mcgillianaire: (Football player)
Last November, 80 Stoke City football fans were rounded up by Greater Manchester Police under Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. Their crime? A belief that they may cause trouble later. The fans were on their way to watch their team play Manchester United when they stopped at the Railway Inn in Irlam. Although there was no complaint from the landlord of the pub, the officers surrounded the fans and aggressively ordered them onto police buses and drove them back to Stoke. Some fans had not even traveled from Stoke. The fans were falsely imprisoned for four hours during which they were not allowed to take lavatory breaks.
    "Deprived of toilet facilities on the coach, the supporters were instructed to urinate into cups, which spilled over the floor of the bus so that they had to sit with urine sloshing around their feet for the 40-mile journey back."
They also missed their football match. One of the fans made a complaint and his case was taken up by the Football Supporters' Federation and Liberty for judicial review. The courts held the police had acted unlawfully and awarded damages of £2,750 to the claimant. About twenty further complaints are outstanding and are expected to result in similar payments. It has also emerged that a similar operation carried out by South Yorkshire Police in early December also resulted in Plymouth Argyle football fans being prevented from legitimately attending a match at Doncaster. The fans were escorted halfway across the country to Plymouth, at great expense, using police cars and helicopters from several different forces. The fans are still negotiating compensation with the police.

These incidents highlight the abuse of the new Section 27 powers which allow police to:
    "Direct individuals to leave a locality. This is where an individual's presence is likely to cause or contribute to the occurrence, repetition or continuance of alcohol-related crime or disorder in a locality and it is necessary to remove the individual from the locality for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of there being such crime or disorder in the locality."
However to invoke Section 27 the officers must have a good reason (ie a complaint from the landlord or evidence of drunken behaviour). Moreover there is no requirement to sign Section 27 forms which the Stoke City fans were forced to do under threat of arrest and the powers only apply to individuals, not large groups. The court's decision is a positive outcome for all football fans.
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

The most famous Kop in the world, the day I visited Anfield for the first time, 22 November 2008.

The season is officially over. So close yet so far... it's a season I'll never forget. Fulham qualified for Europe! Whodathunkit?!
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

I am never going to watch another Liverpool game sitting with opposition supporters. What a dramatic finish. I had to clench my fist in my mouth to make sure I didn't celebrate the last-gasp winner. I wish I could've celebrated. It was such an incredible finish to a game we dominated and hit the posts not once, not twice, not thrice but four times! What a way to sign-off an incredible season at Craven Cottage. Because of my upcoming exams, I probably will not be going to see another match till next season. I'd never seen Liverpool win before and to get a winner seconds before what looked like yet another disappointing draw, was simply magical. And it was scored at our end. Nobody complained, Fulham deserved to lose. It briefly put us top of the table and if it wasn't for the injury time winner at Old Trafford today, we'd've stayed top till next weekend. Oh well, at least we're still in the hunt and putting pressure on the bastards down the M62. And it's back to the European Cup. We host Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday evening. Should be an absolute corker. YNWA
mcgillianaire: (Football player)

You score a hat trick in your last game for the club's reserves. FACT.
Your efforts are recognised and you're named on the subs bench of your first team. FACT.
Your first team have just lost their last two games on the trot for the first time in three years. FACT.
Your team is a quarter-hour from losing a third game on the trot for the first time in eight years. FACT.
You're brought into the game to make your debut in front of 75,000 disappointed fans. FACT.
You're only seventeen years old. FACT.
You are into injury time. FACT.
You score a scorching goal to snatch victory from the jaws of victory. FACT.
You become an instant global footballing legend. FACT.
Your number of fans on Facebook quadruples in just over an hour, and it's still growing. FACT.
Your name is Federico Macheda. FACT.

