Liverpool’s most successful and iconic managers, to which Klopp has recently been added, is based on a Soviet banner bearing the images of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels and Lenin alongside a red star, one of the symbols of communism.

The Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited is not a socialist company, but Liverpool, defined by its fans, its city, its current manager, cooperative and accommodating but not trademarked, is a socialist football club.

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Premier League given assurances over Champions League places

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 22:14

The Premier League has received assurances that there are no current proposals to cut the number of Champions League group stage places for English clubs.

The PA news agency understands the league was surprised and disappointed by the suggestion last week from European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson that England, Germany, Italy and Spain might have to accept a drop from four automatic places to three in a revamped competition from 2024.

The league has since held talks with European Leagues, a group which represents 36 professional leagues across 29 countries, and been reassured that there are no fixed proposals at this stage, with the principles behind a new-look competition still being worked on.

The relationship between the Premier League and European Leagues is understood to remain very strong, and the English league will host the continental body’s club advisory platform and general assembly in London over Thursday and Friday.

Delegates from nearly 200 European clubs will attend the event, as will speakers from the world players’ union FIFPro and various supporters’ groups.

Olsson said last week that clubs from England, Germany, Italy and Spain may have to consider a cut to improve access to the competition for teams from other countries.

Discussions are ongoing about how Europe’s top club competition might look from 2024-25 onwards.

 Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk lifts the trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. Liverpool won 2-0 to win their sixth European Cup. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, chairman of the European Club Association (ECA), has proposed a model featuring more group-stage matches, promotion and relegation between the Champions League and Europa League and a large increase in the number of clubs qualifying for Europe via continental competition, rather than performance in their home league.

He said last week the model would reduce risk and provide greater stability for big clubs in smaller leagues, such as Celtic and Ajax, by helping them avoid elimination at the play-off stage.

European Leagues is opposed to the ECA plan, with Olsson calling it a “closed league” which would “kill” interest in domestic competition. Olsson also said the current 13 games from the start of the group phase to the final was “the limit”, citing player welfare as a key concern.

UEFA announced in August 2016 that four clubs each from England, Germany, Italy and Spain would be given automatic places in the group phase from the 2018-19 season onwards.

LaLiga is understood to be open to the idea of fewer automatic places, but it is unlikely it would agree to it unilaterally.

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Huge praise for Reds duo & Kuyt’s big statement – Wednesday’s Liverpool FC News Roundup

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 16:03

We round up the latest Liverpool news on Wednesday, as the weekend clash with Man United fast approaches.

Today’s Main Headlines Trent Hails Van Dijk as Greatest Teammate

 Richard Sellers/PA Wire.)

Trent Alexander-Arnold is enjoying a memorable early few years in his career, starring for his boyhood club during a wonderful time to be at Liverpool.

The 21-year-old is surrounded by top-class talent, but it appears as though he cherishes Virgil van Dijk more than anyone.

Speaking to Guinness World Records, Alexander-Arnold hailed the Dutchman as the best footballer he has played alongside:

“He is a world-class player and the best I have played with.

“We benefited a lot last season knowing we have players like Virgil giving us the protection behind us.”

It’s hard to disagree with the right-back, even though he also shares a dressing room with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Klopp’s Liverpool Pips Class of 2008/09, says Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt was a key man in Liverpool’s 2008/09 side, a team that remains beloved by many Reds supporters.

Rafa Benitez’s men came close to winning the Premier League title and, in Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, they possessed world-class players.

Speaking to, however, Kuyt believes this current side is better:

“We were very close to success. We just missed a small detail to go one step further.

“With the likes of Stevie and Carra, Mascherano, Torres and many other very good players, we just missed a little something.

“If you see the build-up of the team of Klopp, you see it progressing every time and it looks like it’s now coming to success also in the Premier League. We were a particular team like that, only we couldn’t go one step further at that time.

“Hopefully this team will do it because, in my opinion, this team now on the pitch is even better than ours.”

The Dutchman is spot-on in his assessment, considering the faultless, relentless nature of this side and the quality in its ranks.

Enrique Lauds “Unbelievable” Robertson

 Liverpool's Andy Robertson celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jose Enrique knows a thing or two about playing at left-back for Liverpool, with the Spaniard an up-and-down performer during his time at the club.

He has been full of praise for Andy Robertson, calling him the best player in the world in his position.

“He is unbelievable. I’ve said it before, for me, last year he was the best left-back in the world,” Enrique told Sky Sports.

“He gives so much to that side. And him and Mane together [on Liverpool’s left] – I wouldn’t want to be on the right side for the other team.”

Enrique also discussed the magnitude of clashes between Liverpool and Man United, saying being in the tunnel and taking part in such a huge fixture always felt special:

“It’s an amazing feeling. I like the pressure when you play for big teams like Liverpool and Manchester United.

“Every player likes the pressure—that’s why they play for these teams—but when you go there you forget about everything.

“You focus on the game and it is a really rough game, a lot of tackles, a lot of intensity but you feel privileged to be there. That is how I was feeling.”

Besiktas Won’t Keep Hold of Karius

Goalkeeper Loris Karius of Besiktas during the Turkish Superlig Match between Bursaspor and Besiktas at Buyuksehir Belediye Stadium in Bursa , Turkey on September 02 , 2018 (Seskimphoto/Imago/PA Images)

Loris Karius is still trying to repair his reputation, following his disastrous performance in the 2018 Champions League final.

The 26-year-old is on a two-year loan deal at Besiktas currently, where there were rumours that he would have to be kept on when the deal ended.

Those claims have been rubbished by one of the Turkish giants’ presidential candidates, Serdal Adali, who told Beyaz TV, via Sport Witness, that Karius will leave at the end of the season.

If true, it means the German will likely play a part in pre-season at Liverpool next summer, assuming he doesn’t swiftly find a new permanent club.

He has no future at Anfield, with Alisson and Adrian now Jurgen Klopp‘s options in goal, not to mention youngster Caoimhin Kelleher and on-loan Kamil Grabara.

Gini’s Brilliant Social Media Post

 Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring the only goal of the game during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alexander-Arnold entered the Guinness World Records book for 2020 on Wednesday, having chalked up the most Premier League assists (12) by a defender in a single season.

It is a great achievement by the youngster, but Gini Wijnaldum‘s subsequent social media antics could be even greater!

Responding to Liverpool’s official Twitter account’s post about Trent’s accomplishment, Wijnaldum brilliantly replied:

fastest corner?

— Gini Wijnaldum (@GWijnaldum) October 16, 2019

Needless to say, it went down a storm with Reds supporters, bringing back special memories of that memorable set-piece against Barcelona.

What a team spirit there is at Liverpool these days.

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Liverpool left short of full-back cover as Ki-Jana Hoever earns World Cup call-up

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 15:38

Liverpool will be without a natural right-back cover option for up to six games, with Ki-Jana Hoever called up for the Netherlands U17 World Cup squad.

The teenager has been on the fringes of the action this season, learning his trade with the U23s and U19s for the most part.

He did, however, play a big part in pre-season—where he played on the left, as well as the right of defence—and started against MK Dons in the League Cup third round, scoring his first goal for the Reds in the process.

With Jurgen Klopp opting against signing players in a number of positions this summer in order to give game time opportunities to the talented youngsters at the club, Hoever will hope for more senior action over the coming months.

But with his call-up for the U17 World Cup, he won’t be available to Liverpool for up to six games, including the League Cup fourth-round tie against Arsenal.

While that will simply present an opportunity for another player to stake a claim, it does mean that the Reds will be entirely without a natural, offensive-minded right-back during his absence, even if he is an inexperienced one.

 Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold prepares to take a throw-in during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea's FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Trent Alexander-Arnold will naturally play every major fixture he is fit for, but the League Cup game and potentially Aston Villa away in early November might have been games Klopp wanted to rest him in.

Joe Gomez and James Milner are the usual alternatives, though neither offer the kind of acceleration, creativity and reliable delivery that the first-choice option does.

Hoever will miss up to six games, with the U17 World Cup running from 26 October to 17 November in Brazil, along with some preparation time ahead of the tournament.

After the aforementioned senior duo, Jurgen Klopp has a few other options to turn to from the youth ranks at right-back.

Yasser Larouci or Adam Lewis could play on the opposite side to their usual role on the left, while Neco Williams is the U23 regular and Sepp van den Berg has also featured at full-back previously.

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Miles travelled and minutes played by Liverpool players on international duty

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 14:32

For two weeks, Melwood has been a place of quiet: a few non-internationals, a handful of youngsters and Jurgen Klopp‘s coaching crew planning their attack on Man United. But around the rest of the world, Liverpool’s players have been busy.

With the qualifiers, friendlies and other international games now over and done with, the likes of Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Co. will all be back in training with Liverpool within a day, if they aren’t already.

It doesn’t leave a huge amount of time to prepare for the Premier League trip to Old Trafford, but Klopp will be pleased that no Reds appear to have picked up injuries during domestic action’s two-week hiatus.

But avoiding injuries are only one part of the issue: fatigue sets in to players for a number of reasons, game time and travel being two prominent ones.

So who travelled furthest, and played the most, for Liverpool in this international break? The first table below shows the breakdown by miles (as posted by one helpful Reddit user); the second shows those who played no match minutes at all.

