The Anfield Wrap's Liverpool Cult XI featuring Craig Bellamy, Luis Garcia and Kolo Toure

Sport360 staff 10/07/2017
The Cult XI

In six years The Anfield Wrap has gone from a humble fan podcast to global phenomenon.

Sport360 asked them to put together their XI of Liverpool cult heroes.

Here's what they came up with...

THE ANFIELD WRAP'S CULT XI

GK: Bruce Grobbelaar

Handstands, onfield fights with his own players, swinging from the bar, star jumps…won a bit as well…

RB: Jon Flanagan

Extremely Scouse. Loves a tackle. Sent Raheem Sterling flying and scored a cracker at Spurs.

CB: Kolo Toure

What’s not to love? Smile bigger than the Mersey Tunnel, moves better than John Travolta.

CB: Stephane Henchoz

Great Seven Dwarves-themed song. Played as an extra goalie in the 2001 FA Cup final. Always looked knackered.

LB: Joey Jones

A bit hard, a bit mad and not the best player to ever wear the red. We loved him though.

The Cult XI The Cult XI

RW: Craig Bellamy

The golf-swing celebration. An absolute winner, an absolute pain – a player you love to have on your side and hate if he lines up for the opposition.

CM: Igor Biscan

Looked like he’d just got out of bed and played like it but was quietly effective in the 2005 run to Istanbul. Subject of one of the best flags ever: “Super Croat Igor Biscan Used to Be Atrocious.”

CM: Momo Sissoko

Ran more in 90 minutes than Harry Kewell did in his career. Recently declared ‘I am not dead’ and wants to come back.

LM: Luis Garcia

He drinks Sangria. And we’re still singing about it now. “Did the ball go in? Did the ball stay out? In out, in out, The Kop were in no doubt – we went to Istanbul and Chelsea went out. And that’s what it’s all about.”

ST: Erik Meijer

Big mad Erik loved Liverpool fans so much he turned up in Dortmund in 2001 and had a party with us at the UEFA Cup final. He’d already left the club by then. What a guy.

ST: Titi Camara

Played and scored after his dad had died. Sank to his knees and cried during the celebration. How can you not love him?

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Why Marcus Rashford is the big loser in Romelu Lukaku's move to Manchester United

Chris Bailey 10/07/2017
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Marcus Rashford was seemingly the biggest winner from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s knee injury last season.

He finally had a clear run as a central striker and more or less rose to the challenge, with his free-kick against Celta Vigo paving the way for Manchester United’s return to the Champions League.

Yet he may one day regret the moment that Ibrahimovic collapsed on to the turf in agony against Anderlecht in April.

The scenario up to then had been perfect for Rashford – learning from one of the greatest strikers to ever grace the game but knowing that his time was coming, as not even a 35-year-old Zlatan would last forever.

The Swede had played himself into a second contract and in another year, two years maximum, a physically mature and more experienced Rashford could take over as the main man through the middle.

Sure, he may have had to play many of his minutes on the left, but the 19-year-old from Wythenshawe was literally waiting in the wings as the best talent to emerge from Manchester since the class of 1993.

But that twist of the knee set a big-money transfer in motion as Jose Mourinho, not one to worry obsessively over the future, was never going to entrust Rashford as his main goalscorer.

07 11 Marcus Rashford (1)

Rashford excels as a striker

Instead United have bought the polished product in Romelu Lukaku – who faced an eerily similar situation under Mourinho at Chelsea three years ago – as they cannot afford to wait and buff up their own gem.

Three choices now present themselves to Rashford. Feed on scraps as a centre forward and hope a £90m signing flops, reinvent himself as a wide forward in the long term, or seriously consider a future away from United.

OPTION 1: DISMOUNT LUKAKU AS THE MAIN STRIKER

Option one seems a rather depressing long shot. Lukaku is the archetypal Mourinho centre forward – if Jose could design his perfect player he could hardly have dreamt up anyone more suited: muscular, superb in the air, a clinical finisher with an underrated work ethic.

Think Didier Drogba and Diego Costa at Chelsea. Ibrahimovic at Inter and, of course, United. Gonzalo Higuain at Real Madrid, who when injured Mourinho lamented ‘if I can’t hunt with a dog I will hunt with a cat’, in a swipe at the ‘feline’ Karim Benzema’s abilities.

Lukaku would therefore have to be a monumental failure for Mourinho to even consider dropping him for Rashford down the middle. Indeed Rashford’s versatility may well seal his fate, as there is more chance of seeing Ryan Giggs running down the left for United again than Lukaku being forced out wide.

Alvaro Morata, who had presumably been the man to fill the void left by Ibrahimovic, has played across the forward line for Juventus and Real Madrid and that fluidity could eventually have played into Rashford’s hands.

Goal machine: Romelu Lukaku averaged a Premier League goal every 130 minutes for Everton last season.

On the Marc: Lukaku will likely force Rashford wide for the foreseeable future.

OPTION 2: TRANSFORM INTO A WINGER

Option two is Rashford’s most realistic option but carries a risk of further marginalisation. Mourinho has not yet given up his pursuit on Ivan Perisic, whose natural position is on the left wing, and Anthony Martial is another young gun likely to suffer.

Even if Rashford did win more than a rotational berth out wide, he has the enviable task of learning on the job at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

His whirlwind feet and knack of dribbling in tight spaces are two requisite qualities for a winger but too many times last season he failed to pick out the right man, or cross with enough whip on his weaker left foot.

