Goodbye to the invisible man

It may have gone unnoticed but full-back Steve Finnan this week left the club for Espanyol. Indeed the manner of his departure, overshadowed by a wave of Abu Dhabi hysteria, was in keeping with the man himself ‘“ understated yet significant.

For five years the Republic of Ireland international served the side with great distinction. A free transfer from mid-table Fulham he battled for his eventual starting berth, seeing-off many laughable pretenders.

Those of us who regularly recognised and applauded his contribution see this leaving as somewhat inexplicable.

Right now Liverpool Football Club is in the midst of a hurricane of confusion. We find ourselves second in the table but with little, if any belief of an upcoming title charge.

Warring factions continue to slice an almighty chasm throughout the board ‘“ culminating in mass debt, no new stadium and inevitable fan protest. But that’s another article for another day.

Recent transfer activity seems to confirm this sense of stagnancy. Perhaps it’s a case of the summer blues but am I right in thinking John Arne Riise is a better full-back than Andrea Dossena? Judging on current form the latter seems like the proverbial dear in the headlights. His passing is erratic; his crosses indifferent while his ability to defend makes Titmus Bramble look like Bobby Moore.

Moving up-field; Albert Riera yesterday checked-in in a bid to resolve are pertinent width dilemma. £8 million is a sizable fee, one which triggers an outpouring of anticipation and hope. Who am I to be the killjoy but I seem to be one of few who actually remember his brief stint at Manchester City. Whilst at Eastland’s he failed to impress ‘“ proving average in every sense of the word ‘“ that and worryingly lightweight.

Admittedly I’ve seen little of his ‘˜rejuvenation’ over in La Liga but strides the size of Big Foot’s were required if this guy truly has developed into the real deal. Again, from my own personal recollections Harry Kewell seems a better bet.

Then we consider the forward line. Signing Robbie Keane was good business; he is a diminutive terror who will eventually bear fruit. Nonetheless, we have still lost Peter Crouch. That for me appears an alternative option rather than a dramatic improvement.

And then we come back to Finnan; his replacement ‘“ Philipp Degen. I have absolutely no doubt that the Irishman would have played second fiddle to Alvaro Arbeloa this term, as will our Swiss import. However, he is surely a healthier back-up than Degen whose credentials simply pale in comparison.

In a nutshell not one of our signings strikes me as a major improvement on the player he’s come in to replace. Actually let’s be fair ‘“ Diego Cavalieri can catch a ball ‘“ something Charles Itandje never really mastered.

At 32 it is nonsensical to claim the Finn could compete in 60-70 games a season but he was a safe-bet, someone to rely upon week-in-week out.

In spite of this, he has fell victim to the strangest of culls.

His attributes were plenty. Defensively he was sound, forging a strong bond with Carragher and the like, culminating in one of the meanest backlines in the Premier League. Going forward, though criticised by certain quarters, he was competent.

When it came to crossing he was invariably happy to swing-in the telling assist, while his consistency, both in terms of performance and appearance was marvelled.

The bizarre thing about Steve Finnan was that no-one really detected his presence in a game and in many ways that was his great strength. He was quiet yet assured.

The treatment of the ultimate servant has also struck me as grossly unfair and undignified. From the outside he has been tossed from pillar to post, offered as a makeweight from one deal to the next. Then he was suddenly excluded from the ranks altogether, seldom travelling with his teammates.

For someone who has given so much, featured 216 times ‘“ contributed to both Istanbul and Cardiff twelve months later ‘“ to be cast-off with not even crocodile tears his accordance is vile.

I wish him the best of luck in Spain where I’m sure he’ll excel in his own tranquilly quaint way.

A brief note on current affairs; An inevitable though dare I say overdue delay in the building of the New Anfield. This great epicentre of football, where a vastly enhanced Kop sway like a red current, where an observant and revitalised Stanley Park winks in appreciation, where 60,000 plus spectators turn-out to watch the world’s greatest side is as much a reality as Paris Hilton’s PhD in Mathematics. Kopites don’t need me to tell them this project will never materialise under the stewardship of Dumb n’ Dumber.

One player who impressed during an otherwise laboured pre-season was Daniel Pacheco. I’m loathe to label him with the doomed ‘˜gem’ tag, but his quick-feet, intelligent movement and creative spark mean he’s one to watch.

And finally just a word on the new memorial dedicated to Bob Paisley; The £5,000 tribute is fittingly placed in his hometown of Hetton-le-Hole. Funded by supporters, this campaign begun last summer and concluded with a successful unveiling last month. ‘˜Sir’ Bob remains the greatest of them all.