As a Liverpool fan it was a devastating end to the match. But that's football. You just gotta take it on the chin and move on...
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

It is a bright and sunny afternoon in London Town. And where will you be when The Reds Go Marching In? I know where I'll be. I'll be at Craven Cottage. It's the match I've been waiting for all season. Hopefully it'll be fourth-time lucky. I've never seen us win. I hope Stevie G takes a corner kick (or two) from our side of the pitch. It's been more than a year since we lost a match with both him and Torres in the starting line-up. But Fulham will be tricky customers. They have the best record against the Big Four this season, with victories at home over United and Arsenal and draws away at The Emirates, Anfield, and against Chelsea at home. I hope we win and go top of the table, albeit briefly. The odds on winning the title are still stacked against us but the key word is pressure. We need to run the Red Devils ragged. Make them earn every point from herein till the end of the season. I want them to sweat, toil and bleed. Is it too much to ask for? It's been too long. Nineteen years. It will be an emotional evening at The Cottage. COME ON YOU REDS!!!! YNWA

PS: I just realised that it is EXACTLY a year since I saw us play for the first time. And like I did then, I know I'm gonna cry when I hear our fans sing.
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
The FA is being criticised for selling the rights to today's match to Setanta. I think it's a fucking disgrace the match wasn't broadcast on terrestrial TV.
mcgillianaire: (Football player)

I love it. The first time the official home strip is all-white, a throwback to the 1966 World Cup Quarterfinal when Bobby Moore and Co. played in all-white against the Argentinians. The Radio 5 Live commentators have criticised it but I think it's brilliant. No frills, simple and crisp. It's just too expensive.
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
From The Beeb:
    Chelsea have unveiled a search for talented young footballers from Asian communities. The new Asian Star scheme is aimed at young players aged 12 to 14 and will run at Chelsea's Cobham training ground between May 2-4. Gifted young players identified by the club's academy coaching staff will be offered a further three-day trial. There are seven UK-born Asians playing in England's top four divisions, with none at the highest level after Michael Chopra left Sunderland for Cardiff. Chelsea have two British Asian players at their academy.
Bayern Munich is playing friendlies in India, Arsenal has been training Indian schoolboys for a year, Manchester United is looking for an Indian shirt sponsor and even Chelsea, with an infamously racist past, has joined the Invest-in-Asians bandwagon. Liverpool FC, wake up and smell the chai!!!
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)
From The Times:
    India’s growing status as a significant player in world sport has been underlined by reports that Manchester United have sent a shirt sponsorship proposal to the Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate. United are seeking a new name to emblazon across their chests because their four-year, $100 million deal with AIG expires at the end of next season and will not be renewed. The club sent a proposal to another Indian company, the Sahara Group, in January. "There are various sponsorship options, one for the team shirt. This has been going on for some time but nothing has been finalised," a brand consultant with the Tata Group told Reuters. The group’s diverse interests include steel, cars, power, tea, hotels, communications and information technology. The software arm of the group, Tata Consultancy Services, is one of the sponsors of the Ferrari Formula One team. Last month, the chief executive of Air Asia, the Malaysian budget airline, said that his company was mulling over the possibility of becoming United’s shirt sponsor. Saudi Telecom and Prudential, the British insurer, have also been linked.
It had to happen at some point but United could not have chosen a worse time than during a credit crunch that has severely affected parts of the Tata Group, particularly its motor division. And though it involves the Red Devils, it's a great first step. After all they are currently the world's best football club.

And if Tata does become United's sponsor, they can guarantee themselves a whole new generation of dedicated Indian fans. Any surprise they are going to present next season's jersey in China first? Tempting as it is to have wanted Liverpool to take the lead with getting an Indian sponsor, I am quite attached to our Carlsberg jerseys which have remained unchanged for seventeen years. That's nearly as long as the last time we won the league title...
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)
Before our game against Villa on Sunday afternoon, several pundits predicted that Martin O'Neill would sacrifice Emile Heskey up front by employing an extra midfielder. He didn't and I'm wondering if that would've made a significant difference. Villa dominated the game for about twenty minutes between our first and second goals and having that extra midfielder could've made all the difference. It's an interesting thought and certainly a strategy that will be employed by at least a few of the managers in the season run-in. It's a strategy that worked wonders for Hull, Fulham, Stoke (twice) and West Ham.

Sometimes a defeat against a shit opponent can truly galvanise a team and in some ways I'm glad we were thrashed 2-nil by Middlesbrough, days before playing Real Madrid at home. The response was incredible. Never had I seen a Liverpool team come out with such attacking intent and it took Madrid by great surprise. They never recovered and our confidence has soared.