Without question, the most affected player from the international break is key forward Roberto Firmino: he travelled the joint-furthest and played a significant part in both matches, with Sadio Mane playing the full 90 in just one game at the same location, Singapore.

Fabinho, frustratingly from his perspective, only managed a brief cameo once after such a long journey—but for Liverpool, the good news is that Brazil finished their fixtures early and both players should have returned midweek. Senegal only had one game, so Mane, too, would not have been delayed in getting back to Melwood.

 Liverpool's Andy Robertson (L) celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Salzburg at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With the demands placed on Liverpool’s full-backs, it’s perhaps as well that Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t feature once for England, given his partner in crime on the opposite flank, Andy Robertson, didn’t miss a minute for Scotland.

Divock Origi‘s sharpness won’t have been helped by long trips without any involvement, but Dejan Lovren—after playing once against Leicester before the break—has now played three games in two weeks, a nice step-up in involvement.

The Reds’ Dutch duo had the mixed bag of full involvement but relatively short-haul flights, while none of the youngsters are likely to feature against Man United in any case. Curtis Jones started once and came on as sub once for England U19s, but at the time of writing there is no record of his game time off the bench.

Perhaps the key table for Jurgen Klopp and his decisions on team news, though, is the second—and the number of players who could be fresh for the trip to Man United.

Mo Salah being excused from duty, Alisson‘s final stages of injury recovery and the non-involvement for his nation of Joel Matip gives three key pillars of the team the chance to be fit, fresh and ready for a massive game.

Add in that there is every possibility that at least one of James Milner or Naby Keita start in midfield, and the Reds can count themselves reasonably well-off for senior players being ready and rested ahead of this fixture.

It’s more than likely in midfield where the boss will once again have a big decision to make as far as the starting lineup goes, but the relative lack of action at full-back, for the alternative attackers off the bench and for several key starters down the spine all means Liverpool should be able to play at full power and intensity at Old Trafford.

And that’s a difficult prospect to stop at the best of times, let alone when we’re top, have a perfect record and are chasing victory to equal another pair of league records.

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How Suarez’s exit and a trip to Barcelona inspired Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool revolution

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 19:00

Liverpool journalist Chris McLoughlin tells the story of how the Reds’ players went from spectators at the Nou Camp, to thrashing Barcelona 4-0 en-route to becoming European Champions.

I knew that Luis Suarez was planning to leave Liverpool FC before he had even made his debut for the club. It’s not what you want to hear when the Reds have just paid £22.8 million to sign a player, but it was the truth.

Suarez arrived at Anfield on Sir Kenny Dalglish’s watch on the last day of January 2011. He’d been with Ajax for four years, scoring over 100 goals, but was serving a seven-match suspension for biting PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder. Ajax decided it was time to cash in. Liverpool paid up.

I was editing and writing The Kop Magazine at the time and contributing to LFC Magazine, the old weekly publication that ran from 2002-2012. As part of our research into the Uruguayan’s background, a colleague spoke to a Dutch journalist and some of the coaches who had worked with Suarez at Groningen, his first European club.

They all said the same thing, albeit off the record; he wants to play for Barcelona. Liverpool is a career move, just like Ajax was. His aim is Spain.

It’s well documented now as to why that was. His wife Sofia had moved to Barca from Uruguay as a teenager with her parents. They remained in Spain so it was where the Suarez family wanted to settle and bring up their kids.

On the plus side, if Suarez was to get his dream move to Camp Nou he’d have to perform at the highest level for Liverpool FC to catch their attention. Which is precisely what he did.

Disciplinary issues and the related £40,000,001 Arsenal transfer debacle aside, Suarez gave his all in a red shirt. He didn’t miss a single game through injury – not one – and his win-at-all-costs attitude and desire to score was the same whether Liverpool were playing Exeter or Everton.

 Liverpool's Luis Suarez celebrates scoring the second goal against West Bromwich Albion during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Suarez’ Liverpool career culminated with him leading the failed Premier League title bid in 2013/14, scoring 31 goals in 31 games and playing some of the best football ever produced by an individual player.

And then he left for Barcelona. Which completely fucked Liverpool up in 2014/15 as he wasn’t replaced. And ultimately triggered a chain of events that led to what we have now; Jürgen Klopp and the European Cup.

It would be over a year before Klopp became Liverpool manager, but El Pistolero fired the starting gun.

– – – – –

I first became aware of Jürgen Klopp in 2010/11. His young Borussia Dortmund team had seemingly come from nowhere to challenge and ultimately win their first Bundesliga title since 2002. There was a lot to like.

They were the youngest ever German side to be champions. They played high-octane football. They scored goals. They harried opponents. And the first thing their manager had done when appointed at the Westfalenstadion back in 2008 was to not stop the injury-prone Philipp Degen signing for Liverpool on a free transfer. Clearly he was a good judge of player.

30.04.2011, Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, GER, 1.FBL, Borussia Dortmund vs 1. FC Nuernberg, im Bild die Dortmunder Mannschaft feiert Dortmunds Trainer Jurgen / Juergen Klopp (GER) und wirft ihn hoch, er ist na? von einer Bierdusche, EXPA Pictures (C) 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ nph/ Scholz ****** out of GER / SWE / CRO / BEL ******

Part of the reason I also saw a fair bit of BVB that season was I was scouring the European leagues to write about strikers who could potentially replace Liverpool’s want-away centre-forward Fernando Torres.

Robert Lewandowski scored nine goals for Borussia Dortmund that season, but it was Paraguay international striker Lucas Barrios I liked the look of. Klopp had bought him for less than £4 million from Colo-Colo in 2009 and turned him into a goalscoring machine, netting 23 goals in 2009/10 and 21 en-route to the title in 2010/11.

Big, strong and very effective in the penalty area, I thought the 26-year-old would be ideal for what Liverpool needed at the time and the word from Germany was that Dortmund would want between £9-£11 million for his services. Damien Comolli didn’t agree. He paid £35 million for Andy Carroll instead, although nobody can argue with the £22.8 million deal for Suarez.

The upshot of that rather convoluted tale of transfer talk is that I continued to follow Klopp’s Dortmund over the years that followed and came to the conclusion that he had the potential to be the next manager of Liverpool, but with the Reds progressing nicely under Brendan Rodgers we didn’t need a new manager. Then Suarez left in 2014 and the house of cards came tumbling down.

On 15th April 2015, the 26th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, Borussia Dortmund announced that, after seven years in charge, Klopp would step down as manager. They’d had a poor season – even being bottom of the Bundesliga in February 2015 – but it was still something of a shock that he was to leave.

“I always said in that moment where I believe I am not the perfect coach anymore for this extraordinary club I will say so,” he announced. “I really think the decision is the right one. This club deserves to be coached from the 100% right manager.”

Four days later Liverpool played the worst Aston Villa side I’ve ever seen in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. It was a gimme, an easy passage to the final. Liverpool lost 2-1 on a day when Emre Can played in four different positions, Lazar Markovic was substituted at half-time for a club-record fourth time in one season, and his replacement, Mario Balotelli, was our best player.

 Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Aston Villa's manager Tim Sherwood during the FA Cup Semi-Final match at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bringing Glen Johnson on for Joe Allen, and waiting until the 90th minute to replace Alberto Moreno with Rickie Lambert, backed up my long-held opinion that Brendan Rodgers was incapable of positively changing a game from the bench. It encapsulated a shambolic, embarrassing day in what had become a dreadfully depressing season.

I walked out of Wembley that grim evening with my mind made up. Rodgers had to go, Liverpool need to see if they can get Klopp. So I put the Borussia Dortmund manager on the front cover of the next edition of The Kop Magazine and wrote a 3,789-word article on the managerial situation which – and I’ve paraphrased here – included the following.

“If you’re after a complete history into the life and times of 47-year-old Jürgen Norbert Klopp and a 5,000-word tactical analysis of his 14-year managerial career with Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund then you’re barking up die falschen baum.

“But this is a unique opportunity. A rare situation in that a manager who has unequivocally proved that he can turn a sleeping giant into a trophy-winning machine, despite being in direct competition with arguably the strongest Bayern Munich side since they won three European Cups between 1974 and 1976 (who was it that ended Bayern’s run of success again?), is available.

“What if Klopp fancied it? What if he was prepared to jib off the Champions League clubs who are courting him and accept one of the biggest challenges in world football?

“What if he thought he could be the man who finally ends the 25-year wait to make English football’s most successful club champions again? What if he thought he could end up even more revered than he is in Dortmund?

“What if FSG – who aren’t shy of sacking managers – decided to abandon the Rodgers project and offer Klopp the Kop job knowing he’s highly unlikely to be available in 12 months’ time should another disappointing campaign follow?

“Sometimes you’ve got to be brave. Foresee that something might not work out as you’d hoped and act decisively to see if you can and improve things.

“Cards on the table. Hands on hearts. It feels like Aston Villa 2 Liverpool 1 was a watershed moment for Brendan Rodgers. A turning point. A line in the sand that makes it feels legitimate – indeed necessary – to see who else is out there. To establish if the credible alternative option out there could be a man who galvanizes our club. Who makes things better. Who lifts us back up to where we believe we belong.

“Are Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool still on their way to glory? Or does ‘we are the famous, the famous Klopites’ have a nicer ring to it? Over to you, John W Henry. If you don’t ask you don’t get…”

I then, as I did every month in the 15 years I edited The Kop, sent a copy of it to the manager of Liverpool Football Club. I never did hear back from Rodgers – not once – but I wasn’t the only one thinking the same way.

