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Liverpool Article 23 Oct 2020
Everton v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective







Disappointingly this is a game that will not be remembered for the match itself, the brilliance of Thiago or Everton's drive and desire to fight back twice after going behind. Instead it will be remembered for a number of terrible refereeing and VAR errors, which resulted in the wrong decisions on far too many occasions for a game with the amount of technology available to the officials. There are no excuses that can be given for the mistakes as they were blatantly incorrect and if they are unable to see these things then we have to question their fitness to be match officials.



Aside from that, it was a good match, marred by a long term injury suffered by Virgil van Dijk, between two teams that are more closely matched than they have been in recent years. In fact, in my opinion, there are only three things that are stopping Everton from having an 11 that are capable of challenging right at the top (though their lack of squad depth is a problem). One is central midfield, Andre Gomes is lacking the quality and mobility of a top class player, which was starkly shown up in comparison to Thiago Alcantara opposing him.



Their second issue is the pure laziness of James Rodriguez, which left them wide open all game to attacks down their right, particularly once Coleman went off injured. If he continues to saunter around doing nothing to help the team defensively, the opposition will figure them out and they will be in trouble. The final one is the obvious one, the goalkeeper, whose only saves were at the perfect height for a goalkeeper, rather than being truly great saves, because he is not capable of greatness.







Everton





Well organised and competitive, overly so at times but it was a derby and they have always had a tendency to devolve that way as the moment affects players, Everton are a totally different proposition from recent years. They have two-thirds of an excellent midfield, a goalscorer up top who is exceptional in the air and the creativity to find that goalscorer in dangerous areas. Unfortunately their defence is simply not up to scratch, only Digne looks good enough for the long term if they are going to become a regular Champions League team fixture.



In that arena they will find James will be well suited, with his ridiculous antics which nearly cost his team a goal at one point when he was writhing around on the floor in 'agony' despite barely being touched. His constant play-acting is simply embarrassing and his laziness is shocking. A couple of good passes over 90 minutes do not make up for his complete lack of effort. Teams will learn how to play him in the Prem and he will be a hindrance, as you cannot afford to carry someone in a normal league season.



They did have a lot of luck in terms of decisions going their way, a very dubious offside followed by a terrible bit of officiating to not send off Pickford for a clear red card offence changed the game just as they were under the cosh. It does seem odd that an assault is ignored and they profit from that but it is the way it is with the terrible state of refereeing in the English leagues. They took advantage of the psychological hit Liverpool took losing van Dijk and got themselves back into the game, showing a good mentality.



Then there was the last gasp goal being chalked off, for what was clearly a wrongly awarded offside that saved them from a defeat. Those are the kinds of things that have to go for you if you are to have a season better than you could have hoped for. Luck like that can lead to title challenges if they continue throughout the season. They do not quite yet have all the quality needed to sustain a title challenge without a fair chunk of luck, but you can see the building blocks are in place for a future one.







Liverpool





Klopp - a difficult game for Klopp. His team were beginning to establish control when hit by the van Dijk injury and that not only knocked Liverpool back mentally, it also lifted Everton and gave them belief. It was only bad decisions that stopped it being another win for the Reds, so it is difficult to fault his tactics or gameplan.





Adrian - struggling for confidence and it shows in his decision-making, which is all over the shop at the moment. He just needs to settle down and relax, while Liverpool fans need to stop expecting him to be a top class goalkeeper and remember he is just a back-up.





Alexander-Arnold - playing much more within himself than usual, but I think in this game it was a tactical choice to hold him back as there was so much space to attack Everton down the opposite flank. With him still coming back to full sharpness after an injury and no pre-season, the lack of time between matches to train properly is showing. He looks way off full sharpness and it is going to take longer than usual to get him up to speed as there is so much recovery after matches to be done. The team is barely getting to train together at the moment, unlike a normal season. It is going to be about patience each time a player picks up an injury this season, as they are all going to struggle to get back up to speed, without picking up more injuries.





Matip - surprisingly for him, as he is normally excellent in this aspect of the game, his passing was off and he was giving the ball away very cheaply. I think it was probably just rustiness, as he is (as always it seems) just coming back from an injury. Which will not be helped by him picking up another injury in this match. In the main he did not look too far off his best though, it was just his passing which let him down really.





van Dijk - according to a few Everton fans, he had been trying to end other players' careers from the kick off and so reaped what he sowed when he was injured. However, I have watched it over and over, right up until his injury, and I saw nothing. There were 3 moments, which they seem to be referring to. The first he went into the back of James, nothing serious, nothing particularly different from anything any centre-back does, certainly nothing dangerous about it, though James' reaction did suggest van Dijk had run him through with a pitch fork. The second was a collision, again with James, where van Dijk did turn his shoulder into it, as any intelligent player would do, to protect themselves. James was unable to do so, through no fault of his own, and the pair ran into each other. Something that happens all over the pitch many times a match. Again nothing serious, but James reacted as if Virgil had shanked him, then shot him and possibly stamped on him afterwards, judging by the screams, the rolling around etc. The final one was on Calvert-Lewin, which has been described as cutting him in half by one poster on the Everton site. Except all that happened is that van Dijk got tight to the Everton forward and then reached his leg around him and toed the ball away. The ref gave them all as free kicks, though Calvert-Lewin seemed as surprised as anyone to get the decision in his favour. I can only think those couple of Everton fans are so desperate to justify Pickford's actions that they are deluding themselves in order to do so.



As for his performance, he was not on the pitch long enough to really judge him, though it did look like he was fired up. It is a big shame about the injury, but I think people are getting too carried away with it, there is no way Pickford has the intelligence to be sly enough to deliberately set out to injury Virgil. It was reckless and dangerous and a red, but no more than that. People need to move on and stop wasting their time on bitterness.





Robertson - once again he was excellent, absolutely marauding down the left flank using the space James cannot be bothered to track back into. I have to say that I think that Robertson has been Liverpool's best player overall at the start of the season. Which makes it all the more galling that he should have been red carded for a kick out. That was silly and could have seen us in real trouble in that match.





Henderson - I do worry for what would have happened in this match if Henderson was not on the pitch when van Dijk went off. It clearly gave Everton such a lift, while knocking Liverpool for six, and they needed his leadership. Luckily he was there and he was able to help the team through it, then get them going again to retake the lead after Everton equalised. Then did it again when the Blues equalised a second time, driving the team on and even managed to score right at the end. Sadly it was disallowed for a non-existent offside but that is no fault of the player's. Liverpool are a better side with Henderson in the middle.





Fabinho - a good game, though one aspect of his game, that creativity and pinpoint passing was a little subdued, probably due to Thiago being there to take over the mantle.





Thiago - if there was one game that I would have expected him to struggle in, it would have been this one, as the Derby is the match that gives players like him no time to breath, let alone create anything. Obviously no one told Thiago that, as he was on a completely different level from everyone else on the pitch. It was not just his brilliance on the ball either, it was his workrate, his tracking back and winning the ball back, his pressing and the way he could hold on to it under pressure. Sometimes you just have to applaud a performance and not even try to pick holes in it. This was definitely one of those times. Such a shame he got injured by a nasty tackle, which saw Richarlison quite rightly sent off. Thiago has almost done enough to pay off his transfer fee already and he has only played one and a half games!





