Bitter Benitez flings the insults at Anfield board

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The acrimony Rafael Benitez still feels for the Liverpool hierarchy who saw him out of the door descended into unvarnished insult yesterday as the now Internazionale manager declared that the Anfield board "did not understand a thing about football".

Benitez's comments, which surfaced on the Italian club's website, are clearly targeted at the Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow, given that his criticism relates to his own final year at Anfield, when Purslow was alongside him.

Speaking of his new employer, the Inter president Massimo Moratti, Benitez said: "My relationship with the president is really good. Like I've said before, he's a man who knows his football. You know that if the team does not do well he will be angry, but at least he is someone with whom it is possible to talk about football and this, in the last year I was at Liverpool, did not happen.

"The directors that I had did not understand a thing about football, whereas with Moratti you can talk to him."

Benitez made it clear that, as Liverpool's season petered out into a 0-0 draw at Hull last May, he felt "senior sources" were briefing against him and his relationship with Purslow deteriorated as his time at Anfield ran its course. Purslow and Liverpool will view the manager's comments with indifference, given that they feel Roy Hodgson's arrival has delivered a sense of stability, while Benitez, with his unscripted asides about the club's co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and the lack of money, often washed Liverpool's dirty linen in public.

The Spaniard's comments also come after Hodgson accused him of reneging on a gentlemen's agreement not to take his old club's players, by moving for Dirk Kuyt. He then claimed, via Liverpool's own website last week, that Benitez had bequeathed a squad which was "unbelievably overstaffed" with players who are "too old for reserve football but are not serving any purpose for the first team because they never feature." Benitez's comments of yesterday may well be a riposte to Hodgson's club website interview.

Hodgson may learn tonight if he really is overstaffed, as he draws deep into the club's youth fraternity for the arrival of Northampton in the Carling Cup's third round. The goalkeeper Brad Jones and defender Danny Wilson, summer arrivals from Middlesbrough and Rangers respectively, are likely to make their debuts, the 18-year-old Wilson at his less favoured left-back position. The major subject of interest if he starts will be Jonjo Shelvey, the 18-year-old signed from Charlton where he already chalked up 42 Championship games.

Shelvey looks like a player who can make it, though Hodgson may also choose this evening to gauge the potential of David Amoo, the right-sided midfielder who showed pace and strength against Rabotnicki in Liverpool's Europa League qualifier last month, and Daniel Pacheco, the 19-year-old Spanish striker.

The club's more immediate concern, though, is that one of the last players Benitez brought in, Milan Jovanovic, can make a difference in the attempt to rebuild from the remnants of their last, disastrous season. He may feature tonight.

Lucas Leiva may captain the side, with Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing also possibly set to feature in a very locally-based line-up. When Benitez grew frustrated with the club's Kirkby academy in the summer of last year and brought back the former chief scout Frank Parland as technical director, new emphasis was placed on developing local players, with seemingly no one in the pipeline to deliver what Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher had done.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Daniel Agger will be Hodgson's two centre-backs tonight, Agger having moved to smooth things over with Hodgson. The defender suggested that his apparent criticism of the manager's overly defensive outlook, published yesterday, stemmed from a mistranslation of comments he gave to Danish television.

Northampton, the lowest-ranked team left in this competition and 69 places beneath the hosts, have the midfielder Ryan Gilligan back from an ankle injury to play at a club who have won this trophy on a record seven occasions, the last being in 2003. Ominously for Ian Sampson's side, Liverpool have failed to score in only one of their last 37 matches in the competition.

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