“To have a charismatic figurehead managing the club again with the vast majority of supporters buying into him would be no bad thing,” concluded an article about Klopp on The Anfield Wrap. While an Anfield Rap lead vocalist was also on board.

“If Liverpool are to get back to where they belong in English football, they need to be ruthless,” said Steve McMahon. “That’s why they must go all out to bring in Jürgen Klopp as manager. There is no doubt that Klopp, given the chance, would bring silverware to Merseyside.”

What none of us knew at the time was that Klopp didn’t just want a break, he wanted to take the whole of the 2015/16 season off. A family holiday to the Caribbean was planned, an educational trip to the USA to see how coaches in other sports operate was scheduled. He was even trying to to get tickets for Superbowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, in February 2016.

He certainly wasn’t planning to take charge of Liverpool FC, but in October 2016, after a hardly surprising poor start to the season, Rodgers was sacked and Klopp was offered the opportunity.

– – – – –

To this day I still don’t know if Fenway Sports Group got lucky, or if they shrewdly waited until they thought they could get Klopp before sacking Rodgers. I’ve heard stories that suggest both, but let’s just say spending £93 million in the summer of 2015 on Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Ings and Joe Gomez wasn’t the behaviour of a club not backing their manager, even if most (but not all) of those players were signed by the transfer committee.

 Liverpool's new manager Jürgen Klopp during a photo-call at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers should have been long gone. Sixth in the Premier League, a 6-1 defeat at Stoke and allowing his trusted coaches Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh to be sacrificial scapegoats to save his own arse were all good enough reasons, never mind that FA Cup defeat to Aston Villa.

Yet he stayed at Liverpool and Klopp got on with his life away from football until a 1-1 draw with Everton at Goodison Park on 4th October left the Reds 10th in the Premier League, with a -2 goal-difference, going into the October international break. Rodgers met the Spanish archer that night, Klopp got the call to take over. Thank fuck he said yes.

“I’m a football romantic,” he admitted during an interview with Sky Sports in early 2018. “I like these stories. I’m confident, but not as confident maybe as other managers, thinking this club will call, that club will call. A lot of clubs called and I said ‘No, no chance, I need to make a break now’.

“I knew always and even my wife knew, if Liverpool is calling, I go. That’s really difficult to explain. Yes, there was interest from Manchester United one year or one year-and-a-half before, but it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t say in these times Manchester is not my club, it didn’t feel right. That’s how it was.

“When Liverpool called, I had no chance. It was actually too early for my plans. I said, ‘Wow, come on!’ But then coming here and feeling the spirit immediately, it was just, for me, a match in heaven.

“The club would have found another manager, and I would have found another job — maybe an easier job. But I liked this club before I came here. It wasn’t a big decision for me. It was the only club that could have broken up my holiday.

“I had enough offers, I was saying, ‘No, no, sorry, not now…’, and then came Liverpool. And I know how this sounds, and what people will say, but I fell in love. I felt responsible really quickly. It’s like if you are in my inner circle, my family, my friends. I felt Liverpool was both: family and friends.”

Even in this month’s FourFourTwo magazine, in a chat with John Bishop, his sense of belonging at Liverpool remains evident.

“I knew Liverpool had this incredible history of winning trophies both in Europe and at home. To be honest with you, I really wanted to bring that glory back to the club. It was clear to me that the heart of the club was brilliant; it was like a garden that needed a bit of work to bring the flowers back again.

“I really wanted the job. I can’t explain why, but it felt right. I knew that if they came for me, I’d really want to do it. I only hoped it would be at the right time, because I needed a holiday after managing Mainz and Dortmund. In the end I had four months off.”

 Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp lifts the trophy during an open-top bus parade through the city after winning the UEFA Champions League Final. Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur. 2-0 in Madrid. To claim their sixth European Cup. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

A lot has been said and written during the last four years, not least around the recent fourth anniversary of his appointment, about how Jürgen Klopp brought that glory back to the club. It can be symbolised by referring back to Luis Suarez.

In December 2016, following a 4-3 defeat at Bournemouth after the Reds had led 3-1, Klopp took his players to Spain for warm(er) weather training. They had a free midweek, having failed to qualify to play European football after finishing 8th in the Premier League, behind Southampton and West Ham. Leicester City were champions of England.

As part of that trip, Klopp, his staff and players went to the Camp Nou to watch Barcelona play Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League. Inevitably they were spotted by the cameras and their images, including Lucas taking a photo on a smartphone which had a Lucas cover on it, were beamed around the world. Social media piss-taking followed. ‘It’s the only Champions League football Liverpool will see under Klopp’ was an open goal.

Klopp, of course, knew what would be said, but that trip served a purpose. It reminded the players what they were missing out on. What they were striving to achieve. Barca won 4-0 and did so by leaving Suarez on the bench for the entire game. Liverpool went home and drew with West Ham.

In May 2019, Barcelona’s players were at Anfield to watch Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool thrash them 4-0 to reach the final of the Champions League, although ironically they weren’t watching Trent Alexander-Arnold closely enough from a corner for Divock Origi‘s decisive goal.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left), manager Jurgen Klopp (centre) and Virgil van Dijk celebrate after the UEFA Champions League Semi Final, second leg match at Anfield, Liverpool.

It had taken Klopp two-and-a-half years to transform Liverpool from a team watching Barcelona beat a team 4-0 in the Champions League into a side capable of beating Barcelona 4-0 to reach a Champions League final. And they did so without Mo Salah and Bobby Firmino.

That Suarez, whose departure from Liverpool removed the foundation the Rodgers era was built upon and paved the way for Jürgen Klopp’s arrival, was on the Anfield pitch that night, looking utterly perplexed at his side’s capitulation, was beautifully symbolic.

The Liverpool Luis Suarez left was a team built around him. The Liverpool we have now is a team built by Jürgen Klopp. That’s the difference.

* Chris McLoughlin writes for This Is Anfield each week; he’s also senior writer for the Official LFC Matchday Programme and LFC Magazine. You can order both here.

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Firmino the “phenomenon” & Reds quartet up for awards – Tuesday’s Liverpool FC News Roundup

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 16:34

We round up the latest Liverpool news and transfer rumours on Tuesday, as attention turns to the weekend clash with Man United.

Today’s Main Headlines Firmino is a “Phenomenon”, says Ex-Teammate

 Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after his team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum (not shown) scored the only goal of the game during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Roberto Firmino finally seems to be earning the plaudits he has deserved for years, with the wider footballing public acknowledging his brilliance.

For many, though, the Brazilian’s genius has never been in doubt – one of which is former Hoffenheim teammate Anthony Modeste.

Speaking to France Football, via Sport Witness, Modeste went as far as to describe Firmino as a “phenomenon”, saying he has never played alongside a better footballer:

“He’s a phenomenon. He’s the best player I’ve played with. It was so impressive, that agility he had with the ball in his feet.

“That ability to dribble past people. In training, he could take the ball, go past everyone and score. Sometimes, I’d just stop and admire.

“Soon after my arrival, I told some friends there was a phenomenon in the team, that they needed to come see him in training. He did incredible things.”

Firmino will he a huge figure at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon – his presence was sorely missed there last season, when he limped off with a first-half ankle injury.

Reds Quartet Nominated for Awards

 Richard Sellers/PA Wire.)

Liverpool have four representatives at the the 2019 Northwest Football Awards, following another spectacular 12 months at Anfield.

Virgil van Dijk is up for the Premier League Player of the Season prize, won last season by Mohamed Salah.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is looking to win back-to-back Rising Star of the Year awards, after he enjoyed another year to treasure.

Meanwhile, Liverpool FC Women pair Sophie Bradley-Auckland and Amy Rodgers are nominated for the Women’s Player of the Year and Women’s Rising Star of the Year awards respectively.

It’s not a bad time to be a Red.

Heartbreak Helped Liverpool, claims Trent

 Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool have suffered plenty of setbacks under Jurgen Klopp, from losing in Kyiv to missing out on Premier League title glory last season.

Alexander-Arnold believes those disappointments have only aided the Reds, however, and that they are now reaping the rewards.

“The players that we have in our side have all had failures before, we’ve all had setbacks and knockbacks,” Alexander-Arnold told Premier League Productions.

“We’ve really bounced back from there and got to where we are now and where we are as a team.

“The biggest example of that is probably the fact that we lost the Champions League final the season before and were able to use that as motivation to get back there and win it the next season.

“It’s something a lot of teams aren’t capable of, but we’ve showed that we are and we’re able to get better from disappointment.”

Liverpool have matured into a winning machine, and painful as the low points were at the time, the Reds have only grown from those experiences.

Van der Sar’s Reds Transfer Claim

 Liverpool's David Ngog slots the ball past Manchester United's goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to score the second goal during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Edwin van der Sar was a frustratingly consistent performer for Man United during the 2000s, playing his part in denying Liverpool Premier League glory.

It turns out the Dutchman could have become a Red, however.

In an interview with t-online, Van der Sar revealed he opted to move to Fulham over Liverpool back in 2001, prior to joining United:

“I had two options and could have transferred to Liverpool or Dortmund.

“Both clubs hesitated a bit, so in the end I chose Fulham.”

