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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.

Tevez says sorry – advantage Fergie

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Ooh, Fergie’s gonna have be chuckling away to himself at this one. When in doubt, don’t bring in/back a hothead striker who may screw things up for you.

Tevez: The Lying King

Kevin Keegan knows that. I know that. You know that. The fact that Carlos Tevez has said sorry because he’s been fined about £16.2 million shouldn’t change that.

Maybe Mancini will keep him on the bench for the rest of the season and throw him a bone (sorry) in games they’re winning comfortably. But this is all going to give Fergie the chance to say, well, I wouldn’t have done it…wonder what the boy Dzeko makes of it sitting on the bench…won’t be long before he’s managing the club…etc etc.

Not sure it’s the right move. Quality player. But Aguero is a similar, better quality player. Tevez may settle back in and if he were to say, shoot Man City to the win over Utd in the league, it will be a masterstroke. But I don’t like it. Tevez has been on strike because he didn’t fancy coming on in a game/ the way the manager spoke to him.

That’s not good enough.

Here’s what he said: “I wish to apologise sincerely and unreservedly to everybody I have let down and to whom my actions over the last few months have caused offence. My wish is to concentrate on playing football for Manchester City Football Club.”

Well, someone said it on his behalf is what I meant there. He still doesn’t speak English does he? I mean give the guy a chance, he’s only been in England six years.

Am I being too hard on him? I don’t think so. Even if he’d come back, tail between the legs and apologised two weeks ago you might think there was contrition there and he’d learned some sort of lesson. But he criticised his manager in an interview instead. Just before returning?

This isn’t contrition. This is greed/boredom/building up for his customary summer pining for anywhere but England. Sooner he’s gone the better.

I (don’t) wanna hold your hand.

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Everyone from Liverpool has apologised in what appears to be the first move by the US owners to put this sorry Suarez issue to bed.

Suarez. A bit mental.

The apologies came after another weekend in which the media has gone to town on Liverpool. Jonathan Norcroft’s comments in The Sunday Times are phenomenal. The Liverpool fans who accuse media, the FA – and anyone else who condemns Suarez  – of bias are a joke, but some of the comments again this weekend will only fan the flames.

Norcroft: “Ah Suarez, South America’s greatest charmer since General Pinochet.” And: “Evra helped nobody with a post-match celebration that took him close to Suarez but it was hardly the same as racial abuse.”

Hmmm. A missed handshake is hardly worth mentioning in the same sentence as a mass torturer and killer. And Evra’s match celebration took him close to Suarez? The celebration was as obvious an attempt to gauge a reaction from Suarez as the initial incident between the two.

And Ferguson’s comments were also a disgrace. Stating that Suarez could have caused a riot because of a missed handshake? The only way a riot was starting was on the back of Evra’s inflammatory celebrations. And his statement that Suarez should never play for Liverpool again was apalling, coming from a man who has defended actions from Cantona attacking a fan to any of the combined incidents from players in Saturday’s lineup from Giggs to Ferdinand to Rooney.

There will be no apology from United for any of the above. And you can’t blame them for that. Their reputation soars every time Liverpool’s gets damaged each week. Evra was waiting for Suarez’ hand before accepting it. Gamesmanship that, like Ferguson’s comments, are easy to get away with because Utd’s actions aren’t under scrutiny here. Again, despite Evra being an odious character himself, his own actions will go completely unpunished by club, FA or media.

Evra: "I wanna hold your hand". Suarez: "Nah you're alright thanks Pat"

Suarez is an idiot though. He doesn’t have to like Evra. He’s been slandered across the world by people queuing up to call him a racist due to their spat. He’s missed out on 8 games for his club for something he feels aggrieved about.

But not only did his actions cause further embarrassment for the club, they put Liverpool under more pressure in the game. They were under massive pressure throughout against a riled-up team. Suarez’ own performance was poor and emulated in each Liverpool player.

