Saturday, August 08, 2009

The King, the little Prince and the swordsman

Pre season training is nearly over. Any rustiness or sloppiness was swept clean, like this sloppy fecker. It started with a training camp in Switzerland and two friendlies. St Gallen drew 0-0 with Liverpool and then we were defeated 1-0 by Rapid Vienna. Then the asian leg of the tour started with a 1-1 draw against Thailand. Then things started to click into gear against Singapore with a 5-0 win. Kuyt and Nemeth were particularly strong performers. Then came an embaressing 3-0 loss to Espanol and a 2-0 win over Lyn Oslo featuring a goal from Babel. The final pre season game was a 2-1 loss against Atletico Madrid today, a big game for El Nino who hit the post and contrived not to score against his old team. Lucas was the scorer for us.

The second XI also played a few friendlies including a visit to Dunmanway in west Cork. I drove through the village last weekend and they were painting it red in anticipation of the red invasion. One of the worlds biggest teams playing one of the smallest. The match itself featured a free kick from young Danny Pacheco. This Monday will see the reserve squad play against Bohemians in Dalymount Park, Reds in Dublin. Not a 15 min walk from my own house here in the city centre.

The biggest news of the summer is that £30m+add ons Xabi Alonso will be replaced by £16m Alberto Aqulani who passed his medical on Friday. This is huge news. I really like Xabi, and he was probably my favourite red. A gentleman and a midfielder of such poise and technique that he lit up any game he played. He always made it look like he had much more time than everyone else. But now he's gone. He'll be missed but he gave us five great years and he wanted to move back to spain with his family, which is fair enough. He got a sword when he left Atletico, maybe he'll get a pan of scouse when he leaves merseyside? Good luck Xabi, unless you're playing against us.

While the Xabi saga rumbled on Bob Arbeloa was on his way to the bernabeu after a much quicker deal was agreed a fee of £3.5m + clauses for his transfer. I'm sad to see him go but he's only a year left onhis contract and clearly wants to return to Real Madrid. It means there will be opportunities for Degen and young Martin Kelly at right back. So out with the old and in with the new. Bertie Aqulani is setting up shop in L4 and let's hope he brings his girlfriend with him. There is no doubting the talent that this lad possesses. But what is doubtful, is his injury record. He has struggled a bit in recent times and is out at the moment with an ankle problem. But Roma fans seem to think that this is more to do with their training methods and medical staff. I'm hoping that we can get him fit and firing. His playing stats can be a little misleading because Spaletti often preferred Pizzaro to Bertie in recent years.5 Hungarian kids are coming over on trial and could end up joining their compatriots Gulasci Nemeth, Simon etc. Another young recruit is Danish midfield teen Kohlert who'll go into the reserves.

Hicks and Gillett have secured their refinancing deal which will require them to pay off some of their initial loan. While this sounds good on paper, I'm sure that they'll find a way to bill the club for the expense. They're a pair of leeches, sucking the life out of our club.

There is a certain purity and blind optimism to the first game of the season, you can legitimately expect all of the old problems to have sorted themselves out over the summer. It's a clean slate for all and the new recruits will make the difference. This time we'll go the extra yards. This year is our year. Number 19 is coming home.Celebrity red Samuel L Jackson is well up for the season. I'm sure he backs us to go far, maybe even the whole way to ending our 19 year league drought. The guardian season preview thinks we'll do it. I've been fairly cautious over the past few years and never said we'd do it. I correctly predicted second last season but this time I'm going to stick my neck out and say we'll reach the promised land of the league trophy. You can argue that we're weaker with the loss of Xabi and Arbeloa but the addition of Johnson and Aquilani doesn't leave us far off and might make us more attacking and capable of breaking down a packed defence, in time. There will be a bedding in period, for Alberto especially who hasn't had pre season with the team. If we can keep him fit alongside Torres and Gerrard, then we can do it. I know that's a big if but our inability to field our best XI cost us last year. I think we were the best team but Utd won the league as they had a best squad. I think the loss of Lady Ronaldo will be a problem for them as he destroyed teams and pulled goals out of nowhere so often. We we're very close last year, only four points off and I think that his loss will affect them more than our loss of Xabi. Of course, it will need the Americans to keep their noses out of Rafa's business and let him get on with training and coaching his team. Chelsea will be in there too but they'll need adaptation time to Carlo's methods and tactics. Sure we'll find out over the next 9 months, starting with Spurs on Sunday. The league is like a pregnancy. There are many bumps and kicks along the way but you have to wait until the end to find out the result. Here's hoping that it's the second coming of our league domination.

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