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Friday Fulham Stuff (04/06/10)...

Started by WhiteJC, June 04, 2010, 07:23:40 AM

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Fulham midfielder seeks contract talks

DICKSON Etuhu wants to sit down and discuss a new deal when he gets back from the World Cup finals.

The no-nonsense Nigerian midfielder is one of several Fulham stars with just a year remaining on their contracts, with the club so far stalling on talks over new terms after Whites boss Roy Hodgson put on hold his stamp for all contract extensions until the start of July.

Speculation over the futures of the likes of Paul Konchesky and Zoltan Gera has grown during the close season, with the pair attracting interest from Birmingham and Roma respectively.

Etuhu was a major part of the success story in SW6 this season, making 37 appearances and forming a formidable partnership with Danny Murphy in Fulham's engine room.

And he insists he's happy at Craven Cottage, and is ready to open talks when he returns from South Africa – if the club comes calling.

He said: "They haven't spoke at me, but it's not like I'm out of contract - I've still got a year left.

"I'm just going to keep my head down, go to the World Cup and see what happens. I'm happy and want to stay here."

Hodgson 3/1 for Liverpool Job

Apparently so! Lets hope he doesn't go. I suppose you can't blame Liverpool for looking at Roy considering the 2 and a half years he has had. But I just have one thing to say to Liverpool-


Confusion with the Papers
by LYDIA on JUNE 3, 2010

When people hear about rumours that they do NOT want to happen, they usually dismiss it as being 'just paper talk'. This time however, I just don't know what to believe. One news paper thinks that Asrenal are stepping up their bid for Schwarzer and are offering 4million for him. But then, another news paper says that Asrenal have given up and are after Rob Green. This is the times that we need to realise that we shouldn't be relying too much on 'paper talk'.

Other sources claim that we have agreed a 2m deal to bring Freddie Piquionne to the Cottage. No word on the Official site though.

Fulham - Piquionne Deal Done?
With Portsmouth relegated and a mass exodus predicted from Fratton Park, the Daily Mirror implies Fulham have helped themselves to a striker.

Frederic Piquionne, on loan from Lyon at Portsmouth last season, expressed a desire to stay in the Premier League and the reference red-top is suggesting his future is lying with Fulham.

Apparently, after discussions with Roy Hodgson, Piquionne returned home to mull over a decision before agreeing a £2 million move to Craven Cottage with Lyon being the benefactors cash wise.

If true, it looks like we`ve held off competition from Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham for the striker, although we await official confirmation from the club!

Read more:

Fulham - Liverpool Job Conundrum!
As Rafa Benitez contemplates life on the old 'rock and roll` we await for the inevitable.

Liverpool Football Club will no doubt be scouring the market for a manager who, they believe, will take them back into the top four whilst also managing on a shoe-string.

Reading between the lines, the departure of Benitez appears to have been over a lack of funds to take the team forward and possibly having lost the dressing room.

Therefore, and it galls me to say this, how long will it be before a gentleman of the game, our own Roy Hodgson, becomes linked with a move to Anfield?

Inter might be a job too far but would Liverpool be tempting for Roy?

Read more:

Fulham - Keeper Speculation!
Although Mark Schwarzer has intimated that he intends to remain at Fulham, the press vultures are still hovering.

Tucked away on the BBC Sport web site, on their gossip page, is a little two liner that implies Arsene Wenger might well pursue our Australian goalkeeper until he becomes an Arsenal player.

Now, if that is the case, the same piece of gossip thread implies that Roy Hodgson might pursue the Portsmouth and England keeper, David James, as a replacement for Schwarzer.

James, who is getting on in years, would possibly be viewed as somebody to occupy the keepers` jersey until young David Stockdale is deemed good enough to take over.

Idle gossip or could there be a grain of truth in this one?

Read more:

Fulham - Roy Signed up by the BBC!
The World Cup is rapidly approaching and interest levels are slowly creeping up.

With the tournament set to be broadcast on BBC and ITV it`ll certainly be interesting to see if the coverage is on a part to that which Sky Sports provide for Premier League football.

Today, in our modest opinion, the BBC took a great leap forward compared to ITV by announcing that (Sir) Roy Hodgson has agreed (along with Harry Redknapp) to join their studio line up for the 2010 tournament.

Roy and Harry join the trio already announced by the BBC of Clarence Seedorf, Jurgen Klinsmann and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Speaking about getting on board the two English managers who scooped the managerial awards this season, Philip Bernie, BBC Head of Sport, uttered (about spending some more of our licence money),

"We are delighted."

