Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Liverpool 4 Swansea 1 - Reaction

God that was good wasn't it?

It's only after a great performance and 3 points like we saw against Swansea last night that you realise just how difficult the last few months have been. I don't think anyone predicted the drastic swing in Liverpool's fortunes that saw us nearly win the league 10 months ago to sitting 10th in the league at Christmas.

After back to back wins and perhaps more importantly an impressive display and four goals last night Liverpool FC end 2014 if not on a high, certainly on an assent.

I'm not going to go in for a big review of the year as there will be hundreds of those around, plus I can barely remember last week let alone 6 months ago, but I do want to make a few observations about last night...

Coutinho is class - I thought he was absolutely majestic last night, full of running, clever and his deft touch for Lallana's goal was sublime. He is still very young and I just hope he can develop into the world class player that he has the potential to be. Our only problem will be keeping hold of him if he does.

Lallana looking the part - He was one of the signings I was most happy with and despite not exactly setting the world alight I felt Lallana had been one of our better performers this season. He has undoubted ability and class and last night that began to show through more comprehensively. Now I just hope he kicks on and starts to gamble a bit more in the final third and has more shots and looks to slip those clever balls in... as opposed to always checking back the way he seems to love to do. Definitely he best performance in a red shirt so far.

Can, can - It's puzzled me why Can has not featured more so far this season, but his introduction into the back three has a been a revelation. I know we didn't buy him as a defender but he has experience at CB for the German U21 and at Leverkusen and on the evidence so far he could have a future there for Liverpool. He looked utterly composed and extremely calm - exactly what we've been crying out for at the back.

Henderson is better in the centre - I don't think there was any doubt about this really. but I enjoyed seeing Henderson back in the middle and he looked much more comfortable himself. He was able to sit in with Lucas when needed, but with Lucas doing the dirty stuff he was also able to join in with the front three and make those bursting runs that we enjoy so much.

Mignolet is better than Jones - again, I don't think there was any doubt about that really. Mignolet does not look like the long term answer for us, not in the slightest and we desperately need to buy a keeper in January but I feel happier with Mignolet in goal than I do Brad Jones.

Sterling Finish - Sterling has looked fantastic playing as a makeshift centre forward his movement and intelligence is way beyond his years and he can just start to add better finishing to his game he will become unstoppable.

I also think Manquillo and Moreno should get a mention, they performed well in those wing back positions. Manquillo will never be as attacking as Moreno, but he does a decent job. Lucas as ever did all the simple stuff really well, I'm so glad to see him back in the side regularly. Sakho as well deserves a mention, their goal was as much Skrtel and Henderson's fault as it was his.

Let's just really hope we can continue this sort of form into the Leicester game and 2015 might just start to look a little rosier again.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Stick or Twist

This morning I was thinking back to the last game of last season... we'd just beaten Newcastle but narrowly missed out on our first title for over 20 years. Stood on the Kop I was applauding and saluting an incredibly exciting group of young players... who had been fearless in one of the most exciting seasons I had ever experienced. Deep down I knew I was probably waving goodbye to Suarez... but I still had faith. I had faith in the man who was saluting us, small... determined... passionate. Shankly like. Brendan Rodgers.

Less than 6 months later and that optimism and excitement has drained faster than Chelsea fans take to start singing about Gerrard. 

Suarez is sunning himself in Spain and we've been without Sturridge for most of the season. Our dodgy defence has been exposed by our lack of fire power and over 100 million's worth of new talent is taking it's time to fire. Many are doubting its quality in the first place. Rodgers' claims that any side spending that sort of money should be challenging for the title are starting to look very foolish.

This week was heralded (as they often are) as the week which would make or break our season. After two wins on the bounce, and what looked like a small resurgence we suffered a disappointing draw against Sunderland at home. Now we face 90 minutes against Basle to save our season and then a tricky away game at The Theatre of Wet Dreams against a Utd side who look to be ominously getting back on track. They feared us last season... and who can blame them? You fancy they aren't quaking in their luminous boots this week.

Rodgers despite recently being backed by FSG is under intense pressure. Some say a Champion's League exit and loss at Utd could lose him his job. Despite the so called support there are clear whisperings in the press that FSG are assessing their options... bizarrely one of whom is a man who oversaw another huge overspend and then subsequent disappointment,  one AVB.

These sort of mumourings do nothing to help the situation. FSG, the club and the fans have to decide if they are going to stick or twist with Rodgers. He deserves more than to have a sacking constantly looming over his head during this crucial period. Liverpool, FSG... fans... players... collectively need to decide to back Rodgers now regardless of what happens in the next week. Otherwise he may as well go now for whatever happens this week, when the next bad patch comes around... it will start all over again. That is not how to build stability at a club.

The problem Rodgers and FSG have is that modern football is an unforgiving world. You need instant success to survive and instant success starts with regular Champion's League football.
FSG aren't blameless in any of this however... if they are seriously questioning Rodgers credentials as the man to achieve prolonged success at Liverpool I would question their judgement. If it is instant success you want, I would question a policy of investing in youth and potential... not just in terms of players but the manager too. Appointing a young and exciting coach, but one with no European experience is not an approach guaranteed to bring you instant and European success. It is a policy which requires a huge amount of patience and an ability to hold your nerve and stick by your convictions. If FSG do oust Rodgers by Christmas I would suggest that they don't really know what their policy is.

Amongst all of this, I think we do need to keep a sense of perspective. Our season has been hugely disappointing so far, but I believe Rodgers deserves time to turn things around. However I would also suggest that the Basle game is largely irrelevant... aside from the financial boost of the next round,  a win will only prolong the wait we have to be dismissed from the competition by superior opposition. That may seem incredibly pessimistic and there is no doubt of the confidence that a win would breed, but for me more important is a win at Utd and a sustained and march into the top four places. A disappointing first campaign in the CL is not the end of the world.... not being in it again next year is a disaster.

If we can get through Christmas still in touch with the top 4 I will be happy. Sturridge will be returning, Rodgers and 'the transfer committee' can make a honest assessment of the squad and make some difficult decisions on who to stick with and where we need to strengthen again.

