Red Review ‘“ October 2006
Pinch, punch, first of the month ‘“ White Rabbit!! Some of you may have heard of this playground saying, some of you may not but basically it’s said by one person to another to wish them good luck for the month ahead, and boy how we could do with some good luck!
Everybody was down after the Bolton defeat, players, management and fans alike. No-one knew what lay ahead in the coming month. Everybody was panicking. That’s it, title chances over, new signings aren’t as good as we’d hoped ‘“ we heard it all.
Rafa made a statement on Liverpoolfc.tv, the same statement that the more level headed fans were saying: It’s only October, still plenty of matches to go, it’s too early to write off our title hopes. Some listened, some didn’t ‘“ but hopes were raised as the month went on.
The much maligned Internationals again made sure October got off to a stuttering start, not just for Liverpool but most top flight clubs. To take our minds off this though, the official site was running down the top five of its 100 Players Who Shook The Kop series. Debate raged across fans forums everywhere ‘“ who would make your top five, what positions would certain legends be in (would Ian Rush place above John Barnes? Would King Kenny beat Stevie G to the top spot?).
A number of ex-players, journalists, authors, pundits and the like were asked about their top 5 and quoted on the official site. Websites and fanzines were also given their say (although we here at TIA weren’t asked!) Who will be top? It was an agonising wait to find out!
The reserves were having worse luck than the first team. A 4-1 reverse to Newcastle did nothing to raise spirits. Ablett fielded a strong line-up in front of the watching Rafael Benitez and besides Fowler, Warnock and Zenden the team also featured Jermaine Pennant, Jerzy Dudek and Gabriel Paletta. Danny Guthrie captained the team for the first time with regular skipper Jack Hobbs on the bench. Fowler scored our consolation, just before full time.
Debate and criticism raged all month over the rotation policy employed by our manager. Newspapers, every pundit on television, whether it be BBC, ITV or Sky TV ‘“ none of them could leave the subject alone. Crouch was the first player to come out and say he was happy with the way things were. There would be more’¦.
The top 5 PWSTK were eventually revealed just days later ‘“ Barnes, Fowler, Rush, Gerrard and at number 1 ‘“ King Kenny! Just had to be. No arguments here! Normal business had to resume at some point though.
There were mixed results for the Internationals. Bellamy was in despair as his first match as Wales captain, ended in a heavy 5-1 defeat. Gerrard came home early after being suspended for the second international match, and many felt Kuyt should have been allowed home early after picking up a knock in the first of the 2, but he wasn’t, he played, he made his injury worse. Benitez was fuming!
October 12 and contrasting fortunes for 2 of our midfielders. Steven Gerrard was named on the shortlist for European Footballer of The Year (the only Reds player on the list ‘“ he would be the first Englishman to lift the coveted Ballon d’Or since Michael Owen back in 2001) while Salif Diao found himself loaned out to Stoke City on a temporary deal.
Next up, we faced Blackburn at Anfield. We may have been poor on our travels this season, but we are still unbeaten at Fortress Anfield! Two more changes, Bellamy scoring against his old club to rescue a point. The Reds could have won, but it appeared we ran out of ideas near the end and almost allowed Blackburn a winner, but ended up 1-1. Bellamy was happy to break his league scoring duck in a Red shirt, and everybody, it seems, was a Bellamy fan!
We had mixed fortunes over the next week. A growing injury list including Steven Gerrard meant many players missed out on the trip to Bordeaux. All the team were looking forward to a re-union with our Champions League hero Vladimir Smicer, but unfortunately he was also injured and unable to play any part in the match. With Gerrard injured, Carra took over the captain’s armband for the night. The reds notched up a 1-0 win. Next up, old rivals Manchester United! With Agger and Gerrard both passed fit for the tie, there was, somewhat over hyped, optimism that we may be able to get a result against the Red Devils, but it wasn’t to be’¦..
In the days leading up to the match, it was refreshing to see positive talk, rather than negative which has been all we’ve really had so far this month. Alan Smith praised the Anfield medical staff and the majority of the fans after his broken leg incident last season; it’s good to see he’s fully recovered. Benitez also said our away win at Bordeaux could be a ‘˜springboard’ for the season, because that’s where most of our problems have lain so far, on our travels. Man Utd was at Old Trafford – did Rafa just unwittingly put a hex on the team, or was it just mis-placed hope?!
With more pundits and journalists having a dig about the rotation policy, it was nice to receive some support from Sir Alex Ferguson – Rafa’s contemporary in the Old Trafford hot seat.