"We will have on board two of the most respected English managers to add to an already great line-up."

Vital Fulham patrons will, obviously, be hanging on to every word Roy speaks as for the other four, we`ll take what they say with a pinch of salt shall we!

Read more:

Badgers Return Home

Fulham Football Club's Down's Syndrome football team, The Fulham Badgers, returned home after an unforgettable time in Hong Kong. The 14 young players and their parents touched down in the UK on Saturday, following a week of learning, football matches and sightseeing.

The pioneering trip, the first of its kind made by a UK based Down's Syndrome team, was funded by the Fulham Football Club Foundation, Fulham FC supporters, businesses and friends and family who managed to raise over £60,000. It came as the return leg of the trip carried out by the Hong Kong Dragons to Craven Cottage in May 2009.

Steven Day, CEO of the Fulham FC Foundation said:

"Our week-long trip with the Fulham Badgers to Hong Kong has been a great success. The visit has given the young people and their parents an experience they will never forget and has demonstrated the impact that our work can have on individual's lives.

"Our partnership with the Down's Syndrome Association has seen the Fulham Badgers go from strength to strength and is a great example of how we have used sport to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and their families. The trip would not have been possible without the help of so many people so I'd like to take this opportunity to again thank everybody who has contributed to making this happen.

"To raise over £60,000 in five months is an amazing achievement and everyone involved in this should be very proud. I hope that this trip will inspire others to follow our lead and continue to improve the opportunities available for young people with Down's Syndrome. As a Foundation, we will use this trip as a benchmark of what can be achieved and I look forward to pioneering other initiatives across our broad work areas in the near future."

Nigel R Merritt, the Chairman of the HKFC Mini, Junior and Youth Football Development Programme commented:

"This (has been) a unique and special event and the first of its kind in Hong Kong (and possibly Asia) and we hope that this will mark the beginning of future partnership opportunities for further expansion of this type of event in both Hong Kong and the UK."

The Fulham Badgers started the week with a warm welcome to the Cosmopolitan Hotel where they stayed for the duration of their visit. This followed with some practical skills sessions, a dance and exercise class hosted by the Hong Kong Down's Syndrome Association and a pottery workshop.

The second day saw the Badgers battle thirty degree heat whilst getting involved in training at the Hong Kong FC ground. The Badgers were joined in this session by the Hong Kong Dragons and Hong Kong FC Crusaders, whom they were to play in the tournament. Professional goalkeepers from Hong Kong FC also attended the session, spending valuable time with the youngsters whilst they practised their shooting.

Day three was a more relaxed affair for the budding footballers, as they took in the sights of Hong Kong and then dined at the exclusive China Club for a lunch hosted by Sir David Tang, the President of the Hong Kong Down's Syndrome Association.

The much-anticipated round-robin tournament took place on Day four and saw the Badgers firstly take on the HK Crusaders. Leading 2-1 for the majority of the game, the team were unfortunately beaten by two late goals and lost 3-2. The Badgers' efforts were also not enough to defeat the strong HK Dragons side that went on to win the tournament. But Down's Syndrome football was the main winner with all sides taking part winning medals.

Read more:

Roy Hodgson tops Liverpool's list after Rafael Benítez agrees exit
• Kenny Dalglish heads search for new manager
• Inter may follow up initial interest in Spaniard

Liverpool are confident their top target Roy Hodgson will accept the challenge of replacing Rafael Benítez. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian
Kenny Dalglish is to lead the search for Rafael Benítez's successor as Liverpool manager, with Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill among the frontrunners.

Benítez accepted a severance payoff worth a maximum £6m from Liverpool's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, today, to end a six-year reign that polarised opinion at Anfield.

Dalglish, the revered former Liverpool player and manager and now club ambassador, will assist the managing director, Christian Purslow, in the pursuit of a manager who can restore Liverpool's Champions League status on a limited budget and convince leading players such as Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano not to quit Anfield.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Liverpool over players and the future ownership of the club, with Hicks and Gillett struggling to find a buyer willing to meet their £600m-£800m price, Anfield officials insist they will not rush a decision and can install a long-term appointment.

The leading candidate at present is Hodgson, who has many admirers at Anfield with his European pedigree and recent success at Fulham. The 62-year-old former Internazionale, Switzerland and Blackburn Rovers manager is on a 12-month rolling contract at Craven Cottage and Liverpool are confident he would be receptive to their advances, despite insisting he was fully committed to Fulham after last month's Europa League final defeat to Atlético Madrid.

