Tag Archive: Steven Gerrard


Michael Carrick’s noble statement that he would definitely “consider” an England call up, this season, yet again exposes the problems footballers have with being a reserve.

The Manchester United star withdrew his name from selection in January, after a dissatisfying 2010 World Cup campaign.

Being withdrawn, he was not selected for Roy Hodgson’s side for this summer’s Euro 2012 tournament, and he recently admitted to Betfair.com that he would have rejected a call-up, even if it were formally made.

Carrick outlined the situation at the World Cup as the reasons for his decision to focus on club football. Having made the squad, he trained and camped with his teammates but did not get a minute of play in South Africa, a predicament he foresaw should he join the Euro 2012 set-up.

But, when Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry pulled out of the campaign injured, the perfect replacement in the centre of the park was back at home. Instead of Carrick partnering Steven Gerrard in midfield, responsibility was handed to the inexperienced Jordan Henderson, who was largely ineffectual in Ukraine.

Carrick’s presence may well have bolstered England’s midfield during their quarter-final defeat to Italy, where Andrea Pirlo ran the show in the centre of the pitch. In deciding not to represent his country – even simply as a substitute – Carrick has surely rejected any chance of getting back into the side.

For why should a man dissatisfied with life on the subs bench be awarded a starting role?

Jamie Carragher, Liverpool’s rock in defence for the past decade, retired from international football as he was not getting a game. His appearance in South Africa, therefore, was disheartening to say the least, as he had not earned the right from playing England qualifiers.

The noble Carrick, if he wants to be part of England again at a major tournament, must prove himself willing to work with the squad during their next qualification campaign.

Visit the Betfair Premiership website for the best odds, picks, and tips for the upcoming campaign, as well as the 2012/13 Champions League.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

After nine months and 825 clubs battling it out in the oldest cup competition in the world, we have reached the last two to battle it out in this year’s FA Cup Final.

Liverpool and Chelsea will meet at Wembley tomorrow evening to decide the 131st showpiece event for English football’s most famous domestic cup, and these are two sides that have a rich FA Cup tradition.

The Reds have won the trophy on seven occasions and last lifted the cup back in 2006, when a last-gasp equaliser by Steven Gerrard and heroics from Pepe Reina in the penalty shootout saw them overcome West Ham in one of the all-time great finals.

Chelsea’s recent history in the competition is unmatched; while they have won the cup six times, three of those triumphs have come in the last five seasons and are now one win away from four in six.

While Liverpool have stuttered in the Premier League this season, their cup form has been peerless; having won the Carling Cup back in February, Kenny Dalglish’s side are looking to complete a domestic cup double.     Continue reading

By Laurie Fitzgerald

England prepare to take on the Netherlands at Wembley tomorrow on the back of a hugely eventful last few weeks in the set-up of the national side.

Fabio Capello is no longer in charge after the Italian resigned following the Football Association’s decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy, with his impending court case for charges of racial abuse against Anton Ferdinand not due to take place until after Euro 2012.

So with no permanent captain and no permanent manager in place, Stuart Pearce has taken temporary charge while the FA decide who is the best choice to take the side to Poland & Ukraine this summer.

The Under-21 boss has picked a few fresh faces within the squad for tomorrow’s game, as the likes of Frazier Campbell and Tom Cleverley find themselves gaining international recognition.     Continue reading

2011/12 Carling Cup Final Preview

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Today the first domestic final of the English season takes place, as Liverpool and Cardiff City battle it out at Wembley stadium in the Carling Cup Final.

The Reds are firm favourites to win their eighth League Cup against Championship opponents that are competing in their first final in this competition.

But while Cardiff are familiar with the new Wembley after they lost in the 2008 FA Cup Final to Portsmouth, this is Liverpool’s first trip to the famous arena since it was rebuilt and opened back in 2007.

For Kenny Dalglish it’s a welcome return to a major cup final as Liverpool manager, his first in the Anfield hotseat since winning the all-Merseyside FA Cup Final back in 1989.   Continue reading

By Laurie Fitzgerald

On Friday the Football Association announced that John Terry would not be eligible for the England captaincy in this year’s European Championships.

After a meeting with the FA board, Chairman David Bernstein announced that Terry could not carry on with the armband with the charges of racial abuse against Anton Ferdinand, after his court case was adjourned until July.