The fact is, little has changed with the teams that drew the weaker clubs earlier this season and the ones that have destroyed Madrid, United and Villa. I just hope we don't lose any/too many players during the international break nor the momentum that has been generated in March. Fifteen goals and just one conceded in four games last month. Thankfully, the serious charges in Gerrard's criminal case have been dropped and Rafa has signed a new contract. The owners appear to have kissed and made up (albeit temporarily) and there seems to be an acceptable level of stability at all levels.

I also think Rafa has finally sussed out his best team: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Kuyt, Alonso, Mascherano, Riera, Gerrard and Torres. The 4-2-3-1 formation is working wonders after years of tinkering with 4-4-2.

Reina is a quality keeper and if it wasn't for Casillas at Madrid, he'd be Spain's national goalkeeper. It's the toughest position to play in, especially if you're extremely good and play second fiddle at club or international level. The stand-out in Reina's game is his ability to get rid of the ball quickly and accurately. He has a great kick and arms of steel. And he is a great penalty-saver but questions remain over his ability to remain calm in big European games and those against the Big Four. Overall he is one of the Premier League's best custodians and a very safe pair of hands.

Arbeloa and Aurelio are decent full-backs but are not world-class. They get the job done. My only issue with Arbeloa is the number of bad tackles he puts in. He's by far our worst yellow-card offender. Aurelio on the other hand has done incredibly well to recover from career-threatening knee injuries to fill the void left by Riise and is our second-best free-kick taker (after Gerrard of course). The fact he is a naturally left-footed player offers much-needed variation. His goals against Portsmouth and United augur well for the future. He must be extremely relieved that Rafa has put pen to paper and extended his contract because he would've been the first to leave us had Rafa not.

Carra and Skrtel are no-nonsense centrebacks. They also get the job done and are not afraid to simply kick the ball out of play if the situation demands it. They are also not world-class, though Carra certainly should be playing for England. While it suits Liverpool that he retired from national duty, it wasn't one of his wiser decisions. He would be a more-than-useful sub in South Africa.

Riera and Kuyt are dependable wingers but again, they're not world-class. Riera has excellent ball control, pace and along with Benayoun, our players with the most flair. The problem is that he has blown hot-and-cold for most of the season. He needs consistency. I also don't like the fact that he is our number one simulator. :) As for Kuyt, he's our most hardworking player but absolutely shit as a goalscorer. Though to be fair he has done a lot better this season and has balanced the disproportionate number of goals he was making in the European Cup last season with the Premier League this season. He remains a weak link on the right and it's a position that needs to be filled with a proper winger over the summer.

Then there's Mascha and Alonso. Now they're both world-class, particularly the Argentine. If it weren't for Gerrard and Carra, he'd be our club captain, in addition to the international honour bestowed upon him by his new manager Maradona. Mascha is the perfect foil to Alonso. He puts in 100% every game and his tackles are second-to-none. He makes Alonso's job so much easier as the distributor. Both have incredible vision and match-situation awareness. They are the reason we do so well in Europe and we're really going to miss Mascha in the first-leg at Stamford Bridge.

And finally, the Dynamic Duo. After all the problems between Rafa and Gerrard in their first three seasons together, the arrival of Torres and his immediate chemistry with the captain has changed our fortunes completely. Rafa has stopped using Gerrard as a right-and-left midfielder and instead given him the freedom to roam in front of the midfield, just behind Torres. Funnily enough, it's not even Gerrard's preferred position but the manager has convinced him that it's his current best position. And the legend has realised it for himself. So many of our goals are being scored and created by the duo and naturally the dependence on them has presented us with our biggest weakness. An injury to either or both will derail the rest of our season: both in Europe and in the league. It cannot be stated enough just how crucial they are to our future success.

Which brings us to the subs bench. This is Liverpool's second major weakness. Unlike United, we simply do not have the like-for-like replacements to strike fear in the opposition as the main eleven do. Cavalieri and Itandje as goalies have rarely played a game but from the little I've seen of Itandje, he has been pathetically pathetic. Cavalieri has done marginally better but is no comparison to Reina.

