Liverpool Story. We Love You Liverpool We Do
My Journey starts a lot further away than most red fans, 10 496 miles (16,891km’s) in fact.
Growing up in the country in Australia meant that football was non existent to many in my town.
When I was younger the only way to get the results prior to the internet was to get a copy of one of Melbourne’s large newspapers on the Monday or ask my parents to tape the one hour highlights program on one of the channel’s at 11 30 pm at night, which is far to late for a boy which needed to be at school the next day.
I was lucky enough that my older cousin James and his brothers Luke and Brad had taken up a love of football and as I idolised them I learnt to love the game as well.
The boys all had different teams with James being Aston Villa, Luke having Manchester United and Brad loving Blackburn.
Being born with a severe neurological condition meant that I have been in and out of hospital all my life however the one consolation as a child was the visits from my family especially those three cousins.
On one such visit the boys were all trying to pledge allegiance to their football club and they decided that I was old enough to pick my own team to support.
They told me to watch the highlights show and by next time they visited I would have my team to support with all of them hoping it was theirs.
That night I was able to somehow convince the nurse to let me watch the show and then it happened.
While watching the highlights the match of the round was Liverpool vs Southampton and this year a kid managed to score a hat trick. That young kid was none other than Robbie Fowler and from that moment on, after watching that display, I knew I was a red for Life.
I remember dreaming about playing with Robbie eventhough I knew walking let alone playing football was a big enough challenge. (Even at 23 I still dream of wearing that Red jersey, though walking is still remains a challenge let alone football.)
After telling my cousins of my choice and puzzling explanation, despite their best efforts, this young striker Robbie Fowler was my new Hero and sealed my fate as a red for life.
Throughout school the coverage improved and the invention of the internet helped tremendously.
One big highlight was being able to watch my first live Liverpool game in full.
It was a Friday morning kicking off at 5 am against Alaves in the Uefa Cup competition and wow, what a first live game it was!
The five - four game which ebbed and flowed was unbelievable and see Robbie Fowler, (Still to this day my favourite Liverpool player of all time) score was such a bonus.
However in 2002 I faced a bit of a problem while away in the states I didn’t have access to the net and their coverage was non existent even with 500 plus channels I couldn’t get the results to a FA Cup game against City so I decided to make what my Mum called ‘The most ridiculous phone call ever.’
I was away on an exchange program for a couple of weeks and as it was my first time being away, so I was in contact over the phone all the time.
I proceeded to quickly get through what I had been up to and also how I was coping with jet lag and with my condition. (Despite at times my condition being a hindrance my Mum taught me from a young age to go for my dreams and not to let it stand in the away of anything I want to achieve and that I am forever grateful.)
I then asked to speak to my younger brother hoping he would have the answer I craved.
Unfortunately he didn’t.
I then asked him to go and look it up and call me back however at this stage Mum got back on the phone and told me if I had been able to wait 24 hours I could wait another day when we spoke tomorrow.
I eventually found out we drew but also that we had signed Nicholas Anelka on loan which I thought was fantastic.
As time passed, the coverage was generally improving in Australia so I now could occasionally watch a Liverpool game in Europe and every now and then we would be lucky enough to be the one live game of the week.
I was so often getting up at 4:30 for a European game or a late Saturday night kick off at 1 am or the even worse daylight savings time of 3 am.
In 2004 when we were in the Champions League and on our way to Istanbul I was lucky enough to have most games live on local TV.
This year was also my final year of high school which meant for study breaks in the half times of games.
The big game against Olympiakos was at a pretty important point in my life as I had after just finished high school and the sleepless nights of study had really taken a heavy toll on my body, deteriorating a fair bit.
While Mum was worrying about my health and also the fact that my VCE results came out on that day.
It was much to her horror I was praying and hoping for a two goal win more than worrying about the other two issues going on at that stage.
To this day I still credit Stevie’s third for giving me the lift need to help get my health back to a decent level where I could function and from that moment on, I felt we were destined to win it.
I was at university the next year which was great as instead of wearing a school uniform, I could show my colours and wear one of my replica kits.
So it was more 4:30 am kick offs and classes on our way to the Istanbul final.
It was the day after my final exam of the semester that Liverpool vs AC Milan took place in Istanbul.
While most of my classmates went off to celebrate with a night on the town I decided to go home and get up at 4:30 once again and watch my beloved Reds play.
Following Olympiakos, I had this feeling that we were always destined to win it but after that first half I was in total shock.
I was thinking surely not, after all this emotional journey that I had been through with Liverpool that Rafa had come in and deliver us old big ears for the fifth time.
I then remember that the supporters at the stadium singing You’ll Never Walk Alone and sitting in my Lounge room lifting my scarf up I started singing along in a faint voice as to not wake my family up.
Then it started, the comeback and what a comeback it was.
I don’t think I had been more awake at half past five in the morning but it certainly was 45 of the most exciting minutes of my life.
I think I had never prayed so hard in my life as I did before extra time.
It seemed such a quick half an hour of extra time before that penalty shoot out.
I remember Carra walking up to Dudek and whispering in his ear something .(not in my wildest dream did I imagine it would be to imitate Bruce’s antics in the past champions league win)
For the next week I was on top of the world for that win.
My studies continued and working over the summers meant I could afford pay TV to be able to watch more EPL games.
However unfortunately in 2007 my condition took a large turn for the worse with a shortage of the medication I needed, this meant being on a reduced dose.
As a way of cheering me up my close friends Ben, Glen, Jared and James gave what I consider to be one of my most prized possession and probably the greatest 21st birthday present ever.
A signed Liverpool jersey from the team that season including the one and only Robbie Fowler who has make his remarkable return to Anfield that season.
Over the next few months I gradually got worse and was really struggling however I eventually stabilised and started to be able to get back on my feet with the help of physio each day.
Still slowly improving and getting back on track with my studies it was determined that I had enough strength to be able to travel to an expert in the UK in hope of being able to get some answers about my condition. (At this stage we were looking at the original diagnosis and whether I had a new strain of the condition but it is hard when dealing with a condition so rare)
Throughout 2009 I spent time finishing off my degree and in physio to prepare my body for the trip.
Before going over I knew that like many times in my past I was in for some pretty painful tests and my Mum asked if I really wanted to spend my hard earned money on these tests with no guarantee of getting any answers.
In the back of my mind I didn’t mind having to spend my hard earned on medical treatment fro my condition.
That I was able to go to a game at Anfield so with everyone’s agreement it was decided I would be allowed to travel the world if I could convince one of my mates to go with me to help along.
Thankfully a friend of mind Glen was keen to see the rest of the world and work over in the UK for a while. (To be honest he said he wouldn’t want to go travelling without me as the condition certainly helped us get through airports etc...)
After a quick visit to Andrew Zeglin and the team at Bendigo travel centre who were kind enough to help make all the arrangements, the plan was set in motion.
We arrived in London on Friday Jan 27th and made our way up on the bus as soon as we got out the front doors and that trip I felt so surreal that the I would be actually going to see my beloved Reds play in real life.
After checking in at the hotel and catching up on some needed sleep I woke at about 9am the next day.
I was the most nervous and excited I had ever been, it had finally arrived I was going to Anfield.
We arrived at the game four hours before kick off as I went to experience everything. (Poor Glen had to tag along but I think he was happy there, knowing how much this meant to me.)
The taxi dropped us off at the Shankly gates and their I saw it for the first time the statue of Bill Shankly, I was just in awe.
Having completed my year 11 history assignment on the history of the Liverpool Football Club and reading his biography I knew how important this man means to the club. (I even picked up a miniature of the statue which sits on my work desk to remind me of the moment every day.)
After seeing the Shankly statue, I made my way, using the crutches I have to help me walk to the Hillsborough memorial and paid my respects.
After having read The Truth book by Phil Scratton back in 2007 I felt it my duty and honour to pay my respects to those who paid the ultimate price for this club we love.
We then also went back out the Shankly gates and up Anfield Road where I purchased a matchday Scarf off one of the vendors and made my way to the Justice campaign Shop to purchase another scarf and offer my support.
We then went to the pub next to the stadium with all the Scarfs and listened to the chants which I had only ever heard on CD.
I have to admit I was a little nervous being an Australian and not a local as I had always heard foreigners where looked down upon by many English fans.
The Liverpool supporters couldn’t have put me at ease any quicker and made me feel welcome which was the greatest gift they could have given me.
We talked about the upcoming game against Bolton and what was to be made of Rafa and if we could bring in any last minute signings before the window shut.
To be honest I think a lot of the supporters were so surprised, that here there, was this Australia who had such a knowledge and opinion of a club based half way around the world.
We picked up our tickets which thankfully Matt who is the head of the Australian Liverpool supporters had so kindly organised for me.
We made our way in to an empty Anfield as it was still about 40 Minutes until kick off.
I took a few photos and sat in awe, trying to soak up the atmosphere as it grew.
We were sitting about five rows back near the 18 yard line on the end near the Kop.
I will be honest singing You’ll Never Walk Alone was one of the most emotional moments of my life.
This song had meant so much to me and to be singing it with 45,000 others was amazing.
The game had got off to a slow start but was finally brought to life with Dirk Kuyt scoring at the Kop end.
Liverpool dominated for the rest of the match and Emilliano Insua scored his first Liverpool goal which was a cracker and made sure we got three points for my first visit to Anfield.
The next day I was lucky enough to be able to go on the Legends tour with the great left back Alan Kennedy.
Alan Kennedy shared many stories of his time at Anfield and with the Liverpool football club taking us through the tour.
Once again the crutches actually got me a unique experience as I got to use the lift at Anfield which I was told was a rare place away from the press which meant there were many heated arguments on that lift. (Alan even told me of a famous case but not really sure if I can repeat it here)
I was very nervous to talk to such a legend of the club at the start so it was Alan who actually started the conversation with me.
He could see the tour was going a little quick for me, so he was such a kind person he dropped back to the end about half way through and talked to me specifically about some of the parts of Anfield and the history there.
He made sure I was able to get a photo touching the This is Anfield sign and even took a photo after stopping me and getting me to sit in Rafa’s seat. ( I even joked with him one day since it didn’t look like I would running on the pitch for the club maybe I could sit on the sidelines and follow in the likes of Shankly, Paisley, Dalglish and Rafa.
The tour finished with Alan, kind enough to sign my match program and take a photo.
He even made sure I was able to get back to the hotel as Glen decided the tour wasn’t for him.
That was the story of my first visit to Anfield whoever that isn’t the end of the story quiet yet.
After this I caught up with Ben who was also loving Europe at the time and together with Glen I got to see a Barcelona game, a visit to the Vatican and Eiffel Tower before heading back to Liverpool to watch a Europa cup game from the flash seats in the main stand and what a great view.
We beat Unirea Urizceni one nil thanks to David Ngog goal.
My next Liverpool experience was away from Anfield and as Ben, Glen and I were spending a trip around England and we happened to be in Manchester for the big game against City.
The other two boys weren’t that keen to go to the football but I thought you only live once and while Liverpool were in the same town as me I was certain I had to go.
I spoke to the owner of the place we were staying and he knew the game was sold out but said if I went to the stadium about two hours before kick off I should be able to Scalp a ticket.
With that glimmer of hope, I was off to the ground.
The game was shaping up to be a very important game in shaping the season especially for that crucial last Champions League spot as both sides needed a win.
Arriving at the ground very nervously as I had never scalped a ticket before in my life and to be honest didn’t really know what to do.
I wandered around a little before asking one of the guys selling scarves about getting a ticket.
It was about two and a half hours before kick off and made a phone call and a guy meet me and told me to go round the corner.
At this stage I honestly was a tad frightened as the last thing I wanted to do was go down a back alley by myself and get robbed.
He asked me if I was after a ticket and I nervously said yes praying it wasn’t a undercover police officer.
He told me to go back out the front near the scarf seller and wait.
So I waited and waited and waited as there didn’t seem to be anyone selling tickets to the Scalpers and they were trying to buy off everyone.
It had been drizzling so I was cold, wet and about to give up hope but I decided I had made it this far I wouldn’t give up until kick off.
Then as it got to about ten minutes before kick off it happened, I was taken to a close by fish and chip shop and handed over my hundred quid. (everyone thinks I was mad to pay it but you only live once.)
So there it was I had a ticket and made my way into the stadium and to my horror wearing my prized Torres Jersey the ticket was for the Manchester City supporters end.
In Australia we don’t separate fans from each other so I was used to sitting with opposition supporters.
However this was different I have never been so scared and excited at the same time.
It was at the point were at one stage I sent my brother a message telling him what was happening and telling him to look after Mum if I didn’t make it.
The game finished nil all which for my safety, was probably a good thing.
It also provided me a chance to see my cult hero Fernando Torres live in action for the last ten minutes.
In a match against Reading Football Club 2 days before I left, Fernando hurt his knee and I was devastated at the thought of missing my new idol play live due to injury.
I scrambled after the game back to where the other Liverpool supporters were to make the trip back in to Manchester, to meet up with Ben and Glen.
The next weekend was my final game at Anfield against Blackburn and this time I struck it lucky with the tickets that had been organised for us.
Second row in the Kop.
As a Liverpool supporter you dream of being in the Kop for a match and even though the other seats were better for viewing, there is something special sitting in thst stand.
The songs were sung, we collected three point thanks to Stevie and Fernando and I headed off to the pub after the game to enjoy the celebrations.
I feel at this time I have to give special mention to Stephen Duff at the Vine pub which we went back to, for making sure I was always looked after.
Stephen was also kind enough to organise me to gain one hell of a bit of memorabilia, a signed ball from the champions league victory in 1978.
After collecting the ball my journey from Liverpool to the hospital in Oxford was started but I knew because I was red and all the well wishers from my time in the great City I would never walk alone.
So that is why I can say with pride Liverpool I love you I do.
By Joshua Hercus
Do you ever wonder if your favorite celebrity supports the Liverpool Football Club?
I have done some thorough research and have come up with two lists that might surprise you! For the record, this is a factual blog and the following names were not taken out of thin air. The following information is very accurate, enjoy it and share it with your friends!
Celebrities (past & present) that support the Liverpool Football Club
Caroline Wozniacki - Danish Pro Tennis Player.
It isn't much of a secret that the world number-one is a Liverpool supporter. She often tweets about the club and has a large fanbase of Reds from around the world. She recently wore a signed Liverpool shirt at the Qatar Open, a shirt which was reportedly sent by Steven Gerrard.
Angelina Jolie - American Actress.
When the Hollywood beauty isn't raiding tombs, she's cheering the Mighty Reds on to victory. She revealed that her baby son, Maddox, "only wants to play for Liverpool". She also revealed that she frequently watches the Reds.
Samuel L Jackson - American Actor and Film Producer.
Samuel fell in love with the club after attending a Merseyside derby while shooting the movie 'The 51st State' in Liverpool. From an executive box, the star was seen waving his arms and singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' during the game. Jackson has also publicly expressed his distaste towards the people of Manchester.
Pope John Paul II - Polish Pope (deceased).
John Paul was a keen supporter of the Liverpool Football Club. He followed the club even more when Jerzy Dudek was the number-one goalkeeper. For the record, John Paul also supported Cracovia, a Polish football team.
Liam Neeson - Irish Actor.
Actor Liam and his two sons are big Liverpool fans. They attend games when they are able to. They were spotted at a Fulham v Liverpool game about 2 years ago after the tragic death of Liam's wife, Natasha Richardson, in a skiing accident.
Daniel Craig - English Actor and Film Producer.
Daniel is a Liverpool fan and his idol is Steven Gerrard (yes, even James Bond can't resist) although nobody knows how long he has supported the club for. He has been spotted several times at Anfield.
Mike Myers - Canadian Actor and Comedian.
Mike Myers is a passionate Liverpool fan who started following the club at a young age. He was influenced by his parents, who originated from the Old Swan area of Liverpool. The actor, known for his role as Austin Powers, admits that he was 'the odd one out' growing up in Canada.
LeBron James - American Pro Basketball Player and Businessman.
LeBron James recently obtained a minority share in the Liverpool Football Club in exchange for his global rights, a deal that was done with FSG. LeBron has revealed that he is excited in being part of one of the biggest sports clubs in the world at a recent press conference.
Sheamus - Irish Pro Wrestler.
Sheamus follows the club and recently visited Anfield and the LFC Museum. He was interviewed on the day as he spoke of his love for the club. He also went on to say that he would probably punch Gary Neville in the face if he saw him as he is a 'sour person'.
Kim Cattrall - English Actress.
Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall was born in Mossley Hill, Liverpool. Although she is quite busy with her various acting roles, she still finds the time to monitor the Reds' progress. In November 2010, she was Steven Gerrard's guest at Anfield when Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-0.
Nelson Mandela - Former South African President.
In 1994, Nelson revealed to John Barnes that he supported the Liverpool Football Club. John Barnes presented Nelson with a Liverpool shirt and had conducted a formal interview with him during the club's pre-season tour of the country.
Rafael Benitez - Spanish Football Manager.
The former Liverpool Manager's love for the club isn't much of a secret. When he was viciously axed by the former owners, Rafa went to Inter Milan and once said that he didn't like the blue colours as it reminded him of Everton. Rafa has also been of tremendous help to the families of the Hillsborough victims along the years, also donating 96 thousand pounds when he left the club. Rafa received two standing ovations at the 2011 Hillsborough Memorial Service and was seen weeping in the crowd. Rafa will always be remembered for the right reasons at our club.
Dr. Dre - American Record Producer, Rapper and Actor.
Dr. Dre became a huge fan of Liverpool after becoming good friends with John Barnes after the ‘Anfield Rap’ was recorded in 1988. Dre even claimed that John Barnes was his favorite player at the time. He also admitted that he always looks out for the Reds and keeps track of the team whenever he can.
Sven Goran Eriksson - Swedish Football Manager.
In June 2010, Sven confessed that he has been a lifelong Liverpool fan. Eriksson began following the Reds as a boy in Sweden. His father was also a Liverpool supporter and every Saturday, they would watch a Liverpool match on the television. It was the highlight of the week according to Sven. ''They have always been my team and nothing has changed.''
Billy-Bob Thornton - American Actor and Musician.
Billy-Bob is a big fan of the Liverpool Football Club, the city and the supporters. He revealed this in an interview with Empire magazine. He also met Gerry Marsden and saw Liverpool play Juventus at Anfield, an experience that he will never forget.
Snoop Dog - American Rapper and Entertainer.
Snoop Dog wore a Liverpool shirt at a recent concert that he held in Liverpool, to the delight of 90% of the fans. When interviewed, he revealed that a few of his friends supported the club so he thought he would do the same.
Melanie C - English Singer-songwriter and Actress.
Melanie Chisholm has been a passionate Liverpool FC supporter from a young age. She has even named her record label 'Red Girl Records' after the club.
Clive Owen - English Actor.
Clive is an avid Liverpool fan. He attends as many games as he can and always makes sure that he is able to watch the games on television, no matter where he is.
Graeme Smith - South African Pro Cricketer.
The captain of the South African cricket team has actually been a Red from the age of six, although the rest of his family support Manchester united. Graeme's all time hero is Kenny Dalglish, he has fond memories of watching videos of him as a youngster.
Stephen Graham - English Actor.
Stephen is a die-hard Liverpool fan. He often tries to convert Hollywood's leading actors and writers into becoming fans of the club. Stephen even tried converting Leonardo Di Caprio, but Di Caprio had found football to be a bit boring for his taste.
Robbie Slater - Former Professional Football Player.
The England-born Australian openly supports Liverpool although having won the Premiership with Blackburn in 1995. Slater also played for West Ham United, Southampton, Wolves and Lens.
Cameron Mooney - Australian Football Superstar.
The former AFL (Australian Football League) player is an avid Liverpool fan. He has won 3 premierships and is now co-hosting a successful Australian sports program.
Robbie Farah - Australian Pro Rugby League Player.
The Wests Tigers captain is a huge Liverpool FC fan and has followed the club since he was 13, partly due to his brothers supporting the club. His favourite games were the '01 FA Cup final, '05 Champions League final and the '06 FA Cup final amongst others. His favourite goal of all time was the Gerrard stunner against Olympiakos. Robbie went to a Liverpool v man united game and sung 'You'll Never Walk Alone' with the Kop and later stated that it was one of the best experiences of his entire life. He later met and shared a few drinks with Robbie Fowler, one of the all time Liverpool greats.
Ding Junhui - Chinese Pro Snooker Player.
Superstar snooker player, Ding Junhui, admits that he is a massive Liverpool fan. He is already China's most successful snooker player of all time.
Gerry Marsden - English Musician.
This one is pretty obvious. Gerry is best known for being leader of the band Gerry and the Pacemakers.
John Bishop - English Comedian and Actor.
John is originally from Liverpool and is an ardent fan of the club. He also tries to follow the Reds as much as he can.
Adam Woodyatt - English Actor and Media Personality.
More famously known as 'Ian Beale' in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, Adam is a passionate Liverpool fan and has a keen appreciation for sport in general.
Laura Davies - English Pro Golfer.
Laura is considered to be the most accomplished English female golfer of modern times, boasting 78 professional wins worldwide. And yes, you guessed it; she is a big Liverpool fan.
Rosanna Davison - Irish Model, Columnist and Personality.
Rosie was the winner of the 2003 Miss World contest. She is a Liverpool supporter, just like her father, Chris De Burgh.
Tommy Tiernan - Irish Comedian, Actor and Writer.
Funny-man Tommy Tiernan is also a passionate Liverpool supporter. He spoke about his passion for the club in a recent interview.
Kirsty Gallacher - Scottish Television Presenter.
Kirsty has supported the club since she was young. She was influenced by her father, who also happens to be a Liverpool supporter.
Football Players that support/grew up supporting Liverpool FC
Xabi Alonso - Spanish, plays for Real Madrid.
The former Liverpool midfielder recently revealed that he 'is and always will be' a Liverpool supporter. He loves the club so much that he wants to raise his son as a die-hard Liverpool supporter too. He has promised to return to Liverpool FC one day.
Theo Walcott - English, plays for Arsenal.
Theo has never hidden the fact that he's a massive Liverpool supporter. He started following the club as a youngster because of his father's support for the club. Who knows, he could very well join the club sooner rather than later.
