Why was I daft enough to book our holiday for a week after the football season had begun? Last year it was perfectly timed, we arrived home the day before the beginning. Holidays, like weddings, nights out, family shopping and household tasks are things you arrange around the football not over it! To make matters worse I haven’t been able to post things whilst away but I’ve still been writing so here’s a truncated version of my babblings over the last seven days. Probably old news to you but as I’ve written it, I want to post it, “for the record” as it were.
Saturday 25th August
Sissoko (37), Voronin (87)
It’s ironic that we should have to trek all the way up Sunderland for a 12-45am kick off in the week Benitez complained about the fixture list. Still, with The Champions League qualifier second leg against Toulouse on Tuesday, Rafa should be thankful we are playing on a Saturday and early at that too? I listened to the game in the car travelling down to Devon. As Voronin exploited Halford’s mistake and got clean through one on one with Craig Grodon, I wondered what Fergie, Wenger and Mourinho were doing, I doubt they were having a lie in or trying to force themselves off the sofa having watched Soccer AM!
Reports suggest Voronin’s miss was the first of many. A familiar story but when do you stop staying that we didn’t take our chances? What is acceptable? Is it how many we converted as percentage of shots on target or what? We scored two, Sunderland didn’t score any, so is that it? Had Craig Gordon not been in such good form, would we have scored more? Yet we won the game, played well and got three points that a few years back might have been one.
Viewing the later game on Match of the Day I thought Torres looked the bizz again despite missing a few. I like his speed and directness. Rather than trying to beat defenders he makes them stop him. Voronin’s goal at the end was deserved for all industry he had shown and was scored just as Stonehenge emerged out of the summer haze as we crawled along the A303 to the holiday destination. Ironic I can image him in animal skin and club doing whatever people did around Stonehenge all those years ago! How appropriate that Sissoko’s 20 yard “grasscutter” was the 7,000th goal in our history as 7000-1 were probably the odds you could have got on him as “first scorer”
Sunderland: Gordon, Halford, McShane, Nosworthy, Wallace, Miller, Etuhu, Yorke (Leadbitter 61), Richardson (Stokes 20), Chopra, Murphy (Connolly 78).
Subs Not Used: Ward, Anderson.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher (Riise 75), Hyypia (Agger 15), Arbeloa, Pennant, Alonso, Sissoko, Babel (Kuyt 88), Torres, Voronin.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Sunday 26th August
Not having access to internet or Sky in the cottage we are staying takes a bit of getting used to. It’s even more depressing when the local pub doesn’t have Sky, or even a TV, what do they do to pass the time – talk to each other? I seized on the Sunday papers like a sixth former getting my GCSE results through the post. On opening them up in eager anticipation and thought I’d been given last weeks by mistake as all I got was Peter Crouch moaning about being left out again!
The reports could be a rehash of last weeks but if they aren’t Crouch is playing a dangerous game. It’s probably not a good thing to keep appearing in the press complaining about your “boss” not giving you an opportunity especially when the side is doing fairly well (it’s swimming against the tide of optimism), your “replacement” (Voronin) is doing well and you haven’t done well in any of the games you’ve played so far! Added to that is the mindset of your boss. If last weeks outburst is anything to go by, he’s not in a very accommodating mood!
Monday 27th August
I’m reading John Peel’s biography/autobiography (his wife completed it on his death). It’s only taken me a year to read. I started it on our holiday last year and, probably due to writing this **** in my spare time haven’t touched it since. The bookmark is a receipt from restaurant dated August 2006!
A bad news day. Injuries to the one part of the side we didn’t strengthen over the summer, defence. Sami (broken nose) and Jamie C (broken rib and collapsed lung). Ironic that it’s just been announced that Paletta’s gone back to Argentina. Time to see how good the squad is Rafa? It’s also ironic that having complained about the fixture list, Rafa must be thinking that, with Gerrard, Carragher and possibly Hyypia (how long does it take to fix a broken nose) out, things could be a lot, lot worse on that score. After Toulouse we have league games against Derby (h), Pompey (a) and Birmingham (h). Pompey away could be problematical but two home games against newly promoted sides, while we have these injuries, is a timely stroke of luck. But first things first, the matter of seeing out the Toulouse tie.
Tuesday 28th August
Crouch (19), Hyypia (49), Kuyt (87) (90)
Liverpool win 5-0 on agg
Did you know that Siouxsie Sioux lives in Toulouse? I didn’t until now. This fact now jumps over the only other things I know Toulouse for, rugby and The Stranglers song “Goodbye Toulouse”. Thankfully, after this game, the order of “things to remember Toulouse by” remains this way ie. no shock Champions League defeats by their football team “gate crashing” the list!
I videoed the game and watched it in rare moment of peace and quiet after everyone had gone to bed. The cottage TV/video is not good. Although it’s a colour TV the video playback was in black and white! As I couldn’t be arsed consulting the instructions I settled for this. However, there was no stiff “clipped English” 1950’s commentator. Instead we had Clive Tydesley for the first time this season who, true to form, took just eight minutes to refer to Rafa’s beard comparing him to an artist in field with his easel. I would add brown smock and beret to that. Perhaps the mix of colours he uses on his palette are metaphor for his team selection? Different combinations or mixes for each picture (game) but with Carragher, Gerrard, Reina and the like being his primary hues? Ahem, OK, perhaps not!
At least Toulouse had a more positive line up fielding three defenders instead of four but in the end it was to avail. A decent committed performance which Benitez could argue vindicates his rotation policy. Those who had been left out of previous games such as Benayoun and Crouch played as if their life depended on it. Lato also looked lively and determined to take his chance.
