The incredible influence of my birth on Liverpool Football Club’s results

November 1, 2013 Leave a comment

When watching Liverpool demolish West Brom, days before my 29th birthday, I thought to myself ‘I can’t remember us losing a league game before my birthday for ages’.

I then thought that in fact, we must have won about five or six on the bounce at least.

Then I looked up last season’s fixture and saw we’d drawn 2-2 with Everton last time (October 28; Baines og/Suarez). I had recorded the game, got in to flick on Chelsea v Man Utd at 4pm and Martin Tyler announced during commentary that ‘we’ve already seen the team in red scored twice away from home today’ in the earlier kick off. Or words to that effect.

I couldn’t wait (assuming we’d won), looked up the score and saw we’d battered them 2-2. Disappointment.

But still, I decided to delve a little deeper. And what I found was that the last time Liverpool lost my birthday league game was 27 years ago when a Mike Newell hat-trick saw Luton ‘snatch’ a 4-1 victory on 25 October, 1986 (watch the videos below for one of the most amazing ‘the keeper is off his line get the ball into the mixer quick’ passes you’ll ever see).

Since then, Liverpool have won 24 games and drawn three from the 27 league games directly preceding the date 29 October (full list below).

Not only that, but when a cup game (League/Carling/Rumbelows) has taken place after a league game, but before or on the 29th of October, you have to go back to a 1-0 loss to Everton on 27 October 1987 to find a defeat.

Since then, Liverpool have not lost any of the six cup ties they have played in before, or on the date of my birth.

The total number of games in the intervening period since Everton’s cup win (league and cup) reads: W 26 / D 5/ L 0.

And that’s not all folks. The top Liverpool goalscorer from the last 27 years across all those games? Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler [both scored 9 goals; followed by Owen (7)].

When’s Ian Rush’s birthday? October 20. So he’s just had his birthday, I’m about to celebrate mine, and Liverpool are unstoppable.

When’s Robbie Fowler’s birthday? Doesn’t matter*.

Spooky, on this week of all weeks.

This blog gets to the heart of the important matters. Like, Liverpool owes me (or my parents). Big time.

I used lots of sites to get the info below, but www.lfchistory.net is a particularly useful way to while away hours if you’re a Liverpool fan.

* It’s in April and doesn’t fit into the narrative of this piece.

Tom’s birthday fixtures:

  • Liverpool 4 West Brom 1; October 26, ’13 (Suarez [3]; Sturridge 1)
  • Everton 2 Liverpool 2; Oct 28, ’12 (Baines og; Suarez)
  • West Brom 0 Liverpool 2; Oct 29, ’11 (Adam; Carroll)
  • Liverpool 2 Blackburn 1; Oct 24, 2010 (Kyrgiakos; Torres)
  • Liverpool 2 Man Utd 0;  Oct 25, ’09 (Torres; Ngog) - I was there. It was glorious

The following video is in Spanish. You should be able to make out what happens.

