Andy Robertson – From Amateur to Anfield

Another 3 points gained under the Anfield lights on Saturday evening and another outstanding performance from one of Liverpool’s star men.

Nope we’re not talking about Salah, Mane Mane or Bobby Firmino because it’s all about Robbo.

The left back who has made the position his own and is quite rightly receiving the plaudits he deserves.

Just 5 years ago Andy Robertson was playing for Scottish 3rd Division side Queens Park, a club in which he signed for after having been released by Celtic for being too small earlier in his career.

His move to Dundee United saw him instantly catch the eye of many north of the border. A renewed contract was agreed within just weeks of his debut and shortly followed by being awarded PFA’s “Scotland Young Player of the Year” and a subsequent place in the PFA “Scotland Team of the Year” for the 2013-14 Scottish Premiership season.

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All of this convinced Hull City to swoop with a near £3m bid to get their man, United accepted and the Left Back was on his way to the EPL.

3 seasons with Hull under the stewardship of former Man Utd stalwart Steve Bruce allowed him to gain what is deemed acceptable experience in England and it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature.

An absolute bargain at a reported £8m and his dream debut season is showing no signs of slowing down.

He has even earned the approval of Kop legend Stevie G. He told BT Sport: “He’s done terrifically well since coming in and the fans have taken to him. It’s not just about Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres, the top players that come, the fans love someone who gives 100 per cent.”

“He’s come in and he’s a very humble kid and gives it his all every game. To be fair to the kid. He’s been excellent.”

His lung bursting closing down run vs Man City made him a social media sensation but for those who have watched him for the past few years this was nothing out of the ordinary.

International recognition has obviously come his way and with 20 caps already under his belt, his partnership with Kieran Tierney gives The Tartan Army a strong looking left side for years to come.

He’s has never given up and has taken every chance that has come his way.

One of the signings of the 2017/18 season has undoubtedly been Liverpool’s Number 26.

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Andy Robertson at Dundee United Image is sourced from; www.dailyrecord.co.uk
Andy Robertson at Liverpool image is sourced from; www.liverpoolfc.com

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Liverpool FC – Title Contenders?

They came agonisingly close a couple of seasons ago but by allowing mistakes in their remaining games they opened the door for Man City to sneak in and steal what look to be deservedly theirs.

Gerrard’s now infamous slip and 10 unbelievable minutes at Selhurst Park ultimately cost the Merseyside club their 1st league triumph since 89-90. It’s been far too long for a club the stature of Liverpool to go without winning the highest domestic honour but this season they look capable of ending decades of hurt.

The start they have made has been impressive…16 points from 21. Away wins at Arsenal and Chelsea make statements throughout a season but to achieve both so early lays down an impressive marker. Throw in a hammering of Champions Leicester, a reasonable point at Spurs and it almost makes you forget about the early Burnley ambush at Turf Moor. Whilst most sides will drop unexpected points, it is these “Burnley-type” results that Klopp will be keen to eradicate, something which looked to be lesson learnt at Swansea recently.

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Last Saturday the animated German Manager celebrated his 1st year at Anfield, he can look back on a part-season that included appearances in the Capital One and Europa League Finals after inheriting a side from Brendan Rodgers and can claim he overachieved. Now with a summer transfer window under his belt it is clear that he has identified players and strengthened from back to front…

Loris Karius is over his early injury and is challenging Mignolet for the No1 jersey with 39 year old Manninger providing the experienced back up.

The shrewd acquisitions of Matip and Klavan have added depth and steel to the heart of the defence, you have to say that they are desperate for an out and out left back though. Milner has more than proved his worth by filing in, but a naturally left footed player would add additional balance to the starting XI. Hull City and Scotland’s Andy Robertson (recently linked) could be the answer for a reasonable price.

Midfield has seen the arrival of Gigi Wijnaldum from Newcastle for an inflated fee but he seems to be more at home on Merseyside than he did further north where he suffered relegation. The emergence of Kevin Stewart is a pleasing sight and the Kop are finally seeing the best of Lallana. Jordan Henderson is taking the captaincy role for both club and country, just like his idolised predecessor.

Mane, Coutinho and Firmino are a frightening trio for any defence to deal with and the fact that they are currently keeping a fit Daniel Sturridge out of the team is the highest praise they can be given.

An overall transfer spend of £62m was offset by recouping around £75m with the departures of Benteke, Ibe, Allen and perhaps most importantly Mario Balotelli. The fees and the times were right for these players to move on.

Just like the squad the Main Stand has been addressed. A new 3rd tier increases the capacity and takes the ground to a new level.  More supporters = more noise (hopefully positive). Just like Parkhead it is something special hearing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” bellowing out just before kick-off.

No European football provides a massive advantage, no long midweek journeys leading to disrupted weekend kick off times. The Champions League is where club belongS, however they should be using the dramatically reduced schedule of games to steal a march on the rest of the Premier League.

Speaking of domestic opponents…Next up are old rivals Manchester United on Monday night, a win would take them 6 points clear of Mourinho’s men. A game which needs no introduction and often meets expectations, if Klopp’s XI can shake off the rustiness of the international break then they should be aiming to make a further statement of intent in front of the watching World.