As for Dalglish, I started to feel a resignation was coming today. He has been badly let down by Suarez saying he would shake Evra’s hand only to refuse to do so. And his comments generally appear ill-informed in the face of the media’s glare.

I feel sympathy for him at the same time. What he is trying to do in turning Liverpool into a fortress is the right thing to do. The club has been a soft touch for too long now and Ferguson is the perfect example of someone who turned his club into an ‘us against the world’ mentality.

Few people like Ferguson. But the fans don’t care. Once Utd win he can continue being a bully, who peddles abuse of officials from the sidelines every weekend. Dalglish is a warmer character, but maybe this weekend he’ll have learned that he needs to emulate Ferguson’s ability to ensure he knows everything going on about every issue within the club.

When Geoff Shreeves mentioned the handshake I think Dalglish betrayed genuine surprise. He glances to his left, potentially at a club official, and goes straight onto the defensive. Ferguson would have had his words planned beforehand.

However the apology below, along with that of Ayre and Suarez will hopefully be the end of this. However the initial reaction on Twitter from journos was that ‘it should’ve been done with ages ago’ and ‘too little-too late’. Don’t expect this saga to end till one, or both, of Suarez and Dalglish departs the club.

Dalglish: “To be honest, I was shocked to hear that the player had not shaken hands having been told earlier in the week that he would do. But as Ian said earlier, all of us have a responsibility to represent this club in a fit and proper manner and that applies equally to me as Liverpool manager.

“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”

Liverpool 1 Sunderland 1

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

All the debate post match here has been about the yellow card shown to Kieran Richardson for the last-man foul on Suarez early in the game.

Suarez missed a penalty but scored minutes later

Dalglish got it right at the start when he talked about how no-one wants to see a guy given a red card that early in the game (season) and in truth it makes a sort of sense. Had Suarez buried the penalty Liverpool could have strolled it and there would not have been a reason to look at the incident as a talking point.

Personally feel that Suarez, unlike Steve Bruce’s claim, had timed his run around the keeper perfectly, would have scored and was thus denied a legitimate goalscoring position by the foul. Did Richardson know what he was doing with the foul? Probably, but the slightest contact at full tilt was always going to send Suarez to ground, legitimately, as a tangle of legs ensues once one foot stops doing what it’s supposed to with a trip.

 

(Courtesy of Sky Sports. Video from YouTube)

That said, a yellow card and a penalty is probably the right call for the good of the game, depending on how blatant it is. Had Richardson taken Suarez  down nearer to the half way line with a clear run on goal looming ahead of the Uruguayan a red would have been justified. However Richardson did attempt to match him for pace, and did reasonably well. Once the keeper closes the striker down and the defender is back far enough to make a difference, the incident gets downplayed to a yellow in my opinion.

The £16 million pound question

The rest of the game was both satisfying and worrying for Liverpool fans. Downing and Adam looked bright, and perhaps more of a talking point was Carroll’s strike being wrongly ruled out for a push that was barely evident. How Jordan Henderson fits into the team is more of a question mark. This is a player who was called up for England in the first half of last season before being dropped by Steve Bruce when his performances dipped. He’s also not had a full summer break, having played for England u-21s in their Euro 2011 tournament, where he failed to shine.

Gerrard will (presumably) eventually return to full fitness, while Raul Meireles, if he stays at Anfield, will expect a place and generate more of a threat going forward. Once again it seemed as if Liverpool were in decent control of the game with few Sunderland chances, but it is breaking teams down as Ashley Young just did for Manchester United that will prove crucial.

Dirk Kuyt ended the season in good goalscoring form but is not a right-winger and Dalglish seems to realise that pace is needed for Liverpool when going forward. Kuyt will have a role, potentially in more defensive formations against the bigger teams, but Meireles and Gerrard may be needed to break down weaker opponents at the expense of Henderson and Adam.