Rodgers appears to learn from his mistakes quite quickly,  despite a perceived stubbornness around his 'philosophy.' He has taken a lot of the new signings out of the equation over the last few games and gone with players who if not considered the most talented (Lucas, Enrique, Toure) he knows he can trust and who have experience. It's a wise move, the new players can have the pressure taken off them a bit and continue to settle in and acclimatise. Meanwhile hopefully we can grind out some results and stay in the hunt.

I have had my doubts about Rodgers, I think anyone would have had... but at this stage I feel that we as fans and FSG as owners have to hold our nerve and back him. It might backfire... but personally I see absolutely no value in bringing in someone like AVB who would want to impart his 'philosophy' and bring his players in... after all, worked for him in the past hasn't it?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Liverpool 1 - Stoke City 0 - Reaction

After enjoying a full weekend in Liverpool for the Chelsea game, it was back to day tripping for the visit of Stoke to Anfield. I don't half miss Liverpool as a City... and it is great to get back, for however long.

Although it was undoubtedly disappointing to concede late on in Bulgaria and only come away with a point and indeed our defensive ability still under scrutiny... I couldn't help feel some positivity from Wednesday night. It was absolutely crucial that we built on that against Stoke.

In the car up I scrolled through Twitter and there seemed to be a general consensus that Lucas and Toure should keep their places; with Gerrard perhaps given a rest. When the teamsheets came out, many had got their wish, Apparently Rodgers hadn't realised it was the 16th anniversary of Gerrard's debut... but even if he had, what difference should it make to his selection? He has continually said that he has not been picked on sentiment - so it really should have been seen as a non-issue.

I think the Gerrard thing has been blown out of propotion a bit - in the modern game there are very few players in any team that will play every single game of a season that contains the league, Champion's League and two cup competitions. I should imagine that whatever the result on Wednesday night, or indeed our form over the last few weeks, Gerrard may have been given a rest in this one. He has played more minutes for us this season than any other outfield player - that is not how he needs to be utilised at aged 34.

I was a little surprised to see Enrique in the starting 11, I don't know why... I think purely because I'd forgotten about his existence a bit, but I was perfectly happy with his selection. I'm a fan of Moreno, but Enrique is pretty experienced and I think relatively solid. The Johnson hate club were not appeased however, as he started at right back. Again - I don't just blindly back Liverpool players, but I do believe in getting behind anyone who puts a red shirt on (Paul Konchesky perhaps being a push) and I feel the criticism has; as if often the case in this day and age; been disproportionate and unfair. I don't doubt that Johnson's career is on the downward trajectory but again he is a player with enormous experience and I believe more passion and desire than many give him credit for - something which became apparent in the 85th minute. Yes he has played poorly at times this season, but who hasn't?

Anyway - me and my Dad were in the Main Stand for this one, a departure from our usual spec in the Kop. I am never enthused about being in the Main Stand with it being the worst of our four stands, both in terms of facilities and atmosphere, but there was actually something quite exhilarating about entering through the old turnstiles and into a proper old fashioned football stand. You can feel the history in that stand, even when you are stood in an inch of piss in the toilets.

The lack of wide screen TVs everywhere was quite refreshing and I settled in to a coffee and a good read of RAOTL. It was also a nice surprise to bump in to an old work mate, and after a good chat we went to take our seats and he departed with a pumped fist and "let's get the win here eh?" It was a burst of positivity and unwavering passion for our club that you see so obviously lacking amongst the Soccer AM; Twitter trolling LADBible twats that are so endemic of the modern game.

I had seen some comments pre-match from Spion Kop 1906 about the Supporters Club Committee meeting and their decision to not bring the usual flags on to the Kop. Instead they replaced them with protest banners - it was stark and effective action. The absence of flags on the kop was striking in the way the atmosphere was effected. I also felt like there was a deliberate avoidance of singing and chanting, aside from YNWA. It was a strong message to the club and FSG that the Liverpool 'brand' that they peddle, sell and commercially rape is built on loyal and true supporters that they need to listen to as opposed to marginalise and rip off. If they don't, what has made Liverpool FC what it is and therefore such a commercially viable 'product' globally, will die forever.

Whether the lack of atmosphere was deliberate or not the first half did nothing to ignite it - it was a truly awful first half of football. We looked nervous, one dimensional and lacking in ideas. Stoke were not much better, although Bojan was a player who caught the eye.

I was entertained more during the first half by observing Gerrard's warm up and his wonderfully down to earth reaction to Stoke fans giving him stick... obviously over 'the slip' but also references to his punching technique. It really took the sting out of what could have become rather unsavoury.

I don't know if Rodgers is one for a half time rollockings but whatever he did say at the break seemed to have an impact. We were much better in the second half; although so were Stoke. They created a great chance when Bojan put Diouf clear and I had the perfect view of Mignolet's hesitation off the line - at first I thought it was fatal, but in the end he did enough to block the shot.

A little later Bojan then rattled a shot against the bar and we were lucky not to be one nil down. We had our chances too, and I will fully admit to being in the majority in the main stand who thought Henderson's volley had gone in and was celebrating for a good 10 seconds before realising it had gone wide. Our best chance perhaps came from some of our best football as Sterling looked more himself, driving in to the box, playing a great one two with Coutinho and setting up Allen who shot just high.

Stoke still threatened however and Sterling made a match wining contribution at his own end by blocking a Diouf chance off the line.

Despite our improved second half, you always felt that Gerrard's introduction was imminent and it was good to see him introduced as an impact player high up the pitch, with Henderson swapping in to the middle and Coutinho going wide. Gerrard's presence will always be a lift and we continued to threaten to win the game. The winning goal however, came from an unlikely source with Johnson the first to react to the ball breaking free off the bar and he was hugely brave in stooping to head the ball in whilst receiving a boot to the head in the process. Anfield went wild - and momentarily even the Johnson hate club were perhaps celebrating? I for one was pleased for him.

Now we just needed to hold on. I was expecting Johnson to go off after his head injury, but Lovren came on as we moved to 3/5 at the back. Hang on we did... although I couldn't help observe a lot of confusion and indecision in our back four. Rather than Lovren suring up our defence, it almost looked like he confused matters with him, Skrtel and Toure all trying to act the leader and the three of them positioning the back line at different points... people stepping up / back out of unison. More worrying than that was the slight disdain I noticed at one point from Skrtel to Mignolet after the keeper had barked some instructions at him.

