Football: Smicer skills win over the Kop

VLADIMIR SMICER has suffered an anguished baptism to English football. The Czech midfielder appeared to be one fancy-dan foreigner too many for Liverpool fans to cope with.

However, when he was substituted with 10 minutes to go on Monday as Liverpool cruised to sixth place in the table after a 3-1 win over Bradford City, the little winger was given a standing ovation from the Anfield faithful. Smicer's darting, explosive runs were the highlight of his best performance for Liverpool so far, and with a little more luck he would also have had a couple of goals.

Times look to be changing. A pounds 4m signing from Lens in the summer, Smicer has arguably found it hardest to settle among the Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier's foreign legion. Fleet of foot, light of touch and frightened of his own shadow was the dismissive verdict from the Kop, but Houllier has recently pushed the Czech forward into an attacking role alongside Titi Camara and he finally looks to be getting to grips with his new environment, just as Houllier's new-look team also appear to be getting their act together.

"Vladimir is a good player, everyone can see that, he can take the ball, turn, twist, deliver some good passes, score," said Houllier. "Just look at his record with the national team. He was unlucky when he first came here because he had a bad ankle injury and didn't do the pre-season preparation like the others. He was in and out of the squad then because of his injuries. I hope now that he is about to start showing everyone what he can do, but he is still testing himself in the English game. It's tougher here, it's quicker here, and as he gets used to that he will be okay for us. He will do the job."

His countryman and friend Patrik Berger added his weight, saying: "I think he will become very important to the team very soon. It's difficult when you come to a big club and you have injuries straight away. But he is fit now and in a few games will show everyone why we brought him to Anfield." With Michael Owen due to return on Saturday at home to Derby, Smicer is likely to return to a wider role.

Houllier has settled on a back four now, with central defenders Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz forming an improving partnership, while Dietmar Hamann has finally overcome ankle problems and is installed as the defensive midfielder. At the weekend Liverpool will be short of only Robbie Fowler from what is emerging as their strongest side and then Houllier will have the problem of rotating his players to keep Camara and Jamie Carragher involved.

Houllier admitted to starting such a policy during the Bradford City game when Jamie Redknapp was called off to allow Carragher into midfield. "The players have to understand that with the quality of the squad we have now, it is not a dishonour to go out of the team, to be substituted," he said. "Here people think you should play with the same eleven. But sometimes you have to be confident and bring on fresh legs. Jamie wasn't injured, just a bit tired.

"Those fresh legs, when Vegard Heggem came on, brought us the crucial third goal. Players will be rotated. Carragher played well against West Ham, he may be in against Derby, but I must be mindful that he has an important England Under-21 game coming up when both teams will be fighting to to reach the European finals. Then we have a tough game at Sunderland.

"So players will be rotated. You don't just substitute someone because he's not playing well. You are considering the next game, the strengths of certain situations, that is how it is in modern football."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Sales Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a £multi-million award w...

Recruitment Genius: Support Workers - Mother's Help / Buddy Support Role

£8 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A gentleman with congenital achondropla...

Recruitment Genius: Training Officer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Training Officer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent