John Ritchie

Exclusive Interview with the Radio City Sports Team

The Radio City matchbook is something anyone who lives in and around Merseyside will be fond of,  it’s the most listened to show on Merseyside for football.

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Now, thanks to podcasts and the internet, thousands of fans all over the world enjoy commentary from Steve Hothersall and Liverpool legend John Aldridge featuring regular guests Neil Mellor and others.

The sports team at radio city follow every minute of all Liverpool games home and away, they work behind the scenes to bring their listeners exclusive interviews and coverage and at the end of every match they have an hour long phone in when the game is discussed across the city.

Earlier this week, John Ritchie sat down with Carlos, the producer at the Radio City Sports to chat all things Liverpool FC.

In the first of an exclusive two part interview Carlos talks about the season just gone, the players and what we’re we need to strengthen in the summer. Keep tuned for part 2, where we discuss working with the legend that is John Aldridge, and Carlos gives us insight into the life as a producer for a major sports show.

We’d like to thank Carlos and for giving us his time to speak to This is Anfield.

carlos-radiocityJR: Carlos, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do here at Radio City.

CW: I’m a plassy scouser! Lived here since I was 9-years-old so 28 years. I was born in Ormskirk and became a Liverpool fan when I came here so around 85/86 – my first proper memory was watching the 1986 FA Cup Final so it wasn’t a bad way to start!

My role here is the sport producer for Radio City and City Talk 105.9 – a role I’ve had solely since 2004. I plan and produce all the sport shows, scripting, editing and manage the team here on match days.

JR: So by traditional standards 7th place isn’t exactly a top season for LFC, having watched them all season have you seen much in the way of progress?

CW: I think the main progression for Liverpool this season has been their style of play and attacking threat. There’s been times when I’ve really enjoyed watching the side play, say for example in the 5-0 win over Swansea – their football was easy on the eye, they flowed going forward, their passing was crisp and quick and some of the finishing was top class. I think the additions of Sturridge and Coutinho helped Liverpool greatly with their movement, trickery and incisive passes.

Other than the style of play, Rodgers showed positive aspects in player management – Downing and Enrique improved a lot after having a dressing down from the manager and he got the best out of Luis Suarez too. There’s not enough words to explain how he performed over the season.

They did play some great football under Kenny but as we know they couldn’t stick the ball in the net but they’ve seemed to have found the answer now and fingers crossed they’ll carry that on into next season.

Their points tally and position will show progression BUT I still think we should have aimed for a higher position and thought they purposely took their foot off the pedal during the latter part of the season. We could easily have finished above Everton and think we could have got close to fifth if we hadn’t slowed down. I think if we’d have finished higher we’d go into next season in a more confident mood.

The one thing I loved Kenny for was he took the cup competitions seriously – I know he was let go despite doing well in both domestic cup competitions but this club still lives for silverware and it angers me when it’s just not seen as important as the league. We could have beat Zenit on aggregate but as I said at the time, it looked as though they wanted to show they could get the deficit back but didn’t want to go further in the competition because it’s seen as an annoyance with permanent Sunday games, etc.

JR:  Much has been said about with the quality of defending this season, compared to last. In your view what’s the main reason behind this?

CW: I think the quality of their defending has suffered mainly because of Brendan Rodgers style of play – at the start of the season we saw many individual mistakes, some led to goals while some thankfully went unpunished. The one which really stood out was the Martin Skrtel error against Manchester City after Rodgers encouraged his players to pass out from the back at all times. As the old saying goes, ‘If in doubt, clear it out’! If a new style is new to you, you can’t take these risks against the better teams in the league. I know they’ve been told by the manager to follow these rules but I think on the pitch players need to make their own decisions at times.

I also think they still haven’t got that balance of been able to attack well and defend well. I think Johnson and Enrique are still susceptible defending, great going forward but switch off when defending and that often leads to goals like in Zenit – Enrique failed to stop the cross, Johnson was very slow in tracking his man at the back post.

Pepe Reina’s lack of confidence at the start of the season was also an aspect, the defenders will have lacked confidence in the keeper at times as they wouldn’t know what he was going to do next and was prone to making some glaring errors. Brad Jones still doesn’t fill me with confidence either, he looks like an understudy on the pitch and when you watch him it’s hard not to wince at times when he comes for a ball etc.

I think Martin Kelly’s injury was a big blow – I’ve been impressed with him a right back and is a better defender than Johnson and although he’s not as good going forward he does still attack well. I think him on the right and Johnson on the left was a good option as Johnson has to think and concentrate more down the left hand side so less mistakes are made.

JR: Lucas Leiva divides opinion amongst Liverpool fans, do you think he’s capable of getting back to where he was before his injury? Is this a weakness in Rodgers side?

CW: I think we were weak in the heart of the midfield last season with no real enforcer in there and with Lucas still having to feel his way in. I’ve heard so many manager’s talk about players, who have been absent though long-term injury, that we won’t see the best of them for 7 or 8 months and I’m hoping this is the case with Lucas. He was playing his best football of his Liverpool career before he got injured at Stamford Bridge and we’re all asking the question whether we’ll see that form again.