We have to be pleased with the a clean sheet, but our defensive problems are still far from resolved, something needs to change. I would say that there is very much an argument for Toure keeping his place after today. Mignolet had an improved game, but there are still question marks over him and without a real alternative in the squad he has to play himself into form. Today was a start.

Ultimately despite not being a brilliant performance this is exactly what we needed - a clean sheet and 3 points. Now we need to build on this and it feels like the fact another league game is just around the corner in the form of Leicester away in midweek is no bad thing.

Onwards and upwards - let's keep the faith.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Palace Reaction

After the Hull game I wrote about the need to back Brendan Rodgers. There was no doubt that we were in tough spot, but there was a series of games in which we could turn things around. I’m sat here writing this after we’ve just been bullied and beaten by Crystal Palace and it’s palpable that we are still waiting for the green shoots of a turnaround to our season… let alone a full blown fucking tree. We have now lost four games in a row; our worst league start for over 20 years and we’ve lost more league games already than during the whole of last season. I am the last one for knee jerk reactions, but as Carragher said in the aftermath of the Palace game… this is more than a poor start, something is seriously wrong. 

We now have Ludogorets in a few days’ time in which a win is absolute crucial to us staying in the Champion’s League and I think it’s fair to say no one would have great confidence in us winning it. We’re running out of games to ‘turn our season around.’

Carragher is right, something is seriously wrong… the difficult question is, what?

I’m getting more and more sucked in to Twitter these days (@anfieldshrine) and after Palace there was the usual idiotic overreactions, calls for Rodgers to be sacked and the sort of idiocy associated with both modern society and modern football. I will not get sucked in to the calls for Rodgers to be sacked. We have to give him time to get it right… but in the modern game, that time is running out. If we don’t get back into the Top 4 and drop out of the Champion’s League at the group stage… our great progress of last season will have completely vanished and we’ll have been set back years.

In my heart, I can’t help but look at Rafa and his comments about wanting to move back to his family in Liverpool and long for him to return triumphantly to Anfield. But my head tells me that I should discount that and get behind Rodgers. He deserves more time and he deserves another full season to be judged on.

At the moment, things are so bad that there are more questions than answers… 

  • Is Rodgers to blame or should the players shoulder most of the responsibility? 

  •  How much control does Rodgers have over transfers? Who should be held accountable for poor buys?

  • Where is the Lovren that we bought from Southampton? 

  • What has happened to the form of Sterling… Coutinho… Henderson… 

  • As painful as it is to admit… can Gerrard handle the deep lying role and offer out back four enough protection? Has he got one eye on a move abroad to play out his years… ? 

  • Did Suarez and Sturidge make Rodgers look like a great manager last season? Has he got a Plan B… or more importantly s Plan C, D and E. 
I just hope to God that we begin to see some answers on Wednesday… another defeat and Rodgers position will become even more uncomfortable, whether we think that is fair or not.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Great LFC Gifts for Christmas

It's that time of year again, and one that we all dread when it comes to shopping... Christmas. So, if you're shopping for reds, we thought we'd take our pick of the best LFC gifts on Amazon...

Liverpool aren't the sort of club to celebrate a season in which we didn't win anything, but no one can deny that the 2013/14 season was one that exceeded all of our expectations. An exhilerating journey which ultimately ended in heartbreak, but one that is well worth reliving with this DVD that includes all 101 goals. 

A simple and beautiful piece of memorabilia of our illustrious history in Europe. 

  Liverpool FC Football Chef Hat

If there is going to be a red slaving over the stove at Christmas, they may as well do it in a frickin' Liverpool chef's hat right?

I don't care what any red says, we still love him and we're still fascinated by him. Get Suarez's book and get the insider view on his incredible but tumultuous time at Liverpool.


 Not all of us are a fan of wearing replica shirts past the age of 15... but that isn't to say the smartly dressed can't show their true colours with some LFC cuff links.

As we've said, we're not big on replica shirts or training gear, but you can't go wrong with a nice LFC polo shirt. 

For more great gift ideas, take a look at the likes of Love Follow Conquer and Hat, Scarf or a Badge.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

We have to keep the faith

This is a snippet from a full article that will be appearing in Issue 206 of Red All Over The Land which will be on sale at the Chelsea game...

My immediate thought is that we HAVE to keep the faith. With Brendan Rodgers, with Balotelli, with everything. I wasn’t able to get to the Hull game, and a mate of mine went in my place. We exchanged a few texts after the game and he said one of the most frustrating things was how quickly fans got on the back of the players. We know there has always been the moaning contingent, for as far back as you want to go. But the horrible immediacy of modern football peddled by Sky Sports, social media and online gambling; breeds short sightedness, idiotic knee jerk reactions and uneducated bile of a level that I don’t think we have had to endure before. With ticket prices increasing and the modern game being gentrified more and more, Anfield is becoming a diluted theme park of itself.
 To read the full article, pick up a copy of RAOTL at Chelsea or subscribe for only £28 for 13 issues.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ludogorets Razgrad – A view from Ibiza

It’s Tuesday the 16th of September and 2014 and we are back where we are meant to be – The Champion’s League. Now it’s one thing for Liverpool fans to travel the continent watching our beloved reds in the places they are actually playing, but we all forget sometimes the regular struggles and adventures encountered attempting to watch the game when on our other travels – work trips, city breaks, weddings abroad and summer holidays.  Having moved away from Liverpool I am finding it difficult enough to get to Anfield as it is, but I was a little bit gutted to have to miss my first European game at Anfield for God know’s how long due to being on my 6th night of a week on the party Island of Ibiza.

Now don’t get me wrong, Ibiza is one pretty amazing place to be, and my compatriots and I had enjoyed a truly glorious week of partying, beaches, laughter, cocktails and the odd ‘recovery’ smoothie. My great mate, fellow Tom and regular match going companion since our Uni days and I were desperate to catch the Ludogrets game having missed our loss to Villa at the weekend and having only vague recollections of being told by someone in a darkened techno filled club that we had lost one nil. I hadn’t believed them, only to wake up and realise that it hadn’t all been a bad dream. So the three football hating females who made up the rest of our crew; reluctantly agreed after five football free days to find somewhere for us to watch the game.