Another Premier League manager under consideration is O'Neill, although any approach to Aston Villa would be fraught with complications for Liverpool. The Villa owner, Randy Lerner, recently announced the 58-year-old would not be leaving the club for Anfield or any other destination this summer and the Midlanders' stance has not altered. The Villa board is also believed to be confident that problems on and off the field at Liverpool would dissuade O'Neill from starting anew on Merseyside.

Dalglish himself has also been mooted as a possible interim appointment, 19 years after the stresses of the job prompted his departure as Liverpool manager, but it is understood moves for Hodgson and O'Neill take precedence over what would be a remarkable return for the Scot.

Benítez's departure was confirmed this afternoon following a further round of talks between Liverpool directors and the Spaniard's agent, Manuel García Quilón. The position of the former Valencia and now Liverpool manager was made untenable yesterday when, following negotiations between Benítez and the new club chairman, Martin Broughton, the Anfield board offered him a compromise fee of £3m to leave with immediate effect.

Under the terms of the five-year contract signed only last March, Benítez would have been entitled to £16m if sacked by Liverpool this summer. Instead, he agreed to go with an initial £3m severance payment plus the guarantee of a further £3m spread over future dates. It is unknown whether the outspoken critic of the financial restrictions in place at Anfield has signed a confidentiality clause as part of the deal, but Benítez is now free to take a job without Liverpool demanding a compensation fee.

Benítez, an adversary of José Mourinho during their time in the Premier League, could replace the new Real Madrid coach at Internazionale. The president of the reigning European champions, Massimo Moratti, today insisted: "There is nothing new to add at this stage." An Inter director, Gabriele Oriali, however, admitted Benítez is under consideration. "Benítez has a certain affinity with Inter fans. He is very appealing to us," Oriali said. "He has already given us great joy, namely the 2005 Champions League win against Milan. Who does not remember Istanbul? We like him a lot. But the decision will be made by our president, Massimo Moratti."

Liverpool insist there is no timescale on the process to install a replacement for Benítez, and chairman Broughton claimed the decision to dispense with the European Cup winning coach stemmed from the disappointments of last season. "Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul," he said, "but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned."

News of Benítez's departure, officially "by mutual consent", provoked an angry protest outside Anfield tonight, where hundreds of Liverpool supporters voiced their support for their former manager and outrage at the ownership of Hicks and Gillett.

Benítez, who is on holiday in Sardinia, said: "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts. I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager. Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

Clint Dempsey scores with chip, rather than feeling 1 from criticism

A policeman holds a curtain open for U.S. national soccer team midfielder Clint Dempsey as he leaves a news conference at Irene Farm in Irene, South Africa Thursday June 3, 2010. The U.S. team is preparing for the upcoming World Cup, where it will play in Group C. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (Elise Amendola, AP / June 3, 2010)

IRENE, South Africa (AP) — Clint Dempsey's right knee buckled at Blackburn last Jan. 17, and American soccer fans spent two days worrying. He was one of the few who wasn't anguished.

"I knew something was wrong, but personally I didn't feel like it was going to be something that was going to keep me out of the World Cup or cause me to miss the rest of the season," he said Thursday. "I was out longer than I wanted to be, 7½ weeks, but I was able to bounce back and finish the season strong."

Dempsey returned to the national team last weekend, getting the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 exhibition win over Turkey. He was the only American to score at the 2006 World Cup and is counted on along with Landon Donovan to provide the offensive spark for the U.S. at this year's tournament,

Yet, some American soccer fans feel he doesn't do as much for the national team as he does for Fulham. That small London club often times has held its own against the big boys of the English Premier League — and even Europe — over the past two seasons. The 27-year-old from Nacogdoches, Texas, scored nine goals this season for the Cottagers after netting eight in 2008-09 and six the previous season, his first full year with the Cottagers.

Huge goals, too, that have helped fill Craven Cottage, the team's small southwest London grounds along the Thames, with screaming fans ready to take on London rivals Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham.

He scored against Liverpool in May 2007 to pretty much ensure Fulham wouldn't be relegated. He had two goals in a 2-2 tie against Chelsea in December 2008.

