Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: In-Fighting Is over for Now

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: In-Fighting Is over for Now

Article excerpt


PEACE has been declared at Liverpool after Tom Hicks finally backed Anfield boss Rafael Benitez in public, writes PAUL WALKER.

On a day when Hicks and co-owner George Gillett unveiled new plans for the club's pounds 300m stadium, as well as announcing that their re-financing package had been completed, Benitez's own future looks safe - for now.

Benitez felt able to discuss the likely transfer of Mohamed Sissoko to Juventus for pounds 9m and also declare his belief that Javier Mascherano's permanent move to the club will go ahead, for around pounds 17m.

The six-week injury absence of Andriy Voronin will also end any speculation about Peter Crouch leaving.

Crucially, when details of the pounds 350m refinancing were being confirmed, Hicks also backed Benitez to enjoy longevity at Anfield after months of in-fighting.

He said: "Rafa is under contract for two more seasons following this season. I am solidly behind Rafa and am confident of the team's competitive prospects under his continuing leadership."

For Hicks - who fell out with Benitez over the co-owners' approach to Jurgen Klinsmann - talk of the Spaniard's length of contract underlined the desire to build bridges with his manager.

What has become clear of late is that Hicks and Gillett are aware that they must keep Benitez on side considering the depth of animosity among the Anfield crowd towards them, plus their evident support for Benitez to stay in control.

Of concern, however, is that Gillett's name failed to appear on any of the statements yesterday and it is believed there is still a rift between the two American owners.

But Benitez's future will now be determined by results, rather than any political row. He will need to finish in the top four, to progress to the later stages of the FA Cup and stay in the Champions League, otherwise more questions will be asked in the summer. …

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