While they stressed that the Chelsea centre-back will be available for selection, it would be difficult for Terry to captain the national side and unable to have the chance to clear his name until after the tournament.

It’s a decision that has split public opinion, with many feeling that Terry should remain captain on the basis of innocent until proven guilty.   Continue reading

By Laurie Fitzgerald

England secured their place in Euro 2012 after getting the point they needed in Montenegro to top Group G.

Despite blowing a two-goal lead and seeing Wayne Rooney sent off for violent conduct, the draw was enough to see England reach their first European Championships since 2004.

Fabio Capello‘s men will be among the top bracket of teams that will feature in Poland and Ukraine next summer, but what are their chances up against the rest of Europe’s elite?

One point that instantly comes to mind is wondering how long Rooney’s suspension will last through the tournament.

The 26 year-old’s petulant kick out at defender Miodrag Dzudovic with 15 minutes remaining not only had ramifications for the rest of Friday night’s game.

It also meant that the Manchester United striker is banned for a minimum of one match in the finals in June, and with a violent conduct charge it could lead to UEFA giving him an extended ban.

Losing Rooney is a massive blow to England’s chances next summer as he is the talisman of the side, and if the suspension is for more than the opening game then Capello will have to look for a plan B to at least get through the group stages.

Throughout the qualifying campaign, Capello has adopted two types of formation that have served England relatively well, with the side remaining unbeaten throughout their eight encounters.

With either 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, the players have grown accustomed to the different strategy from the 4-4-2 heavily used by the Italian at the World Cup last year.

While that proved to be unsuccessful, England now have a Plan A and B in case teams figure them out, and this could be crucial during a major tournament.

What has also been encouraging is the development of other player from the more established names as the national side starts to develop towards the future.

Players like Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Jack Wilshere have come to the fore in the absence of key figures such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand.

Other players including Scott Parker and Stewart Downing have matured over the past 12 months at International level.

With other youngsters coming through in Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker and Danny Welbeck, the future is beginning to look really bright.

But the short term question is whether or not England have a squad capable of coping with the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland in eight months time.

The simple truth of the matter is that as things stand, we are behind those teams and therefore the semi-finals has to be more of a realistic aim.

Now Capello has to figure out who is going to spearhead his attack going into the tournament in the absence of Rooney, and make sure his loss – whether it’s for one game or more – doesn’t have a major impact on our chances in Eastern Europe next year .

 So what do you think? How will England fare at Euro 2012? Will Rooney’s impending ban affect the team’s chances? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Tonight sees England take on Montenegro in Podgorica knowing that at least a draw will secure their place at Euro 2012 next summer.

Fabio Capello‘s men currently sit six points clear of this evening’s opponents going into the final two round of fixtures.

But England will be well aware that with this fixture being their final qualifying game, Montenegro can still technically finish above them if they cause a shock.

A win tonight followed up by three points in Switzerland on Tuesday means that Montenegro would win the group as they’d have a better head-to-head record, leaving England to try and qualify through the play-offs.

So England cannot afford to be complacent and make sure that they don’t need any favours from the Swiss next week.

Capello has caused a stir going into the match with his squad selection, with some notable absentees from the 24-man squad.

The Italian has left out the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Joleon Lescott, Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe as he keeps the faith in those that have performed in recent games.

Ferdinand is the biggest shock having worked his way back to full fitness, and it is a dramatic fall from grace for the man that was still England skipper only six months ago.

He has been ousted by the likes of Manchester United team-mates Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who have filled in admirably in the absence of the more experienced Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Jones’ remarkable rise could now see him replace Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence and partner captain John Terry for this crucial game.

Gerrard’s exclusion is more understandable with the influential Liverpool midfielder only just returning from a lengthy lay-off and admitting that this week’s international duty has come round too soon for him.

The absence of Lescott, Sturridge and Defoe is more surprising as all three have been in impressive form for Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham respectively.

Bobby Zamora was the selection that caught the eye, as the Fulham striker is now fully fit having put the heartache of his broken leg from last campaign behind him.

While Montenegro are set to pose a much sterner test than their last away trip in Bulgaria, England are expected to line up with a similar team that won comfortably in Sofia last month, but with a tweak in the formation.

Having played around with different strategies such as 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, the Italian may now resort back to 4-4-2 if he decides to play someone up top with Wayne Rooney.