We headed for the rather unglamorous and ‘Brits abroad’ end of the Playa Den Bossa strip and quite easily found a classic holiday establishment which appeared to trade as everything from a bar; to a supermarket; to a games arcade and sometimes pizzeria which had ‘Liverpool – Ludogorets’ scribbled on a blackboard. As me and Tom sat down and ordered  Cervezas we agreed that despite being on one of the most beautiful party Islands in the world, we both rather wished we were in that standing Kop as usual. There is something quite wonderful about watching your team in some Spanish basement dive though, dodgy Sky, a group of sunburnt lads from Yorkshire playing pool and an ancient gamer flashing in the corner. We had hoped to combine the game with some food, but as we were looking for something nicer than a soggy pizza, food was off the agenda for 90 minutes. Our supportive females purchased an array of English crisps to keep us going. You can’t beat a pickled onion Monster Munch when you’re abroad.

So we kicked off and I think we can all agree that we were rather taken aback at the quality, pace and inventiveness that Ludogorets showed. Even we could see without sound from the rather jittery satellite that ITV had built the game up as ‘returning European giants’ against unknown minnows, but you’d think everyone would realise by now that any side getting to this stage of the Champion’s League are no push over. It was the first time I’d seen Lallana in a Liverpool shirt, which I was excited about but our line up certainly had a fresh look to it what with all our new faces and recent injuries. It was perhaps no surprise then that we looked a little disjointed at times and struggled to get into much of a rhythm. I am not one to be negative, but I am sticking by my unsure first impression of Lovren and I think he was lucky not to concede a penalty early on. Sterling, Coutinho and Henderson produced our best football of the first half with a brilliant and pacey move, only for Lallana not able to quite provide the finish.

So a typically frustrating opening first half of European football and not a huge amount to get excited about.  After attempting to show an initial interest, with questions like ‘is it home or away’ and ‘what is Liverpool’s away kit like?’ our girls were now more concerned with having a cigarette outside and the fact that Olympic gymnast Lewis Smith and his mates had taken over the pool table. Tom and I settled in for the second half and more Cevezas. I felt that we really started to open them up a bit more after half time, but continued to look a little fragile at the back. Henderson produced a brilliant ball for Manquillo only to hit over – but it was a difficult chance for the impressive right back. Mario looked full of endeavour but was struggling to get in goal scoring positions. I think it’s patently obvious that he will perform better with someone alongside him up top and I think that showed with the introduction of Borini – perhaps not out in the cold after all? He should have scored with his second touch of the game, heading straight at the keeper. A glorious chance. Sakho and Lovren can’t seem to handle when one of them should go to get it and the other one cover… we still looked a little all over the place at the back and got off lightly when they hit the post.

Then the moment came… Mario’s moment. A slightly scrappy, bobbly take in the box, which sat up and he finished expertly with the outside of his boot. A poacher’s goal in front of the kop. He is going to be a hero, I’m certain of it… it just feels like the perfect fit. So absolute relief in the basement – among myself and Tom at least. Now could we just kill the game off? Apparently not. We seemed intent on getting a second, with Moreno caught ahead of Sterling as we lost possession and Ludogorets countered quickly. Even with our left back out of position, again the central two were easily split with a decent pass though and with Mignolet rushing out mindlessly they easily slotted in the equaliser.

Cue heads in hands. But then came a poor pass back and poor control from their keeper - credit to Manquillo for not giving up on the loose ball and then inviting the foul for the penalty. We had our second chance. Gerrard took it like only he can, with absolute composure and calmness. Cue absolute delirium from two slightly sunburnt Toms. The girls were just glad it was all over, and to be honest, in some ways so was I. There was a feeling of relief as opposed to jubilation over an unconvincing Liverpool performance. A really tough game – but we got through it. Having Champion’s League football back at Anfield gives me a buzz that nothing else can – even in Ibiza.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

August Review

This article first appeared in Issue 203 of Red All Over The Land and incredibly fails to mention a certain Mario...


The nervous and quite frankly fortunate opening day win over our feeder club felt like an age ago by the time bank holiday Monday came around. In all the excitement over Mario, I’d not given the huge game against City much thought. Sub consciously I think I just didn’t want to think about it, such a big test so early on is always going to be tricky and after the incredible ride of last season, now there was some expectation. Whether we liked it or not.

So what of the game? Well it was disappointing; there is no way around that. We did indeed play well for the first half an hour… but there are worrying signs and I just hope they begin to go away soon. I’m not one to be negative, but our lack of a cutting edge finish up front concerned me massively. We looked to be a little bit rusty, but perhaps that is to be expected.

We played some nice build up stuff, but without really threatening Joe Hart massively. This season was always going to be a lot tougher than last due to the fact we’re no longer a ‘surprise package’ and we’re now without Suarez. Teams will try and stop us coming out of the blocks quickly… they’ll be all over Sturridge and Sterling and getting space will be trickier. The first two opening games have indicated that. However, City away is undoubtedly just about one of the toughest games we’ll face this season and so early in the season I don’t think there is any need to panic or become too downhearted.


The way Glen Johnson is being treated by some is an absolute disgrace, the fact his injury was met with pleasure is just not how Liverpool fans behave and personally I still don’t think he has been performing that badly. He does look like he is coming to the end of pretty distinguished career, but Rodgers obviously still values his experience otherwise he wouldn’t continue to play him. It’s another example of Liverpool’s true support just being eroded by idiots and the moronic Twatterati (@anfieldshrine by the way.)

I’m glad we have Manquillo in though, he looks a talent and Flanno still definitely has a part to play. You could certainly make an argument for Flanno being as strong as anyone else we have for either full back position.


Between City and Spurs the inevitable happened and ‘Dagger’ departed. I was accused of being rather sentimental about the whole thing… indeed accusations of downright man love were levelled at me, but I don’t care… I was absolutely gutted to see him go. I get it… he is injury prone… perhaps not as commanding as we would like… out of Rodger’s plans, but I still think he is one of the classiest defenders we have had in the last 20 years and deserved more from his Liverpool career. But it’s more than that; he clearly ‘got it.’ His love and loyalty for the club, city and fans is unquestionable and it is a trait that is becoming less and less common. I’d take the likes of Agger over some mercenary any day of the week. The fact he wanted to return home to Bronby rather than play elsewhere in the Premiership or Europe says it all and I’m about to scour the Danish side have certainly found themselves a new follower in me.


