Keane celebrates his second goal. Riera (left).
(Photo: PA Photos)
Sammy Lee has been Liverpool's
best summer signing of all
Comment by Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo
Who was Rafa Benitez's best signing during
Even Andrea Dossena's mum would be hard pressed for making a
convincing case for it being the Italian left back who has
endured a torrid time since arriving on Merseyside.
Robbie Keane was the most expensive but has struggled to
live up to his £20m price tag and will have to add
dramatically to his goal tally if speculation on his future
is to go away.
Swiss defender Philipp Degen has barely been seen because of
injuries, which his critics believe isn't a bad thing given
his performances when available.
Diego Cavalieri was brought in as back up to Pepe Reina and
has only appeared in three cup games up to now so can't
really be judged.
Of all the signings on the playing front, Albert Riera has
undoubtedly made the biggest impact as the Spanish winger
has given Liverpool the width they so badly needed and
proven himself to be a far better player than the one
English football fans remembered from his loan spell at Man
City in 2006.
On the whole, it wasn't Liverpool's most productive summer
in the transfer market but there is one signing which stands
out above all others.
When Benitez was on the lookout for an assistant manager
Sammy Lee seemed like the obvious choice for the job.
Proven top class coaches with Premier League management
experience and the universal respect of his peers don't come
on the market too often, especially not ones who are steeped
in the tradition of Liverpool Football Club.
Having been discarded by Bolton Lee was on the market at a
time when the club he supported as a boy was on the lookout
for a new addition to its backroom team.
The timing could not have been better for both parties and
Lee was able to slot in seamlessly, even taking in a couple
of days training at the end of last season.
As several of the players have since admitted it was as if
Lee had never been away as he set up training drills for the
squad to take part in and equally importantly added a Scouse
accent to the mix of Benitez's staff and a knowledge of what
makes Liverpool tick which was gained during his previous
spells at the club as both coach and player.
You can't put a price on such experience and Lee's input
since returning to Anfield has been invaluable.
Over the past couple of weeks, the 49-year-old has faced his
biggest test since becoming Benitez's number two.
The illness which laid the Reds boss low and kept him away
from first team duties meant someone had to fill his shoes
and the command structure at Melwood made it inevitable that
Lee would be that man.
At Arsenal last week, commander Benitez may have been
directing operations by mobile phone but it was his
understudy who was putting his orders into practice and the
combination was enough to win Liverpool a hard earned point
at what remains a difficult venue despite the Gunners'
inconsistent league form so far this season.
Benitez trusts Lee totally and enjoys a relationship with
him that he probably didn't have with Alex Miller, the coach
whose departure to Japan at the end of last season created a
space in the Liverpool backroom staff which Lee has filled.
He also respects Lee's vast knowledge of Liverpool as a
football club and the way it should conduct itself and
Having graduated from the Kop to go on and play for the
Reds, Lee won League Championship and European Cup winners
medals with Liverpool before coaching at Anfield under
What Sammy Lee doesn't know about Liverpool Football Club
probably isn't worth knowing and his knowledge alone has
made him an invaluable member of Benitez's staff in the
short time he has worked with the Spaniard.
The fact that he talks like a Liverpool coach from a bygone
age, a modern day version of Ronnie Moran, is also a huge
positive even if it doesn't give press men the easy
headlines they are looking for.
It can be all too easy to get carried away with big four
status, particularly with Liverpool having enjoyed their
best start to a season in more than a decade.
But in the press conferences leading up to the Arsenal game,
Lee was humble and understated and refused to take the bait
certain individuals were offering him in the hope of getting
a cheap headline.
On a couple of occasions he actually apologised in advance
for talking in clichés, but he needn't have bothered because
his routine Anfield speak is exactly what Liverpool needs
This is no time for promises that can't be kept or for bold
statements that could end up making the club look foolish at
a later date. It is a time for feet to be kept on the ground
and for perspective to be retained and Lee does that do
That is why Sammy Lee is the perfect man to be Rafa
Benitez's number two and why he will take some beating as
Liverpool's best summer signing.