Chelsea and Arsenal both drew, getting Liverpool off the hook slightly, but both had away games. This should have been a banker for a strong Liverpool team aside from Gerrard, Johnson and Skrtel being absent. Arsenal next week shouldn’t be a crucial game but is, as the Gunners are struggling for morale and will be missing key players with Gervinho and Song expected to miss out through Joey Barton (or suspension as the FA will no doubt call it).

Expect a similarly attack-minded Liverpool team but fitness and the possible appearance of some new Arsenal players will no doubt have a bearing….

Qatar 2022: Pack your sunscreen.

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

FIFA provoked a media storm today when President Sepp Blatter announced the winners of the right to hold the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The announcement of Russia was, predictably, greeted with disbelief by English journalists and fans alike. However the announcement of Qatar as the host for 2022 whipped up a media frenzy which led to journalists, pundits and armchair fans tweeting furiously about the perceived injustice of it all.

Peek-a-boo.

The writing was on the wall before the 2018 announcement came through as Qatar officials were spotted doing a not-so-subtle round of hugs and kisses. Fortunately, before people start accusing the Qatar delegation of bribery or FIFA of corruption, Qatar has begun to develop relationships with some prominent leaders on the world stage. On February 24, 2010, Qatar and Iran signed a defense co-operation agreement in which the two countries stressed the need to expand their defense cooperation. Smashing. All good news so far. March 10, 2010. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani has given his support to Iran’s right to nuclear technology, and considers Iran’s nuclear project to be for peaceful nuclear energy purpose. Excellent. So from a political point of view, nothing to fear so far.

Temperatures? Well the average in June tends to be from a low of 27C to a high of 41C. So bring your sunscreen. Fortunately the chances of England or Ireland being in the final are slim so the average July temperature of a high of 46C is unlikely to affect us pasty west Europeans. Fifa president Sepp Blatter said of the decision: “We go to new lands. Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time so I’m a happy president when we talk about the development of football.”

Ah yes, the development of football. The criteria here seems to be to give it to nations that haven’t held it before. Which is ok when a country the size of Russia is awarded the rights to host the tournament. A population of 150 million in a country where football generates enormous interest means it should be held there. While the interest in Qatar may be high, the population of circa 1.4 million is not. Under Qatar’s Sharia Law, it is illegal to show alcohol or be drunk in public. Which means football fans will go from vodka for breakfast in 2018 to jail in 2022. Quite how football fans and Qatar will mix is anyone’s guess. The country has time to get infrastructure right, but that’s about it.

As for Russia, the Champions League final  between Man Utd and Barcelona, held in Moscow was a success in 2009, despite people’s misgivings. Another advantage is the country boasts an impressive football pedigree and will field a team capable of winning the competition on home soil, Qatar’s only chance of reaching a World Cup was through hosting it. Russia has impressive stadia and money to develop it further. Russian influence in football matters is growing, this writer is happy to see them stage it in what could be a fantastic tournament.

FIFA come out of this looking exceptionally bad. As do SkySports who immediately set about suggesting that the BBC’s Panorama cost England the chance to stage the 2018 competition. It’s doubtful, especially when England were out of the running early on. The BBC’s recent Panorama investigation – broadcast on Monday – accused three Fifa executive committee members of accepting “corrupt” payments and alleged that Fifa vice-president Jack Warner attempted to supply ticket touts.

What this has proved is that FIFA is potentially rotten. Fans are completely out of touch with the governing body, unlike other sports, like rugby and American football, in which progress is made to attract new supporters all the time. This blog has written about football dying while policy makers believe they’re ruling from thrones. Today proved it. Good luck to Qatar, it is hard to say what will happen as the event is 12 years away, but it is hard to see a situation where the majority of football fans are the real winners in 2022.

And the Balloon d’Or goes to…..

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes the list doesn’t contain any English men. Few would even be considered. Yes Messi won it last year. But yes, he will win it again this year. Let’s just refresh your memory about what he’s been up to recently.