What a difference a week makes and all that. Another great performance and result away at Spurs, it was never going to be quite like last season, but it wasn’t far off. Mario looked good, he should have scored, but that will come. Sterling was outstanding again… although how he didn’t finish after THAT run we’ll never now. Moreno bounced back from his mistake against at City the best way possible with a worldie of a goal. Our captain marvel made a good point, if a Barca or Real left back had scored that goal everyone would be creaming themselves (he didn’t quite word it like that.)

Finally, something that shouldn’t go unnoticed was the fact we kept a clean sheet and about time too. I’m still not sure whether we have properly resolved our defensive problems, I’m not convinced by Lovren but Sakho actually appears to be our strongest option if you believe the stats. Getting a settled back four would be a start, so let’s see who Rodgers sticks with.

So, it’s been a pretty hectic start to the season, just the way we like it… now we just have to endure a ‘International break.’ Luckily I have a wedding to go to – bring on Villa.


Well done to MK Dons who beat some mid table Premier League side in the league cup… I forget who it was. 

Oh and finally... finally... a certain someone arrived on Merseyside...

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

It was beautiful, exhilarating and dangerous… but it’s over.

We’ve all had those relationships. Perhaps when we were younger, first loves… whirlwinds of romance with a stunningly beautiful girl, who many say is too good for us. It’s something which we can concede to a point, but we also back ourselves and know that they’re the lucky ones too. We’re a catch. The sort of girls who are so beautiful and exciting and good in bed that they are; by definition; also a bit mental. But who cares about a bit of crazy when you’re having the time of your life?

Mad all night benders… hours within the throws of passion, she does things to you that you’ve never known before. Your mum hates her. She is beautiful to watch, you can’t take your eyes off her. No one can take their eyes off her… everyone wants her, but they don’t see the crazy. The crazy doesn’t affect them. It gets to the point where the crazy starts to outweigh the fun… the mental ‘episodes’ are getting to you… you begin to wonder whether it’s worth it?

Well Luis… it’s been amazing… it’s been beautiful, exhilarating, passionate and dangerous… but I fear it’s over. I think we need to go our separate ways.

The moment our Luis had a little nibble on the shoulder of Chiellini I pretty much shrugged my shoulders. The media, twitter and of course Evertonians pretty much combusted… but I just felt weary. I had a feeling of ‘oh here we go again.’ I was defensive of Suarez, but I was also not massively sympathetic. My feelings of support towards him didn’t exactly strengthen on the announcement of his punishment. Again I felt sorry for him… in my biased view I felt that the ban was overly harsh and particularly unfair to his club, MY club. When he bit a player in a Liverpool shirt, Uruguay didn’t suffer, but when he does it in a Uruguay shirt, Liverpool suffer? It doesn’t seem fair.

Then the transfer rumours re-surfaced… will Liverpool cut their losses? Barcelona begin to court him and Suarez suddenly turns on his heels and releases an apology with no mention of his club or the supporters he apparently feels so attached to. Our beautiful, crazy, fucked up girl is flirting. But fuck it… do we care? Have we had enough… is it time to move on?

I’m starting to think that when it comes to Luis Suarez, we remember the incredible whirlwind relationship that we’ve had, but be content that it’s coming to an end and look forward to a new dawn… one which is more stable, with just as many beautiful girls and incredible times. Just without the drama. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

RAOTL at 200 - Why we need fazines

(First published in issue 200 of Red All Over The Land. - May 2014)

Without wanting to be too sycophantic, I wanted to mark RAOTL’s 200th issue by talking about the fanzine itself. Reaching the milestone of 200 issues is such a wonderful achievement and something to be really celebrated.

I can’t remember exactly how my relationship with RAOTL first began, but it was about 17 years ago that as a young (and for some reason besotted Liverpool fan) my Dad decided to take me to my first game all the way from our home in Wiltshire. He had no affinity with the club, and we had no ties with the area, but for some reason I had chosen Liverpool as my club. Being an out of towner has always played on my mind, but a lot of my future life choices were consciously or subconsciously driven by the men in red. I ended up attending Liverpool University, and living in the city for 10 years.

Anyway, in those early days I began to get involved in the fledgling online community of Liverpool fans, creating my own fan site ‘The Anfield Shrine’ and writing articles for other fan sites. I assume that one of my early games I must also have picked up a copy of this very fanzine. My enjoyment of that first copy is for me why fanzines are so important. As a young lad not local to the city, Red All Over The Land as a fanzine was one of the first ‘unofficial’ sources Liverpool content that I consumed.

I think I've always had a slightly subversive side with a love of all things underground and non-corporate and that is exactly what attracted me to the concept of a fanzine. I love the fact that fanzines aren’t necessarily glossy, well art worked, slick productions - that is the beauty of them. In the world of modern, corporate football, they are one of the last bastions of individuality, humour and independent thinking. These days of course, the development of the internet has meant that there are countless independent fan blogs, websites and forums… and as much as I can enjoy those too, for me they are not enough. I would never want to see the death of the physical fanzine. Fanzines, and specifically RAOTL, are part of the match day experience for me. I don’t buy programmes, but a physical copy of a fanzine is something ingrained in and older school match day experience that true football fans still crave. Match days are all about flat lager in packed pubs, weaving through the crowd as you walk up to the ground… dodging discarded chip trays to keep a new pair of Adidas pristine, hearing the shout of ‘hat, scarf or a badge.’ That is a real match day experience, not the Sky Sports Ford Focus experience that we are fed on TV. Fanzines are very much part of that real, grassroots, honest experience that we are coming closer and closer to losing.

So I raise a glass to RAOTL on its 200th birthday, and especially the long suffering but fantastic and eternally committed editor JJP (Who was on the front cover of issue 1 Ed? Billy Liddell?) Praise has to also go to the likes of Andy Knott, John Mackin, all the match day sellers and everyone else who has contributed along the way. I urge us all… don’t let the fanzine die. Here’s to the next 200 issues.

You can subscribe to Red All Over The Land for next season on the website.