Robbie Keane - Irish, plays for West Ham United.
Robbie Keane joined Liverpool in July 2008. At his first press conference with the club, he revealed that he had been a Liverpool supporter all his life and that he always had the Liverpool shirt on his back when he was a youngster. He left the club 7 months later due to poor form and a disappointing run.
Kevin Nolan - English, plays for Newcastle United.
Kevin was born in Toxteth, Liverpool and grew up supporting the Liverpool Football Club. His two favorite players however, were Eric Cantona and Lee Sharpe of Manchester united.
Jari Litmanen - Finnish, currently a Free Agent.
Jari grew up supporting Liverpool and was even signed by Gerard Houllier in 2001, but his days at the club were short lived due to constant injuries. Jari is arguably the best Finnish player of all time.
Rio Ferdinand - English, plays for Manchester united.
Rio grew up idolizing John Barnes. The Liverpool influence came about due to the majority of his friends supporting Liverpool. Rio once told MUTV, his club's official TV channel that ''As a kid, Liverpool was the team that were doing well, with the likes of John Barnes and John Aldridge, and United weren't really winning anything.''
John O'Shea - Irish, plays for Manchester united.
John supported Liverpool when he was growing up. He is admired at his current club, even though it is widely acknowledged amongst united fans that O'Shea grew up supporting Liverpool.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer - Norwegian, used to play for Manchester united.
Ole grew up supporting Liverpool, but he jumped ship as he signed with Manchester united in July 1996.
Welcome to Part Three of our Asia Tour blog. If you haven't seen any of the blogs we've been updating since arriving in China on Monday morning then click here to view our China Blog and here to view our Match Day China Blog. Over the next three days, we'll be updating this blog around the clock and bringing you all the news from within the LFC camp in Malaysia. There will be lots of little snippets of information that you can probably live without knowing but we'll tell you anyway. So here's goes...
Wednesday 20 July 11:02 – Paul Rogers
Final update from me for this blog and it’s a quick note to say a special thank-you to all the fans I met while away in Asia. As I was smoking throughout – true to my promise to my kids however, I have now officially given up and haven’t had a cigarette since Monday July 18 at 15:21 (four minutes before picking my daughter up from school) – I spent a fair bit of time stood around outside hotels, coaches, airports and stadiums enjoying a Marlboro Light or two with the local fans. It was during this ‘cigarette time’ that I spent outside these venues that I really got to know many of the fans who had camped out waiting to catch a glimpse of the players, grab a photo opportunity or get something signed. From the minute we arrived in China to the minute we left Singapore, I tried to spend as much time as I could talking to the fans and hearing their stories of why they loved a football club thousands of miles away from where they lived. I found their passion, fanaticism and understanding of what makes Liverpool FC special quite humbling at times and when asked to pick one personal moment that stands out from the tour, I’ll have to go with my time spent chatting with the supporters in all three countries – China, Malaysia and Singapore.
Second best moment? Take your pick from one of the following: acquiring pandas in China, collecting tigers in Malaysia (thanks Sheldon!), filming the fans at training in KL, buying watches in Chinatown and returning back to find my colleague had discovered The Long Bar in the car park, getting mobbed with Christian Poulsen in the Pavilion shopping mall in KL (with the photo making the front page of the next day’s Star newspaper), getting served drinks by Jay Spearing and Daniel Agger on the 57th Floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, taking a dip in the world’s highest infinity pool, visiting a school for the children of migrant workers, getting our wrists slapped for playing Tinie Tempah too loud on the team airplane, watching the first half of the match in Malaysia with Mark Volante in amongst the fans and then being automatically assigned three armed police officers to protect us from the fans (bizarre!), eating curry for breakfast in Malaysia and, last but not least, being handed the official match programme for the Malaysia game, turning to the centre spread and seeing a team poster with our names at the bottom – under the heading of Coaching Staff (see below). I was No.9! I left England a first team player (see first blog update) and returned a coach. The poster is now on my eldest daughter’s bedroom wall!
Asia 2011 was magical, memorable and, at the same time, just plain mad.
When working in and around Liverpool FC every day of the year it's easy to lose sight of the power of our club on the other side of the world - but last week was a stark reminder that distance is no barrier when it comes to following your heroes.
From country to country we were greeted by a sea of red as fans gathered at all times of day and night just for the chance to sneak a glimpse of their idols.
For me, there are so many memories: the unexpectedly (in my head, anyway) rapturous reception when we landed in China; Guangzhou locals turning out in their thousands to welcome players at a Standard Chartered sponsored event; arriving at our KL hotel at 5am to see the lobby packed out with Reds after we'd been chased down the motorway by eager fans taking pictures out of their car windows; hearing stories of supporters camping out in the hotel and others from fans who followed the Reds every step of the way on the tour; open training in front of nearly 40,000 fans and then a friendly match in front of over 80,000 fanatical Reds.
For someone who takes for granted watching Liverpool week after week and seeing the players day after day, this was almost impossible to take in.
It was also impossible to take more than a few steps throughout the hotels in China and Malaysia without being stopped by fans just wanting to shake hands with anyone who represented LFC. Even for those of us who have worked for Liverpool for many years, it was an incredible experience to live long in the memory.
There are far too many people to mention individually, but to all those we met with, spoke with, laughed with and shared stories with - and all those who helped make our Asian adventure one we'll never forget - thank you!
Hopefully we'll be back in your part of the world very soon. YNWA!
Monday 20 July 10:20 – Paul Hayton
My favourite memories have to be from China. The welcome we received at the airport was unbelievable and I was blown away by the reception. When we got to the hotel, there was a sea of red waiting for us and this did not change throughout our time in the hotel. It reminded me of Beatlemania!
Monday 20 July 10:20 – Craig Jones
You're always told we have a massive fan base in Asia, but until you see it for yourself, you can't really grasp the magnitude of their support and dedication. They turned out in their thousands for matches, training and even the hotel just to wave at their favourite men in red - as you're probably well aware from this blog. It seems I was going there to experience their culture, but they've already embraced ours.
Monday 18 July 16:20 – Paul Rogers
Two very, very happy kids - and not a single tear from the little one over the lack of a real panda. Stella (right) has named her new animals after the ladies that gave her them - Zita, Chang Mei Wan and Sarah. Lila has called all three of her new animals George for some reason.
Monday 18 July 09:05 – Paul Rogers
Landed at John Lennon and it's lashing down. Nice. Pose for a group picture in the rain - photographer John Powell takes multiple shots to ensure we all get soaked - and then it's off to get our bags and get home. Well, it's home for me. The others take the equipment and the tapes back to the office before taking the rest of the day off. On Tuesday, we'll all post our final thoughts about the tour and pick our best moments. Now, time to unpack the pandas (not real ones) and the tigers for when the kids come back from school and pre-school. They're going to love them.
Monday 18 July 03:05 – Paul Rogers
We've just landed in Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen Airport, the only private jet airport in the Middle East (so it says in the brochure, anyway). We're all given the option of getting off the plane and going inside the Airport lounge for a drink and snack or staying on the plane. Everyone, bar those who didn't wake when we landed, gets off. Never one to miss a photo opportunity, I decide to pose for a picture with one of the men who greet us at the entrance - and in return, I introduce him to Jamie Carragher so he can have his picture taken with the Reds Vice Captain.
Above photo expertly taken by the very lovely Suzanne Wright from adidas who has been with us every step of the way in Asia and a regular reader of this blog.
(See, I said I'd mention you!)
Sunday 17 July 22:45 – Paul Rogers
At the airport in Singapore about to board the plane home. It’s been a fantastic trip and we’ll wrap up the blog on Monday and Tuesday with our final thoughts. I hope you’ve enjoyed the updates as much as we have. (The picture below is of two fans and readers of this blog who were at the hotel to wave us off – Raye Teo and Gregory Chong. Goodbye Asia, hello kids in the morning. Can’t wait!
Sunday 17 July 19:50 – Paul Rogers
At a special training event with about 3,000 fans – all Standard Chartered invitees - packed into the one stand at the small Bishan Stadium about 20 minutes from the hotel. While the players are put through one final training session in Asia, Claire Rourke attempts to record a piece to camera on the running track by the pitch. I say ‘attempts’ because every time she starts to speak, the fans above in the stand start screaming her name and one particular fella screams at the top of his voice, “Claire, will you marry me?”
Sunday 17 July 16:20 – Paul Rogers
Just when I thought I was in danger of flying back to the UK without once getting my swimming shorts wet, I discover that there’s an infinity pool on the roof of our hotel. Not just any infinity pool either – it only happens to be the highest one in the world! That sold it for me. Despite having just 40 minutes until the coach was leaving for a special training session, I got my shorts on, got up to the 57th floor and dived straight in. Turns out I wasn’t the only one tempted – Kuyt, Carragher, Raul, Flanagan, Maxi, Insua, Coady, Robinson and Damien Comolli were all there. “How boss is this?” Conor Coady asked. “I wish we were staying here longer!”
Sunday 17 July 15:20 – Paul Rogers
Just back from an adidas store appearance in the city centre with Martin Kelly and Dirk Kuyt. In no way was my decision to cover the event influenced by the prospect of picking up some free adidas Originals product. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. Which was a good thing as I didn’t get any anyway! What I did get was a good interview with Martin Kelly in the back of our people carrier on the way back to the hotel. We’ll publish it on the site next week but he says he’s now over the injury that cut short his season last year and can’t wait to try and win a regular place in the team – anywhere along the back four.
Sunday 17 July 14:29 - Paul Eaton
Another day, another country. The third and final destination of Liverpool's pre-season tour has been reached, with the squad arriving in Singapore late last night. It's fair to say the hotel is something special - when players and staff are getting lost when walking around it then clearly it's not your average hotel. It's a brief stopover here before heading home, but the players have once again gone their separate ways this afternoon to fulfil commercial obligations with Standard Chartered, adidas and others. Then it will be a training session front of thousands of fans at the local stadium this evening as the players are put through their paces for the final time in Asia. The finishing line is in sight. Just a few more hours to go and then we will bid farewell to Asia 2011 and set off on our 15-hour flight back to Liverpool. No doubt we'll have loads and loads of thankyous to say to the people who have made this week one of the most memorable for everyone involved, but time to type up a Jamie Carragher interview we've just conducted first.
Sunday 17 July 01:35 – Paul Rogers
On the 57th floor of the hotel in the SkyPark bar. There’s a drinks reception which the players have been given permission to attend. Daniel Agger – a serious contender for title of most popular player on the tour – orders drinks for our media crew and then proceeds to spend the next half an hour stood by our table talking to us about everything from football to accents to restaurants to the work we do. When I tell him we had over 8 million page impressions on a single day last week, he can’t believe it. The Daniel Agger we were chatting to – and the one we’ve seen all week in Asia – couldn’t have been nicer and more chatty. The exact opposite of how he is every time we stick a TV camera in front of him at Melwood. “I don’t know why it is,” he says, when I ask what’s the issue with interviews, “I just don’t like doing it. TV stuff is not for me.” Fair enough.
Sunday 17 July 00:25 – Paul Rogers
Just met a fanatical Liverpool supporter who works at the hotel by the name of James Bala. After telling me how much he loved Liverpool and explaining how Singapore as a country got its name – an Indian man spotted a lion (‘singa’ in Malay) on an island and named the country ‘lion city’, he proceeded to tell me how he started supporting Liverpool because of his all-time hero Ian Rush. The very same Ian Rush that was sat in the bar in the lobby with Phil Thompson and the club photographers. Tthe look on his face when he met then five minutes later was priceless.
Saturday 16 July 23:55 – Paul Rogers
Landed in Singapore and every looked pretty tired from the trip as they got off the plane. It’s been hot, it’s been hectic and there’s been a lot of travelling in a short space of time. All of that tiredness just evaporates however when we reach the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I’ve stayed in a few decent hotels when travelling with the team but nothing comes close to this place. It’s an absolutely amazing building with three towers holding over 2,500 rooms and an entire shopping complex – which makes it incredibly easy to get lost. I know from experience because I got in the wrong lift and spent half and hour trying to find my room in what turned out to be the wrong tower.
Saturday 16 July 19:50 – Paul Rogers
Brilliant game – even if it was only a friendly. The scenes at the end as the players did a lap of honour were unbelievable – like what you’d expect at the end of a Champions League final. As they were walking round, Carra spotted one particular flag in the crowd and pointed it out to Dirk Kuyt, who saw it and laughed – the flag in question? ‘Liverpool Love You Long Time Tour’! Off to the airport after Paul Eaton and Claire Rourke have done their interviews. Next stop Singapore but we've loved Malaysia. What a great country.
Saturday 16 July 18:30 – Paul Rogers
Almost half-time here inside the stadium and I’ve spent the first half sat by the Liverpool bench editing pictures I took of fans before the game and sending them back to the office. Atmosphere is incredible! Here’s two pictures I liked – but there’ll be loads more on the official site anytime soon. Stood with Mark Volante by the pitch before the players came out and we both just looked around the stadium and said: ‘What a job this is!”
Saturday 16 July 16:50 – Claire Rourke
Pitchside inside the stadium and just waiting to do a live interview with Steve Clarke and Jamie Carragher for LFC TV. The noise level is unbelievable – I just hope I can hear what they say! Also, starting to regret wearing black trousers now – it’s very hot!
Saturday 16 July 15:20 - Paul Rogers
Just leaving for the stadium so need to be quick. Got in the lift with John Flanagan and Jay Spearing who both couldn't wait to get to the ground to see the fans. Flanagan was also still laughing about the madness at yesterday's shopping mall - he too made the front page of the paper and is also famous like me!
Saturday July 16 08:30 - Paul Rogers
Match day in Malaysia and I wake up to be greeted by a text message from the LFC Press Officer Paul Tyrrell saying, 'Get on you! Front page of the local paper!' Before I could find a copy, I was trying to think, 'Oh no, did I do something last night? The whole LFC Media crew (and assorted non-football Club staff) had enjoyed a late night drink to unwind in the Long Bar - a very strange bar in the car park (yes, seriously) of our hotel that looked like a scene from an early Dr Dre / Snoop video - but I certainly don't remember doing anything that would make the front page of a paper. Anyway, when I later find the paper, my mind is put at rest - there on the front page of the page is a big photo of the scenes of madness from yesterday's Standard Chartered appearance with John Flanagan, Soto, Christian Poulsen and, erm, me, being mobbed inside the Pavilion shopping mall. Having told my two little kids I was being taken to Asia to play for Liverpool as Steven Gerrard was injured (see first blog update http://bit.ly/qXE0S0 and scroll to the bottom of the page), this is all the proof they'll need to realise that their dad wasn't lying afterall. Me and Christian Poulsen. Together. In real life. Talk about fame at last!
Quick few other updates - after writing this blog, I need to pack all my stuff as we're leaving for the stadium at 3:15 and will be flying straight after the game for Singapore. Unfortunately, my room looks like a bomb has hit it. There's stuff everywhere - pandas, chocolates, framed picture of KL (the last two gifts from the Malaysia Supporters Club) and now, two new editions to the collection - a couple of Malaysian Tigers (made in China, obviously!) It appears that after reading in this blog about my two kids wanting a panda each (one real, one stuffed) and being given them as presents (again, see earlier blog
http://bit.ly/qXE0S0 ), one very lovely Malaysian fan Chang Mei Wan (follow her on Twitter @mwreds) got in touch with Sheldon Xavier, our Man in Malyasia (see his blog, it's great http://bit.ly/nGu6hK) and asked to come and meet me at the hotel to give me some presents from Malaysia for my kids. How top is that? The kids are going to think it's Christmas when their dad - the famous LFC player - gets home on Monday!
Also need to give a big shout out (I sound like Tim Westwood now) to Helen and her friends from the Official Malaysian Supporters Club who very kindly drove myself and Mark Bygroves from the LFC Community Department all the way to Chinatown last night at 11pm to see some sights around the city - the twin towers are class - and even did some serious negotiating for us at the night market. Only issue is, after helen paid for what I wanted with her own money, when we stopped at the cash point so I could get cash out to repay her, the bank froze my account as they thought someone in Malaysia was trying to use my card. They were, me. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I couldn't repay the money and now owe Helen £120! I will pay, honest.
Friday July 15 20:30 - Paul Eaton
If there was ever a prospect of fame going to myself to Paul Rogers's heads after the amount of autographs we've signed and pictures we've posed for this week then we were brought crashing back down to earth when we were denied entry to a club drinks ceremony at the team hotel by a security guard who clearly hadn't cottoned on to the LFC TV mania which has swept through Kuala Lumpur.
Our names weren’t on the invite list, but we pointed out that the players' names weren’t on there either and we're all part of the same travelling party. "But you're not players, are you?" was the reply. Fair point.
We scuttled off like naughty schoolchildren back to our rooms to collect our club passes. Once finally inside, the room used yesterday for Kenny Dalglish's press conference had been turned into a mini Anfield by Standard Chartered with all four sides of the 'ground' packed to welcome the team, who spent half an hour playing games and posing for pictures.
Friday July 15 15:57 - Paul Rogers
Just back in the hotel after attending a Standard Chartered event in a shopping mall in downtown KL. To describe it as total madness would be an understatement. The players were literally mobbed as they made their way to the stage with thousands of fans rushing towards them to try and touch their heroes. Andy Carroll and Jamie Carragher proved to be the most popular players present while Raul Meireles looked to be having fun - out of all the players, he's definitely one of the ones who seems to be enjoying the Beatles-like hysteria that follows the team everywhere. When the traditional drummers were doing their ear-splitting thing right in front of the players, he was getting right into it - doing a dance for the watching fans and flashing cameras. In the absolute chaos of trying to get back to the waiting cars after doing an in-bank appearance, LFC TV Online's Mark Volante was left behind with no money and no phone (he had it stolen a few days ago) as the police needed to get the players to the mall. Lucky for him, we got caught in traffic and he was picked up wandering down the street in the direction of the mall. Look out for a video from him showing the crazy scenes later.
Oh, and if you're on Facebook, check out my (very shaky) Flip video of the fans at the stadium last night - great scenes here ion Malaysia: http://on.fb.me/r2GlUq (You better watch it, it only took 17 hours to upload on my wifi connection here in the hotel!)
Friday July 15 14:30 - Claire Rourke
We're just on our way to an adidas event with Dirk Kuyt, Charlie Adam, Raul Meireles and Jack Robinson.
The roads are extremely busy, but thanks to our police escort, who are all but pushing cars out of the way on the journey, we should arrive on time for a Q&A and signing session with local media and adidas competition winners.
Friday July 15 13:57 - Paul Rogers
Quick update: Off to Standard Chartered appearance in shopping centre with Steve Clarke, Jamie Carragher, Andy Carroll, John Flanagan, Maxi, Raul Meireles and Soto. Up to a thousand fans expected so should be good. Also, just seen the room being kitted out for another Standard Chartered event tonight - looks brilliant. Will post a picture later.
Friday July 15 11:30 - Paul Eaton
We've spent an enjoyable morning at an adidas soccer clinic with the community coaching team.
We arrived in the midst of pouring rain - the heavens had truly opened - and we all thought we would be in for a soaking, but thankfully nobody's spirits were dampened by the weather and more than 30 kids from the local area were given the chance to further their football education with a series of practice drills devised by our coaching team.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the morning was arriving at the venue and bumping into John Barnes. Upon spotting us, he laughed: "I only live five minutes away from your offices and we fly halfway around the world to meet one another!"
Barnes is over here working on the Copa America for TV and will also be taking up co-commentary duties on Liverpool's friendly match with a Malaysia XI tomorrow night.
Once again it was brilliant to see so many kids having such a good time and clearly enjoying being given this once in a lifetime opportunity to learn the Liverpool Way.
Friday July 15 10:05 - Paul Rogers
Just got up after a much-needed first lie in of the trip – not going to bed on Wednesday night killed me - and feel a million times better. Anyway, here’s last night’s blog update which I couldn’t post due to connection problems:Not long finished eating dinner in the hotel - food was proper nice - and am about to try and quickly knock together a little video montage of the fans from training earlier tonight. Paul Eaton wasn't exaggerating in his update earlier – the crowd scenes at the stadium were phenomenal. I’ve certainly never seen a Mexican wave amongst fans at a training session before but then again, I can’t ever remember seeing almost 38,000 fans at a training session before. From the minute the players walked out until the moment they boarded their bus to return to the hotel, the singing, screaming and cheering didn’t let up. It was like we’d just walked into the stadium with our first league title for 20 years! Very impressive. Saw loads of kids – and even some babies too – being held aloft by their proud parents. Always nice to see the next generation of Reds already been groomed to support the greatest club on the planet – although, one dad was getting so carried away holding his baby up for me to film on my Flip camcorder that he didn’t realise the only thing I was filming was a screaming baby with a look of absolute horror on her face. Still, at least the dad enjoyed the moment!
Top three highlights of Thursday for me:
1. Meeting Sheldon Xavier for a chat in our hotel lobby this morning. Sheldon has been writing a great blog about the LFC tour from a fan perspective as he lives here in Kuala Lumpur. We had a great chat about all things LFC and he rather also promised me he’ll bring me a stuffed Malaysian tiger for my kids – which was very nice of him! Click here to check out his blog: http://bit.ly/q9zA2f
2. Walking round the entire running track of the Bukit Jalil Stadium with Ian Rush, Phil Thompson and Ian Ayre just after arriving at the ground for training earlier. The amount of stuff – shirts, scarves, caps, even a dirty white vest at one point – that was getting thrown over the moat for Rushie and Thommo to sign was unbeleievable and full credit to the pair for signing everything they did. Later, when the pair were sat in the bar - with Rushie buying everyone’s beers – they were still talking about the atmosphere at the training session. “I’ve never been to Malaysia before,” Thommo told me, “but it’s amazing. The whole day has been superb from start to finish. I’ve loved it.”
