When Manchester United won the EFL cup with a lucky* 3-2 win against Southampton, Liverpool fans gnashed their teeth and made room on the the winner’s podium for their greatest foe.
Before Manchester United won the season’s first tin pot, Liverpool were, according to the club’s twitter bio, ‘England’s most successful club with 41 major honours’. Todays win was Man United 41st title. And rather than being ‘England’s joint most successful club’, Liverpool just removed all reference to their haul.
*It was lucky. I’m a big football fan. But the game is hideously flawed, corrupt and founded on greed. Fighting Southampton scored a perfectly good goal that for specious reasons was not given. It should have been the game’s opening goal. As Gary Neville opined from the commentary box that United hard endured ‘three hard years’ since Alex Ferguson’s retirement, a Crystal Palace supporting friend of mine noted, “Nothing worse than losing at Wembley to a club for whom the trophy is just a consolation prize.”
Today was a big deal for Southampton. They and their fans deserved better.
What are we to make of Liverpool Football Club’s ban on Sun journalists attending matches in an official capacity and press conferences? The Sun is also banned from conducting exclusive interviews with Liverpool FC managers or players.
The ban is rooted, of course, in the Sun’s infamous front-page coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which the paper amplified the State’s and the police’s lies that the 96 people killed at the match were architects of their own demise. The dead were framed and defiled when the media and police colluded in the State’s assault on football fans.
A spokesman for Total Eclipse of the S*n – the group states ‘It is our belief that the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster should never be forgotten. It is our belief that The Sun newspaper should never be forgiven’ – tells the Liverpool Echo: “Further to conversations with LFC directors we are happy to inform you that S*n journalists are no longer enjoy access to all club premises.”
The Sun behaved badly. But did we swallow its lies? Did we believe the police? Did the ‘working class scum stuffed into cages’ by the State, paying for a “slum sport watched by slum people in slum stadiums” take it as fact that police had been urinated on, the dead had been robbed and the Liverpool fans were guilty?
In 2012, a Guardian its told readers:
There is no bitterness on my part that the public took 23 years to wake up to our nightmare. Their ignorance was their faith in the media and in the police. This has suffered a huge blow and the fact surely cannot go unnoticed by Lord Justice Leveson. I also hope, as a southerner, that the people of Liverpool will no longer be subjected to the lazy, callous stereotypes peddled off the back of the Sun’s lies.
Lies become reasons for censorship and to slap the tabloids down. Tabloid readers must be protected from their own ignorance. And – irony of ironies – the Guardian is happy for the State to police the liars it fed. Hillsborough did not happen in a bubble. The Sun was appalling but it did not have a hand in the killing. It did not send for the dogs instead of the ambulances. It was not the coroner declaring people dead before they were dead.
The deaths were accidental. But they were the result of a top-down policy that portrayed and treated football fans as scum.
Margaret Thatcher’s Government wanted fans – what one Tory called “the yob class” – to carry ID cards. (One doctor present at Hillsborough said the only difference ID cards could have made that day was to make it easier to identify the young corpses.) In June 1986, Thatcher gave ‘thanks to the police’ for ‘bringing good behaviour and good crowd behaviour to football over this last year’. Baron Peter Hill-Naugton, admiral of the fleet, said football was “a slum game played by louts in front of hooligans”. Football fans were the Untermenschen on which all new methods of control could be tested. The police and State presented football as a public order issue.
One week after the horror The Economist told readers that the ‘common view’ of football was of a sport ‘irredeemably tied to the old industrial north, yobs and slum cultures of the stricken inner cities – everything, in fact, that modern Britain aspires to put behind it.’
Knowing that Hillsborough happened in the context of so many wrongs, you still want the State and its police force to control the Press, to dictate the message?
Have the elites apologised for demonising football fans? Did you think it odd that the United Nations – no kidding – voiced its worry when Chelsea fans stopped a black man from boarding a train in Paris? On the day that story broke, the Guardian produced nine stories on it. One of the Guardian’s myriad reports on the nastiness said it was typical of football and football fans because it’s ‘all about feeling that you’re part of one group and are opposed to another group, [which is] the mentality of the racist’.
Bash the Sun by all means but ask yourself what’s changed? Why are football fans still treated as suspects?
In 2012, the Sun apologised for its ‘blackest day’. But it failed to put the results of the inquest into the disaster that cleared the dead of blame on the front page. The victims had been “unlawfully killed”. A mere 27 years of campaigning for justice by their families, the victims had been forced to prove their innocence. Hideous. They still await justice in any true sense of the word. All the dead, the injured, the hurt and their loved ones got was to see the police lies demolished in a court of law. Time ticks on and still no-one has been placed in the dock.
As we await justice, maybe Liverpool FC should ban the police and all politicians from the ground, the people who ask not what they can do for Hillsborough but what the disaster can do for them? Maybe Liverpool should ban the Sun’s publisher’s, too? That would mean banning News Corp., the company that owns 39.1% of BSkyB, which in February 2015, successfully bid £4.2bn for a package of 120 premier league games across the three seasons from 2016. News Corp wants to take control of BSkyB. If it does, will Liverpool ban it, too?
Banning the Sun is easy. It costs nothing. Banning the cameras costs big.
A Sun spokesperson has responded to the ban: “The Sun and Liverpool FC have had a solid working relationship for the 28 years since the Hillsborough tragedy. Banning journalists from a club is bad for fans and bad for football.”
Banning things is par for the course at football grounds today. Don’t sing that. Don’t stand up. Put that down. The cages are gone but the fans are watched even more closely.
The Sun newspaper is not popular among Liverpool fans. The Sun’s chief football reporter Neil Ashton noticed that Liverpool’s Adam Lallana has been voted the best player in the England team.
The Liverpool playmaker polled 39% of votes from members of the England Supporters Club. He was a clear winner, beating Jamie Vardy (12%) and Wayne Rooney (8%) into second and third places, respectively.
So what did the Sun’s man in the know have to say about the likeable Liverpool player?
He mocked him. “It’s like Iceland never happrned,” tweeted Ashton.
England lost 2-1 to Iceland at the European championships – a game in which Lallana was an unused substitute.
Such are the facts.
When is it safe to write off Liverpool’s Premier League chances?
