Football: Liverpool still seeking their old authority

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The Independent Online
LESS THAN 24 hours after Liverpool opened their European Cup-Winners' Cup campaign with an Ian Rush-inspired 6-1 victory over Apollon Limassol at Anfield, Graeme Souness signed an international centre-back, Denmark's Torben Piechnik, for pounds 500,000 from FC Copenhagen yesterday.

In Bill Shankly's time the sequence of events might have been interpreted as a perfectionist's pique over the away goal conceded. In Souness's case it is tacit recognition of the fact that while Liverpool are still too strong for a Cypriot side containing some part-timers, they are some way from regaining the pre-eminence they once enjoyed at home and abroad.

Piechnik, who played for 65 minutes in Liverpool reserves' 4-0 home defeat by Sunderland last night, cost pounds 2m less than Souness contemplated paying for Craig Short of Notts County. Short, who has since joined Derby, is uncapped at any level, but full of potential at 24. Piechnik, a member of the Denmark team who won the European Championship, will be 30 in FA Cup final week. You pays your money . . .

Apollon, still in their close season, were too predictable in attack to highlight the weakness that prompted Souness to make Piechnik his ninth major signing in 18 months. Notwithstanding the final score, the Liverpool manager may have seen enough during the tedious 35-minute hiatus between Paul Stewart's opening the scoring and the ex-Tottenham man's second goal to be convinced that further recruitment is necessary.

Rush's four-goal flourish, which saw him overhaul Roger Hunt as Liverpool's all-time leading scorer in Europe with a total of 19, appears to be proof that his predatory powers remain intact. This time last year, his compatriot Dean Saunders was basking in the acclaim of an identical tally against Kuusysi Lahti. It ended 6-1 that night too, but Liverpool lost the return in Finland, and Saunders was recently discarded.

At Souness's post-match press briefing, to which he wore a tie that was louder than the Kop on a night when only 12,769 resisted live TV coverage, he described Rush as 'the best goal-getter I've ever seen'. This may indicate that, in the short term at least, the great Welshman will not be following Saunders out in the name of progress and fund-raising, despite his lack of Premier League goals.

Stewart, however, later made it plain that he regards himself as a midfielder playing out of position under duress for the good of the team. Even before Piechnik's new colleagues step out in Cyprus to complete the second-leg formalities on 29 September, Souness is likely to take further steps, both in terms of buying and selling, towards the reconstruction of Liverpool.

Phil Thompson is taking Liverpool to an industrial tribunal alleging unfair dismissal. Thompson, a former Liverpool captain who won 42 caps for England, was sacked from his job as reserve team coach at Anfield in June, to be replaced by another former Liverpool and England player, Sammy Lee.

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