The Mersey Army – On the March to Wembley Once More

The “champagne” and “no tea” chants will be prominent and extremely loud at Wembley on April 14th as Merseyside goes head to head at the national stadium for the third time.

Twice before Liverpool have came out on top in contests against their Stanley Park rivals. The teams that contest the so-called “friendly derby” met at Wembley twice in the eighties – the 1984 Milk Cup final and the 1989 FA Cup final were the two occasions.

As the two meet once more at Wembley in the FA Cup this year, we’ll no doubt see families with split allegiances; families of half red and half blue, but although that’ll be the case, whichever club goes away from Wembley without booking their place in the final of the most prestigious English domestic cup will be disappointed.

I’m looking forward to it and whatever the result it’ll be a great occasion.

My family is one with split allegiances with my Dad, my Grandad and I all being Reds and my mum, my brother and my other Grandad all being Blues, but one thing will be for sure, we’ll all be happy come the final whistle whatever the result.

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The Rise of a Brazilian Star

Lucas left his homeland of Brazil in May 2007 and came to join Liverpool – eighteen time league champions and five time European champions.

He began in 2005 at Gremio and spent two years at that club before form led him away and linked to a series of big clubs such as Inter and a number of Spanish teams. It was Liverpool that proved most attractive and won the race to the signing of the then 20-year-old.

At first impressions, Lucas wasn’t exactly a favourite of the fans with some saying “If he’s Brazilian, I want to see his passport,” but as time has passed, he’s grown in stature and is now a firm fans favourite and is now – for me – the first name on that Liverpool teamsheet when fully fit. He’s stepped up to the plate enormously since the vacation of the central defensive midfielder position by Javier Mascherano when he left for Barcelona two years ago. His exit from the Anfield dressing room has benefited Lucas one hundred per cent because it’s brought him on no end.

All Liverpool fans are now devastated as the man from Brazil injured his knee in a league cup game against Chelsea and it was later announced that he would be out for the rest of the season. I keep updated on his injury progress via his official Twitter account.

I don’t understand why he was doubted when he first stepped foot in the club. I’ve always supported him, even from day one and I’m hearing stories of people that didn’t like him when he first came that now adore him due to the service he’s given – and no doubt will continue to give – to the club.

You can follow Lucas on Twitter using the above link.

He’ll be doing a live Twitter interview on LFCtv (Sky platform 434) tonight from 6pm. Send in your tweets using the hashtag #tweetlucas.

The Big Bang Date Shuffle

Tony Bellew’s defence of his British light heavyweight title against Danny McIntosh was originally supposed to take place on April 14th at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, but due to the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley & the Grand National at Aintree both being held on that weekend, the date has been moved.

The move isn’t a major one, it’s only a day, but the event will now take place on Friday 13th April at the same venue.

What a Sad Day for Football

Yesterday was supposed to be a good day of sport in general. The Six Nations was in its final round of games and the FA Cup and the Premier League were also going on.

Wales won the Grand Slam, Swansea got a victory in the Premier League, Kerry Hope – a Welsh international – won the European title in boxing and Sunderland earned a hard-fought replay against Everton in the quarter final of the FA Cup. However, the day didn’t end as well as it started. The “good day” that it was supposed to be was stopped suddenly, likewise the whole footballing world, as news filtered through that Bolton Wanderers’ 23-year-old midfielder, Fabrice Muamba had inexplicably collapsed during the first half of his side’s FA Cup tie with Premier League title outsiders, Tottenham Hotspur.

It quickly became clear that the stricken state of Muamba was no simulation. It was serious. Darren Pratley was first on the scene as he saw his team-mate, a former England u21 international, face down on the turf. Owen Coyle, the whole Bolton bench and also the players were visibly distraught by what they had seen. Medical teams from both sides, paramedics and club doctors all raced to the aid of the DRC-born ex-Arsenal trainee. Tottenham left back Gareth Bale was seen comforting team-mate Jermain Defoe who cried. Rafael van der Vaart, also a Spurs player was praying on the pitch whilst the medics tried their best. There was a deafening silence around White Hart Lane from both sets of fans once all seriousness was realised. That was then followed by the whole crowd of 38,000 people chanting the name of Fabrice Muamba.

Match referee, Howard Webb, for me, handled the intense situation with enormous dignity. Applause should go to him for the way he handled it. Whatever feelings you had towards the former Salford police officer would surely have gone out of the window yesterday to have been replaced by respect. If not, that’s what should have happened. Webb made the right decision in abandoning the game.

Paramedics spent close to ten minutes trying to revive Fabrice Muamba last night, using both mouth-to-mouth CPR and a defibrillator to try and bring him back to consciousness, but they couldn’t and it was left to the ambulance crew that took him to the London Chest Hospital to do their bit to try and save his life.

We heard no update for well over an hour last night and the collective thought of the whole footballing family was that the old adage of “No news is good news” applied. The silence was broken later on as the hospital released a statement to say that Muamba was in a “stable condition.” There were then further developments as the 23-year-old’s condition worsened and he was said to be “in a critical condition in intensive care.”

Within hours of the news, social networking site Twitter became a media frenzy as the speculation as to his condition started. At a time like this, football pales into complete insignificance and the whole footballing world unites.

Many significant figures from the world of football yesterday took to Twitter to give their well-wishes to Muamba. He’s still in a critically ill condition in hospital and manager Owen Coyle says that the next 24 hours is crucial.

No footballer or fan should ever go to a football game, or any game for that matter and never return. I know of people that were at Spurs’ FA Cup tie with Bolton yesterday that were physically sick after seeing what unfolded before their very eyes. Children, teenagers and adults alike are all in a state of shock this morning after what they witnessed and we all hope he pulls through.

We all wish Muamba a safe and speedy recovery, but the real heroes yesterday were the NHS staff who worked tirelessly to save a footballer’s life.

What a Night

What a night I had at the Olympia last night. A big thanks to VIP Boxing Promotions for a great night of championship boxing.

Two knockouts, several points wins and an English title win for John Donnelly against fellow Liverpudlian Mike Robinson in his hometown.

Great night overall. I hope for more nights like that soon.

Olympia Bill

Tonight will see me go to the Liverpool Olympia to report on the English title fight between two Scousers, John Donnelly and Michael Robinson.

I’ll also be reporting on the undercard for Mersey Gloves. Tweets will be getting sent out from my personal Twitter account and also the account of Mersey Gloves. If you want to follow tonight’s action, follow me on Twitter here or follow Mersey Gloves’ Twitter page by clicking here.

There’ll be a full report on the Mersey Gloves website, which can be found here and I’ll also have a little blog post about it tomorrow on this very site.

If you follow our coverage on Twitter tonight, I hope you enjoy what you read.

Clash of the Clubs – RvP: Will He Stay or Will He Go?

Arsenal’s in demand 28-year-old forward Robin van Persie could be on the verge of a move away from the club that he’s called his own for the last eight years.

He’s scored thirty three goals this season and he’s helped Arsenal build from – at their worst – sixteenth in the Premier League to a very respectable fifth place, which is an overachievement when you think that they lost to Manchester United by eight goals to two earlier on in the season.

For me, a move is RvP’s only option. He’s too good for Arsenal and he would flourish a hell of a lot more at another European club. Like I said, he’s pulled up trees for Arsenal this season and I believe that he deserves a move to a club where he will benefit more.

In this morning’s papers, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has expressed his interest in signing the flying Dutchman, who has been nicknamed of late, “Robin Reliant.” Despite making these comments, Mancini later said that “he believes RvP will stay at Arsenal,” but I, on the other hand, am not so certain.

Real Madrid has also been a club mentioned in the same breath as Robin van Persie recently. I reckon he’d be better off going to Real Madrid over Manchester City, simply because of playing opportunities and strength in depth of squad.

What do you think – do you believe RvP should move away from the Emirates to further his club career, despite being at Arsenal for the best part of a decade?