Keane: Reds sent out warning
Robbie Keane feels Liverpool sent out a
statement to their title rivals with a 3-0 victory over
Liverpool maintained their position at the top of the
Premier League with the Boxing Day win, hours after Chelsea
and Manchester United had also picked up three points.
Keane grabbed two of the goals in the success over Bolton
and believes the performance issued a warning to the other
"We can't be too worried about others, we have to
concentrate on ourselves, but it was a statement from us,"
"The lads were superb. I can't remember Bolton getting a
shot on goal."
Irish ace Keane has now scored three goals in two games for
the Reds and insists he has taken no notice of the criticism
aimed in his direction since his move to Anfield.
He added: "If I keep playing and keep doing well, I've said
I know I'll score goals.
"You can't be worried about what people say, you have to be
strong enough to take criticism or there's no point in doing
"It's always nice to score, it's what I'm paid to do, and
this sets us up nicely for Newcastle tomorrow. It was a good
performance and important to get the three points."
hails two-goal Keane
By Paul Hassall at Anfield - LFC Official Website
Sammy Lee praised the quality of Robbie
Keane after the striker's brace kept Liverpool top of the
Barclays Premier League with an emphatic 3-0 win over Bolton
The Reds assistant manager was delighted with the home
side's overall display and was quick to hail the number
"It's always nice to see Liverpool players score goals,
whether it's Robbie Keane, Dirk Kuyt or Sami Hyypia," he
"Robbie's been working tirelessly and he's kept on going. We
know the quality of the lad, that's why we brought him here.
"If you speak to him he may give you a better answer, but
for me, he's never been lacking in confidence.
"We've had no doubts in Robbie's ability. His work rate and
commitment and what he adds to this club is immense. We've
had no doubts about him. We know what he's capable of."
The Reds had drawn their previous three league matches at
Anfield prior to the victory over the Trotters and the
assistant manager was delighted to see them pick up the
three points and put an end to that run.
"It's always important to win at home," he said.
"We've tried not to get hung up about our recent home
performances because you have to give credit to the
opposition. But it's always nice to win, particularly at
"The patience and quality in our play was paramount. The
crowd's patience was also impressive. They were with us all
the way. They realised what we were trying to do, passing
the ball and using the width of the pitch to create
Lee also admitted that the Reds' impressive win was the
perfect tonic for boss Rafael Benitez who maintained overall
control of the side despite watching from the directors'
"Throughout his illness he's been in total control," he
said. "It's the measure of the man that in spite of his
pain, he had total control of everything that was going on.
"He's put a great team in place to implement his plan. So if
he's not there, we still have a plan. But it was nice to
have him back in today."
Liverpool now head to the North-East to face Newcastle
United in our final match of 2008 at St James' Park.
A win would guarantee the Reds of top spot as they head into
the New Year but Lee is refusing to get carried away.
"It's very important to be top," he said. "We prepare to be
top and it's nice to be top going into the clash with
Newcastle. Hopefully we'll recover in time. We know it will
be a difficult task but we are looking forward to it.
"We can't get carried away because it's only December. But
it's nice to go into the last match of the season against
Newcastle in this position and it is pleasing. It shows our
improvement. We are top at this moment but know it will be
difficult going to Newcastle.
"We prepare to try and win games. If we win more than the
other teams then hopefully we can win trophies, that's the
nature of our club - to win."
When asked about the likely return to action of Fernando
Torres, he added: "When he's ready we'll decide when we will
put him in. He's working hard on his rehabilitation."
Keane double downs Trotters
By Toby Davis - Setanta Sports
Robbie Keane went some way towards
silencing his doubters with a well-taken double as Liverpool
strolled to a 3-0 win over Bolton.