Insua and Dossena at left-back are decent but worse than Aurelio. Insua is a great prospect for the future. He was part of Argentina's Olympic winning squad and from the little we've seen of him, has stepped up to the plate magnificently. But he's inexperienced. And Dossena is simply too slow for the Premier League. We need suitable reinforcements at left-back this summer. And on the right we have Degen who hasn't played much so I can't really comment. But there's nobody else which means in the case of injury to both him and Arbeloa, Carra or Mascha will be forced to cover while either Hyypia or Agger take over at the centre.

Hyypia is getting too old for a Big Four team but he still oozes class whenever given the opportunity. His quality in the air has resulted in some key goals for us this season and he remains our best bet in the case of injury to Skrtel or Carra. Agger is also decent and has received attention from AC Milan but I don't rate him too highly. He gets the job done but has been run ragged by the best attackers. Final verdict, we need a solid world-class reinforcement at the centre, especially if Agger and Hyypia leave this summer.

For our midfielders we have Babel, Benayoun, Lucas, El Zhar, Plessis and Spearing. Babel has massively flattered to deceive the 12 milion squid we dished out for him. I know he's young but he wastes too much time on the ball, gives it away too easily and doesn't pass to his teammates enough. That said, I want him to stay at Liverpool because he's got a bright future. Perhaps Rafa should try to use him more in his preferred central striker role, especially if the worst befalls Torres. There's no doubting his talent and it would be a pity to lose him this summer because he's not getting enough chances. Besides, he's a half-decent rapper which fills the void left by John Barnes. Christmas number one anyone? Benayoun meanwhile is not as talented as Babel but he is an extremely useful squad player. He always gives his best and has scored some crucial goals this season. He can play on both wings and even behind the striker which could come useful in the season run-in. But I have doubts about him becoming a better player than he already is and with his lack of involvement this season, could probably be heading for the exit this summer.

Then there's Lucas who arrived with much fanfare but has rarely replicated his Brazilian form in England. I think he gets more shtick than he deserves and though he is quite a letdown as a replacement for Alonso, is the best we've got in that position and will have to make do for now. I think he's done a decent job with distribution with the few chances he's been given and will be sufficient in case we need to use him more this season. But it's a gap that will need to be filled over the summer. As for El Zhar, Plessis and Spearing. I think the less said the better. They're simply not Premier League quality, let alone Big Four material. But they're young have a bright future. Nevertheless, they should only be used in dire emergencies.

And finally, up front. N'Gog. Who? Fuck. We're absofuckinglutely fucked. I don't care what Rafa thinks of him or the talent he has or the promise he fulfiled at PSG. The guy is too young, too inexperienced and simply the worst replacement for Torres. But it does get worse. Rafa has also tried using El Zhar up front. Which is why Rafa needs to try out Babel. He couldn't do any worse, could he? Or even Benayoun. Anybody but N'Gog. This is the difference between Liverpool and pretty much the rest of Europe's best. United have Rooney, Berbatov and Tevez. Chelsea have Drogba, Anelka and Kalou. Arsenal have Adebayor, Van Persie and Arshavin. We have N'Gog. What a fucking disgrace. If we lose Torres for the rest of the season, we're fucking fucked.

All in all, we've got a decent chance to win at least one trophy with our best eleven. There are reasonable replacements in all positions except up front. If Torres and Gerrard remain fit till the end then we will give United a run for their money. Perhaps we might even make the European Cup semis but I doubt we can reach the final. I hope we do. It takes place the day after my exams finish. What an icing on the cake that would be.

mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)
From The Times: Steven Gerrard joked he was worried that he would be substituted before he could complete his hat-trick. "You always do when Rafa’s in charge," the Liverpool captain, said, laughing. "He might take you off when you’re on two just to keep your feet on the ground." Good Night!
mcgillianaire: (London Weather Forecast)
PROs: Liverpool score 13 goals against Real Madrid, Manchester United and Aston Villa. Manchester United then lose to Fulham and 
      have a total of three players sent off in a week. Everton and Chelsea lose crucial games to Portsmouth and Spurs. Rafa 
      Benitez ends weeks of speculation by signing a new contract and the owners promise a summer transfer kitty of 30million 
      squid. SRT scores his 42nd Test century, his 3rd in 4 matches, as India cruise to a 10-wicket victory and their first in 
      New Zealand for over 30 years. London experiences sunny weather for a whole week without a break. And finally the icing 
      on the cake, my mum prebooks her ticket to London by three weeks.