  • Liverpool 1 Portsmouth 0; Oct 29, ’08 (Gerrard)
  • Liverpool 1 Arsenal 1; Oct 28 ’07 (Gerrard)
  • Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 1; Oct 28 ’06 (Kuyt; Crouch; Garcia)
  • Liverpool 2 West Ham 0; Oct 29 ’05 (Alonso; Zenden)
  • Liverpool 2 Charlton 0; Oct 23, ’04 (Riise; Garcia)
  • - CUP: Millwall 0-3 Liverpool; Oct 26, ’04 (Diao; Baros [2])
  • Liverpool 3 Leeds 1; Oct 25, ’03 (Owen; Murphy; Sinama Pongolle)
  • - CUP: Blackburn 3 Liverpool 4; Oct 29, ’03 (Murphy; Heskey [2]; Kewell)
  • Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1; Oct 26 ’02 (Murphy; Owen)
  • Charlton 0 Liverpool 2; Oct 27 ’01 (Redknapp; Owen)
  • Liverpool 3 Everton 0; Oct 29, 2000 (Barmby; Heskey; Berger)
  • Liverpool 1 West Ham 0; Oct 27, ’99 (Camara)
  • Liverpool 5 Nottingham Forest 1; Oct 24, ’98 (Owen [4]; McManaman)
  • - CUP: Liverpool 3 Fulham 1; Oct 27, ’98 (og; Fowler; Ince)
  • Liverpool 4 Derby 0; Oct 25, ’97 (Fowler [2] Leonhardsen; McManaman
  • Liverpool 2 Derby 1; Oct 27 ’96 (Fowler [2])
  • Liverpool 6 Manchester City 0; Oct 28, ’95 (Rush [2]; Fowler [2]; Ruddock; Redknapp)
  • Ipswich 1 Liverpool 3; Oct 29, ’94 (Fowler [2]; Barnes)
  • Man City 1 Liverpool 1; Oct 23, ’93 (Rush)
  • - CUP: Liverpool 3 Ipswich 2; Oct 27, ’93 (Rush [3])
  • Liverpool 4 Norwich 1; Oct 25, ’92 (Thomas; Hutchison; Burrows; Walters)
  • - CUP: Sheffield Utd 0 Liverpool 0; Oct 28, ’92
  • Liverpool 1 Coventry 0; Oct 26, ’91 (Houghton)
  • - CUP: Port Vale 2 Liverpool 2 (McManaman; Rush)
  • Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0; Oct 27, 1990 (Rush; Nicol)
  • Liverpool 1 Tottenham 0; Oct 29 ’89 (Barnes)
  • West Ham 0 Liverpool 2; Oct 29 ’88 (Rush; Beardsley)
  • Liverpool 1 Luton 0; Oct 24, ’87 (Gillespie)
  • - CUP: Everton 1 Liverpool 0; Oct 27, ’87
  • Luton 4 Liverpool 1; Oct 25, ’86 (Molby)
  • - CUP: Liverpool 4 Leicester 1; Oct 29, ’86 (McMahon [3]; Dalglish)

Match report: Suarez+Sturridge 4 West Brom 1

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I wasn’t convinced about the formation before the game. Still not convinced. The only thing that saves it is if Sturridge and Suarez are in irrepressible form. Lucky for Rodgers, they were.

Plus Steve Clarke had put out an attacking formation and Liverpool, with Lucas back in the holding role, were able to take control of midfield. Sessegnon and Mulumbu were overrun, and Anelka and Anichebe offered little threat.

Each of the Suarez finishes was delicious. The first, he got too much room, but West Brom couldn’t handle him at the back. Yacob and Olsson were torn apart. It was interesting to see the two strikers often in the same five-to-ten yards of the pitch, as they have been since they’ve started playing together after the end of Suarez’s ban.

Initially I thought it was two players taking similar, instinctive positions and that it could be a problem. But it actually looks tactical. They can both play in tight space, and easily beat defenders with pace or skill. So the idea may be that the two strikers come up against weaker opposition, and Liverpool simply rely on them being better than their markers on the day.

Which is a problem when you come up against better teams, like Liverpool will against Arsenal next week. But against West Brom it worked and for now, it will take a bit of pressure, or focus, off Rodgers’ tactics.

Cissokho was poor again. And at the end, didn’t bother to do the simple things like close players down, or block attempted crosses. He was also at fault for the penalty, though it was a soft one; probably a bad decision from the linesman.

Lucas and Henderson were good. Henderson should have scored at least one though, and there’s always a risk when Gerrard isn’t finding shooting opportunities, like he didn’t today, that with Lucas as the third midfield man, we again have to rely simply on our strikers being better than the defenders for goals.

Coutinho coming back will help there, and if he stays fit with the two strikers in the form they’re in, then Rodgers can probably afford to stick with the 5-3-2/3-5-2.

Both wing-backs were quiet today. Skrtel was immense again. Sakho is playing well, and is a big signing so I can understand why Rodgers is selecting him. But our left side looks weak as a result of not having Agger’s poise. Both Sakho and Cissokho have a bit of a ‘head down’ mentality.