Fozzy’s Fury – Everton Reserves 0-0 Liverpool Reserves

Today saw a big, big game at Goodison Park – a mini Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool reserves. The first mini derby of the season was at Liverpool’s Kirkby academy last month – it ended in a draw. This one did too.
Rodolfo Borrell, Liverpool’s reserve team manager, fielded a hugely inexperienced side compared to that fielded by former Everton centre back – manager of the reserves, Alan Stubbs. Stubbsy fielded a side which featured the likes of first team centre-back Phil Jagielka; midfielders Jack Rodwell & Ross Barkley; Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman and finally, James McFadden.
Liverpool’s side, however, featured no first-teamers and therefore the odds were stacked massively against them.
The game looked to have got off to the worst possible start from a Liverpool point of view when after just sixteen seconds, Toffee’s midfielder Leon Osman breezed past Andrè Wisdom and fired towards the goal of Brad Jones – who made a great save. Fortunately, Irishman Seamus Coleman put the rebound wide.
As the game grew, Liverpool overcame the early Everton pressure and most definitely became the better side with Josè Suso Fernandez, Krizstian Adorjan and former Queens Park Rangers youngster, Raheem Sterling all giving 110% to make Liverpool tick going forward.
At first, the Liverpool midfielders were non-existent because they were being over-run hugely by the Everton midfield, but like I said, as the game continued, they became the more dominant side. Raheem Sterling hit the post with a curling effort just seconds before the break.
At the break, it was 0-0 and I was unbelievably surprised that is was. Liverpool were unfortunate not to be ahead after all the chances they had had, but there was one reason and one reason only as to  why they weren’t and that was all down to Everton’s number one, Jan Mucha, who was outstanding in the first half.
Moving into the second period, it starting at the same frantic pace that the first half did. It was end to end. Liverpool continued where they left off at the break, but unfortunately, from an Everton point of view, there was no threat whatsoever.
It wasn’t until the fifty eighth minute when Everton withdrew Leon Osman and brought on Francisco Junior that they actually provided any type of threat. Following the substitution, Ross Barkley was pushed forward to provide a further threat, but there wasn’t one that materialised. In fact, Liverpool gained confidence from the lack of Everton pressure and were outstanding on the break.
It was a good derby that was played in a great venue and had a great spirit to it. It was just a shame that we didn’t see any goals.
By Elliot Foster

Blue Boy Bellew – What Next?

Ex Rotunda amateur, 29-year-old Tony Bellew will be back in action in April after a break of six months following his last fight – a defeat to Welsh light heavyweight, Nathan Cleverly.

Bellew will face 32-year-old Danny McIntosh at the Liverpool Echo Arena on April 14th. They’ll both fight it out as Bellew defends his British Boxing Board of Control light heavyweight title, which he won against Jamaican-born Ovill McKenzie of Derby after a unanimous points decision in July of 2011.

If Bellew goes on to defend his title against McIntosh successfully, will there be a rematch between himself and Nathan Cleverly?

It’s a no-brainer for me and it’s also a bout that the fans want, but boxing is a very, very funny sport and there can be no guarantees that that match-up can be made.

So, if that match-up doesn’t go to plan like everybody wants it to, what is next for Bellew?

Who Next for the Blues?

After André Villas-Boas was sacked from his managerial post at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Roman Abramovich – Chelsea’s multi-million pound owner – is looking for his eighth manager in his nine year reign at the club.

From day one, in 2003, Abramovich has had a “hire and fire” policy which means that if the boss doesn’t get silverware or has a poor run of results, his job at the Bridge is under threat.

From Claudio Ranieri to AVB, managers at Chelsea – for me – haven’t been given anywhere near enough time. They’re now looking for their eighth in nine years and I want to know who you believe should be next in the hotseat.

I think either Harry Redknapp of Spurs or Everton’s David Moyes are – or should be – front runners for the job. Redknapp has jumped ship before, moving from Southampton to Pompey. On the other hand, Moysie of the Toffees has worked wonders on complete shoestrings. I believe he’d do the exact same – if not a better job at Chelsea.

Former boss Jose Mourinho is also being mentioned, along side Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.

If Mourinho does get the job and returns to a former haven, it is likely that he’ll demand all control of transfers, a £12m wage and the immediate signing of Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

Guardiola coming to the Premier League, however, seems a lot less likely. Well, let’s face it, he’s currently manager of the best club in the world and winning silverware left, right & centre. Why on earth would he want leave the security of his job at the Camp Nou to come and manage a club that has an owner with the mentality of Abramovich?

I want to know your thoughts – who do you believe should be the next permanent Chelsea boss?