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."

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities