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Rafa wants improvement from Babel

Rafa Benitez has insisted he has great faith in Ryan Babel, but the Liverpool boss has conceded the Dutchman has room for improvement.

Babel joined The Reds from Ajax in the summer of 2007 and showed flashes of brilliance in his first season at Anfield.

Many Reds fans felt he would be a regular starter this term, but he has been forced to content himself with a place on the bench.

Benitez claims the 21-year-old is more than a supersub, but feels he needs to improve on a number of aspects of his game.

"You need to remember that Dutch players coming to England with great quality have always needed time," Benitez told the club’s official website.

"Robin van Persie was like that and Dennis Bergkamp also needed time. The leagues are totally different.

"The Dutch league is very technical and you have two or three teams that are very good.

"Every game is about getting the ball, keeping the ball and playing nice football.

"Here it is harder, though Babel has played some fantastic games for us.

"So we still have a lot of confidence he can progress, but now he has to work hard on defence and learn how to challenge players.

"He has done well as an impact player, which is not easy when you are young, but we think he can do more than that for us."

Babel has been a regular scorer from the bench, with eight goals to his credit, but Benitez is working with the Dutchman in a bid to turn him into a regular starter.

"Our view of Ryan is a player who starts games and has an impact from the beginning, not just as a sub," said Benitez.

"But first of all he has to improve tactically and we are working with him on that.

"He is the kind of player who can change games and he has done that when coming from the bench.

"Now we want him to start games and change them."

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Monday, 29th September 2008
The referee for our next Champions League match will be Dr Felix Brych of Munich, Germany. This will be his debut in the competition having refereed just one qualifying match last season between IF Elfsborg and Linfield in July of last year. Brych is a doctor in law and wrote his paper about sports, the 33-year old is still single and still lives in the town of his birth. He has been refereeing in top level since 2004 having spent the previous 5 seasons in the lower German leagues. In October 2003 he was invited to referee a game in the Korean K-League. He was awarded his FIFA badge last year and was soon refereeing top flight games. This year one his appointments was England's 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland in February. He then refereed two more friendlies, Poland's 1-1 draw with Macedonia and Holland's 2-0 win over Wales. Last month he was in Kazakhstan for Ukraine's 3-1 World Cup qualifier win. Just over a year ago he refereed VFB Stuttgart's 2-1 German Cup win at SV Wehen Wiesbaden, a match that saw him dish out 5 yellows and 4 reds, with Stuttgart's winner coming from a last minute penalty. Then last month he returned to SV Wehen Wiesbaden for a second tier German league match against MSV Duisburg and he was again getting the cards out with 8 yellows shown, six to the home side. Over the weekend he refereed Borussia's Dortmund's 3-0 win over VFB Stuttgart, only 3 yellows shown in this game, but one of them was to ex-Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann in the Stuttgart goal. Felix has had a book published, titled - Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der gemeindlichen Förderung des Berufssports aus rechtlicher Sicht which was a follow up to his sports paper for his degree. His assitants are Volker Wezel and Mark Borsch with Gunter Perl as the fourth official. Some memorable matches involving German officials and Liverpool. 2nd October 1968 (K.Tschenscher) - Emlyn Hughes' first European strike for Liverpool cannot stop Liverpool going out of the Fairs Cup to Athletico Bilbao on the toss of a coin after both legs ended up 2-1 home wins. 28th April 1976 (F.Biwersi) - Liverpool come back from a 2-0 deficit at half time to beat FC Bruges 3-2 in the first leg of the UEFA Cup Final. 31st October 1996 (H.Strampe) - A high scoring Cup Winners' Cup game at Anfield as Sion are beaten 6-3. 5th February 2001 (M.Merk) - Two goals from Michael Owen in Italy saw us win at AS Roma in the 4th round 1st leg of the UEFA Cup. 17th September 2002 (H.Fandel) - Liverpool lose their first game of the Champions League group stage 2-0 to Rafa Benitez' Valencia. 20th March 2003 (M.Merk) - Celtic end Liverpool's participation in the UEFA Cup with a 2-0 second leg win at Anfield. 6th December 2005 (H.Fandel) - A goalless draw at Stamford Bridge ensures we secured top spot in the Champions League group stage. 9th August 2006 (W.Stark) - Bellamy and Gonzalez open their Liverpool accounts with a 2-1 win over Macabbi Haifa. 6th March 2007 (H.Fandel) - Barcelona come away from Anfield 1-0 winners but lose on away goals. 23rd May 2007 (H.Fandel) - AC Milan gain revenge for Istanbul and lift the trophy after a 2-1 win in Athens. 6th November 2007 (M.Merk) - Liverpool achieved the record victory in Champions League history by beating Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield.

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Skipper support for Robbie

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has leaped to the defence of Robbie Keane after claiming his under-fire team-mate was a genuine contender for the man-of-the-match award against Everton. Keane's strike partner Fernando Torres was handed the accolade after his two goals shot down neighbours Everton in the first Merseyside derby of the season on Saturday. The Republic of Ireland striker has come in for criticism after failing to find the net in ten appearances since joining the Reds in an £18million deal from Spurs during the summer. But Gerrard claims Keane's all-round performances are proof that he is making an effective transition into his new surroundings. He said: "I know Nando was class but Robbie was an equally genuine contender for the man-of-the-match award. "We got in the dressing room and I sat by him and said: 'you were magnificent', because he deserves that praise for a great, unselfish performance. "It was terrific and showed why the manager invested so much money in him."