3. Meeting so many fantastic groups of fans – particularly hanging around the hotel. As I’ve recently fallen off the smoking bandwagon after five years without a single cigarette (I’ve promised my wife and kids I’ll pack in when I get back to the UK – which will be quite difficult if I buy more in Duty Free), I’ve spent a bit of time outside the hotel lobby enjoying the odd cigarette or three and so have spent loads of time chatting and getting to know loads of the fans from both here in Malaysia – and before in China. It’s brilliant to just talk with the fans and ask them about their passion for LFC and their lives in general. Two fans I met earlier were Ashikin Majid and Meor Ezammer (pictured together below with lucky mascot ‘Shy Baby Remmaze’) who are getting married next Saturday and hope to go to Anfield on their honeymoon...
Top three lowlights of Thursday for me:
1. The decision to not go straight to bed after arriving in KL was a bad one. I thought getting just three hours sleep would prove worse once it had got to about 7.30am but I was wrong. By 1am, I felt like I was about to fall over at any point. Early night for me, I said to myself when I was feeling at my worst, and then obviously did the exact opposite and sat up with the lads and some fans until 4am.
2. The journey to the stadium to watch training was just ridiculous. The traffic here is as bad as any I’ve seen anywhere in the world and unless you’ve got a helicopter, you’re stuck in it. Even with three police outriders and three police cars trying to carve out a path through the traffic for the two Liverpool coaches, it still took us an hour to get there – and that was with just 38,000 fans there. I dread to think how bad it will be when 80,000 flock there on Saturday.
3. Hearing that David Rawcliffe, a good Red and great photographer who travels all over the world photographing Liverpool, had his Apple laptop (used for sending his pictures back) stolen on the first night of training in China. He’s since bought another one over here but it turns out he also had an expensive flash stolen as well. Fortunately, he’s now back up and running again and able to take really important pictures like this one of Mark Volante, myself and fanatical Liverpool FC supporter Paul Hayton (left of picture).
Thursday July 14 22:21 - Paul Eaton
It's been another busy day and I am just back in the hotel now after travelling back from Liverpool's open training session in Kuala Lumpur. If anyone doubted Liverpool's fans who live thousands of miles away are as passionate as those who live in Anfield then the scenes inside the Bukit Jalil National Stadium will dispel those doubts.
It was also a surreal experience for myself and cameraman Paul Hayton. Shortly after arriving at the stadium while the players all turned left to head to the dressing room, Paul and I walked out through the tunnel and the sight of our white Liverpool Standard Chartered tracksuits were enough to bring 38,000 fans to their feet. The noise was deafening and took us somewhat by surprise!
We were only the warm up for the main act, though, and when Kenny and the lads took to the field the place went crazy. It's on nights like this that we're all so proud to work for and represent Liverpool Football Club.
The players went through a full session and ended it with a lap of honour having changed into their new adidas third strip.
As we left the stadium, we could only imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like on Saturday night considering how loud it was for a training session this evening
Thank you Malaysia for the brilliant welcome we've had so far.
Thursday 14 July 17:05 – Paul Rogers
Just back from providing live Twitter coverage to all the @LFC followers for a special Standard Chartered-sponsored Q&A session with Phil Thompson hosting a sit down interview with Ian Ayre and Kenny Dalglish in front of an invited audience of 50 fans. For those who didn't get the chance to follow the Twitter coverage, Thommo was a great host - funny and passionate at the same time - while Kenny was in particularly sharp form. On the hundreds of fans waiting to greet the team when they arrived at 6am in Malaysia, Kenny joked: 'I couldn't believe that they were all there at that time of the morning. It was either amazing or they were all homeless...' On the players being in awe of the support in Asia: "We've brought a lot of young kids with us and what an experience it is for them to see these scenes with so many fans. Jack Robinson is 17, Conor Coady is 18, Andre Wisdom is 18, Flanno is young, Shelvey is young - although he looks 40!" And finally, on his return to manager's dugout after 20 years away: "Aye, it's going well, we haven't lost a game since May!"
And just quickly, here's a picture of the two sons of a certain Mr A Shaheen, who I met in the lift on the way back up to my room. Turns out the entire family have flown over to Singapore to not just watch Liverpool play but also watch them train and actually stay in the team hotel. "You write blog, I read blog," he told me in the lift so what else could I do but put a picture of his boys on the site?
Right, off to training next at 17:40. A few nights ago, Arsenal trained in the same stadium and there were 10,000 fans there to watch them. Tonight, we're expecting 50,000! Should be lively!
Thursday 14 July 13:40 – Paul Rogers
So there we were, Paul Eaton and myself, casually chatting in the hotel lift on our way down to watch Kenny’s press conference in the ballroom when the doors opened, we turned right and were greeted by this...
Thursday 14 July 12:20 - Paul Eaton
So after a few hours sleep I'm up and ready for the first full day in Malaysia. Totally blown away by the reception we received on arrival at the hotel - so much so that a planned meeting between myself, Paul Rogers and the LFC Communications team had to be delayed for half an hour while we were besieged by autograph hunters eager for signatures and pictures with anybody in LFC gear. It was a brilliant welcome - thanks to all who were here, we're looking forward to spending a few days in your country.
As you will know by now, before we headed out to Asia we signed up Charlie Adam and John Flanagan to record exclusive daily video diaries with LFC TV Online. Now that we have changed countries, we thought we'd give the lads the chance to jump ship now if they wanted to, if they were getting a bit tired of seeing our faces every day. We said we'd be happy to ask different players to cover the Malaysia leg if they wanted - but credit to the lads, they have enjoyed speaking to you every day and so are keen to continue. We'll film their latest thoughts later this evening after they have had a light snack and before they head to the stadium for an open training session in front of an expected 50,000 fans. That should be special.
Time to get ready for Kenny's press conference now - no doubt he will be asked about Stewart Downing and the latest on that transfer, Stay tuned to Liverpoolfc.tv for the manager's thoughts later on.
Thursday 14 July 08:37 - Paul Rogers
The flight over from China was great - myself, Mark Volante and cameramen Craig Jones and Paul Hayton were all sat at the very back of the plane around a big table (not the sort of the plane I usually fly on!) while the boss and his staff all sit at the front. The players, meanwhile, sit in the middle of the plane with various Club staff and a few guests dotted about towards the black. The table we were sat around was crying out for a good game of cards but as we didn't have any, myself and Mark Volante hooked up our ipods to my speaker and decided to have a Zane Lowe style soundclash - which was rudely cut short after a secret complaint was made to the air hostess from a member of the Melwood staff - we know who you are! It seems he didn't take kindly to hearing Swedish House Mafia v Tinie Tempah blaring out of the speaker as he was trying to sleep at three in the morning. Funnily enough, we only turned it up after our Greek air hostesses told us to.
As we didn't land until 4am-ish (I've started to lose track of time over here), the decision was made to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible and we didn't end up going through customs - instead, all of that was done on the coaches and we went straight from the plane to the coach and then back to the hotel where there were loads of fans camped out to greet the players - fantastic sight to see at that time of the morning and lifted everyone's spirits despite such a long night with little to no sleep for most of us since Tuesday.
Quick word about the coach journey before I try and get some sleep - two things stick out: 1. Being told at 10.10pm to get someone ready on standby back home to publish a statement at 10.30pm English time on the Official site announcing we'd agreed a fee with Aston Villa for the transfer of Stewart Downing (always great when you get told we're about to sign a player you think is quality - or sell a, let's say, less quality one) and 2. Watching in amazement as one white car chased the team coach all the way back from the airport to the hotel, weaving in and out of traffic, cutting up the police escort and all the while hanging out of the window waving and filming the coach on his phone. Whilst driving. The guy in question was so fast, he even beat the team bus back to the hotel to greet the players. When he approached us afterwards, all proud of himself, he wanted to know if we'd filmed his mentalist driving exhibition. We had. Then he wanted to know if we'd mention him and his two mates on this blog? If you're reading this Haziq Hussein, Syafiq Aziz and Saiful, the answer is no!
Special mention also to Lema, Christine, Olivia Marbun and Azlina - four girls from Indonesia who we met outside the hotel and one of whom greeted me by saying, "Where is Mark Platt?" (Fellow LFC employee last seen in these parts back in April covering the Masters Tournement for LFC TV. He obviously made a good impression!)
Oh and finally, as promised to some of the fans who stayed the longest in the lobby, here's your faces on the Official Liverpool FC website. Fame at last! Right, I'm off to bed.
Thursday 14 July 07:23 - Paul Rogers
Right, we finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur about two hours ago - we flew straight out of China after the game - and I've just checked into my hotel room, logged on and been able to access The Kop and our blogs for the first time since leaving Liverpool on Sunday. In China, The Kop (and our blogs) were barred from being accessed on the internet (unless you knew a sneaky way around it) so all of our updates so far have had to be either emailed back to the office, sent by text or rung through on our mobiles. Anyway, enough of that - we're here now, so will start updating this blog ourselves. We hope you enjoy it and make sure you keep checking back for new updates or leave a comment if you have some feedback. The first China Blog clocked up over 160,000 page impressions, it will be interesting to see how many this Malaysian blog generates.
There has been a lot of talk about players that Liverpool could sign to improve their squad to help them close the gap to the top four. Kenny Dalglish overhauled the squad last summer, but by the way the rumours are raking up, new manager could be planning to put his stamp on the squad. There can be no doubt that additions are needed to the Liverpool squad to improve on the disappointing 8th in the league, but there were some good signs last season, and a couple of quality additions are all that is needed.
Joe Cole has been on loan at Lille this season, and been in good form. Cole never really got up and running in his first season at Liverpool, but on his day, Cole is a very talented footballer. He has shown in some of his interviews that he would happily return to Liverpool to prove that he can be success at Anfield. If he can recreate his Lille form, he would be a good addition to the squad, as we don’t have many wide options so would provide another wide option as well as an attacking midfield player. The French league is obviously not of the same standard as the premier league, but Cole seems to have the drive and determination to succeed, so would happily take him back at Liverpool. The only stumbling block could be whether the owners want to keep his high wages on the book, but I’m sure they would accept the high wages if Cole starts to play well.
Another player that has been on loan this season is Alberto Aquilani. Milan have seriously played us with Aquilani. They didn’t let him reach the 25 appearance threshold that would mean they would have to sign him permanently for a set fee. They have now tried to sign him for less than the agreed fee. Personally, I feel Aquilani would be a perfect addition to the system that Brendan Rodgers employs. A deep lying playmaker who can pass the ball, exactly what Aquilani is and what Rodgers likes to have in his team. There have been rumours that Aquilani’s contract has been terminated, but I highly doubt that these rumours are true.
Many players have been rumoured to be linked with Liverpool since Brendan Rodgers has taken over as manager. It has been said that he has an agreement with the Swansea chairman that he won’t sign any players from his former club for 12 months. However, Gylfi Sigurdsson was on loan at Swansea last season, and was on the verge of signing for Swansea on a permanent deal when Rodgers moved to Liverpool. Sigurdsson has not hidden his desire to play under Rodgers again, and Liverpool can easily afford the £6.8million he would cost to sign permanently from Hoffenheim. Sigurdsson worked perfectly in Rodgers’ style of football, so could bring something new to the Liverpool team.
Other players that have been linked to Liverpool have been Milos Krasic and Cristian Tello. Milos Krasic was a sensational player at CSKA Moscow, but has found it difficult since his move to Juventus. He has never really got on a good run in the team, so is available for as little as £6 million. With Liverpool’s lack of wide options, Krasic would be a necessary and welcomed addition in the wide areas, and could go on to be a very smart piece of business indeed. Cristian Tello is a rumour that I have taken a personal interest in, as this move could really be one of the best signings in many years at Liverpool. Tello is a 20 year old Spanish attacker who plays for Barcelona. The fact that he plays for Barcelona means he would suit the style employed by Liverpool manager. He has been given many first team chances at Barca this season, and has regularly impressed. Tello would be a great back up for Carroll and Suarez after Kuyt’s departure to Fenerbahce, or could earn a starting role if he impresses.
Rodgers has embraced the current crop of Liverpool players, but looks likely to make some additions, and rightly so. It looks like Joe Cole may be given a chance to prove himself. However, it less clear whether Aquilani will still be a Liverpool player come the start of the season. Whatever happens, Brendan Rodgers seems to have a good plan in place, and I’m looking forward to watching Liverpool play under his guidance next season.
Liverpool FC are heading to Asia and this live blog will keep fans all over the world right up to date with all the news from our visits to China, Malaysia and Singapore. Our dedicated team of reporters will be providing updates around the clock as the Reds continue their pre-season preparations in front of some of their most fanatical fans. With updates from inside the Reds' camp and news and views from all three destinations on our Standard Chartered sponsored tour, make sure you log in every day.
Wednesday 13 July 03:27 – Paul Rogers
Right, final blog update of yesterday (or first update of today, if you prefer) and I’m about to go to bed – it’s been a long, long day! Up at 8am, off out with the community boys at 9am and then it hasn’t really stopped since then. The community events were great as ever – seeing what the club means to so many people – many much more disadvantaged than ourselves - is always amazing to see and it’s what makes LFC so special, I think. Had a quick chat with Kenny after tonight's Standard Chartered-sponsored cocktail drinks reception in a nearby hotel and then came back for a quick drink in the bar with the club's technical analyst from Melwood before doing the sensible (if boring) thing and returning to my room to type up today's community feature – see main website - and update the Tour site in English and Chinese. Anyway, enough of all that – here's some pictures of some very nice people I’ve met today (excuse the blur, it was taken on a phone)...
And finally, as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t just been given one panda today for my daughter, another one, beautifully wrapped and tied up with a bow, was left behind reception for me by a really nice lady I got chatting to yesterday outside the team hotel. So, Zita Leung, thank-you very much! Two pandas = two soon to be very happy daughters!
Tuesday 12 July 22:06 - Paul Rogers
It's a tough job...
Tuesday 12 July 21:55 - Paul Eaton
The playing squad have moved onto another city centre hotel for a special Gala drinks reception attended by invited guests of Standard Chartered. Led in by Kenny Dalglish and Jamie Carragher to a chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone, the players posed for a group photograph before splitting up to enjoy a selection of football-related activities with the excited crowd. As I write, Peter Gulacsi, Martin Hansen and Brad Jones are making up a three-man goalkeeping team - but so far they haven't managed to make too many saves. In another room there are some competitive table football games taking place - and Daniel Ayala has just scored a cracker! The players will stay here for another 30 minutes before returning to the hotel ahead of tomorrow night's friendly.
Tuesday 12 July 20:14 - Paul Rogers
Sat on the floor of my hotel room's balcony typing up a feature about a day spent with the four Community Department coaches the club have brought along on pre-season for the first time. Mark Chester, Mark Bygroves, Anthony Wright and Eddie Sullivan were the stars of the show and they're all great lads and a credit to the club. There's probably little chance of the feature getting published anytime soon however as in 45 minutes we need to leave the hotel – full suited up (in this heat!) to attend a Standard Chartered meet & greet cocktails reception with the players, who have just arrived back from training. Rushie and Phil Thompson are already there so will need to get away from the laptop and attempt (probably badly) to iron a shirt which has been scrunched up at the bottom of my suitcase for three days. Where's my wife when I need her?
PS – Met some absolutely fantastic fans earlier outside the hotel (some of whom had flown for hours just to get a glimpse of their heroes today) and also had a special gift left behind reception for me after one fan read an earlier update to this blog. I'll upload some pictures later but, once again, I've got to say a massive thank-you to the lady in question.
PPS – Quick special mention to Alberto Aqualani who was absolutely brilliant with the fans camped out in the lobby earlier – he stayed behind and signed autograph after autograph for everyone who asked. Good lad.
Tuesday 12 July 16:55 - Paul Rogers
Finally arrive back at the Liverpool hotel after seven hours spent with the LFC Community team and who should be waiting for me at the entrance to the foyer but a lovely young lady called Yuecheng Tong with a special present for my daughter Lila. Only one thing to say: Thanks!
Tuesday 12 July 12:37 - Claire Rourke
A massive thanks is due to one of the hotel staff who kindly agreed to escort us on a taxi ride into town to make sure we could get the best TV shots of Guangzhou to use in our tour documentary. We were asking so many questions about where to go, where we'd get a taxi from, how much it'd cost and whether we'd even be allowed to film on the streets in China, that it seems she felt concerned enough to come with us to make sure we got what we needed. We're now back in the hotel getting ready for a busy afternoon at a Standard Chartered sponsored event which several of the players and Kenny will be attending. Should be good. Before that, though, we're just off to see if we can grab Charlie Adam and John Flanagan for their latest video diaries. Stay tuned, they should be coming soon.
Tuesday 12 July 09:12 - Paul Eaton
Our first full day in China began with an early breakfast call, during which a confused looking Eddie Sullivan from the community team arrived at our table to inform us he hadn't yet got to grips with the time difference. "My watch is still on UK time so I was up at 2am, thinking it was much later, got myself ready and then knocked on Mark Chester's door (another member of the community team). I told him we needed to go and get all the balls loaded into the van. Mark just looked at me and said 'Eddie, it's ten past two!" We're all tired anyway after a long couple of days, but we'll forgive the community lads if they have extra bags under their eyes today! The players are training in the hotel gym and pool this morning before going off in different directions for commercial activities in the afternoon. Then there will be another training session at the stadium in the early evening. Needless to say, it is once again very hot and very humid out here in Guangzhong.
Tuesday 12 July 03:51 -Paul Rogers
Always keen to give new local bands the chance to shine, here's LFC's first day in China soundtracked by The Strawhouses' 'Batteries'.
Monday 11 July 22:53 - Paul Rogers
Sat in the hotel bar trying to update lfctour.com and the official website in complete darkness save for a tiny tealight candle - with website editor Paul Eaton sat opposite me. Finally managed to grab some food in the downstairs restaurant about an hour ago (fried rice with chicken – nice) and now enjoying our first few beers of the trip. Claire, Mark, Craig and Paul Hayton are all upstairs editing video packages and sending clips back to England. The trip is going well so far – met loads of fans at the hotel and at training, all of whom are incredibly polite and very passionate about the Reds. Lots of the girls have been asking about the search for the panda – unfortunately the update is still the same: despite having been in China for 12 hours now, still not seen a single panda (real or otherwise)! Oh, and forgot to say, thumbs up to Daniel Agger for going out of his way to try and sign stuff for the fans in the hotel lobby when he returned from training a few hours ago. Good lad.
Monday 11 July 19:00 - Paul Eaton
We've arrived at the Guangzhou stadium where the players are now training. It's very hot and humid. All of the players that have travelled as part of the squad have been involved in the session, which seems particularly active. The players have coped admirably with the conditions considering the lack of sleep over the past 24 hours. We've just had a chat with Phil Thompson who is here as club ambassador. He's just provided us with the first instalment of his Asia diary which will be online later today.
Monday 11 July 16:35 - Paul Rogers
After a quick meet and greet signing session in the hotel featuring the entire squad and 50 lucky fans, LFC club photographer John Powell is attempting to bring some order to proceedings before he can take a group shot of everyone present. "I want you to shout 'Five times!'" Powell barks at the top of his voice. The people listen, order is restored and everyone smiles as they shout 'Five times!' "I think I like this county," laughs Powell as he presses down on his camera shutter.
Monday 11 July 15:10 – Paul Rogers
Kenny Dalglish has just wrapped up the opening press conference in the Chateau Star River Hotel and batted away – in trademark Kenny-style - every single question about our transfer plans asked by the local media. Outside in the lobby Claire Rourke has been signing shirts and I even found myself recognised by two separate fans – obviously both readers of this blog - who wanted to know if I'd managed to find a panda for my daughter Lila yet. It turns out the second fan – a nice young lady – actually owns a toy shop in the centre of town and has promised to bring a panda (toy one, unfortunately) to the hotel on Tuesday. If it turns up, I'll let you know.
Monday 11 July 10:50 (Time in China from here on in) – Paul Rogers
Joe Cole and Jamie Carragher prepare for landing.
Sunday 10 July 20:35 – Paul Eaton
Six hours after leaving Liverpool we've just landed in Kazakhstan to refuel. We've just eaten on the plane – us and the players got the choice of steak, chicken or pasta. The doc has advised everyone to sleep it off for the final six hours of the journey to combat jetlag. Meanwhile, Charlie Adam and John Flanagan have recorded their first tour diary videos – they'll be on LFCTV Online exclusively soon. Spirits seem high for such a long journey – much excitement about what will greet us in China with so many fans there.
Sunday 10 July 20:20 – Paul Rogers
It seems nothing fazes Charlie Adam. Fresh from recording his first video diary piece for LFCTV Online in our makeshift studio on the plane, our new signing has just been collared by the club's communications director who had some news for him: in Glen Johnson's absence, he was going to be needed to take part in the first ever Liverpool FC press conference on Chinese soil alongside Ian Ayre, Kenny Dalglish, Jamie Carragher and a whole host of officials from the Chinese FA and Sunray Cave, Liverpool's opponents on Wednesday. His simple response, 'No problem at all.' Cool as you like.
Sunday 10 July 19:48 – Paul Rogers
Just been chatting on the plane with my neighbour John Flanagan (he lives about 10 houses up from me), who has kindly agreed – albeit slightly nervously – to produce a daily video diary for LFCTV Online subscribers while we're in Asia. Flanagan was clearly still buzzing from signing a new contract last week and spoke of his hopes for the new season – although, he was quick to make clear, that despite emerging as one of the most promising local talents to come out of the Academy, he's taking nothing for granted in terms of how involved he will be next season. 'Hopefully I'll get a chance in the FA Cup,' was all he'd say when I asked him if he'd set himself any targets for the new season. Before he made his way back to his seat alongside Jack Robinson, he had a laugh about the fact that my two daughters have become his two biggest fans, regularly posting him letters, requests for autographs and signed pictures of their dog Dylan through his letterbox!
Sunday 10 July 13:48 – Paul Eaton
Just chatting to the LFC chef, Christian, on the bus to the plane. He's been recommending Chinese foods to us – but revealed the players won't get to try any. They'll stick to a strict diet of pasta, beef, chicken and fish. We land in China at 4:00 UK time (11:00 local time). Here we go...
Sunday 10 July 12:00 – Paul Eaton
The media team, minus head of content Paul Rogers for now (he has yet to arrive – God knows where he is), have checked in at John Lennon Airport with our mountain of equipment. Kit manager Graham Carter is also here with the squad's baggage but the players aren't around yet – they're making their way from Melwood ahead of the flight at 14:30. We've assigned the role of paperboy to LFC TV Online's Mark Volante – he's got all the Sunday's bar the News of the World. Our flight to Asia will stop for refuelling (the plane and us) in Kazakhstan.