Liverpool didn’t do too badly in goal in the end, with Jerzy Dudek and Pepe Reina key figures during that period, but Van der Sar would still have been an upgrade.

Klopp’s Wonderful Charity Donation

Klopp may be considered one of the top two managers in world football currently, but he is also known for his loving personality.

That has once again been on show, with the Liverpool Echo reporting that the Reds boss gave £10,000 of his own money to a children’s charity.

Joy is Round, which is run by Hout Bay United Football Community in South Africa, “aims to promote and raise funds for community football through the sale of balls and art, made from old clothing and other materials.”

Liverpool couldn’t ask for a more ideal man to be in charge.

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Further boost for Liverpool as another pair return to training after injury

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 15:11

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has almost a full-strength squad to choose from for the trip to Man United after Joel Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rejoined training.

The Reds went into the international break top of the table and with a 100 per cent league record, but also with a fair few injury concerns.

Alisson Becker was still absent and Mohamed Salah took a heavy knock against Leicester, but that pair were confirmed available on Monday and took part in training on Tuesday.

In addition, Klopp and his coaches welcomed back two more faces to the fold: Centre-back Joel Matip, who had missed the last two games with injury, and midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who sat out the win over the Foxes.

The latter has had a stop-start time of matters this season, which is to be expected after coming back from a long-term injury, though his latest absence had nothing to do with any recurrence—it was reported as a head injury from training.

 Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Matip, though, has been a constantly impressive performer at the heart of the defence and, though Liverpool beat both Salzburg and Leicester in his absence, it can be expected that he returns to the side against Man United.

Neither Joe Gomez nor Dejan Lovren entirely convinced in Matip’s absence, though without regular action for each this season, rustiness is a natural consequence.

Lovren played twice over the international break for Croatia, but Gomez was sub twice for England.

With the quartet back in training, it leaves just Xherdan Shaqiri as the only senior not yet back involved with the first team.

Herbie Kane and Yasser Larouci were also in action with the seniors, as the Reds prepare for the all-important trip to Old Trafford.

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Ben Woodburn offers insight to progression, best position & Liverpool future

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 12:35

Ben Woodburn is currently enjoying a productive loan spell in League One with Oxford, but his future is still all about Liverpool in his own eyes.

The young attacker turns 20 today, Tuesday, marking the end of him being often referred to as a ‘talented teenager’ or similar.

He made history by becoming the Reds’ youngest-ever goalscorer, but since then has struggled to really assert his quality and show his best form on a regular basis, be it with Liverpool or elsewhere.

Because he made an impact so early, the tendency is to think of him as having stalled—but he feels there’s lots more to come and that having to be patient was an inevitability as Liverpool impressed, as he told Mail Online’s Joe Bernstein.

“I feel proud about that goal and becoming Liverpool’s youngest scorer but I don’t want people to just remember me for that moment. I want to push on and do other things, and bigger things,” he said.

 Liverpool's Ben Woodburn scores the second goal against Leeds United, to become the club's youngest ever goal-scorer, during the Football League Cup Quarter-Final match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I had to accept at Liverpool with players like Salah and Sadio Mane, you are likely to be dropping down to the Under 23s. I tried to push on in my own way.

Last season, Woodburn went on loan to Sheffield United in a bid to earn regular senior game time, but after a decent start quickly found himself out of the picture. That move was cut short halfway through the season, but matters didn’t improve overly once back at Liverpool.

Now having gone to Oxford, one tier down, he is again showing his talents—at least until a broken foot, sustained last week, curtailed that progress for now.

Time remains on his side, though, and he points to other players who have struggled to make the grade at the same age—before going on to achieve great things just a few years later.

“Last season was tough. I wasn’t playing at Sheffield United but couldn’t complain because they were doing really well and won promotion

“I have learned so much at Oxford this season, knowing I am able to play 90 minutes and keep fighting for the team. I have taken a lot of kicks and heavy tackles and shown I’m not lightweight.

“I feel like I have had so much experience and yet I am still only young and learning. Watching someone like Serge Gnabry develop is a big help.

“I saw his four goals for Bayern Munich against Tottenham in the Champions League. When he was 20, he couldn’t get a game on loan at West Brom.

“He has shown you can push through if you keep working hard and hopefully I can do something like he’s done.”

 Liverpool's Ben Woodburn during a friendly match between Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund at the Notre Dame Stadium on day four of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A goalscorer at full international level already with Wales, and a player of enormous promise for several seasons already, Woodburn has his eyes on the main prize: an eventual return to first-team football at Anfield.

Interestingly, though, while he made his breakthrough as a forward, he has since been used in a variety of roles and seems to intimate that his best traits lend him to playing a support act, rather than being a main source of goals.

“I think my eyes are always going to be set on playing at Liverpool. That is my main goal, that is who I grew up supporting and have been for years.

“I’d probably say I am more of a creator but I think I will score goals as well. I’ve hit the post four or five times, I know they will go in if I carry on getting in the right positions.

“I’ve been doing the right amount of gym work. Glutes, hamstrings, calves. You don’t want to be a body builder but you do want to be strong, fast and nimble.”

A return to full fitness and a season of regular action behind him, and Woodburn’s early 20s could yet prove the making of him.

As he rightly points out, 23-year-old compatriot Harry Wilson is only just now making his own mark in the Premier League, so time remains on Woodburn’s side and at Liverpool, at least, there is a manager who will always give talented youths—even if they are no longer teens—the chance they deserve.

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Henderson starts as England thrash Bulgaria – but racism tarnishes the night

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 21:47

Jordan Henderson played all 90 minutes as England cruised to a 6-0 win over Bulgaria on Monday, but racist abuse from the stands overshadowed the result.

After the shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic on Friday, the Three Lions needed a win in Sofia to enhance their chances of securing a place at Euro 2020.

As was the case against the Czechs, Henderson was the only Liverpool player named in Gareth Southgate’s starting lineup.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was again bizarrely left out of the team at the expense of Kieran Trippier – it keeps him fresh for Reds duties, though.

Joe Gomez would have hoped to come in for Michael Keane at centre-back, but it was debutant Tyrone Mings who got the nod instead.

Henderson was booked early on in proceedings after a reckless tackle, meaning he will miss England’s clash with Montenegro next month.

 England's Jordan Henderson during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Round of 16 match between Colombia and England at the Spartak Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Marcus Rashford fired Southgate’s men in front with a superb strike – it would be just Liverpool’s luck for him to hit form just before their trip to Old Trafford this weekend!

Ross Barkley scored twice and Raheem Sterling added another before half-time, although racist chants tarnished matters hugely.

The players returned after the break, despite worries that the game could be abandoned, and Sterling and Harry Kane made it 6-0, finishing off the scoring.

 England's Jordan Henderson during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Round of 16 match between Colombia and England at the Spartak Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Henderson played far better than he did on Friday, operating as one of the more forward-thinking midfielders and almost assisted Kane in the second half, only for the striker to hit the post.

Thankfully, it’s now time for Liverpool’s players to return to Melwood in preparation for Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.

Jurgen Klopp‘s squad have come through the international breaker unscathed, while the likes of Alisson, Joel Matip, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri and Mohamed Salah are all back to full fitness, too.

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From youngest-ever goalscorer to Champions League winner: James Milner’s career in kits

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 18:35

James Milner is always good for an insightful story…or a funny one. In his latest video appearance, with BT Sport, there’s a bit of both looking back through his career in a novel way.

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The veteran Liverpool midfielder has been around the game for a long time and has made his mark in many different ways.

Nowadays he might be the elder statesman of the Reds’ squad, but that means he’s a Champions League winner—while earlier in his career he has won league titles, played major international tournaments with England and was even the youngest-ever goalscorer in the Premier League.

BT Sport’s “What I Wore” video unlocks the stories and memories of his time in the game by way of looking at vintage football shirts down the years: those he played in, those which recall particular games or players and some which he managed notable achievements against.

James Milner, Leeds United (Picture by Adam Davy EMPICS Sport)

Dressed for the occasion in an England jersey from Euro ’96—Ronaldinho and Paul Gascoigne are notable mentions from this era—Milner takes us through his upbringing as a Leeds youth player and toward his first-team debut.

“When you look back at how young I was [after scoring that first goal] and you see how big the shirt was, I’d just come straight out of school! It was a mad time.

“In a big game, an important game—it was a nice goal, too, it was amazing!”

It’s not all positives, of course: the Leeds shirt is on show from when the Yorkshire side were relegated, before an ill-fated move to Newcastle and a lost League Cup final with Aston Villa against Man United.

Further career progression—and different jerseys—is seen through his time with Man City, where Milner won the Premier League…and had his car bumped by team-mate Mario Balotelli in the training ground car park!

Then it’s onto Liverpool and Milner taking the iconic No. 7 shirt.

 Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp hugs substitute James Milner after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by Jon Super/Propaganda)

“I’d like to think I’ve work it as well as I could do and shown it the respect it deserves,” he says—before seeing Gareth Bale’s shirt and revealing that just a week after the 2018 Champions League final, where the Welshman broke Reds’ hearts, Milner was stuck behind Bale on the golf course!

Redemption was to come, of course, but before the 2019 final came the incredible comeback in the semis against Barcelona.

“It was a special night, the Anfield atmosphere was unbelievable and set the tone at kick-off. It says a lot about the club, the fans, the team and even with players missing who weren’t playing for us.