Salah - a really good performance by Salah, put in some really hard yards working back covering, as well as causing so many problems up front. Took his goal really well too. His movement causes so many problems for defenders. Probably should have scored more though and did try to force a pass at times, when it was not on.





Firmino - desperately needs to score in a Liverpool shirt to get himself up and running. His link up play is there, the little flicks, the beautiful pieces of control, the twists and turns are all working, but he is trying far too hard when in the box. The header, in particular, showed a player that was being too careful, attempting to place the ball right in the corner, rather than just getting it on target.





Mane - did some really good things in this game, as well as opening the scoring. I do worry about his tendency to go down softly at time, it is something I do not like, though he is nowhere near as bad as some, it is still not needed. It must be so frustrating for him, I do get that, he gets kicked all over the pitch and does not get a foul because he stays on his feet. The answer to that problem is not to then go down under little challenge because you have lost the ball though. In fact that is more likely to make referees think twice about giving you genuine free-kicks!





Gomez - replaced the injured van Dijk in the 11th minute. Took a while to get up to speed on his weaker side, but did not do too bad overall. Perhaps could have done more on Calvert-Lewin's headed goal, but as Calvert-Lewin is one of the few attackers that can consistently beat van Dijk in an aerial battle, I think it is probably harsh to blame him for that goal. Calvert-Lewin is probably the best around right now at getting on the end of crosses.





Jota - came on in the 78th minute in place of Firmino. His running causes the opposition lots of problems, but he does have a tendency to run into teammates too. Jota really needs to build up an understanding with the rest of the frontline, as it is happening every time that he is either tripping over one of the other forwards or they are tripping over him. He is exciting to watch though, has the look of the type of player who can become a fan favourite.





Wijnaldum - in the 90th+1 minute he came off the bench to replace Fabinho. Just did not have time to really make a mark on the game.

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05 Oct 2020 20:57:28
People are so quick to forget, it's embarrassing really.. Not too long ago we were praising Joe as the long term partner to Virgil. Now a patch of bad form, and he's the worst defender in the entire history of Liverpool?? Get a grip.

I hate our performance, it's evident that Klopp has gotten his tactics wrong and almost every player on the pitch is running around in a C.V. state of mind.. Something's gone madly wrong. Let it be a very valuable lesson for the whole team. This isn't down to individual performances, as much as it's down to the whole team just not getting in gear. It's been coming for some time, and I think we'll see plenty of matches like this throughout this strange season.

All in all. Don't be so quick to jump on the keyboard and let your emotions get to you. Let it soak in and maybe tomorrow you'll have a different perspective on it.

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Liverpool Article 29 Sep 2020
Liverpool v Arsenal A Liverpool Perspective







A very one-sided match, with a result that massively flattered Arsenal.







Arsenal





Arteta has clearly inherited the arrogance of Pep and the ridiculous tinkering as well. Arsenal were utterly dreadful and Arteta, despite the bizarre media love-in with him, has to take the full blame as it was all his fault. Everything he did, from tactics to team selection was frankly shockingly bad. The problem with criticising it is where do you start?



I think I will start with the team selection. I get he has decided to bomb out Ozil, and he is clearly far too stubborn to admit it is a mistake, but that is no excuse for shoehorning players into positions that the club has very good players available for. You have Gabriel, a left-footed centre-back, who has played quite well so far this season, why drop him and play Tierney there? Especially when it means that you pick a right-footed central midfielder as left-wing-back to compound the error. It is not like Arteta does not have options, he has Saka, Tierney and Kolasinac who can play that role and will actually provide some much-needed width.



The commentary were constantly trying to claim the use of Maitland-Niles there was to allow Tierney to play an overlapping centre-back role, like Sheffield United do. That seems to miss the point that the Blades keep their wing-backs wide and the overlapping centre-backs are there to create an overload in wide areas, not to allow the wing-backs to drift inside and clog up the middle with excess bodies. What they have done is create a weakness to be exploited by opponents instead, as they are wide open down the flank.



What on earth possessed Arteta to pair Elneny and Xhaka in the centre? That was just begging to be attacked, the pair play with all the finesse and mobility of a 50 year old docker who has smoked 60 a day for the last 40 years and still plays in big, heavy hobnail boots. They were always going to get overrun and they just ended up dropping deeper and deeper to try and block the Liverpool midfield from running in behind them. They were then getting in the way of the defence and not offering any option for a pass. With neither of them possessing the ability to pick a quick forward pass over the top, it invited pressure.



I know Ceballos is powder puff, but when your tactics are based around quick counters from deep then you have to pick players who can actually play that way. Elneny can barely pass water, let alone the ball more than 5 yards and Xhaka is just too slow of thought to pick the quick pass over the top. Again it just invites a more complete press as there is no fear of the press being broken. You are just asking for trouble against a team that is so good at the press.



Added to that, why on earth would you instruct your players to play out from the back constantly? It was clear the players themselves were unhappy with it, both Holding and Tierney were terrified of getting the ball and knew that, even if they got the chance to look up, there would be no pass available to them. At what point does a manager look at it and say this is not working, it is time to try something else? Personally I would have thought that any analyst worth his salt should have been telling Arteta before the game even kicked off that to try it was idiotic. Yet he persisted with it for 90 minutes and it constantly cost them possession.



As a young manager, you expect Arteta to make mistakes, but you also expect them to be learning experiences and for him to make changes during the game to attempt to improve things. The fact he was quite happy to persist with a tactic that was blatantly not working is a major worry.







Liverpool





Klopp - I doubt Klopp has had many easier nights to be honest. Arteta played straight into his hands with the set up, even when Arsenal opened the scoring it never felt like Liverpool were in any trouble. Sure enough they were soon level again and all Klopp had to do was keep them doing what they were doing.





Alisson - had one of the easiest nights ever, though he will be disappointed with himself for not saving the mishit shot by Lacazette. He made it up for it afterwards, even if most of the attacks were offside. He did have a fair few kicks of the ball, as Liverpool tried to draw Arsenal out, but it was fairly routine stuff.





Alexander-Arnold - not quite at his extraordinary best, but still came away with yet another assist. Klopp was worried enough about him in the first half to ask the medical staff if he was OK, after a couple of misplaced passes. Alexander-Arnold gave the thumbs up to say he was fine, but it does suggest he was carrying some sort of minor problem, which is a worry for the future. His game did pick up after that and he was as good as ever, but it is interesting that Alexander-Arnold is so good that Klopp worries about him when he misplaces a couple of passes!





Gomez - a really good game for him, he shut Aubameyang out of the game pretty much. He fits so well with van Dijk, they are an excellent pairing. His pace comes in particularly useful in games like this and it ensured that Arsenal had no easy out ball over the top. The Arsenal forwards were not able to wait and outsprint him like they normally would, which meant they were caught offside trying to get the jump on Gomez and van Dijk. With no runners from midfield, as it was too deep, Liverpool were able to push right up when they lost the ball and crush the life out of the game.





van Dijk - back to something near his brilliant best. Not just defensively but some of his passing was incredible. Nice to see him get within range and try a shot as well.





Robertson - made a mistake which Arsenal scored from, ten minutes later he had scored to make up for it. That sums up Robertson, he is not perfect, he does make the odd mistake from time to time, but he works incredibly hard to make up for it. His mentality is that of a true champion, Robertson just keeps on going no matter what.





Keita - a better performance, but still not exactly impressive. He is still a little slow on the press, but at least he is pressing now. Still a little weak in the challenge but it is a step forward that he did not pull out of any. A five out of ten performance, which is a massive improvement over recently but I do have reservations about his partnership with Wijnaldum, which I will explain in his review.





Fabinho - it's Fabinho being Fabinho. He does what he does and he does it brilliantly well.





Wijnaldum - I was thinking how subdued a performance it was from Wijnaldum right up until the moment Milner replaced Keita, then it was like he was unleashed. It is clear that he plays within himself and does not get forward as he can when paired with Keita. Whether that is a tactical instruction to allow Keita to make the forward runs or whether that is just that Wijnaldum does not trust Keita to track back I am not sure. It is very clear that it held Wijnaldum back in this match. It is not necessarily a bad thing, if Keita performs well it would be a good thing to free him up a bit from defensive duties. The problem is that Keita is not yet doing enough to justify it.





Salah - such a quality forward, poor Tierney will have had nightmares after this game. Salah tied him up in knots at times and never gave him a moment's peace when he got on the ball. All that was missing was a goal and maybe that moment when he took the ball on as Jota was coming on to it he could have been more decisive. He dithered when his touch was not perfect and Jota did too, so it gave the defence a chance to clear. Salah was excellent though.





Firmino - a couple of loose passes but he was at the heart of pretty much everything good Liverpool did, as usual. He was the one receiving the brilliant ball on the right from Virgil, killing it on the run, then playing it back before making the run to pull the Arsenal players away to create space for Alexander-Arnold to saunter into and cross to Robertson for the second. His movement is exceptional, it pulls defenders all over the park and leaves them constantly having to think about what they are doing.





Mane - the best player on the pitch. I do think the right decision was made about him catching Tierney with his arm, a yellow was correct and I would have been gutted if it was a red, but that could have led to a completely different game. I am just glad the ref felt the same as me! It must be said that Holding defended really well, but still Mane tortured him. He is incredible right now.





Milner - came on in the stead of Keita on 79 minutes. He came in and closed out the game while freeing up Wijnaldum to get forward more. Liverpool will miss him so much when he goes.





Jota - brought on in place of Mane after 80 minutes. Worked hard and got his reward in the end. Showed some good stuff but needs to learn when to release the ball when he runs with it.





Minamino - replaced Firmino on 90 minutes. Never had time to really show anything.

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Liverpool Article 28 Sep 2020
Partnerships 1: Steve Bruce & Gary Pallister





There have been many great partnerships in sport, where the total of the partnership adds up to far more than the sum of its parts. In the case of Bruce and Pallister (or Dolly and Daisy as Alex Ferguson once called them), it is fair to say Manchester United have had better individual centre-backs, but the two of them together were arguably the best centre-back pairing the club have ever had.



When Alex Ferguson arrived at United as a virtually unknown quantity it was not in a good place. While they were known for good football, they had been mired in mediocrity in terms of results for a long time. Worse there was a real problem amongst the playing staff, who seemed happy with their mediocre results so long as they could get hammered in the pub. Captain Bryan Robson would hold a players' 'meeting' on Tuesdays, which meant all day in the pub getting smashed.



Ferguson decided to weed out the drinking culture and bring in more professional players. One of the early arrivals in 1988 was a little known English centre back from Norwich City who had an aversion to the number 5, due to having scored a number of own goals while wearing it. Bruce had struggled to find a club after leaving school, being rejected by a number of professional clubs before Gillingham offered him a contract. After proving himself at the Gills he had moved on to Norwich and was just about to turn 27 when Ferguson stepped in to get him.



Man Utd agreed to pay a fee of around £825,000 for the centre-back, despite having doubts about fitness. Bruce only found out about the worries over his fitness when Ferguson picked him up at the airport to take him to his medical and kept asking him what was up with his knee. It was only then that Bruce discovered that he had a knee problem which was recorded in his medical records. Bruce himself believes he would not have passed a modern medical due to the problem.



Now he just needed a partner at the back, someone Ferguson felt he could rely on and he turned his sights on Gary Pallister, who was already capped by England, even continuing to be chosen while playing in the 2nd Division with Middlesbrough. Pallister was highly rated and Boro were not going to let him go cheap, even though they had only given Billingham Town, his first club, a set of strips in return for his signature. In the end, it was 1989 before United could finally get Pallister, after a fall-out with temperamental boss Bruce Rioch saw him lose his Boro and England place. Pallister was so intent on moving that he hired his first agent to ensure a deal was done with someone.



First to move for him was Liverpool, but Boro's asking price saw them walk away and leave the door open for Man Utd to step in. As Pallister recalls: "I met my agent at the hotel which was a 15-minute drive away from where I lived. I said I'd follow him in my car. My agent was driving in front of me in his big Rolls-Royce and we came into the car park. My agent went inside the hotel to see that everyone was there and Bruce Rioch said if that ****** walks in here the deal's off. So I had to sit in the car park for something like seven hours while they haggled this deal through. There were no mobile phones back then, so there wasn't a lot to do. I just sat there twirling my fingers, hoping for the best. Intermittently the gaffer (Alex Ferguson) would come out and say, 'we've gone up to £1.8m and they're still saying no....We've got up to £1.9m, up to £2m and they're still saying no'. Eventually at about three in the morning they came out and said 'the deal's been done; £2.3m'. He said 'you've got to go to the restaurant and sort out your personal details'. I went up there and sat with the gaffer and Maurice Watkins and the gaffer went 'that's what Bryan Robson is getting; that's what you're getting'. I just said OK, and it's only lately that I've found out Robbo was on a lot more, so the gaffer did me out of a few quid! He had to get a little bit of money back because they were never going to be prepared to pay £2.3m, but that's what it took. That's where the name 'Cash' came from, that Archie Knox so aptly named me."



That fee was big money for the time, in fact it broke the record for highest fee paid between two British clubs and was the second highest fee ever paid by a British club, beaten only by Ian Rush's transfer back to Liverpool from Juventus. At the time, Ferguson was under severe pressure and Pallister's arrival was not immediately successful. Ferguson was worried about his new signing's lack of physical strength and, after popping round to his house one day to find him sat around munching chocolate bars and crisps, the centre-back was put on a weight-training regime to build his strength up.



As the season went on the Bruce and Pallister partnership began to show signs it was coming together, despite United's lowly finish of 13th in the league they won the FA Cup after Mark Robins' (in)famous goal in the 3rd round was reported to have saved Ferguson's job. Pallister went on to win the Matt Busby Player of the Year award and he, Bruce and Man Utd as a whole went from strength to strength. The next year, 1990/91, was livened up once more by good cup runs, this time the Red Devils reached the final of both the League Cup and Cup Winners Cup. They lost in the League Cup final to Sheffield Wednesday, managed by Ferguson's predecessor Ron Atkinson, but they beat Barcelona in the Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam.



1991/92 saw United make a good start and were on a 12-match unbeaten run before Wednesday beat them 3-2. In the previous 12 games they had only conceded 4 goals. A win over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup final was followed 8 days later by Forest getting revenge in the league at Old Trafford and that launched a run of poor results culminating in a 2-0 defeat at Anfield which gave the league title to Leeds United. Despite failing to win the final title before the Premier League era began, Pallister won the PFA Player of the Year award, in appreciation for just how well he, and Bruce, had defended that season.