If we look a bit susceptible at the back, both tend to hang their head slightly. Agger would strengthen that left side, and it’s no surprise that the penalty was given away there.

The goals. Amazing. Suarez managed to settle the nerves with a brilliant run and finish with the outside of his left boot from the right hand side of the box. He likes that trick, and it often comes off for him. His header from the second was on the edge of the penalty area, and didn’t have a huge amount of pace from the cross from Cissokho, which may have taken a deflection.

How he decided it was a shooting opportunity is beyond me. Brilliant. The commentator said ‘for goodness sake’ in praise of the finish. The third, from a superb Gerrard free kick, was also great. Backwards header. Again though he had way too much space.Image

(Suarez and Sturridge do their best Zoolander impressions. Sturridge wins. Photo: Daily Mirror)

Sturridge. My word, what a fourth. He looked a little bit frustrated in the opening hour.He skied an effort or two, lost his footing, lost the ball in good positions. But he smacked the bar with a ferocious effort and nearly knocked a fan unconscious with one of the most ferocious free kicks I’ve seen which went just wide.

But his goal was magnificent. A cheeky chip that probably eluded Myhill’s forlorn dive by an inch at the most. Perfect. And I’ll put it here (until it’s taken down).

Overall, a fine win. But Cissokho looks weak and I’m still not comfortable with the formation. Coutinho coming back is massive, and he should replace Cissokho/Henderson/Lucas depending on the opposition, but I’m also still keen to see Agger given a go at left-back.

We struggled against Arsenal last year and we may do so again next week, but if Suarez and Sturridge are given any bit of space by Arsenal’s centre-backs, we’ll have a good chance.

Alex Ferguson does not like Liverpool. Top, top ‘autobiography’

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Alex Ferguson’s comments about Steven Gerrard are fine. He’s not a “top, top player” (when did ‘top, top’ become acceptable?) insists Ferguson* who has every right to say that. He’s worked with players who have been top, top players so he should recognise one when he sees one.

Funny thing is though, he hasn’t worked with Gerrard. He’s been on the receiving end of him instead. Carling Cup Final defeats, goals in 4-1 defeats etc. Gerrard clearly doesn’t like Manchester United. So it’s a comment with a bit of history, rather than fact, as Rafa might have put it.

But the real question is: how much does Alex Ferguson love Manchester United? He loves the institution he created. He loves the success he has had. But he was interested in other things. Money. Power. He wasn’t afraid to have a go at the fans when they threatened that. He didn’t show any love for the Manchester United fans who sought to separate themselves from the club when the big, bad (or not, if you listen to Fergie) Glazers moved in.

He was at the institution for the best part of three decades, so it’s home. Of course it is. But, and this isn’t new news, the need to put out this book can only have been motivated by money, rather than the best interests of the club, its new manager, owners or fans.

In his defence, I can’t imagine Fergie would have trouble telling people what he thought of them face to face. But that also means it is doubtful that he felt a strong need to ‘get things off his chest’ by publishing the book, as people have suggested this week.

Kenny Dalglish says in the Mirror today that while Fergie may not have lost any sleep over any of Kenny’s signings he “certainly lost a few points” as a result of them.

That may be true, to an extent. But more interesting, is the need for people like Kenny (who remains respected in the game, despite recent gaffes) to come out and take a pop at Ferguson. He will certainly lose goodwill. Goodwill that he shouldn’t have had in my own, unbiased** opinion. Respect his achievements, yes. But admire the man? No thanks.

*   I haven’t read it. I assume the media have got it correct.

** Lies

As if Moyes doesn’t have enough on his plate.

Gerrard scores from it. Rodgers’ tactics miss it.

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

An entertaining game at St James’ Park, but another one in which Liverpool have dropped points where they shouldn’t have, having played for most of the game with an extra man.

Newcastle had a player, deservedly, sent off for the third game in a row, as Yanga-Mbiwa saw red for a drag back on Suarez late in the first half (wonder if he had that half-time chat with Montpellier?)

In the BT Sport studio, David Ginola argued that it shouldn’t be a red card as the punishment multiplies for a single offence with the (a) penalty – which it was (b) red card and (c) goal.