And his cheeky 20-yard chip in March capped a comeback from a three-goal aggregate deficit against Juventus, putting Fulham in the Europa League quarterfinals. The Cottagers reached a major final for only the second time in their 131-year history, and Dempsey became the first American to play in a European club final — only to lose to Atletico Madrid 2-1 in overtime.

Not enough, say some of the increasingly demanding U.S. fans, some of whom expect a goal-a-game performance minimum from the D&D boys.

"Whether it's club or national team, if you're a good player, a lot is expected," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "Then at the end of every game there will be all sorts of thoughts in terms of well how that person played. And it goes with the territory. As a player you have to be above all that. That part of it, that outcry, you've got to have a confidence in who you are. You've got to have a sense as to what you bring to your team. And, you know, it's normal. It's there in all sports.

"So, you know, I think Clint's an important player for us and therefore at times, you know, he gets put under the spotlight."

With 18 goals in 61 international appearances, Dempsey is second only to Donovan among current American players. He has the versatility to play either as a left midfielder or a forward. When Bobby Zamora's Achilles' tendon started hurting late in the season, Fulham manager Roy Hodgson used Dempsey as a target man.

"He's a player that I've seen a great improvement in, both in terms of his tactical awareness, his work ethic and, you know, he's a good character," Hodgson said.

With a tattooed left arm and "onion ring" eyes — in the words of American teammate Jose Torres — Dempsey cuts a striking presence. With a few days' growth of facial hair, the eyes stick out even more, looking as if he hasn't slept for quite some time.

Dempsey's chip against Juventus was voted Fulham's goal of the season. The club sold commemorative T-shirts that read: "Dempsey Chip/82 minutes/Fightback Completed."

Bradley was in the stands that day in London, just Dempsey's third game back from the knee injury. He loves Dempsey for his unpredictability, a willingness to try shots that others wouldn't think to attempt.

"Nine times out of 10 it won't make it, but you've got to take a risk," Dempsey said.

He had been a little peeved about all the attention the injury got. Hodgson had caused concern when he said he feared Dempsey injured a posterior cruciate ligament.

"When they ask managers after the game questions, there in the heat of the moment they say things that they probably shouldn't have said," was Dempsey's assessment. "I think you need to get MRId, you need to fully assess an injury before you put it out there."

Last year, he was given the Bronze Ball as the third best player at the Confederations Cup after scoring against Egypt, Spain and Brazil. He had five goals in qualifying for this year's World Cup.

He cites all that as proof criticism is unfair.

"I don't know what more you all want me to do."

Now, if he can just score another goal in the World Cup. His goal against Ghana was the highlight of his career.

"That was a dream come true. There's nothing to me that will ever take that away. That was the best one in my life. That was the most important one," he said.

Why not the goal against Juventus, one that surely is more memorable for his supporters in London?

"Because it wasn't always my dream to play for Fulham and score a goal for them," he said. "It was always my dream to play in the World Cup and score a goal. As a little kid that's something I never knew that was going to be possible, but I always dreamed out. And to actually like realize a dream, that's the best thing on this Earth."

For Sale: One Premiership Place
by GATESY on JUNE 3, 2010

Anything and everything in football is transferable these days. With a long contract or not players can move between clubs willy nilly, as long as the right amount of money is handed over. The same happens with managers and coaches. And we all know what happened to MK Dons. It usually boils down to the cash being offered, but not always.

But as so much is available to be exchanged between clubs (players, staff, fans...) why not everything?

I watched the highly entertaining Championship play off final the other Saturday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. But after the celebrations had all died down (Who knew the Scotch were all massive Blackpool fans?) you can't help but wonder about next season.

Before the match I heard an interview with Ian Holloway on the radio and he said the same again to the BBC this week. He said that if they won promotion they were not going to go all out to stay up, spending stupid money on players and wages as some clubs had. His preferred option was to get their stadium fully completed, get the training and youth facilities up to a high standard, bringing in just a couple of players to a largely unchanged squad. To me that sounds like he has pretty much raised the white flag on the relegation battle already, and accepted his fate. And that's more than fair enough. No Blackpool fan would have imagined they'd be gaining promotion at the end of the season this time last year. And I imagine very few would expect them to still be there in another years time. Plenty of clubs have broke the bank trying to get to and stay in the Premier League and failed. They seem set to not do this, and seem almost resigned to dropping back down in a years time.

But what if they were able to transfer the promotion place they won?