With Rafa stating we could beat United, Kuyt, Garcia and more fighting over who’ll get the winning goal, and the fans thinking we could win, there was a lot of pressure on the team for a victory. Unfortunately, it ended up as a poor performance all round, and United won 2-0 with goals from Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand. What more do we need to do to win away from home? Never mind, next 4 matches are at home ‘“ starting with Reading in the Carling cup.
There was much debate afterwards, especially surrounding our skipper, Steven Gerrard. Why was he playing so poor at Old Trafford? Most of the rumours and gossip was banned by every LFC forum net-wide, so I won’t go into any further detail. One thing I am allowed to say though, is that it did emerge that Steve’s youngest, Lexie Gerrard, had been hospitalised on the Saturday night, so all the best for a speedy recovery little’un :D
In the days following our loss to the old enemy, Rafa called for everyone to stick together and tried to find ways to build the teams’ apparently flagging confidence. Rafa had a moaning session to the press as the week went on. The rotation policy kept rearing its head, which began to annoy the manager ‘“ he was fed up of explaining and defending his policies! He also had a go at referees for picking on Momo Sissoko. Not that Sissoko cares ‘“ as far as he’s concerned, its part of his job ‘“ good lad!
Reading were up next, and Rafa rang the changes again, this time following the old tradition of giving some of our youngsters a run out for this League Cup match. Robbie Fowler was named as captain for the match, while Danny Guthrie, Gabriel Paletta, Jamie Smith, Lee Peltier and David Martin were all named in the squad. Steven Gerrard, Sami Hyypia, Steve Finnan and Xabi Alonso were all rested, while Craig Bellamy, Harry Kewell, Fabio Aurelio and Mark Gonzalez were all out injured. It ended up as a good result, 4-3 to The Reds. The next round draw was made immediately afterwards – Birmingham away.
The main talking point of the match afterwards though, wasn’t the score, or that we’d drawn Birmingham ‘“ but that Fowler’s goal meant he overtook King Kenny into 2nd spot in the League cup scoring charts ‘“ Robbie was delighted!
More bad press abound, disagreements between Rafa and Gerrard about his best position (right midfield or centre midfield, the million dollar question) forced Stevie to come out and deny any rift existed (as if we ever doubted it!). The message from all was that it doesn’t matter where he plays ‘“ the team comes first.
Rafa also got a ringing endorsement from our CEO, Rick Parry. Comments had appeared in the Daily Rag (sorry, Mirror) from an ‘˜anonymous’ club director, slating Rafa, his methods, his team selections and his ability to win us the Premiership title. The forums went into melt down! Who was this mysterious, outspoken member of the Board?
Aston Villa was up next. After 9 games, they are the only unbeaten team in all divisions of English football. A daunting prospect? Well, the match is at Anfield’¦..
Rotation was top of the agenda again for most ‘“ 99 consecutive games each with a changed side. Not that it mattered much on the day. 3-1 to us, a brilliant first half display with goals from Kuyt, Crouch and Luis Garcia ended Villa’s unbeaten run. Kuyt was especially happy to score because his Dad had made the trip over from Holland so it was a really emotional day for the Dutchman.
More rumours in the Sunday press ‘“ Rafa wants to sell Gerrard. Ridiculous! Rafa even gave an interview to the Official site laughing this off ‘“ where do they get their stories from :lol:
Noel White was also named as the ‘˜anonymous’ Director, and he was graciously allowed to resign from the Board, rather than face the indignity of being sacked. See ‘“ we’re not such a bad club!
October 31st ‘“ Halloween, and hopefully we make it a nightmare evening for Bordeaux. Before the match though, there was one bit of news that came out today that made this London born Scouser smile with pride ‘“ Sir Alex Ferguson, our arch nemesis, was jealous! Jealous of the European success of Bob Paisley (3 European Cups), and Liverpool in general. Certainly made my day!
But I digress ‘“ back to business, Liverpool vs. Bordeaux, Champions League, Anfield. Shock horror (well, it is Halloween!) ‘“ Rafa Benitez named the same side that played Aston Villa ‘“ was he playing trick or treat with the press and pundits?! The media was astounded ‘“ the new tinker man didn’t tinker! Two goals from Luis Garcia, and one from Captain Fantastic, Steven Gerrard, wrapped up another 3 points in the group. We weren’t great, we did have some dodgy patches, but another clean sheet is always good news. PSV beat Galatasaray in the other Group C match, so we’re both now on 10 points ‘“ with us top on goal difference. With both teams having qualified, it’s just a matter of who gets top spot now. Two games in the group left could make life interesting’¦.
The fortnight will be rounded off by Reading making their 2nd trip to Anfield inside 10 days. But that’s for next month!
For full match reports, please see the TIA Match Reports section.