Despite a determination to not let the title slip this time around, Man Utd got off to a slow start to the Premier League, in fact they sat bottom after the first two matches following defeats in both. Ferguson kept faith in his defence and they helped the team rise up the table as the season went on, then last year's champions Leeds made the fatal error of selling them Eric Cantona in November. This was their year and they lifted the league title with a game to spare, leaving just one final, meaningless game for United to play at home in front of 40,000 celebrating fans against Blackburn Rovers. With Pallister having failed to score all season he was given the chance to take a free kick on the edge of Rovers' box and duly placed it in the bottom corner to send the fans wild. United had won on the back of a strong defence, conceding just 31 goals in 42 league matches.



That season Robson had begun to really suffer through injury, missing large chunks of the season and so Bruce had shared the captaincy with him, even being jointly given the league trophy at the end of the season. It was time for change and, after the season Bruce was in for a surprise: "I got a phone call from Sir Alex one afternoon. 'Are you in the house? Can I call in and have a cup of tea?', he said. We were wondering what was wrong and why he wanted to come to the house, because that was unprecedented. We sat down over a cup of tea and a biscuit and he said he wanted me to be the new captain of Manchester United. He asked me what I thought, and I was like 'absolutely, bring it on'."



Roy Keane arrived to replace Robson in the heart of midfield and United cruised through the season winning the league and FA Cup double, making Bruce the first Englishman to captain a club to the domestic double. United lost just 4 times in the league and Pallister was present for 60 of the club's 62 competitive matches that season. The only blip was the defeat to old nemesis Ron Atkinson and his Aston Villa team in the League Cup final.



Bruce had begun to pick up injuries and Ferguson signed David May from Blackburn in the summer of 1994 as the end was in sight for Bruce as first choice. The 1994/95 season was affected by the change in rules in European competitions, limiting teams to just 3 foreigners and that led to struggles with Ferguson having to make difficult choices as players like Keane, Peter Schmeichel, Ryan Giggs, Dennis Irwin and Mark Hughes, not to mention flying winger Andrei Kanchelskis, were all classed as foreigners in the Champions League. That was the reason Bruce said made him turn down an approach from Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton to play for Ireland. His place in the Red Devils line-up would have been in jeopardy if he had nailed his colours to Ireland's mast as he would then have become classed as a foreigner too.



While Europe was tough, Barcelona handing them a 4-0 hammering when Schmeichel was one of the foreigners who had to sit out the game, domestic football saw United chasing another double. Andy Cole arrived in January to give the side a lift but Cantona's 8 month ban for his 'kung-fu kick' at Crystal Palace caused enough disruption for Blackburn to pip them to the league title and Everton to beat them in the FA Cup final.



The 1995-96 season was to be Bruce's final one in the colours of Man Utd, though Ferguson wanted to hold onto him, convincing Bruce to reject 3 different offers of a manager's job over the course of the season. Little wonder Ferguson wanted to keep him as United went undefeated in the first 10 games, though they did struggle in the run up to Christmas, failing to get a win in 5 matches, which allowed Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United team to go 10 points clear at the top. Bruce's value was clear though as he missed the game against Tottenham Hotspur, where United were given a 4-1 hammering at White Hart Lane. Bruce's replacement was on-loan French centre-back William Prunier and he was, to be polite, dreadful.



Despite the famous 'grey kit' 3-1 defeat to Southampton, where Ferguson made the team change kit at half-time, United went on a run and won a second domestic double in 1995/96. Bruce made just 30 appearances over the course of the season, due to injuries, and missed the FA Cup final. Cantona tried to get Bruce to go up and collect the trophy but he declined. Ferguson tried to persuade Bruce to stay another year, but Bruce was 36 now and decided it was time to change, moving to Birmingham City. Pallister only stayed a couple more years himself, before he returned to Middlesbrough, United actually making a profit as Boro paid £2.5m to bring the veteran defender back.



Bruce and Pallister were the first choice pairing who helped Ferguson launch a lengthy period of domestic dominance for Man Utd in their 7 years as the rocks at the back. They won 3 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, the League Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup together. 317 matches saw just 282 goals conceded in that time, 180 were won and just 55 times they were defeated, with 133 clean sheets. They will quite rightly go down in history as one of the best centre-back pairings of all-time in the English game.

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Liverpool Article 26 Sep 2020
Lincoln City v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective







It was such a shame that no fans could be there for this match, as Lincoln really needed their support last night. They needed that lift of having their fans driving them on to turn this into a contest, especially after the first goal. As it was, they looked a team which failed to match up to Liverpool in any way. They seemed physically weaker and slower, technically miles off apart from one or two exceptions and tactically, well tactically there was no comparison. Having the fans there roaring them on might have given them enough drive to make it into a contest and slightly tip the balance back towards them.







Lincoln City





They gave their all and never gave up, even when 4 down, but they were out of their depth. Still managed to make a few chances and score a couple, but they did not really take advantage of the weak spots in the Liverpool team the way they should have.







Liverpool





Klopp - he got the right mix of youth and experience to see the team through at a canter.





Adrian - had a very good game, making a number of saves.





N. Williams - dallied on the ball in dangerous areas, lacked defensive awareness or any kind of reading of the game and is slow to react to danger. Even his crosses were not at their best. However he is young and learning a new position, Trent was not the best defensively in his first couple of seasons at right-back either.





R. Williams - on the ball he was composed and confident. Defensively though he was awful. Positionally he was all over the place and his awareness was dreadful. It was his debut though, so he might well have just been overawed. This game will have shown him he still has a lot to learn as well, when a great start could have led him to think it is all easy.





van Dijk - only played the first 45 minutes but was the main reason why the first half finished 4-0 to Liverpool. You could see they were lifted by his substitution.





Tsimikas - it was an impressive debut by the Greek, who looked extremely capable with both feet, strong and quick. He reminded me of Robertson in terms of attitude, that no-prisoners approach to rampaging up and down the flank always looking to take on opponents head on and never let them have a moment's peace. I am looking forward to seeing more of him.





Jones - stood out like a sore thumb and was my choice for man of the match. Not just because of his 2 goals but because of his all round contribution to the team. He was excellent, popping up all over the pitch and involved almost constantly. Jones showed he can pass, dribble, track back and shoot. The boy is growing into a man who is one hell of a player.





Shaqiri - looked really good in a midfield role, played some excellent passes, right up until he hurt himself playing one in the second half and had to be taken off. It is such a shame that his Liverpool career is going to be remembered for all his injuries as he always seems to perform well in those ten minute spells he gets between those injuries. When he has the quality to score goals like the free kick in this match, he really should be on the pitch more.





Grujic - while you have to bear in mind the opposition, as with all the good performances, but he looked really good. Grujic has put himself forward as a credible alternative/back up to Fabinho in the holding midfield role or to play as one of the two in front of him. His passing was good, he tackled back, protected the defence and worked extremely hard. He did enough to make me want to see more of him in a Liverpool shirt. Hopefully the deflection which assisted his goal is a sign of good fortune being on his side this season.





Elliott - struggled to impose himself on the game and was clearly frustrated to come off without scoring himself but he was busy and showed some nice touches. It was clear he has yet to build up an understanding with Minamino and Origi, but his movement was good and his workrate was excellent too.





Minamino - works like a trojan and fully deserved his two goals. The lad seems to be everywhere at times. It is hard not to warm to him and want him to succeed as he gives everything he has on the pitch for every second he is out there.