If we go back to the defence, which I was talking about earlier, I think the backline suffered with not having the likes of a Hamann or a Mascherano there or even a Lucas on top form! I think Rodgers does need to bring someone in to help in that area because I don’t think we can afford to have an under par performer in that position for three or four months until the January transfer window opens.

And if as expected we are going to have a very new backline, the need for someone in front of them to break up play is vital.

JR: Joe Allen’s had a tough debut season, is he he good enough for Liverpool going forward?

CW: The jury is still out on Joe Allen – yeah he looked impressive at the start of the season but then looked out of his depth for a big part of the campaign, whether or not that was down to this long-standing shoulder injury. On that injury, Rodgers said he had the problem while at Swansea so why are we spending 15 million quid on a player with an injury like that, which could be the reason why he struggled? I didn’t really watch him at Swansea so I couldn’t get excited at the prospect of him signing but speaking to contacts in South Wales, they spoke really highly of him so that gave me some hope.

He did look good initially keeping the ball moving and his close-range passing but I just think he looks a bit too lightweight. Has hasn’t offered a great deal going forward either and if you’re spending that much money on a player you do ask for more as in creating chances and popping up with odd goal or two.

I do remember one game near the end of the season when he came off the bench against Tottenham – he was chasing down and breaking play up, something we all want to see and in some part it led to us winning the game because the Spurs’ midfield finally had someone harrying them and not letting them keep the ball to dictate play.

It’s a big season for him coming up and hopefully he is another one of those players who will get comfortable in wearing the red shirt and dealing with the expectation that comes with playing for a huge club like Liverpool. Can he be the player I was talking about who can break up the play and start attacks? Watch this space.

JR: Brendan Rodgers has had a difficult start to life at Liverpool, is he the right man for Liverpool going forward?

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CW: Talking about big seasons, I think Brendan Rodgers has a big one coming up. I think Liverpool need to show at least they can put up a fight for a Champions League place, they might not break that top four but they need to show that an appearance in that competition isn’t too far away.

I also think silverware is very important – if we can have a good season and fight for fourth along and pick up a trophy or two, I think that’ll be good progression and it’ll look like the club is moving in the right direction and it’ll help when trying to attract even better players too.

They haven’t got European football so there’s no excuse not to take the League Cup and FA Cup seriously.

JR: Luis Suarez has been superb for the Reds this season, but since his suspension many have said Liverpool look like more of a team without him, is this a view you’d share?

CW: I’m not sure Liverpool look more of a team without Luis Suarez to be honest. I think since January as I said earlier, with the introduction of Sturridge and Coutinho it’s given the side of a new attacking dimension alongside Suarez. The trio hit on a great partnership almost instantly with all three of them providing goals for each other and scoring goals too so I think if we lost Suarez there would be a major gap to fill. Just as Sturridge built up a partnership with Suarez, he’d have to get used to another new man, who don’t forget, will be getting used to Liverpool’s style of play, the Premier League, etc so we could be back to square one.

Suarez is also a great outlet for the defence and midfield – if they throw the ball up to him, we all know the ball is likely to stick and he will always do something out of the ordinary, which other players just can’t do and will on most occasions start an attack.

Yeah the players played well in his absence but I wouldn’t say the teams they faced were firing on all cylinders, plus, the other players should take it upon themselves to put in good performances and not rely on the likes of Gerrard and Suarez all the time because they will have their off days.

They also have to take the pressure off Suarez as he can’t do it all himself and with Sturridge prone to injury, a Liverpool side without him and Suarez isn’t one we’d look forward too!

JR: Where do Liverpool need to strengthen in order to become a top side again?

CW:   I think to strengthen Liverpool need a good solid left back who can find the right balance between and attacking and defending, you could probably say that about the right back slot too.

I think we need to bring in players with strong minds too, who just want to win at all times, Luis Suarez type characters, players who don’t switch off for the 90+ minutes. We just need a strong squad – good goalkeeping back-up to keep the likes of Pepe Reina on their toes. We need a strong combative and creative midfield, not a soft underbelly. A winger or two who can play in that front three and some leaders at the back.

How many times have we looked at our bench and thought, who can make an impact off the bench? A good strong squad that can take us to that next level. We might not have the money the like of United, City and Chelsea but Rodgers and his scouts need to pick out some gems just like they did with Coutinho.

We need the manager, the players, and staff from top to bottom all to be craving one thing – success. Have people there who want to create their own history.

Click here for part two of the interview

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  • http://st1jere.blogspot.com Sam Wanjere

    Generally fair. Rodgers faced a very challenging intro to things LFC, what we’d all expect and I think we did alright. Not in agreement on issues like playing to overturn Zenit’s advantage Vs trying to win outright. That’s debatable. There is a big season coming and I have this feeling we can crack the top four. I’m a bit more optimistic. A nice interview. Interesting thoughts.