Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

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

November 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Crystal Palace makes it 30 league games directly before or on 29 October in which Liverpool are unbeaten.

When watching Liverpool demolish West Brom in 2013, days before my 29th birthday, I decided to investigate when we’d last lost a game before or on my birthday (October 29).

The reason being, a defeat tends to put me in a foul mood and I couldn’t remember a time when a birthday had been spoiled by a defeat.

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

At which point I looked at the previous season’s fixture and saw we’d drawn 2-2 with Everton in 2012 (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 the league game before or on my birthday was when a Mike Newell hat-trick saw Luton ‘snatch’ a 4-1 victory on 25 October, 1986 (some videos below).

Since then, Liverpool have won 25 games and drawn five of the 30 league games directly preceding or on 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.

In fact, of any of the cup games directly before October 29, Liverpool have lost just two of their 14 games since that league defeat to Luton (Arsenal and Palace the winners in 2009 and 2005 respectively).

Liverpool’s win over Spurs on Wednesday night means we’ve won the last four since a defeat to Arsenal in October 28.

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

Tom’s birthday fixtures:

  • Crystal Palace 2 Liverpool 4; October 29, ’16 (Can, Lovren, Matip, Firmino)
  • – CUP: Liverpool 2 Spurs 0; October 25, ’16 (Sturridge x 2)
  • – CUP: Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0; October 28, ’15 (Clyne)
  • Liverpool 1 Southampton 1; October 25, ’15 (Benteke)
  • – CUP: Liverpool 2 Swansea 1; October 28, ’14 (Balotelli, Lovren)
  • Liverpool 0 Hull 0; October 25, ’14
  • 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)
  • – CUP: Stoke 1 Liverpool 2; Oct 26, ’11 (Suarez x 2)
  • Liverpool 2 Blackburn 1; Oct 24, 2010 (Kyrgiakos; Torres)
  • – CUP: Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1; Oct 28, ’09 (Insua)
  • 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)
  • – CUP: Liverpool 4 Reading 3; Oct 25, ’06 (Fowler, Riise, Paletta, Crouch)
  • Liverpool 2 West Ham 0; Oct 29 ’05 (Alonso; Zenden)
  • – CUP: Crystal Palace 2 Liverpool 1; Oct 25, ’05 (Gerrard)
  • 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.

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

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.”

Booing Evra (Let’s all calm down)

January 29, 2012 4 comments

The unfortunate thing about racism being a dominant theme in the media at the moment means that more and more incidents are set to occur like the man arrested for apparently making monkey chants at Evra on Saturday.

If he did, he’s an idiot. But the fact that he’s so focused on an opposition player (or fan) when everyone around him is focused on football, is indicative of an idiot regardless.

People who relish the abuse between fans more than a cup game with their biggest rivals are a strange breed who shouldn’t be allowed to tar all football fans with the ‘racist’ tag that’s being thrown about at the moment.

Liverpool fans 'abuse' Evra (Pic: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian)

But the criticism of booing (by people including PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor) is a joke. Liverpool fans aren’t booing Evra because they’re racist. They’re booing him because he plays for a team they hate and not only did the murky racist affair end with their star player being banned, but last time Evra was at Anfield he was kissing his badge, blowing kisses at the crowd and feigning injury (all shown in the video below) and waving imaginary yellow cards (for a dive by Downing which should also have been a booking).

Evra led the French team on a strike on what should be the world’s greatest stage, the World Cup. He regularly makes comments about ex-teammates and opposition clubs (as is his right). Evra shouldn’t be vilified for the colour of his skin but as an opposition player, booing is surely fair game.

And the ‘abuse’ Evra suffered at Anfield is the same ‘abuse’ Gerrard gets taking a corner at Old Trafford and the same ‘abuse’ Suarez will suffer in every ground from now on.

Let’s not kid ourselves here that Evra is a victim, full stop, and that booing him is a ‘disgrace’ as so many rent-a-pundits opined over the weekend. Evra’s no angel and he had his part to play in the racism incident. Both by starting it by insulting Suarez, and then complaining that Suarez called him a n*****. He didn’t.

And before I start getting abuse of my own – Suarez deserved his ban. Primarily for referring to Evra’s skin colour, but also because he blatantly lied to the FA’s commission. To say he patted Evra on the head and pinched his skin in a ‘conciliatory’ manner, was nonsense. He was trying to wind him up, and he was trying to get Evra to lash out. Both were obvious when watching the game. Had he said to the commission, “I was trying to wind him up, the same way he tried to wind me up by insulting my sister”, he would have been a reliable and accurate witness. The rest was a farce.

For the Anfield crowd to call Evra a liar doesn’t seem to me to be that big a deal. They’re defending their star player who got banned for 8 games for racism by a panel who found he wasn’t racist. Booing is more than acceptable, abuse isn’t. There were the usual stupid chants by both fans according to witnesses on Saturday, but little more when it came to Evra (bar, it seems, the idiot we’ve talked about).

Man Utd fans criticising the supposed ‘abuse’ of their left-back should probably hold their tongues. In less than two weeks  Old Trafford will be the venue for Suarez v Evra and I fully expect around 60,000 fans to be booing the Uruguayan. With justifiable cause. And presumably calling him a racist. With less justifiable cause.