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Riise Opens Up, Action in the Lower Levels, and Other Thursday Notes

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There's not a lot to say in the intro that Noel didn't yesterday---we're in time-killing mode, with little happening between friendlies and the wind-down of the Copa America. Besides learning that Luis Suarez and Uruguay will face Paraguay in the final on Sunday, the past twenty-four hours wouldn't have had much to shout about if it weren't for everyone's favorite ginger jackhammer and a bit of reserves and youth action. Both of which I'm sure you're dying to read about.

* John Arne Riise's transfer back to the Premier League was finalized last week, and he'll be joining Martin Jol and his brother Bjorn Helge at Fulham for the coming season. Goes without saying that this one stung a little bit---Riise was a fan favorite at Anfield, and he scored some of the most memorable goals of the past decade in a red shirt. Even though he was suspect defensively at times, he seemed to have a positive impact on the squad in terms of both the tangibles and intangibles. So to see him return to England and have it not be Liverpool is tough, but we'll be wishing him the best as long as it's not against Liverpool and blah blah blah cliche cliche.

Anyhow, the point is that the offal sat down for an interview with the delicately-pigmented Norwegian while he was at Steven Gerrard's charity golf outing in Portugal, and he spoke at length on a number of topics in typically straightforward fashion:

On Rafa Benitez and his Liverpool exit:

"I didn't want to go. I had a chat with (Rafael) Benitez. He said to me straight out that next year he was going to buy another left-back and my future was not there. It was quite straightforward and I respected that he was honest and told me so I could sort things out, because there was no way I could have stayed there another year and not played. He spent so much money on Andrea Dossena and I knew he was going to give him a lot of chances, even though I thought I was a better player than him."

On that own goal against Chelsea in 2008:

"One second of bad judgement killed me. I was thinking about kicking it with my right foot or getting it away with a header. It skidded off my head and went into the top corner. It was a great goal but too bad it was in the wrong end. There and then I was very, very much down.

"It was a difficult three or four days. People come up and clap you on the back and say don't worry but how often do you end up in a Champions league final? I knew I had let the team down, the fans down and I had let myself down. I was not a person to talk to for the next three or four days. I regret doing it because I let so many people down and I think we could have won it that year. But I learnt from it and I grew from it and I'm a better person and player now."

I'm not so hungover that I'd include a link to the Chelsea own goal, but I do have enough of a headache that I'll say anyone who wanted to run him out of town after that can piss off. Terrible decision, and a moment that had a huge say in how the tie was decided, but it was clear that nobody felt worse or wanted to do more for the squad than Riise. He was a great source of energy and passion for the club for almost all of his seven years, and one moment, regardless of the stage, didn't define his tenure. What's more interesting for me, and maybe something that does tarnish it a bit, is the talk about how things ended---no surprise that Rafa was candid about what was going to happen, but it was a little unexpected that Riise acknowledged getting too "comfy" towards the end of his career. Again, not necessarily something to define one's career, although it's enough to make you wonder how he'd have gotten on had he maintained focus a bit better.

* Like the senior squad, the Reserves and U18s are getting themselves up and running, with the former wrapping up a brief tour of Ireland yesterday. Rodolfo Borrell's side came away winless across the Irish Sea, drawing 1-1 with Bray Wanderers on Monday before succumbing to Waterford 0-1 last night. As Borrell noted in the post-match interview after the draw with Bray, though, it's more about fitness and coming together on a consistent basis than it is about getting empty points. And given the amount of acclaim and attention paid to those coming through the ranks, it's an important year for the lower levels of the club; by all accounts Borrell is the right man to have in charge, and, among others, last night saw highly-touted youngsters Raheem Sterling, Suso, Brad Smith, David Amoo, and Kristztian Adjoran all get minutes in a couple of well-attended and well-played matches.

Less familiar are some of the names on the U18s, who graduated a number of stalwarts to the reserves. One I'm sure we all know (and who probably isn't far from moving up) is Adam Morgan, who couldn't stop scoring for most of last season. He managed to hit the ground running Wednesday, netting twice as the youngsters hung seven on Preston. It's been an excellent preseason for new head man Mike Marsh and company, and they'll obviously look to carry their rich vein of form into a season in which they'll have plenty of expectations.

So long to Thursday, and we'll see you tomorrow with a preview for Saturday afternoon's match at Hull. It should be a fairly interesting affair, with Stewart Downing, Doni, and Jordan Henderson all available for selection. While you're waiting for that, however, you might as well take in some of Riise's best. Like there was ever going to be any other video to accompany a ginger-tinted post: