Summer buys key to Reds' title push
May 2 2006
By Ian Rush, Liverpool Echo
WHATEVER the outcome at Portsmouth next week, this Premiership season has been magnificent for Liverpool.
WEST HAM FAN WHO DIED SATURDAY
The Guy's name was Dave Luckhurst RIP YNWA 15-05-2006 16:45 West Ham United would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of David Luckhurst, a lifelong Hammers fan who tragically died after suffering...
I'd never have imagined the club would have remained in contention for second place until the final league game.
Given the points gap between Manchester United and Chelsea a year ago, for Liverpool to accumulate 20 more points in one season is a superb effort.
In most years, this side would have done enough to maintain a longer title challenge. It's a tribute to Chelsea that their form has kept Liverpool out of that particular equation, but that shouldn't stop us putting Rafa Benitez's efforts in suitable context.
Liverpool didn't enjoy a good start to their campaign, and at one point around October there were even genuine concerns about finishing in the top four.
The run of results since then has been as good as anything the club has produced since we last won the title in 1990.
In fact, if Liverpool win on Saturday, the points tally will be even better than that.
It's made us all very confident for the future, but we all know how important it is to take the difficult next step and finish first in the seasons to come.
Catching Chelsea, who have shown they can spend £100m a summer, is going to be as tough next season as it is now.
When I look at the Liverpool side I think they are three players from being good enough to win the league. A centre-half to cover for Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, a right midfielder, and a world clbutt goalscorer.
Of course, needing those players is one thing, but finding them is another.
There have been numerous occasions since 1990 when we've felt the side just needed a couple of signings and it all went wrong.
Benitez's judgement when he's spent big money has been good so far. He has not made any big mistakes and, providing money is available, the next recruits will be vital.
One error which the club won't make this time is buying a player just because he impresses in the World Cup.
There have been a lot of recent examples of the club spending big money on someone who did well in that tournament, or the European Championships, but didn't produce it week in, week out on Merseyside.
You can guarantee that someone we've never heard of will shine in Germany, and suddenly his value will rise to £10m.
Playing well for four weeks is one thing, but doing so for 38 games in the Premiership is another.
I know Benitez won't be fooled into scouting players on the basis of what they do in Germany, and he'll want his targets recruited before the tournament begins.
Whoever he signs will join a club with title expectations next season. The identity of those play-ers will determine if they're realistic or not.
Eriksson must work on England's Plan B
IF THERE'S any chance of Wayne Rooney being fit for part of the World Cup, he must go.
Without him, England's chances are wrecked.
Even if Rooney and Michael Owen are in Germany, neither are going to be 100 per cent match fit.
But some players are irreplaceable and worth the gamble. Both come into that category, because I don't see any other strikers out there with the same qualities.
If Rooney doesn't make it, it will be a true test of Sven Goran Eriksson's tactical skills.
England have enough quality players to rearrange the side, and I'd say playing an extra midfielder is the best bet to allow both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to get forward more often.
Eriksson is usually set in his ways, and the last time he tried this it backfired. However, such a system also depends on having the right kind of striker, holding the ball so midfield runners can get support him.
The World Cup warm-up games have suddenly become more important to England's chances of success and I expect to see quite a bit of experimentation between now and the opening game of the tournament.
New boots are bone of contention
I'D NEVER heard of a metatarsal until a few years ago.
Now it seems every top player suffers this particular injury at least once, and you can only buttume it's a consequence of the new design of boots they all wear.
Nowadays, boots feel more like slippers. They're a lot more comfortable and give you far more control of the ball.
Unfortunately, they don't seem to protect the bones so well. The one part of the boot which hasn't changed is the stud, so if someone stands on your foot you're in trouble.
Maybe the gauntlet has been thrown down to sports manufacturers to come up with a boot which offers more protection to the notorious 'fourth metatarsal'.
It's a shame Craig Johnston was unable to attend yesterday's charity match.
Given his history redesigning boots, I'm sure it's a problem he'd like to have an attempt at solving.