I've Been Talking To Liverpool
1) So how has your season been so far? Why do you always start so slowly?
I don't know why it is that we have started so slowly in recent seasons, it seems that if the season were to begin in October we'd be fine. The Premiership is such a difficult league and if you give the opposition a headstart its very hard to make up the ground, and unfortunately we've been guilty of allowing this to happen over the last two seasons. Between October and the end of last season, we had won more points then anybody else and we knew we had to hit the ground running and try to carry that form into this season if we were going to challenge. However, and without trying to make too many excuses, I think it needs to be noted that in the previous season we had to pre-qualify for the CL which meant that our season began almost six weeks before everybody else and many of our players went from there all the way through to the World Cup finals. A lot of people blamed Rafa's over-rotation of the squad for our poor results at the start of the campaign, but observers of those games could easily see that many of our top players just weren't performing and looked totally knackered, so in those circumstances I think a lot of the rotation of the side was necessary. Nevertheless it was very disappointing to see our chances of challenging for the PL effectively disappear so early on in the season. Our early cup exits at the hands of Arsenal were another major disappointment at the time but it has had its benefits. Without the cup involvement, we have an almost fully fit and well rested squad as we head into the business end of the season. We are currently battling for 3rd place in the Premiership and have just knocked the holders Barcelona out of the CL, with a very winnable quarter final with PSV ahead of us. So what once looked like a season in disarray could yet turn out to have a memorable finish.
2) What do you think of your new owners, happy with the change?
Overall I'm delighted with the change but a little sad to see David Moores step down as he was a brilliant Chairman of the club for many years. He was a genuine fan of the team who always put the needs of the club first. Recent revelations that he put his hand into his own pocket to pay for Dirk Kuyt, tells you the kind of man he is and I'm delighted he has been kept on as a life time Club President. However, his need to fund that move himself also tells you the kind of precarious financial position we were in. The business side of things has become more and more important in the modern game. Despite all of the success we had in the 60's, 70's and 80's, we have always been weak on the business side and its amazing to think that we only installed our first corporate box in 1992! As this area of the game has grown in importance we reacted too slowly and this allowed others to overtake us. This takeover deal effectively wipes off our debt, gets our new stadium built and gives the manager more funds to compete in the transfer market, so its hard to see a downside. I'm glad Gillette and Hicks took us over rather then the Arab bidders because they are tremendously successful business men who are already successfully involved in other sports, and when it comes to building sporting arenas there is simply no-one better then the Americans. While it's true that they cannot be considered lifelong supporters of the club, they know what it takes to achieve success and will take the hard nose business decisions when necessary. These days you need to be as competitive off the field as you are on it and I think having these guys on board will help us in that regard.
3) Fancy your chances in the Champions League this season?
Yes, I think we have a very decent chance. Although they will be no push overs, PSV was the best draw we could have got in the quarter finals. They didn't cause us too many problems in the group stage and we've got to fancy our chances against them. If we get to the semi's, we'll face the winners of CSKA London or Valencia. If its the Londongrad boys then quite frankly we are becoming a little bored of beating them in major cup semi finals and we've already beaten them in 3 of our last 4 encounters, so we won't lose any sleep about facing them again. If its Valencia (and I think it will be), then as their former manager Rafa will know them inside out and I'm sure he will come up with a gameplan to defeat them. If we manage to get to the final we would face either Bayern, AC Milan, Roma or the mancs and I'd fancy our chances against any of them. So as we are specialists in this competition and have already won it FIVE TIMES, there's every reason to be optimistic.
4) Rafa - the future?
It seems that every month there is yet another rumour linking him with Real Madrid but I think these stories are all rubbish and just a result of lazy journalism. Given half a chance I'm sure Madrid would love to have him but I think he'll stay at Liverpool for quite a few years to come. He took on a big job here and inherited a squad full of deadwood but with a smaller budget then any of the other members of the 'big four' he has managed to overhaul the squad, win us trophies and we are improving all the time. Thanks to the work he has already done, we are not very far away from where we want to be, but we are just getting started. With the work on our new stadium about to begin and a bigger transfer budget for Rafa to play with, we fell The Reds are on the rise and its no longer a question of if we win the Premiership, its a question of when and how many.
5) Peter Crouch and Craig Bellamy have both been linked to exits, the golf clubbed wazock to us in actual fact, if you had to lose one, which would it be and why?
I think you've been reading too many tabloids mate, Crouchy and Craig Bellasterous will not be leaving. Rafa got a bit of stick from certain quarters when he signed Crouch for £7 million from the Saints, but he's been a great success for us and now looks like we got a bargain. He's big and awkward to deal with, he's very good on the ground and he's scoring goals more regularly then any of our other strikers. I know other clubs are interested in him but why would we sell him? I've been a bit tee-ed at some of the criticism of Bellamy. He was a bit under par in his early appearances for us but he's come a fairway since then and chipped in with some great performances including a few goals that have really got us out of a hole. Besides, he's far too good for your lot and the golf courses are far better up north!
6) What is your opinion of Villa and with us having the best new owners around, do you think we might finally re-establish ourselves as contenders?
I don't know about them being the best new owners around, I'd always be suspicious of a guy that has a name that sounds like a cheap porno flick. As regards Villa finally re-establishing themselves as contenders, unfortunately I'm not old enough to remember a time when they were! There's no doubt Villa are a big club but they've underperformed for years, thanks largely to a hopeless chairman and a series of poor managerial appointments. Now that you have new owners and a new manager, there's fresh hope. There's no doubt there's a big gap between the top four and the rest of the Premiership, and I think Villa face a tough task just to get back to the head of the chasing pack.Whether your new owners have the finance to match your ambition, remains to be seen.
7) Any opinions on Martin O'Neill?
There's no doubt Martin O'Neill has a great record as a manager and I think you guys did well to get him. However, although he did a great job at Celtic, its really just a two horse race up there. In his other jobs he has shown he can do wonders with limited resources at smaller clubs but those clubs have limited ambitions and are sometimes just happy to survive. I think the Villa job is his toughest one to date. The expectation at Villa Park is much higher. I'm sure he'll make you tough to beat but only time will tell if he can actually make you winners.
8) You are fed up of stupid kick off times as I am? Sky have brought a great deal to football but Sunday kick offs at 1.45pm is something I'll not thank them for, that is the time my belly should be having roast beef and Yorkshire pud!
Totally pi**ed off with them and we seem to get stuck with them more then most, there should be a law passed to prevent matches kicking off before 3pm!
9) Prediction for Sunday please sir?
Liverpool will win of course, 2-0 to The Reds! Thanks for the three points and all the best in the rest of the season.
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