Origi - really struggled to get into the game but managed to finally get a goal right before the end. He really needs to get more regular football in a steady position. He has the ability and the workrate to do more, but he has not developed the understanding of his role that he needs.





Fabinho - replaced van Dijk at half-time. A planned substitution to protect van Dijk and to ensure Rhys Williams had a senior figure alongside him. Never looked comfortable on the left side, but did ok for a makeshift centre-back.





Jota - brought on in place of Elliott after 57 minutes. There were flashes of the player he could be, he worked hard and kept trying things but the link up with his teammates is not there yet.





Keita - came on instead of Shaqiri in the 75th minute after the Swiss international had begun limping. Offered little but the game was well over and he was unable to get any kind of control over it like he should have.

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Liverpool Article 18 Sep 2020
Freddy Adu Championship Manager 03/04 CM4 Edition





The ultimate icon of failed potential is Fredua Koranteng Adu, one time lauded as the 'next Pele', now little more than a minor influencer on social media. More relevant for this series, he was voted the Greatest Football Manager Wonderkid of All Time in 2019, beating Cherno Samba into second. If only Adu was prophetic when he said: "A lot of people have been hyped up to be great but just disappeared. I promised myself I wouldn't be one of them." Unfortunately he was wrong.



Born on 2nd June 1989 in Tema, Ghana, the same city as a future subject of this series, Nii Lamptey and grew up there playing football against grown men. His mother Emilia worked long hours in a convenience store to support the family, as father Maxwell was not the most supportive father. In fact Emilia was forced to rely on those that Freddy played football with to look after him while she was at work. Luckily for her, even by the age of 6 he was invited to games against teenagers and adults due to his standout ability. Or possibly it was because his mother was always able to provide them with a ball to play with as Adu revealed recently: "My mom was always the supplier of soccer balls, and so people were always knocking on my door, and trying to get me out so we could play."



It was Maxwell who dreamt of moving to the USA, but mother Emilia was also keen to join her brother in the States and so they were both delighted when she won the Green Card lottery in 1997. The whole family moved to Maryland, though Maxwell soon abandoned them, leaving Emilia to raise Freddy with the help of her family. That left her once again working long hours, this time with two jobs, one testing computer boards for Hughes Network Systems and the other as a cashier at Home Depot. Emilia had to be up at 5am each day and worked over 70 hours a week to make ends meet.



Freddy attended Sequoyah Elementary School where he began playing soccer during recess and starred in those playground games tosuch a level that a classmate called David Hawk told his parents about him. They invited him to join David's club team in a Potomac Soccer Association Tournament, it was Freddy's first ever organised match. There he was spotted by Arnold Tarzy, an insurance agent who also coached one of the best teams in the area and Tarzy convinced Adu to join his team the Potomac Cougars.



Tarzy managed to arrange a full scholarship for young Freddy and his brother to a private school called The Heights, where Freddy excelled as a student. Not only did he excel in various sports, incluing basketball and golf, he was also an exemplary student and skipped 7th grade and won a country-wide 5th grade art competition. Freddy was also widely remembered for being friendly, polite, courteous and well-behaved at the school.



By the age of 11 he was also playing for the US Olympic Developmental Program and went to Italy with them for an under-14 tournament against teams such as Lazio and Juventus. Freddy was top scorer in the tournament and drew the attention of Inter Milan, whose general secretary Piero Ausilio said: "We have never done this before - Freddy s the first American soccer player that we have ever seen with potential as a pro in European soccer." They put an offer on the table that was worth $750,000 to the family. Despite the financial benefits, Emilia turned it down as she wanted the young Freddy to concentrate on his education first and foremost. She also rejected offers from Adidas and the US Soccer Federation.



It was not all plain sailing though and little Freddy's skills with the ball had brought attention of the unwanted kind as well. One of his Cougar teammates and childhood friends, Nicholas Scrivens recalls finding Freddy alone crying: "And it's just me and him. And I'm like, 'Yo Fred, what's wrong, man?' And he's like, 'Everybody keeps saying that I'm not the age that I am. That I'm 20 years old. Just because I'm black and I'm African, they think that I'm lying.'"



The age of Adu became a genuine bone of contention, though Tarzy dismisses it as jealousy: "The egos of the collective parents would not believe anyone could be better than their chosen kids. They had to blame it on something so they said he must be too old." But, whatever the reason it became a media story as Scrivens says: "People asked to see his birth certificate, they wanted to take away our medals." Sports Illustrated even sent a journalist to the hospital he was born to investigate, but they could find no evidence of any wrongdoing. That did not end the problems for Freddy though as opposing parents and fans would then bay for his blood, encouraging the kids he was facing to kick Adu out of the game. The fouling got so bad that US Soccer used videos of it to train their officials.



Despite the rough treatment, Freddy still managed to score 25 goals and 12 assists in 16 matches for his school in his first year there, but that left the family with a problem. Staying with the school team would see Freddy stagnate, as he was already too good for the opponents and his teammates. The offer from Inter was still sat there waiting on the table for him, but Emilia was still not keen on it. Then US Soccer's John Eilinger, their Under-17s head coach, asked Adu to join them for a weekend tournament in Florida. Freddy was impressive enough to be offered a place at the Under-17 Residency Camp, which was run by IMG in Florida.



Freddy was by far the youngest member of the 30 boys there when he joined in January 2002, aged just 12, at least two years the junior of the other players on the team, but he still stood out in exhibition matches against MLS sides. He was playing with the best young players in the USA and under the best youth coaches in the country and they tried their best to prepare Freddy for the future. Trevor Mowad, a mental conditioning coach, was assigned to prepare Adu for the media and Mowad hooked him up with mentors, such as legendary sprinter Michael Johnson, MLS star Clint Mathis and American footballer Roy Williams.



U.S. citizenship was granted to him in February, so that he would be eligible for the national team and less than a month later he was called up by the under-17s for the qualifying phase of the Under-17 World Championships. Though still only 13, he went to Finland in August 2003 for the tournament itself and scored a hat-trick in the US's first game, a 6-1 thrashing of South Korea. That just brought him to the attention of their next opponents, Sierra Leone, who targeted him with knees and elbows. The referee gave Freddy no protection at all but he retaliated in the best way, by scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory. That was as far as the USA went though, as Brazil put them out in the next round.



Adu had done enough to earn a call-up to the Under-20s after Arturo Alvarez pulled out with injury and went to the UAE for the FIFA World Youth Championships. By now he was being called the 'next Pele' and the 'future of US Soccer' so it is little surprise that MLS made special allowances to allow him to be drafted in the January 2004 draft, though he was still only 14. The Dallas Burn had the number 1 draft pick, but they were compensated with a player allocation in November 2003 and the pick was assigned to DC United so that Freddy could stay near to his family. This was done to ensure Adu chose to stay in America, rather than take up one of the offers on the table from Europe.



In January 2004 he became the youngest athlete ever to sign a professional contract in the US and became the highest paid player in MLS history at the same time with a $500,000 contract in his pocket from DC United. That age record has since been beaten by a youngster called by Francis Jacobs in 2019, when he signed for Orange County SC on loan from Rangers, also aged 14. Nike had already signed him to a $1m contract and then Pepsi shortly afterwards also agreed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Freddy shortly afterwards. It is little wonder that ESPN said that his commercial potential was greater than LeBron James'.



