Happy New Year one and all!! January 1 2007 was finally here and it was to prove to be the start of a busy month for the Reds. The transfer window had just opened, cup games against Arsenal to look forward to, the start of the Reclaim The Kop campaign and more, but first up was the obligatory New Years Day fixture.
Liverpool vs. Bolton. The reverse fixture at The Reebok saw us go down 2-0 in controversial fashion ‘“ so Liverpool were looking for 3 points to get the new year off to a flying start, and the fans were hoping for revenge! There were 4 changes to Rafa’s starting line up. Crouch, Hyypia, Pennant and Gonzales all came in for Bellamy, Agger, Garcia and Aurelio. Scoring chances were scarce, with Jaaskelainen in fine form. Although half time didn’t give us much optimism when the teams went in all square at 0-0, the second half proved to be more fruitful, with an acrobatic volley from Crouch on the hour (proving his scissor kick against Galatasary was no fluke), Gerrard with a volley 83 seconds later, and Kuyt with a low shot into the bottom corner ensuring a 3-0 win for the Premierships form team. Kuyt was deservedly voted the man of the match.
The first transfer of the window was young James Smith, a Liverpool born full back straight out of our Academy, who made his first team debut in our 4-3 Carling Cup win over Reading earlier in the season when he came on as a sub for Lee Peltier. James joined Scottish First Division side Ross County on loan until the end of the season.
January also saw the start of the Reclaim The Kop (RTK) campaign. The campaign was put together after the home leg of our group game against Bordeaux when the only chants to be heard were no different than those you would hear at any football ground in the country, from the Conference upwards. To quote from the RTK mission statement ‘œTaunting chants thrown at our French opponents and their 3000 travelling fans. Seasoned heads shook with embarrassment as people were beginning to realise that the soul of Anfield’s legendary Spion Kop was in danger of being lost. This was the breaking point for many. An indication of the depths to which some of our support had sunk. It was time to take a stand.
Liverpool Football Club, and its supporters, have been firmly at the forefront of football culture over the past 50 years. Anfield was the home of the world’s most famous football terrace. The Spion Kop is a name known the world over.
It was a terrace that had TV documentaries made about it over 40 years ago. A terrace captured on vinyl to become a hit album. A terrace ‘sampled’ on 60’s rock albums. A terrace known all over Europe – inspiring supporters to imitate them; AC Milan fans directly acknowledge the influence of The Kop and brought out an album celebrating the fact. It was a terrace that created chants and songs that were copied across the land, and was famed for its biting sarcasm, wit and devotion.
The Kop has long been a mighty vocal force for Liverpool FC. Players in the 30s and 40s have spoken about the noise the supporters could make. Bill Shankly brought his Huddersfield team to Anfield in 50s and told his own directors to “wait and hear the noise this crowd makes.” The potential for something amazing was always there.’
This masse of humanity ultimately exploded into creativity in the early 1960s, and The Kop became more than just 28,000 souls packed onto a terrace, it became a living thing of its own. At the precise moment that 4 Liverpool boys became the most famous faces and voices on the planet, The Kop burst onto the national – and international – consciousness. The world quickly realised that this crowd was different; it had wit, it was creative, it had its own personality … it had its own soul.’ Fans had begun to realise that in the modern era, that very soul was well on its way to becoming lost. And so the RTK campaign was born.
Moving back to transfers, there was good news for Rafa, and the fans, days later, as there had been speculation in the media about both Crouch and Alonso wanting out ‘“ and both issued statements saying they were going nowhere!
The month started off triply good for Gerrard, as apart from the tough win over Bolton, he bagged the PFA Fans player of the month for his performances in December, and he made it onto the Queens New Years Honours list, receiving an MBE. It couldn’t really get much better than that!
As the month rumbled on, the RTK campaign, released numerous songs and poems through the official site. Our second clash of the season with old rivals Arsenal was looming, the FA Cup 3rd round, and given recent actions and comments by Kelvin MacKenzie, a ‘˜Protest for Justice’ was planned for the match.
On the day of the match, the club opened its doors early to allow the laying out of a mosaic, displaying the words ‘˜The Truth’ ‘“ the inspiration of which came from the organisers of the RTK campaign. Forward to match time. The opening 6 minutes were deafening as The Kop sang out incessantly ‘˜Justice For The 96’ while holding aloft the mosaic. It was so inspirational, even some of the Arsenal supporters joined in! The match itself wasn’t much to shout about though, with the Reds going down, and out of the cup, 3-1 to Arsenal ‘“ who won with a Rosicky double and an Henry special, and only a consolation from Kuyt on our side of the score-sheet. Never mind ‘“ we’d do them in the Carling Cup replay 3 days later, wouldn’t we? I mean, Wenger only uses his kids’¦.
As it happened, no, we wouldn’t. Rafa put out a bemusing team selection against Wengers kids. We came off worst. A 6-3 drubbing putting us out of the Carling Cup. And a second chance of silverware gone for this season. Dudek copped the flak for at least three of the goals ‘“ but Rafa’s a man of his word, and he’d promised Dudek a run in all the cup games. What could he do? Oh well. Que sera sera and all that.
Two defeats to Arsenal in the space of three days, and heavy defeats at that, put a sombre mood around the Liverpool camp ‘“ especially as it was announced that Gonzales will be out for around 3 weeks, and Garcia will miss the rest of the season. The Liverpool Ladies team did their bit though, to try and raise spirits with a 3-2 FA Women’s Cup win over Wolves! I guess its not all doom and gloom!