Joe Hart will start in goal, with Terry and Jones set to get the nod at centre-back and Ashley Cole performing his usual duties at left-back.

There is an interesting selection headache at right-back with both Micah Richards and Kyle Walker impressing in recent weeks and vying to replace the injured Smalling, who played in that position in the previous two qualifiers.

Scott Parker is set to start ahead of Gareth Barry in the holding midfield role instead of alongside him – then there is a battle for who will be selected in the more attacking central midfield role.

It seems that the supposedly finished Frank Lampard will start with Parker having scored four goals in his last two games for Chelsea after being dropped for the Bulgaria game five weeks ago.

Lampard’s experience could play a big part in what is sure to be an intense atmosphere, and it will be a surprise if the 33 year-old is left out of the starting XI.

Ashley Young seems a certainty after his excellent season so far on the wing, and Stewart Downing is expected to fill the other wide berth after being one of the few to impress in their narrow win at home to Wales last time out, although Theo Walcott has been a regular throughout the campaign and may edge out the Liverpool man.

Rooney picks himself up front having been arguably the player of the season so far in the Premier League and will spearhead the English attack later on.

But the surprise could be that club team-mate Danny Welbeck is played alongside him, having developed a clear understanding whilst playing together at United.

For Capello, tonight is the perfect opportunity to wrap up a smooth passage to Poland & Ukraine next year.

However, defeat could create a far trickier path to get there.

So what do you think? Will England qualify this evening? Or will they get caught out by Montenegro? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

This week sees the resumption of the Euro 2012 qualifiers, and the next few days will prove to be a crucial stage for Fabio Capello and England.

The Three Lions travel to Sofia to take on Bulgaria tomorrow evening, followed by Wales’ visit to Wembley on Tuesday.

England sit at the top of Group G only on goal difference from surprise package Montenegro following a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Switzerland in their last qualifying match back in May.

Capello has had some injury concerns to overcome to regulars such as Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere.

It has seen the Italian adopt a more youhtful approach with his squad selection for the upcoming games, in particular with the call-up’s for Manchester United trio Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

All three have played a big part in United’s storming start to the Premier League season, and the rise in particular of 21 year-old Cleverley has been hugely impressive.

The Old Trafford academy graduate made great strides on loan at Wigan Athletic last season and has fully grasped his opportunity in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s starting line-up.

His remarkable rise may still continue due to the absence of both Gerrard and Wilshere.

Capello has adopted a 4-3-3 formation since the start of qualification, with Scott Parker and Frank Lampard likely to fill two of the three roles in the heart of the side.

However, the final place in that midfield is up for grabs and Cleverley will feel that he is well in contention alongside the likes of Manchester City duo Gareth Barry and James Milner.

The heart of defence is another area of discussion, with the main question being who will partner skipper John Terry at centre-half.

Even at the tender age of 19, Jones will feel that he has already proved he can step up in the absence of Ferdinand having done so at club level.

Jones will compete along with 21 year-old Smalling to partner Terry in the Vasil Levski National stadium, although Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka’s experience makes them the frontrunners.

No such problems exist with England’s attacking options, with the likes of the in-form Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott set to feature prominently.

England had no problem 12 months ago when they saw off the Bulgarians 4-0 thanks to a Jermain Defoe hat-trick.

This time it may be youth that will play a big role in helping England take a big step to qualifying for Poland & Ukraine next summer.

So what do you think? Will Capello go with a more youthful approach to his starting line-up against Bulgaria? How will England fare in Sofia? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Steven Gerrard has been accused of simulation during his career

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Another weekend of Premier League action has thrown up yet more talking points and controversy.

Some of the biggest talking points in the game occurred in Everton’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at Goodison Park, where the Toffees had the ball over Villa’s goalline, only for the goal not to be given and Darren Bent going down the other end to put the visitors ahead.

Whilst that ‘goal’ has opened up the endless debate of video technology, what seems to have caused less of a stir is the manner of Everton’s equaliser.

Phil Jagielka went down under an innocuous challenge from Jean Makoun, giving Leighton Baines the opportunity to level from the penalty spot seven minutes from time.

Makoun’s challenge on Jagielka was minimal to say the least; it can be argued that any contact which leads to the opponent falling over is sufficient enough to justify a penalty, but it’s difficult to imagine a committed centre-half like Jagielka going over so easily.

