Well, one “Who are You?” candidate, Phil, had a “week from hell” and looked unlikely to deliver. No sooner had I appealed for emergency supersubs – and received two much appreciated offers – than Phil surfaced with renewed promises. It was too late. Maybe we will return to him for the cup semis or final! Meanwhile, after Keith Conneely’s excellent contribution yesterday, my Abu Dhabi colleague Michael Barnard* has provided another fascinating set of answers ahead of Sunderland v Liverpool tomorrow. He expects a draw, but his thoughts on Carroll (“oh Carroll, I was such a fool” could be Kenny’s new take on the old Sedaka hit) and Henderson are especially illuminating …
Salut! Sunderland For Liverpool, it has been a season of great controversy, largely unfulfilled promise and some early silverware. Are you happy with the work in progress or worried about the lack of consistency?
Worried for sure. Every step forward is followed by two steps back. Powder-puff in attack: Sunderland fans will no doubt be amused at Andy Carroll’s lack of productivity and Luis Suarez hasn’t been the same since you-know-what. Cannot win at home and the slim chance of nicking fourth now depends on mistakes by others. Always better to have your destiny in your own hands.
What lengths have you gone to in order to follow the team, whether in stadiums or by distant means?
As a youngster I went to Anfield many times then managed to land the sports reporting job on the weekly paper alternating covering Liverpool and Everton games, whoever was at home that week. You can guess which I enjoyed more. Living in the UAE it’s mostly on TV these days with the Al Jazeera network and the cup runs mean I have seen most of the action.
Describe your night when Liverpool came back from 0-3 to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final
Gave up at half-time in despair but was summoned back into the family living room when Gerrard headed in. It was clear something special was going on. When Dudek stopped Shevchenko’s penalty I jumped for joy and it felt like being a kid again in the Shankly/Paisley era
Who are the greatest players you have seen, or wish you’d seen, in Liverpool colours and who should never have been allowed near them?
The greats: Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, John Barnes, Robbie Fowler. The duds: so many, but at random Erik Meijer (useless striker), Antonio Nunez (member of 2005 squad), Frode Kippe (and he was a kipper), Glenn Hyssen (centre-back who couldn’t defend).
What, apart from the victory over Milan, have been your highlights as a Liverpool supporter? And lowest point?
Winning the UEFA Cup under Paisley in 1977 – that started it all, and the Euro Cup wins after that. Plus a memorable 7-0 destruction of Tottenham 1977. They weren’t even especially bad but were simply taken apart. Low point was the Michael Thomas goal at Anfield on a Friday night that won the league for Arsenal.
Does anyone spending £35m on Carroll need his head testing?
Yes. Didn’t one of the Newcastle directors bump into some fans and tell them Carroll was worth ‘f— all’? lfc fans have been patient all season but if he doesn’t start delivering between now and the end of the season he’ll have to go.
What did you make of Liverpool’s handling of the Suarez Affair?
Botched it I’m afraid. then Suarez himself compounded it with the handshake refusal. Wasn’t so much the t-shirts, simply the clumsy handling of it all.
What is your view so far on Jordan Henderson?
He seems unable to fit into the team. Wonderful passing at times but just a solitary goal all season. And sadly a bit of an embarrassment in the Carling final. Expected more from him. He may come good one day, and I hope he’s still at Liverpool then.
What thoughts do you have on Sunderland, Martin O’Neill and Niall Quinn?
Snapping up O’Neill was a master stroke and the results since have proven it. Quinn did a good job – is his stepping down anything to do with the money men? Either way youze look in fine shape now. As a club I prefer em to gruff, bluff Newcastle – despite the ‘beach ball goal’!
What will be this season’s Premier top four, in order, who will go down and who will win the major trophies (“we’ve already won one” not being an acceptable answer!)?
Going down: Wigan, Wolves, Bolton
Oh, and in the honours: FA Cup: Liverpool (would you expect me to say anything else)?
And where, if not already mentioned, will our two clubs finish in the league?
Liverpool fifth (maybe) Sunderland eighth
This has been the Eduardo Question but has also been named after Walcott, Barton, Osman (Everton) and could easily be the Gerrard Question if certain non-Liverpool supporters are right: what is the form of football cheating – diving, feigning injury, penalty box wrestling etc – that most annoys you and what would you do about it?
Rolling around on the ground in the hopes of getting rival carded. And waving an imaginary card at the ref. The solution: yellow card the real offender – doesn’t always happen does it?
Club vs country: who comes first and why?
Club, always. That’s where the players come from!
How will you keep tabs on the Sunderland v Liverpool game and what will be the score?
I’ll be at work so hope it’ll be on tv in sports dept. Otherwise have to settle for a Yahoo live account. Score will be 1-1
* Michael Barnard on Michael Barnard:
Touched on this a little earlier….but i grew up in the city and was taken to Anfield as a small boy by my sister in the 1960s and saw some of the great Shankly sides. Later I went on the Kop with a group of my brother’s tough mates. They would kick the turnstile with their Doc Martens so it turned to let me in. I remember at one game having a couple of apples given to me by my mother in my pocket and they were crushed into cider. Being about 4ft 10 at the time the only place I could see was at the front. There were times when you were literally swept off your feet as the crowd leaned from side to side. All before Heysel of course. Later, as a young journalist, I moved to new york, where along with my desk job I was soccer correspondent. I covered the World Cups of 1990 and 94 for the New York Post following the USA team. They qualified for Italy with a surprise 1-0 win in Trinidad and Tobago. That led to a trip to Italy for me. I was very lucky to get paid for doing what I’d loved for many years. Starting a family meant working weekends and late nights which didn’t work quite so well for me any more, so the football gig kind of fell away. But my kids are all grown up now……
Interview: Colin Randall