Rafa was defiant though declaring that our season was still alive. And he’s following Wenger’s lead in signing young stars for the future. The first of these through the door this transfer window was Emilano Insua, an 18 yr old Argentine defender, arriving on loan from Boca Juniors.
We were looking forward to putting our cup woes behind us, with an away trip to Watford next up on the calendar. Like Sunderland were last season, Watford seem to be this years whipping boys, having only won 2 games the whole campaign so far. And as it tuned out, they weren’t getting any favours from us. Craig Bellamy netting the first, and then a brace for Crouch giving us a 3-0 victory. It has to be said, the team looked a lot more convincing with all the senior players resuming normal duties! The youth team didn’t do too bad either, with Steve Heighway’s side continuing their defence of the FA Youth Cup with a 2-0 victory over Chelsea‘s youth team before the senior sides clashed the following week.
Rafa has taken all the recent highs and lows in his stride though, proclaiming after the Watford game that the pressure of the English game was nothing compared to that of his homeland. Quoted on Liverpoolfc.tv, Rafa said: “I think I am young as a manager but I have experience from being in bad situations,” he said. “I always say that after a Sunday there is a Monday. You can learn from your situations and improve. When I was at Valencia, people were saying I would be in trouble if we lost a game away at Espanyol even though we had just set a club record of going 13 games in a row without losing. After that we won the league even though we were eight points behind Real Madrid in January and we ended up eight points ahead.
“In the second year, people said that I would be sacked because we didn’t have good enough players and yet we still reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The year after people were saying that if we didn’t win the league and the UEFA Cup, then I would be sacked. You need to have confidence in your players, your staff and everyone to gain success.”
Hmmm, guess managing in England’s not so bad after all!!
The official site interviewed Rick Parry, and he claimed (somewhat prematurely as it turned out) that news on the takeover bid was imminent, and that he was 100% certain that the deal with DIC would go through. Never count your chickens before they’re hatched, eh Mr Parry!
Gerrard again had reason to smile as he claimed his 3rd personal award of the season ‘“ a place in the UEFA.com team of the year ‘“ beating Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the right wing slot, and there was more transfer activity ahead of the Chelsea game. Adam Hammill joined Dunfermline on loan and Darren Potter finally made his loan move to Wolves a permanent one.
Talking of the Chelsea match, it was to be Rafa’s 100th game in charge, and the statisticians were going bonkers! If Rafa could take 3 points from Chelsea, he would have won 56 games equalling the tally of the great Bill Shankly. Comparisons between Rafa and all the post-Shankly managers were trotted out, as well as comparisons with our two greatest rivals of the modern era – Alex Ferguson and Arsne Wenger. Rafa beats the lot!
News filtered through from South West London that Petr Cech was to return for the match. From a humanitarian point of view, it’s good to see him back in action after receiving a cracked skull against Reading earlier in the season, but from a Liverpool fans point of view, it was bad news because Cech is still one of the best ‘˜keepers in the world. Chelsea were having problems defensively though, with John Terry and others out for a sustained period, and this was to prove their undoing, as we flew at them right from the off, and Liverpool were ahead inside 4 minutes thanks to Kuyt. On the 18th minute the ball came to Pennant, who hit a stunning shot to make it 2-0 and that’s how the match finished. Liverpool sitting in 3rd in the table, talk of the title was on again.
Hours after the elation of the Chelsea game though, came some sad news. One of the Kops best-known and most well loved figures, Lenny Campbell, aka Dr Fun, had passed away. RIP Dr Fun, may you never walk alone.
More transfer news in the days that followed. 18 yr old striker Jordy Brouwer decided to jump ship from Ajax Amsterdam and joined his fellow countryman Dirk Kuyt here at Anfield. Daniele Padelli, a young Italian goalkeeper also signed. And we’re still waiting on news from FIFA as to whether they’ll allow the signing of Javier Maschereno from West Ham.
One long-term target, Lucas Neill, changed his mind at the last minute though, and decided to join West Ham instead. The comments he made in the aftermath of the deal collapsing were shocking to say the least, and proved he wasn’t right for the club anyway. On a brighter note, we also finally got rid of Salif Diao, another money-grabbing weasel. He decided to take Stoke’s offer of a permanent contract (having been there on loan since the start of the season).
The youth team continued their run in the youth cup with a wonder goal from Jimmy Ryan giving them a 1-0 win over Reading, sending them through to the quarter finals. Playing for the youth team was another of Rafa’s new youth signings. 16 year old Swedish starlet Astrit Ajdarevic.
Last day of the month, last match of the month saw the Reds travel to East London to play the Hammers. First half wasn’t particularly spectacular, ending in 0-0, but after the restart things changed pretty quickly! Kuyt scored within 10 seconds of the second half whistle to put us 1 up, then seven minutes later, another goal from Crouch doubled our lead. A goal from one of West Hams new signings, Kepo Blanca ensured a nervy finish but we held on for a 2-1 victory.
There were lots of shocks in store before the night was out though. DIC pulled out of the take over bid once they found out there was a rival offer, and FIFA agreed to us signing Maschereno, paperwork was all done and dusted ‘“ but the FA, afraid of being held accountable for unscrupulous deals, refused to sanction the transfer until they had studied and were satisfied of the ‘˜ownership’ of the player. As the night drew to a close, it was revealed there were two more signings ‘“ Arbeloa, a right back from Deportivo, and a youngster from Malaga, Francisco Duran.
One more was revealed days later, and further news on the takeover was forthcoming ‘“ but that’s all for next month!
Please see www.thisisanfield.com for full match reports and weekly Premiership round ups.