Champs League fallout, Ray of Hope and Arsenal Part Two

Predictably the Champions League fallout surrounds Dirk Kuyt and that penalty claim. The story has been given added spice because we now find out that the referee was born within a few miles of Kuyt’s home town. Big deal, I don’t think for one minute that this is any way significant.

Kuyt has since said he knows the referee and that he didn’t pull Hleb’s arm. I have sympathy for Arsenal fans (not that they would ever want it) but being on the wrong side of a decision is not unique to them, remember Chelsea at home in the league earlier this season? It’s a cliché but, by and large, these things even themselves out. Anyone who expected Kuyt to act or behave differently on the night or subsequently should wake up and get real. What did they expect him to do, accost the referee and tell him he’d got it wrong or, after the game, give us a guilt ridden, unloading of the consciousness – “Sir, I cannot tell a lie I did grab him and it was a penalty”? That I’m afraid is the way it goes sometimes and I’ve absolutely no doubt that we will be on the wrong end of similar, decision, don’t know where, don’t know when, but it will happen. Who knows, it could even be on Tuesday?

Whilst not defending Kuyt or the referee the incident does raise an interesting point. Hleb went down, nothing wrong with that, but Kuyt’s “pull” didn’t look that hard. Could he have carried on and perhaps created a scoring chance or scored himself? All too often players take the easy option of going down under the most flimsiest of challenges. I don’t think this is wrong, rules are there to be exploited, but are there are times when perhaps it might be better to carry on and score or create a chance? It is a matter of debate as to what Hleb would have done had he carried on and sure, in terms of “chances of scoring”, going down for a penalty is the easier option however, it is also a gamble if, as was the case on Wednesday, the referee isn’t really with it?

Sadly we were denied some off the field intrigue as George Gillett couldn’t attend the game because he was snowbound is Colorado. Whether this is “political snowboundness” or genuine we don’t know.

The hypocrisy and naivety of Hicks team continues to astound. Before this game his camp came out and condemned Gillett’s recent comments about the state of their relationship .

“It is not very helpful to talk about this situation, given the importance of the next two or three weeks coming up in the fixture list….”

It’s a bit rich for Gillett to be criticised in this way from someone who has made a habit of opening his mouth before virtually every game we play to the extent that, like the singing of national anthem before internationals, it’s almost become a Liverpool pre match tradition! All this actually started with Hicks making comments before the Arsenal game in October and it hasn’t stopped since, talking in public about the take over before the Inter game, finances, the stadium and numerous utterances throughout the winter about Rafa and their relationship. Did Hicks look at the fixture before making these remarks? Gillett opens his month once, just once, gives some honest, forthright opinions instead of meaningless gibberish we’ve been used to from his “mate” and he gets criticised.

On Wednesday we were treated to pictures of Hicks being wined and dined at Arsenal. Will he have the courage to return the hospitality at Anfield next week or perhaps he will see his presence as not “very helpful….given the importance of the next two or three weeks coming up in the fixture list….”

And so to today’s game. It was always going to be very difficult to divorce this from the Champions League matches. However, it is in both teams interest that they do. Arsenal need the points to stay in touch with The Mancs and Chelsea and we need to keep Everton at arms length. I suspect Arsenal’s need is greater so we will probably see Rafa field the “most weakened team”. I’d guess that Dirk Kuyt will be replaced by Peter Crouch for reasons in addition to just giving him rest! It will be interesting to see how Crouch performs given his hat trick last season and if nothing else it will give Rafa the opportunity to check out a different option for next week. Once again Mascherano will be sitting the FA’s “naughty chair”.

Prediction? Thoughts will be elsewhere. If we win I’ll be amazed.

Finally I read last month that supporters attending today’s game will be asked to give to the charity set up to help Ray Kennedy with his Parkinson’s disease. The Ray of Hope Appeal, will also raise money for the Parkinson’s Disease Society as well as Ray.

Kennedy signed for Arsenal in 1968 and helped them win the Fairs Cup, UEFA Cup now. He was also part of the 1971 Double-winning season. He moved to Liverpool in 1974, and became Bill Shankly’s last signing. He won five titles and three European Cups, scoring 51 goals. He then moved to Swansea in 1982 before ending his career at Hartlepool in 1984. He discovered he had Parkinson’s Disease two years later. Said Kennedy

“Arsenal and Liverpool are great clubs and it was a privilege to play for them. I watch as much football on the television as I can. Arsenal are a great side, they’re playing the best football I have seen in years….. Liverpool have some great players. I really like Steven Gerrard, he is one of the best midfielders I have seen. He would have struggled to get in our team, mind. I watched them win the 2005 European Cup on television; it made me so proud to see them with that trophy again. I hope they do it again this season. That would make my year.”

It’s sad that Ray Kennedy should be reliant on Charity fundraising to get the level of care that today’s footballer’s wages would easily afford. If you are the game I’d ask you locate one of the collectors and donate. Pledges can also be made to rayofhopeappeal@hotmail.co.uk – cheques can be sent to the Ray of Hope Appeal c/o HSBC account 21817299, sort code 40-03-27.

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