Nike chairman Phil Knight said of him in 2003: "Freddy has the potential to bring soccer almost for the first time into the public's consciousness. Soccer in the United States isn't really part of the culture. What it needs, I think, is a superhero, and he clearly could be it. Now, that's putting a lot of pressure on him, but the kid's got all the potential to do that." Major League Soccer clearly saw the potential and used him in a media campaign and Freddy was on The Late Show with David Letterman, NBC's Today, 60 Minutes and MTV's Total Request Live and featured in major magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Time and Vanity Fair.



Freddy was still just 14 and that meant he missed much of DC United's training camp due to high school but his high grades, he was a straight A student, and the USSF's accelerated academic program helped him to graduate in March 2003, three years early. While Adu was completing his schooling, ABC and ESPN2 were haggling over the TV rights to DC United games. Even his first exhibition match with DCU in Tampa saw the kind of hysteria normally reserved for pop stars, as thousands awaited his arrival in town.



DC United's opening MLS game of the season was against the San Jose Earthquakes and vendors struggled to cope with demand for Adu t-shirts for the 24,000 who attended, a sell-out. Coach Peter Nowak was determined to bring him through gradually and Freddy started the game on the bench. In the second half the crowd chanted his name and Nowak succumbed to the pressure in the 61st minute, with DC 2-1 up, and brought a 14 year old Freddy on for his debut on 3 April 2004. Adu was the youngest player ever in Major League Soccer.



Two weeks later Freddy became the youngest ever goalscorer when he scored in a 3-2 defeat to Metrostars, but that did not stop criticism from commentators that he was too young and needed more time to grow into the adult game. Adu even managed to force his way into the starting line up for a short period, until Christian Gomez was signed midseason, returning the youngster to the bench. By the end of the season Adu had played a part in all 30 regular season games and scored 5 goals and 3 assists. He got a further assist in the play-offs too. He was also a commissioner's choice for the MLS All-Star game.



That left the club struggling to hold Freddy back for the 2005 season, he was visibly straining at the leash wanting to play, even getting himself a 1 game ban for complaining about his lack of playing time in the media. Nowak held firm with his approach and it certainly did not seem to do the teenager any harm as he was called up by the USA for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships in a group with Argentina, Egypt and Germany. Argentina had the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and a certain Lionel Messi in their squad.



Despite being 2 years the younger, Adu was the one that shone and USA topped their group, though the Argentinians went on to win the tournament. Freddy impressed enough to earn a nomination for FIFPro Young Player of the Year. In January 2006 he won his first full international cap in a friendly against Canada, the youngest to ever play for the USA. All that meant that it was no longer possible to hold him back and Adu became a regular starter for DC United in the 2006 season.



Freddy did well enough to earn a spot in the MLS All-Star team via coach's choice and to earn a frustrating two week trial with Manchester United in November. He was unable to get a work permit and so was only able to train and play in practice matches, but then-United manager Alex Ferguson said of him: "Freddy has done all right. He is a talented boy. He'll go back to the US and we'll keep a check on him. When he is 18, we will have to assess what we can do next. What we did was to bring him here to give him an idea of what United was like so he could see the place and see how comfortable he was with it."



Despite all the attention, at the end of the season Adu was traded to Real Salt Lake, along with goalkeeper Nick Rimando, for a major allocation, another goalkeeper and future considerations. He had managed 11 goals and 17 assists in his 3 seasons with DC United. He continued to play for the US U-20s and captained them to qualification for the U-20 World Cup, where he also captained the side. His hat-trick against Poland on 3rd July in the group stage made him the first player to score a hat-trick in both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups.



That was enough to persuade Benfica to show interest and begin talks with Real Salt Lake and MLS over signing him. Talks were not progressing quickly enough for the teenage Freddy and he skipped out on an RSL game to fly to Benfica. That sealed the deal and Benfica announced the $2m signing of Adu on 30th July 2007. Just over 2 weeks later he reached probably the highest point of his career when he made his debut in the European Champions League qualifiers against Copenhagen as a 37th minute substitute.



The rest of the season saw him struggle and he joined Monaco in July 2008 on loan with a view to a permanent deal, despite not being able to talk French, saying: "I don't know French at all. I took some lessons when I was younger but all I know are the numbers. I've been told basically everyone in Monaco speaks English because of it being a huge vacation spot so I'm excited about that. I might not need to learn French after all." Already the signs of laziness were there for people to spot, when a player moves to foreign country and is just glad not to have to bother to learn the lingo!



It must be said that the signs were there much earlier for people to notice, Arnold Tarzy has claimed that even as young as 10 Adu would stand around waiting for the ball to come to him and that things came so easy to him that he never developed a work ethic. It did not stop the USA taking him to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he scored 4 goals in 3 games and was voted into the team of the tournament. Despite 2008 being the year Freddy scored his first international goal, in a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala, he flopped in France and Monaco declined the option to make the loan into a permanent move.



Benfica were still unable to find room for him in their squad and loaned him to fellow Portugese side Belenenses. It started badly when he was injured just before half-time in his first start and the loan was cut short in December. Greek side Aris were the next to give him a chance, when they signed him in January 2010 on a 12 month loan to play alongside fellow American international Eddie Johnson. Despite getting off to a good start, Adu again failed to impress. In July 2010 he spent a week on trial with Swiss side FC Sion, who rejected the chance to sign him. Adu ended up on yet another loan deal, this time with Turkish second tier side Caykur Rizespor, on 1st February 2011.



Despite his struggles Freddy's confidence was not affected and he told ESPN: "By the age of 25, I wanted to be playing in England or Spain - and not just playing but be a regular starter for my team. I'm 22 this year. In 3 year's time, I see myself playing in one of those leagues. A lot of people might not know this, but that's been my goal all along. I wanted to be an established regular for a team in like Portugal or France before that. That's why I chose to go to Portugal instead of going straight from here to England or Spain."



Despite his talk, 2011 saw him return to Major League Soccer in August as he signed for Philadelphia Union, now coached by his former DC United and USA U-23s coach Piotr Nowak. The following July Nowak was sacked and once more Adu lost his way. New coach John Hackworth gave up on him and traded him to Brazilian side Bahia in April 2013 in return for Kleberson. "With me not performing to the level expected of someone making designated player money in Philly," Adu admitted later, "coupled with the fact I had the young guys looking up to me on that team, in his eyes, maybe I wasn't setting a good enough example for those young guys on the team. Looking back on it, he was right. I can't even be mad at Hackworth for pushing me out of Philly. At the end of the day, you have to take some responsibility for yourself. You have to put yourself in the best position to succeed, on the field or off the field, and at that time I wasn't performing great on the field or off the field."



After just 7 appearances for Bahia, Freddy was released in November. He later sued them over $220,000 in unpaid wages, the breach of Brazilian law made by Bahia not contributing to pension payments and the clubs' failure to formally terminate his contract. Bahia were still paying Kleberson's back pay amongst others and never disputed the claims, eventually reaching an out of court settlement with him.



Following his release Adu spent the early part of 2014 jobbing around Europe having trials with team after team, including Blackpool in February, who allowed him to stay and train with them for a while, despite deciding against signing him. In June he trained with Stabaek in Norway, who were managed by former USA manager Bob Bradley, then he was off to Holland to a trial with AZ Alkmaar, neither team wanted to sign him. Serbian side FK Jagodina decided to take a chance on him in July. It was September before he made his debut as a second half substitute in a Serbian Cup match. It was his first and last game for the Serbians and he was released in December.



