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What does the Carling Cup mean?

Much has been made of the lowest ranked cup competition in England and it’s relevance towards the bourgeoisie that make up the Premier League

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The Milk Cup, The Coca Cola Cup, The Worthington Cup and just now The Carling Cup. Some have even gone as far as calling it the Mickey Mouse Cup but such a tag only exists in comedic circles. It does beg a question though. What does English footballs League Cup actually mean? And what does it mean to Liverpool in the context of their recent history?

Much has been made of the lowest ranked cup competition in England and it’s relevance towards the bourgeoisie that make up the Premier League. It’s common knowledge that for those competing for a Champions League spot this competition retains little or no significance based on the financial prestige Europe’s elite cup competition provides.

Forgetting completely that the competition does actually offer one of only three opportunities to lift a trophy for English club football the winners are also awarded with a spot in the Europa League. Not the Champions League where you might get to play Lionel Messi of Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid. More like a dwindling Andriy Shevchenko who is still alive donning a Dynamo Kiev jersey and…oh no. Wait. I can’t think of anyone else. In spite of this the Europa League must mean something to Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish. But what exactly?

UEFA distributed a total of €150,360,000 to teams playing in the Europa League last season compared to the €200million dished out to Manchester United and Barcelona for making it to the final of the European Cup.

Porto, winners of the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League, received a mere €7,837,046 in payments from the competition. That’s not even 10% of what Barcelona picked up for winning the more prestigious of European trophies. Qualifying for the Europa League means little financially to Liverpool and tarnishes a club reputable for its regular berth within Europe’s elite club competition. But even so the League Cup, for Liverpool and in this season particularly, means so much to everyone connected at the club. And here’s why:

When Milan beat Rafael Benitez’s men at the 2007 European Cup final in Athens the Italians exacted revenge on the same Liverpool side who famously came back from three goals down to reign supreme in Istanbul two years before. Sandwiched in between those years and there was the FA Cup success and it all added to the sense of euphoria that was creeping back up Anfield Road. Even in defeat to Carlo Ancelotti’s men the Reds dominated much of the game and felt the unlucky ones not to win. The good times were back. Or so we thought.

Fernando Torres was purchased and Liverpool now had a team capable of challenging for the title again and after the Spaniard’s first season in English football ended with him breaking the record number of goals scored by a foreigner in their debut season, the club could push on knowing they had acquired the final piece of the jigsaw in order to help topple Manchester United’s dominance.

The next season they nearly did. Two points separated first from second. One extra win. Two more draws. Two less defeats. But it wasn’t enough and it was after that season where the problems really began.

Xabi Alonso completed a £30million move to Real Madrid and Alvaro Arbeloa followed suit. Our chief playmaker was sold and the perfect midfield trio of Gerrard, Alonso and Mascherano was split. It destroyed the team. There was no more creativity. The link between attack and defence was broken and the brains that made Gerrard and Torres tick had left the team. A Champions League exit in the group stage followed and finishing outside of the top four meant Rafael Benitez and Liverpool were no longer an item once cherished. Rafa was sacked.

It’s relevant to point out that in and around the stories from Benitez’s dismissal all the way back to the loss to Milan in 2007 Liverpool’s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet were under intense pressure from supporters at the club to start operating under a more transparent nature. But they never. And time began to tell the truth.

The clubs debts had spiralled out of control. The consistent qualification for the big money Champions League had put a cover on it and once the Europa League came knocking the sheets were torn off and Liverpool were laid bear for the world to see. In amidst all the chaos off the pitch Roy Hodgson, a defeated Europa League finalist, was brought in to replace Rafa and was left with the job of picking up a team who now had to deal with the departure of Javier Mascherano to Barcelona. Suffice to say the Argentine engineered his own £20million move by himself because he simply had better places to be. And how right he was.

Hodgson had us in the relegation zone before Christmas and with the club staring administration in the face the fans had lost complete belief and confidence in the team. They needed a miracle and boy did they need it fast. Shankly and Paisley would be shaking in their grave such was the depth of turmoil the club was in. It really had capitulated that quickly. And then out of no where the miracle arrived.