Sunday 10 July 11:50 - Paul Rogers
All ready to go and here's a pic just to prove that it isn't only Les Lawson's family that has a monopoly on LFC merchandise!
Sunday 10 July 11:12 - Paul Rogers
Just been handed a shopping list of presents the kids want while I'm in China. Smuggling a real panda back through Customs could be tricky...
Sunday 10 July 08:30 - Paul Rogers
Welcome to the blog - we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we intend to enjoy updating it. In just under four hours we need to be at the airport to check in to fly to China for what will be Liverpool's most exhaustive Far East tour ever. Three countries, two matches and lots of activities planned every day. Editorially, we'll be covering everything the players do - whether that's with pictures, video or text features.
This blog will be updated around the clock but that's not the only content we'll be generating; Charlie Adam and John Flanagan will both be doing a video diary for LFC TV Online, presenter Claire Rourke will be sending back daily TV packages and our Community team will be writing their own blog highlighting some of the good work they'll be doing off the pitch over in Asia. We'll also have regular updates from Liverpool legends Ian Rush and Phil Thompson - both of whom are travelling with the team today - and Our Man in Malaysia Sheldon Xavier is also writing a daily blog from a fans perspective in Kuala Lumpar (see http://alturl.com/28me7) and then there's the Asia Tour website, the first time we've ever produced a multi-language site dedicated solely to a pre-season tour, which will be updated with exclusive content every day over the next week or so (check it out here: http://www.lfctour.com/)
Probably most important of all however is the fact that we're showing both games live on Club media - with the games available to watch live on LFC TV and also on the web for LFC TV Online subscribers. Travelling with the team from our department are myself, website editor Paul Eaton, LFC TV presenter / producer Claire Rourke, LFC TV Online producer Mark Volante and cameramen / editors Paul Hayton and Craig Jones. It's the biggest media team we've ever taken on a pre-season trip but then the Club have never been on a trip this event-packed before and then plan is to cover every single thing that happens out there. No pressure, then! Right, off to pack and try and see my two little daughters before leaving them for a week. As the whole travelling party - players, Community, Media, Commercial, Technical etc - from the Club have been issued with this season's new adidas training kit and trainers to wear on the tour, I thought it was only right to tell them I'd been signed up by Kenny to replace the injured Steven Gerrard and would be playing for the team in Asia. As they both idolise Liverpool, they have never been prouder of their dad - a real Liverpool FC footballer at last!
BONG. Boom, snap, whistle, crackle, shut; and with that, the transfer window – with all of Sky’s pomp and circumstance - closed.
The ringmaster Jim White, now somehow the main attraction, proclaimed names as his time drew near. “Wright-Phillips! Arteta! Bellamy!” he croaked akin to a dying swan’s final song before finally, mercifully, ceasing the incessant bellowing.
11 o’clock had passed. The final deals were struck. Charlie Adam had his face superimposed onto fireworks. A job well done by all.
Five minutes after the superficial countdown clock stopped, ten minutes after Craig Bellamy had sealed a return to his boyhood club, Raul Meireles followed in his fellow Iberian’s footsteps and left for Stamford Bridge.
Meireles was always a player who divided opinion; true to form, his departure did likewise.
Some chose to see Meireles’ move as smart, understandable and best for both player and Liverpool Football Club; others felt it constituted a transfer window spoiled, a player whose economy of possession and long-range shooting would be sorely missed.
Whatever the judgment on Meireles, his last-minute departure should not be dwelt upon. Kenny Dalglish won’t be.
I wrote in February about why Liverpool’s winner at Stamford Bridge was the perfect goal; ironically, it was scored by Raul Merieles. But the sentiment still stands.
Liverpool’s squad has been streamlined. Raul Meireles’ departure became the 18th of 19th since Fenway Sports Group took charge – few of them were involuntary.
In their place, not only players who want to play for Liverpool, but crucially, players who are good enough to play for Liverpool; players good enough to achieve the standards dictated by the club’s history and set by Kenny Dalglish.
With respect to their predecessors, the improvement this summer’s seven signings bring to the squad is immeasurable. Each signing adds something different, something better, to the squad.
It might be hard to quantify, but it’s not hard to notice already with just four competitive fixtures played.
Jose Enrique’s speed, distribution and intelligence have been craved for years. The midfield duo of Adam and Henderson provide passing and movement in abundance, while Downing provided a glimpse of his capabilities with his solo effort against Sunderland. It’s enough to leave supporters salivating for more - especially given Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy are yet to feature.
But while the Kop’s knowledge on the 6 foot 6 Uruguayan centre-back is limited to his impressive showings at the Copa America, they know all about Craig Bellamy.
Quick, tenacious and relentless, Bellamy impressed during his first tenure at Anfield cut short by circumstance. Most impressive from Bellamy, however, is his voracious desire to play for Liverpool again – something which can also be said of Coates rejecting Atletico Madrid, or even reserve goalkeeper Doni, willing to become Pepe Reina’s understudy.
On the pitch, Henderson and Adam’s celebrations after their goals against Bolton Wanderers epitomised their dedication to the club.
If the Liverpool hierarchy wanted to bring in players who give everything to the club - both in talent and dedication – then this transfer window can be deemed one of their biggest successes.
The bar has been set high. No player, surely, can exude the arête and ardour of Luis Suarez.
Against Bolton, much like the entirety of his eight-month Liverpool career, Suarez was sensational, spectacular, sparkling, splendid, salient. Superlatives, nor alliteration, do him justice.
I’ve likened his playing style before to watching the Minotaur perform Swan Lake, floating with grace before driving with pugnacity, tenacity, skill and strength; not so. Unlike the Minotaur, Suarez would have weaved through the Labyrinth in his trademark style, slain Theseus and become King of Athens.
Instead, he must make do with being the quintessence of King Kenny’s Liverpool, playing with an amalgamation of delight and disdain upon his face.
The delight came after the majestic ball he played with the outside of his right foot to Stewart Downing. Such are the frivolities of certain statistics, Suarez won’t be accredited with the assist. He should be. The ball may have touched Downing, Jaaskelainen, Kuyt and Henderson before the goal, but it was conjured purely from Luis Suarez’s ingenuity.
The disdain came later; it came on the rare occurrence a shot, pass or piece of skill failed to do as instructed. He left the pitch to a standing ovation, but his smile barely emerged from a cantankerous contortion, entrenched on his face after his failure to score.
But that’s the mentality Suarez possesses, and it’s one that’s precipitating to the rest of the squad.
Even with three goals and three points secured, the team wanted more; the howl of anguish after Ivan Klasnic’s inconsequential consolation told the whole story. This is a squad that will always strive for better. That’s how Kenny Dalglish has built his squad.
It’s not only a squad of good players, but one that’s leaner, meaner and tighter. The players brought in are ones of a similar mentality to players like Suarez, Kuyt, Lucas, Carragher, Gerrard and Reina. Kenny Dalglish, and Fenway, are seeing their plans come to fruition.
Watching the circus of transfer deadline day, there were neither nervous twitches nor strained ears from Liverpool supporters. It’s much more entertaining when you’re not in the lion’s den. Bellamy or not, Liverpool had strengthened sufficiently; the Welshman was merely a wonderful bonus to a splendid summer.
There’s genuine belief that – for the first time in years – those in charge know what they’re doing, and they’re doing so with the best interests of the club at heart.
It’s enough to make Luis Suarez’s infectious smile permanent. Maybe.
Hi to all fans of Liverpool. I am sure that many of us are restless to know what will be happening to Daniel Agger. Will he remain with us or will he be SOLD OUT to Man City?? As for myself is concern, I will never swap our viking for anyone else and am sure that many of you do not want that either..
Thats why I have decided to write this blog as a support to Daniel Agger and to show how much he is loved by fans from all over the world..
I am making a request to every bloggers(lfc reserves platinum gold silver bronze kopites) to rate this blog,to view this blog 10 or more times when you log in,to comment on this blog the more you can and to refer this blog to every friend in your friends list so that altogether we can show the owner,the manager,the staff,other players of LFC how much we love Daniel Agger.. By doing so, we will all ensure that this blog will remain number one on the official site of Liverpool Football Club and it might open the eyes of the owners about how we feel for Agger and who knows they might not sell him after seeing such a big response..
PLEASE altogether lets make this blog the Highest viewed,rated and commented so that we can atleast try to persuade the owners and try to create an impact on people visiting the official site.(We might get more people signing up on the kop).Lets make this blog stay on the number one position till the end of the transfer window..PLEASE help everyone and again make referral of this blog to your friends list(especially the Lfc Reserves and Platinum who have huge friends list)
Together we can make it...Liverpool we stand and show the world that our love for liverpool is beyond anything..
THERE isn’t a player who is linked with any club these days who isn’t first subjected to a seemingly endless scrutiny on message boards and radio phone-in shows. Amateur scouting has become as much a part of modern football as daft kick-off times and feigning injury and what’s more it is undoubtedly here to stay.
People are now able to watch much more football than ever before thanks to satellite television and internet streams and the popularity of computer games that allow anyone to be the manager, in fantasy world at least, means that supporters can indulge themselves when it comes to assessing the relative merits of a potential transfer target.
In the past week alone the media has linked Liverpool with – among others – Jordan Henderson, Phil Jones, Connor Wickham, Charlie Adam and Sylvain Marveux and all have been subjected to trial by forum. In a way, this is just a technologically fuelled advance on people debating transfer targets verbally in a pub but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that when you have a manager like Kenny Dalglish in charge he should be trusted to know better than anyone else what is best for his team.
Towards the end of last season, Dalglish made a pertinent point which offered both an insight into the type of players Liverpool would be in the market for this summer and the importance of the club being single minded in their pursuit of these targets.
“If people want to see the best players and assets of football club wearing a red shirt, that’s what we want to try and provide,” the Liverpool manager said. “We want to get the highest quality of player in that we can. That’s what position we have been put into, and that’s what we will try to do. Who judges players? Whose opinion is it that matters? It’s the people that go after them. Some others might not think they are the highest quality, but it’s our opinion that matters most.”
That Dalglish is adamant that only the views of himself, Damien Comolli and the club’s scouting department is all that matters when it comes to deciding whether or not a player is good enough for Liverpool should provide a major reassurance to everyone desperate to see the club regain its place among English football’s elite. The moment a manager falls prey to outside influences he ceases to be a manager. In that role, you cannot afford to be swayed by public opinion, this is Liverpool Football Club after all, not Pop Idol.
Anyone wanting to understand how Dalglish will do things this summer could do a lot worse than seek out a book called The Secret Diary Of A Liverpool Scout, a brilliant account of the work of the legendary Geoff Twentyman who worked with Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan. There may be those who believe that modern day scouting is a world apart from how it was done when Twentyman was recruiting some of the best players English football has seen but Dalglish knows better than anyone that the basics remain the same.
He will be looking for the same things that Twentyman sought out, the kind of qualities that served Liverpool so well in the past and which can do so again in the future. If a player can pass and move, has a good temperament and a winning mentality then he has the starting points needed to become a Liverpool player. Of course, there are a multitude of such players currently plying their trade in football so then it comes down to the eye of the person scouting them and, according to those in the game, there are few better than Dalglish at spotting talent.
We have been here before, of course. Go back to 1987 when Dalglish was working on putting together arguably the greatest ever Liverpool side. John Aldridge was the first signed and it might be hard to imagine now but at the time there were plenty who questioned whether an Oxford United player and someone who once played in the Liverpool Sunday League would be good enough for a title challenging team.
The same went for John Barnes who aroused suspicion because he had been inconsistent at Watford and had not attracted bids from any of the top English clubs when Liverpool came in with a £900,000 offer for his services. The capture of Peter Beardsley for a then club record of £1.9 million prompted less doubt with the only real concern being that his signing would inevitably push Dalglish the player ever closer to retirement.
When Ray Houghton and Nigel Spackman, two steady but far from spectacular players with Oxford and Chelsea respectively, were brought in there were those who wondered why Liverpool were not in the market for top stars. Dalglish saw things differently. In his eyes he had bought a quintet of stars and the world just did not know it yet. He was proven right in the most spectacular fashion as Liverpool swept all comers aside and romped to the league title playing some of the best football ever seen in this country.
All that was down to Dalglish’s ability to spot a player and then to mould a team around his new signings and those already at the club. It is an art and he is an artist. That is why when we debate whether or not a transfer target is good enough for Liverpool – as we all do – there is one man who is better placed than any of us to decide that and that man is Kenny Dalglish.
I’m Mark Platt from LFC TV and I'm in Brunei and Malaysia this week with a team of Liverpool Legends as they compete in the 2011 EPL Asian Masters tournament. Follow this blog for a behind-the-scenes insight into how they fare in Brunei.
If you want to follow the team in Malaysia, click here to follow Part 2 of my blog: http://alturl.com/g3oei
Friday 11 March, 11pm (7am local time)
The Liverpool Masters of 2011 come in all shapes and sizes. Some have admittedly put on a few pounds since hanging up their boots, others are losing their hair and some are going a little bit greyer. Winner of ‘he could probably still be playing now’ award however goes unanimously to that lean, mean, Czech attacking midfield machine that is Paddy Berger. In the words of the other lads he’s, ‘looking in better shape than when he was actually playing.’ Paddy himself puts it down to his new shorter haircut but this is probably one for the Ladies so we’ll leave it for them to judge. Take a look at this…
Just leaving our hotel in Brunei now. Catch you later.
Friday 11 March, 8pm (4am local time)
Goodnight from Brunei. We are leaving in the early hours to catch a flight to Malaysia so in case I don't get a chance to update this blog in the morning, thank-you to the people of Brunei for their hospitality. It's been a pleasure to stay in your country, hopefully we'll see you again soon.
Friday 11 March, 7.50pm (3.50am local time)
Henchoz, Henchoz, Hechoz. Henchos, Henchoz, Henchoz – when we attack he’s always back - Henchoz, Henchoz, Hechoz. Henchos, Henchoz, Henchoz…
Friday 11 March, 7.45pm (3.45am local time)
Observations from today’s Brunei Cup. Four things that took me by surprise...
1. Stephane Henchoz scoring another goal, especially coming just a matter of minutes after the LFC TV team had bet him that he wouldn’t!
2. This half Liverpool/half Man United shirt.
Upon further investigation we discovered he was a Liverpool supporter and that the United half was for his ex-fiancé. The emphasis being on ex!
3. Us cheering a Viv Anderson goal. The former Forest, Arsenal and United defender netted the winning goal in the final to deny his former team-mates a chance of silverware.
4. And, finally, the local fans asking me to say hello to, my esteemed and "beautiful" colleague, Claire Rourke!
Friday 11 March, 11.45am (7.45pm local time)
Over dinner at the Orchid Garden Hotel we’ve just been discussing the merits of Luis Suarez with two members of the Premier League All-Stars team who certainly know their stuff when it comes to the beautiful game in Holland. Dutch duo Regi Blinker, ex-Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday, and Michael Mols, ex-Rangers, spoke glowingly about Suarez and predicted that we’re yet to see the best of the former Ajax man.
Friday 11 March, 10.40am (6.40pm local time)
Speaking on behalf of the LFC Masters squad that is out here in Brunei, Steve McManaman has asked us to relay the following message in response to the devastating earthquake in Japan. He told us: "The thoughts of myself and all the lads are with anyone who has been affected by this awful disaster. It came as a real shock when the news was broken to us earlier today and it's been the main topic of conversation since. It really does put everything into perspective and we can only offer our sympathies at what is such a terrible and worrying time for all concerned."
Friday 11 March, 10.15am (6.15pm local time)
Champions! Not LFC Masters unfortunately, but Stephane 'the cat' Henchoz has ensured the Brunei Reds went home with something to smile about. Following an injury to Pavel Snrcek, Stephane took over between the sticks and played a blinder as the Premier League All-Star team beat the Manchester United Masters 4-3 in the final. We always knew he was decent in goal following his heroics in the 2001 FA Cup Final but, amid much cheering from his former Liverpool team-mates on the touchline, he surpassed even that with a series of stunning saves to deny United. Well in Stephane. I wonder if he'll be back in the LFC squad for Sunday's Malaysian leg of the Asian Masters?
Friday 11 March, 9.15am (5.15pm local time)
There's only one team the LFC TV crew are going to be supporting in the final of the Brunei Cup and it's not Manchester United. After a promising start to the tournament with that 2-1 win against the local All-Star team, two defeats against first United and then a Premier League All-Star side put paid to any hopes LFC had of lifting the first piece of silverware on this tour. After losing 7-5 to United (with Fowler grabbing a hat-trick and Phil Babb and Michael Thomas both also making it onto the scoresheet), LFC needed to beat the Premier League All-Stars to reach the final but despite another goal for Fowler (his 5th of the tournament) and one apiece for Mark Wright and Thomas, we somehow conceded seven - with boyhood Red Craig Hignett getting on the scoresheet for Stephane Henchoz's team. Stephane - you know what you need to do in the final!
Friday 11 March, 7.40am (3.30pm local time)
The whole tournament has taken a ten-minute break for prayer time. In Istanbul in 2005, we had prayer time at half-time!
Friday 11 March, 7.20am (3.20pm local time)
The players are on the pitch... but there's no internet connection off it! I've had to phone a friend to ring through this one sentence match report but when I get back to the hotel (or when the staff at LFC TV wake up) I'll update the blog properly. Anyway, I've just watched Liverpool win their opening game of the Brunei Cup 2-1 against DPMM, a team of local legends, with goals from Michael Thomas and Robbie Fowler. I'll have more later.
Friday 11 March, 5am (1pm local time)
We've just prepared for today's tournament in true footballer style with a 'high-carb' lunch. - plenty of fresh vegetables and pasta. Rather than raring to go though a pre-match kip would be good right now after a busy morning filming interviews with Patrik Berger and Stephane Henchoz. The excitment, however, is building in Brunei ahead of the event and Viv Anderson is already stirring the friendly banter between the Liverpool and United lads by reminding us of last night's result at every opportunity. Let's hope we have the last laugh in a few hours time. Off to the indoor arena now for the Brunei Cup 2011.
Friday 11 March, 3.30am (11.30am local time)
There can be not escaping Brunei’s passion for football, so much so that even the LFC TV team have been the subject of eager autograph hunters. We’ve just returned from a visit to the nearby National Stadium, where the staff seemed as excited by our arrival as they would the first team. Trying to explain that our presenter on the trip Mark Volante was not a player was lost in translation and in 40 degrees of intense heat he handled his five minutes of fame impeccably. After some gentle persuasion he briefly experienced the life of a professional by modestly posing for photographs and adding his signature to all manner of Liverpool paraphernalia that was pushed in his direction, doing his bit for club PR in the process.
Friday 11 March, 2.30am (10.30am local time)
Being the ultimate professionals that they were (and are), there was no sign of the Liverpool Masters at breakfast - all must be preserving their energy for this afternoon's tournament with a later line-in that the rest. Or maybe they're just sleeping off another late night! You decide, but not being the cynical types we're going for the professional approach. Talking of breakfast, the saying 'when in Rome do as the Romans' sprung to mind as the LFC TV lads tucked into a hearty morning meal. No-one can accuse us of not embracing the Brunei culture by trying the local delicacies. For the third day running it was fried egg on toast for three!
Friday 11 March, 1.45am (9.45am local time)
Dull and overcast in Brunei today but still very hot, so no need for that cold shower I've just had to take. Certainly woke me up though! Wonder if the players are up. Time to find out.
Friday 11 March, 1.30am (9.30am local time)
It's matchday in Brueni. Bit of a lie-in (if that's what you can call it!) for the lads over here today. Just going for breakfast, then we've got some pre-match interviews to do before leaving for the stadium around early afternoon. Let's hope the Masters can make up for the disappointment for the first team's defeat in Braga last night. Thanks to Steve Hunter and David Fairclough for keeping us informed of events out in Portugal, just a shame about the result. Ah well, never mind. Can today have a silver lining for messrs Jones (x2), Babb, Wright, Thomas, McManaman, Smicer, Berger and Fowler? Keep logging on to the blog for updates throughout the day.
Thursday 10 March, 6.30pm (2.30am local time)
Panic over. Not ideal but saved by logging onto www.liverpoolfc.tv and I'm now listening to dulcet tones of my old travelling companion Stevie Hunter and his sidekick, supersub himself, Davey Fairclough. Last time I listened to a Liverpool match at this time of the night (morning) was the World Club championship in 1981 v Flamengo in Tokyo. Can't believe we're losing but come on you Reds. You can do it. Definitely logging off now to enjoy the match.
Thursday 10 March, 6.05pm (2.05am local time)
Can't sleep so thought I'd get up and watch the match with my new pet Tiger (beer). Unfortunately I've searched all channels and can't find it. Any advice from the locals? It must be on somewhere!
Thursday 10 March, 5.20pm (1.20am local time)
With the 2011 Brunei Cup now just a matter of hours away the Liverpool Masters, after a few pre-mach beers, have unfortunately had to retire to their rooms and won’t be watching the first team’s Europa League tie in Braga. But the message from the legends is good luck to the Reds. Goodnight and here’s hoping we wake up to a Liverpool win.
Thursday 10 March, 5pm (1.00am local time)
His central defensive partnership with Sami Hyypia is remembered as arguably the best in Liverpool’s recent history and a decade on from the glory of that never-to-be-forgotten cup treble Stephane Henchoz is celebrating another triple success based on a sound defence. Our former centre-half has been displaying his skills on the hotel XBOX and he’s taken no time at all in establishing himself as the man to beat on FIFA 11. After twice seeing off the challenge of Vladimir Smicer, the Swiss star completed a hat-trick of victories against Phil Babb. Remarkably he didn’t concede in either game. All good things must come to an end, however, and, in a second rematch with Vladi, Stephane eventually lost his proud record – losing to a goal four minutes from the end of extra-time. The two LFC Masters then teamed up to take on LFC TV in a doubles match and, with their greater experience in conning the ref coming to the fore, we had to settle for a couple of narrow defeats. They may have won the battle but not the war and with four days of the tour remaining we vow to bounce back.