The Manager is in place, the squad is well-balanced, the books are showing positive numbers and the ground has finally gone under some re-development. It’s an exciting time if you’re a Liverpool fan, a time where it must be difficult to stop envisaging another prolonged period of success on the horizon.

The joint top scorers in the division still have work to do but from what they have shown already this season there is no reason why they can’t hold aloft that much sought after and long overdue trophy come May, football needs a serially competitive Liverpool side and it looks like we may just have one again.

liverpool-image

Liverpool vs Chelsea image sourced from www.football365.com
Liverpool fans image sourced from www.skysports.com

The Europa League just got Interesting!

Last week saw the draw for the last 16 of the Europa League and what a draw it was!

Europa-League-Draw

Of the remaining 16 teams, 3 have won European Cup / Champions League with 5 having contested finals.

With the Europa now offering a coveted place in the top competition it is more than worth winning.

Thursday’s look like they are about to provide a spectacle worthy of Europe’s 2nd competition. For too long the we have mostly ignored Coupe UEFA for a reason we actually can’t answer.

Perhaps the competition is too long? Maybe we don’t understand the 18:00 kick off times? You could argue there are too many teams we don’t know? Or are just blinded by the glamour of the Champions League?

We are looking at Liverpool v Man United for the 1st time in a non-domestic meeting. 180 minutes of packed European nights at 2 of the most iconic stadiums in world football. One of the most intense rivalries brought together on a stage we wouldn’t expect.

Throw in the bonus element of small travel time and a St Patrick’s day 2nd leg at Old Trafford, the Guinness will be flowing in the North West that’s for sure.

Add in high flying Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund, an all Spanish clash of Athletic Bilbao v Valencia and Sevilla going for a 3rd successive title…you have one hell of a competition remaining!

Realistically of the remaining sides who could honestly say they don’t want, or in some cases need, to win this trophy.

Which fan wouldn’t want to travel to a European final ?

Sevilla

We will be tuned into the latter stages with a keen eye on the outcomes of the afore mentioned ties.

Put aside the “Thursday – Sunday” debate and embrace it as an additional midweek game to watch.

So let’s all take a positive outlook into the remaining games, after all who knows…Mr Guardiola may just be strutting his stuff here next season if recent form continues.

Europa League draw image sourced from; http://www.uefa.com
Sevilla Europa Cup winners image sourced from; http://worldsoccertalk.com

 

Ticket Prices; The Cost of Being a Fan

This week has seen the much published Liverpool £77 ticket walk out and subsequent retraction by the club’s owners.

Well done Liverpool fans but I fear it won’t be long until we see and hear the same old story.

Fans are no longer fans in the eyes of most clubs… they are customers.

They care not for the generations of families that have arrived season after season, the children of fans that are born to be future fans or for how much it costs the average person to attend the game they love week in week out.

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I have been to grounds all over England and Scotland, seen some of the best / worst teams and paid anything from £10 to £50 for the privilege.

Play this Primary School game of “match them up” and see if you can get the matches and ticket prices correct (answers at the bottom of the page)

All recent games that I have been to

Game Ticket Price
Scotland v England (2014) £20
Man Utd v Sunderland (2015) £30
Man City v Crystal Palace (2016) £50
Stoke v Sheff Wed (2015) £45
Motherwell v Dundee United (2014) £27

The variances and statures of these games isn’t massively varied in terms of importance or indeed location but as you can see the prices are up to £30 apart.

With the global branding and money TV generates, the Premier League clubs do have a certain luxury that most do not, they will have fans arrive from all over the world and pay the prices just to say they have been to The Emirates, Old Trafford etc.

The envy outside of the top tier is obvious and growing with the imminent influx of the “new TV money” from next season. They however do not help themselves:-

Selected Fixtures For 13th Feb

League One – Colchester v Swindon £27

League Two – Morecambe v Oxford £24

National League – Grimsby v Boreham Wood £18

SPL – Hearts v Patrick Thistle £28

These and most other clubs outside the BPL have thousands upon thousands of empty seats each week, why not charge a lower price and attract more fans?

We all love a couple of pints, food, a programme and this is all before travel and in some cases hotel charges.

Football is now a day out that has to be planned and budgeted for in advance and this is extremely saddening.

As much as we all need to be following the lead set by some of the Anfield faithful against Sunderland we know we can’t stay away from our teams and will generally pay for the privilege to go… win, lose or draw.

Hopefully many Chairmen and boards will be pro-actively looking for solutions in the near future.

Football without fans is nothing!

Bayern-Munich-Fans-at-Arsenal-V2

Answers as promised, were you right?

Scotland v England (2014) £50
Man Utd v Sunderland (2015) £45
Man City v Crystal Palace (2016) £30
Stoke v Sheff Wed (2015) £20
Motherwell v Dundee United (2014) £27

Liverpool fans image sourced from; www.thisisanfield.com
Bayern Munich fans image sourced from; ftw.usatoday.com