Jeremy Cross tells Daily Star readers that Jurgen Kloop ‘doesn’t deserve the sack’. Who said he was being sacked? Liverpool are fourth in the Premier League – two points off second place and 10 points from the top. They made it to the semi-finals of the EFL Cup. Last season, Liverpool finished runners-up in the EFL Cup and the Europa League.
Liverpool are one point behind Tottenham, of which the Star wrote On January 24, Dele Alli is “the key to Tottenham winning the Premier League”.
Spurs on 46 points can win the title but Liverpool on 45 points are thinking of sacking their manager? That’s one hell of a big point.
‘Having lost twice to Southampton in the EFL Cup semi-finals, Klopp resembles a man on the run as the critics round on him.’
Liverpool fans might care to compare and contrast those words with Neil Ashton’s opinion of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, whose plucky side last night lost 2-1 to big-spending Hull City last night but still progressed to the EFL Cup final. Wrote Ashton of Mourinho four days ago.
‘He is back. Back to his old self. Back in the hunt for trophies. Back to his devilish, mischievous best. Focused, and firmly in control again, Mourinho is on to something good.’
Manchester United are four points behind Liverpool:
And there was Rio Ferdinand in the Daily Mirror:
“The next window is a big one for United in terms of getting players out and getting some in who will invigorate his squad and be able to carry out his methods. I like what Mourinho has done. He has shown again he is a top manager. We have seen with Pep Guardiola how difficult it is to get right…Jose is doing that really well.”
Chelsea fans might well scoff. Blues’ manager Antonio Conte is in his first season at the club. Chelsea are eight points clear at the top of the table. If Mourinho is doing really well in sixth, what’s Conte doing? Incidentally, Ferdinand said of Conte at the start of the season:
“Conte will need time to find his feet. I don’t think he will win the Premier League in his first season because he has a big job on his hands there.”
The Mirror also has a pop at Klopp., who has ‘run them into the ground’. ‘German’s training regime “too intense” say critics.’
In the Sun, the aforesaid Ashton says with Steven Gerrard back at Liverpool, Klopp’s days are numbered. ‘The problem will be when the people at Anfield start wondering out loud whether the iconic figure in the stands could do a better job than the fella currently in it,’ he writes.
To recap: Liverpool are in fourth place, two points off second spot, ahead of both Manchester United and Manchester City.
The Manchester United v Liverpool match was memorable for a number of things, according to the clickbait-mad Press.
The Mirror’s football expert learned “five things” from watching the game, one of which is that Paul Pogba’s “handball handed Liverpool the early advantage”. That was the handball that gave Liverpool a penalty kick, from which they scored their only goal of the game. David McDonnell leaned that. He also learned that Wayne Rooney got a yellow card and “Ibrahimovic keeps on scoring”, which he did when he scored United’s equaliser.
The Express also learned five things, one of which is, “Simon Mignolet put on a solid display.”
Coincidentally, the Sun also learned five things. Fred Nathan delivers his fistful of insight. He watched Pogba give away a penalty and learned that he “must not let silly mistakes creep into his game”.
In the Indy, which didn’t make enough money to remain as proper paper so went web only, there are just four things learned. But Fox News, which has oodles of money, learned seven things. Ryan Rosenblatt learned that when United and Liverpool drop points, their rivals are pleased. The other top sides “love this result” he learned.
But the prize for the biggest Clickbait Balls goes to the dire Daily Telegraph. The once great newspaper is now a clickbait factory. “Martin Tyler accused of ‘bias’ following Manchester United vs Liverpool commentary,” says the headline. It also says just that in the URL for the story:
So who accused Sky TV’s commentator of bias? Liverpool boss Jugen Klopp? Manchester Untied manager Jose Mourinho? Well, no. A clue to how the story was the product of the paper’s clickbait factory is in the now revised headline: “Liverpool fans round on Martin Tyler following Manchester United’s last minute equaliser at Old Trafford.”
They “rounded on” Tyler on Twitter. The Telegraph picks three tweets to back up its story, which beings: “Paranoid Liverpool fans are becomingly increasingly convinced that SkySports’ Martin Tyler is a secret Manchester United fan.”
Martin Tyler just called Zlatan: “THE TOWER OF POWER!” #MUNLIV
Still coming to terms with the fact Martin Tyler just called Zlatan the ‘Tower of Power’, since when has that been a thing?
Lest you think those “paranoid” Liverpool fans are just having a laugh and mocking Tyler’s absurd phrase, @Footy Humour tweets the third piece of evidence.
Martin Tyler: “Rooney here. Is it in the script? Is it in the stars?”
*Rooney gives away posession*
Martin Tyler: *silence*
The troubling thing is that the clickbait works. The story even the Telegraph recognised as bad enough to warrant a chance of headline (but not a change of URL) is the second biggest story on the paper’s website:
Such are the facts.
Media Balls: a look at biased football reporting. Did Sunderland deserve to draw 2-2 with Liverpool in the Premier League? Were Liverpool lucky?
Sunderland’s goals came via two very good penalties from Jermain Defoe.
The first Sunderland penalty:
Liverpool FC (official website): “But the Black Cats responded to the setback quickly and were awarded a penalty when Didier Ndong tumbled in the area under pressure from Ragnar Klavan and Wijnaldum.”
He wasn’t fouled. He tumbled.
Sunderland FC (official website): “Ndong was felled after he went through two Liverpool players.”
He was felled, like a blameless tree.
Liverpool Echo: “..a soft penalty when Ndong wasn’t going anywhere.”
Sunderland Echo: “Defoe levelled from the spot after Dider Ndong was brought down in the area”
The penalty that wasn’t given.
On 58 minutes the ball hit a Liverpool hand.
Sunderland (official website): “The referee waves play on despite strong appeals for a penalty. Replays show Januzaj’s cross did hit the arm of Can. That could so easily have been a penalty and probably should’ve been.”
No word on the incident on the Liverpool FC website.
Sunderland Echo: “Jermain Defoe the hero as he scores two penalties to earn his side a deserved point.”
Sunderland won a point!
The Guardian: “Liverpool drop two points as Jermain Defoe strikes twice from the spot.”
Liverpool lost two points by, er, winning one point.
Such a e the facts.
Never mind that Antoine Griezmann says he’s happy in Madrid with his new baby and wonderful life, the British Press have him packed and ready to join the Premier League very soon. France’s footballer of the year is on his way to, well, all the top clubs. Manchester United have £60m and Chelsea £50m and £90m for Atletico Madrid’s super striker, whose new contract set his transfer fee at a minimum of £86m.
News in the Guardian is that Manchester City also quite like Griezmann – and so do Arsenal. The BBC and Telegraph say that if Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez fail to get the £200,000 a week they each want to extend their current contracts and leave the Gunners, Arsenal will swoop for Griezmann by offering him less than the £200,000-a-week City, Chelsea or United would pay.
Should that cunning plan fail, Arsenal will go for Marco Reus or Julian Draxler, although the taller German (Draxler) has apparently agreed to join PSG in France’s Ligue 1. That doesn’t stop the Daily Star says Draxler is on his way to Liverpool.
The tin lid is placed on this Transfer Balls by news that the source for the BBC, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian scoop on Griezmann and Reus being watched by Arsenal is Squawka, a blog whereon we read not a single fact to support the story that Arsenal want either player.
Such are the facts.
Transfer balls: Manchester United’s Rashford To West Ham; Payet to Arsenal; Draxler to Liverpool; Virgil to Manchester City?
West Ham United are, says the Daily Telegraph, keen to transfer Manchester United squad members Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford to their goal-shy team. It’s an “ambitious” bid, says the paper. No kidding.
Failure to lure either of them to London will mean West Ham turning to – deep breath – Sassuolo’s Grégoire Defrel, Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi and Porto’s Laurent Depoitre. Yeah, pretty much anyone who can score a goal is on West Ham’s radar.
The Express says West Ham will make space for any of the above by getting shot of six players, including loan strikers Simon Zaza (loaned from Juventus) and Ashley Fletcher (Manchester United). One player not leaving is Dimitri Payet. Or as the Star puts it: “JOSE’S PAYET RAID – United boss in fight with old foe Wenger”. Will Payet leave West Ham for Arsenal or head to Manchester United in a deal involving Marital or Rashford?
In other Manchester United transfer news, the Mirror says Benfica’s Swedish defender Victor Lindelof could be heading to Old Trafford for £37.8million. If he arrives, Chris Smalling will leave United, says the Express. Smalling will be beaten to the United exit by Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Scheweinsteiger.
Away from United, the Guardian says Arsenal are keen on Valencia’s super-fast left-back José Gaya.
The Mirror says Liverpool are looking to sign Manchester City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart. The Times says the Reds are also keen on Wolfsburg’s Germany midfielder Julian Draxler but face competition from PSG and, of course, Arsenal, who seem to have been chasing the player for every one of his 23 years.
The Mail says Manchester City will offer £50m for Southampton Virgil van Dijk. There have been “discreet talks” between the clubs, says the Mail all over its back page. The Dutchman is “aware of City’s interest”.
How was the Liverpool derby? Liverpool won the match 0-1 thanks to very late goal from Sadio Mane. The Liverpool Echo says it was terrific.
As Everton’s shell-shocked players trudged off at the end of another crushing derby defeat some of the home fans offered a ripple of polite applause. They felt as though they should show their appreciation for the effort the Blues had put into a blood and thunder game…
The Daily Mirror’s David Maddock watched a different performance:
Yet the problem with the skillful yet sanitised world of the Premier League, is the lack of blood and thunder, even when things get gritty and dour. Just look at Everton’s performance in this contest…
He adds that “despite the obvious drama of that injury time winner… so little came before it.” It was pretty dull.
But in the Express, Gideon Brooks likens the match to a “battlefield”. The mood in the arena was “ferocious”. Neil Squires say the foreigners in both sides felt “the primal pull” the match delivers.
In the the Star, Chris McKenna watched “tackles flying in from all angles”.
Martin Samuels tells Mail reader this was a”full-blooded derby”. Although “it wasn’t much cop” and “failed to deliver excitement”. Liverpool were “tame”. Ian Ladyman says the match was “lacking in substance”.
Not so says Phil Thomas in the Sun. It was “explosive.” To illustrate the point the paper zooms in on Ross Barkley’s tackle on Jordan Henderson. Although, it was, says Thomas, “one of the few few moment that genuinely got the blood up”.
As for the foul, what say the clubs’ official websites?
Everton: “Tempers frayed after Barkley went in on Henderson and was booked for his troubles.”
Liverpool: No word.
To conclude: it was explosive, full of the bloody and thunder, lacking in blood and thunder and dull.
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville – “I suppose it came from jealousy through my childhood – jealousy, hatred, passion for your own club. You don’t want them [Liverpool] to win anything” – has been criticising Loris Karius, the Liverpool goalkeeper. Neville – “I can’t stand Liverpool and everything to do with them” – says Karius “transmits anxiety”. According to Neville – in October 2006, he celebrated a Man United goal against Liverpool at Old Trafford by running up towards the away fans to celebrate wildly on his own – Karius is untrustworthy and unreliable. “Karius] isn’t good enough,” says Gary Neville.
Karius heard the attack and thought it unfair. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Karius said of Neville: “He was a top player, then he was a manager for a short bit and now he is back to being an expert again… But he is always very critical. I think he does it to everyone. I just hope that when I do well he will comment on that. We will see in the future.”
Compared to Neville’s diatribe, Karius comes across as sober. But Neville can’t leave it there. He tweets: “My sincere apologies Karius. You’re right. A failed manager hasn’t a clue. I won’t copy your great fan, pundit and club legend again. ”
The “club legend” is Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher, who has also been critical of Karius, albeit in more measured tones. The difference between Carragher and Neville is that one pundit wants the best for Liverpool and one does not.
Karius’s errors are inevitable. The trick is to focus on what went wrong and seek to improve. Neville’s criticism comes across as kneejerk. It offers no scope for improvement only a wall of negativity. Neville has been a fine pundit, but might his dislike of Liverpool have clouded his view of the Liverpool goalkeeper to a degree that rather than investigating the cause he’s simply taking pleasure in the player’s mistakes and nerves? His sarcastic response to Karius’ response suggests as much.
When Bournemouth beat Liverpool 4-3 in the Premier League, the winning goal came via the slippery hands of Reds’ goalkeeper Loris Karius, who spilled the ball into the path of a grateful Nathan Aké.
