Gary Mabbutt, the late Andres Escobar and the even later Roy Riegels can move the fuck over. Who dares doubt the strategic prowess of Grunty Avram Grant? Chelsea can play 10 men back, producing a genuine snoozer of a 2nd leg at Stamford Bridge and still manage to punch their ticket to Moscow, all because of one particularly inefficient clearance.
Liverpool’s soap opera off the pitch continued to command attention on Tuesday, as the Independent’s Jason Burt reports Tom Hicks insisted on attending the match — sitting in close proximity to representatives of Dubai International Capital and embattled exec Rick Parry.
The Liverpool co-owner defied the advice of the Merseyside Police, who had deemed his presence a security risk, and attended last night’s semi-final at the club that, 50 per cent at least and for the time being, belongs to him. Except no one wants him there. There were no anti-Hicks banners, no chants calling for him to go and only half-hearted goading of “USA” from the Chelsea supporters.
Hicks arrived at Anfield early. The police warnings had been clear. They did not want either Hicks or Gillett at the ground but the Texan pulled up, in one of three blacked-out people carriers, more than three hours before kick-off and prior to the arrival of the fans who usually throng the Shankly Gates. There were a dozen or so people in Hicks’ entourage who all wore Liverpool scarves, which looked suspiciously as if they had only recently been liberated from their cellophane wrappers.
Earlier in the day Hicks “ who was staying at the same dockside hotel as the Chelsea team “ had ventured to Liverpool’s training ground, Melwood, where he briefly met with Rafael Benitez. It put the manager in an uncomfortable position and, later, he confirmed that he had said “hello” to Hicks. “We spoke about maybe having a meeting together, the owners and everyone,” he said. “It was positive and just to say hello and arrange to meet. That will be a positive meeting. We will all be together.”
They weren’t last night. There was plenty of tension in and around the executive lounges. Rick Parry, who clearly wants the DIC bid to succeed and has continued to talk to the company, even if it is likely to mean he will eventually leave, hung around. He was anxious to see how the various parties greeted each other and there was some expectation that DIC would try to speak to Hicks either before or after the contest.
He is still posturing that he wants to acquire the club wholly for himself but, increasingly, his words are just that. Posturing. He cannot get the financing.