Friday, 18 April 2014

GUEST POST - Legacy - by Paul Grant

One of the new generation of Kopites leading the way these days with intelligent comment and loyal, passionate support, Paul Grant writes a guest post for The Anfield Shrine looking at what legacy our current side could leave behind... whatever happens this season..

As we our currently facing our biggest title challenge for 24 years, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on just how far we have come, not only in the past few months, but since Brendan Rodgers took to the throne in summer 2012. Without commenting my opinion on whether I think we will eventually win it or not I will take a look into the possibly legacy that Rodgers and our current squad can leave.

Despite having the wonderful presence of Kenny Dalglish leading us to our first trophy in 6 years and taking us to a FA cup final there was no denying that we finished in our worst league position for 50 years. Deep down I believe we all knew that it was time for a change in the hot seat, even if it meant sinking possibly lower. The owners were left with the daunting task finding us that man who would reshape our team from top to bottom in order to lead us success in years to come, that man was Brendan Rodgers.

Looking at Brendan’s previous track record there was certainly a sense of doubt, admittedly from myself also. Sacked after 22 games in charge of Reading, and despite leading Swansea to promotion to the Premier League there was whispers of him just simply inheriting Roberto Martinez’s side. We heard in the very first few weeks about how Brendan is going to take us not only back into the Champions League elite but hopefully lead us to a title challenge and by how we would do it playing an attractive possession style game, somewhat similar to his Swansea side who he lead to 11th in his debut Premier League season.

In the early days, although it didn’t seem the results were going our way, we could certainly see the managers imprint on the team, shown through signings like Joe Allen, and despite only finishing 7th in our first year with the new boss we knew that things would certainly be a lot brighter in years to come.

Fast forward 12 months, a lot has happened, on and off the pitch. We currently sit 4 games away from our first league title in 24 years, and whether we manage to pull it off or not, there is certainly no doubt that not only Liverpool fans, but football fans in general are amazed at the job Rodgers has done with Liverpool. Despite missing out on numerous transfers since his arrival he has managed to get 110% out of every single player on the pitch. Even one of the few tactical criticisms of Rodgers football about being too predictable has certainly been blown out the water. 5-3-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-2 diamond; we have seen it all this season and there is no doubt that it has worked well to our advantage, one perfect example of Rodgers influence on players is to look at Steven Gerrard.

“He’s over”, “His legs are gone”, “He’s a shade of the player he once was”, just a few comments I recall from the past few seasons about Steven Gerrard. Now sitting in his deeper, playmaker role for us leading us to an impeding 19th title there is no doubt that Rodgers has not only improved him as a player overall but has probably extended his career for another 3 or so years.

Being of the younger generation of Kopites, I have grown up with Gerrard, in fact I attended my first Liverpool game not too long after his debut. There is no doubt for me that he is the greatest Liverpool player, admittedly it is hard to say this as I never grew up with the greats of Rush, Dalglish, Barnes, Souness, Keegan, Liddell etc. but I think most will agree it will certainly be hard to deny him of that title if he leads us to the championship.

Another example of Brendan’s terrific man management is his handling of the Luis Suarez situation. Around a year ago, I remember getting outside Anfield to read this confusion on my phone that Suarez had disgraced the club by biting Branislav Ivanovic’s arm. I was horrified, not only by the incident but the seemingly certain departure of the player. Again, fast forward 12 months, he has transformed his game and is now widely regarded as one of the best in the world, 29 league goals, despite missing the first 5 games through suspension and with 4 games still to play he has certainly sent shockwaves around the world, mainly to certain Premier League defenders.

There is always arguments about the legacy of players, who is determined as the greats, no doubt if Michael Owen and/or Fernando Torres would have stayed with us that they were certainly destined for legacy at the club but their departures have somewhat of a sour taste in our mouths, that is one reason why I really would love for us to win this league title. Not only would one of the greatest strikers in the world almost certainly be staying with us for at least another season but he would be propelled into Anfield greatness; and despite all his negatives there is no doubt that he brings many smiles around Merseyside and we hope it continues for years to come.

But regardless of how these next 4 games end up, there is no doubting the great job that Brendan Rodgers has done for our team over a relatively short time period, and hopefully continues to do. No doubting that Gerrard is one of the greatest players to wear the famous red shirt. No doubting that Suarez is one of the greatest strikers to play for us and is possibly one of the best in the world. We must not forget that, no matter how this season ends, but there are also no doubts that not only those 3, but the other players who have all chipped in with their bit this season will earn a place in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Tweet Paul @PaulGrant94

Friday, 4 April 2014

Rodgers continues to talk a good game...

I am now wholeheartedly ashamed of my initial doubts about Brendan Rodgers considering the season we are having. If he brings us our first ever Premier League title and first league title for 24 years, I won't just eat my words, I'll write them on myself and run down Bold Street naked*.

With Liverpool fans not only starting to dream, but actually believe, Rodgers continues to impress me with the way he is handling the situation and talking up, and down, our chances. He is managing to keep everyone's feet on the ground while also instilling the confidence and belief in the players that has got us to where we are with 6 games to go.

A story that emerged today have particularly impressed me. Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas are two players that have been in the virtual Anfield wilderness this season, with no starts for Alberto and very little action for Aspas they are two players who most of us won't have given a thought to over the last few months. I'm sure many would expect them to depart in the summer. However, at this crucial time of the season Rodgers has decided to discuss them... their good attitudes, their attributes and their ability to contribute.

Why? Well I think it's a master-stroke.

Firstly, he is showing the man management skills that we hear so about and installing some confidence in two players who must be struggling with the fact they have offered so little in such an incredible season.

Secondly he is underlining the team and group mentality, in that we are all in this together... we win as a group and we lose as group, everyone has something to contribute, from the fans, to the starting eleven, to the fringe players.

Finally, as we enter the crucial final phase of the season, he is reminding two fringe players that their chance may yet come, in whatever guise. He is readying them to potentially make an impact and become heroes. Imagine... not that we want to, that Suarez or Sturridge get injured on Sunday against West Ham? Or we suffer injuries in midfield. Football is a cruel mistress, if by some strange occurrence either of these two players get thrown into the mix of a title challenge... Rodgers wants them to be ready to seize their moment. And so do we.

