Gareth Barry played for Aston Villa in their UEFA Cup tie the other night which means he is ineligible for the Champions League group stages. Surely this ends any lingering hopes Rafa has of signing him, until the January transfer window at least? The fact that Barry agreed to play for Villa suggests he’s given up on a move, for now?
Although the deal is over that might not be it regarding its associated fall out. Will Rafa throw his toys out of the pram over the owners delay in making the Barry funds available? Will we make a bid for another midfielder? The Daily Mail laughingly and truly, truly speculatively linked us with Joe Cole the other day!
I suspect Rafa will have to “make do” until January. But how will he feel? In the past he has criticised the club for delaying in our transfer negotiations and letting targets slip through our fingers. We’ve only got to hear about this through Rafa. The Gareth Barry deal appears to be another one to add to the list but again we got to hear about our interest in the player through Rafa! As far as I can see however, he has got all his transfer targets this summer except Barry and, at the same time, cleared out some of the “dead wood” and those seen as “surplus to requirements”. Not a bad outcome?
Although we shouldn’t necessarily expect it, it would be interesting to get an explanation as to why Rafa wants to sign Barry, at a price that nearly everyone, except seemingly himself and those at Villa Park, see as exorbitant. Whatever the reason signs suggest that most will be happy to see the midfield status quo maintained (Alonso to stay) although there is a risk that the cost of this is more agro between Rafa and the owners?
Anyway time to move on and the small matter of the start of the 2008-09 season today. Now would normally be the time to look hopes and fears for the campaign. However, what is the point? Time and time again we do this all it does is to heap pressure and expectation on the team so I’ll keeping it to two paragraphs this season of which only one deals with the team. Here goes….
Para one: Nearly every newspaper in pre season reviews has predicted that we’ll finish third or fourth in the Premiership and together with the odd cup. No one in their heart of hearts would consider this is an unreasonable assumption. Of course on paper we have the ability to improve on this but as ever and always this depends on how Rafa and his players settle down and concentrate on the matters in hand. A settled side where everyone is confident in everyone’s abilities and knows their role is key? Surely Rafa will be looking to replicate the form in the final third of 2007-08 from the start? Perhaps he will learn from the chopping and changing that look place in the first third? Above all we have an exciting squad so let’s hope we get some performances and achievements that reflect this?
Para two: It’s the twentieth anniversary of Hillsborough in 2009 it would be nice and fitting to see the club remember the off field things that really matter. Things such as traditional Liverpool ways or working and behaviour that were carelessly and callously trashed in 2007-08. It should not be rocket science to successfully combine these with our priorities going forward? Above all would it be too much to ask for those who have put personally promotion, advancement and aggrandisement before the needs and the reputation of the club to rein this in? Surely, given the current economic situation and our proposed stadium build, there is enough to concentrate on rather than getting sidetracked with such egoistical fripperies?
Finally but by no means least to our opening game against Sunderland. This represents an opportunity to get the Liege malaise out of our system. However, Roy Keane’s side will feel, given our form in that game, that he has a good opportunity to take advantage? Can we expect a repeat of Wednesday with the home side buoyed by vocal support having a real go at us? Hopefully we can succeed in the area where we failed in Belgium and slow things down and take the pace out of the game and assume a modicum of control?
Prediction? A win of course but, above all, isn’t it great to have footy back? Good luck to Rafa and the team in 2008-09. Walk on…