Anfield is a home ground in more than it is where Liverpool play the majority of their games every season. For many people it has become a second home, a place to escape the ins and outs of everyday life and for a small minority: just a night out. When news of Fenway Sports Group’s intentions to redevelop the stadium and increase its capacity was released it was met with resounding approval.
Last week Friday, sorry for the delay, the 650 tonne truss roof was impeccably slowly laid on the to of the existing structure.
I nicked this quote from thisisanfield.com, who nicked it from the club’s official website who interviewed Mike Gordon on the project: “Work is progressing well and despite the fact that this is a complex project, we are on track in terms of budget and schedule,” he said. “We still expect that the new Main Stand will be open to fans and hospitality guests at the start of the 2016-17 season, which will be an impressive accomplishment by everyone in Liverpool who has worked on the project. John, Tom and I are grateful for their efforts.”
However a recent announcement has been greeted with disgust and many a reference to the ‘plastics’ of Manchester City and Chelsea. The announcement being that the naming rights of the new main stand will be sold to the highest bidder as a way to generate money. This is shocking. I personally would hate to see Dunkin’ Donuts scrawled across the stadium in 30 years time let alone listed as a sponsor on Liverpool Football Club’s Wikipedia page.
This sort of mentality and tactic is not the ‘Liverpool Way’ and while I am sure Bill Shankly loved a good doughnut I am also certain he would agree with me, loosely based on what I know about the guy. The club that the Scotsman helped build into such a formidable and famous European powerhouse should not stoop so low as to selling naming rights to whoever has more money. This is not the Etihad. This is Anfield.
The very fact that Liverpool has such a distinguished stand in the Kop is reason enough. Very few modern stadiums can claim as distinguished a history as Liverpool and this comes right down to the very stands in the stadium. Few can boast to have this, rather naming stands after roads adjacent to them or ‘Main Stand’ for the largest in the stadium.
I would much rather a ‘Main Stand” exist in Anfield than a ‘Subway Stand.’ Ridiculous and completely hypothetical but you get my point. There is no excitement in being on a stand which has been paid for by selling out.
I can guarantee you that when the re-branding of the main stand takes place and the ‘Dunkin Donuts Stand’ is unveiled fans will continue to call it The Main Stand. When Newcastle had St. James Park changed to the Sports Direct Arena fans were in such a fume that after the 2011/2012 season it was changed back. Ultimately, the club will rake in millions from a company whose logo will be on a stand that will always be the Main Stand.
Liverpool stands to profit £500 million from selling the naming rights and this could also result in lowering the cost of tickets in general areas whereas premium areas are likely to become more costly.
Liverpool’s Chief Executive, Ian Ayre,“We built the economic model on the basis of having a range of prices, as we do today,” he added.
“We have said all along we absolutely recognize there needs to be some affordable pricing and tickets in the stadium and that is the case today, but maybe there can be more of that.”
I may be overreacting and acknowledge that but I find it below the level that Liverpool claim to be on to be prostituting the global brand the club possesses in order to expand the capacity of the stadium. In my logic if that is what it takes to expand then surely it can wait until funds can be generated in such a way that it doesn’t make me feel hot under my collar and nervous of what others might think.
There is a reason that I support Liverpool and it is because things are done in a different manner and intent than it other clubs. Maybe at Manchester City and Chelsea it is alright – buy the Premier League – but I have learnt differently in my years as a Liverpool supporter. This is Anfield and we do things the Liverpool Way.
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Is Bojan Krkic the perfect player for Gary Rowett to build Stoke City around?
The 27-year-old has been an outcast at the Bet365 Stadium.
As Gary Rowett continues to rebuild the Stoke City squad over the summer there will be plenty of speculation regarding who will be arriving and departing the Bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have already dipped into the transfer market by signing Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Benik Afobe whilst Egyptian starlet Ramadan Sobhi was sold to Huddersfield Town last week.
Xherdan Shaqiri, who is currently representing Switzerland at the World Cup in Russia, has confirmed that he will be leaving the club whilst, in contrast, Joe Allen has signed a new long-term contract to remain.
There are still plenty of question marks over current players. The likes of Jack Butland and Badou Ndiaye are expected to attract interest from Premier League clubs whilst the expensive pairing of Saido Berahino and Giannelli Imbula may not fit into Rowett’s plans but will be short of offers.
But what about Bojan Krkic?
The diminutive Spaniard was once one of the most promising young forwards in Europe after he rose through Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy system and made his first team debut at the age of 17.
He made over 100 appearances for the Catalan’s prior to loan spells with Ajax, AC Milan and Roma before eventually moving to Stoke in the summer of 2014.
Bojan has certainly made an impact at the Bet365 Stadium, particularly during his first two-and-a-half years with the club, but he fell out of favour under Mark Hughes and has spent the last eighteen months on loan in Germany and Spain.