This is not to say he dived, but Jagielka went down far too easily. Yet there seems to be little criticism this week in the media of his actions.

Maybe I seem unfair, but with incidents like this, it does beg the question: do we have a bias when it comes to players going down too easily?

In the past we have been quick to point the blame at foreign footballers that have dived to win a penalty, therefore cheating to gain an unfair advantage.

When Arsenal striker Eduardo dived against Celtic in their Champions League qualifier at the Emirates two years ago, he was rightly pilloried for an act of simulation that saw his side receive a crucial penalty.

Another case in point was in 2003, when Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires went down without contact in the Gunners’ 2-0 win at home to Portsmouth.

Both players were rightly condemned for their actions. However, it seems when an English player goes down easily, the level of anger is nowhere near the same level.

Wayne Rooney has come under scrutiny in the past for possible simulation, such as when he went down under a challenge from Sol Campbell in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Arsenal in the 2004/05 season.

Steven Gerrard has also been accused on numerous occasions of diving, but the Liverpool midfielder has not had the same ferocity of displeasure that foreign players such as Pires and Eduardo have experienced.

Whenever there is a controversy like this involving an English player, it’s usually linked to the assumption that there has been a negative influence from overseas footballers teaching our home-grown stars bad habits.

But there is a sense that we are turning a blind eye to certain incidents due to our white and red-tinted specs, and this isn’t right. Simulation in football is unacceptable, no matter who it is from.

So what do you think? Do we treat controversial penalty incidents differently depending on whether they are home-grown footballers? Is criticism of the incidents involving Gerrard, Rooney and Jagielka unfair? Let us know your thoughts.

Dalglish has done a brilliant job on his return to the Anfield hotseat

By Laurie Fitzgerald

Kenny Dalglish has shown over the past couple of months just why Liverpool fans love him so much.

The Kop legend decided to take on the manager’s job at Anfield for a second time in January following a hugely disappointing season under former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson had lost the support of the fans and ultimately the new owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV) leaving Chairman John Henry no choice but to relieve the 63 year-old of his duties.

Before the appointment of Hodgson in the summer, Liverpool fans were calling for ‘King Kenny’ to be given the job, and since he has been given this role until the end of the season, Dalglish has demonstrated why these fans were so vociferous in seeing his appointment come to fruition.

The Merseyside club have 16 points in their last seven league games, including a win at home to Manchester United and victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

It has seen the team go from potentially being dragged into a relegation dogfight to potentially securing a top six finish.

Such a revival has surely done enough to see the 60 year-old be given the manager’s job on a permanent basis. So why have the owners yet to do this?

Well it seems that they finally have, with a report in the Sunday Express claiming that Dalglish has been offered a two-year deal.

There’s no doubt that Dalglish has the support of the two sectors needed for the club to move forward; the fans and the players.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone in football that understands just what the history and tradition of Liverpool football club means to the supporters. Dalglish’s love for the club and the fans can never be brought into question.

This understanding has allowed the Scot to portray to the players just what it means to play for Liverpool.

The likes of Raul Mereiles and new signing Luis Suarez have flourished under his guidance, and this has shown in the results.

The two players at Liverpool that share the same passion for the club as Dalglish have already stated their full backing to see the former no.7 appointed full-time.

Captain Steven Gerrard said shortly after his appointment, “I want to do everything in my power to ensure that he stays here for a long time, beyond the initial six months.”

Defender Jamie Carragher echoed these sentiments when he said last month, “For everyone, especially me and Stevie, he’s a hero to us. The results are obviously going very well. If you’re asking me, obviously I’d love him to be the manager.”

Carragher also stated that that decision is ultimately in the hands of the owners.

You can understand why Henry and NESV are taking their time to ensure they appoint the right man in the long term. But it’s difficult to see who else is out there that would do a better job than Dalglish.

That’s not to say that the owners don’t back Dalglish; when Fernando Torres was sold to Chelsea for a British transfer record £50 million on transfer deadline day, Henry gave him the money to bring Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll to Anfield for £35 million – a record for a British footballer.

All that’s left for the owners to do now to fully confirm their support of Dalglish is to give him the job permanently. There’s surely no other option.

What do you think? Liverpool fans, are you concerned that Dalglish has yet to get the job full-time? If you don’t think he’s the man for the long-term, then who should get it? Let us know your thoughts

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