Thursday 10 March, 1.20pm, (9.20pm local time)
While it’s debatable whether the LFC Masters will get to see tonight’s Europa League tie in Braga the fortunes of the first team in Portugal are certainly uppermost in the thoughts of the former players here in Brunei, with Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman both predicting a crucial away win for Kenny’s men. Macca’s gone for 1-0 but Robbie reckons they can go one better and is saying 2-0.
Thursday 10 March, 1pm (9pm local time)
For 100 members of the Brunei branch of the official Liverpool supporters club, tonight was the stuff dreams are made of. At a specially arranged event they got to meet their heroes as the LFC Masters squad took time out from their preparations for tomorrow’s tournament by posing for photographs and signing autographs. “It’s a dream come true for myself and Liverpool supporters in Brunei,” said club President Edmund Sumping, “to see the likes of Fowler and McManaman in person and meet with them is the ultimate. I am so excited about the tournament. We’ve got a very strong team and I’m in no doubt that we’re going to win.” Robbie Fowler kicked off proceedings and made sure it certainly was a night to remember by leading the Brunei Reds in an impromptu rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Glen (Hoddle) and Chris (Waddle) beware, God's got the voice of an angel and could be football's next singing sensation!
Thursday 10 March, 10.45am (6.45 pm local time)
More breaking transfer news from the Orchid Garden Hotel in Brunei. The LFC Masters have agreed a swap deal with the Premier League All-Stars that will see Phil Babb (who was initially set to make way for Patrik Berger) reunited with his former team-mates for tomorrow's Brunei Cup. Stephane Henchoz moves in the opposite direction.
Thursday 10 March, 10.30am (6.30 pm local time)
The LFC TV team are slowly adjusting to life in Asia. The jet-lag has gone but the eight hour time difference remains a constant irritation, although we’ve got no-one else to blame for that other than ourselves. Like Bill Shankly famously did when he took Liverpool on tour to America in 1964 we’ve not adjusted our watches. But if it was good enough for the great man then it’s good enough for us, so Shankly time it is from now on!
Thursday 10 March, 10am (6pm local time)
Just remembered I didn't the update the blog to reveal the answers to the quiz question set on Tuesday about going through the alphabet and listing the Premier League's top goalscorer for each initial. So here goes...
A = Anelka, B = Bent, C = Cole, (Andy not Joe!) D = Drogba, E = Ehiogu, F = Fowler, G = Giggs, H = Henry, I = Izzett, J = Johnson (Andy not Glen!), K = Keane, L = Lampard, M = McAllister, N = Nolan, O = Owen, P = Phillips, Q = Quinn, R = Rooney, S = Shearer, T = Torres, U = Unsworth, V = Van Nistelrooy, W = Wright (Ian not Mark!), X = Xavier, Y = Yorke, Z = Zola.
Blame the former Man United players if incorrect as they set the question!
Thursday 10 March, 9.30am (5.30 local time)
Afterwards, LFC TV also conducted a 'Big Interview' with Vladi (see pic below) in which he spoke candidly about his time at the club and why Liverpool will always hold a special place in his heart. Look out for it on the channel soon.
Thursday 10 March, 8am (3pm local time)
An empty Negara Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Brunei may seem a world away from that highly-charged night at the Ataturk in 2005, but Vladimir Smicer has just netted a goal every bit as good, if not better, than that famous strike of his against AC Milan. The ever-popular Smicer is here to conduct a coaching session for a team of local aspiring footballers. As the current coach of the Czech Republic national side, he is more than well-qualified to pass on some tips and the awestruck local youngsters are lapping it up. It’s also a good way for him to limber up ahead of tomorrow’s Brunei Cup. He’s looking as lean as he did in his playing days and sporting a face the colour of the shirt he used to wear following a morning on the golf course without his sun cream!
Thursday 10 March, 5.30am (1.30pm local time)
“It’s good to get out and see a bit of culture,” said Michael Thomas and he was right. Just got back from what was a really interesting guided tour of Brunei, where we visited the Royal Palace, took a boat trip around the largest water village in the world (Kampung Ayer) and were even invited to the home of a local family. “It is things like this that we could never experience as a professional because it was always a case of just flying into a place, playing a match and flying back out,” added Thomas. So what did we discover from the tour? Well, here are five reasons why we think Brunei would be a sound place to live.
Thursday 10 March, 12.30am (8.30am local time)
Early start and a busy day ahead, with some of the players going to golf and some taking in a city tour. We're on the latter. Report back with our findings later.
Wednesday 9 March, 6pm (2am Thursday local time)
The 2011 Asian Masters has been officially launched with a lavish banquet at the Orchid Garden Hotel in Brunei. All the Liverpool lads are now together and earlier this evening the fans were out in force to welcome them. Present among the 300-plus crowd was the Brunei Royal family and there was an electric atmosphere as many fans got to see their idols in the flesh for the first time.
Everyone has endured an arduous journey but it was certainly well worth it as the locals put on a stunning show. As well as meeting up with fellow Scousers Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman the LFC TV team also caught up with Vladimir Smicer, Patrik Berger and Stephane Henchoz.
More to come from them over the coming days but three nicer fellas you’d struggle to meet. All maintain a deep love of the Reds and they couldn’t get enough of what life is now like at Anfield under Kenny. Legend is an often overused term in football, especially with regards to former players so young, but this trio can certainly be assured that their place in Liverpudlian folklore is secured. Genuine lads, with the Liver Bird forever attached on their chest, they all are.
On what was a wonderful night the passion of the Brunei Reds was very much evident and below are pictures of just a few we met.
Members of the official LFC Brunei Supporters Club
Ridauddiiy 'Keegan' Ibraliim
Wednesday 9 March 9.45am (5.45pm local time)
So much for bringing my sunglasses, flip flops and factor 50! Torrential downpour in Brunei at the minute. Apparently it's the rainy season.
Wednesday 9 March, 9am (5pm local time)
In Brunei at long last and just checked in at the hotel that will be our base for the next four days. Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman have now also arrived but we’re yet to see them. A gala dinner awaits tonight, where hopefully we’ll meet up with the rest of the Liverpool Masters squad. On the final leg of our outward journey we managed to have a good chat with ex-Blackburn and United defender David May who was reminiscing about the man who gave him his big first team break – a certain Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish. May was also telling us about his ‘enjoyable’ experience in one of the executive boxes at Anfield on Sunday and turned quiz-master to pose the following teaser – For each letter of the alphabet name the player who has scored the most number of Premier League goals. For example: S = Shearer. Myself, Mark and Dave managed to score an impressive 23 out of 26, although we must hold our hands up and admit that, shamefully, the three we got wrong all had a strong Liverpool connection. See how you do and we’ll reveal the answers later.
Wednesday 9 March, 1am (9am local time)
According to the Asian Master Tournament organisers Liverpool are the red-hot favourites to scoop the 2011 title with what they genuinely believe is, ‘the best squad we’ve ever had over here.’ They’ve also informed us that tickets are selling well for the events in Brunei and Malaysia. Not surprisingly, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman are expected to be the main centre of attention. They are flying in later today, as are Vladimir Smicer, Patrik Berger and Stephane Henchoz. There’s plenty of excitement surrounding their participation and there's also a lot of interest in former Newcastle and Columbia star Faustino Asprilla, who will be turning out for the All-Stars team. There was some doubt as to whether he would turn up for the event but we’ve just heard that he’s landed in Brunei ahead of us. As for us, we are still at the Pan Pacific hotel in Kuala Lumpar but will be shortly returning to the airport for the much shorter flight to Brunei.
Tuesday 8 March, 11pm (6am local time)
We’ve eventually touched down in Kuala Lumpar – just a six hour wait now until we board our connecting flight to Brunei! Been an eventful journey so far and to help while away the hours of boredom LFC TV have been conducting interviews with Mark Wright and Rob Jones for the documentary we will be producing. So impressive was Mark Volante’s interviewing technique that it received widespread praise from our fellow passengers and has seemingly earned him a new one-man fan club!
In terms of strength in numbers the travelling Manchester United legends may still hold the upper hand but the Liverpool lads, although looking forward to meeting up with the rest of their former team-mates, are in good spirits and mixing well. Jones, meanwhile, has reacted further to the earlier tweet about his dismal record in front of goal by insisting he, ‘always does well in the scoring stakes when playing for the Legends’ We hope his ‘prolific’ form continues in the Masters but we’re not recommending that anyone should seriously back his claims with their hard-earned cash. Liverpool’s most senior squad member Wright maintains there will be ‘fireworks’ when the action finally gets underway on Thursday and Michael Thomas is certainly making sure he’ll be ready for it. Despite over-sleeping and being the last to check-in at Stanstead this morning the former midfield man remarkably managed to sleep through most of the flight.
And finally for now, the launch of a new (probably short-lived) feature for this blog entitled ‘worst shout of the day’, with the inaugural award going to cameraman Dave Cartwright. Not impressed with food being served up by Asia Airlines, Dave wisely suggested that the pilot should just stop off at KFC! Nice one for that Dave. Maybe we should just put it down to sleep deprivation on this occasion or possibly his preoccupation with one of the air hostesses!
Tuesday 8 March, 8.25am
It's a freezing cold morning here in London but the temperature will soon be soaring! The message from the LFC camp: 'We are going there to win. No chance of us taking it easy. The games are always competitive.' Those the words of Mark Wright. We are about to embark upon our 13 hour flight now, so my next update will be when we touch down in Asia tonight.
Tuesday 8 March, 7.15am
Breaking transfer news ahead of the Masters has just reached us. LFC TV have been reliably informed by Mark Jones, he of Radio City fame and the offical PA for the tournament, that Patrik Berger will now represent Liverpool in Brueni and Malaysia with Phil Babb moving in the opposite direction to turn out for the Premier League All-Stars. Neither player is with us at the moment to comment but is it a fair swap? I’ll let you decide.
Tuesday 8 March, 7am
Some bleary-eyed ex-footballers emerging for breakfast here in the Radisson Blu hotel at Stanstead airport, including renowned good red and one of Huyton’s finest – former LFC apprentice Craig Hignett, who, of course, later starred for Middlesbrough and Blackburn. We'll hopefully catch a few words with him about his days at Liverpool during the course of the trip.
Tuesday 8 March, 6.30am
While the legends sleep the LFC TV boys are up early getting ready for today’s long-haul flight to Brunei and we can report that the Liverpool ranks here in Stanstead have been now boosted by the arrival of the man who will keep goal for the Reds out in Asia. He made just two first team appearances during a brief loan-spell at the club in 2003, and, although he holds the distinction of being our club’s oldest post-war debutant, is almost too embarrassed to be bracketed alongside some of the more illustrious names in the LFC Masters squad. However, Llandudno-born Paul Jones instantly comes across as one of the most genuine and down-to-earth ex-footballers. No longer actively involved in the game he drove up to the team hotel late last night from his home in Chichester and regards his inclusion in the squad as a real honour.
Tuesday 8 March, 1am
He may have broken our hearts in ’89 but there can be no doubting where Michael Thomas’ football allegiances now lie. When we caught up with Mickey T (as his friends call him!) in the hotel bar he welcomed us as if we were long lost team-mates and quickly got down to the business of basking in Sunday’s victory over United. He told us: “Unfortunately I couldn’t be there but I watched it around at a friend’s house and was going mental throughout. What a performance and a result. I was expecting some stick off the United lads after they’d beat us in the final of the Masters last time but I’m not so sure they’ll be quick to mouth off now!’ Good lad.
Monday 7 March, 11.30pm
Just checked in at the Radisson Blu hotel in Stanstead airport, where another Liverpool legend (and hero of our 1992 FA Cup win) Michael Thomas was waiting to join up with the travelling party. On the coach journey south it was nice to see the players sticking to a strict pre-tournament diet of fast-food, with KFC just ousting Burger King from the number one snack of choice. Myself, Mark and Dave have just been mistaken for Liverpool players by a Chelsea fan in the hotel lift. Easy to see why but we've pledged our loyalty to the Reds, just in case Roman is thinking of directing any more cash towards the Anfield coffers. Unlike his last purchase, we are irreplaceable, as I'm sure our bosses will agree! We've got another long day of travelling ahead of us tomorrow so just time for a quick nightcap before getting our heads down in readiness for that dreaded early start in the morning.
Monday 7 March, 8.15pm
In reply to @chrislawley77’s tweet: “Are the former United players allowed to speak?” Yes, they are but it suddenly appears that some are suffering from selective memory loss!
In reply to @TonyBarretTimes’ tweet: “Tell Jonesy he owes us a fortune for almost a decade of lost first goalscorer bets.” He reckons even he would have scored Kuyt’s opener yesterday. I’m not so sure!
Monday 7 March, 6.15pm
Arrived at Manchester Marriott Airport Hotel to be greeted by Liverpool’s 1992 FA Cup winning captain Mark Wright. Rob Jones is the only other member of the Liverpool contingent in the travelling party at this time, the rest either making their own way or already there. The ex-Manchester United players among us at the moment – Lee Martin, David May and Clayton Blackmore to name just three - are remarkably upbeat despite the weekend result and, amid much laughter, one of the main topics of conversation is whether its right for footballers to cry! The general consensus being NO – no matter how hurt they are. Looking ahead to the forthcoming Masters Tournament and Mark Wright is confident of a Liverpool victory, “to make up for last year when United spawned it on penalties!” The banter is already starting to flow. On our way to London now and our Dave is currently the toast of the bus after discovering a way of how we can watch tonight's Blackpool v Chelsea match via the laptop.
Monday 7 March, 4.30pm
Just getting ready to leave. First part of what will be a long journey is a taxi to the Manchester Marriott Airport Hotel where myself and LFC TV colleagues Mark Volante and David Cartwright are catching a coach that will take us to another hotel at Stanstead airport in readiness for our early morning flight to Brunei tomorrow morning. Among the players expected to be involved in the Liverpool Masters squad are Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Rob Jones, Vladimir Smicer, Stephane Henchoz, Michael Thomas and goalkeeper Paul Jones. To give you a bit of background on the tournament itself, it’s in its third year and Liverpool are seeking to win it for a second time. They were the inaugural winners in 2008 but lost out to Manchester United the following year. United are back to defend their crown this year. Also competing will be a Premier League All-Stars team, which we believe will include Patrik Berger, and a side made up of local legends. As well as the football, all the players will be taking part in a whole host of activities during their week-long stay in Asia and we will be with them every step of the way.
As always, Liverpoolfc.tv is with the team every step of the way as the Reds trek into Europe for our Europa League clash with Sparta Prague. I'll be bringing you behind-the-scenes updates from the team plane and hotel, from the pre-match press conference and training and from the tunnel after the game. Keep checking this blog to see what Pepe, Carra and co are up to.
Team out warming up. Pic below shows the view from the press gantry. Sparta have split the three of us up meaning Cameraman Dave is having to sit on his own on the other side of the stadium. It's like a freezer up here. So glad I brought my thermals. Anyway, that's all from me in Prague. Got a match report to write. Hope you've liked the blog - enjoy the match.
Team news filtered through about half an hour ago but it's not allowed to be released until an hour before kick-off. We had a sweepstake among the TV and press office staff as to which youngsters would be involved. Head of Press Paul Tyrrell was the only one who went for just Conor Coady. The England U19 captain will obviously provide midfield cover from the bench in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Christian Poulsen. There will be plenty of chances for Flanno, Jack Robinson and Raheem in the future, I'm sure. Another man playing no part is Andy Carroll but he had a massive grin on his face as he stepped off the team coach at the Generali Stadium. Clearly loving being part of LFC life. Anyway, team in full is: Reina, Johnson, Wilson, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Lucas, Aurelio, Kuyt, Maxi, Meireles, Ngog. Subs: Gulacsi, Skrtel, Kelly, Coady, Cole, Pacheco, Jovanovic.
With the autograph hunters satisfied the police convoy is underway. We're on the LFC media coach, travelling directly behind the team coach on the short two mile drive to the stadium. The ground has a capacity of 20,000, so a decent atmosphere should await when kick-off time comes around in just over 90 minutes. Not long to wait for team news now...
There are a hoard of autograph hunters outside the team hotel waiting for the team to emerge and head for the coach. Thankfully, the LFC TV contingent are back to full strength now after cameraman Dave turned up - apparently he had spent 20 minutes washing his face... The players are packed up and ready to go - Raheem and Flanno have big smiles on their faces as they proudly sport their club tracksuits. Will they be involved tonight? The players are just finding out the team right now...
The Liverpool players are currently in a team meeting at the hotel, after which they will head to the stadium in a police escort. No team news as yet - but we'll have it first on Liverpoolfc.tv when Kenny hands in his eleven to the match officials, so make sure you log on just after 7pm. It is absolutely freezing here - but that's the least of our worries at the moment as cameraman Dave appears to have gone missing. Dave, if you're reading this, please get in touch...
Great pic of some of the 1,000 Liverpool fans who've made the journey over…
By the way, you can follow tonight's clash with live audio commentary online. Before that on LFC TV we've got loads of brilliant content from Prague on LFC Now at 5pm and Countdown to Kick-off at 7pm. You'll be able to see Kenny and Glen Johnson talk to the press, footage of the players training, the views of fans who have made the trip, team news first, a special feature on Sparta and plenty more.
Just shared a lift upstairs with Joe Cole. Was telling him all about our morning looking around Prague.
Me: It's a beautiful city. Have you had much chance to see any of it?
Joe Cole shakes head pitifully.
Me: You don't get to leave the hotel?
Joe Cole nods head pitifully.
Aside from that he had a smile on his face - glad to be back in contention after some injury problems. Cameraman Dave thinks he'll start tonight. His predicted line-up is: Reina, Johnson, Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Lucas, Aurelio, Maxi, Kuyt, Cole, Ngog. I'm going for the same but with Meireles instead of Cole; Claire Rourke is also the same as Dave but with Meireles instead of Maxi. Let us know your predicted team by commenting on this blog.
Sparta fans like their graffiti…
Meanwhile, we've been chatting to a few Liverpool fans who are looking on the bright side of our participation in European football's second competition. Kopite Alan Beasley told us: "We've been to every round of the Europa League so far and to be honest we're just enjoying the travelling. The thing about the Europa League is that you get to see and go to different places than in the Champions League."
Just had a taxi tour round the city so Claire Rourke can film links in different locations. Our driver Petr hates Sparta.
Me: Prediction for tonight?
Petr: Sparta are nothing special. You'll win 3-0.
Me: Who are you supporting?
Petr: Liverpool, of course. I don't like Sparta. I support Bohemians. They are not as big as Slavia and Sparta - they're the city's third biggest team.
Camerman Dave: Ah, like Everton in Liverpool.
Prague is a beautiful city. Liverpool fans everywhere enjoying the culture. The Charles Bridge over the Vldava River currently full of Scousers. Cameraman Dave saw one of his mates from home and, much to my and Claire's amusement, said: "Hiya, what you doing here?"
Liverpool fans starting to wander into the city centre. They are taking photos of Claire (they obviously heard about the bird poo incident). There is definitely a more palpable sense of excitement than during early rounds. The Kenny factor? Perhaps. The fans we've spoken to are also dying to see some of the U18s in action.
Claire Rourke is filming links at the famous Astronomical Clock in Prague and just dropped her microphone in bird poo. She picked it up without realising and now has aforementioned soil on her coat.
Conversation at breakfast…
Me: Imagine Messi in the Liverpool team.
Cameraman Dave: I've got a mate who, when he's got the ball, runs just like Messi.
Presenter Claire Rourke: Stop talking, Dave.
Morning. It's an overcast day in Prague and the squad is just having breakfast before a rare matchday training session (this is the reason Graham Carter had to bring so many socks). A lot of the lads watched the Arsenal/Barca match last night - Dirk was very pleased for his mate Robin van Persie after his brilliant goal. Anyway, training starts at 10.00am and they'll then have lunch at 12.00pm before going off for a rest in their rooms. The players will then get a wake-up call (Dirk, this is Sammy, get out of bed la) at 3.30pm before being sent on a walk. Dinner is three hours before kick-off. Meanwhile, cameraman Dave, presenter Claire Rourke and I are going to film some TV links around the city. Oh, and below is a piccy from training last night that I didn't get time to upload.
Final update of the night from me as I'm off to watch Arsenal/Barca after tea. Hotel restaurant just served me my first ever scallop. I didn't order it, but hey. Now where's my burger? The players have just got back from training. They'll eat and then settle down for a quiet night in with Czech TV. Click back here tomorrow for more behind-the-scenes tittle tattle from the team hotel.
Entertaining presser from Kenny at the Generali Arena. Here is some of what he said about Raheem Sterling as he urged the press to go easy on the hype: "We'll just be sensible with the kids. I saw some of the stories in the papers about young Raheem. We've got a babysitter organised for him tonight at the hotel and he's doing his homework before he goes to sleep! We'll make sure he doesn't miss any of his school education. We don't have to manage the expectations of anyone apart from yourselves - you are the ones who are blowing things out of proportion." Meanwhile a Czech journo reminded Dalglish of a Scotland defeat he played in at this stadium. "The mind games have started," joked the boss.
Daily Mail reporter Dominic King via Twitter: "Dalglish's press conference, again, has been outstanding. Somehow managed to get room full of non-English speakers hanging on his every word." Stay logged on to .tv for the full story.
Been gauging the thoughts of a few journos about the team line-up. David Maddock from The Daily Mirror reckons Kenny will field a strong XI of: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas, Aurelio, Kuyt, Meireles, Maxi, Ngog. Why? "Well, it's become a far more important trophy for Liverpool now than at the start of the season."
Arrived at the stadium for the press conference with Kenny and Glen Johnson - pic below. Rest of the players just getting changed into some of Graham Carter's 250 t-shirts. Former West Ham defender Tomas Repka faced the press earlier and, quite strangely, said: "I had been looking forward to a confrontation with Fernando Torres." He would be better concentrating on improving his record versus Liverpool, which is one draw and three losses.
Just on the way to the stadium for the press conference, while the players will also undergo a training session. Here's a bit of information on Sparta: They are currently sitting in second place in the Czech league, just four points behind leaders Viktoria Plzen. However, they haven't played a league game since late November due to a winter break, but it will resume later this month.
