Not so friendly fire as
owners Kop it big style
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Like it or loathe it, football is a
business. So let’s use a little retail speak which should be
recognisable on both sides of the Atlantic.
The customer is king: And for the second time in barely
seven weeks last night, the customers expected to turn Tom
Hicks and George Gillett’s investment into big bucks at
Liverpool Football Club spoke loudly and clearly.
When Porto came to Anfield in November, Rafael Benitez
received a strident and stirring endorsement of his
His position had been threatened, and the fans made their
But last night the mood had shifted.
When Hicks and Gillett arrived at Anfield in a flurry of
smiles, handshakes and Liverpool-crested cowboy boots,
George said he liked to sit among the supporters to gauge
the fan experience – and not to be surprised if he popped up
on the Kop.
He’d be advised to abandon such experiments for now.
The Kop is a usually reliable barometer of public opinion
among Liverpool fans.
And while the chant was by no means universal, it was loud
enough, frequent enough and widespread enough to be clearly
heard: “You’re not Liverpool fans. Liverpool Football Club .
. . It’s in the wrong hands.”
There was another, less vocal chant, which cannot be
repeated because of sensitive readers and an even more
sensitive lawyer. But let’s just say Tom and George were
accused of being economical with the truth.
Then there were the banners.
“Thanks Yanks. No More Friendly Fire” and “Dubai SOS – Yanks
Out” were just two.
The natives are restless – and it’s easy to understand why.
Liverpool has never washed its dirty linen in public.
Liverpool managers aren’t sacked, they always graciously
step down in acknowledgement that it’s for the greater good.
Cheesy, maybe, but that’s the way they do it. Heck, Gerard
Houllier even staged a press conference to say his thank
yous and goodbyes.
It’s indicative of a football club which has always done
things the right and proper way.
But this week’s events go a little deeper than the
possibility of a very popular manager being sacked.
It’s a matter of common decency.
And the Kop, rightly or wrongly, holds itself up as an
arbiter of fair play.
If Benfica come to Anfield and deservedly knock Liverpool
out of the European Cup, they’re warmly applauded.
A tradition for applauding visiting goalkeepers originated
here on Merseyside, while last night a tribute was paid to
the magnificent support Luton received from their travelling
So when absentee landlords offer another man the manager’s
job – insurance policy or not – it offends their sense of
Whether you believe Benitez is the man to deliver the League
title to Anfield or not, you don’t treat him the way big,
vulgar city institutions like Tottenham treat their
And, if the co-owners are being so cavalier with the future
of a trusted and admired club servant, it adds to the
growing sense of unease at reports of a colossal debt being
saddled on the club some time soon.
Hicks and Gillett need a charm offensive some time soon.
Fans often disagree with events in the boardroom, but this
is the first time in living memory that fans have openly
mutinied with club custodians.
And a divided club is not a strong football club.
The events off the pitch threatened to overshadow Jamie
Carragher’s big night.
Liverpool’s legend of 500 matches was granted a guard of
honour as he stepped onto the turf with son James, but the
resounding chant which reverberated around Anfield was
As Luton defended doggedly and desperately, however,
attention switched to matters on the pitch.
And while Carragher produced his usual array of blocks,
interceptions and clearances – not to mention one better
Ryan Babel pass away from a clear run on goal – Carra’s best
pal did his best to grab the limelight.
What Steven Gerrard offered with one hand – he took away
with the other.
Gerrard handed over the captain’s armband for the night,
then demanded the spotlight with a hat-trick.
Results of football matches will always dictate the mood of
football fans, but last night there was an animated
The customer is king – and it’s time the co-owners started
Babel buoyed by super Stevie
By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website
Ryan Babel praised the performance of
Steven Gerrard after the talismanic midfielder hit a
hat-trick to inspire Liverpool to an emphatic FA Cup victory
The Dutch starlet admits nothing the skipper does can
surprise him anymore after he hit the second treble of his
Reds career to take his tally to 15 goals for the season.
"It's almost normal that Stevie gives a performance like
that," he told Liverpoolfc.tv.
"He took his goals very well and it is obvious that he is a
really important player for us."
While Gerrard stole the headlines with his second-half
display, it was Babel who got the most important goal of the
game when he broke the deadlock with a clinical finish in
first-half stoppage time.
The 21-year-old was pleased to net what was his seventh goal
of the season and admitted that the Reds were always likely
to go on and score more once they had got the opening goal
of the contest.
"It could have been more but in the end we are happy to have
scored five goals," said Babel.
"It was really important for us to score the first goal and
open up the match. We should have scored it much earlier but
to get it on the stroke of half-time was a boost for us.
"We got the second goal early in the second-half and after
that it was easier for us to play our football."
Babel was also keen to pay tribute to skipper for the night,
Jamie Carragher, who produced another typically sound
display at the heart of the Reds' defence on what was his
500th appearance for the club.
"He's a great player with a lot of experience," he said. "It
doesn't matter what kind of game it is, he always gives 100
"It is a great achievement for him. He is always there
encouraging the team and giving tactical advice and there is
no doubt he is a major figure at Liverpool."
The victory brings a welcome end to a run of four
consecutive draws for Benitez's men and Babel believes they
will now go into next week's clash with Aston villa full of
"The game with Villa will be a different level but we will
be ready," he said.
