Opposition View: Liverpool FC

Tim Holland speaks to Daniel Baker, lifelong Liverpool fan, about the rise of Raheem, the ‘Big Andy’ conundrum and the Jonjo for England debate.

TH: How do you rate Liverpool’s start to the season?

DB: If this was an end of term report I’d give us a C-. Brendan Rogers has come in with new ideas and the team are definitely playing a more measured, passing game which goes down well with the fans. Results have been variable but a large part of that can be put down to failures in the transfer market over the past two years and an over-reliance on the mercurial Suarez.

TH: Brendan Rogers replaced Kenny Dalglish in the summer. Do you think he’s impressed in his time in the North West?

DB: I like him and I think the majority of fans and the board are prepared to give him time as he has a compelling vision of where the club is heading. He respects the history of the club and likes his teams to play football in the ‘right way’ which I think everyone appreciates. He can tend to slip into ‘business management speak’ at times and has some leftfield motivational techniques (names in envelopes?) but that’s forgivable as its clear he cares deeply about the club.

TH: Some supporters were critical of the transfer policy of the club in the summer. How do you assess the comings and goings?

DB: I was pleased with the focus on young players with potential coming in such as Allen, Borini, Sahin and was the best for everybody that some of the players who don’t fit in with Rogers’ style were moved on. I think the biggest issue was not getting a replacement striker in when we let you have ‘big Andy’; it was embarrassing and very risky and we are now completely reliant on Suarez. Clearly the owners were overly cautious after the Dalglish splurge which resulted in a few underwhelming big name arrivals; yes I’m looking at you Downing, Henderson and Adam.

TH: Raheem Stirling has been receiving the plaudits this season. What’s your view on his meteoric rise to the Liverpool and England first teams?

DB: It’s always good to see young players breaking through and he has been a big prospect ever since we signed him from QPR as a lad. He’s quick and tricky and has good composure for one so young. If he gets his head down, stays out of trouble and works hard, he could become a big player in years to come.

TH: Andy Carroll will not be allowed to play in the upcoming match due to the terms of his loan agreement. Do you think he could have made an impact had he remained at Liverpool? Where do you think his future lies?

DB: I’ve got a soft spot for Andy; the high price-tag hasn’t helped. Although he didn’t make much impact in terms of goals at Anfield he always gave it his all and his confidence and performances were improving towards the end of last season. For that reason I was surprised to see him go, but clearly Rogers does not see him fitting into the first team and I can’t see that changing so I hope he finds the right club and we get a decent return, good to see him get his first goal for West Ham, lets hope he pushes on from there.

TH: The behind the scenes documentary series Being: Liverpool made for entertaining watching. Do you think it was a positive experience for the club or do you think it publicly highlighted the struggles of a club in transition?

DB: It feels like we’ve been a club in transition for near on 20 years! There were some interesting behind the scenes insights but overall it was clear that it was aimed at a Global (American) audience. It felt overblown especially when they were trying to ‘big-up’ an essentially meaningless pre-season friendly in Boston with slow motion replays and dramatic commentary talking about the ‘agony of defeat’! Plus there’s the bigger question – what’s the colon for in the title of the show for?

TH: Former West Ham captain Joe Cole has been linked with a move back to the Boleyn Ground. Do you think he has a future at Anfield?

DB: I hope so, Rogers has been a bit critical of his commitment but I don’t see that and he can definitely fit into the new passing philosophy at the club. He’s been unlucky with injuries but has shown signs of form in the Europa League recently.

TH: Jonjo Shelvey has been included in recent England teams. Do you think he deserves his place in the national squad?

DB: Not sure he’d be first choice for England but seems to be Hodgson’s policy to pick young players to acclimatise in the squad which is fair enough. Shelvey has done well for us but he’s still young and his game is developing. It’s maybe a reflection on the failure of older England players to maintain their form

TH: How are you enjoying your side’s journey in the Europa League this season? Critics say it can detract attention from the Premier League. What’s your view on this?

DB: The Thursday night European adventures can be a pain as it means a glut of Sunday fixtures but generally they have been good games to watch and a chance for younger and squad players to make an appearance for the first team.

TH: Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the Liverpool first XI when the club’s meet?

DB: Well, Suarez and Sterling would be the obvious answers but Enrique is on a good run of form and could be a slightdanger man.

TH: What’s been your opinion of West Ham this season?

DB: You’ve had a great start to the season, especially when compared to the likes of Aston Villa, QPR and the other promoted sides Reading and Southampton. Your midfield looks good and a surprisingly solid defence. Allardyce is not to everyone’s tastes but he seems to be getting the job done.

TH: Which West Ham players would you have in your squad?

DB: Andy Carroll, ah hang on… I think it would have to be Nolan; we could do with some goals from midfield.

TH: What’s your prediction for both clubs this season?

DB: I think either end of mid-table with the current positions reversed Liverpool 7th, West Ham- 12th.

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