Speaking to TalkSport, Bournemouth’s Steve Cook was asked if the home side has targeted Karius. “I’ve got to be honest, we did,” said Cook. “We felt he was under a lot of pressure – obviously, playing for Liverpool you’ve got to be a very strong character. We did target him, we tried to pressure him and get as many shots at him as possible. Obviously, we didn’t get that many shots off in the game but we did target him as a weakness in the Liverpool side.”
Sounds entirely sensible. Bournemouth identified a weakness and with skill and purpose exposed it. They sought signs where the underdog could beat the bigger, richer team. But Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is aghast. He says Cook’s comments ahow a lack of “respect”.
“Actually, that’s one of the worst things I ever heard in my life,” he said. “I am really looking forward to playing Bournemouth again because of this.”
And so a great rivalry is born: Liverpool and Bournemouth.
Of course, Klopp knows Karius is not the finished product. Liverpool coaches will be analysing weaknesses and attempting to turn them into strengths. It won’t happen overnight. It will happen little by little. The errors will stop occurring, or at least become less frequent. From failure, Karius can learn and work hard to improve his performance.
Rather than grow prickly over Cook’s words, Klopp might thank him for helping Karius and Liverpool develop a strategy for doing things better.
But Klopp hasn’t stopped talking. He has more to say of the ‘keeper he bought from Mainz and promoted to Liverpool’s first choice. “If they thought before the game that Loris Karius is a weakness then I don’t know which game they were looking at,” he says.
Perhaps he should ask Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, whose analysis seems so astute.
Hard cheese, Arsenal. The Mirror leads not with the Gunners’ terrific 4-1 win over Basel, a win that means Arsenal top their Champions’ League group, but with news that Liverpool have inserted an “anti-Arsenal clause” in Roberto Firmino’s new contract.
Why Arsenal would want the Brazilian is moot. The Mirror just says that if they do, they need to pay more than any other club. Any club coughing up the absurd sum of £82m for Firmino can have him – “BUT NOT YOU ARSENAL.” The story is that Firmino’s release clause can be trigged by any club except Arsenal.
Should Arsenal be mad enough to off £82m for Firmino, Liverpool will point to player’s contract and tell them to come back with bigger offer. Maybe they can add a quid. Firmino’s contract, reasons the paper, is “revenge” for when Arsenal triggered Luis Suarez’s release clause with a bid of £40m and one pound. The Mirror adds that the Arsenal bid was made in the “mistaken belief that it would activate his release clause”.
Not quite. It did trigger the clause. But Liverpool didn’t honour it.
“I don’t know to what degree I should go into this – but [Suarez] had a buy-out clause of £40m,” said Liverpool owner John Henry. “But what we’ve found over the years is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually not in England, in world football. It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving. We sold Fernando Torres for £50m. We didn’t want to sell but we were forced to. For the first time [with Suarez] we took the position that we weren’t selling.”
So Firmino’s release clause is utter balls, then.
Such are the facts.
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was taken from the Anfield pitch on a stretcher, his leg in a brace. How bad is the injury to Liverpool’s best player? One expert decides it’s best just to guess.
On the BBC website, former Arsenal ‘rash’ Martin Keown says it could be a really bad injury. Or maybe it isn’t. Lest anyone think Keown a medial genius who can diagnose an injury from hundreds of miles away, he tells us that he’s “speculating”.
The Guardian is unsure what to make of what “appeared a serious ankle or foot injury”.
ESPN observes: “Philippe Coutinho was withdrawn in the first half with an injury to his lower right leg.”
The Liverpool Echo says his leg as in a “splint”. The Star say sit was in an “air cast”.
In the Express, James Cambridge ups the ante and says Coutinho has a broken foot – maybe.
Why does Cambridge think it’s a break? Well, he quotes a few tweeters who say they hope it isn’t a break. And he also quotes – yep – Martin Keown.
To put the tin lid on the Express’s utter balls, readers are told more about an injury to which Coutinho might not have succumbed :
Wayne Rooney was ruled out of the 2004 European Championships with a metatarsal injury and was sidelined for around two months.
The Manchester United captain has been plagued with metatarsal inuries [sic] and suffered his third in August 2007 and was out for six weeks.
David Beckham famously broke his metatarsal before the 2002 World Cup and was a major doubt for the tournament.
The final word is with someone who knows. Says Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “It [Philippe Coutinho’s injury] is an ankle injury but we can’t say anymore until we see a scan.”
Such are the facts.
Transfer Balls: Liverpool are ready to pick up the hotline to Southampton FC and buy two more Saints’ players. The Star leads with news that Liverpool have £40m to spend on Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and Sam McQueen.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, we read, is “confident” he can prise Van Djik away from the South Coast. Well, he has reason to fancy his chances. Southampton have been willing to sell lots of talent to Liverpool in the past few years – Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana are ex-Saints playing in the Liverpool first XI.
Oddly, the Star’s scoop contains not one single fact to support it.
And such is the way of Transfer Balls that when one newspaper says it, the others slavishly follow.
“LOYAL CUSTOMERS – Liverpool transfer news: Virgil van Dijk and Sam McQueen the latest Southampton players lined up by Reds,” says the Sun. “Jurgen Klopp believes the Dutch giant and classy full-back can help bolster the title-chasing Reds’ leaky defence.”
“Liverpool eyeing Sam McQueen swoop as Reds identify Southampton starlet as defensive target,” echoes the Mirror. The Mirror then guesses: “But they are unlikely to pursue a move for the defender until the summer, when he would become a free agent, after failing to agree a new contract with the south coast club.”
Will McQueen sign a new deal? The Southampton Echo wrote in October: “For McQueen, born and bred in Southampton as a Saints fan, it was an almost overwhelmingly emotional moment to play at St Mary’s.”
McQueen told the Southampton FC website: “…you learn quickly, and Southampton has been amazing with coaching me and teaching me through the years, and recently becoming a left-back, with the manager giving me little coaching points here and there, which have been fantastic. So I’ve been learning a lot and enjoying it a lot, but there’s plenty, plenty more to learn – I know that.”
So will another product of Southampton’s prolific academy leave the club? Maybe. What is clear is that Southampton are getting something right.
In August, Southampton’s academy hosted an experiment. Youth players were grouped not according to age group but by a measure of size and physical maturity. The idea is to counter the Relative Age Effect, “a phenomenon that suggests that athletes at elite level are more likely to be born in the first 3 months after the eligibility cut-off date for a particular age group in sports.” The bigger boys in a school year get picked for the team. The rest get downhearted and discarded.