Just arrived at hotel via police escort through the city. Have checked and the staff mini-bars are stocked up for once! The fridges in the players' rooms are empty for obvious reasons. Unlucky, lads.
Graham Carter tells me we'll be playing in white tops and black shorts tomorrow...not the usual black Euro away kit. Meanwhile, it's been confirmed Glen Johnson will be addressing the media alongside the boss in the pre-match press conference later today. It's scheduled for 4.45pm UK time.
It's minus one here. Maxi looks like he is missing his snood. Carroll shivering. On team coach now, having bit of banter with Dirk.
Just landed. Players spent the flight reading newspapers and listening to a few tunes on massive earphones. Andy Carroll sat with Brad Jones. Tom Ince with Carra. Their meal was chicken and pasta bake with a potato salad and some cake for afters. More interesting updates later. Promise.
Players just about to board. Been chatting to Tony Barrett of The Times about the four Youth Cup stars on the plane: "It's great news for them and for the club. Raheem Sterling got all the headlines after five goals on Monday but you don't win 9-0 unless it's an outstanding team effort. There is so much talent at our Academy but it's important not to get carried away with the hype. I've seen players who've had it all at 16 but then you see them at 19 and you think 'What happened?' I think all this is part of the process of getting them used to life around the first team but it'd give everyone a huge buzz if one or two came on."
Hearing squad news. Raul fit, Gerrard and Agger not, and Raheem Sterling in the travelling party. The 16-year-old would become our youngest ever player if involved. Incredibly he is still at school - but it's okay, it's half-term. He's actually quite mature for his age. Always says hello when you see him around.
685kg - that's how much Graham's kit weighs. Narrowly more than cameraman Dave's hair gel. Poor Graham has only got assistant Lee Radcliffe to help him lug all of it around. Won't any of the players or staff help? "I'd be amazed," says Graham.
Just been chatting to kit man Graham Carter. He's taking 250 T-shirts and 150 pairs of socks. Not sure how long he's planning on staying.
Just got the itinerary for Prague. Plane leaves John Lennon Airport at midday tomorrow. After three years carrying bags for Matt Critchley I'm finally going away with his LFC TV co-presenter Claire Rourke. Cameraman Dave Cartwright will also be on the flight.
You can follow the official website and our adventures with the team on Twitter @Lfctv
You can also follow me on Twitter @jimmyricewriter
Barcelona produced another performance to leave pundits searching for the superlatives when they comprehensively outclassed Arsenal in the Champions League earlier this week.
Their imperious march towards a potential La Liga title, Copa del Rey and European Cup treble has left many observers hailing them as the greatest club side - ever.
The mesmeric skills of Messi and creative genius of Xavi and Iniesta has been further enhanced by the finishing prowess of David Villa - but the impact of the man in the dugout cannot be underestimated.
Pep Guardiola took the helm at the Nou Camp at the start of the 2008-09 campaign and has since led the Catalan giants to a level just shy of the stratosphere.
He is a man of great integrity and humility, something I was lucky enough to witness first hand during an interview I conducted with him in the aftermath of Liverpool's superb Champions League victory over Barcelona back in 2007.
He spoke openly about his admiration of Anfield and the passion of English supporters as well as the success of then Reds boss, Rafael Benitez.
His belief that his compatriot would lead Liverpool to more glory may have been found wanting but his intelligence and knowledge of the game shone through in what was an entertaining and enjoyable exchange.
It's easy to see why he has gone on to achieve so much success in the hot-seat and it seems fitting that his suggestion that Xabi Alonso 'can make the ball smile' also provides the perfect description for the way his current, all-conquering side play the beautiful game.
Here's the full interview that appeared in the Official LFC Magazine back in March, 2007.
Regarded by many as the finest Spanish player of his generation, Pep Guardiola's reign in the Barcelona midfield saw him work under some of the finest managers of modern times.
From the 'total football' of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff through to the pragmatic approach of Luis Van Gaal - the No.4 established himself as one of the most influential players in Barca's history, clocking up 17 majors honours along the way.
Having accomplished so much during his time at the Nou Camp he is ideally placed to comment on what it takes to win trophies and the good news for Liverpool fans is that he believes Rafael Benitez could well be on his way to doing just that.
The Catalan playmaker, who retired last year after ending his career with spells in Qatar and Mexico, has been more than impressed by the way the ex-Valencia coach has adapted to the English game. He believes Benitez made an intelligent decision when he sought pastures new at the end of the 2003-04 season and feels he is beginning to make his mark in the Premiership.
"Rafa Benitez is a very interesting coach," Guardiola told LFC Magazine.
"He did very well in Spain and has been successful with Liverpool in England too.
"It is difficult to fully analyse him as a manager because I did not work with him and you do not get to see the full extent of his qualities when you do not have day-to-day experience of how he works.
"But he has won some major prizes in the game and I think his move to England has been a good one for him.
"I think he is lucky to work there because you get more time than you do in Spain and when clubs are more patient the coach can fully develop all of his ideas. That is what is happening at Liverpool and that is why they are improving all of the time."
The former Spain international was an interested spectator when the Reds took on Barcelona earlier this month.
He admits he was disappointed to see his former club's reign as Champions of Europe come to an end but accepts that Liverpool deserved to book their place in the last eight against PSV Eindhoven.
"Over 180 minutes of football Liverpool were better," he said.
"That is all that matters. We would need five pages to talk about why Barcelona went out and Liverpool went through - but we don't we don't have that many pages to talk about it!
"Nor do I have the English to explain my thoughts correctly. All I can say is that I believe Liverpool deserved to go through.
"There is no reason why they cannot go on and win it now - Barcelona and Real Madrid certainly can't."
Despite heading into the last 16 encounter as underdogs, Benitez's men produced a memorable performance to win 2-1 in the Nou Camp before holding on to progress on away goals after losing 1-0 in front of a passionate Anfield crowd.
Of course, Guardiola is no stranger to L4 having played there during Barca's UEFA Cup semi-final, second-leg defeat back in 2001.
He is well aware of the impact the Liverpool fans can have on their side and believes the atmosphere on a European night on Merseyside is something to behold.
"In Spain, all the people follow the Premiership every week," he said.
"The reason for that is because there are a number of Spanish players there, especially at Liverpool, and you can see the crowd is very passionate there. They are fantastic.
"The main reason you become a professional player is to play at stadiums like at Anfield and to play in front of crowds like yours."
One player who was disappointed to miss out on Liverpool's two-legged triumph was our very own Champions League specialist, Luis Garcia.
The former Barca man was ruled out for the rest of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee during the Carling Cup defeat at home to Arsenal in January.
Guardiola has every sympathy for his compatriot having suffered a number of long-term injuries during his own career, and understands his frustration at having to sit out such a mouthwatering tie against his old teammates.
"It was a shame for Luis that he could not play against his former club," he said.
"He will have desperately wanted to have been involved and to have played at the Nou Camp again. I know myself that when you suffer these kinds of injuries it is very difficult.
"Luis is working hard to recover and he is in very good hands. He knows that and will be ready for next season. He just needs to be patient."
Having captained both club and country during an illustrious playing career, Guardiola was regarded as one of the best holding midfielders in Europe throughout the 1990s.
His style and superb distribution of the ball not only earned him countless accolades but also inspired the next generation of Spanish playmakers such as Everton star Mikel Arteta and our very own Xabi Alonso.
The Reds maestro has often spoken of his deep respect for Guardiola's abilities and is on record as admitting that he idolised the Catalan legend as a youngster.
Guardiola feels honoured to have left such a lasting impression on Alonso and is quick to reciprocate his own appreciation of the current Spain international.
"Xabi Alonso is someone I rate very highly," he said.
"All midfielders can run, pass and tackle - but Xabi has much more. He plays the game with his head. When you combine that intelligence and vision with the talent in his feet, the ball flows much better. With him sometimes the ball smiles."
I wrote this open letter to Stephen Hester, CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland, in August 2010.
Dear Mr. Hester,
Grobbelaar; Harkness, Hysen, Tanner, Burrows; McManaman, Molby, McMahon, Walters; Rush, Saunders
These names will mean nothing to you. In fact, these names, collectively, will probably mean nothing to most Liverpool supporters.
To me, it’s that biting October wind. It’s the moment the door is knocked upon and your granddad stands there. It’s a hat, cap, badge or a scarf as you walk down Walton Breck Road and catch sight of what will come to define you as both a football fan and a person.
Port Vale, Rumbelows Cup third round, 29 October 1991. My first match at Anfield. It wouldn’t be the last.
I studied Dickens and Shakespeare at great depth in university, but my memory can hardly differentiate between Macbeth and Magwitch. The midfield of McManaman, Molby and McMahon is a different story.
I remember seeing the ball hit the net from Rush’s header and hearing the sparse Kop roar. I will never forget the touch of my granddad’s hug as we scored as the smell of celebratory cigarettes filled the night air. My first taste of Liverpool Football Club.
Ask any Liverpool fan about their first experience and they’ll be similarly encyclopaedic, because that’s what supporting this football club is about. A mosaic of memories in your mind displayed every time you see your team play.
This football club has the most impressive mosaic of all. That famous Anfield roar on a European night originates from the voices of the thousands who have gone before us. Inter Milan, St. Etienne, Auxerre, Roma, Olympiakos, Juventus, Chelsea. Layer upon layer of the club's history being created by us, the fans.
Football is the purest form of escapism. For 90 minutes, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, married or single. For 90 minutes, it doesn't matter if you're a lawyer, a librarian or a landscape architect. You get lost in the experience of innocence.
Part of you drifts back to that night against Port Vale, or that league match against Norwich; that time when all that mattered in the world was who started up front.
That innocence has been ruined by snakes who slithered into our garden and offered David Moores the fruit of his labours three-and-a-half years ago. Moores devoured, and now Liverpool supporters have to suffer for his sin.
Now, it feels like we have to be chartered accountants to understand the football club. We’re sending letters to your bank using words and terms it’s not our job to fully comprehend. When my grandfather took me to that Port Vale game in 1991, he was taking me to watch a football match, not a business venture.
All of our actions and efforts to remove Hicks & Gillett are necessary evils. Just because we do it doesn’t mean we enjoy it. It will make us stronger and it will bring the fans of this football club together once more, but I look forward to the day we can all stand united over our support for a new left-back, as opposed to disdain for leveraged buyouts.
I don’t know what to believe, but I know the fact that this sort of business is our business is the most lamentable part of it all – Shankly’s holy trinity of manager, players and supporters is not sacred anymore.
Perhaps there should be intentions from those in power to do something with Liverpool Football Club that hasn’t happened from the moment David Moores accepted Hicks and Gillett’s bid.
Act with the best interests of the club, and its supporters, in mind - give us our football club back.
I wrote this letter to John W. Henry this evening as the one-year anniversary of Fenway Sports Group approaches.
Dear Mr. Henry,
Reina; Jose Enrique, Carragher, Skrtel, Kelly; Downing, Lucas, Adam, Kuyt; Suarez, Carroll
These names will mean everything to you. In fact, these names, collectively, will mean everything to most Liverpool supporters.
It was the team that disposed of Everton in the Merseyside derby so callously, so superbly.
It was the team that possessed and displayed every important attribute – mental and physical - ensuring the man advantage from Rodwell’s red card was fully appreciated.
It was a team that had proven quality on the bench in Craig Bellamy and Steven Gerrard, as well as exciting young prospects such as Sebastian Coates, John Flanagan and Jordan Henderson.
But most importantly, it was a team. It was Kenny’s team. It was our team.
When I wrote the letter to Mr. Hester, it was our lowest ebb. I didn’t write that as a journalist, nor necessarily as a Liverpool supporter. I wrote it as someone who watched something he loved slowly die. I wrote it as a desperate plea for a stay of execution; a final attempt to stop the plug from being pulled on a 119-year-old institution.
I know my words alone did nothing. I doubt you even read them. But you read our words. Thousands of letters, e-mails, phone calls; thousands of people trying their best to educate others about the state of our football club. The individual words may not have been processed, but the collective vitriol was. My letter was just a mere cinder flying from the raging fire heading towards Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It does if there’s tens of thousands of them, all at once, falling together, screaming to save their club.
When you, Mr. Werner and the rest of Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool last October, you saved that club.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that.
People, rightfully, will focus on your transfer activity.
You brought in Luis Suarez, a player whom we just can’t get enough of; a player who we just can’t believe how little we paid for us. You brought in Andy Carroll, a player who – hopefully – Suarez will partner for years to come.
You brought in Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson, Sebastian Coates, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Craig Bellamy. You respectfully relinquished those who no longer wished to play for the club and those who no longer possessed the talent to do so.
You allowed Kenny Dalglish to return to his rightful home; to have the chance to finish what he started over two decades ago.
But more important than any of this is, you ensured this happened at Liverpool Football Club. You ensured that there still was, and forever will be, a Liverpool Football Club.
You ensured I will forever be proud of a lot of our support.
I’ve always maintained that Liverpool Football Club will always exist as long as it has its supporters. During the final hours of Hicks and Gillett’s reign, this was proven true.
What started as 200 people in The Sandon pub on Walton Breck Road making a few grumbles of discontent turned into thousands acting with the club’s best interests at heart – all because those who were at the top of the hierarchy weren’t doing so.
The actions of Spirit of Shankly and other supporter groups – and to be a part of that while you were battling for the club – made me proud to be a Liverpool supporter again. It made me believe in those I stand next to on the Kop once more.
I remember touching down after the Champions League final defeat in Athens and feeling a five-minute vibrate in my pocket; those who were home had text me in the vague, misguided hope my phone would work beyond Dover.
Liverpool had lost a European Cup final 2-1, but more unsettling than that were the comments of Rafa Benitez after the full-time whistle. He was doing what was best for the club; it was at that point that the realisation set in – those above him weren’t doing so. I don’t think it’s been the same ever since.
Not until you emerged from that courtroom in London and assured us the club was in good hands once again. In just three years, 119 years of history could have been erased due to arrogance and greed. The only epic swindle was that they were allowed to do it for so long.
Thank you for being true to your word. You’ve been nothing but respectful to the culture of this football club, and consequently, the traditions of its supporters.
There's a vital link between the players and the fans, between the city and the football club. They work with each other and help each other.
The football club would not have 18 league titles or five European Cups if it wasn't for the city or the fans. The city wouldn't be what it is now if it wasn't for the football club.
In your first game, I left Goodison Park after watching personnel not good enough for Liverpool Football Club embarrass themselves and the football club. I knew you had a massive task ahead to rebuild the club from the debris of Tom Hicks, George Gillett and others.
Leaving this year, the personnel – and feeling – could not have been different. It shows that the club, even in 12 months, is heading in the right direction.
Thank you for Luis Suarez. Thank you for Kenny Dalglish. Thank you, Mr. Henry, for ensuring we will hear that famous Anfield roar on a European night yet again; thank you for allowing that mosaic in my mind to keep expanding.
Thank you for reminding me why we all wanted to support Liverpool Football Club to begin with; why those supporters who fought for the club would have made Shankly proud.
But most of all, thank you for giving us our football club back; for making sure remembering that game against Port Vale, my first taste of Liverpool Football Club, didn't forever taste of tears as I remembered a club that was no more.
I read this morning that liverpool have agreed a deal with warrior sports,I think it will be good for the club but bad for the sales because adidas have stores all over the world and ive never ever seen a warrior sports shop in england never mind india,norway etc , but hey what the hell where getting more money for PLAYERS!
This is a moc up already by RAWK but its plain
PERSPECTIVE and 3-0 defeats make for unlikely bedfellows, even when such reversals come during pre-season, a time when improving fitness takes priority over results. Liverpool’s heavy loss to Hull City on Saturday was certainly an eye opener as a number of weaknesses were exploited by the Championship side but it need be no more than that even if it did make for an uncomfortable afternoon for everyone who watched it.
As losses by three clear goals go, this one was a world away from Liverpool’s hammering at the hands of Espanyol by an identical scoreline two years previous. That defeat was the first time that the penny really dropped with regard to how difficult life would be without Xabi Alonso as Ivan De La Pena ran the midfield with ridiculous ease, creating a platform from which the La Liga outfit put Liverpool to the sword.
Many of the weaknesses that reared their head on that balmy night at the official opening of Espanyol’s splendid Cornella-El Prat Stadium continued to recur throughout a difficult season which culminated in Rafa Benitez’s departure from Anfield. Those who made the trip from Merseyside to Barcelona for that fixture attempted to console themselves in the knowledge that this was “only” a friendly and that Liverpool would get things right when it mattered most. But there was also an inescapable feeling that too many problems had reared their heads to be corrected throughout the course of the season, not without a significant spending spree anyway.
Hull was very different to that. For starters, there is now harmony between boardroom and bootroom with the manager working in cohesion with the club’s owners and executives to bring about the kind of improvement that is necessary if Liverpool are to reclaim their place among English football’s elite. Now that link has been restored it can be easy to take it for granted but if anyone can bear to cast their mind back 12 months to a time when acrimony reigned then the significance of such unity is underlined.
There is also a very definite sense of Kenny Dalglish knowing exactly what work is still required to be done before the transfer window closes on the last day of August. The Liverpool manager has already tried, albeit without success, to recruit a central defender and a left back as he looks to enhance his playing squad and he will resume his search for reinforcements in these positions once he has managed to sell a number of fringe players.
Dalglish was as aware as everyone else that defensive reinforcements were required before Liverpool began their pre-season preparations and the fact that he has seen his team concede three goals in each of their games so far will obviously not have changed his opinion on that matter. But equally, he will also ensure that he does not panic into bringing in a new signing as a matter of undue urgency just because of a few bad results.
One of the great benefits of Dalglish’s extensive experience in the game is that he has been in this kind of situation before. In the summer of 1988, the Liverpool team that he had guided to the championship the season previous was on the wrong end of a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Atletico Madrid in a pre-season friendly in Spain. The “Reds in Crisis” headlines duly followed but the “crisis” only lasted for two days as Liverpool responded to that defeat with a 4-0 win of their own over Real Sociedad. They then went on to start the season with four straight wins.
It may be a time-worn cliché but pre-season being about fitness is also a truism and the next time Liverpool play – in this case against Galatastary in Istanbul on Thursday – the players will be expected to be sharper for their admittedly chastening experience at the KC Stadium on Saturday afternoon and if that is the case then it will have all been worthwhile.
Aurelio. Kuyt. Lucas. Kuyt. Shelvey. Aurelio. Johnson. Meireles. Lucas. Meireles. Johnson. Shelvey. Johnson. Meireles. Aurelio. Shelvey. Meireles. Aurelio. Johnson. Agger. Reina. Agger. Lucas. Johnson. Aurelio. Lucas. Aurelio. Lucas. Shelvey. Johnson. Kuyt. Torres. Goal.
It appears so academic on paper. It appears even more so on a computer screen.
But that third goal against Wolves, the exclamation point to conclude the perfect piece of prose, means so much more than the 239 characters and 33 words above.
It was the most beautiful goal I’d seen.
A third goal is always a welcome boost to the goal difference and a morale boost to the squad, especially a goal which contains 31 uninterrupted passes in the build-up.
But most importantly, it’s about what the goal represented; it’s about what it symbolised regarding Liverpool Football Club under the guidance of Kenny Dalglish.
Possession football. Pass and move. Patience. Small phrases, oft repeated, which mean so much.
They’re not just instructions to bellow on the sideline, they’re part of a footballing philosophy – a philosophy which has been ingrained into supporters for decades; a philosophy fully adhered to by Kenny Dalglish.
It’s not just about tactics, though. The third goal showed a lot about the players as well.
It showed the ability of Lucas and Raul Meireles to move the ball quickly, efficiently and effectively in a packed midfield. It showed the confidence of 18-year-old Jonjo Shelvey, who always wanted the ball. It showed the everlasting graft of Dirk Kuyt, the intelligence of Fabio Aurelio and the creativity of Glen Johnson.
These are individual qualities which supporters were already aware of.
But never before have they been combined to produce such a devastating end product, because never before has this squad of players had the belief and team ethic they do now.
To see the timid, tentative shuffle of a few months ago transform into the assured, arrogant swagger at Molineux was conclusive proof of the belief Kenny’s appointment has installed into the squad.
It’s not just belief in themselves, but belief in who and what they’re playing for - belief in playing for Kenny Dalglish; belief in playing for Liverpool Football club and its supporters.
It’s a club that has always been founded upon collective effort. Shankly had his own definition of socialism, which quickly became ours; the kind where everyone works hard and the rewards are shared. Kenny may have joined the club after Shankly’s tenure, but Bill Shankly wasn’t just a football manager. He was much more important than that.
The philosophy of teamwork and representing the supporters and with pride is something that the football club is founded upon. Shankly made the people happy, and those who care about the people have been trying to do similar ever since – none more so than Kenny Dalglish.
The aforementioned philosophy and pride was illustrated perfectly by that goal.
That’s why the goal was so significant. That’s why the past week has made it even more so - even if it was Fernando Torres who took the 32nd touch.
To write in depth about Torres, his actions and motives would be fruitless. A lot less will be said by people who know a lot more.
We shouldn’t be mourning his loss. He was a fantastic player for Liverpool, and he has the potential to be a fantastic player for Chelsea.
But players are, sometimes, immaterial; mere pieces of cloth emblazoned upon the back of the shirt to help commentators and spectators identify more easily. It’s the badge on the front that has always remained.
There were 31 passes before he finished off that team goal; 31 passes that showed belief, teamwork and our future under Kenny Dalglish. It wasn’t just Shankly’s socialism on display, it was Dalglish’s directive.
Torres may be gone, but with that came a new sense of belief amongst Liverpool supporters. Other supporters would claim lunacy and delusion; but we just claim their ignorance.
Over the past few weeks, Liverpool FC has felt itself again. No more courtroom battles, no more dirty laundry being dried in public. We now have football men making football decisions.
We have Damien Commoli helping decide who is suitable to be a part of Liverpool Football Club in the future, and Steve Clarke training those who are already here, ensuring they’re fully equipped to be a part of that future too.
But most of all, we have Kenny Dalglish, who is ensuring every player knows what it’s like to play for their fellow team mates, their football club and its supporters. It’s a special philosophy being implemented by a very special person.
