The Gull Posted April 7, 2008 Share Posted April 7, 2008 Anfield, Sunday 13th April 2008 Almost 13 years ago, on a very sunny afternoon in Merseyside, Rovers were cheered on by 40,000+ fans to become the first town team in 40 years to win the Championship, me amongst them. I was a 16 year old Rovers fan with family connections to Liverpool who had been ridiculed by his cousins for supporting a team that they had never heard of prior to the Premiership years, they have since admitted that they were as happy as anyone the day we lifted the trophy at Anfield. 13 years on and Rovers are now respected again amongst the top ten in the league and have desires to break the “Big 4” monopoly. To do that we need to take advantage of a Liverpool team that may have their minds elsewhere given recent encounters. Their form at Anfield has been unusually unpredictable this season, though recently this has changed and has seen them notch 6 wins from 6 games at home since being defeated by Barnsley in the FA Cup. Rovers form is mixed but we do have a decent record against the so called big four recently and will go to Anfield without any fear and no doubt Hughes demanding a result and performance. Having a family connection and now residing in Liverpool I have always enjoyed the matches at Anfield and found that having a pint or two in The Arkles before the game enjoyable. Despite the uneducated, stereotypical view of scousers, and especially Liverpool fans, they have always been welcoming and most quite respectful of Rovers and what we have achieved. I have invited a couple of life long reds, Mark Slade and Ste Cunningham, to answer some questions ahead of the match, here they are: Fighting for 4th place again can not be what was expected from Liverpool this season, realistically did you expect more from the team and management? MARK - I probably did - whether I expected Liverpool to win the league or not...well, probably not, but I was of the belief that we would have sustained a better challenge from the outset. Too many draws kai-boshed that though. I think there are certain players who haven't had quite the effect we would have hoped from the start (Ryan Babel is the main one, even though he has shown signs of true quality), but he will get better. Unfortunately, his progress has probably been put against the impact that Fernando Torres has had, and - as much as I rated him and thought he was top-notch - I NEVER thought he'd have quite the impact he has had. The frightening thing is that - without his goals and Gerrard's goals - this season could have been an awful lot worse. STE - Realistically, most fans expected to mount a more sustained title challenge. Only the most optimistic may have thought we would win the league but most would have expected to be still in with a chance of winning it at Easter. It's actually our home form that has cost us; for example, home draws to the likes of Wigan and Birmingham in games we dominated. Then our complete inability to secure victories against the other teams of the so called 'big four' means we never inflict a points and psychological blow on our supposed title rivals. Rotation is blamed a lot in the media but I saw a statistic on Sky that suggested Rafa actually makes less team changes than Manchester United and Chelsea. We have a potentially league winning spine to our team (Reina, Carragher, Agger, Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard & Torres) but the strength of squad depth is lacking. We have plenty of good players (Kuyt, Crouch, Benayoun, Pennant & Kewell) but they are probably not good enough to be part of a title winning squad. If Rafa has the cash to spend in the summer and is looking to keep the present 4-2-3-1 system, I would hope he looks to buy wide 2 midfielders and a right back. These players would need to be experienced and proven international class, to ensure we can improve enough to bridge the gap to the top 3 teams. We have plenty of potentially excellent young players in the reserves (Insua, Plessis, Spearing & Nemeth) who should be used to bolster the squad. Have the off the field troubles taken away the spotlight from the manager and the team a little or hindered the progress of the club this year? MARK – I think the off-field troubles haven't helped - no matter what the players might say. Show me one organisation or department in any work environment that ISN'T affected by unsettling rumours, hearsay and other gossip relating to what goes on there behind the scenes. That said, the players are professionals, and they should be able to rise above all of that, and carry on regardless - we would have to in our walks of life. There is a consensus that the ownership farrago has hindered things this year - and to an extent, it probably has - but ultimately, the players (or rather, some more than most) and, on occasions Rafa, have to take their share of the blame as well for the way things have gone at times this year. STE - We have been a laughing stock off the field this season but it should not be used a convenient excuse for the team's performances and results. We started dropping stupid points in October, well before all the off field shenanigans began. I think the ownership issue has worked in the manager's favour. Once Hicks admitted they had spoken to Klinnsman, it enraged the fans and everyone got behind Rafa. Rightly or wrongly, the whole thing became the manager against the owners. So, even when we had poor form and results, there was never any fan pressure on the manager. I think he would have come under more pressure, if the ownership issue not been there. What is the general view on the ownership of your club? MARK - Shoddy. Amateurish. Laughable. Full of broken promises. Embarrassing. Deceitful, even - and their conduct has been unbecoming of individuals who are supposed to be owners and figureheads of an organisation such as Liverpool Football Club. The Klinsmann thing is probably indicative of their rule. STE - I would say 99% of fans want the American owners out. They have not put one cent of their own money into the club. In reality The Royal Bank of Scotland own the club. Fans of other clubs say "they spent all that money on players in the summer", the reality is they never. They borrowed to buy the club, even though the debt is not officially on the club's books, its club revenues that service it. Our net transfer spend in the summer was roughly the same it's was the previous summers under Benitez. We spent big on Torres and Babel but we got good money back on Garcia, Bellamy and Cisse. Last summer was the first summer of the new improved TV deal and we had got to the Champion's League final, so we had plenty of extra revenue to increase the net spend but we did not. The owners will have to refinance the last refinanced loan in less than 18 months time and find more credit to build the stadium. It's doubtful they will find a creditor willing to lend them the money. If they do it will probably be at a fairly high interest rate. Most would like to see DIC take the club over, on the