“The Champions League was made more special by what happened the year before.

“On it’s own is special but to share it with the boys, and what a great relationship we have in that dressing room with the team spirit. Then you go on the parade and see what it means to all the fans.”

Milner’s career has been a pretty epic journey so far—and hopefully there’s still another big chapter to write this season.

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Win a signed copy of James Milner’s new book: ‘Ask A Footballer’

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 16:00

To celebrate the upcoming launch of James Milner‘s Ask A Footballer from Quercus later this month, we’ve got one signed copy to give away to a lucky This Is Anfield reader.

Photographs: Jon Shard

Ever wondered what it’s really like to be a Premier League footballer? Former Leeds United, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City midfielder and now European Cup winner at Liverpool James Milner reveals all.

This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan wrote in her review of Ask A Footballer:

Going into it I knew thousands of fans had submitted questions and that the book would pose as a Q&A, but admittedly, I had not expected it to evoke the feeling that you were sat in your front room or at the pub having a chat with the man himself.

I had instead anticipated that his personality would not be able to shine through and that a formal approach would take precedence over a more natural flow.

Instead, it effortlessly sucks you in, where his self-deprecating sense of humour both played into and juxtaposed the social media persona of ‘Boring James Milner’.

And so, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at times when he answered all the hard-hitting questions regarding the great milk debate for tea, how much Ribena would be needed to fill the European Cup, his ‘beef’ with Lionel Messi and what his life would be like without Divock Origi.

Enter the competition

Photograph: Jon Shard

To be in with a chance of winning Ask A Footballer signed by the man himself, simply answer the very easy question below and submit your details. The competition will close at 12 noon on Monday, 21st October 2019, after which the winner will be contacted shortly after.

If you can’t wait until then, Ask A Footballer is published by Quercus and will be released on 31 October 2019. Pre-order the book from Amazon here.

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Huge boost for Liverpool with key duo set to start vs. Man United

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 13:51

Liverpool have been handed an early double boost ahead of the return of domestic action, with reports of full fitness for both Mohamed Salah and Alisson.

Neither player has been on international duty over the past week, with Salah excused from an Egypt call-up and Alisson completing the last stages of recovery from injury.

The forward has been a regular again this season for the Reds—but there were fears over an injury just before the international break after he was subjected to a late and dreadful tackle by Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury.

However, scans alleviated any lasting concerns of damage to Salah’s ankle and The Echo‘s Ian Doyle reports that he is fit and ready to play this weekend.

The club had already intimated that they were reasonably confident of his involvement, and Salah has spent part of this international break in Dubai on holiday.

Perhaps the bigger news on this occasion, though, comes at the opposite end of the pitch.

 Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker goes off injured during the opening FA Premier League match of the season between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alisson has been absent since the opening league game of the season, when he left the pitch injured against Norwich.

Since then he has been recovering from a calf tear, with new signing Adrian playing between the sticks in his absence. Alisson has missed 11 games in all competitions with his injury, but has been undergoing extra training with the keeper coach John Achterberg, says Doyle.

His timing could hardly be better, as Liverpool prepare to face Man United; a perennial rival, but one in disarray at present and languishing in the bottom half of the table.

A long-overdue win at Old Trafford on Sunday would only serve to highlight the gap between the clubs on the pitch at present, as well as extend Liverpool’s 100 per cent winning run to nine for the season and 18 in a row.

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Academy boss on loan approach, Duncan’s exit & players who will make the grade

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 13:10

Liverpool’s Academy continues to play a key role in Jurgen Klopp‘s development of the team and the manager, Alex Inglethorpe, has revealed several insightful viewpoints of the club with regard to pushing youngsters through.

The recent League Cup win over MK Dons saw the latest batch of hopefuls get some game time for the senior side, with the likes of Curtis Jones, Ki-Jana Hoever, Rhian Brewster and Caoimhin Kelleher all involved, among others.

Jurgen Klopp has consistently shown he is willing to give youngsters the chance to be involved, from those who help bulk out the squad before moving on, to the standard-bearer of Academy graduates in modern times, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Inglethorpe, who started with the Reds as U21 manager before being elevated to his current position overseeing the entire youth development, has explained in an interview with James Pearce of The Athletic several particularly interesting points regarding the Reds’ approach to player development.

First and foremost, though, he credits an interest from the senior side’s boss with being the primary driving factor—without which the Academy would be largely pointless.

 Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Salzburg. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I just think the entire club benefits from having a manager who is fearless,” he said. “If he sees a young player doing better than an older player, he will play him.

“I’ll forever be grateful to Brendan Rodgers for giving me the opportunity to come here. He genuinely wanted to see the boys come through and do well, and that baton has been taken on by Jurgen.

“I’ve been very lucky at Liverpool to work with two managers who have been very passionate about developing youngsters and believing in their own.”

That’s all well and good, but players themselves now need to be “world-class” to break into Klopp’s team, which Inglethorpe notes is no easy task. There is, however, more than just one way to go about earning a spot—and Inglethorpe’s comments here can perhaps be expanded into the context of other youngsters at the club.

 Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. Liverpool won 2-0 to win their sixth European Cup. (Pic by Peter Makadi/Propaganda)

“You’ve got to take the place of someone who’s a Champions League winner and…top of the Premier League. It’s a big ask, but there are different ways of doing it.

“Trent has done it in one way, in terms of staying around, having the opportunity, taking it and, bit by bit, demonstrating to the manager that he’s capable of playing.

“Then you’ve got other players who go about it in a slightly different way. Harry Wilson would be the obvious example. Someone who has gone on loan to Crewe, Hull, Derby and now he’s in the Premier League scoring goals for Bournemouth.

“He’s on the way to maybe being a first-team option. I think he’s realistic enough to know he wouldn’t come back from his loan and take someone’s spot straight away, but he could maybe put pressure on positions 12, 13 and 14 on the bench, and make an impact playing in a percentage of games each year.

“Rhys [Williams, on loan at Kidderminster] is racking up the minutes there and doing really well. Not only is he learning how to deal with big, hairy-arsed centre-forwards, he’s also having to learn how to cook.

“He’s in a house with four or five other people and I get regular updates on what he’s eating. He’s really enjoying it. It’s a tough league for him.

That huge variance—from surprise opportunity, to learning different ways of playing, to a gradual climb up the league ladder—shows that players don’t immediately need to have been a feature on Klopp’s team-sheet by age 20 if they are to make it at Anfield.

A player’s growth isn’t necessarily linear, and the learning curve isn’t one-size-fits-all.

One trait they do seem to share, though, is a relative lack of time spent in the English developmental league for U23s: the Premier League 2.

 Liverpool's Rhian Brewster during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“If you look at the younger players who have broken through recently, whether it’s been at Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham or United, they tend not to play many games in Premier 2,” Inglethorpe continued.

“They either seem to bypass it quite quickly and move into the first team like Trent, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood or they might play a bit in Premier 2 and then go out on loan – Mason Mount, Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Harry Wilson. I don’t think it serves a purpose to play in Premier 2 for a long time.”

Taking that into the context of current Liverpool youngsters, it could be then suggested that the likes of Adam Lewis or Rhian Brewster will either be in the squad or out on loan sooner rather than later—and the same goes for Curtis Jones.

Interestingly, while Inglethorpe notes Jones can play both wide in the front line and through the centre in midfield, he likens him more to Adam Lallana than Sadio Mane: good movement, technique, vision and all-round offensive ability, rather than elite goalscoring, lightning pace and a non-stop drive toward goal.

 Liverpool's Curtis Jones during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Jones has played this season and could step up further in future, one who opted against rising through the ranks any further was Bobby Duncan, who joined the Reds last year but left in summer for Fiorentina.

Inglethorpe accepts not every player can be convinced that this is the right path for them, but equally takes the view that ups and downs are part of the process and that players must learn to adapt accordingly, mentally as much as technically.

“Look, not every player is necessarily going to want to wait and develop under us and we have to respect that.

“To break into elite football is going to be difficult, wherever you are. You need psychological stamina. You need to be able to put the hard yards in over a consistent period and accept the setbacks that come your way.

“I can only speak for myself, but you spend an awful lot of time trying to get to Liverpool so I wouldn’t be in a hurry to leave too quickly. I think that’s the same for most players.”

The focus remains, though, on those who are still at Kirkby and who can contribute in future at Anfield.

 Liverpool's Leighton Clarkson during the UEFA Youth League Group C match between Liverpool FC and FK Crvena zvezda at Langtree Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Many are already impressing this season: Jake Cain, Layton Stewart and Leighton Clarkson, Elijah Dixon-Bonner and Fidel O’Rourke are a handful, alongside the likes of Hoever, Yasser Larouci and Jones in pre-season.

Inglethorpe is in no doubt that some will go on to represent the Reds in a significant manner—and others will contribute in a more indirect way, as the likes of Ryan Kent did this summer by being sold to fund future investment.

“There are players on here who will play for the first team, I promise you.

“My definition of that is players who will play for this club regularly and help Liverpool win trophies. There’s some real talent here, but we have to be patient.

“It’s really important that we pay our way. We can assist the first team in a variety of ways. That money can then be reinvested back into the club.”

With Klopp still keen to allow talented youngsters room to shine and an Academy which has a proven recent record of developing that raw ability, the future for Liverpool looks extremely bright, especially with the pending merger of training facilities for next season.