CONs: I lose my wallet, camera and phone. Stress levels rise as final exams loom. Liverpool draw Chelsea and play @ Anfield 1st.
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

When was the last time a team scored at least four goals in three consecutive matches against former European Cup champions?
mcgillianaire: (Football player)

5 Sept 1964. That was the last time Fulham beat Man United in a league match at home. Today I witnessed history in the making as The Red Devils succumbed to their second consecutive loss. As a Liverpool fan you couldn't ask for a better way to start a warm and sunny London afternoon. But it did get better. News filtered in that Everton were losing to Portsmouth and Chelsea were trailing Spurs a few miles away. Surely not. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. Liverpool were being presented with a golden opportunity to get back into the title race, even if United had a game in hand. The atmosphere at Craven Cottage was electrifying. Ronaldo was constantly jeered and at one point the whole ground started calling him a wanker. In the second half Rooney came off the bench and got himself booked. The crowd started giving him the Frank Lampard treatment by calling him a fat bastard. The crowd pressure paid off as the Liverpudlian's petulance gave way and he was soon given his marching orders. By that point Fulham had nicked a brilliant second-goal at our end and the crowd were delirious. I was in dream land. Danny Murphy, a former Liverpool legend and scorer of three winning goals against The Devils set the ball rolling for The Cottagers. It's been an incredible ten days. Four-nil against Real Madrid. Four goals at Old Trafford. A Fulham victory and two United players sent off. A Chelsea loss, an Everton loss, an SRT century and India's first Test victory in New Zealand for more than thirty years. You could almost say this has been the two greatest weeks of me life! COME ON YOU REDS!!!
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

Group Stage, check.
Quarterfinal, check.
Semifinal, check.

Only a Final to go. Maybe we'll play them there next year!
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

Rugby season is upon us and it was almost impossible to find a drinking establishment that was showing the Liverpool game yesterday. Eventually I did find one and it was the tastefully named tavern in the picture above. It's right outside Highbury & Islington Station. The picture is more than nine months old and was taken as I was coming out of the station for the very first time. It's almost impossible not to want to take a picture of the pub's name and indeed it is not unusual to see fellow first-time exiters of the station doing the same. Since I first saw it I had been meaning to go back and get Famously Cocked but never got around to it. At least not until I found myself walking towards the station disappointed that every pub in town seemed more bothered about the Ireland and France game than the one that really mattered. Just as I was about to enter the station and try and make it home for the last few minutes of the game, I noticed a different kind of ball game being broadcast inside. It was still nil-nil and eight minutes to go to half-time. I couldn't believe my luck. We came back from a goal-down twice to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in injury time. We're still in the title hunt. And the Irish won their game too. The tavern was also broadcasting the rugby on a screen behind me.
mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)

As much as I hate to publicly admit it, there's one thing I truly admire about the second greatest English football club of all-time. Wait, scrap that. Let me just say once and only once that I envy, infact am jealous of United's ability to scramble a victory just as the Beeb has started putting the finishing touches to their piece on a disappointing draw result. Not once, not twice but season after season Manchester United secures all three points when they are lucky to deserve just one. Liverpool supporters were seconds away from celebrating two perfect results before our derby against Everton on Monday. But that was before Frank Lampard and Dimitar Berbatov decided to ruin the weekend as the latter propelled the Mancunians to the top of the League for the first time this season.

Some commentators and even some Anfield fans have declared the Mancunians as Premier League champions already. I know they are speaking too soon. I think it's good for Liverpool that we have been knocked off the top and there's no better club to be competing with than our greatest rivals of all-time. As fantastic as it has been to lead the pack for several weeks now, this is not the time for Rafa's typical cautious play. If we want to be champions, we need to play more positively and take attacking risks. You could even say I'm sorta glad United has overtaken us because hopefully it will force Rafa to throw a bit of caution to the wind. I think we are a much better team when the players are given the freedom to express themselves instead of continually following Rafa's pre-ordained scripts. Such tactics work wonders in Cup competitions but not in a League of thirty-eight matches. COME ON YOU REDS!!! YNWA!!!
mcgillianaire: (Football player)



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