Image

Er. So if Gerrard miss the penalty, the incentive is on the defender to deny Suarez the goalscoring opportunity, no? Drag him back, concede the penalty, and take a risk that the opposing team misses, while seeing your name go into the book. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Also, I feel Newcastle were in a strong position down to ten. They had shown last year that they could withstand relentless pressure from Liverpool down to ten, and looked in little danger of conceding a third yesterday.

The panel also focused on Cabaye at half time. Fair enough, he was playing well. But the star for Newcastle was Cheik Tioté, who looked like the player he was when they first signed him. Liverpool were lucky that he had a knock and was late getting out of his own half to help Suarez stay onside for the penalty.

I could see the logic of the 3-5-2/5-3-2 yesterday if it was what Rodgers felt would win the game against Newcastle.

They rely on several creative players, and lack invention from the wings. So, stifle Remy and Ben Arfa and you have a good chance. But I think you need Lucas in the team. The idea being that Cissokho (poor yesterday) and Johnson bomb on with support from Gerrard and Henderson, but Lucas is there to stop Newcastle’s counter-attackers (who played well yesterday).

We lost (the chance to win three points) in the middle of the park. Shame Enrique wasn’t in as well. Cissokho played the same role, get forward until closed down, cut back, and lay the ball off to the supporting man. But, crucially, Cissokho tended to go backwards, rather than pass inside and go further forward to stretch the opposition.

Johnson got more joy on the right through his own impetus to attack, but Cissokho had more space on the left, and the game was crying out for a player to really go at Debuchy. I would’ve liked to see Agger given a go at bringing the ball forward, despite it not being his favoured position.

Gerrard played sporadically well, but gave the ball away with a couple of attempted killer passes. Good to see him get his 100th Premiership goal (and especially nice to see him beat Krul, the league’s most irritating keeper) Sturridge and Suarez played fine, but still seem to be in the same part of the pitch when we aren’t counter-attacking.

When we are, they’re superb. The Suarez chip for Sturridge’s equaliser was magic (his touch down in the right hand side of the penalty area earlier in the game one of the best I’ve ever seen).

I think Mignolet is too far to the left for the goal, which gives Cabaye a nice part of the goal to aim at. After that, the shot is brilliant, but it could be that Sakho should have got closer to him (and ducked the shot slightly when Cabaye hit it), though I may be stretching it there.

The second goal is woeful. Cissokho is asleep, Sakho not much better. Shocking, and cost us the three points.

What bothers me is that we got a bit lucky with Gerrard’s equaliser (stupid defending). The formation had not been working, and it was 40 minutes in when we got the chance. Change should have been made earlier, for me.

Likewise, at 1-1, we still looked flat. I would have liked to see Lucas replace Cissokho, send Johnson to left back to really get at Debuchy and have Kolo at right back. Shame Allen didn’t get 20 minutes at the end as well, when Newcastle were tiring and we were lacking inspiration.

We had quite a few not quite matchfit players yesterday, so that should improve. But if Rodgers is persisting with this formation to sit our two front players, the return of Coutinho can’t come quickly enough.

Skrtel played well and I think Sakho should carry on playing, as he is an eventual first-team choice for the foreseeable future. There has to be an argument for Agger to play at left-back for a while, though Enrique gives us attacking options that we don’t have from defensive players (why can none of our centre-backs attack the ball properly at corners??).

West Brom at home next week. Need a win, before a tricky run of fixtures which includes Arsenal and Everton away in the following three (and a nasty set of games over December).

Alan Pardew v Liverpool. Not on to a winner.

October 18, 2013 1 comment

Alan Pardew has insisted that Liverpool’s 6-0 trouncing of his Newcastle team at St James’ Park last year has been put behind them ahead of today’s clash.

The Newcastle boss is quoted as saying Liverpool “have got a really great attacking flair and the team is set out to score goals” on Newcastle’s club website.

And it’s exactly that type of astute comment that will ensure Liverpool don’t arrive quaking in their boots. Oh, and the memories of the 6-0 scoreline should help.