Gareth Bale’s football teacher at Southampton, Malcolm Elias, told the Times: “He [Bale] was injured a lot and some coaches used to think he was soft. Lots of people questioned whether he wanted it badly enough. I said, ‘Get off his case. He’s a July birthday, is left-footed and can run for fun; what more do you want?’”
But what of money? “You see kids now getting all these things and demanding £50,000 a week,” says Elias. “He[Bale] came here on an ordinary scholarship. There was no haggling, no pro contract. The family was just delighted he was getting an extended opportunity. He was on £45 a week.”
Southampton call McQueen “an incredibly well-spoken young man”. Look at Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, two Southampton graduates sold for big money at a young age to Arsenal. Both speak well and can articulate their thoughts.
Matthew Syed says this is not an accident:
Southampton now have an educational and skills programme running alongside the usual academy functions. This is about building leadership qualities in their young players. They want their future stars to be involved in decision-making on training and rehab, to broaden their minds with education, to widen their social skills, rather than treating them like infants.
“If you want leaders on the pitch, you have to develop their qualities off the pitch,” Les Reed, the technical director, said. “In many academies, education is seen as a waste of time, a distraction from the game. We think that it is central to player development. We need England players who don’t crumble when they are on a big stage and go one-nil down.”
Technology is harnessed and deployed:
In the black box, Koeman can ask to see detailed footage and stats on any player in the world or at the club’s academy. The aim is to make sure that the manager does not need to spend money on a new player when they have one in the pipeline who fits the bill. The complex is shiny and lovely but the principles have been honed over many years. While Arsenal and Manchester United curse how many of their players pick up injuries, Southampton seem serenely to be at full strength. They realised, while at their lowest ebb, in League One, that they simply could not afford to let Lallana become injured, so they devised a way of making sure that all their resources went into making sure their talisman stayed fit.
Southampton aim not for one player to make it thought the ranks and into the first team, but for four or five to progress and play the ‘Southampton way’.
“Our academy vision is to produce a first team year-on-year made up of 50% Academy graduates who are world-class in their technical ability on the field and behaviours off the field competing on the European stage,” say Southampton.
It would be another blow for Saints fans to see McQueen leave. But the club is in great shape. Liverpool, Arenal and other clubs might care to spend less time looking at the end product and more at the process.
Football reporting wears the cloak of respectability. But in the 21st century, new organs use players to get clicks and earn cash. The sad thing is that the advert-free BBC is full of this balls. The Beeb has told us – and these five news items have all appeared over the past month:
Liverpool need to give playmaker Philippe Coutinho, 24, a new contract and pay rise to fend off interest from Barcelona.
The Reds are confident of keeping the Brazilian as the player does not have an buy-out clause in his contract.
Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, 24, wants to stay at Anfield despite reported interest from Barcelona, says his former youth coach.
Former Brazil striker Ronaldo is keen to see 24-year-old Liverpool and Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho at Real Madrid.
Liverpool are ready to offer Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho, 24, a new contract to fend off interest from Barcelona.
In all that time, amid all that utter tosh, the BBC has produced not a single word from Philippe Coutinho expressing any desire to play for any club but Liverpool. Today the BBC has more on one of the Premier League’s brightest talents.
Brazil international Coutinho, 24, has been influential in helping the Reds go top of the Premier League table… His form has led to links with Spanish sides Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Links made by the BBC.
Today Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp tells media firing question about Coutinho’s future: “We all hope and think his future is here at Liverpool. What everybody forgets about Phil is that he is still very young. At 24, he has a long way to go and lot of space for improvement.”
But: “At the end, it will not be money. If there is a club who can play double what we pay then I bring the player there. Who am I to say ‘no, don’t think about your family, kids, grandkids and all that stuff’. But I don’t know a lot of clubs in the world who can do this.”
And that’s the thing, no? The narrative of Coutinho’s departure to Spain continues in spite of any facts. It’s a media story only. Get this from former Liverpool defender and jobbing pundit Mark Lawrenson. He’s been talking to the Press Association:
“Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid to a certain degree, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are the clubs continually successful in Europe. You can’t keep those top players if those clubs come in for them.”
“I don’t think, apart from arguably Manchester City, anyone can stop them. The clever thing is to plan for it. Rather than say ‘Coutinho might be going, what are we going to do?’ you have something in place already.”
And this from former midfielder Xavi: “There are not many players that can improve Barcelona, but if you are asking me if he [Coutinho] is one of them.”
It’s a pincer movement of nodding heads opining on a man’s career and life to deadline and Barcelona stooges doing the same old trick of talking up a player they hope will join them. They negate the fact that at the heart of the chatter is a professional athlete who wants to do his best.
And they should ask themselves why just one season after Leicester City won the Premier League – a club whose turnover amounts to less than Manchester United’s kit sponsorship, who had won nothing of note in 132-years, and whose first XI were bought for less than one Paul Pogba – the talk is so little about glory and creating something new, exciting and unexpected. It’s about the same old teams winning at all costs.
The news media works in a pack. The BBC says Barcelona fancy Liverpool’s Phlippe Coutinho. The Beeb’s news is based on a reprot in the Liverpool Echo that Liverpool “need” to offer Coutinho, 24, a new deal to see off interest from Barcelona. The Echo says Coutinho to Barcelona is just a “rumour”, albeit one fuelled by the player’s friendship with Barcelona’s Neymar and Luis Suarez.
We read that Coutinho visited Suarez at the Barcelona team hotel in Manchester to collect tickets ahead of their Champions League clash at the Etihad. And there it is. To keep their best player, Liverpool need to be in the best competition. But having given air to the rumours, the Echo tells readers, “Coutinho has never shown any signs of agitating for a move away from Anfield.”
So where does the rumour come from? And it’s growing. The Metro says, “Luis Suarez and Neymar are speaking to Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho about Barcelona transfer.” Well, maybe. Maybe not. The source for that spot of room bugging is Sport, more of which later.
On October 31, the Sun told its readers: “Liverpool transfer news: Philippe Coutinho wants Barcelona move as Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain show interest.”