At his best, the 27-year-old was a magician who produced moments of sublime skill and was a central creative influence in the team.
He was technically magnificent and would often glide across the pitch, weaving between defenders and was a genuine threat whenever he received the ball in the final third.
Bojan was one of only a handful of Stoke players from the last decade that would bring supporters to the edge of their seats in anticipation and expectation when he was in possession.
For anyone who requires a reminder of what the forward can do, simply look up his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur form 2014.
Much has been made of his injury in January 2015. The Spaniard suffered severe knee damage in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale that meant that he was out of action for the remainder of the season and the common narrative is that he was never the same upon his return.
However, this storyline is incorrect. In fact, Bojan was at his peak over the Christmas period in 2015 when he was the centre of Stoke’s attacking trident which also included Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.
Such was the effectiveness of the trio that The Potters picked up the nickname of ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to their attacking brand of football.
So where did it all go wrong for him?
He fell out of favour with Mark Hughes and, after being dropped from the starting line-up, was never able to regain his position as Stoke City’s creative hub.
The Spaniard subsequently has spent the past eighteen months on loan with Mainz and Las Palmas but has struggled to make any significant impact either in Germany or Spain.
In many respects, Bojan’s stock has never been lower. He has fallen off the radar somewhat in the past year and it appears that any hopes that he may have had of returning to a prominent European club are all but over.
However, this opens up a potential return to Stoke despite their relegation to The Championship.
Last season The Potters were desperately short of creativity and goals – something that Bojan can provide.
The Spaniard man be the perfect figure for Gary Rowett to build his new look team around.
Joe Allen and Oghenekaro Etebo will provide defensive security and energy in the centre of midfield whilst Benik Afobe will make be the focal point in the final third.
Bojan could be the perfect link player if deployed as a number ten and you would imagine that he would be more than capable of causing chaos amongst defences in The Championship.
There is, of course, the question of whether the 27-year-old would be prepared to play in the second tier of English football, although Allen’s decision to sign a new contract and remain at Stoke would suggest that Rowett is capable of being persuasive.
If Stoke are serious about challenging for promotion, then keeping Bojan and reigniting his career at the Bet365 Stadium would be a serious statement of intent.
Jack Wilshere is West Ham’s most realistic midfield target this summer
The 26-year-old seems the best option for Manuel Pellegrini at the moment.
Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly put signing a new midfielder high on his list of priorities this summer, having been linked with some stellar names, but is Jack Wilshere (Sky Sports) his most realistic target?
The Chilean has expressed his desire to get the Hammers playing attacking and progressive football again next term, and views a quality midfield addition as vital in achieving this.
Initially, the suggestion was made that Pellegrini would attempt to move for two-time Premier League winner Yaya Toure (the Telegraph), before stories broke claiming his interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore (Sky Sports).
However, talks for both have stalled, with Toure’s preference to join a top-six side (Sport 24) and Pastore’s reported wage demands of £190,000-a-week (Sky Sports) to leave the French capital, with it now looking more likely Roma will land the 29-year-old’s signature.
Wilshere would employ the tactics Pellegrini is after and would instantly inject technical quality into the current functional midfield trio of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang. His ability to carry the ball past defensive counterparts and to spot a final pass would add extra dimensions to the Hammers’ play, and at the age of 26 he could still have his best years ahead.
The ex-Bournemouth man has revealed he will not sign a contract extension at Arsenal with his contract set to expire imminently, meaning Pellegrini could land his signature on a free.
Tottenham should elevate reported interest in Leicester City protege Demari Gray
The 21-year-old could become a superstar if nurtured properly.
Tottenham Hotspur were reportedly interested in the possibility of signing Leicester City‘s attacking protege Demari Gray a few months back, according to reports from ESPN. And after a fruitless period in the search for attacking reinforcements, Mauricio Pochettino should revive his interest in sorting a deal.
Gray contributed four goals and three assists in 30 Premier League appearances last term, and is currently the captain of the England U21 squad. But he is likely to evaluate his future with the Foxes this summer, due to his lack of regular game-time. And Tottenham seems a great fit for the winger.
Spurs have pursued multiple attacking targets since the window commenced, without gathering any real traction on any of their targets, and it seems Pochettino – for once – is more concerned with making a marquee signing, than bringing in a player with the scope to develop and grow into a top player at White Hart Lane.
Talks for Anthony Martial, Christian Pulisic and Ivan Perisic have all stalled in recent times, and a move for the Leicester City man could be just the ticket for Spurs. He brings all the attributes they’re currently looking for; blistering pace, exceptional balance, end product, a cool head and notably the ability to hit an absolute cracker if awarded space.
If he reaches his peak under the guidance of Pochettino, which is more likely than not given his immense talent, the player could double in market-value and could become a key player for the Lilywhites for years to come.