Football: Grobbelaar gives Souness a problem: Derek Hodgson on the weekend football programme

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WEARY Liverpool, after a five and a half hour flight back from Moscow in the early hours of yesterday morning, face the Premier League leaders, Norwich, tomorrow at Anfield needing every decibel of support.

After their 4-2 first-leg Cup-winners' defeat by Spartak, they did not fly out of Moscow until midnight, in a blizzard, and return hoping to continue their domestic revival. Their manager, Graeme Souness, has a difficult decision to make: does he persevere with Bruce Grobbelaar in goal, after his Moscow display, or does he restore David James in the hope that the young keeper's confidence has returned?

The Canaries are perky ('Who's afraid of Anfield now?' was young Chris Sutton's theme song yesterday) and Liverpool have rarely faced a greater test of morale and confidence.

Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, faces his most embarrassing match of the season this afternoon - the all-ticket clash against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

Rovers are second in the table, five points ahead of United, in their first season back in the senior division, and the two players mostly responsible for their rise, Alan Shearer and Kevin Moran, might have been wearing the blood-red shirt this afternoon.

Ferguson revealed recently that at the end of his first season as United's manager, five and a half years ago, he decided that the team needed nine new players. Among those released was Moran, then 30, and the decision was, Ferguson admitted, a mistake because Moran is very much his type of professional.

Moran had told his Republic of Ireland team-mate, Niall Quinn, that he did not expect to be included in Rovers' Premier League team. In fact he and Colin Hendry, who, ironically, was sold by Manchester City, have been outstanding. Moran's tenacity and sense of positional play complementing his partner's sense of adventure.

Moran said yesterday: 'I bear no grudges. I had some fantastic years at United and I still watch them whenever I can. I'm just grateful to be playing at this level at my age.'

The Shearer story is better known. Ferguson's midsummer targets were the then Southampton striker and Chelsea's Andy Townsend. For various reasons - one being that the public limited company he now works for were not prepared to throw that much cash into the battle - he failed to sign either.

Shearer has now scored 15 goals in 11 matches and, says Moran, 'he has made all the difference. He is one of the best strikers I have ever seen'.

All this will be very distant drama in the Potteries where Stoke City meet Port Vale in a rare League derby; the Victoria Ground is a 25,000 sell-out. It is rare because Stoke have spent little of their 130-year career outside the First or Second Divisions.

Today the pair meet in what was the old Third Division with almost identical records, 20 points from 12 games. Both have won five, drawn five, lost two; it will be fierce.

Comments