If any player doesn’t wish to be a part of that, then no tears will be shed. The supporters now trust the players to understand what it means to represent the club, because they have the perfect example of that watching on the sideline. If a player doesn’t appreciate that, then it’s difficult to appreciate them.
That’s why the Chelsea goal swiftly overtook the Wolves goal as the most beautiful goal I’ve seen.
Gerrard. Meireles. Goal.
Not every goal can have 31 passes in the build-up. But what every goal now has is belief. Belief that the players, manager and supporters are united as one, working together towards success not seen since Kenny’s first reign. The celebration at Stamford Bridge, from all three parties, said it all.
No armbands are needed to prove allegiances anymore. The willingness to represent the fans and Kenny Dalglish with decorum is proof enough.
I’m Mark Platt from LFC TV and I'm in Malaysia this week with a team of Liverpool Legends as they compete in the 2011 EPL Asian Masters tournament. Follow this blog - brought to you in association with Standard Chartered - for a behind-the-scenes insight into how they fare.
This is my second blog of the trip, to read my first blog about the Brunei section of the tour, click here: http://alturl.com/j4t35
I’m Mark Platt from LFC TV and I'm in Malaysia this week with a team of Liverpool Legends as they compete in the 2011 EPL Asian Masters tournament. Follow this blog - brought to you in association with Standard Chartered - for a behind-the-scenes insight into how they fare.
Tuesday 15 March 09.35am
Postscript: Finally arrived back at Stanstead Airport safe and sound after a 14-hour flight from KL with our cameraman Dave Cartwright doing his own personal bit to build bridges between Liverpool and Manchester United after Sunday's ill-tempered Youth Cup clash between the two sides.
Cosying up to former Manchester United star David May during the entire 14-hour flight home was not something me or the other Mark would have done but each to their own. Anyway, that's it for me and this blog - no really, I mean it this time! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
All that's left now is the slightly daunting task of somehow turning 10 days and nights of Dave's filming into an hour-long LFC TV show!
Oh well, we'll worry about that tomorrow...
Monday 14 March 15.30pm, (11.30pm local time)
Just on our way to the airport so all that's left from myself, Mark Volante and Dave Cartwright is a big thanks to everyone we have met during our stay in Asia. To the players, event organisers, sponsors, the people of Brunei and Malaysia, and of course, everyone of you wonderful LFC fans. Cheers. It's been a pleasure. Hopefully we'll see you again soon. YNWA.
Monday 14 March 13.00pm, (9.00pm local time)
Breaking news (literally!) from the Gala Dinner: Steve McManaman has just smashed a chandelier in the main hall. All of the guests were encouraged to throw a ball towards the stage and Macca, being Macca, has volleyed one back - straight into an expensive looking light!
Monday 14 March 12.20pm, (8.20pm local time)
We're at a fantastic Gala Dinner with 600 guests and we've just conducted a special Players' Awards ceremony with Mark Wright, Rob Jones and Michael Thomas. Wrighty plays the role of host for the impromptu event - which you'll be able to watch on LFC TV soon.
Monday 14 March 9.30am, (5.30pm local time)
We’re almost ready to check out of our hotel in Malaysia. Just a Gala Dinner to come this evening before we catch our flight home so we’ve just taken some time out to reflect on our week-long stay in Asia. Brought to you by ‘Two Scousers and A Wool’ productions, here are our 2011 Asian Masters awards…
The ‘roll back the years’ award for the best LFC player of the two tournaments
1. Robbie Fowler
2. Mark Wright
3. Patrik Berger
The ‘player we’d most like to take to the Albert for a pint’ award for the players we had the best nights out with
1. Stephane Henchoz
2. Patrik Berger
3. Vladimir Smicer
The ‘we didn’t think we’d like them 'cos they were Mancs but they were sound’ award for our favourite former MUFC player
1. Andy Ritchie
2. Clayton Blackmore
3. David May (when he was quiet!)
The ‘we didn’t know much about them before but they were sound’ award for our favourite other Masters player
1. Craig Hignett
2. Regi Blinker
3= Michael Mols & Rufus Brevett
And a special mention also to ‘Tino’ Asprilla for his general coolness on and off the pitch, and the good words he said about the Reds in our exclusive interview with him that will be screened sometime soon on LFC TV.
The ‘Liverpudlian redneck’ award for taking it to the extreme by ignoring advice to wear sun cream, goes to our very own Dave Cartwright (see below).
And finally, the ‘wish we could stay a bit longer’ award for our overall highlight of the tour, has to be meeting all the passionate Liverpool fans in Brunei & Malaysia
Monday 14 March 7.00am, (3pm local time)
Liverpool legends Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler spent their final day in Kuala Lumpur by passing on some of their footballing expertise to local youngsters at a specially arranged Standard Chartered coaching clinic.
Monday 14 March 6.00am, (2pm local time)
Claire Rourke and Matt Critchley beware, the LFC TV team out in Asia today came across two budding television presenters on the lookout for a new job. You may recognise their faces...
Monday 14 March 2.10am, (8.10am local time)
He was the star man of yesterday’s Standard Chartered 2011 Malaysian Masters and perhaps the biggest draw out here after Robbie Fowler, former Columbia and Newcastle forward Faustino Asprilla has certainly been one of the big characters on this trip and LFC TV have just conducted an interview with him in which he talks fondly about all things Liverpool. According to Tino, it’s not just in Asia where the Reds are popular. He believes they are also THE biggest English club in South America. He also tips his friend Luis Suarez to be a big hit at Anfield, hailed the striking exploits of Robbie Fowler and reminisced about the special Kop atmosphere on those two unforgettable nights in the 90s when Newcastle and Liverpool famously shared seven goals. Look out for this interview in full on LFC TV in the coming weeks.
Monday 14 March 2am, (10am local time)
Our last day in Asia but plenty to do before heading home. On our way for some breakfast then a spot of sight-seeing before attending a couple of Standard Chartered events to attend with the players. Stay logged on for more throughout the day.
Monday 14 March 1.30am, (9.30am local time)
Breaking news…Contrary to rumours, circulated mainly by himself, Vladimir Smicer has not offered Dave Cartwright has not been offered a job on the Czech Republic’s coaching staff. (see below)
Sunday 13 March, 5.40pm (1.40am local time)
Four things I thought I’d never see at the 2011 Malaysian Masters…
1. Our cameraman Dave Cartwright trying to give Vladimir Smicer tips on how to play football.
2. Rob Jones nearly breaking one of the Malaysian players in half as he came to the aid of Phil Babb, who was on the receiving end of some tough tackling from the hosts.
3. A gang of local Ultras backing the home team vociferously.
4. And, last but not least, plenty of decent Adidas trainees on show among the Asian Reds - the Scouse influence definitely rubbing off!
Sunday 13 March, 5.20pm (1.20am local time)
Panic over, if indeed there ever was one, but it looks like I will be returning to Blighty as planned – passport found in my shorts pocket, the ones I’d checked ten times!
Sunday 13 March, 5.10pm (1.10am local time)
Time for another bad shout of the day and I’m afraid it again goes to Dave for his laughable attempt at trying to take credit for Vladi’s two goals in the 5-2 win over Malaysia.
Sunday 13 March, 5pm (1am local time)
The fans may have turned up in their thousands at the Putra Stadium earlier today to see the LFC Masters but the current Liverpool heroes were never far from their thoughts and one of the most popular chants of the day was this…(to the tune of ‘I am the Music Man)
We come from Anfield Road
To make us great again
Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles
Liver, Liver, Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool
Sunday 12 March, 2.10pm (10.10pm local time)
Just returned to the hotel and before going for something to eat I started to prepare for tomorrow’s departure. However, it looks like I may be staying in Malaysia longer that I anticipated – can’t find my passport!
Sunday 13 March, 2pm (10pm local time)
There was genuine disappointment among the LFC Masters that they didn’t repay the fantastic support of the Liverpool fans by lifting the cup earlier today. Afterwards, Robbie Fowler told us: “It was a massive disappointment to miss out on a place in the final like we did. We weren’t quite clear about the rules and thought a three-goal winning margin would have taken us into a play-off. That’s not to say we weren’t going for another but we thought we deserved to be in the final, at least. We started poorly against the All-Star team but showed what we were capable of by fighting back against United. Unfortunately against Malaysia we scored the desired amount of goals but got caught out at the back by conceding two. Still, it’s been an enjoyable experience and hopefully we’ll be invited back next year to give these wonderful fans something to celebrate.”
Sunday 13 March, 11.55am (7.55pm local time)
For those who are still interested the Liverpool fans who have stayed behind are celebrating after Michael Thomas helped the Premier League All-Stars make it a double by defeating the Manchester United Masters 3-2 in the final. Congratulations to Mickey T, Huyton’s Craig Hignett and LFC TV’s new adopted Scouser Faustino Asprilla who hit a hat-trick.
Sunday 13 March, 11.25am (7.25pm local time)
With Liverpool’s interest in the tournament over the Putra Stadium is fast emptying out.
Sunday 13 March, 11.25am (7.25pm local time)
So near yet so far. The Liverpool Masters have beaten Malaysia 5-2 but it’s ultimately not enough to see them through to the final. Goals from Steve McManaman (2), Vladimir Smicer (2) and Robbie Fowler helped secure a 5-2 victory but the Reds bow out. Despite finishing with the same goal difference as the Premier League All-Stars they miss out on the final courtesy of the head-to-head rule. We’re all supporting Michael Thomas now.
Sunday 13 March, 11am (7pm local time)
The Manchester United Masters have just beaten the Premier League All-Stars, and secured their place in the final, which means LFC now have to win by four clear goals in their final game against the Malaysian Legends if they are to join them. It’s all getting a bit tense now.
Sunday 13 March, 10.40am (6.40pm local time)
A great fight-back sees the LFC Masters keep alive their hopes of making the final. United went two up but the Reds pulled it back to win 4-3 through goals from Mark Wright, Robbie Fowler and Patrik Berger (2). A terrific game ended in controversy when David May had a goal disallowed in the last second for handball. Correct decision by ref Jeff Winter in my eyes. The crowd are going crazy!
Sunday 13 March, 10.05am (6.05pm local time)
Next up for the LFC Masters are their Manchester United counterparts and, although it only their second game, they need to win to be in with a chance of reaching the final.
Sunday 13 March, 9.45am (5.45pm local time)
Despite going a goal up through Patrik Berger, the LFC Masters have suffered a 4-2 defeat in their opening game of the Standard Chartered 2011 Malaysian Masters. Robbie Fowler was the other Reds’ scorer.
Sunday 13 March, 9.20am (5.20pm local time)
Stephane Henchoz, the goalkeeping hero of the Premier League All-Stars’ Brunei Cup victory is back playing for the LFC Masters this afternoon. He has swapped places with Michael Thomas.
Sunday 13 March, 9.10am (5.10pm local time)
Amazing atmosphere here as the 2011 Standard Chartered Malaysian Masters kicks off. Almost all the fans are wearing Liverpool colours and even the MUTV boys who are over here to cover the tournament agree that they are vastly outnumbering, and out-singing, those who follow United. Loads of good flags and banners.
Sunday 13 March, 7.25am (3.25pm local time)
Steve McManaman has issued a good luck message to Liverpool’s youth team ahead of their Youth Cup quarter-final tie at Anfield later today. “Hopefully we can both beat United,” he said.
Sunday 13 March, 7.20am (3.20pm local time)
The LFC Masters have just arrived at the Putra Stadium and are just meeting the fans outside. There are thousands here, helping to make it a real carnival atmosphere. Taksim Square ’05 has been reincarnated. And it’s just as hot!
Sunday 13 March, 4am (12noon local time)
It’s matchday two of the tour and not many of the LFC Masters are milling about just yet but ahead of today’s tournament Robbie Fowler insists he and his team-mates are determined to put on a better show than the one they produced in Brunei on Friday. “It was a big disappointment to lose twice. It didn’t help that we had to play two games back-to-back and for a lot of our players it was the first time they had played this format. I’m not going to make excuses though. We’ve certainly got the ability to win this tournament and we hope to do just that, not only for ourselves but also for all the fans out here who have been terrific ever since we arrived.” Kick-off in the 2011 Asian Masters is later this afternoon. The coach will be leaving for the arena just after lunch so stay logged on throughout the day for updates.
Sunday 13 March, 3am (11noon local time)
Never before have I wore a t-shirt that has attracted so many looks and comment. Everywhere we went last night saw me getting stopped by people wanting to read the famous Bill Shankly the quote (even the LFC Masters, including a genuinely intrigued Stephane Henchoz who then listened intently as I proceeded to give him a lesson in Shanklyism). Some even thought it was picture of myself! Maybe the late nights in Brunei and now Malaysia are taking their toll and I’m beginning to look a lot older than I actually am but I suppose being compared to Shanks can only be a compliment! For those who were asking, the t-shirt was produced by a great Liverpudlian called John Joynt, aka one of the Huyton Fatties.
Saturday 12 March, 8.15pm (4.15am local time)
He’s Czech, he’s great, he’s Vladimir’s mate…Patrick Berger, la la la la la la
Saturday 12 March, 8pm (4am local time)
What a night! Out first in Malaysia and certainly one to remember, humbled by the passion on display at the official Liverpool Supporters Club, ourselves, Patrick Berger, Vladimir Smicer and Stephane Henchoz moved on to a Carlsberg event at a city centre bar where the atmosphere was once again something to behold. The crowd soon had the lads singing and renditions of some Kop classics could, no doubt, have been heard from miles around. Fans from all over Asia appear to have converged on Kuala Lumpur in readiness for the 2011 Asian Masters and the impact of Liverpool’s presence here cannot be underestimated.
Saturday 12 March, 4.30pm (00.30am local time)
It may not be among the most important of tournaments they’ve competed in but the pain of defeat still clearly hurts the LFC Masters. After being forced to settle for a third place finish in yesterday’s Brunei Cup Rob Jones told us: “I suppose it is only a friendly tournament but you never like to lose. It’s a matter of pride and when I pull on that red shirt I always want to win, especially against the likes of Manchester United.” Jones, who found himself on receiving end of some good-natured stick from his team-mates for missing an open goal in the first game, is now plotting Liverpool’s revenge when they take to the pitch again tomorrow here in Malaysia.”We must stay solid in defence and make sure we’ve enough players tracking back. The key to success in the Masters though is passing and we simply didn’t pass as well as we should.”
Saturday 12 March, 4.15pm (0.15am local time)
The foreign contingent in the LFC Masters Squad wasted no time in getting out and about among the club’s huge fan base here in Kuala Lumpur. Just hours after flying in from Brunei, Patrik Berger, Vladimir Smicer and Stephane Henchoz called in at the Malaysian branch of the official Liverpool Supporters Club, where they were, not surprisingly, given a rousing welcome. Over 100 fans packed into the Funky Villa bar and they took full advantage of this rare opportunity to be photographed alongside their heroes and collect autographs. A special thanks to John Chew, Helen and Boo, plus Olivia and her friends from Indonesia for their warm welcome and hospitality. More on this, including pics, to come later.
Saturday 11 March, 6.30am (2.30pm local time)
The stunning view from our hotel room.
Saturday 11 March, 6.15am (2.15pm local time)
Proof that, compared to our lads, some of the Manchester United Masters are struggling to handle the pace out here in Asia.
Saturday 12 March, 5.30am (1.30pm local time)
We've just arrived at our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. There were a lot of tired faces on the flight but shout of the day so far must go to former Premier League referee Jeff Winter who, in response to a tongue-in-cheek offer from Manchester United's David May to sit alongside him on the plane, remarked: "I'd rather saw my f*****g leg off!" Not all of the LFC Masters travelled with us this morning, some are taking a later flight but with a series of events planned for later today, including a visit to the Malaysian branch of the Liverpool Supporters Club, we'll be catching up with them again soon. We've also been joined in KL by our rivals from MUTV so let the battle of the cameras commence. In fairness, they are three good lads and I'm sure over the course of the next few days there'll be ample opportunity for us to wind them up about the recent game at Anfield.
Question: who scored the goal in 2005-06 that secured their team fourth spot in the Premier League?
It was Thierry Henry. A hat-trick for Arsenal against Wigan on the final day as Tottenham – food-poisoned Spurs – lost to West Ham.
Now try this one: which player lifted the FA Cup in the same year?
Too easy, I know.
It was Steven Gerrard, after the most engrossing domestic showpiece of the modern era.
The point being that the Champions League may be football's El Dorado, but nobody remembers a triumphant march to fourth spot.
Financially, entry into Europe's premier club competition is important – of course it is. But why do we follow football? Is it to brag about our team's bank balance, or is it to enjoy days like May 13, 2006?
That's why it irks when the media dispatches the tired smear that Liverpool 'are just a cup team'.
Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League every season since Henry's treble, but what has it led to other than healthy finances?
People talk about attracting top players, but a lack of Champions League football did not deter Luis Suarez, Sami Hyypia, Jari Litmanen nor Didi Hamann from a transfer to Anfield.
Arsenal haven't won a single trophy since 2005, and trophies – not coffers – are what football is about.
The league title is the trophy Liverpool fans crave most, and our league form this season has not been as good as any supporter would have liked.
But did anyone really think this – the first full campaign for our manager and owners, seven new signings bedding into the team – would be the year when our too-long wait for the title would end?
And that being so, which is a better consolation prize: fourth spot and entry into the Champions League or, possibly, two cup wins?
Do Arsenal fans remember what they were doing on the night Henry scored his hat-trick? Some might. But I bet you couldn't find a Liverpool supporter without a story to tell about the evening after the Gerrard final.
Days like these are the apex of life in the stands. Days like Saturday: beating your local rivals in a semi-final at Wembley. Days when your match ticket will be preserved in a shoe box under your bed alongside a stub from your first concert and your childhood bank book. Days that ever so slightly change who you are.
Liverpool may be 'just' a cup team right now but which of the 91 other English league sides have had more of these days since the turn of the century?
A treble in 2001, including the drama of a late comeback against Arsenal and a nine-goal European final; a League Cup win over our fiercest rivals in 2003; the aforementioned FA Cup in 2006; a possible FA and League Cup double this season. And, of course, Istanbul: a fifth European Cup, a night some Liverpool fans would describe as the greatest of their life.
Would you swap all this for Arsenal's cache of two league titles and three FA Cups? No Liverpool fan in my office would.
How about Chelsea's collection of three league titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups? This is tougher – but it was still a toss-up for all those colleagues I questioned.
Which leaves Manchester United - whose 12 major trophies since the turn of the century include seven Premier League triumphs - as the only team to have unquestionably given their supporters more joy than Liverpool over the past dozen years.
There isn't a Liverpool fan alive who is happy that United have been the dominant force in English football during this period, but 90 other clubs would surely love to be seen as a cup team as defined by Liverpool since the Millennium.
Just a cup team? Tell that to those who stood in the Westfalenstadion in 2001. Tell that to those who were in Cardiff when Gerrard felt-tipped memories into our minds. Tell that to anyone who spent a month's wages travelling to Istanbul. Tell that to these people and see if they care.
It is an absolutely wonderful thing is it not? We are going through our brightest patch of the season, not only on the pitch, but as a club on the whole. The positivity we see is infectious and at times, exhilarating. This positivity is spreading through the whole fan base, coursing through the players and there is now a real belief that we can challenge; and maybe, just maybe, teams will start to fear us again.
The King is right. When the club and everyone associated with the club, including the fans, pull in the same direction, there will only be one result, the direction we are pulling for. Sometimes, I feel, in this current green patch, what we feel is almost like stuff made for dreams. It is some romance. Think about it.
Hindsight, as brilliant as it may be, may make you wonder about what could have happened had something been done differently and one of the things thrown up into the air is whether Kenny should have been installed as manager at the beginning of this season. But how often does hindsight help you solve a problem unless it is a recurring event?
What we are seeing right now, the momentum, the love, the fantasy, the way everything has been pieced together, is only something this wonderfully historic club has been able to build up to. We went through our darkest times in recent years, many promises were broken and at times, the fans were left wondering what was becoming of their beloved club. I've been there and I'm sure many of you have been. But let me bring you back to that question when I said, think about it. The timing of everything has been wonderful and how often have we mentioned the woeful timing of a player who recently departed us?
Had Kenny come in prior, he would have worked under the previous owners. I'm not saying that it would not have been a similar outcome as we are seeing now. We just wouldn't know. But to me, everything just seems that much sweeter the way it has panned out. Sure, we have not won a trophy, we have not won a league championship just yet and under the King, we have just 4 wins out of a possible 6 games so far. But the large disparity in change that we see at LFC now, again, is almost night and day. From a state of utter despair, we look almost euphoric at times now.
Our new owners swooped in at a time when the value of LFC was at a down low and depending on how you look at it, it was a real swindle of epic proportions. We are a great club with true tradition and a global fan base. It was the best deal that the then NESV, now FSG, could have gotten. They took us out of the hands of wretched owners whose time here best be forgotten and slowly, the cogs started turning.
We had Roy who really perhaps, was here at the wrong time and we went through some truly horrific performances on the field and fault should be shared by everyone. But when it all seemed to work against us, yet again, we had the King installed into the hot seat. There were questions over his legendary status should he not succeed with the club, but again, think about it. If he had taken the club earlier on, it would have been under different pressures and personally, there was more chance of it failing then. Now, the timing of the King's return, there really was nothing much to lose. He believed and he knew, he would answer the call to LFC. It was a match made in heaven. I believe that he will bring back the good times to LFC and he already has. It made the motivation and the mood change that much more to have a club legend that many respected to be back at the helm. It really wouldn't have been that sweet had it happened earlier. At least, that is what I believe.
Heck, we could be 6 losses out of 6 matches, but how's hindsight helpful there? We live in the here and now; and that's the real point. We focus on what we can change, what we can do and that is why we look towards the future. LFC is going through a transition, but it some ways, it looks as if we are going back to our grass roots. We look like we are trying to instill that old boot room mentality and to keep things within the club. We are going back to our glory days, a time when there was more respect, integrity and in the words of the King and even our new owners, "no one player is bigger than the club".
Things at the moment, couldn't be better at this club. We have owners who now understand the fans, who are willing to learn and understand a model of success that the fans believe in, and who look as if they would do anything to bring success back to this club.