*I won't do that. No one would want to see that.

Tweet @AnfieldShrine

Sunday, 2 March 2014

AnfieldShrine Awayday – St. Bloody Mary’s

I hadn’t been to an away game for years, I think my last being a glorious FA Cup trip to St. Andrews to see us hammer Birmingham City 7 nil. My away record overall doesn’t read quite so well, having witnessed, among others, a drab nil nil draw at Leicester City and losses to Bolton, Portsmouth and Southampton. The scene of that last embarrassment was our destination today. Having recently moved back south to Wiltshire, Southampton is now my closest premier league ground and with my Dad’s connections to Southampton and some Saturdays in the 70s spent at the old Dell, we had earmarked this away game as a potential one to get to. A speculative enquiry to the editor of this fine fanzine about any potential spare tickers bore fruit in the week leading up to the game.

As it turned out my Dad couldn’t make it, so I turned to one of my previous away day cohorts and fellow southerner, Joff. We all knew before this game that our record at St. Mary’s was not brilliant, add to that the fact Southampton are the only side to have beaten us at Anfield this season and a very capable team and it was clear that this was a huge game for us. As you may have noted from some of my previous columns, I am very much a reluctant pessimist and I’m still in a constant state of anticipation that our season will come crashing down around us at any moment. Given that mine and Joff’s away record is not the best, we set off with much excitement, but prepared for the worst. Our aim was to enjoy the away day experience that we’ve missed so much and the experience that makes for such a refreshing change compared to the sometimes clinical and staid modern football roadshow of a home game.

It was a beautiful morning and really felt like the start of spring. A cheap and relatively swift train journey from Salisbury found us in Southampton for around 2:30pm, by which point we had already consumed a relatively large amount of Jager, helped down with Red Rhino or some other Red Bull imitation and some accompanying Birra Moreti, just to add a touch of class to proceedings. Joff had cunningly smuggled said Jager in mini bottles of Vimto, in case any overly enthusiastic southern constabulary took affront to our public drinking. The plan would only fall down if for any reason a desperate mother asked for a refreshing swig of our Vimto for their thirsty child.

More glorious sunshine greeted us in Southampton and having gleaned from a few away guides and fellow travelling reds that Yates of all places was the ‘designated away pub’ we started walking up the hill in that direction. Knowing that the giant doormen on the Yates doors were unlikely to let us in with 2 or 3 glass bottles of premium lager and some ‘Vimto’ we decided to finish off the rest of our liquid picnic in the nearby park. It’s funny what an away day does to you, or allows you to do. If I found myself sat in a park downing makeshift Jagerbombs from plastic glasses acquired from a ‘Pumpkin’ train café, I’d start to have serious concerns around where my life was going, on an awayday however, it’s all part of the day and perfectly acceptable. Just don’t tell Thatcherites.

Yates hadn’t really started to liven up when we first arrived, and I completely understand the irony behind my declaration that it was ‘full of wools’ considering we were about as wool as it comes, but there was a definite feel that it was very much heavy with Southampton based Liverpool fans with no real sense of ‘atmosphere.’ There were even some normal Saturday afternoon shoppers / drinkers trying their best to enjoy their beloved Yates experienced and rubbery Hunters Chicken.

A highlight was probably one of the oldest DJs I’ve ever seen trying to make us feel at home by playing any remotely Liverpool related song, extremely loud, and drowning out any attempt at a song from Liverpool fans themselves. We were treated to everything from The Beatles, to The Zutons with some slightly odd versions of our terrace favourites thrown in.

As more and more reds piled in and more and more shit lager flowed the ‘atmosphere’ did begin to pick up and the songs soon got going. By about 4pm we were in full flow and bouncing around spilling our shit lager all over the place.
It was around this time that we realised we’d better think about heading up to the ground to meet JJP and get our tickets. It wasn’t much of a walk up to St. Mary’s, and to be honest, it was a bit of a blur.

We spotted JJP and his compatriots outside the away end, and shared introductions before heading in. It was great to see the Ed. after such a long time and I must thank him again for sorting out the tickets.

The atmosphere inside the ground was already building nicely, as you’d expect with thousands of scousers having a long trip down for a 5.30pm kick off and plenty of ‘ale time.’ By this stage my pessimism and nervousness had pretty much evaporated in vapour of Jager and Carlsberg.

Quarter of an hour in and that pessimism evaporated further as Suarez finished brilliantly from what initially looked like a lovely through ball from Sturidge, but in fact turned out to be quite a fortunate deflection off Fonte into Luis’ path. It’s bit of luck like that which you need to be successful, especially at places like St. Mary’s.  I know it’s a cliché but I think if you’re positive, luck does come your way.

The travelling Kop were rapturous and bounced to the stalwart Suarez song, but on the pitch Southampton weren’t going to just roll over as they spent the remainder of the half playing some nice stuff and knocking on our door. Lallana was unlucky not to draw them level as his clever shot rebounded off the post and Mignolet pulled off a brilliant diving save to deny Rodriguez.

Half-time was spent on a raucous concourse as ‘We are Liverpool…’ didn’t let up and nor did the flagrant disregard for the smoking ban… which even as a non-smoker I can’t help admire.

Sterling replaced Coutinho 10 minutes into the 2nd half and made an immediate impact to slot in yet another Suarez assist. Then we felt we could relax a little and really enjoy ourselves and the scouse presence in St. Mary’s didn’t let up in terms of volume.

A great early evening was wrapped up as Gerrard dispatched his 90th minute penalty with the sort of composure that we have become accustom to and there ended a genuinely fantastic result for Liverpool FC. 

I would agree with Rodgers that this could well have been up there with the Arsenal rout, not necessarily in performance or style but certainly in terms of importance and setting a marker.

The ‘we’re going to win the league’ chants were inevitable considering the immediate excitement, but as always I am trying to apply some restraint and realism.

As I write this, 2 weeks have passed without us playing again and we are now fast approaching the much anticipated trip to Old Trafford. I can appreciate and welcome talk from the likes of Fowler about really compounding Utd’s misery and we are in the unusual position, probably in my entire lifetime of going in to this game as favourites, which is always a danger. But we should be confident, no doubt.

I would rather we take the Mourinho approach and continue to play down our chances, and equally play up Utd’s threat… we don’t want any sort of complacency creeping in.

