So, have you done your democratic duty and voted in the Signing of the Season and Young Player of the Season polls yet? Have you taken a spin or two by the sites of our season ending pollstavaganza guest editors' sites Well Red, Unprofessional Foul, A Football Report, and Avoiding the Drop lately? You have? Well, in that case I suppose we might as well take a look at what's going on in the world of Liverpool news on the internet today...
* "Cruising through West Kirby is a cream Mini Cooper, Union Jack roof, Union Jack wing mirrors. Behind the wheel, smiling beatifically, is Rafa Benitez."
If you're not hooked by that introductory paragraph to the Sunday Times' recent extended interview with the former Liverpool manager that's bouncing around all the Liverpool forums, well, I'm just not sure I understand you at all. For all the rest who can't help but chuckle at the mental image, it marks the start of a great piece that touches on everything from Champions League tactics to Manchester United to the man's likely future in the Premier League. We also get a little further insight into Kenny Dalglish's return to the club:
He approves of Dalglish’s permanent appointment at Anfield. “I brought Kenny back to Liverpool because he knows the soul of the club. I thought he could be the key, I wanted him more involved in football things but the people in charge put him as ambassador.” Those people, Tom Hicks and George Gillett (“they talked about not transfers but ‘the draft’,” Benitez snorts) contrasted with Liverpool’s current owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
“The difference with these Americans is that they listen to people who know about football. They analyse things with statistics but in the end they know that football’s a different sport. They’re 100% supportive. The whole club sticks together, something we didn’t have.”
Does Benitez wish he’d worked under FSG? “Yeah. It’s a pity. But I cannot think about that,” he says. “Kenny’s doing a fantastic job, I’m happy the club’s moving forward."
It's a great interview and well worth the time. I only wish its author had taken the time to fully describe Rafa's attempts to use condiments to explain the difficulties of teaching Ryan Babel.
* Make no mistake, Liverpool didn't deserve three points against Tottenham on Sunday, but when the press wire comes out with stories referencing Howard Webb's "series of odd decisions" in addition to calling the penalty given against John Flanagan clearly both outside the box and one that should have been a foul awarded to him rather than against him, well, the referee might have had a bad day. And of course when it comes to Howard Webb and Liverpool, just about every Liverpool fan goes into any match he officiates expecting a handful of erroneous major decisions. Seeing as almost every fanbase that isn't Manchester United's feels the same way about Webb, it might be fair to say that it's generally less a determined bent and more that he's extremely consistent in his inconsistency and at times inconsistent in his competency. Still, as Dalglish talked about in the wake of Sunday's loss, something seems wrong about a system where referees like Webb are never required to justify their decisions, no matter how badly or often they screw up.
Of course, this is the FA we're talking about, so meaningful exploration of important issues affecting the game is probably too much to ask for. They were probably too busy patting themselves on the back over what a "magical" FA Cup competition had been had this year to notice Webb having a nightmare showing on Sunday anyhow.
* Meanwhile, Yahoo's Eurosport decides to dive right into the "Does Liverpool still need Steven Gerrard?" question. It sounds controversial, but then ends up on the idea that while he might not be the essential cornerstone to the team he once was, he could still be a valuable piece of what is becoming a new-look Liverpool under Dalglish. Which is hardly controversial but probably makes the most sense for all involved, as when one considers his age and injury record, a future that finds ways to integrate Gerrard into the larger team construct as an important component but not as its at times overwhelming focal point seems likely the only sensible option.
The only question, of course, is how willing and able Gerrard himself will be to adapt to a world where the team is specifically set up not to look to him at every moment as Captain Fantastic.
Well, that's just about what's going on in the world of Liverpool news today. If it's not enough to keep you occupied, well, there are always all those aforementioned season ending polls to distract you. If that's still not enough, I suppose there'll be something else coming along soon enough. In the meantime, try to deal with the realisation that apparently Jonjo Shelvey has a kid...