The full interview by Pearce, encompassing further discussions on young players who played against MK Dons, the revamp of the Kirkby training facility, local recruitment and more, can be read on The Athletic here.

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Gini Wijnaldum nets another double for the Netherlands

Sun, 10/13/2019 - 19:16

Gini Wijnaldum hit another double for the Netherlands on Sunday night, making it seven goals in his last 11 international appearances.

The 28-year-old’s first goal was a nice header from six yards out, getting into the box due to a more advanced role that he plays for his country than for his club.

It was the type of goal we’ve seen him score for Liverpool, notably against Man City in his debut season at Anfield, and against Roma in the Champions League semi-final in 2018. Oh, and that header against Barcelona last season.

His second, though, was something we’ve very rarely seen from Wijnaldum while wearing red; an absolute rocket of a hit from 25-yards that arrowed into the top corner.

His two goals gave the Netherlands a 2-1 win over Belarus in their Euro 2020 qualifier, putting them – at least temporarily – top of Group C.

Virgil van Dijk also played the full 90 minutes.

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Wijnaldum’s seven goals in 11 games for his country is more than he’s scored in any full season at Liverpool.

His top-scoring season for the Reds was first at Liverpool when he hit six goals (all competitions). Since then he’s scored two, five, and one and counting so far this season.

That gives him a scoring ratio of 9.2% for Liverpool.

His record at previous clubs was vastly higher – Newcastle (27.5%), Feyenoord (36.3%) and Rotterdam (18.1%).

 Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum scores the first goal against Manchester City during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Under Jurgen Klopp, Wijnaldum plays a deeper role and gets forward less often, seemingly instructed to protect the defence more and allow the front three plus the full-backs to be the creative and goalscoring elements of the side.

But some supporters have questioned whether Klopp needs to get a more creative midfield, and the manager himself recently admitted that the midfielders didn’t get ‘between the lines’ enough against Sheffield United.

It will be interesting to see if Wijnaldum can carry over his goalscoring prowess for his country into club.

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Liverpool FC 1977/78: King Kenny replaces King Kevin as Reds retain European Cup

Sun, 10/13/2019 - 14:57

For this Liverpool FC season review, we journey back to the summer of 1977. The monarch has sat on the throne for 25 years, and Liverpool is festooned in Union Jack bunting and happily celebrates the milestone. This is Merseyside before Thatcher, when it’s people regarded themselves as both Scouse and English.

Roads have been closed to allow parties to take place in the streets, and life feels good. For supporters of the Reds, there’s another reason to celebrate, their team are Kings of Europe. Life feels glorious.

From the moment Bill Shankly stepped foot on Anfield soil, he had dreamed of turning the club into a ‘Bastion of invincibility’ with European conquest high on his agenda. He’d go agonisingly close in 1965, before some dubious refereeing in Italy denied his Reds side a place in the final.

He would eventually win the UEFA Cup in 1973, and in doing so he had cemented Liverpool’s love affair with European football. He would surely have looked on with immense pride as his protege, Paisley, delivered the continents top prize in 1977, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in Rome. Bob had fulfilled his mentors promise and the Reds were Kings of Europe.

As a beaming Emlyn Hughes greeted the press with a smile as bright as the Cup he was holding, he was asked “how do you top that?”

“Win it again,” came his emphatic reply. The gauntlet had been thrown down to the rest of Europe and his teammates. Liverpool would not be surrendering their crown easily.

However, if they were to retain the cup, they would have to do it without their talismanic striker, Kevin Keegan. ‘King Kev’ had left for Hamburg in July. In doing so, he broke many a young Red’s heart, including my own.

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly (left) with Kevin Keegan (right) at Anfield

Paisley, though, was a master in the transfer market. He had a keen eye for what he believed was the archetypal Liverpool player, and throughout his nine-year reign he would replace one seemingly indispensable star after the other. This was one of his many talents, and it ensured almost total domination of English and European football throughout his tenure.

A new King, Kenny

In the summer of 1977, Bob would head to Glasgow Celtic and return to Anfield with one Kenny Dalglish. I need not tell you how significant that signing was. With the benefit of hindsight, we all know it was inspired and possibly the greatest in the club’s history.

However, as a measure of Paisley’s true genius at talent spotting, Bob knew how important it was back then, when some of us thought Keegan was irreplaceable. He reportedly instructed club officials to make a hasty exit before the Glasgow club changed their minds after he had secured the signing of Dalglish for £440,000, a fee he described as “robbery with menace.”

Kenny would make his debut in Charity Shield, a 0-0 draw with Manchester United. Despite him not scoring, supporters would see enough in that game to recognise that Liverpool had signed another star though.

The season got underway amidst turbulent times. The far-right National Front had attempted a number of marches across the country, only to be met with fierce counter-demonstrations in London and Birmingham. In sport, cricketer Geoffrey Boycott hit his 100th century and Ron Greenwood became the England manager. Meanwhile, Liverpool Football Club marched on.

The Reds eased through their first 12 games of the season, winning eight, drawing three and losing only one. That was a stinging 2-0 defeat to Man United at Old Trafford. It was a result that left Liverpool fourth in the table, a single point behind the then leaders, Manchester City.

Liverpool's Kenny Dalglish (centre) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the winning goal

October brought a return of the European Cup to Anfield, and the reigning champions would kick off their defence against Dynamo Dresden. The game got underway at 7.30pm, under the floodlights, and with just under 40,000 inside the stadium, Liverpool proceeded to wipe the floor with the German side.

In the 14th minute it was a young centre back, Alan Hansen, who opened the scoring with a header from a John Toshack corner. It was his first goal for the club, and he would later admit that he had intended to put it to the keeper’s right, but it had gone the opposite direction. It didn’t matter, he had scored and the Reds were off and running.

Hansen, who had signed from Partick Thistle the season before, would go on to win eight league titles, two FA Cups, three League Cups and three European Cups for the Reds. However, in a glittering career that spanned fourteen years and 620 games, he scored just eight goals. He sometimes joked that he would get a nosebleed if he crossed the halfway line. Hansen, or ‘Jockey’ as he was nicknamed, was a supreme defender – arguably one of the best the club has ever seen – and though he didn’t score too many, he certainly kept a lot out.

Liverpool won the game 5-1, thanks to a brace from Jimmy Case, a Phil Neal penalty and Ray Kennedy hit the fifth. The final would be contested at Wembley in 1978, and the Reds had taken their first decisive step towards the capital.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Frank McGhee described Liverpool as ‘powerful and wonderful.’ He singled out John Toshack in particular, who he said had destroyed the concentration of the Dresden defenders.

Paisley took a lot of praise also, for his ‘master-stroke of planning.’ Knowing that the East German champions would try to stifle the Reds attack with a tight marking game, Paisley had thrown Toshack, who was a giant of a player, into the mix. The Welshman would be playing his first game since March 76, but his contribution was pivotal, in unsettling the Dresden back line and creating the space for others to run amok.

 Peter Robinson / EMPICS Sport

The second leg, however, was far from comfortable. Liverpool lost the game 2-1, with Steve Heighway grabbing one for the Reds in the second half, after they had fallen two behind to a goal either side of half time. Dresden, with home advantage and playing in front of a fiercely partisan crowd, put the men from Anfield under enormous pressure.

Michael Charters, writing in the Liverpool Echo, described how he had never seen the Reds under so much intense bombardment, saying that not since the UEFA Cup final in 1973, had they had such a hammering. He singled out Ray Clemence, whose saves prevented the East Germans from completing a historic comeback.

The tie finished 6-3 on aggregate. It may look comfortable on paper, but it had been far from it.

Sandwiched in the middle of the two legs, were three games against Everton and Manchester City. Liverpool’s league form was beginning to unravel. They played out a dull goalless derby stalemate, in which both sets of defenders had the upper hand. Then came a tough visit to early pace-setters, Manchester City.

Mick Channon, Brian Kidd and Joe Royle hit City’s three goals and David Fairclough registered a solitary consolation for the Reds on a miserable day. Liverpool were now in second place, but the cracks were starting to show.

At the halfway stage of the season, after a Boxing day draw away to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, the Reds had slumped to fourth in the table. They had won 10, drawn six and lost five of their opening 21 games. Forest were now top of the table and that’s were they’d be at the end of the season. Liverpool would have to be content with a runner up spot.

European Royalty

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However, in December – just as it was at the end of the season – Europe would prove to be Liverpool’s salvation. 

After beating Dresden in November, they would have to wait until March to contest the Quarter Final stage. Before that, the Reds would face Kevin Keegan’s SV Hamburg in the European Super Cup Final in December.

The two-legged contest would prove to be a nightmare return to Anfield for Keegan. The German side gave a creditable performance in the first leg, in front of a home crowd of just 16,000. They had even taken the lead, only for David Fairclough to grab an equaliser. Still, the UEFA Cup winners had held the champions of Europe – not for long.

The second leg saw Keegan’s side humiliated at Anfield. The Reds trounced them 6-0. The Daily Mirror describes their performance as ’emphatic – almost arrogant.’ Who could argue with that? The Reds roared into Hamburg, and with the Kop at its majestic best they tore the German side to shreds.

Terry McDermott, in particular, put in a stellar performance, smashing three goals which included two scored in the space of a minute, in a devastating blitz that saw Liverpool go 4-0 up in the 56th minute. The icing was applied to the Reds sumptuous cake with another mesmerising brace in the 86th and 88th minutes. Fairclough and Dalglish adding the gloss to an already gleaming performance.

