Merseyside Police ‘ready’ to host any Liverpool match

English Premier League clubs voted unanimously on May 27 to resume contact training. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Merseyside Police ‘ready’ to host any Liverpool match

  • Manager Jurgen Klopp says he is still hopeful his team can lift trophy on home turf

LONDON: Local police have said they would be “ready” to hold any possible Liverpool Premier League title-clinching match at Anfield, despite the UK’s football policing lead suggesting otherwise.

On Friday, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, said games, including any match in which Liverpool can seal the title, would be moved at local forces’ request.

The Premier League is set to resume on June 17 following a three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Merseyside derby and Liverpool’s trip to defending champions Manchester City were among the games Roberts said could be hosted at neutral venues.

But Merseyside Police later said it was happy to police any match held at Anfield or Everton’s Goodison Park.

“Merseyside Police is ready to provide whatever policing is required of us in relation to games being played at our Premier League stadia once the season restarts,” the force said in a statement to the Liverpool Echo.

“In relation to crime and disorder we have no objections to any of the Everton or Liverpool home fixtures being played at their respective grounds.

“We have a good working relationship with both clubs, and their fan groups, and are content that we can work together in advance of the restart of the season.”

Manchester City’s home match against Newcastle and Liverpool’s visit to St. James’ Park were also said to be at risk, but Greater Manchester Police said a decision was yet to be made.

“A decision will be made by the SAGs (safety advisory groups) in due course and we will support whichever outcome is decided,” it said.

The subject is set to be discussed again when Premier League clubs meet on June 4 to finalize plans for the restart.

The Premier League released a statement saying its ambition was to complete the season on a home-and-away basis “where possible.”

“We are prepared for all outcomes and have a neutral venue contingency,” it added.

Liverpool are two wins away from claiming a first league title in 30 years, having sat 25 points clear of Man City when the season was halted in March.

Manager Jurgen Klopp on Friday had said he was still hopeful his team could lift the trophy at Anfield.

“We hope it will be at Anfield but we don’t know, and that’s not important,” he told beIN SPORTS’ Keys & Gray Show.

“Most of the people on this planet have never had a chance in life to become champion of the Premier League, for us it looks like that we have that chance. So we take it.”

Europe’s biggest four leagues are all set to complete their seasons, with the Bundesliga already back under way in Germany, Spain’s La Liga hoping to resume on June 11, and Serie A scheduled for a June 18 restart in Italy.


Leeds face test of nerve as promotion looms

Updated 07 July 2020

Leeds face test of nerve as promotion looms

  • Marcelo Bielsa’s side look odds-on to secure the place among English football’s elite

LONDON: After 16 years in the wilderness, Leeds United are on the brink of an eagerly awaited return to the Premier League — as long as they can hold their nerve with the finish line in sight.

A 3-1 win at Blackburn on Saturday moved Leeds a step closer to the promised land from the long purgatory of the lower leagues.

Marcelo Bielsa's side sit one point clear at the top of the Championship heading into their last five matches.

With third-placed Brentford six points behind, Leeds look odds-on to secure the place among English football's elite that their legion of fanatical fans used to regard as their birthright.

But Leeds were in a similar position last season and squandered a chance for automatic promotion before imploding in the playoffs.

When Leeds beat Sheffield Wednesday on April 13, 2019, a capacity crowd at Elland Road serenaded their jubilant team as if promotion had been secured.

Just 15 days later, after losses to Wigan and Brentford and a mad-cap draw against Villa — in which Bielsa told his team to deliberately let their opponents score following United's controversial opener — ended the Leeds top two challenge.

Leeds lost their nerve and Derby took full advantage in the playoff semifinal second leg, winning 4-2 to leave the Elland Road faithful in tears.

From the ashes of that bitter evening, Bielsa has dragged Leeds back into promotion contention.

But, with last season's collapse in mind, Leeds fans might have been alarmed to hear Bielsa admit he is feeling the strain of the run-in.

"Yes," Bielsa said when asked if he felt anxious during the Blackburn game.

"Every match in this period is very important. If we get distracted we will pay for that so we need to keep focused in every match."

With English football being played behind closed doors for the rest of the season amid the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps Leeds will benefit from playing in silence, rather than in front of their anxious fans.

"I'd love to be there more than anything. But it's such a nervous time and I do think that could impact the players," Leeds season-ticket holder Simon Sanders told AFP.

"Nothing feels quite right with this virus and the way the world has changed but if we make it the party will go on for weeks."

Three of Leeds' remaining games will be played in the empty stands of Elland Road against struggling trio Stoke, Barnsley and Charlton.

Win those games and taken a point from one of their two away games at Swansea and Derby and Leeds will be assured of promotion.

It would be a moment to savor after such a long period in the shadows.

Champions of England in 1969 and 1974 under Don Revie, then in 1992 when Howard Wilkinson called the shots, Leeds have a rich history.

But since being relegated from the top tier in 2004, Leeds have stumbled from financial disaster off the pitch to despair on it.

Describing the club's ascent to the heady heights of the Champions League in the early 2000s, former chairman Peter Ridsdale claimed he had "lived the dream."

Their subsequent fall was a never-ending nightmare that hit its lowest ebb in 2007 when Leeds went into administration and were relegated to the third tier for the first time.

No wonder the much-travelled Bielsa is so beloved after just two years in charge.

The former Argentina, Lazio, Marseille and Bilbao boss has turned the tide at a tortured club infamously labelled the 'Damned United' by novelist David Peace and forever remembered as 'Dirty Leeds' in the minds of fans who saw their no-holds-barred style in the Revie era.

Now Leeds' Italian owner Andrea Radrizzani is embracing that checkered past in a bid to secure promotion at last.

"For Leeds, we have a history of being 'Dirty Leeds' and we actually channel that," Radrizzani told FIFA's Professional Football Journal.

"All of our boys are willing to fight for the shirt every week and having that character is important to being a Leeds player.

"I want to help Leeds return to the level our history and fans deserve."