NESV, a company owned by a John W. Henry, had arrived on the scene to complete a rescue mission by taking over the club. They would pay the £238million debt threatening to administrate the club resulting in all power being seized off H&G and a new era at the club had began. The celebrations had begun, albeit only momentarily as results on the pitch needed addressing, but the Kop was singing to the tune of You’ll Never Walk Alone again and boy did it sound good.

The euphoria behind the scenes failed to stimulate the players and although one or two results began to go Liverpool’s way they were still lingering in mid table. The fans began to find every facet to their voice as the joys of the takeover could be heard from the stands and were coupled with visceral attacks calling for Hodgson’s sacking.

The new owners, no stranger to sporting set ups as owners of baseball team Boston Red Sox, saw a disturbing reality and had no other choice but to relieve the former Fulham manager of his duties. Feeding the fans demands for the managers sacking was a bold move from Henry but he was intent on giving the fans what the wanted. That’s how Liverpool have always operated – for the fans. Few could have expected what was about to happen next.

On a sunny day in January a Scottish man on a cruise ship with his wife on the shores of Dubai received a phone call and answered with no hesitation. Kenny Dalglish is a man known to be at training grounds wearing football boots let alone laying on sun beds wearing flip flops. But so he was and when the nature of the phone call revealed itself the former Liverpool manager became the new Liverpool manager again and ‘The King’ had returned. If NESV’s takeover brought euphoria, Dalglish’s return was ascension towards the heavens.

As far as rescue acts are concerned this was right up there. Dalglish had jumped off a steady ship to assume the captains role on a more damaged vessel. But there weren’t many better suited to take the job. The fact that the owners had to resort to a fan favourite was testimony to their lack of knowledge to identify other candidates but more importantly it provided further evidence that for every element that came with repairing this damaged football club it’s fans would have direct involvement in it.

And so the repairing began on the pitch as well. Results were to improve and even though Fernando Torres joined Alonso and Mascherano on the list of world class exits Dalglish managed to solider on by making signings of his own with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll coming in for roughly the same £50million Chelsea paid for Torres. Liverpool completed the second half of the season second in the overall form table. The club had narrowly missed out on Europe and considering the disastrous position before Dalglish’s arrival it was heralded as progress by everyone at he club.

Pre-season saw movement both in an out of the club. £57million was spent on Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique. There was no doubting the optimism surrounding Anfield and everyone at the club began the season in high spirits knowing that challenging further up the table was a realistic prospect again.

With no European football to play and the league understood to be an ambition too far, the cup competitions represented the only realistic shot at silverware for the club. And when the Carling Cup draw was made Liverpool were to take the competition very seriously and unlike the way other teams had done so in the past. Suarez, Dirk Kuyt and Pepe Reina were just a few first team players to feature in the opening rounds and notable wins away to Stoke City and Chelsea meant Liverpool were facing the prospect of a Wembley final for the first time in 16 years.

Big spending, table topping Manchester City stood in their way and a 3-2 semi-final win over two legs gave Liverpool their first appearance at the new Wembley stadium to pay Cardiff in the Carling Cup final. When the final whistle blew Dalglish shook Roberto Mancini’s hand and then looked on to the Kop as Gerry and the Pacemakers resonated around Anfield. He couldn’t hold back the tears. It was like them great European nights where everything felt so right. It did feel so right. Liverpool were going to Wembley to play for a trophy.

And so Steven Gerrard, led out by Dalglish, stepped on to the new turf where the old Wembley used to lay and in a roller coaster encounter they eventually ended up lifting the trophy after a pressure cooker penalty shoot out win against a spirited Cardiff City. For the first time in since 2007, since Benitez was sacked and the old owners had caused havoc at the club, everyone at Liverpool could smile again.

English footballs League Cup will have to do a lot more in the future to grow in relevance and prestige. It remains and will for many years to come at the bottom of every top clubs lists of priorities when they embark on ambitious Champions League campaigns. But that was and never has been the case with Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish. It never will be either because this trophy represents exactly what it is – a trophy.