It was March 2015 before he found another team when he signed for Finnish side KuPS. After a few games in their reserves, he was loaned out to third tier KuFu-98, where he again failed to make an impression and his contract was terminated in July. A week later a team in the US second tier, the NASL, Tampa Bay Rowdies signed him. His time with the Rowdies did not last longer either and he was released in 2016. Once again he was back searching for a new club, undergoing a trial with Portland Timbers and Polish side Sandecja Nowy Sacz. The Timbers did not want him and the Poles had not even told their manager that Adu would be arriving. The manager called it "a joke" and Freddy could not win him over.



Newly formed USL (the USA's third tier league) side Las Vegas Lights took him on trial in 2018. He failed to even make the team for their first two pre-season matches but was finally given a run out in the third, playing 30 minutes and notching the team's first ever assist. It was enough for him to sign for them on 15th March, but he was released at the end of the season. One member of staff at the club said: "The fans would chant his name, 'Freddy! Freddy!' Then they'd see him play, and they wouldn't chant any more." Adu was heavily overweight and struggled badly, badly enough for it to seem to be the sad end to a once extremely promising career.



Even his off field life showed the same downward spiral. From being on the cover of cereal boxes and making commercials for drinks with Pele comparing him to Mozart, he is nowadays seen, rather forlornly, pushing a Hoover vacuum cleaner around by a pot plant in a social media advert. He also reviews films and television series for a lasagne company, assigning the shows a lasagna rating rather bizarrely. His love life has equally gone down the pan, from a time when he dated a singer called JoJo who released a song and video about their relationship and break up which featured MLS footballer Mike Zaher badly reenacting bits of Adu's career.



Freddy is left hoping to revive his career, he still wants to play professionally, but all the game has for him now is a few coaching sessions a week at a friend's youth club. It is all a long way from the 'Next Pele' with the million dollar sponsorship deals. Adu does admit that it is probably his own fault that it went so wrong: "As a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year old, you're young, you're immature, and you kind of get caught up in that a little bit....and maybe I wasn't training as hard as I should have. And it hurt me."





For the previous Champ Man Legends article on Jonas Lunden click HERE

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Liverpool Article 17 Sep 2020
Liverpool v Leeds United A Liverpool Perspective





Well that was some game! A great end-to-end spectacle of exciting attacking football, despite neither team being fully fit, but they still kept going. As usual with half fit players, it was a game littered with mistakes, but that is why it was exciting. You just have to hope that games continue to be so entertaining when all the teams are up to full fitness.







Leeds United





If they can keep up this intensity throughout the season, then they are going to give teams a torrid time. The problem comes if they do what Norwich, Huddersfield and many others down the years have done and lose that approach. That all-action style added to Bielsa's tactical tweaks are the only hope they have of staying in the league this season. The players have improved a lot under his coaching, but in essence they are still a very thin midtable Championship side performing above expectations because of Bielsea. If they let the plaudits go to their head, they could struggle.



With Bielsa in charge I expect quite the opposite, though the shortened season and possibility of losing key players to quarantine/self-isolation periods could well cost them. They just have to keep faith with the methodology and keep plugging away, no matter how difficult things get and they will be fine.



They do have issues defensively, not just their open, attacking style, but a lack of real defensively minded players in midfield. Phillips is a very good playmaker who can spray the passes around brilliantly, but he lacks mobility and does not yet have good enough reading of the game to make up for it. Their real Achilles' heel though is set-pieces. They are going to concede a fair few this season due to an inability to defend them unless something changes.







Liverpool



Klopp - he took a big risk starting with Wijnaldum, Keita and Henderson in the centre of midfield and it nearly cost Liverpool all three points. Nearly is the important word, the team still got the 3 points and the players took a step forward in terms of fitness. This was always going to be a difficult game, all teams are going to one to put one over on the champions and LFC were coming into it nowhere near fully prepared for the season. It is not just them in this position, but being defending champions is a much more difficult mindset to approach games with than going out to beat the reigning champions.



When changes were needed Klopp made them and they benefitted the team, Fabinho in particular changed the game and it was good to see Jones being the one to come in. That will be a huge boost to him that he was chosen over the other options on the bench.





Alisson - considering the number of goals in the match, Alisson had very little to do overall really. One-on-one with Bamford aside, it is difficult to think of anything else he had to do. Leeds were very clinical, for once, though it must be said Alisson at his superhuman best would likely have saved at least one other shot. Clearly not 100% yet and so not quite superhuman yet.





Alexander-Arnold - woefully short of match fitness as he returns from injury and it was glaringly obvious. It was like he was running in treacle with diving boots on while towing David Batty's caravan behind him at times. Harrison was able to torment him simply because he was struggling to run. That was a good run out to get him closer to full fitness.





Gomez - started off badly but grew into the game and got better and better. Brought the ball out from the back really well and did as much as humanly possible to cover for Trent and Virgil's off day. Once he moved over to right back, he completely shut down that flank, for both of the minutes he was there. It did make me wish he had perhaps moved there sooner, but Trent needed the fitness work.





van Dijk - he truly is human and showed all the fallibilities of a human for once. That arrogant composure for once was his undoing and he was (and I can't believe I am typing this) one of the worst players on the pitch. He was caught ball-watching, made a sloppy error and generally looked like his head was not in the game at all. Luckily he is such a threat in the opposition box and scored a goal, so his day was not a complete washout. From a Liverpool perspective, you just have to hope that was a lack of match sharpness but this has been a worrying trend in recent months. His performances have been declining alarmingly from the incredibly level he set when first arriving. Maybe this is the wake up call he needs to rediscover his form and get back to being the world's best centre-back.





Robertson - looked fresh and fired up, playing really well, with his customary energy and verve. Tsimikas is going to struggle to get much football if Robertson continues like this.





Keita - I suppose someone had to make Virgil's game look better and that someone was Keita, who was quite simply abysmal. Shirked challenges, ducked out of the way of Leeds passes he could have blocked, bottled out of headers and generally hid in a cowardly fashion on the pitch. The press failed because of him on more than one occasion. I really was disgusted with his performance. Keita was the very definition of an empty shirt. It was no surprise he was hooked with less than an hour gone. How much longer are we going to have to wait to see the Keita that impressed so much in the Bundesliga?





Henderson - another who was clearly miles away from full fitness and played well within himself. There was no drive and rampaging runs forward as we see when he is at his best. That hour or so in his legs will have done him the world of good.





Wijnaldum - so often Wijnaldum has games where he is utterly anonymous, this was one of those but added to it there were moments where he just looked like he was playing well within himself. One such came in the first half when Trent was caught up field and he was 'chasing' back. Well I say chasing, it was more sort of gently jogging in the same general direction as the Leeds attacker. Normally he would have sprinted, closed him down and seen out the danger. I am hoping he was just not fit either because the alternative is that his heart is no longer in it.





Salah - without a doubt the best player on the pitch. The left side of Leeds' defence will be giving thanks they will not have to face Salah every week. He looked absolutely at it and gave them a roasting. His commitment to his trade shone through as he was not lacking sharpness at all, despite staying back at Melwood during the international break.





Mane - there were flashes of the Mane Liverpool fans know and love, including a lovely nutmeg on Ayling after drawing the Leeds player right out of his half, but they were just flashes. Not at his best, but still a handful for the defence. He was clearly struggling for fitness as the second half wore on, there were a couple of times he did that little stumble people do when they are trying to go on a run but their legs are on the verge of giving out.





