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Gerrard and Agger Fit, More on Rafa, and Other Thursday Notes

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Something Different
It's a hat. Look at it. Look. At. It.

Yippee ki yay, it's almost time for uncomfortable conversations with in-laws or morosely sitting and wishing you had in-laws to have uncomfortable conversations with. Either way, the liquor companies win. And meanwhile nobody knows what the hell is going on with the Boxing Day match against the Seasiders, stuck as they are by the blustery North Sea or Black Sea or Salton Sea or whatever. Usually being by a large body of water moderates temperatures at least slightly. Unless you're right up next to a cold current, which won't be the case for England until the Gulf Stream reverses one of these years and everybody's playing their footie beneath the frozen dykes along the Meresy as a son waits for his father to save him from the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Right, where was I? Chrsitmas? Blackpool match still a coin-flip? Drunken holiday stream-of-consciousness rambling? Bruce Willis set to star in the summer flopbuster of 2012? Wait, no, they already made that one, and he wasn't in it. Whatever, it still sucked. And now for something completely different...

* Because Rafa equals hits (and people yelling at me in amusingly idiotic fashion), let's start with a bit of this: "Rafa Benitez may not have conquered, but he continues to divide." It's a good headline, I suppose, though it could use five or six exclamation marks to really drive things home. But anyhow, the article: Over in The Telegraph, Rory Smith looks at Rafa's continuing legacy amongst Liverpool supporters even as his nascent empire is falling apart around his ears in Milan, and though some of the passages seem tailored to draw a reaction from one side or the other, on the whole it's an interesting diversion. And also RAFA RAFA RAFA RAFA RAFA!!!!!

That, though, is Benitez: few managers, few characters in football divide more than the Spaniard. He is, to some, the winner of the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, two Spanish titles, the FA Cup and, most recently, the Club World Cup, the first manager to win major trophies with sides from Europe’s three big leagues. He is a tactical innovator, adept at maximising minimal resources to maximum effect. He produces sides – Valencia and the Liverpool of 2009, most notably – who play powerful, quick, effective football. He is warm and personable, possessed of a common touch.

Damn right, Rory! Preach it, brother! Wooo!!!!!

To others, he is cold and calculating, a Macchiavellian plotter of almost compulsive belligerence. He is never happier than when he is at war with someone, something. He alienates players, chooses baffling systems, tinkers persistently. He thinks he is cleverer than he is, he is evasive and arrogant. His sides are stultifying, his success down to the spending of vast amounts of money he had at Anfield or the incompetence of others, as at Valencia. 2010, his annus horribilis, in which he lost two jobs – one by text, one by email – was simply the year his luck ran out.

You wrong-headed bastard! I'm blocking your Twitter!

* Meanwhile, on the front that concerns the players--the players front, if you will, certainly not to be confused with the rather unsavoury player's front or, somewhat confusingly, the players' front--it appears as though both Gerrard and Agger will be fit to return against Blackpool. If there's a match against Blackpool. Which we still don't know if there will be or not. And it doesn't seem likely that Agger will return in any case, really, does it? I mean, quite an extended lay-off plus being out of favour with the manager when he got injured plus at best sub-par conditions assuming the match is played at all, but... right, I'm rambling again. Nevermind.

* So, the next few days will be busy for most. But still, one imagines you might have a spell of downtime--or just damn-well need a spell of down time, however you can manage to get it--and if that's the case, then the LFCTV interview and Q&A session with John Henry and Tom Werner from last week has been released as a free podcast on the official site.

I know, free. I always do like the sound of that, and there you were having missed it when it first ran and you were always curious but it just seemed like too much trouble to track down the details or clips or whatever. But then you're probably saying: Podcasts a week after the fact? What is this, 2006? And where the hell does that leave you, Noel, with just your antiquated little tappety-tappety-tap-tap over there on the keyboard? Eh, where's that leave you, you smug bastard?

Well, in light of that last bit where you got all pissy with me when I was just trying to be helpful, I'm almost tempted to consider thinking about not including a clip with today's news roundup, but since I already had the embedding code cut out and all that, I suppose you can have it anyhow. So here, have a helpful little guide on how not to be seen by those you might rather wish to avoid over the next couple of days. Bloody ingrates...