With Martin Kelly set to make his senior England debut and everyone remembering the club has more than just a new managerial hire to worry about, it's been a surprisingly busy day of Liverpool news after most of the week has seen a single-minded focus on questions over who would replace Kenny Dalglish and whether the fans could trust Fenway Sports Group's judgement in the matter. And since today we have a brief gap in the fighting, we'd best get to some news and notes…
* In a surprise to just about everyone, Martin Kelly has been given his first call-up to the England squad for this weekend's pre-Euro friendly against Norway. Whether Roy Hodgson intends to play him in order to rest Glen Johnson and Phil Jones, with the more experienced duo both coming off long seasons and far more known qualities for England, or whether he's just heading off to pad the bench, is hard to know. Still, it has to be seen for a positive for Kelly—at least as long as the at times fragile fullback doesn't manage to pick up yet another injury—while being more than a little concerning for Manchester City's Micah Richards, who not only has found minutes harder to come by at star-studded City of late but also appears to have largely fallen off the radar at the national level.
* Last week everybody was certain Txiki Begiristain was coming to Liverpool as Director of Football. Today he's been replaced by former Ajax, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich manager Luis van Gaal. No news yet on if van Gaal may get to take up the job before the media begins to speculate on a new name for it, but for the time being at least the Dutch total football proponent has been all but anointed as Liverpool's first major hire of the summer.
One stumbling block could be that there is a belief by many that van Gaal may still be more interested in managing than in becoming a club's Director of Football or Sporting Director—with the later being the likely position he would be up for at Liverpool if rumours that Rodolfo Borell will be (or already has been) promoted to become the club's Technical Director are true. And if he did decide to take on a more behind the scenes role, it could become a problem should whichever manager is hired to work beneath him stumble, as inevitably speculation will begin over if—or maybe just when—van Gaal would step in to take the reins himself.
It's also more than a little curious, given that a few days ago everybody "knew" Fenway Sports Group was wary of Rafa Benitez because of his strong personality and past combativeness, that now half the internet seems certain they will be bringing in a man who is as well known for his abrasiveness as his winning. When the first thing somebody is likely to mention about the prospective hire is his destructive conflict with Luca Toni and Lucio at Bayern Munich, that he's never met a reporter he hasn't had a fight with, or that he once angrily dropped his pants to prove he had the balls to drop any player as it is to be his past successes, one has to wonder about his suitability to work within the team framework FSG are generally believed to be trying to build.
None of which means that van Gaal would be a bad Sporting Director—far from it, in fact—but rather to point out that few seem to actually know exactly what FSG want. Whether that uncertainty should be extended to the suggestion that van Gaal is now the most likely choice for Sporting Director remains to be seen, but either way it's a good thing to keep in mind in the coming days.
* With the Liverpool world a mess of infighting and speculation, Managing Director Ian Ayre tried to bring a bit of positivity to proceedings today when he talked about progress being made on the stadium front. However, while the club may well be closer to a decision than they were a few months ago, in the end there's nothing much beyond Ayre's assurances that progress has been made to suggest that any progress has in fact been made:
We want to explore both [redeveloping Anfield and constructing a new stadium] and I think it's fair to say if we continue making progress in that area, it might move faster than we originally anticipated.
I think it's also fair to say that we are already fairly well down the line with a couple of major brands who have shown significant interest in naming rights for a new stadium. Part of the problem is that people assume that because we don't make a major announcement, because we can't show any spade in the ground, that nothing's gone on and no progress has been made.
The most important thing for us, especially under this owner, has been about certainty on the stadium. There's been too many times when people have said 'we're doing this' and then it didn't happen.
So the club is definitely getting a new stadium. Or redeveloping Anfield. Some time in the future. Probably. But you can trust them this time because they're only saying "We're doing this" in the vaguest way possible rather than saying exactly what they're going to be doing.
While it may be entirely sensible for the club not to get ahead of itself and make announcements before plans are fully in place, releasing a fairly hefty statement from Ayre to fans and the press that in the end says absolutely nothing of substance seems a blatant attempt to distract from the rather sour and divisive fighting over the manager issue that has fermented in the wake of Kenny Dalglish's dismissal.
We'll be back with any breaking news, but in the meantime, try not to get your hopes up that with FSG now supposedly willing to consider more combative personalities they might hire both Louis van Gaal and Rafa Benitez, thereby bringing us one step closer to a world where disagreements at the club are settled by fights to the death in the Anfield centre circle…