Terry McDermott, Liverpool (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport) 10-May-1978

Keegan hadn’t known what hit him, and Liverpool had added another piece of silverware to the cabinet.

For McDermott, this had been a watershed moment in his Liverpool career. After spending much of his time out wide, he had been moved into a more central role, due to injuries elsewhere. It would be a position he would master for the rest of his Reds career, allowing him to launch raid after raid from the middle of the park and score 81 times for the Reds.

Despite their struggles on the league front, Liverpool were marching on in both Europe and the League Cup. They went out of the FA Cup in the third round, though, after a 4-2 defeat to Chelsea, but by February they had secured their place in the final of the League Cup thanks to victory over Arsenal.

The Reds would once again face Nottingham Forest at Wembley. Before that though, a couple of key moments in Liverpool history would play out. The first came in a home game against Manchester United.

The Scottish Spine

Liverpool won 3-1, but the game was marked by a debut goal for new signing Graeme Souness. The tough Scot had been signed from Middlesborough in January 1978. He would go on to become part of an all-Scottish spine withHansen and Dalglish, and they would conquer all before them.

Bill Shankly once said, “If you’ve got three Scottish players in your side, you’ve got a chance. Any more, and you’ve got a problem.” Kenny Dalglish later quipped, “I used to look around the dressing room at Jockey and Souness and think, ‘we’re the master race’. Then in walked Steve Nicol.”

Scotland and Liverpool's Graeme Souness.

In the game against United, in February, Souness would stamp his mark on Liverpool’s midfield and grab his debut goal. He would have a far bigger contribution to make this season, but scoring against United in front of almost 50,000 people isn’t a bad start.

The second significant moment came when Liverpool travelled to Lisbon in the Quarter Final of the European Cup. The game took place on the 1st March, and the Reds were given the sternest of tests by the Portuguese Champions. The weather was awful and rain pelted the pitch, creating conditions more reminiscent of English football than a tie on the continent.

It may have been a game played in the iconic Stadium of Light, but the pitch was a mud bath and the Reds had to summon all their reserves of character and resilience to get through the game. At one point the weather was so bad, it looked like the game would be abandoned.

Benfica took the lead in the 13th minute and for a moment doubt flickered for the European Champions. Was the Quarter Final a step too far, could they really go on and be the first English club to successfully defend their crown?

The answer came in the form of Jimmy Case and Emlyn Hughes. In the 37th minute, Liverpool won a free-kick outside the Benfica penalty area. With the rain beating down and the Scouser facing a river of mud and defensive wall in front of him, he shaped up to test the keeper.

He put the ball through the wall and it flew straight into the net. The Reds were level. In the second half they battled away and in what the Liverpool Echo called a performance of remarkable character. Hughes grabbed Liverpool’s second decisive goal in the 72nd minute and, with that he gave everyone associated with the club the belief that they could go all the way.

The second leg saw Liverpool coast to a 4-1 win. The goals came courtesy of Ian Callaghan, Dalglish, McDermott and Phil Neal. Only Borussia Monchengladbach stood in the way of another European Cup Final in successive seasons.

Before that though, the Reds would face Nottingham Forest in the League Cup Final. Eventual league champions, Forest, were emerging as serious rivals for Liverpool. Brian Clough had fashioned a tough side and they would give Liverpool a stern test at Wembley on the 18th March 1978.

The omens looked good for Liverpool, as Clough had been unable to field his first choice Keeper, Peter Shilton, who was cup-tied. Instead he opted for 18-year-old Chris Woods. The Reds couldn’t find a way through though, despite a McDermott goal being ruled out for handball. The ball seemed to hist his shoulder, but the referee wasn’t having it, and the tie was eventually taken to a replay at Old Trafford four days later.

Paisley’s men lost 1-0 thanks to a John Robertson penalty in the 53rd minute. Liverpool players raged as the foul that led to the spot-kick appeared to be outside the box, and Tommy Smith was particularly cutting about the referee at full time, declaring that he should be shot for his error.

There was even more controversy in the tie, when Callaghan received his first and only booking in a career that spanned 18 years and 857 appearances. Even Forest defender, and Scouser, Peter Withe seemed to plead with the referee not to give the booking. It was a miserable day in the capital for the men in red, but they would experience entirely the opposite emotions in the same place, less than a month later.

Wembley For No.2

Liverpool would return to Wembley for another European Cup Final on the 10th May 1978. They had got there thanks to the away goal rule, in a two-legged semi-final against Borussia Monchengladbach. Having lost the first leg 2-1, the Reds won the home match 3-0. Their opponents would be Belgian Champions, Club Brugge.

As games go, it was far from being a classic. However, with the stadium packed to the rafters with 92,5000 in attendance and Liverpool supporters vastly outnumbering their opponents, the game erupted into life in the 65th minute.

Brugge had come to stifle Liverpool and had shown very little ambition throughout the game. The Reds had looked frustrated at times, but the red throng in the stands, a sea of colour and waves of noise had never given up.

The ball fell to Souness, who played a delightful ball to Dalglish. With the goalie rushing out and committing himself early, Kenny dinked the ball over him.

Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness celebrate with the cup, 1978 (Picture by Peter Robinson EMPICS Sport)

The Scotsman didn’t even wait to see if it had hit the net, knowing his strike had been perfect, he immediately rushed off towards the jubilant Liverpool supporters behind the goal.

He may have given his manager palpitations as he vaulted the advertising boards, but nobody among those delirious fans will ever forget what would become his trademark goal celebration. Arms outstretched and a grin as wide as the Mersey, Kenny had become a King.

Liverpool saw out the game, and Emlyn Hughes would lift his second European Cup in as many seasons. The Reds were the undisputed masters. And, although they had slipped a notch domestically, nobody could hold a candle to them on the biggest stages.

The homecoming was epic, with reports putting the numbers in excess of 500,000. This was a season of such significance. Paisley had built another all-conquering team with a spine as rock-solid as any, he had cemented his place in football history – becoming the first Englishman to retain Europe’s biggest prize. And, he had replaced one club legend with another, ensuring Liverpool’s domination of English and continental football continued without pausing for breath.

Players like Hansen, Souness and Dalglish were formidable and are rightly praised for lighting up Liverpool in the 70s and 80s. However, let us never forget that the man who found them, put them together and provided them with the stage to weave their magic, was Bob Paisley. The man Roy Evans called a ‘humble genius,’ and who an emerging rival – Brian Clough – called the ‘Frank Sinatra of football.’

Liverpool FC, 1977-78

Manager: Bob Paisley
Captain: Emlyn Hughes
Top Scorer: Kenny Dalglish (31 all comps)
Most Appearances: Kenny Dalglish, Phil Neal (62 all comps)

League Position: 2nd (57 points)
FA Cup: Third Round
League Cup: Runners-Up
European Cup: Winners

Total games: 62
Games won: 35
Games drawn: 14
Games lost: 13
Clean sheets – league: 23
Clean sheets – overall: 32
Total goals: 104

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Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher on Liverpool’s form and Sadio Mane’s brilliance

Sun, 10/13/2019 - 14:56

Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were back in Liverpool red on Saturday as they lined up for the Legends team against Glasgow Rangers.

There was the very strange sight of Gerrard in blue as he played the final 10 minutes for the team he is now manager of in Scotland, with Liverpool the 3-2 winners.

The match provided a chance for former Reds’ players to meet up again and, of course, there was plenty to discuss about the current Liverpool side.

Jurgen Klopp‘s team sit top of the Premier League table with eight wins from eight games and Gerrard is enjoying watching like a supporter.

“I always think they’re going to win,” said Gerrard. “No matter who they’re playing against, whether it’s in the Champions League or whether it’s a top-of-the-table clash, I always fancy Liverpool as favourites now.

“With the front three and the form they’re in, they are unplayable at times.

“Obviously Van Dijk has been a really big [piece] of the jigsaw, the ‘keeper, and the rest around them are not bad either!

Liverpool players celebrate Milner's penalty vs Leicester (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

“They are great to watch and it’s brilliant from a fan point of view to see them sitting top of the league.

“But I’m sure Jurgen is thinking the same thing as me: take the next game as it comes, keep pushing and try to win your next one.”

That next one for Liverpool is the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford next Sunday – a ground that the Reds have not won at since March 2014, a match which saw Gerrard score two penalties.

A player who will be for that fixture will be the Reds’ top scorer this season, Sadio Mane.

The Senegalese frontman has eight goals so far in all competitions, following on from 26 last season. The No.10 has a huge admirer in the shape of Carragher.

“Mane, probably along with Raheem Sterling, [is] possibly the best left winger in the world,” praised Carra.

“I absolutely love him, he’s my favourite player at the club. He’s brilliant, he’s always got a smile on his face, always there, always gets knocked about, gets goals, setting others up.

“He’s the one who came in at the very start under Klopp, his first real big signing, and I think ever since then he’s just been getting better and better. He’s just a machine.”

Carragher and Gerrard both speak just like us supporters. Mane is the key player at the moment and brilliant to watch.

Occupying that left side of attack, Mane is a player Liverpool could have done with during Gerrard and Carragher’s time.