Firmino - miles off full fitness, though it is usual for him at this stage of the season. Bobby always seems to take a bit longer than the rest to get up to speed. He was still at the heart of the moves and produced some of his trademark Brazilian flair, but it was far from him at his best.





Fabinho - replaced Keita in the 59th minute and it changed the game. Liverpool looked so much better with him there, though that could probably be put down in large part to it being Keita that went off. He controls the midfield and made it much more difficult for Leeds to play through.





Jones - Henderson went off to be replaced by Jones in the 66th minute. Once again he impressed, without doing anything special this time. Looks very much like a natural player in that midfield.





Matip - only came on in place of Alexander-Arnold in the 89th minute, so never had time to impose himself on the game.

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Liverpool Article 04 Sep 2020
Underrated Players: Number 1 The Anfield Iron Tommy Smith





This series is to give credit to those players who are often dismissed as 'just a ....' and never really given the credit they deserve for having ability. It is not my judgement of their rating I am using, but picking them due to the articles you tend to read about them, which never seem to quite give them the credit they deserve or comments from people online. It is not about the person, but the player, so I will also not be getting into controversies, such as Tommy Smith's racism (ironic considering his namesake was one of the Olympic Athletes in Mexico in 1968 that gained worldwide fame for giving a 'Black Power' salute).



Smith was always dismissed as merely an enforcer, someone to frighten opponents into submission, a reputation he worked to build for himself by his actions on the pitch. While he occasionally lamented how his reputation would overshadow his ability, Smith also knew that it gave him "an edge", something Bill Shankly wanted from his players. So it was that he would use tricks such as handing Jimmy Greaves a menu from Liverpool Infirmary (hospital) ahead of kick off to instil fear and create himself a legend as "The Anfield Iron".



"Tommy Smith wasn't born, he was quarried." - Bill Shankly



It was the 5th April 1945 when Smith was born, leading Steve Kindon, a fellow pro, to say: "I'm not saying Tommy Smith was hard, but he was born in April 1945 and the Germans surrendered a month later." An only child, Tommy's father died of pneumonia in 1959 and it led to the end of his Catholic upbringing as he stopped attending church afterwards. Not because of some epiphany caused by the loss of his father, instead it was his disgust after seeing the local priest stagger out of his family home drunk when he had visited to offer condolences.



A year later he became a schoolboy associate at Liverpool, joining the groundstaff as was the custom in those days. In those days he was a centre-forward who manager Bill Shankly quickly took under his wing, becoming a father figure to him. It did not start so well though for him: "I was only 15 and playing in a five-a-side game at Melwood," Smith recalled later. "I nutmegged Gerry Byrne and scored and I was on top of the world. A couple of minutes later a ball dropped between us. I went to head it and Gerry headed me and I went down with a gashed eye. As I lay on the ground covered in blood, Bill Shankly strolled across, looked down at me and said, 'Lesson number one, never nutmeg Gerry Byrne son and think you can get away with it.'"



That lesson stayed with Smith throughout his career, he became known for 'letting people know he was around' early in games. It was his way of getting an advantage, a frightened opponent is not going to perform to his best, especially when the man inspiring the fear is ready to cut him in half the moment he gets the ball. Shankly was impressed by what he saw and Smith went straight into the A team, jumping straight past two reserve teams. Smith continued to make a big impression playing as a forward, in pre-season ahead of the 1961-62 season he beat Shankly's 'colossus' Ron Yeats to a header to score in training in front of the watching Shanks. The following summer he turned professional on £18 a week.



"I remember once at St James Park, Newcastle, Malcolm McDonald had scored a hat-trick against us. He was making his home debut, I'd missed a penalty and Kevin Keegan had given one away. Towards the end of the game McDonald went up for a high ball with Ray Clemence and Clem clattered him. He had to be carried off and as he lay on the stretcher I walked over to him and said 'Right, that's yer lot, you'll never score another fucking goal against Liverpool while I'm on the same pitch', and I meant it, and what's more, he never did. At the end of that season we played them in the cup final and once again words were exchanged in the tunnel before the game. Then we went out and slaughtered them 3-0 and it could have been 6." - Tommy Smith



Smith made his Liverpool debut in May 1963, replacing an injured Jimmy Melia in a 5-1 win over Birmingham City, but did not play again for the rest of the season or the next one. Smith did enough to impress England and went with the England youth team that won the 1963 Junior World Cup. He finally made his second appearance for LFC in August 1964, where he scored his first goal playing inside-left in a 3-2 defeat against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. That was enough to keep his place, scoring against Leeds and then making two more appearances before being dropped back to the reserves once more.



It was 1964 that he finally earnt his place in Liverpool's team. It was LFC's first ever European foray and he was brought into the team as a defender against the then-mighty Anderlecht. Shankly picked Smith as a number 10 but told him to play in defence, that confused Anderlecht so much that he was man marked by their number 4 for the first 20 minutes! Tommy was desperate to make a good impression: "They had a lad who could really play a bit, Van Himst his name was. I slammed into him early on and as he got up, he pointed to his head, and said 'Loco' to me. I was determined to show Shanks I was up for the task."



Liverpool won 3-0 and Smith was excellent, prompting Shankly to say: "The game marked out Tommy Smith as a fine player. The boy has arrived." Tommy played every game of the FA Cup run that season as Liverpool picked up their first FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Leeds United in the final. While he managed to lock down a place in the Liverpool side, at international level it was a different matter, though he did make Alf Ramsey's initial 40-man squad list for the 1966 World Cup. However he was one of the ones removed when it was pared down to the final squad of 28 to go to Lilleshall, Smith was put on standby to replace any injury drop-outs.



"Tommy doesn't tackle opponents so much as break them down for resale as scrap." - Bob Paisley



In the end he made just one England appearance, in 1971, the season that he was made Liverpool captain and was also runner-up in the Footballer of the Year voting. Smith was a hard man, as no less a man than Jack Charlton said: "Tommy Smith was easily the hardest player I faced. I ran into him once and he knocked every ounce of breath out of me. I tried to get up and look like he hadn't hurt me, but he had." He was more than that though, Smith was more akin to a Bobby Moore-style of defender, with excellent reading of the game and the ability to pick a pass. Very few people remember that though because, in his own words, "I make no bones about it, that's what I was good at. Some players were good dribblers, others good headers, I was a hard tackler and I used it to gain that 'edge' that Shanks was always looking for."



Even when, towards the end of his career, he went over to the USA to play for the Tampa Bay Rowdies he was given the nickname of 'The Tank'. A European Cup final goal aside, Smith will not be remembered for good play on the pitch, he will be remembered for frightening opponents, for his feud with Emlyn Hughes and for stunts like handing Jimmy Greaves the menu for the local infirmary before kick-off. If he had played 20 years later, it could well have been him presenting the 'Soccer Hard Men' video and grabbing Paul Gascoigne by the balls.



While it may have given him 'an edge', it has made sure that he is not remembered for being good enough for Matt Busby to attempt to sign him for his 'Busby Babes'. As being good enough to play left-back, right-back and centre-back in some great Liverpool sides. Instead he is remembered as being the photograph that mothers in Merseyside would put on the mantelpiece to keep the kids away from the fire and the one that nearly cut Ossie Ardiles in half with a 'tackle' to remind the Argentinian that "this was a man's league".

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