By the time you read this we’ll know the result… so let’s just hope my pessimism continues to be proved wrong. Whatever happens, we’re in for one hell of a ride before the end of the season and let’s just not forget how far we have come.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Arsenal Reflections - Part II

A few Arsenal reflections part II

Last week I penned a few reflections on the 5-1 drubbing of Arsenal at Anfield so I thought I’d put down a few Arsenal reflections take two: of the FA Cup clash at The Emirates yesterday.

I have to admit to not being able to follow the first half as closely as I’d have liked, firstly not being at the game itself and then secondly being on the road back from a family Christening. So Sturridge’s early chances and Arsenal’s subsequent first half goal were received through a pretty poor 5Live signal. However I think the first thing to note, is that anyone who thought this game was going to be anything like Anfield a week ago, is an idiot.

Arsenal were never going to be as poor as they were at Anfield, and having got a pretty miraculous three points at a sodden Craven Cottage in midweek, I couldn’t help feeling that perhaps today wouldn’t be our day. Football seems to move in those sorts of ways. And so it proved to be. Sturridge wasted the opportunity, or opportunities to give us another blistering start and I think that pretty much set the tone.
I can’t say that I’m all that disappointed, and I won’t be too hard on Sturridge. He has been immense this season and you can forgive him some slight fatigue. 

I was able to follow the 2nd half properly in front of the TV and after going 2 nil down, we certainly rallied. We threatened more than Arsenal, and Fabianski was immense in keeping us out. The penalty was deserved and Gerrard dispatched it in the manner that we’ve come to expect. I have to praise Rodgers for a very positive substitution in bringing on Hendo for Cissokho, which very nearly had the impact intended. Although Joe Allen performed admirably and he clearly needs a bit more match time, I think it was pretty clear that we missed Henderson’s drive and work rate; which just underlines how far he has come and what a player he now is. I like Allen as a player and he seems like a good guy, but I wonder if he has the quality or presence to survive Rodger’s revolution in the long run.

Sturridge missed another great chance, which again compounded the fact it wasn’t going to be our day. There is no doubt that we should have had a 2nd penalty, and I’ve yet to mention our good old friend Mr Webb… who had a completely shocker from a Liverpool point of view. It’s what we’ve come to expect.
We can certainly feel aggrieved, if not downright unlucky to not have progressed to the quarter finals, but all in all I don’t feel overly distraught. We are having an incredible season and we will have the odd off day and disappointing result. The FA Cup was a fantastic opportunity to bag some silverware this season, but now we have the chance to focus solely on the league; which is a luxury that most of the sides in the top 6 or 7 don’t have.

It’s Swansea next up at Anfield, and just like every game between now and the end of the season, it’s a massive one. We need to bounce back and ensure we pull further away in fourth. Isn’t it nice to be enjoying a season where at this stage of proceedings, a home game against Swansea has so much riding on it? Viva Rodgers, Viva la Revolution.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Reflections - Arsenal Aftermath

There has been plenty of jubilation, reflection and comment in the wake of what can only be described as our dreamlike result and performance yesterday against Arsenal, but I wanted to pen a few thoughts and reflections myself.

Having been a Liverpool fan for more or less 20 years I can't help but lean towards the pessimistic end of the spectrum most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I've been lucky enough to see more success and trophies than most supporters of clubs get to see in a lifetime, including a European Cup and not to mention a treble!

But equally, by Liverpool Football Club standards, the last 20 years will not be remembered as a glorious period, not when you compare them to the 20 years that went before. I've had to endure Man Utd dominance for just about my entire tenure as a red. So with that in mind, just when I dare to dream and see small green shoots of something special building at the club... I can't help but assume that it will all come crashing down at any moment.

Pre-Derby at Anfield 2014 I wasn't confident at all. Everton were looking the strongest they have for years, Martinez has them playing some great football and we had an injury list longer than a Leonard Cohen song (credit to The Thick of It for that joke). But I was proven wrong... in spectacular style.

At West Brom we dropped 2 points, no doubt about that... but strangely I was surprisingly sanguine. When you think about it, dropping points off the back of a terrible individual mistake, is actually easier to take than dropping points from a terrible performance. Individual errors will happen, we are all human and therefore in many ways you have to simply accept that occasionally luck will be against us and we may be punished by an individual error. It is actually harder to take that after all the preparation that Rodgers and his team put into setting the side up for a game, for the team to capitulate or simply not perform to the level we know they can. That hurts more.

So then it was Arsenal arriving at Anfield. It hasn't felt like we've had a good record against Arsenal for some time, and if I was a stats person, which I'm not, I expect they'd back my assumption up. So again I arrived at Anfield on the morning of Saturday the 8th of February, extremely hungover and certainly a little bit apprehensive. My thinking generally is... things are going well, too well. We'll come crashing down to earth sooner or later.

20 minutes in and I thought I was dreaming. My hangover had certainly evaporated at a rate of knots. We were quite simply breathtaking. Every single player (yes even Ally C) had an absolute stormer. It was an utter joy to witness. Just before the Derby I'd chatted with my compatriot about Coutinho and how I felt he had gone off the boil slightly and was perhaps losing interested in Liverpool FC... well how wrong could I have been? He was breathtaking against Arsenal, as was Sterling... Flanno, Henderson... everyone.

One criticism that has been levelled at Rodgers' Liverpool if any, was that we hadn't managed to beat the big sides yet, well that changed didn't it?

My mild indifference to Rodgers are the beginning of his reign has been well documented, and I don't think I was alone. The sheer length of time it took the Kop to sing his name with any gusto is surely testament to that. But now I am happy to say I am an absolute Rodgers convert... I'm starting to love the man, and so too is the Kop. One of my favourite moments of the Arsenal game, and there were many, was a period before half time when we kept possession with ease and knocked it around the back. The Kop simply applauded, warmly for 30 or 40 seconds. It wasn't loud chanting or even the tribal, fast clapping we do... it was an ovation, a round of applause in absolute appreciation of what we were witnessing. What we were witnessing, we all hope, and something I have never witnessed, was the Liverpool of old.

Having said that... I expect we'll go and lose to Fulham in midweek now. This pessimistic streak is hard to shake off....