As a club, we never really did things the easy way. Just think of the two recent trophies we won, the FA Cup and the Champions League. We took it to the absolute brink. We don't know easy. We do it hard. We are LFC, we are built and associated to a working class city and that is how it is, we fight to achieve and achieve we will. I may never have grown up in the glory days. I was born in 1984 and I never really followed LFC more closely than in the last 5 years. Prior to which I just watched and followed the team. I won't go into what drew me to LFC, but suffice to say, it was the club, its tradition and its fans.
So often of late we have bemoaned the timing of a particular players departure, but perhaps, it was just meant to be. It could have and I put it across, that it galvanised the team even more than ever. It was all in the timing. It is easy to look back now and say this, but that is the way it is. You look back, take the positives and move on. I digress.
Make no mistake. Hindsight is wonderful at times, but when it bears no good to the future, it is better left behind and concentration on the here and now will be a more fruitful event. Kenny has turned our club a whole 180 degrees, we are all in it together now. Times may get hard, but we know, we know we have what it takes to achieve, we just have to believe. Our club needs us, as its fans, as its 12th man, to be with it through thick and thin and right now, we are the future of LFC. Turn back the clocks and I would have it no other way. I've learnt to accept the cards that life has dealt me and I think LFC right now, is headed in the right direction. The stars are slowly aligning and I truly believe that we are not far from greatness again. I may be wrong, but I don't think I am wrong in thinking that we have a chance to make it back to the top. We do. We just need to take it.
Our future is in our hands, the clubs. The many phrases I've taken away of late are: "no player is bigger than the club", "keep the faith" and "you'll never walk alone". I hope and pray, one day, I can come back to look at this and say, this, this truly was the club's turning point. I believe in this club and my love and affection for LFC is right up there. I'm proud. I'm proud to be a fan of the best club in world football and to be amongst all of you as fans of this historic club. And long may it continue.
We now have a club where everything seems to be aligned. Is there anything else missing? Perhaps, but if there isn't. It is our time. We are coming back. We are LFC. There is no easy way for us.
“You can't come to Liverpool Football Club and play a direct game of football, lumping-it-style.” With that one line Brendan Rodgers met the first and most basic requirement of any Liverpool manager – to be true to the principles of a club which prides itself on being purveyors of pass and move football.
When Bill Shankly outlined the philosophy which would set the club on the path to greatness he also established a blueprint for his successors to follow and woe betide anyone who didn’t. "Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass,” he said. “It is terribly simple."
Those who subscribed to those beliefs have tended to flourish or at the very least enjoy the patience of the Anfield faithful. Anyone who has chosen to follow different values that make possession of the football anything but the priority have floundered as a result, as Roy Hodgson could testify should he finally disabuse himself of the misleading notion that the reason for his failure was that he was not Kenny Dalglish.
Rodgers’ has no such worries on that front. His way is the Liverpool way and vice versa. “This is a club that is historic for the identity, style and DNA of its football,” he said, acknowledging that the lessons learned in past can lay the framework for an exciting future. “For me it is an absolute pleasure to be here. I genuinely think that Liverpool is the heartland of football and of football folklore.”
Having successfully navigated an interview process to be handed his dream job, this was the 39-year-old’s first opportunity to convince those who matter even more than those who employed him, the supporters, that their club is safe in his hands. Had Rodgers been handed a checklist beforehand detailing the right things to say to achieve that objective it is hard to imagine how he could have been more persuasive.
There were even a couple of Shankly-isms thrown in for good measure with the most passionate of all being a declaration of intent that would make the hairs stand up on the back of even the most hardened Kopite’s neck. “I want to use the incredible support to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life,” he said. “That’s the idea. I want to see this great attacking football with creativity and imagination, with relentless pressing of the ball.”
Rodgers is well aware, however, that fashioning a team in his image will not be instantaneous. As he detailed the players that he believes have a big part to play, it was notable that Steven Gerrard was the only midfielder who featured in the oral list. Starting with Pepe Reina made sense as the goalkeeper’s name is always the first on any teamsheet but it also chimed with the Northern Irishman’s unshakable belief that football should be played from the back and that players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet should always take priority.
“For a start, there’s a world class goalkeeper,” he said. “I really like Pepe Reina, he came through at Barcelona so he will know straight away the identity of this way I would like to bring in and the principles of the game. Defensively, they’ve been reasonably strong throughout the season. You’ve got Glen Johnson who can be the world’s best right-back, he can bomb, he can run, he can serve the ball and he’s quick. I know Glen from my time before. You’ve got Enrique who will only get better. At Newcastle he was fantastic and for big parts of last season he’s done great.
“You’ve got your two centre-halves, Skrtel and Agger, who’ve done well. You’ve got a legend in Jamie Carragher who will always provide great challenge and motivation for the group. What an absolutely phenomenal player he’s been here. Then there are other players in the team like Suarez who is a talent and who scores goals, great goals, Then you’ve got Steven Gerrard who when he’s fit he’s the ultimate.”
Along with the excitement and the conspicuous passion, though, comes an acceptance that he is going to have to enter the transfer market to move Liverpool closer to where he and his new employers want them to be. He is also aware that his philosophies will need to be underpinned by a zealous work ethic and a sense of absolute collectivism if they are to stand a chance of having the desired effect.
“There are some big talented players here but there is no doubt that to get the team to play how I want to play I'll need to bring in other players,” he admitted. “No question. To play the offensive, attacking football we did at Swansea we had to make changes in terms of recruitment.
“In terms of the core group here there is some brilliant talent. I work closely with players. My natural environment is on the training field so I am there every day, I coach, and I can make a promise that I will improve players. Hopefully that will continue and get effective results.
“It's not starting from scratch but tweaking. You are looking at certain individual players and the principle of your game is based on your players. Obviously I have a philosophy in terms of where I want to get to but that won't happen on the first day.
“What we will need to do is make a number of adjustments and bring in players for key positions that will allow us to play that way. I don't think it is a total rebuild. They are an educated group of supporters at this club and, okay, there might be watered down versions of the style of play, but you can't come to Liverpool Football Club and play a direct game of football, lumping-it-style.
“It is going to take a bit of time. That's the reality of it. It is going to take a lot of hard work to play that way. It took a lot of hard work to get that at Swansea, to get the tactical structure of the team and the possession and the position. It took a lot of hard work on the training field. That is why I am here.
“I think every player will tell you they would love to play that way. The question is, does every player want to work that hard to play that way? It is hard work. For me, a lot of our game is based on pressing.
“Our game at Swansea was talked about a lot and lauded in relation to the football. What people didn't recognise is that to have the ball for 65%-70% of the game you have to get it back very, very quickly. So our transition in the game and positioning on the field to get the ball back became very good and that allowed us to beat Manchester City, to beat Arsenal, should have beaten Chelsea and to beat Liverpool. Big players want to play football. It's the other side of the game that will be the important factor.
“My idea is to win the ball higher up the field so you are pressing higher and you are in better positions. You win the ball higher up the pitch so you are closer to goal and when you do that you need people with good skills. If you win it and you can’t attack, you recycle the ball and you then go and play. So I don’t think it’s a case of them working any harder because this is a demand anyway, it’s an obligation. For me it’s not a choice. Do you come in every day and do you work hard or not? No, that’s the obligation. It’s the tactic that the manager gives to that which determines how hard you work, how hard you press and what your identity is as a team.”
Arguably the player who fits least into Rodgers’s tactical template is Andy Carroll, for whom pressing high up the pitch and being comfortable in possession are not his most obvious qualities. But the forward’s new manager is not yet willing to write off any square pegs who don’t appear to fit into the round holes he is endeavouring to create. Instead, Rodgers will seek to unburden Carroll of at least some of the psychological pressure which he feels has prevented Carroll from expressing himself as he can.
“He’s came here for an awful lot of money and he’s still very young,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think anyone would have argued when they saw his period at Newcastle where he did terrifically well. When you come to a club like this one the shirt weighs much heavier than any other shirt. The expectation and the weight of expectation is phenomenal.
“My job next year is to try and lift some of that weight off the shirt. I’ll take the pressure. The players can just go and concentrate on performing and if you do that you’ll get the result eight or nine times out of 10 because of your talent. That will be the same for Andy and any other player. Then, like I say, we’ll take time to review where we’re at and then look forward.
“The reality is that this is a club where I need to align the playing group with the supporters. There is an imbalance at the minute. You've got some of the world's best supporters here and the playing group is not quite at that level yet.
“You've got some wonderful players here, some wonderful talent, but the work over the next number of years is to see if we can get that aligned with where it has been for many years. The reality is that, right now, it's not.
“I'm not going to sit here and bluff and say anything other than what I believe to be the truth. What excites me is the motivation to get that level back up again and that is why I came here. That's what brought me here.”
Should Rodgers be true to his beliefs as he was at Swansea City then Liverpool could well have found a manager capable of producing a team that is able to play the Liverpool way, as the Anfield anthem demands, even if winning the championship in May remains a distant dream.
Hello everybody and welcome to the Official 2011 Asia tour blog from the Liverpool Football Club Community Department.
Over the next week, while the first team are warming up for the new season with a series of friendly games and training sessions in China, Malaysia and Singapore, we will be bringing our highly acclaimed community programmes to this part of the world, working with children in all three countries and looking to make a difference in their lives.
We have a hectic schedule ahead of us with lots of activities planned, so stay logged onto this blog as we'll be providing regular updates from what promises to be an enjoyable and rewarding week.
Monday July 18 09:53
We're home, and we're exhausted. This is our final blog so the writer of this diary, Mark C, would like to begin by thanking Eddie, Mark B and Anthony for all their hard work and thanking everyone else who has enabled us and assisted us throughout the week. A special thank you must go to our friends in LFC TV who have worked incredibly diligently to make sure everyone knows what has been happening – community activities included – on the Asia Tour.
Although the pace of the community programme on the tour has been unrelenting, our activities have been incredibly rewarding, and we are delighted by the numbers of people we have been able to reach - not just those taking part in the organised activities and coaching sessions, but the people we have encountered in hotel lobbies, at airports and on the street. Most have simply wanted to connect in some way to the football club they love.
Many of the people we have met have very little and face severe struggles against things like illness and poverty, but they do so with dignity and determination, smiles of their faces and hope in their hearts. It was a great privilege to encounter so many inspirational people – people who we are proud to call members of our family: the family of Liverpool Football Club.
Now - at last - we are going to sleep! Thanks for following us.
Sunday July 17 20:00
Our first day in Singapore, but our final day on the Asia Tour. This morning we helped Standard Chartered and Adidas deliver a soccer clinic at the Singapore Sports School. One of the groups we coached was an elite team of 16 year old footballers – players destined to be professionals. Anthony used his years of experience of coaching semi-professional football teams to put them through a stretching training session, despite the intense heat.
We then finished off our community activities on tour in a fitting way, by linking up again with the Singapore branch of the Liverpool FC Fan Club. In 2004, Eddie had led a community team trip to Singapore at the invitation of the Fan Club, and had become firm friends with James, Rasuul, Sazlina, Murni, Mike and many of the other members of the club. It was great to link up with them again, and they made the most of our presence by inviting groups of children from the YMCA, the Children’s Society and the Disability Sports Council to be coached by the LFC coaches. To the delight of everyone, Andy Carroll, Brad Jones, Andre Wisdom, Conor Coady and Daniel Ayala turned up halfway through to join in. They then handed out a Liverpool shirt to each participant and signed some autographs. The final photograph was to be a picture of the volunteers at the Fan Club, the players and the LFC coaching staff, but one person was missing: Eddie! The picture shoot was suspended until he could be found and as he walked onto the pitch the whole group began to sing ‘We love you, Eddie, we do. We love you, Eddie, we do. We love you Eddie, we do. Oh Eddie we love you!’ The spontaneous tribute to a true Liverpool FC legend was a highly appropriate way to end the community team’s activities.
We leave in less than half an hour to fly back home, so tomorrow’s will be the final blog, but for now we will leave you with some fantastic news: Eddie has become a granddad again. His new grandson is a boy called Kail John Edward Sullivan. Another person who will love Eddie. Congratulations mate!
Saturday July 16 23:59
We are now on the plane heading to our next destination – Singapore – and our last day in Malaysia was as impressionable as the previous two days. We delivered another coaching clinic for Standard Chartered. Sixty children played football, including over 20 with visual impairments, who were invited as part of Standard Chartered’s excellent ‘Seeing is Believing’ campaign. The session took place on football pitches on the roof of a shopping centre. The other coaches warned Mark C not to shoot at goal, otherwise, with his usual level of accuracy, the shoppers might think it was raining footballs!
We went straight from there to spend the afternoon with an inspirational football coach – Alan Lim – and his young protégés. Alan manages a football team for players with disabilities – similar to our own Ability Counts teams. He then encourages his players to coach local children, so that the effects of his work are multiplied. We spent the afternoon on a very rough football pitch coaching both the football team and the children. We then presented football shirts to all the participants and, unexpectedly, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs dropped by to meet us before we left for the Liverpool v Malaysia match in the evening.
Once again, the British Council helped us to reach the people who would most benefit from what we could offer. So a big thank you to Grey, Clare and Mandy. We hope to see you again soon. We will miss the people of Malaysia, especially their unrestrained passion for football and especially for Liverpool Football Club. We have posed for hundreds of photographs and signed a countless number of autographs. We’ll miss it when we return home and, once again, become normal members of the public!
We’re about to land in Singapore, and, after a short night’s sleep, we’ve another programme of community activities planned before heading home to the UK.
Please remember to follow what we are doing in Asia and all the other LFC Community Department activities on Twitter @LFCCommunity
Friday July 15 19:19
The heavens opened this morning in Kuala Lumpur and the rain poured, but no one complained because there was football to be played. Adidas organised an excellent soccer clinic, and with the assistance of some enthusiastic local coaches, we gave the children a testing, but fun, coaching session. Phil Thompson joined us and passed on some of his experience to the kids, as well as posing for photographs and signing autographs. As always, the children were the stars of the show; eager to learn and ready to laugh.
Mark C and Eddie almost missed their lunch when faced with a barrage of requests to pose for photos with fans in the hotel lobby. However, they were saved just in time when Claire Rourke from LFC TV exited the lifts. Everyone quickly lost interest in Mark C and Eddie as they rushed over to Claire to have a photo taken with someone who is actually famous!
We had a fantastic afternoon at the Titian Kaseh orphanage with the inspirational volunteers and children. The manager, Azmina Burhan, showed Ian Ayre, Ian Cotton and a contingent of players – Dani Pacheco, Andre Wisdom, Peter Gulacsi, Emiliano Insua and Martin Hansen – around the humble accommodation. The children were delighted when a spur of the moment kickabout broke out in the car park. Watched by a couple of goats tethered up at the side of the orphanage, Ian Ayre demonstrated that he has not lost any footballing talent or competitiveness; he consistently beat three-foot-tall children to head the ball!
The orphanage has three sites: one for girls, one for disabled children and the site we visited – which houses 30 boys, aged from 6 to 21 years old. It is run largely by volunteers, and the rent and running costs are met by a combination of private donations and the proceeds of cake sales run by a supportive group of single mothers. Azminah explained that one of her aims is to teach the boys English and improve their literacy, to enhance their future opportunities. We had a lovely time with these incredible boys, and once again we have met some very special children whose smiling faces, despite their difficult starts to life, we will not forget.
Please remember to follow what we are doing in Asia and all the other LFC Community Department activities on Twitter @LFCCommunity
Thursday July 14 23:57
The atmosphere in Malaysia is electric, with passionate Liverpool fans everywhere we go. We are really looking forward to getting out and about and meeting more of the people here.
This afternoon, we met Clare and Grey from the British Council to finalise details for the programme of community activities tomorrow.
We start with an Adidas coaching clinic in the morning and then we visit a boys group at Titian Kaseh in the afternoon. We’ll be coaching football and taking them through a lesson about team work. Another exciting day ahead!
You can also follow what we are doing in Asia and all the other LFC Community Department activities on Twitter @LFCCommunity
Thursday July 14 17:21
We write this from Kuala Lumpur and are very excited about the prospect of meeting the people here when we are out and about in the community. However, we were sad to leave China too, and some of those we have met will stay in our memories for a very long time, especially the brave children we were fortunate to spend time with in two hospitals yesterday.
The Childhood Cancer Parents Group work to make ill children’s dreams come true and they had received a request from Liu Yang, a 16 year old boy with leukaemia , for a Liverpool shirt signed by Steven Gerrard. We visited Yang in the Guangdong People’s Hospital to present the shirt to him. Yang has just received a bone marrow transplant and so was still very tired, but we were able to spend five minutes chatting to him, and we passed on the best wishes from everyone at Liverpool Football Club. Even in such a short time we felt a very strong bond with Yang and none us wanted to leave him when it was time to go. With all of our hearts we hope he will make a quick and complete recovery.
We then moved on to the Zhujiang New Town Women & Children’s Hospital and were treated to an activity session with 15 incredible children who have cancer. We again passed on the warmest of wishes from everyone at the Club and we spent time with the children colouring in LFC crests. The children weren’t very impressed with our crayoning skills, as a few of us struggled to keep within the lines!
Two children sang for us, and then asked us to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to them. Eddie gave us a note, and off we launched into a full-throated rendition of our special song, but – with the exception of Eddie – we are no Pavarottis and no one protested when our singing came to an end! Anthony and Mark B cheered the children up again with an impromptu – and very competent – game of head tennis. We were so sad to say farewell to our new friends; we had such fun with them. We will always treasure the opportunity we were given to meet them.
Either side of our hospital visits we worked with Standard Chartered and the Ghuangzhou FA to deliver coaching clinics to 80 children, including over 22 children with visual impairments. Standard Chartered did a fantastic job in setting up and helping us to deliver the sessions with local football coaches. Ian Rush and Phil Thompson delighted everyone by joining in the coaching. There was a lot of laughter and big smiles on the children’s – and our faces – throughout.
We must give a special mention to Aileen, Ron and Jack from the British Council. They worked incredibly hard throughout our time there to introduce us to so many inspiring people. We are very grateful to them and the people of China for making us so welcome, and we will miss the country and our friends there a lot.
Wednesday July 13 07:36
Late on, before we left England, we received an email to say that we would be visiting a hospital in which there is a child who is seriously ill with cancer. His one wish is to have a Liverpool shirt signed by Steven Gerrard. The Charities Team within the Community Department duly obliged by not only providing a shirt signed by Steven, but autographed by the whole team! We can't wait to help make our young friend's dream come true when we meet him today. Aileen, Jack and Ron from the British Council will accompany us again. They have been fantastic in helping us to connect with the community. We'll also be coaching in two Standard Chartered/Guangzhou FA soccer clinics before we head out to Malaysia. The rest of the team will be adjusting Eddie's watch for him this time!
Tuesday July 12 10:36
We started today a bit disorientated by jet lag, to say the least. Eddie knocked at Mark C's door, having got himself up, showered and dressed. 'It's 7 o'clock,' said Eddie. 'We need to go.' Neither were too pleased when they discovered that it was actually 2am. Eddie was still working on British time! It took Mark C another 3 hours to get back to sleep and another 10 hours to forgive Eddie! It's been a fantastic day. We started by telling the staff at a Disability Sports Training Centre all about the community work we do in Liverpool, and then Mark B led them through a practical session in how to coach blind footballers. We moved on to a school for the children of migrant workers in what looked like a very poor area of the city. Mark C was greeted with the question 'Are you Andy Carroll?' Maybe there would be a resemblance if you took away Andy's hair, beard and footballing talent! The children were particularly thrilled with the players' old kit we handed out. Finally Mark B, Anthony and Eddie coached the provincial deaf team and a group of children with various disabilities, while Mark C helped 7 first team players get involved in the session to the delight of everyone there. The people in China are amazing and incredibly fanatical about Liverpool FC. What a privilege it is to do community work for the club!
Tuesday July 12 08:05
Bill Shankly once said, 'What a great day for football; all we need is some green grass and a ball.' That is certainly what we feel here in Guangzhou, China. We've met so many lovely, warm, friendly and welcoming people already, and we are eager to get out and get people playing football with Liverpool FC. We have a very busy day ahead, but it is going to be a lot of fun. The highlight is sure to be when a group of first-team players help us coach children with a variety of disabilities, including autism, Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy and Aspergers Syndrome. We hope to put smiles on the faces of these very special children. We'll let you know how we get on.
Sunday July 10 21:40
The Liverpool FC Community Department is a thriving part of the club. We visit schools, sports centres, youth clubs and other community organisations throughout Liverpool and beyond every single week – coaching football, delivering school assemblies and teaching classroom lessons. This week we are working a little farther afield, as a small team of us are accompanying the first team on their tour of Asia. The Community Team on this trip are:
Mark Chester, Family Officer
Eddie Sullivan, Football Coaching Supervisor
Anthony Wright, Community Football Coach
Mark Bygroves, Disability Football Development Officer
We'll be keeping you updated about what we are doing as we go, but let us give you a flavour of the activities we'll be delivering in the communities we visit.
In China, we will be providing lots of children with the opportunity to take part in our fun coaching sessions. One of these, which we are particularly looking forward to, will be with a group of 40 very special children who have disabilities, such as downs syndrome and cerebral palsy.
We'll also be leaving a legacy of work which will continue after our departure by training local sports leaders in how to coach children who are deaf or who have visual impairments. And on our final day in China, we will visit a children's hospital to give out football kit.
In Malaysia, we will deliver soccer clinics for local children in partnership with our sponsors Standard Chartered and Adidas. We'll also be visiting a children's home, and again we'll be leading a fun football session for children with disabilities. A group of disadvantaged children will also get the chance of a lifetime when we take them to watch the Liverpool team train.
The British Council will assist us throughout our time in China and Malaysia, and on the day we spend in Singapore the local branch of the LFC Supporters' Club will be accompanying us as we distribute football kit to the poor and disadvantaged. Three of their own community coaches will also be joining in a soccer clinic at the Singapore Sports School so that they can pick up ideas for coaching in The Liverpool Way.
We are really looking forward to meeting our fans and friends in the Far East, and in everything we do we will try to make them feel part of the family of Liverpool Football Club. We hope you follow our progress.