Today we speak to Liverpool author, columnist and blogger, Paul Tomkins of The Tomkins Times, on his hopes and fears ahead of the new season, his feelings on Liverpool’s summer transfer dealings and how he thinks the Reds will fare next year.
What is your greatest hope for the season ahead
Obviously the greatest hope, as ever, is winning the title. But that’s very unlikely; teams just don’t jump from 6th to 1st anymore, and this season is about moving on from the mess of Gillett and Hicks, and Hodgson. Realistically, the main hope is getting back into the top four, which will help attract – and pay for – the kind of players that will help challenge for the title. Throw in the FA Cup, and that’d be a great season.
And your biggest fear
The new-look side not really gelling, too many injuries and another year outside the top four. But after last season, it feels like we’ve already confronted our biggest fears and come through the other side. My biggest fear is waking up to find Roy Hodgson still in charge.
Thoughts on the club’s summer transfer business
Probably about as good as we could realistically have hoped for; and ‘realistic’ is a key word that all Liverpool fans should focus on at all times. The fees have been fairly high, but the wages will be relatively low; for example, when Manchester City paid £25m for Adebayor, they also committed an extra £47m in wages over five years, if he were to stay that long. Liverpool have paid a combined fee of around £42m for Adams, Henderson and Downing, but add all their wages together and it would probably only match Adebayor’s. So it’s not so bad if selling teams add a one off premium of a couple of million to the fee, if the player himself is not after an extra couple of million each season.
Charlie Adam is a very clever passer from midfield with great set-piece delivery, the underrated and improving Stewart Downing can add the balance and crossing from the left that’s been missing, and Jordan Henderson is a versatile young England international that any squad could utilise. All three were amongst the top chance creators in the Premier League last season, and all three rarely miss games. None is a real glamour signing, but they all make sense, and add something different to the squad. They also help meet homegrown criteria, especially with Gerrard and Carragher in their twilight years.Roma’s Doni has arrived as back-up to Reina – so we can rest a little easier if he were ever to succumb to injury – and now it’s just left-back that remains a priority, with Lyon’s Aly Cissokho rumoured to be the next through the door.
Who’ll be your most important player this season
It’s difficult to say. Steven Gerrard has been below par and injury-plagued for a couple of seasons; if he finally gets a run in Kenny’s team it could be interesting. Ditto Andy Carroll, who has yet to play much, and when he did he was not fully fit. Luis Suarez is certainly the player who makes most happen in the final third, and hopefully he can build on a fantastic start to life at Liverpool. Then you have the consistent core of Reina, Kuyt, Carragher and Lucas, who help hold things together and always give their all.
For me, though, Daniel Agger could be the most important, especially if no new centre-back is signed. When he’s fit, he’s as good as anyone around, and it’s 623 minutes since the Reds last conceded a goal when he was on the pitch – without even getting onto what he brings to the attacking side of our play in building from the back. If he can manage 28-30 league starts, we should do well.
And who’s the fan favourite
Gerrard, I suppose, although Luis Suarez has ‘new hero’ status. He’s the most exciting player right now.
Anyone new who we should keep an eye out for
At just 16, Raheem Sterling may be too young to make the breakthrough, but he looks a sensational young winger, with pace, skill and excellent control. Young Spaniard Suso is another player who looks head and shoulders above most of the young players we’ve seen in recent years. But Connor Coady and Andre Wisdom, both 18, could quite feasibly get Premier League playing time this season. Both are big, strong footballers, and leaders to boot.
The player you’d pay his taxi fee to his new club
Paul Konchesky, although thankfully Leicester City have just paid it. Milan Jovanovic offered little, and Christian Poulsen was a waste of money, although he did improve marginally under Dalglish.
Who do you want to beat most this season?
That goes without saying. So I won’t say it.
Opposition players you admire and you despise?
In terms of big rivals, I admire and despise the good ones, and quite like the rubbish ones.
Have you got the right manager, and what advice would you give him?
Unlike this time last season, we do. And you think I should dare give Kenny Dalglish advice? I’m glad you’re not asking me to do that directly to his face…
And finally, where will you finish?
As things stand, I think 4th. I can’t see us usurping any of the top three, and while it’d daft to write off Arsenal, they do appear the weakest link of the Champions League teams, and struggling to hold on to some key players. But a lot depends on what happens between now and the end of the transfer window.