Benayoun in particular looked eager chasing everything that moved like a demented dog that been let loose for exercise after very long journey. He was involved in the first goal feeding Kuyt whose dangerous cross was met by Crouch’s telescopic leg. After 48 minutes the ties was effectively ended when an unmarked Hyypia (it obviously doesn’t take long to recover form a broken nose) headed home. By then Toulouse were fully hacked off and resigned to their exit. Kuyt made them pay for not keeping it going to the end to the end with one from off the post from Babel’s pass and another, right at the death, a nice dink over the keeper from Banyoun’s clever through ball.
A nice way to mark Our 50th European Cup win. Into the hat and the lucrative group stages however, this will be far from most minds given the prematch remembrance for Rhys Jones which, for the first time since Hillsborough, united both the footballing sides of the City.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Agger (Finnan 81), Riise, Benayoun, Sissoko (Lucas 68), Mascherano, Leto (Babel 75), Crouch, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Torres, Alonso, Pennant.
Toulouse: Douchez, Cetto, Ilunga, Paulo Cesar, Mathieu (Sissoko 81), Dieuze, Fofana, Sirieix, Elmander, Emana (Fabinho 76), Gignac (Bergougnoux 54).
Subs Not Used: Riou, Jonsson, Mansare, Batlles.
Wednesday 29th August
I noticed one of the headlines in the papers today said “Crouch makes his point” presumably referring to fact that he scored last night after Benitez hadn’t picked him for the league games. It this really the case? There’s an argument for saying that, if anything, Crouch’s performance underlined Benitez’s point.
Although Crouch got the vital first goal, anyone who saw last nights game cannot have failed to notice that number of chances he missed. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that he could have gone into the dressing room at half time with four goals There were two more presentable chances in the second half, one of them a howler after superb work to bring the ball down and make it. And that’s the rub with Crouch! Last season and, so far, this one He epitomises our striking problems, plenty of chances but not enough goals.
This is not a criticism of Crouch not should it seems as a vindication of Benitez’s selection policy that the striker should not be played as much as much as say Torres or Kuyt because of these misses. It merely underlines the problems that rotation can cause. On a number of occasions after he had missed his chances Crouch could be clearly seem cursing himself as if he knew he had missed an opportunity to make himself difficult to drop, as if he knew he had to make the most of this game as he might not get another chance for a few weeks? If Crouch doesn’t play again for a few games those missed chances may well play on his mind and when he does play again the pressure to make his opportunity count might be even greater. Will this “worry” aid or hinder his performance? It remains to be seen.
Went to a Wildlife Park today. Besides zebras, cheetahs, leopards, reptiles, monkeys and assorted little furry rodent type things, mainly from South America, they have a paddock of camels… one of them is called Giggsy!
Thursday 30th August
The draw for the group stages of the Champions League took place today and saw us grouped with Porto, Marseille and Besiktas. It could be easier, Porto are Portuguese champions, reports say Marseille are resurgent and Benitez will not relish a midweek trip to Turkey, but we have a stronger squad and will be expected to go through. Win all the home games and then pick up a few points away. That should be enough?
If UEFA President Michel Platini has his way we may see a different qualifying criteria to the competition in a few years time. The idea is to hand one of the qualifying places to the team that wins each countries cup. Our FA Cup has undergone a decline in prestige and importance over the years so perhaps the prize of Champions League football will give it a new lease of life? However, one also has to look at the effect on the Champions League which, as a tournament is becoming a more watered down affair. It’s status is surely not going to be helped by the fact that conceivably a club could secure Champions League qualification by playing just six games, all of them, if the cup draw is kind, against non premiership opposition. “Champions” league? I don’t think so! Avoid, why not just bring back the old Cup Winners Cup?
Friday 31st August
The final full day of the holiday and the transfer window. It “shuts” today. Benitez will no doubt continue his last minute search for a defender having erroneously put all these “eggs” in the Heinze “basket” (or should that read “beans” and “can”?) I think he will find the shelves, at this stage of the season, short of quality goods. We’ve been linked with Baptista and Carlos Eduardo but I’d be surprised if anything comes of it. There are also rumours of Crouch going to Portsmouth. The fact that Harry Redknapp is happy to offload Nugent, who was only signed this summer, suggests there is real intent on their side for the deal. Us? No, not yet.
We play Derby tomorrow at home. Even with Gerrard and Carragher out, people will expect us to win. So far Derby have found life difficult in the premiership with one point from four games. Manager Billy Davies is short of firepower and players such as Kenny Miller, Darius Vassell and David Nugent (again) have been linked with the club. The defence doesn’t seem too hot either and repeat of the situation in which they found themselves at Spurs, were they conceded three very early goals, would do just fine.
I finally finished the John Peel book. As you probably know Peel was a devoted Liverpool fan, even to extent of naming his kids after Anfield, Shankley and Dalglish, I tried to call our second son Owen but was rumbled! I remember after Istanbul thinking that it was sad John Peel wasn’t around to appreciate the victory. The thought always comes back ot me whenever I think of the great man now and it did reading the last three paragraphs of the book (pages 393 – 394 in the hardback edition if you want to read it in the book shop) where the very same subject was raised. The book paints him as a much more emotional man than his dry witted deadpan delivery let on. It’s sad he’s not with us from a musical point of view and to share in the joy that game bought, I would have loved to had heard his comments on the match.
Here’s to home!