Clubs with money to burn with a wealthy backer, such as QPR, would bite their hand off! Sell the opportunity of Premiership football for, say, £50m and pocket the cash. This would give Blackpool the money they require to finish the stadium, improve their training and youth facilities and probably still have a little spare for a player or two. It'd also save the fans from having to endure a season which will offer little joy in terms of victories. Yes it'll be a great adventure, having the likes of Man Untied, Chelsea, Liverpool and us tip up at their place, but they style of football they play wont give them much joy in the Premiership. They try and pass the ball around, and the way newly promoted teams have managed to stay up recently has been to lump the ball forward and kick lumps out of the opposition (See Stoke City) By staying down in the Championship next season they would avoid this, and who knows, they may well get another crack next season with the club better positioned at staying up. Whoever bought the place would probably also make money as they estimate a club makes £90m, and if the club had deep pockets they would be able to make a far better stab at staying up than Blackpool.

Just a thought.

Could Roy Hodgson be one of the leading candidates to take over at Liverpool?

I was curious to see how long it would take for their to be a link between Liverpool possibly having interest in Roy Hodgson in their open managerial position? Well, it certainly did not take long for their to be a story about Hodgson. According to the Guardian,  Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neil are among the list of top candidates for the open position of manager of Liverpool.

According to the Guardian, Rafa Benitez accepted a severance package that is worth a maximum of £6m from Liverpool. That leaves a door open for a new manager. The article also mentions that Kenny Dalglish will be heading up the search to find the new Liverpool manager.

On Tuesday I had a story in my Cottagers Daily Rumor Mill, that had Inter Milan having possible interest in Roy Hodgson. Now today we have this story from the Guardian that Liverpool could have Hodgson on their candidate list to possibly replace Rafa Benitez..

As I mentioned prior I expected these stories regarding Hodgson. He had a great season last year and it is only natural that other clubs could be interested in him. I am personally hoping Roy Hodgson stays at Fulham. I will be following any developments on these stories and then provide updates.

King Kenny: Dalglish brought in to lure Roy Hodgson or Martin O'Neill to Liverpool... but don't rule HIM out of a sensational return

Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish will spearhead the search for Liverpool's new manager after Rafa Benitez's six-year reign finally ended on Thursday.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson and Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill top the list of targets but Dalglish is understood to be interested in taking over himself at the club where he enjoys iconic status.

Dalglish readily accepted the role of kingmaker, in conjunction with managing director Christian Purslow, after Benitez was sent packing with a pay-off in excess of £4million.

Kingmaker: Kenny Dalglish will have a huge say on the identity of Liverpool's next boss - the Scot himself could could make a sensational return to Anfield

Last night he was urged to take control of the crisis club by former Liverpool stars and fans. Phil Thompson, who was hired by Dalglish in 1986 as Liverpool's reserve team coach, said. 'I can see the logic in a Dalglish appointment – until there are new owners.

'Of course I would support Kenny. He was a good team-mate, a good manager. He won the title with Blackburn Rovers. He's still very passionate about football. So I can see where that would fit in.'

After a troubled end to the Benitez era, marked by rows with his Anfield bosses and a worsening relationship with key senior players, Liverpool are eager to restore order and stability behind the scenes.

They want an established, experienced coach, with an understanding of Europe and ability to cope with pressure, and believe Hodgson fits the bill on all fronts.

In the frame: Martin O'Neill (left) and Roy Hodgson - who both masterminded 3-1 victories over Liverpool last season - are on the shortlist to replace Rafa Benitez

While an approach has yet to be made, Liverpool have been heartened by an early indication that Hodgson, 62, would welcome a move to Anfield and, unlike Benitez, would not need substantial transfer funds to revive their fortunes next season.

Benitez dismissed as inadequate a summer budget of no more than £15m, but Fulham boss Hodgson would back himself to get the best out of players already at his disposal.

The former Inter Milan coach has transformed Fulham from relegation strugglers to European trailblazers and has a track record for working easily and successfully with foreign players.

Hodgson is on a 12-month rolling contract with the London club, and compensation should be no more than £2m.

Just think about the £4m, Rafa: Benitez looked glum on holiday at Porto Cervo in Sardinia as he reflected on losing his job... but the compensation deal and a new challenge at Inter Milan could help

O'Neill will also figure prominently on Dalglish's list and would jump at the chance of restoring Liverpool's tarnished reputation after becoming increasingly concerned by dwindling transfer funds at Aston Villa.

The Villa manager has tried to find some common ground with American owner Randy Lerner over the level of investment needed but he might be easily prised away from the club.