The Republic of Ireland striker continued where he left off
against Arsenal on Sunday with two sharp finishes to put The
Reds back on top of The Premier League.
Rafa Benitez’s side had taken a first-half lead when Albert
Riera stabbed them ahead after 26 minutes and went on to
dominate throughout in a one-sided clash at Anfield.
Keane doubled the lead eight minutes after the restart with
a sharp left-footed finish before adding a third five
minutes later, tapping in from close range after an incisive
Liverpool passing move.
Bolton rarely threatened and, in truth, once, they had
fallen behind, had no back-up plan to counter Liverpool's
Despite topping the table at Christmas for the first time in
12 years, Liverpool’s home form has been dubious to say the
Unsuccessful title challenges had been characterised in
recent years by numerous failings, but Anfield has, for the
most part, always remained a fortress.
But Bolton arrived on Merseyside, with more than just faint
hope of following in the footsteps of Stoke, Fulham, Hull
and West Ham and taking something away with them.
The Trotters were breathing the rarefied air of their lofty
ninth place in The Premier League, defying some bleak
And their position almost looked a whole lot rosier when
Nolan broke into the Liverpool box inside a minute.
The midfielder found himself free and bearing down on
Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina 15 yards from goal, but lobbed
the ball harmlessly into the Spaniard’s hands when he ought
to have found the net.
Rafa Benitez, sat in the directors’ box, rather than the
dug-out after failing to recover in time from his kidney
stone operation, must have been shifting uneasily at the way
in which The Reds defence opened up.
But the hosts quickly gained the upper hand and were
dominant in possession, while Bolton retreated into their
shell and put numbers behind the ball.
Liverpool’s first chance of note arrived with only three
minutes on the clock as Riera rifled a cross shot into the
six-yard box that cannoned off Robbie Keane and fell
The Reds then set up camp in the visitors’ half without
troubling them unduly. Their football was attractive and
their movement incisive, but their final ball was poor.
Riera and Emiliano Insua, who had kept his place at left
back following an impressive display against Arsenal, both
had efforts that came to nothing.
So often this season, Benitez’s side have dominated without
killing off their opponents and when Dirk Kuyt headed over a
cross from Xabi Alonso on 21 minutes it looked as though it
could be a case of déjà vu.
But nerves were well and truly calmed when Riera poked The
Reds into the lead four minutes later. Steven Gerrard
whipped a corner from the right into the area to find Riera
arriving unmarked at the near post to stretch out a toe and
stab the ball into the back of the net.
Yossi Benayoun could have added to the lead before the break
when he volleyed wide from 10 yards, but The Reds went in at
the break leading comfortably and without breaking a sweat.
The game was essentially put to bed in five second-half
minutes shortly after half time. Robbie Keane has had his
detractors: those who felt he was not worth a fraction of
the £20 million Liverpool paid for him and citing his
failure to find the net as ample evidence.
But the striker went some way to silencing the naysayers
with a superb finish against Arsenal the previous week and
looked a forward in prime form and high on confidence as he
demolished Bolton’s hopes of turning this game in their
His first and Liverpool’s second arrived on 53 minutes as
Steven Gerrard burst from midfield before feeding the
striker in on goal - Keane took a touch and rifled a
left-foot effort past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Keane’s second was a sharp finish that rounded off an
incisive Liverpool passing move that highlighted the gulf in
class between the two teams - Alonso fed Benayoun who
crossed for Keane to tap home from five yards to wrap up all
three points for The Reds.
There were further chances for Liverpool to extend their
lead as Keane and Dirk Kuyt collided as Keane was about to
pull the trigger for his hat-trick, while Bolton could have
snatched a late consolation when Ebi Smolarek dragged a shot
inches wide at the other end.
While Liverpool have undoubtedly missed the goals of star
striker Fernando Torres, boss Benitez will surely have seen
enough in Keane in recent weeks to shelve any plans he might
have had to ditch the striker in January.