Having name-checked three of the wealthiest clubs in Europe, we’re interested to know how Coutinho expressed his desire to leave Liverpool and play for Barcelona? Over to Spanish newspaper Sport, then, which claims the Brazilian “tried to force a move to the Nou Camp in the last transfer window. His representatives apparently sounded out Barcelona over a transfer but Luis Enrique wanted to strengthen other positions instead.”
Sport reports: “He’s a player who has been liked by Barcelona for a long time and he’d love to wear the Blaugrana shirt.”
The reality is that Coutinho would like to play in Barcelona, where his style would fit in. His agents, Kia Joorabchian and Giuliano Bertolucci, sounded out the possibility last year, but Barça ruled out any deal due to the price and the fact they had other priorities. They consider his position well covered, but anything’s possible in the future.
Bit murky, no? No quotes from Liverpool, Barcelona or the player. But it’s enough for the Indy to declare: “Barcelona have made Philippe Coutinho their priority for next summer’s transfer window.” They read that in, yep, Sport.
It might be worth noting that Sports’ slogan is “Sempre amb el Barça”. The paper is printed in Barcelona.
On another note, the Times reports: “Liverpool sure Coutinho will not join Barcelona.”
Liverpool are confident of keeping Philippe Coutinho, despite the attentions of Barcelona, because their influential playmaker does not have an escape clause in his contract.
He’s contracted to Liverpool until 2020. The paper adds:
Coutinho’s eye-catching displays will be recognised by Liverpool should he maintain his high standards. Yet there are no plans in place to rip up his existing contract, which was agreed 18 months ago, and an extension would not necessarily safeguard his future.
Media Balls: a look at biased footballer reporting. Tonight Liverpool defeated Crystal Palace 4-2 in South London.
The Croydon Advertiser looks at the opening goal in the Premier League encounter:
Liverpool edged the opening stages and took the lead after 15 minutes through Emre Can’s close range finish, after a low delivery from Alberto Moreno. Palace fans in the Main Stand were furious with the assistant referee in front of them, as the left-back looked to have just been in an offside position on the far side.
He was onside.
The Liverpool Echo on the same move:
Predictably, the outstanding Philippe Coutinho was at the heart of it as he picked out Moreno’s run down the left. The Spaniard provided an inviting first-time cross and Can saw his low strike deflected past Steve Mandanda.
No word on any offside in the Liverpool newspaper.
What of the Palace equaliser?
The Croydon Advertiser:
But just under three minutes later and the Eagles were level, thanks to James McArthur. Reds defender Dejan Lovren looked to clear the danger on the edge of the box but sliced upwards, and McArthur nipped in to jump and beat onrushing goalkeeper Karius.
Palace were gifted an equaliser in shambolic circumstances.
There was no whiff of danger when Benteke flicked on Mandanda’s long punt. Matip played it across to Lovren, but under no pressure he produced a woeful backpass which McArthur seized upon. The Scotland international accepted the gift as he nodded over the advancing Loris Karius. It was Lovren’s fault but Karius didn’t exactly cover himself in glory as he bizarrely kept his arms by his side.
Did you spot the penalties not given?
Klopp’s men should have had a penalty when Ward handled Coutinho’s goal-bound header from Firmino’s cross. The defender’s intervention enabled Mandanda to tip it on to the post but the officials failed to spot the indiscretion.
The Advertiser has no word on that inciden , but does mention this one:
Palace felt they should have had a penalty after two claims within the same passage of play.
Zaha looked to have been clipped right on the edge of the area and went down – but he got up and delivered low for Benteke, who went ground under pressure, but referee Andre Marriner wasn’t interested and gave a corner.
What says the Echo about that?
Hearts were in mouths when Zaha twice took a tumble in the box, while Benteke also went down in a heap after a challenge from Matip. But to Marriner’s credit, he didn’t fall for any theatrics.
A penalty or acting? Lets see what a non-local source says:
Daily Telegraph: “Zaha had a good claim to a penalty when sent flying on the edge of the box by Lovren. And Benteke too looked to have been blocked by Matip.”
The Crystal Palace FC website:
It was all the home side during the first 20 minutes of the second half who also had three penalty appeals turned down…
Mentions of the penalty shouts on the official Liverpool FC website: none.
Such are the facts.
Liverpool FC transfer news now as the Reds line up a bid for Bury’s 15-year-old Emeka Obi, described in the Mail as a “promising 6ft 5in central defender”.
Obi will cost Liverpool a six figure sum, which could be anything from £100,000 to one pound short of a million. Bury have sensibly included in the agreement any ad-ons should Obi prove brilliant – or at least as good as John Stones – and worth tens of millions.
The Indy call Obi the “Most talented 15-year-old in the country”.
If he’s that good, why are Bury selling him for for so low a fee? Don’t they have ambition to make the player one of their own and see if he really can handle the pressure of being a regular starter in the first XI?
This is a clue. In January 2016, the Bury Times reported: “BURY have been hit with a winding up petition by HM Revenue and Customs following an unpaid £156,000 tax bill.” The bill was paid. The taxman was too quick off the mark. But it’s all about the money. A rich club like Liverpool can buy Obi not because he’s fantastic but because they can’t pass over the chance that one day he might be.
Expect to see Obi out on loan at lower league clubs very soon.
Last night Liverpool and Manchester United bored the watching public to their second 0-0 on Premier League history. Manchester United were unambitious, carrying 35% possession, their lowest total in a Premier League match since Opta began recording this data in 2003-04.
Jose Mourinho side have won their lowest points total after his first eight league games with a new club since his time with Uniao de Leiria (10 points).
The BBC say the game was “rubbish”.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says: “No one will show this game in 10 or 20 years.”
Chris Crocker adds: “Reality is if Van Gaal’s team had played like that every ‘expert’ would be slating him for weeks. Jose does it he is a genius.”
Not everyone. But some, yes.
This is what Neil Curtis said in the Sun on the morning of the big match:
JOSE MOURINHO is desperately trying to rid Manchester United of the memories from the Louis van Gaal era. That is why he will never serve up a borefest like the Dutchman with his much vaunted ‘philosophy’…
Mourinho is up for another tactical masterclass just like he delivered two years ago…
The Portuguese said: “Last season Liverpool vs United and Liverpool had 14 shots on target and United had one and the result was 0-1. I don’t think that is going to happen again.”
It didn’t. Last night United had one shot on target and failed to score. Under Van Gaal United player Liverpool four times in the Premier League. They won them all.