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‘Dynasty: Fifty Years of Shankly’s Liverpool’

Well known Liverpool FC author Paul Tomkins recently released his sixth book on the club ‘Dynasty: Fifty Years of Shankly’s Liverpool’.

Dynasty provides a factual and anecdotal historical analysis of each manager’s reign - from Shankly to Benitez.

Something unique the book brings is a look at the quality and value for money of the players who have represented the club, by using an expert panel comprised of 12 well-known journalists, statisticians and fans of the club who helped rank each player’s contributions to LFC.

Here’s what Paul has to say about the book:

Tell us a little about ‘Dynasty’, what’s it about?

It’s a reassessment of every manager of the club over the last 50 years, going back to Bill Shankly – this is the start of the 50th season since he took charge. As well as outlining the historical facts in great depth, I wanted to find new and unique ways of accurately analysing the managers’ achievements, rather than just trotting out the same old platitudes.

For this purpose I put together a Brains Trust of writers, authors, statisticians and high-profile fans, including people like Brian Reade, Oliver Kay, Neil Dunkin, Ged Rea, Les Lawson and Shankly’s son-in-law Vic Gill, as well as some very longstanding Reds (one of whom, John Crossley, went to his first game in 1936). Their task was to rank every single player out of 10 in terms of what he gave to the Reds’ cause. Working with the player averages from almost 40 contributors, I devised coefficients to assess how good each manager’s signings were, and how strong each squad was at the time each man took charge. Worked into the equations was also stuff like how much each player cost, what he was later sold for, his age, and how many games he played. It’s not a statistical book, but this was just a small part in assessing the quality of the personnel.

On top of this, there’s a look at how strong rival teams were at the time, and how much money, relative to the transfer record of the day, the major sides, including Liverpool, cost in the 60’s, all the way through to the current day. So hopefully the book puts each manager’s achievements into the context of the era in a way that can be related to the modern day.

Image“A unique analysis of the club’s managers, which is no mean feat given the extensive bibliography of the club… informative … another perspective on the last 50 years at Liverpool.” - Programme & Football Collectable Monthly

How did you research your material for Dynasty?

I referred to all manner of books written about, and/or by the managers in question, as well as the autobiographies of many of the players. There was also a number of internet sites that were handy for certain specialised aspects of the research. It’s obviously harder for me to write with true authority about what took place before I was even born, but hopefully I’ve managed to understand and capture the strengths and weaknesses of all the managers to an equal degree. Some older fans have told me that even they learned plenty from reading it, so that’s a great compliment for me.

The contribution of people like Brian Reade, Oliver Kay, Neil Dunkin, Ged Rea, Vic Gill (Shanks’ son-in-law, and an LFC trainee between 1957 and 1962) and numerous others was an exciting part of the process; these are people I’ve got to talk to about LFC over the years, and it’s great that I could call on genuine, knowledgeable fans to help with the assessments of all the players of the last 50 years, which all goes towards evaluating the managers who bought or inherited them. The most rewarding feedback I’ve had so far is from a number of older Reds who themselves have learned stuff about the club’s history (as I did while researching the book), while Vic Gill sent me an email saying that “it has brought back some very nice memories, but I feel it would also educate the younger fans, give them a sense of our history.”

In the end there wasn’t room for loads of the statistical analysis, plus I didn’t want it to be a book that was too stat-heavy, and so this will be published in Compendium. Compendium is a book I’m selling only via my website, and is a collection of the best bits of all my other books, including the recent Champions League and FA Cup Finals, my best articles of 2008, plus the full lists of all the Liverpool players since 1959 ranked in order of Quality, and for those who were signed from elsewhere, Relative Transfer Fee and Value For Money.

Have you gained more appreciation of any of the managers you have been studying in preparation for your book?

Definitely. I always prided myself on trying to make sure I knew a lot about the club, but one of the greatest pleasures in writing this particular book was discovering so much more about the men in question. I gained more appreciation of all the managers to some degree or other, even Graeme Souness. While his signings remain mostly awful, and his temper rubbed players up the wrong way – not to mention other numerous failings – he was right in trying to modernise the club at a time when there was understandable resistance to new methods by some of the old guard. But a change towards more continental habits later proved to be necessary.

We understand there was some confusion over the book being ‘banned’ by LFC? Care to clear up the situation?

I was approached to write for the official website in 2005 on the basis that I wouldn’t be paid, but they’d happily help me promote my books. After a couple of years unpaid I started to get a very small fee for writing the articles, but the arrangement still based on being able to promote my books, which is what helps me make a living. So it was a shock when I was told that Dynasty could not be mentioned on the website as someone at the club felt it was critical of those running the club and the current manager. The people at the website worked hard to get the ‘ban’ overturned, and a few days later succeeded. I must reiterate that the book was never banned in all senses, or blacklisted, but for me the decision to not allow any mention on the official site was clearly a ban of sorts.

I obviously felt very upset at the original decision, particularly as I’d chosen my words carefully to limit criticisms of the way the club has been run in the past 12 months to what pretty much what the protagonists themselves had acknowledged, and also because I don’t see what the problem was in what I’d said about Benítez - about whom I’ve generally been incredibly positive. It was the last thing I needed on the eve of the launch, and very stressful at a time that is naturally stressful for anybody releasing a new project into the world, but I’m thankful for the support from .tv in overturning the decision. I worked incredibly hard on Dynasty, and the research was painstaking – as many people have appreciated after reading the book. So having my main source of publicity cut off ahead of publication was a worry, but thankfully common sense prevailed.



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