Taking a look through Wikipedia the Charlton, West Ham and Newcastle record books on Friday, I make Alan Pardew’s record against Liverpool as played 11; won 2; drawn 2; lost 7 (I can’t find any cup games, FA Cup final apart).

Admittedly that includes the FA Cup final in 2006, lost on penalties after a 3-3 draw after extra time, but I’m counting that as a loss. Because they didn’t share the trophy in the type of style John Terry may have proposed.

Pardew’s first win over Liverpool as Newcastle came in his very first game in charge (3-0; Nolan, Barton, Carroll). Liverpool were woeful. And to make it all the more sweet, Andy Carroll’s performance and third goal probably played a part in Liverpool losing their minds and panic buying paying £35m for him.

Four defeats from four against the reds while at West Ham; a solitary game and point on the last day of a season that had already seen Charlton relegated (Kewell with a 90th minute penalty to level the game); but a rather better record of two wins and a draw from six in his time on Tyneside.

But a hammering last year. And red cards for Debuchy (0-6) and Coloccini (1-1). Also, Suarez and Sturridge only played once each against Newcastle last year, but managed three goals between them. And Stewart Downing started last year and got two assists. TWO ASSISTS.

Coloccini misses out tomorrow through injury, while Gutierrez is on compassionate leave. Coutinho, a star in last year’s 6-0 triumph, is Liverpool’s only concern (does Iago Aspas missing count? Rodgers has already hailed it as his ‘strongest’ squad of the season). Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, substituted last month against Everton at half-time with the team 3-0 down, is expected to come in alongside Mike Williamson.

(Gratuitous Joe Kinnear shot. If he was managing, Newcastle would win 6-0).

Still, if he has another nightmare against a Merseyside team today, at least Montpellier’s chairman Louis Nicollin will be there to console him. Unless he’s predicting Yanga-Mbiwa will have a stinker and need a new club by 2.30pm.

There are reasons for Reds fans not to be overly optimistic though. The 2-0 reverse in April 2012 saw Papiss Cissé score two, and Ben Arfa run the show.

But this is a very different Liverpool team (Flanagan, Spearing, Shelvey, Carroll, Bellamy vs Johnson, Henderson, Allen, Suarez, Sturridge) and Liverpool should have too much. Assuming they don’t get internationalbreakitus.

A win today, followed by another against West Brom at home next week, and the prospect of top-4 looks achievable.

 

Racism sweeps through the Anfield dressing room

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Racism is sweeping through Liverpool’s once proud history, brushing away all sense of the club’s achievements, past glories and honour.

Why? Because after Suarez, the big racist, called Evra something, Pepe Reina has made an ad that apparently depicts black people as “backward, stupid, and animalistic homosexuals.”

According to the Guardian, Operation Black Vote director Simon Woolley said: “I’m shocked on so many levels. Firstly, how would the Spanish feel if the English stereotyped Spanish people as backward, stupid, and animalistic homosexuals?

“Secondly, what does this say about Pepe Reina? The Liverpool goalkeeper has lived and worked in the UK for nearly a decade; does he think it’s OK to characterise black people this way? Does he think his black team-mates will laugh at his joke? It’s back in the fifties this kind of stuff. They [Groupama] said they were ‘going to withdraw it immediately but have done nothing wrong. But if you’re upset then we apologise’.

“Given that Liverpool football club is trying to move forward from the Suarez affair, it is a shame that another one of their players has caused offence by appearing in an advert that seems to come from a bygone era. Those who are old enough might remember those despicable Zulu ads for cigarettes of the 1970s.”

Blimey. The video below shows that not only is Pepe Reina a racist, but he also laughs at black people while he’s being racist*.

Ever seen a Dolmio ad? Unbelievable the way it depicts Italians as pasta-guzzling, mamma-mia screeching bafoons. Ever seen an ad with Irish men? Chances are they’re in a pub. Ever seen a goalkeeper in full gear in the middle of a tribe being ‘wed’ to its leader?

*Or else this is all a big pile of nonsense….

Carling Cup final (Liverpool V Cardiff) thoughts:

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Liverpool finals are entertaining, as a general rule. The exception, in recent history, being the last time they reached a final at Wembley when their cream suits and Eric Cantona left people smiling, not in a nice way. In a ‘Liverpool are shit’ way.

But now, 16 years later, people no longer expect Liverpool to realistically challenge for titles, so neutrals probably prefer the thought of a cup final with Liverpool, than Chelsea or Manchester United.

Liverpool players invited Michael Owen back to celebrate the win (pic from http://www.liverpoolfc.tv)

With Liverpool, there’s invariably a chance they could lose, and at the very least there’ll be a game that’s evenly-matched with whichever lower league or ‘weaker’ opposition (West Ham, Bolton, Birmingham and Cardiff in the past two decades since the ‘glory days’) they face likely to believe they might have a shot at winning.

Cardiff deserved the win over 90 minutes yesterday. Johnson’s shot off the bar apart, Liverpool created little for their expected dominance in possession. Kenny Miller played well, and is unfortunate to have to remember the final for a missed penalty and chance to win the game in the final minutes of normal time.

For many Liverpool players this should be the end of the road. The situation with Carragher is an interesting one. Having suffered lengthy setbacks when he was younger, he spent a lot of time resting when others were straining themselves to break into Premiership teams.

He could well play for another four years. That may end up being away from Liverpool. While he would be an invaluable squad member, his defensive response to Andy Burton’s question on Sky as to whether this was ‘farewell’ showed a man who is contemplating a future away from Anfield.

The most batshit crazy face award goes to....

Given a regular run of games with the backing of their manager, Skrtel (my man of the match yesterday) and Agger have excelled. Question marks over Agger’s fitness will remain, but the two could be a first choice pairing for years to come, with big things hoped for from Seb Coates leaving little room for Carra.

Her may stay, tempted to move into a part-time coaching capacity. But his eagerness to be second in line to lift the trophy behind Gerrard betrayed the actions of a man who may cause problems should he stay past his sell-by date. Will Skrtel and Agger appreciate being bossed around by Carragher for much longer?

His experience is huge, and he’s a player to admire. But if he’s not first choice it becomes harder for surrounding players to bite their tongue.

He’ll also be a big wage earner. A chance to cut that from the wage bill for a man who would most probably move for lesser wages if it meant a regular game, could be tempting.

Dirk Kuyt should go this summer. Although his goalscoring potential never quite materialised at Merseyside, he has been deployed as a workhorse midfielder rather than a striker for most of his career and should be remembered fondly for that.

Big games often proved his making and winners over Everton and a hat-trick in the 4-1 demolition of Man Utd will ensure he is remembered fondly. But he carries too little threat when it’s 0-0 with 70 minutes gone and Liverpool are trying to break down a stubborn defence.

Wingers and pace are crucial and given that Liverpool’s full-backs are good going forward, but neither particularly pacy, the ball is too often slowed down when Kuyt finds it on the right.

As for the newbies, Henderson was poor, Carroll was average and Downing was bright (albeit once again against lower league opposition). Henderson is young, England U-21 captain and I think will be a good player. A year bedding in with a team of which much is expected in a different style of play has proved difficult. But he is also struggling to find his best position.

Carroll has shown enough in recent weeks to suggest his best has yet to come. He will never be worth £35m. Never. But he may well be worth keeping hold of. Downing remains the most disappointing signing of the season and needs a strong finish to the season now he has no excuse not to be confident.

Bellamy was a sub, but his post-match comments were worth the wait alone. He clearly buys into the ethos Dalglish is trying to set at the club by welcoming a new trophy, but insisting it’s the least Liverpool should aim for. And he’s right. The return of a trophy is important (ask Arsenal would they like one) but the club needs more changes and to finish a rotten season on a positive note.

A win against Arsenal on Saturday is crucial and well within the grasp of this team. And an FA Cup not an impossibility. Could be a decent return from a season that resembled a car crash this time a month ago.

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