Former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is another who will feature on the shortlist, while Galatasaray's Frank Rijkaard, Turkey coach Guus Hiddink and Bayern Munich's Louis van Gaal head the likely list of foreign candidates.

Double Dutch: Louis van Gaal (left) - who won the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and reached the Champions League with Bayern Munich - and Turkey coach Guus Hiddink are also in consideration

But former Liverpool stars Thompson and Mark Lawrenson believe Dalglish could also fill the role himself.

Thompson, who was speaking at the Standard Chartered 'Beat the Goalie' competition in London, raising money to treat the blind or partially sighted, added that the appointment of Dalglish could persuade star players Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano to stay at the club.

'I want Steven Gerrard and Torres to stay at Liverpool FC. And Mascherano, too. Because that is going to make my football team stronger,' he said

'You're looking at Kenny Dalglish, who is steeped in Liverpool tradition. I can see where the Kenny thing would fit in with people. It is probably a step in the right direction at this present moment.'

Football pundit Lawrenson, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, added: 'I would have
thought Kenny would be heavily involved and quite rightly so — maybe not just in choosing the manager but holding the fort in the meantime.'

Anfield cap: Kenny Dalglish and Mark Lawrenson (right) celebrate Liverpool's League and FA Cup double in 1986

Benitez's lawyers finally agreed a severance package worth an initial £4m after two days of negotiations with their Liverpool counterparts.

It will rise to over £6m should he remain out of work beyond this summer, but that appears unlikely after Inter Milan again went public on their intention to recruit him as Jose Mourinho's successor at the San Siro.
Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton confirmed that Benitez's departure was initiated by the Anfield board.

He said: 'Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul, but after a disappointing season, both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned.'
Support for Benitez, 50, was beginning to waver in the stands, as well as the boardroom, but he sent an emotional farewell message to supporters.

He said: 'It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts.

Remember Istanbul: A fresh-faced Steven Gerrard (left) and Rafa Benitez hoist the European Cup after Liverpool's miraculous comeback against AC Milan
'I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support
of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager.

'Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone.'
Inter Milan yesterday released a statement, saying: 'We are not behind the story involving Benitez and Liverpool, but we are following it with interest.

'If he becomes free of his obligations to Liverpool and would like to come to Inter, then we would add him to our list of candidates. He would be considered, but he is not the only one.'

Read more:


LIVERPOOL legend Kenny Dalglish has been entrusted to head-hunt Rafa Benitez's replacement, with Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill emerging as leading contenders.

Benitez left Anfield by mutual consent yesterday, having thrashed out a compensation package worth an initial £3million but which could rise to £6m in instalments, after further talks with the board.

Both Fulham manager Hodgson and Aston Villa boss O'Neill would be enticed by the prospect of succeeding Benitez, who said in a statement while on holiday in Sardinia: "It is very sad for me to announce I will no longer be manager of Liverpool. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts."

Hundreds of Liverpool fans were protesting behind the Kop last night against his departure after six turbulent years, hours after Liverpool announced that Dalglish would lead the search for his successor.

Hodgson, 62, who guided Fulham to the Europa League final, fits the criteria of the established manager with a European pedigree, although owner Mohamed Al Fayed said he would not allow him to leave.

Villa owner Randy Lerner also insisted that O'Neill stays. But O'Neill would not be interested as long as Liverpool's ownership – it is currently up for sale – remained uncertain.

Club ambassador Dalglish, who guided Liverpool to three titles when manager, has ruled out taking over in the interim.
The futures of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will not be resolved until after the World Cup. Torres said: "Rafa has made me the player I am. No matter how good you become, he will keep on at you to be better.

"The boss can't take all the blame for last season. We as players need to stand up and say we weren't good enough."

USA's Dempsey eyeing goals against Australia's Schwarzer

USA midfielder Clint Dempsey is eyeing goals when the national team takes on Australia in Roodepoort on Saturday.

The 27-year old Fulham man says he would love to score past Cottagers teammate Mark Schwarzer who will be on goal when the two teams clash in their World Cup warm-up match but knows firsthand it will be a difficult task.

"In any game you play in, you always want to score, but it would be good to score against him because he's always running his mouth in training," Dempsey said.

"Really, he's a great goalie. He helped us out a lot at Fulham. I think a lot of the success of the team goes to having that experience between the sticks. It's great having him on the team. He's someone who has a lot of confidence, a lot of experience and I think he motivates the players around him and keeps everybody organized. I think Australia is lucky to have a goalkeeper of his quality."

Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill emerge as early contenders for Liverpool job
Kenny Dalglish will lead Liverpool's search for an established, experienced manager to succeed Rafael Benítez.

The Spaniard's six-year reign at Anfield came to an end by mutual consent on Thursday, but the club may face an exodus of its key players regardless of the man the Scot identifies as his latest heir.

After a morning of meetings between Liverpool's board, led by chairman Martin Broughton, and the Spaniard's lawyers, a statement on the club's website on Thursday afternoon confirmed Benítez's departure.

It is believed he has agreed a severance package worth around £6 million to draw a close to his spell on Merseyside, during which he won both the Champions League and the FA Cup.

Dalglish, the club's former manager who returned to Anfield in an ambassadorial role last year, will assist managing director Christian Purslow in assessing potential candidates to take over from Benítez, who is expected to move to Inter Milan in the coming weeks.

Sources at Liverpool have confirmed that the club will not rush any decision, with no announcement expected before next month at the earliest.

Purslow and Dalglish will look to secure a manager with an established reputation, experience in Europe and who offers a semblance of stability.

The club will not look to appoint an interim manager for the summer, while whoever is appointed will be on a long-term, rather than a temporary basis.

Both Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, and Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill are the leading domestic contenders, while Mark Hughes, the former Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton striker, is believed to enjoy some support at senior levels in the Anfield boardroom.

The leading continental candidates, the likes of Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard and the former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini, are likely to be put off by the ongoing uncertainty behind the scenes at Anfield.

Sven-Goran Eriksson is known to be keen on the job, though the bookmakers' favourite remains Dalglish himself. Liverpool distanced themselves from that possibility, and the Scot's involvement in the search would seem to preclude his appointment.

Whoever Dalglish and Purslow settle on is likely to be handed around £15 million in a bid to rebuild Liverpool's squad, which finished a disappointing seventh in the Premier League last season, though any compensation the club may have to pay would diminish that fund.

There are also no guarantees that the core of Benítez's squad will remain at Anfield by the time any appointment is made.

Several key players are believed to have expressed their concern at the continuing uncertainty at the club, despite suggestions from senior sources at Liverpool that Benítez's removal may encourage the likes of Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano to stay.

The Spanish international striker is known to be concerned by Liverpool's financial plight, while Mascherano is yet to sign a £100,000-a-week contract agreed several weeks ago.

Both may take Benítez's departure as evidence that the club are in no position to offer the stability required to win trophies. Goalkeeper Pepe Reina said: "It's obviously a sad day. I was really close to Rafa, it's especially bad news for me. It is surprising, they have been talking about it for a long time now. We have to keep growing and build a proper squad. It's sad, he was a manager who trusted me."

Steven Gerrard's future, too, remains clouded. The England international will not make any decision until after the World Cup but he is unlikely to remain should the club not be able to appoint a top-class replacement for the Spaniard.

Jan the man for Fulham: Boss Roy Hodgson eyes Hannover striker Jan Schlaudraff

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has ear-marked Hannover striker Jan Schlaudraff as the man to bolster his attacking options next season.

The Germany international endured a torrid season, making just 10 appearances as form and fitness deserted him in the run up to the World Cup.

The 26-year-old moved from Bayern Munich in 2008 but has yet to build on the three international caps he earned before 2007. 

Jan the man: Jan Schlaudraff is wanted by Fulham boss Roy Hodgson

Hodgson is keen to add some much-needed firepower to a front line that relied too heavily on Bobby Zamora this campaign.

'I am aware of Jan Schlaudraff,' the Fulham boss said. 'He is a very fast player that is also able to score goals. He could add something to our squad.'

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Ownership issues cloud Reds' manager search

Liverpool, England - Rafael Benitez's exit from Liverpool may have brought a few sighs of relief in the corridors of power at Anfield, but the Spaniard is likely to cast a long shadow for some while yet.

While the end of Benitez's six-year reign as Liverpool manager had been coming from the moment his team's woeful campaign finished with their worst final league position for 11 years, his departure has hardly lifted the gloom around the club.

Removing an under-achieving manager would normally be the cause for some celebration among fans of a top side with dreams of returning to their former glory.

But on the streets of Liverpool on Thursday, the news that Benitez had gone was met with either sorrow or apathy because it is by no means certain a brighter future is on the horizon.

