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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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Liverpool in the race with Man United to sign 20-year-old promising Championship defender

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Lloyd Kelly

Lloyd Kelly

Bristol City youngster Lloyd Kelly is being tracked by Liverpool after several fantastic performances in the Championship, according to the Mirror.

The 20-year-old Englishman is predominantly a left-back but is comfortable when switched to operate as a centre-back.

Kelly has 18 Championship appearances for City this season and has even scored a goal. The Championship side lie 13th in the league as they try to push up for a playoff spot.

The report adds that Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal are also keeping tabs on the England U21 international. The youngster, who seems to be a player for the future, has also trained with the England senior squad under Gareth Southgate.

The report claims that we are looking to sign him in the winter window, but face competition from the trio of Premier League clubs.

Trent alexander Arnold Joe Gomez Liverpool

The Reds have done well with some of their young players in recent years and Kelly could be one for the coming years. He could make a story similar to Joe Gomez at Anfield.

The latter joined us on the cheap from Charlton Athletic a few years ago and even made his senior debut as the left-back. However, he has now shifted to central defence and has been impressive for the Reds under Jurgen Klopp.

Read more: Liverpool contact Paris Saint-Germain over out-of-contract Frenchman

Gomez is out for a few weeks due to injury and hopefully, he comes back stronger as we look to continue our fantastic start to the season.

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“We want to be as successful as possible” – Jurgen Klopp praises players after record-breaking start to the season

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Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp has hailed the Liverpool players for their record-breaking start to the season. The Liverpool Echo reports that our tally of 42 points from 16 games is the best during this stage of a top-flight season.

We achieved that landmark with a 4-0 demolition job of Bournemouth on Saturday and moved to the top of the Premier League table after Chelsea’s win over Manchester City.

Klopp further gave all the credit for the feat to the players (h/t Liverpool Echo):

“I think I said a few years ago that we have to write our own history.

“It’s important but it’s not the most important thing in the world that we beat any team’s record from 30 years ago or whatever.

“The thing is that we want to be as successful as possible. Nobody knows what that means. This league is so difficult to play.”

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool

Mohamed Salah

The manager even had time to joke about the points tally we have achieved so far this season.

“To have 42 points, I usually had that in April, and now it’s December. That’s massive. It’s exceptional, and the boys deserve all the credit for that because they fight for each yard.”

Liverpool looked great in the win over the Cherries but it felt like we had more in the tank. There are a couple of tough matches coming up for the Reds as we face Napoli in the Champions League and Manchester United at the weekend.

We have to beat the Italians to make it to the next round of the European competition, and the pressure will be on to put Carlo Ancelotti’s men to the sword.

Read more: Liverpool contact Paris Saint-Germain over out-of-contract Frenchman

Klopp will already be planning the downfall of the Serie A side, and if we play to our potential, there could be a fantastic match at Anfield in midweek.

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“It’s time for a change right now” – Former USA international urges Liverpool target to leave Bundesliga giants

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Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic

Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic has been told that it is time for a change, with the January window around the corner.

The American was a target for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in 2016 (h/t Liverpool Echo), but the Reds had their offer rejected by the Bundesliga giants.

The Liverpool Echo adds that the Reds have kept tabs on the 20-year-old and Chelsea are also interested in signing the winger.

Former United States international Alexi Lalas believes it is time for the winger to leave Dortmund for bigger things in the future.

The American told Colin Cowherd (h/t Liverpool Echo):

“There are teams all over the world that would love to have Christian Pulisic right now. I think he’s done a great job in going over to Germany, he’s done a great job at Borussia Dortmund.

“But I think it’s time for a change right now for Christian Pulisic, and a change to an even higher profile team.”

The report adds that the American is out of contract in 2020 and should he refuse to extend his stay at Dortmund, the club could sell him in the coming window.

Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic

Liverpool could do with someone like Pulisic in their side, and he would certainly do well under his former boss Klopp.

The American is one of the bright players in the Bundesliga but hasn’t been great in the current campaign for Borussia Dortmund.

Read more: “I was alive in the time of Mo Salah…” – Some Liverpool fans go crazy after Salah’s Bournemouth hat-trick

The youngster has been upstaged by Jadon Sancho, who is playing better than him at the moment.

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