 Peter Robinson / EMPICS Sport)

“I always talk about the teams I played in never possibly had, say, a John Barnes, that world-class wide player,” says Carragher. “But I think Liverpool have got that now.

“I think that’s what’s making the difference why they are so good and look in a great position to hopefully go on and win the first Premier League.

“If you start comparing people like Sadio Mane to John Barnes then that shows how well he’s doing.”

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Thomas Muller talk: Should Liverpool be in for Germany forward?

Sun, 10/13/2019 - 14:55

Thomas Muller could leave Bayern Munich and some Liverpool supporters have suggested that Anfield would make an ideal destination. We put this to the debate.

“If the coaching staff see me as a sub in the future, I will have to think about my situation. I’m too ambitious to not do that,” Muller said recently, having found himself on the bench at Bayern in recent weeks – mostly due to the arrival and form of Philippe Coutinho.

The versatile attacker, who turned 30 in August, has a contract the Bavarians until 2021.

With a general consensus among Liverpool supporters that the area in which they could improve their squad being in attack beyond the majestic front three, should Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds be interested in any potential deal?

This Is Anfield Writers

JAMES NALTON: I’m not entirely convinced it’s the right move, but think it would make some sense.

He could be a replacement for James Milner, not necessarily positionally, but in terms of having a more experienced player at the club. What’s more, this experience involves winning trophy after trophy, including a World Cup, rather than the usual meaning of the word which is just a nicer way for saying the player is old and past their peak years.

He could also fill in in a number of positions across the attack, or as an advanced midfielder, as he’s been playing for Bayern recently.

That said, if Liverpool are going to raid the Bundesliga again, younger players like Kai Havertz and Jadon Sancho would be a better options for these creative roles in midfield or out wide.

MATT LADSON: I think we can all agree that the main thing Liverpool lack is depth and options in attack beyond our incredible front three.

If there was a chance to sign a player of Muller’s quality we should be interested. He’s only just turned 30 so has plenty of years ahead of him.

Having said that, if he isn’t happy on the bench at Bayern then would he accept a peripheral role for us? Perhaps Klopp could persuade him as such and rejuvenate his career – if anyone could, it would be Klopp.

The alternative is, Klopp could go to 4231, with Muller behind Firmino and Salah and Mane out wide. That might solve that issue of the midfield creativity. I doubt, though, that he’d do that mid-season.

CHRIS WILLIAMS: Whilst I’d love the experience and options Muller would bring, I don’t think he’s ever going to leave Bayern Munich.

Niko Kovac will be sacked by the next international break if results don’t improve. Muller’s a Bavarian, the last at Bayern they’ll never sell him.

HENRY JACKSON: Muller in January won’t happen because Klopp doesn’t sign players at that stage of their career, but I’d love it.

Versatile, hard-working, big-game player, snide and would ease the burden on the front-three.

So, a mixed debate between our writers, and it was similar on social media. On Facebook, 65% said Liverpool shouldn’t be interested and the exact same result on Twitter.

Here’s what some of the fans said:

Great player and professional in his day but we would have to pay him sky high wages to warm the bench so I think it would be best to invest it in more younger stars ?

Paul Price on Facebook.

Wanting to buy and being interested are two different things. Being interested in a great of the game with still plenty to prove is exactly what Klopp has built. Just be happy we're in the conversation for such a player…

— Jason Jones (@jasonjones19) October 12, 2019

A few years ago I would say yes, but not now. There are younger, quicker players that can be moulded into the system and style we play. Great player but just past his best.

Alan Dellow on Facebook.

I feel like the wages he will ask for will be astounding

— Eric Callison (@ECal15) October 12, 2019

A proper world class forward so why wouldn’t u want him ? He would offer another dimension to our team and certainly knows where the goal is . I bet all the people moaning and saying no are the same people who were moaning we didn’t buy anyone in case of injuries up top ..well he is !! I’d snap him up in a heartbeat ??

Dax Anderson on Facebook.

Müller wouldn’t start every match but he would fit into the system pretty well, could replace firmino some games

— Alan Smith (@Alan8smith) October 12, 2019

He is one of my favorite players. I’m not sure how much he has declined but constant injuries to Bayern’s wingers and the coaches since Pep haven’t helped him. That said, he’d come off the bench at Liverpool and if he isn’t happy coming off Bayern’s bench he isn’t going to happy coming off of Liverpool’s. Pass.

JackJohn Al on Facebook.

Great player, he's not the quickest player but would still be a great asset off the bench he's tall, strong, experienced, great technique, movement and has a champions mentality ingrained in him. Who wouldn't love to have him at liverpool?

— 6 (@SC_YNWA) October 13, 2019

Müller would also fit into the system pretty well when he replaces firmino, runs a lot. Not technically good as firmino but as a depth player yes please

— Alan Smith (@Alan8smith) October 12, 2019

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Steven Gerrard plays for both sides as Liverpool Legends beat Rangers

Sat, 10/12/2019 - 16:56

A Liverpool Legends XI was in action against Glasgow Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday afternoon, with Steven Gerrard appearing for both sides!

Rangers Legends 2-3 Liverpool Legends

Saturday, 12 October 2019
Ibrox Stadium

Goals: Garcia (8), Berger (17), Heskey (27); Boyd (24), Lovenkrands (28)

Gerrard, now, of course, the Rangers manager, played the first 75 minutes for the Reds, before switching to the blue of the home side for the final 10 minutes.

It meant the strange sight of Gerrard up against Jamie Carragher, while also playing in centre-midfield alongside Charlie Adam – giving us flashbacks to nightmare Anfield days of eight years ago.

The game itself started as a goal-fest, with five inside the opening half an hour.

Luis Garcia headed the Reds in the lead from close range from a Dirk Kuyt cross, and Patrik Berger doubled the advantage after a driving run from Gerrard in the middle.

Kris Boyd brought one back for the hosts, before Gerrard played in Emile Heskey for the frontman to produce a nice dinked finish over the keeper.

Peter Lovenkrands then made it 3-2 and we’d only played 28 minutes.

The rest of the match, though, produced no more goals – despite Liverpool testing the Rangers keeper numerous times in the second half.

It was nice to see the likes of Jose Enrique again involved after his recovery from cancer, plus Chris Kirkland in goal after his mental health issues.

The match, as ever, was raising funds for the LFC Foundation, Liverpool’s official charity which delivers a range of programmes and partnerships to create life-changing opportunities for children and young people across the Liverpool City Region and worldwide.

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LFC Legends: Dudek, McAteer, Carragher, Johnson, Enrique, Pennant, Gerrard, Berger, Garcia, Heskey, Kuyt.

Subs: Kirkland, Smicer, Warnock, Thompson, Aldridge.

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain outlines his targets for the season

Sat, 10/12/2019 - 16:03

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has outlined his aims for the season, looking to “add that little bit extra” to a squad that last season achieved a record ever points haul for the club and lifted the Champions League trophy.

The Reds’ No.15 was absent for most of that campaign after his serious knee injury sustained at the back end of his debut campaign on Merseyside.

And while he recently admitted it could take up to two years until he no longer feels the effects of the injury, he is still keen to make an impression now.

“For me as an individual, my goals are to get back in and around the team and to help push this team forward a little bit more,” he told the official website.

“If we can do that, I can start thinking about what I need to add to my game. For now, the next step is to help the team.”

Predictably, Oxlade-Chamberlain was earmarked as ‘like a new signing’ in pre-season, along with Adam Lallana and Rhian Brewster, by Jurgen Klopp and the player agrees with that.

“I guess I am like a new person in the group he [Klopp] can use and I think I can definitely bring my qualities and provide something different to the other boys in my position.

“We all have our own qualities, we all bring different things, so my job is to do the things I was doing before I was injured.

“I’m another weapon in his armoury again now, although I’m not that new here!”

 Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes over the number 15 shirt from Daniel Sturridge during a pre-season friendly match between Bradford City AFC and Liverpool FC at Valley Parade. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Despite his extended injury layoff, the Londoner says he doesn’t let it affect his game, saying: “I wouldn’t say I’m a different player. I’ll still try to dribble. I’ll still sometimes go into tackles that I should leave, but I go nibbling in anyway. I think that’s a good thing.

“I wanted to make sure that I didn’t think about the knee. I thought when I come back I’m just going to go with it and whatever happens, happens. I don’t want to waste my time worrying about what I love doing, and what I need to do, every day.

“Hopefully I can keep getting better, keep getting minutes and get back to where I was when I left off.”

The 26-year-old was absent from Liverpool’s squad for their last match, against Leicester City at Anfield, with no official information supplied as to why from the club.

 Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana during a training session ahead of the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Besiktas Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Reporter James Pearce claimed that his absence was due to being “hit in the head by a ball in training at Melwood” and that he was “left out as a precaution as he’s feeling the effects.”

However, such a claim is highly coincidental after Oxlade-Chamberlain was involved in an incident exactly of this type in the pre-match warm-up against Red Star Belgrade three days earlier.

The midfielder was with the other substitutes but hit a stray pass which hit fitness coach Andreas Kornmayer, who was overseeing the starting XI’s warm-up, on the back of the head. The German coach was on the floor clutching his head, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the floor laughing. Words were then exchanged between the pair.

With no international involvement for Oxlade-Chamberlain this fortnight, he will be looking to get more minutes once the Reds return, and with six games in 16 days – across three different competitions – that should certainly be the case.

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