Liverpool must now try to attract a manager capable of breaking Chelsea and Manchester United's dominance of the Premier League, while also re-establishing the team in the top four despite the improved challenge from Tottenham and the vast amounts of cash backing Manchester City.

Not only must he do all that, but Benitez's successor will have to persuade star players like Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano that Liverpool can still be a force in English football.

That could be a hard task given the fact that Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett will be loathe to spend much on squad improvements as they are trying to sell the club.

Even worse, the Americans are struggling to find a buyer willing to pay their 800 million pounds (960 million euros) asking price and Hicks recently admitted there is little chance of a quick sale.

Against that background of uncertainty it will be fascinating to see how Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and club ambassador Kenny Dalglish fare in their search for a new boss.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson looks a strong contender after leading his unfashionable club to the Europa League final on a limited budget last season.

That could be especially useful given Liverpool's mounting debts and their participation in Europe's second tier competition next term.

Another firm favourite of the bookmakers is Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who may feel he has taken his current club as far as possible. But will he want to walk out into such an unstable situation?

Turkey coach Guus Hiddink could be a candidate as he loves English football after his brief time as Chelsea manager, but he has only just started his new role.

Even former Liverpool boss Dalglish has been mentioned as a potential interim manager, but whoever eventually comes in will find it hard to emulate the strong bond Benitez had with the Kop.

Benitez had become an iconic figure on Merseyside after leading the club to their first European Cup triumph for 21 years in 2005 and even the stench of failure that enveloped his club last season couldn't ruin that love affair.

"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool," Benitez said.

"I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager.

"Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

In response to those emotional words some Liverpool fans made their way to Anfield to tie banners to the stadium gates offering thanks to the Spaniard and berating Hicks and Gillett for their error-filled reign.

"Built by Shanks, Ruined by Yanks", read one, in reference to Liverpool managerial great Bill Shankly. "Ta Rafa La" ('Thanks Rafa') hailed another, playing on the city's distinctive Scouse dialect.

It might not be the last time Liverpool fans feel the need to make their feelings known in the next few months. - Sapa-AFP


Where else but Liverpool to start this morning, after Rafa finally said goodbye to Anfield and walked away with a wedge of notes in his back pocket - probably to Inter Milan.
According to The Times, 'King Kenny' Dalglish will lead the search for his successor - the man tasked with trying to convince Stevie Gee and Fernando Tee to stay and saving the Reds from a fate like Leeds.

Roy Hodgson is an early favourite. The Fulham boss already had a fine reputation, but in leading his team to the Europa Cup final his stock rose to new heights.

Martin O'Neill is another one who's name is being bandied around. According to reports, he's highly rated at Anfield and well up there on the list of potential candidates.

As an outside bet, how about Jurgen Klinsmann, who is no stranger to being linked to the Liverpool hotseat.

- - -

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports than Inter Milan defender Maicon has no interest in joining Moneychester City.

The Brazil international is apparently keen on following The Special One to Real Madrid.

Al-Fayed's girl helps at school

THE daughter of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed has spoken of her twice-monthly trips to Sevenoaks to visit a school for traumatised children.

Camilla, 25, acts as "Young Persons Ambassador" at The New School in West Heath, of which her father is patron.

Mr Al-Fayed reopened the school as a living memorial to Princess Diana and his son, Dodi, Camilla's half-brother, who were killed in a car accident in 1997.

Explaining her role, the London-based charity campaigner, who recently had a baby, said: "It mainly involves fundraising and looking after the school.

"I try to make it down there at least a couple of times each month.

"I am very fond of the faculty – they do a wonderful job."

She added her father also takes a keen interest in the school, in Ashgrove Road, and even attends the Christmas plays.

Miss Al-Fayed said of her father: "He has been actively involved in it since day one.

"He's obviously funded a lot of facilities for them and he really enjoys being there."

She said although her father recently sold Harrods to the businessmen Ahmad al-Sayed, the luxury department store would remain connected to the school.

Items from Harrods have been used in The New School's fundraising events.

Speaking of the school's upcoming fundraiser, Lawnfest, on June 11, featuring pop star Lemar and singer Mari Wilson, she said: "It will be great. We have some amazing performers.

"What we are trying to do is launch a lot of up and coming bands and give them a stage to perform on.

"The children are really excited about the fact we have amazing people on the day."

Lawnfest tickets cost £20 for adults, £10 for children, or £45 for a family of four. Call the box office on 01732 468992 or 01732 468993.