"It's good that we now have a whole week to recover and
prepare. It won't be an easy game but after this win against
Luton, it should give us a lot of confidence going into the
Benitez focuses on victory
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez refused to be
drawn over his future with the club, after watching the Reds
beat Luton Town 5-0 in an FA Cup third round replay
Comments from co-owner Tom Hicks about an approach to Jurgen
Klinsmann hit the headlines earlier on in the week, but
Benitez focused solely on his side's victory over the
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez refused to be drawn over his
future with the club, after watching the Reds beat Luton
Town 5-0 in an FA Cup third round replay at Anfield.
Benitez told Sky Sports: "We weren't really thinking about
it because we know it's important to progress in the FA Cup.
"I was not thinking too much about this, I was thinking
about the game. I'm really happy because we won 5-0 and
progressed in the competition.
"We knew it would be difficult to score the first goal, but
afterwards it would be an open game.
"We had a lot of chances and they worked really hard with a
lot of players behind the ball. We were trying to do our job
and they were trying to do theirs."
to hit right headlines
By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post
Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool must
ensure they command the headlines for the right reasons
after helping the Anfield outfit into the fourth round of
the FA Cup last night.
The midfielder netted a hat-trick as Coca-Cola League One
outfit Luton Town were overwhelmed 5-0 in their third round
Ryan Babel and Sami Hyypia were also on target to secure
Liverpool a home fourth round tie against Swansea City or
non-league side Havant and Waterlooville on Saturday week.
Last night’s game came after the admission from the club’s
co-owner Tom Hicks that Jurgen Klinsmann had been approached
in November with a view to taking over from manager Rafael
But Gerrard believes the players are focused on winning
games to help ease the uncertainty at Anfield.
“A lot was said in the media about the club so it was
important that the headlines were about the football and a
good win,” said Gerrard, who now has 15 goals for the
“We’re aware of it (the off-field situation), every time we
pick up a paper or switch on the TV, so it’s important we
stay focused on winning football matches.
“It’s not particularly about the manager, it’s about the
team, about progressing into the fourth round, so we’re
happy we’ve done that.
“It’s important we keep winning football matches and making
sure the only headlines are about football and not what’s
happening off the pitch.”
No shock as
Liverpool outclass Luton
Under-pressure Liverpool manager Rafael
Benitez saw his side ease their way into the fourth round of
the FA Cup tonight thanks to a hat-trick from Steven
League one Luton collapsed in this replay at Anfield after
going behind to a late first-half goal from Ryan Babel.
Sami Hyypia was also on the scoresheet to give Benitez some
breathing space after the shock revelation that Jurgen
Klinsmann had been sounded out about the possibility of
becoming the club's next manager.
Benitez selected a strong side, knowing defeat was not an
option after the shock admission from co-owner Tom Hicks.
Jamie Carragher was named captain on his 500th appearance
for the club while Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso
were also in from the start.
Luton received a boost ahead of the game with the news a
deal had been agreed with a consortium led by television
presenter Nick Owen to buy the club.
The Kop made their feelings know about the manager from the
start with chants of "Rafael Benitez" ringing around the
Jermaine Pennant split the Luton defence after three minutes
and found Gerrard. He raced forward but was crowded out.
Pennant then found Peter Crouch three minutes later, only
for the striker to miss a good chance, heading wide from
close range when it seemed easier to score.
Babel almost gave Liverpool the lead in the ninth minute
after being released by Gerrard.
He beat goalkeeper Dean Brill with a curling shot from 20
yards but his superb effort came back off the post.
Then Crouch hooked the ball high over the crossbar following
a cross from Gerrard and Torres followed suit in the 14th
Liverpool, as expected, were running the show and Babel
again came close in the 17th minute when his effort was
blocked by Richard Jackson.
Luton were making a decent fist of it after shipping out a
number of players in the past week.
Despite their lowly status, the third-tier club were being
backed by a good number of supporters, who made themselves
Babel was wasteful in the 38th minute when he sent his
effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area after
Crouch had played the ball back to him.
Veteran Luton defender Don Hutchison then launched himself
at a shot from Gerrard on the stroke of half-time to make a
The breakthrough finally came in first-half stoppage time
when Babel rifled a shot beyond Brill and into the corner
after being released by Torres.
Alonso tried his luck straight from the kick off by trying
to lob Brill but the goalkeeper was alert to the danger.
John Arne Riise strode forward for Liverpool in the 51st
minute, only for his effort from distance to finish wide.
Gerrard made it 2-0 a minute later when he headed in from
close range after Crouch flicked on a cross from Pennant.
Liverpool raised the tempo and Torres saw his shot deflected
to safety by Kevin Keane in the 56th minute.
They extended their lead a minute later after Gerrard swung
in a corner from the left.
Hyypia claimed the goal although Luton defender Matthew
Spring seemed to get a touch at the last minute.
Gerrard scored his second of the game and made it 4-0 in the
64th minute, stroking the ball into the corner.
It came after Hutchison had only partially cleared a shot
from Torres inside the area.
Gerrard completed his hat-trick in the 72nd minute with a
thumping 30-yard drive that wrong-footed Brill after being
set up by Riise.
Substitute Dirk Kuyt should have made it 6-0 only to head
wide from close range 10 minutes later following a cross
Luton were happy to play out time but at least the
cash-strapped club have the promise of a financial windfall
and new owners.
Liverpool, meanwhile, can now look forward to a visit from
either Swansea or non-league Havant and Waterlooville.