basis that they are obviously very wealthy. They could easily fund the new stadium development and make money available for transfers. A lot of the people involved with DIC seem to be genuine fans of Liverpool. No one could say for certain what plans they would have for the club but they could not be any worse than Hicks and Gillett. The proposed fans takeover (Share Liverpool FC) of the club is seen as a non-starter by most fans. However, if DIC do takeover Liverpool don't be surprised to see the fans own a minority stake (5 or 10%). DIC have been actively building links with some of the fans groups in the past few months. Is Rafa as lucky in Europe as some media "experts" suggest? MARK - No. Experts know f all if they think that. A UEFA Cup whilst with Valencia, A Champions League Cup and another CL final appearance in the past 5 seasons - that's not a lucky manager. If you want my opinion, it reeks of anti-Liverpool sentiment, and borders on the xenophobic at times. If he was manager of Utd, Arsenal or Chelsea, you wouldn't get such bull from the "experts". STE - All managers who win things need a bit of luck, especially in cup competitions. However, if you get to 3 European finals in 4 seasons and win 2 of them, then it's got to be more than luck. European football is a lot more tactical than Premiership football; this is exaggerated when it becomes the two-legged knockout ties. This plays to Rafa's strengths of designing a strategy to win one off games or ties. You need more than luck to win a Champions League with Djimi Traore in your team! What are your views of Rovers form this season? MARK - Rovers always strike me as a team that are more inconsistent than they should be with the personnel they have in their team. They can beat anyone on their day - but then they go and throw in a performance like they had against Wigan at the JJB. There are parallels between Rovers and Liverpool, to be honest. What Rovers need to quell that inconsistency is a really dynamic central midfielder. Reid, Tugay and Mokoena are OK, but I think they need someone with a bit more drive to push them forward at times. STE - I thought Rovers would do a lot better than they have done. On paper I think you have just as good a squad as Everton, Villa, Portsmouth and City. I think you should be challenging Everton for fifth place. Ryan Nelsen is a player I really rate and I think his injuries this season has been an important factor in Rovers' inconsistency. Also, Gamst Pedersen has seemed to have been far less influential this season than previous seasons. Any Rovers players you would swap for your own starting eleven? MARK - David Bentley would look good in a Liverpool shirt. I think Roque Santa Cruz would be a good squad addition as well. I still also think Stephen Warnock should still be at Liverpool - but Rafa did him (and Rovers) a favour by letting him go. STE - Would it be bad form to mention David Bentley!? In our current system, he'd do a great job on the right of midfield. He would provide more of a goal threat and his free kicks would be useful weapon to have. He does not seem to be keen to deny all the speculation that he will leave Rovers. As I mentioned earlier, I like Nelsen but we are well stocked in the centre-back position. The other Rovers' player I like is Derbyshire. I expected him to play far more games this season. He has good movement and his finishing is excellent. He reminds me of a young Robbie Fowler and I can't give him much higher praise than that. What are your memories of Rovers winning the championship at Anfield in 1995? MARK - I was there - I remember going ballistic when people around me started cheering when Alan Shearer put Rovers 1 up. I also remember the eerie atmosphere when Jamie Redknapp scored in the last minute to put Liverpool 2-1 up (probably the only thing he did of note in 11 years at the club) - but of course, by then, Man Utd had just drawn 1-1 with West Ham and so it didn't matter in the end. Ultimately, Liverpool played their role by winning - Man Utd failed to win at Upton Park, and as a result, lost out on the title. Were Rovers lucky to win it? Well, possibly, given the final day scenario...but they had the points in the bag, and the record books will only show Rovers as been champions in 1994/95. And King Kenny won it at Anfield - so who in the Kop was going to quibble with that?!! STE - That was a very weird day. A lot of Liverpool fans actually wanted to lose the game to ensure you won the title and United didn't. When Redknapp scored, I don't think he knew whether to celebrate or not. At least it all worked out in the end – we won the game, you won the league and that lot didn't! Have Rovers managed to shake off the bully boys tag associated to them by opposition fans? MARK - I don't think that they are bully boys - it's d***heads like Barry Glendenning and Paul Doyle on the Guardian's website who come out with that crap. Other fans read it, take it to heart, and start referring to Rovers as Blackeye Rovers and the like. I would say that they are a hard side, and physical at times, but are capable of some good footy when they put their minds to it...and Christ, when all is said and done, it IS a contact sport, isn't it? STE - I don't think so and I do think it's a little undeserved. There are far worse teams than Blackburn for being over physical. For example, Bolton, who won't be missed at all when they go down. Once you get a label the media give you, it sticks. For instance, Liverpool are negative yet have scored over a 100 goals this season, more than the media's beloved Man United and Arsenal. Will there be a danger of Liverpool maybe relaxing against Rovers given their recent run of games? MARK - Well...I think we need to make sure that we're mathematically safe of getting 4th place. Until that happens, I don't think Rafa will let the players ease up too much. We have still games against the likes of Birmingham away and Fulham away, and given that they're in a relegation battle still, they'll want to make sure. So we need to lock up that 4th place without that shower of s**** from across the park having a chance of taking it. STE - I certainly hope not, we still need the points as fourth place is still far from certain. Predictions for the match? MARK - Sorry, Al - I predict a 2-1 win for Liverpool!! Rovers will make it tricky, but I think your defence is slightly susceptible to pacy players and tricky movement, and if Gerrard and Torres are on form (assuming they play of course), then I think Nelsen and Samba could be in for a tricky afternoon. STE - I think it will be a close match that Liverpool will edge 1-0. Although, I am worried by our current inability to defend set pieces. Bentley's corners and crossed free kicks and Santa Cruz's heading ability could cause us problems. Thanks lads. So there it is, that was the preview, let’s hope their predictions don’t come true, I will sit on the fence and go for the draw. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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