It’s hard to imagine that fourteen months ago this football club was in the relegation zone staring administration in the face knowing that the 10 point penalty would send them to rock bottom in the league. Standing on the steps of Wembley with a trophy to lift doesn’t just make them circumstances unimaginable, it makes them a distant memory. It also serves as a timely reminder how much difference a year can make and that sometimes, just sometimes, the Carling Cup could be so important.

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Bad news for Liverpool? Gary Neville claims Man City will have this advantage over the Reds during next two Premier League match days

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Gary Neville

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville claims that Manchester City have an advantage over Liverpool in the next two rounds of the Premier League.

The Reds played before City in the last weekend and piled on the pressure after defeating Crystal Palace. City made light work of Huddersfield and will play before the Reds after the FA Cup and Carabao Cup games.

Neville was speaking to Sky Sports (h/t Express) and claimed playing first was preferable:

“[It makes] a big difference.

“It’s preferable.”

The Sky Sports pundit further claimed that during his playing days at United, the team felt playing first was an advantage. Getting the points first before their rivals was always preferred, according to Neville, and he believed City will put the pressure on Liverpool.

“Either go further in front or close the gap. There’s no doubt it’s a different type of pressure.

“City will absolutely want to be closing that gap to one point, and asking Liverpool have they got it in them to stand the pressure of playing the day after or two days after.”

Liverpool celebrate win over Crystal Palace

Liverpool players celebrate a win

City play Newcastle away a day before we host Leicester City. Pep Guardiola’s men then host Arsenal a day prior to us travelling to West Ham United.

The Premier League champions can cut the lead to just one point before we face Leicester, and it will be important for us to respond in the perfect manner, irrespective of City’s result.

Read more: Boost for Liverpool as reputed football journalist claims this Lyon star prefers a move to Anfield

Liverpool haven’t dropped many points this season, and if we win these two Premier League games, the pressure will be back on our rivals as the race for the title heats up.

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“This makes me very happy”, “Extremely happy for him” – Some Liverpool fans excited as star Englishman returns to training in Dubai

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Liverpool

Liverpool are off to the sunny shores of Dubai for a much-needed warm weather break. The Reds lead the Premier League but came off two tough wins in recent weeks.

The last one saw us just about defeat Crystal Palace at Anfield and a few players are doubtful for the clash against Leicester City.

Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold are facing fitness issues, however, there was some good news for the Liverpool fans as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was caught training in Dubai.

The Englishman picked up an ACL injury in our Champions League tie against AS Roma last season and has not played for the side since.

The Reds have missed his driving runs and goals this season. Who knows what the team could have done if Liverpool had Oxlade-Chamberlain playing from the first game in this campaign!

It would be fantastic if we can have the Ox back for some games during the later stage of the season as we look to win a trophy under Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds hold a four-point lead over Manchester City and have some tough games remaining this season.

Several fans were excited over Ox’s training and here are some of their reactions from Twitter.

Read more: Boost for Liverpool as reputed football journalist claims this Lyon star prefers a move to Anfield

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“He sometimes sends me messages” – Virgil van Dijk cannot believe this Liverpool legend texts him prior to games

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Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk in training

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk has revealed that club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish messages the Dutchman before games.

Van Dijk is one of the best defenders in the world and has helped the Reds to the top of the Premier League.

The Dutchman joined the Reds from Southampton last year and told Liverpoolfc.com about spoke about the King being open with Van Dijk:

“Kenny Dalglish gave me his mobile number in the very beginning and told me to ring him at any time.

“It is unbelievable when he sometimes sends me messages before games. That is what Liverpool is about.”

The defender added that on match-days he gets to meet many legends and learn more about the club’s history.

The Dutch defender has possibly been the best player for the Reds this season, and could reach legendary status, just like Kenny if he keeps doing the job at the back.

It isn’t just Van Dijk who has been great, the rest of the Liverpool back-four has been fantastic in most games. The Dutchman is an incredible presence at the back, and he seems to make players better if they play alongside him.

The Reds have one of the best defences in Europe, and should we keep things tight at the back, there is a chance of winning silverware under Jurgen Klopp.

Read more: Boost for Liverpool as reputed football journalist claims this Lyon star prefers a move to Anfield

If the Dutchman helps us to the Premier League title, there is no doubt he would be considered as one of the best to have ever played for Liverpool.

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