It’s all about Mourinho in the media. The BBC holds a debate on the United manager with itself:
“Is this a new United way?” asks the BBC. Yes there is, says the BBC.
How United fans will be thrilled by supporting a pragmatic team.
Says Jose Mourinho:
“I think was a positive performance. If you analyse the game see the reason why did it, playing Young and Fellaini. We had control of the game – there were two amazing saves by David de Gea it’s true but they were out of context. The reaction from their crowd was permanent disappointment. People expected us to come here and be really in trouble, which we were not.”
To recap: United were boring when they won at Liverpool with a philosophy; United are exciting and new when they draw 0-0 with a “masterclass” and a “new way”.
Still, at least Jose has won over the media. Van Gaal never did.
In readiness for Liverpool v Manchester United – now horribly billed ‘El Classico UK’ – the Sun’s Man Neil Custis is here to praise United boss Jose Mourinho.
‘JOSE MOURINHO is desperately trying to rid Manchester United of the memories from the Louis van Gaal era.”
He is? Under Van Gaal. United did pretty well against the Reds.
On the match Liverpool 1 – Manchester United 2, for example, Alan Shearer noted on Match of the Day: “United moved the ball quickly and they passed it well too – their one or two-touch football has clearly improved massively of late. But the most impressive part of their performance in the first 45 minutes at Anfield was their intensity when they did not have possession.”
Van Gaal’s record against Liverpool:
December 14th 2014
Manchester United 3-0 Liverpool
Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie
March 22nd 2015
Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
Juan Mata x 2
September 12th 2015
Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool
Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial.
January 17th 2016
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
United: W4 D0 L0 GF9 GA2
Liverpool: W0 D0 L4 GF2 GA9
The BBC said of the last encounter:
This was every inch a game between sides sitting sixth and ninth in the Premier League before kick-off.
This time round, Liverpool are fourth and United are seventh. But free football maestro Mourinho is here to enliven and thrill.
“That is why he [Mourinho] will never serve up a borefest like the Dutchman with his much vaunted ‘philosophy’.”
This is what Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has to say in the Times about when Mourinho’s Chelsea came to Anfield on April 27, 2014.
“I will never forget the way they played the game. It was very slow, they sat in. It was difficult to watch. Throw-ins, goal kicks, they were taking forever and that got everyone worked up in the stadium and it worked to their advantage because they got the result they came for — one that had a big impact on us not winning the league.
“It wasn’t a nice game to watch…”
Not boring. Just awful. Still, a win’s a win, right?
Ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United the temperature is being cranked up. In the Times, we read “Klopp antics are mocked by Mourinho”. The paper says United manager Jose Mourinho has “ridiculed” Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.
“I’m on the touchline to try to coach,” says Mourinho, who “then waved his arms in the air, mimicking Klopp”. “I’m not on the touchline . . . [doing this].”
This is Mourinho, of course, who makes a big play of not commenting on other teams and only ever talking about his players (Anorak ad passim).
Mourinho added to his pre-mach snark by wondering aloud if the game’s referee, Anthony Taylor, who lives a few miles from Old Trafford, would have a “a very good performance”. “I think Mr Taylor is a very good referee,” judged Mourinho, “but I think somebody with intention is putting such a pressure on him that I feel that it will be difficult for him to have a very good performance.”
In other ‘Look at me’ news, Mourinho manager talked about one of his player, albeit to blame the Press for Wayne Rooney’s poor form. “I think what hurt you could do, you did already,” Mourinho said. “I don’t think you can do more than what you did, so I think in this moment it is time for him to recover from what was done to him and the best place for him to do that is feeling like he feels at home here.”
All typical siege mentality stuff from Jose: insult your rival; question the referee’s abilities; blame everyone else.
And the Press love it.
One paper does lead with Klopp. The Star has the Liverpool manger sticking up for Mourinho.
It’s not hard to see which of Mourinho or Klopp is more worried.
Liverpool are keen to prevent the “too much, too young” culture that infects professional football by bringing a wage cap for younger players.
The Telegraph says Liverpool will not allow a footballer age 17 or under to earn more than £40,000 in their first season as a professional.
Too often players go off the rails when they are given the financial power that comes with being a professional footballer, and Liverpool are looking to try and reduce the risk of young and talented players going to waste.
The youngsters will be allowed to boost their salaries with performance-related bonuses and breaking into Under-23 and senior sides.
Is 40k too low? Too high? In 2016 the Daily Mail reported the average wages paid in British football.
Last season, first-team average salaries were around £1.7million a year
Average basic pay in the Championship was £324,250 per player per year
Figure dropped to £69,500 in League One and £40,350 in League Two
Would you prefer to earn £40,000 playing for Liverpool youth sides or the Plymouth Argyle first team in League Two?Should wages be more performance-related?
In 1960, Jimmy Hill was embarked on in his campaign to abolish the Football League’s maximum wage which stood then at just £20 a week. Hill won. A wage bill from August 17, 1960, shows that Liverpool’s Roger Hunt took home £22 after bonuses, tax and insurance. He’d go on to be part of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. What would he earn in these post-Bosman times?
In The Football Man, Arthur Hopcraft says such wages were “derisive in comparison with what could be earned by entertainers performing in front of much smaller audiences in, say, the theatre or cabaret… [and] small beer to what could be earned on the production lines of the country’s post-war, streamlined factories.”
Nowadays players earn a fortune. In 2009, Premier League clubs spent £1.2 billion on players’ wages in 2007-08, so passing he billion mark for the first time.
The game is rich with TV cash and owners’ money. But if the players don’t get the cash, who will? Will club owners use it to reduce ticket prices or pay dividends to shareholders?
Oliver Kay writes:
It is obscene, obviously, but it would be more obscene to see the money generated by the Premier League — whether through television, sponsorship or ticket sales — simply sit on the balance sheet as profits go up and up. Football clubs do not exist to make profit. They exist to give something back to communities. Unless the clubs’ intention is to give more and more back to the grassroots, which sadly seems unlikely, then it would be indecent to suggest that the benefit of this latest television deal would not be felt by the players.
He’s right. Footballers can get paid very well. But so do many other workers, top talents in their fields. Do we know what others earn a week, like TV’s Ant and Dec or a soap opera actor? Why do footballer always have their wages discussed in terms of what they earn a week?
