February 07, 2007

Horse 716 - Super-Heated

The following story stems from a scoreless draw in the Merseyside derby. Liverpool 0 - Everton 0 is a result although perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the city did nothing to ease tensions between the red and blue halves.

Rafael Benitez annoyed Everton by calling them a small club in his post match press conference on Saturday. Rafa Benitez upset the neigbours by pointing out, quite correctly, that they're a small club because they don't happen to be one of the big four, or playing in Europe. Benitez made the comment in a TV interview after the match and repeated it in his post match press conference. Afterwards the Reds' boss was unrepentant.

"After a game when a team comes to Anfield and plays a top side like that, looking for a draw, what else can you call them?" Benitez reasonably asked. "Playing against a small team, it is not easy when they have nine men behind the ball. One team wanted to win while one team came not to lose. We controlled the game and had all the possession, and they had one chance from our mistake. After that we controlled everything."

Rafa's remarks upset the Blues. Chief Executive Keith Wyness had a tantrum in the directors box while Bill Kenwright threw his toys out of his pram, very literally. He had to be exported out of the ground for fear of throwing things at the rival officials. Meanwhile, the Everton manager Lee Carsley claims Everton's players feel 'insulted' by Rafael Benitez's comments which have now sparked a furore on Merseyside.

That prompted an angry response from Everton supporters, and led to chief executive Keith Wyness expressing his club's disappointment "to hear such an unnecessary comment". Wyness added: "I suspect he is in a minority of one in believing Everton is, in any respect, a small football club. Somehow we just expect more of a Liverpool manager."

My only surprise from all of this is that anyone was surprised. Whilst perhaps nowhere near as bad as the sectarian violence that can hang around Old Firm matches in Glasgow, the local media in the area has to be seen as neutral for as you walk through the city you either find red, blue or black doors (for people who either don't care or have internal fights in the house).

Added to this is the buyout of Liverpol for £475m and the promise that when they new stadium is built at Stanley Park, Everton will most definately not be allowed to share. That is a staggering amount of dosh, and one which should turn the blue half green with envy at the red.

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