The first thought on hearing a player’s weekly earnings is to measure it against your annual salary: why, that little bastard makes more in a week than I do in a year.
The second reason is snobbery. Wherever there is an anomaly in British life, check out snobbery before anything else. The wages of working men — rough types from the working class, you must have heard of them — have always been calculated in weeks.
He notes that the wages are paid by us, the fans who buy the TV packages, tickets and tat.
What do we get from all this money? Not much. Only beauty. Only incomparable skill. Only great bravura performances of mental and physical strife. Only individual and corporate levels of brilliance and defiance. Only the chance to identify with such people, to revel in the fact that they belong to us, that we are part of them and they are part of us.
Only the opportunity to watch as the myths and legends of our times are forged before us. Only the chance to participate in great dramas of will against will, skill against skill. Only anguish, only elation, only inconceivable joy, only the chance to taste despair without any actual suffering. Only the chance to drink down Life in great big gulps.
Do young footballers get too much too soon? Yes. Some do. But we enable them to get it. We invest in them because unlike most of us, these tyros have a chance to shine at something many of us would pay to do.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is subjected to the Sun’s “Hendo Watch”. The paper kept a constant eye on the likeable and hard-working Henderson as he captained England in Slovenia.
The Liverpool midfielder led from the front..
But it was still a decent audition from Henderson…
Hendo was the player organising the troops and trying to get something on a tricky night…
He dropped really deep to try to dictate play from the back, a role he could adopt in the future instead of raiding forward…
And that’s it. The BBC didn’t operate a Henderson Watch. But it notes:
He [Joe Hart] twice denied Josip Ilicic when he was played in by poor backpasses from Eric Dier and captain Jordan Henderson
The Sun never saw that pass. The BBC mentions it twice:
Hart – who was the clear man of the match in this game – looked back to his best, rescuing Dier and Henderson when dreadful backpasses let in Ilicic.
Make that three times:
Shambolic England… The errors by Dier and Henderson would have been punished by opposition of a higher calibre and England threatened to crumble in the early moments of the second half – only to be saved by Hart.
Is there any reason the Sun – a paper hated by the Reds’ faithful following its hideous Hillsborough coverage – failed to see the error from Liverpool’s captain as it watched his every move?
Becauae Germans are good at taking penalties, when one of them says an Englishman is the ‘best penalty taker ‘ he’s ever seen, we take notice. The penalty king is none other than Liverpool’s James Milner, who hasn’t missed any of the seven spot kicks he’s taken for the Reds.
This season he’s scored four from four.
The BBC has the headline news that Milner is the King. But in the Liverpool Echo, we get more. The German with the praise is Emre Can.”I’m young but I haven’t seen in any of my teams so far such a good penalty taker,” says Can. “In training, every ball is in the net. He’s a very, very good penalty taker.”
Milner is the powerhouse player any manager would love to have in their squad.
When James Milner announced his retirement from international football, he robbed England of a versatile player who has, as George Caulkin puts in in the Times, “always valued proficiency ahead of individuality”.
What does that make him sound like? Yeah, a German. And you now how good they are at football – and penalties.
We love peculiar job titles in football. Chelsea have “loan player coaches“. QPR have “kit monitorers”. Liverpool used to have “director of football strategy”. What that means is unclear. But at one point the man with the job was Damien Comolli.
When Comolli got the job in 2010, the BBC explained what it was, in the words of Liverpool owner John Henry:
“Today’s announcement is just the first step in creating a leadership group and structure designed to develop, enhance and implement our long-term philosophy of scouting, recruitment, player development and all of the other aspects necessary to build and sustain a club able to consistently compete at the highest level in European football. Damien has a proven track-record of identifying exciting young footballing talent and we are delighted that he has agreed to join Liverpool.”
He had us right up to “philosophy”, then we kind of zoned out. Conelli is not the manager, not the coach and not entirely just a scout. ‘Director of football strategy’ seems to be job made in the corporate world, a title based on presentation over presence.
In March 2011, we got more:
Comolli’s role has been extended to oversee all football-related matters outside of first-team training and selection, which are under the remit of the caretaker manager Kenny Dalglish, who replaced Hodgson on 8 January.
“It covers pretty much all of the football side,” added Comolli. “It’s basically a day-to-day relationship with the manager and his coaching staff, it’s also medical and sports science, performance analysis, player liaison, team travel, scouting and negotiating transfer contracts. A big part of it is the academy.”
We’re talking about Conelli because he’s told Talksport:
“The day I got sacked they [Liverpool’s owners] told me I had made a big mistake on Jordan and he was a waste of money.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I think we paid the right price. He was a young English, British player and we know very often that British players are overvalued. But we were more than happy to pay the price because we thought he would become an outstanding player.
“I never said it publicly, but I was convinced he would be the future captain. People will say it is easy to say now, but I was convinced at the time that he would become the Liverpool captain. Now he is and he is also the England captain.”
Manchester United looked at Henderson. And passed. In his autobiography, former United manager Alex Ferguson had issues with Henderson’s gait:
In 2015, the Telegraph reported:
Henderson has a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis, a problem that deteriorated last April. Despite consultations with renowned surgeons, and even taking advice from the Royal Ballet about how to deal with a problem that afflicts dancers as well as sportsmen, Henderson has accepted he will have to manage pain rather than rid himself of it…
Henderson is well aware comments made in Sir Alex Ferguson’s book that his running style would cause injury problems will be seen as prophetic. In fact, it is believed a change in boots was the catalyst for the issue last season allied to a work overload which has prevented the 25-year-old having a summer break for 14 years. “I don’t think it has anything to do with my gait, it might have, but I very much doubt it,” said Henderson.
The trade in footballers is about making an educated guess. Players can be lucky and unlucky, careers ended by injury and elevated by chance. To say you knew for certain Henderson was going to be the Liverpool captain is nonsense. It was a good guess – and one realised by the luck of Henderson, a talented player, being part of a very poor England team and a Liverpool side with few options.
And as for Henderson’s rise being foreseen by Comelli, this is what Kenny Dalglish said after the Frenchman left the club:
“He’s been really helpful in every transfer target we’ve gone for. Everyone who has come into the club since Damien has been here was of my choice. Once I made the choice who I wanted. Damien went away and did a fantastic job of bringing them in. It’s sad to see anyone leave the club and he goes with my best wishes.”
Such are the facts.