Potential he may have in abundance, but he is not a wide playmaker like Christian Eriksen, a classic winger like Leroy Sane, or as yet a goal-getter like Sadio Mane. As it stands United’s Premier League rivals possess superior options before we even get to Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard.

Just what type of winger will Rashford become – and would that be enough for a team chasing trophies?

The statistics tell all you need to know as, when playing as a wide forward, Rashford needs nearly 100 minutes more than as a central striker to either score or make an assist.

He’s already suffering for England as he looked as if he needed a how-to manual when stuck out on the right wing to make space for Harry Kane in last month’s 2-2 draw with Scotland.

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

OPTION 3: LEAVE UNITED

The third option, and his most difficult one, would be to leave Old Trafford. Lukaku developed as the main man at Everton. Morata flourished for Juventus and came back all the better for it, though may now have to leave Madrid for the second time.

The other red-hot young striker who is being pegged for a summer move is Andrea Belotti, and his success down to regular game time at a ‘best of the rest’ Serie A club in Torino.

And nearly two decades ago, a prodigiously talented Thierry Henry opted for a move to Arsenal while being frustrated at Juventus – when playing on the left.

For now, Rashford need not rush into any decision. But Lukaku’s signing has risked slamming one door shut for a young player who deserves to have every option at his feet.

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The Anfield Wrap: From humble pubcasts to global voice

Alex Broun 10/07/2017
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Catching up with Klopp: the lads from The Anfield Wrap meet the boss.

In these days of media conglomerates and small independent outlets being crushed by the syndicated machine it’s refreshing to hear of unique voices surviving.

And in the case of The Anfield Wrap (TAW) not just surviving, but thriving. From a weekly podcast to a few Liverpool faithful back in 2011, TAW have now grown to 11 weekly shows, downloaded up to 200,000 times a week in 200 countries worldwide, including Vatican City.

In 2016 they averaged 150,000 downloads per week and their podcasts have now been downloaded a total over 28 million times.

They even do Live shows like the one hosted by the Dubai Reds Liverpool supporters club at Goodfellas in the Ramee Rose Hotel, Tecom this Friday night. Like many new media voices the inspiration for TAW was a protest movement.

Back in 2010 Liverpool was in the grip of an uprising as the loyal LFC fans rose up in outrage at then owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. There was protests outside the ground, sit-ins after matches and black anti-owner jerseys. This was the seeds of TAW.

“TAW sprang from the ashes of the Hicks and Gillett era” explains editor Gareth Roberts. “The campaign to oust the owners brought Liverpool fans together, made them more active on social media and the internet, and was the catalyst for conversations that led to TAW.

“At that time we felt the mainstream media hadn’t reflected fans’ thoughts and feelings and instead many supporters had turned to their own media to share news and views.  “TAW was extension of that idea – a podcast and website that would reflect the views of match-going Liverpool fans.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 8, 2015: The Anfield Wrap team celebrate with the trophy after winning the Podcast of the Year Award at the Football Supporters' Federation Awards Dinner 2015 at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Andy Heaton, Mike Girling, John Gibbons, Gareth Roberts, Neil Atkinson. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

TAW team celebrate with the trophy after winning the Podcast of the Year Award for 2015 at the Football Supporters’ Federation Awards Dinner: (l to r) Andy Heaton, Mike Girling, John Gibbons, Gareth Roberts, Neil Atkinson. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Right from the start TAW set their standards high. They created a makeshift studio above a pub in the city centre as they “wanted the show to be professionally produced. “And from that first week the feedback was great and it’s grown and grown from there.

“After only seven months we were offered a weekly radio show on Radio City in Liverpool and things just quickly spread via word of mouth (and of course the internet).

“If we’re all honest it grew far beyond our expectations but it grew so much that it meant lots of hard work at night, at the weekend, on top of day jobs.”

Of the original TAW crew John Gibbons worked in market research, Neil Atkinson was in shipping and a part time film producer, Andy Heaton was a security analyst and freelance football reporter and Roberts was a digital journalist.

But with the success of TAW “eventually we decided to take the plunge, quit our day jobs and launch a subscription service” says Roberts. “Thankfully it’s all worked out!”

The TAW Team

The TAW Team

TAW now has a full time staff of eleven and an office in Liverpool city centre. The growth is all the more remarkable as LFC themselves offer a sophisticated online presence with their own website, TV channel and social media outlets.

Liverpoolfc.com also gets much better access than TAW who under Premier League media rules are not even allowed accreditation to matches. While the mainstream media are sitting in plum halfway seats, getting served refreshments at halftime, going to the post match press conference and media mix zones, TAW correspondents are fighting for a view in the Kop.

With all that stacked against TAW how, or more importantly why, do they continue to grow? “Our podcasts can be raw, angry and emotional as well as analytical and offering insight” explains Roberts.

“They’re born from passion, from a fans’ perspective, from being there, in the stands. We’re telling a different story to that told by the club.”

PALO ALTO, USA - Saturday, July 30, 2016: Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp with the Anfield Wrap Neil Atkinson, Andy Heaton and John Gibbons at the Four Seasons Hotel on day ten of the club's USA Pre-season Tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp with TAW (l to r) Neil Atkinson, Andy Heaton and John Gibbons at the Four Seasons Hotel on the club’s 2016 USA Pre-season Tour.

That’s not an automatic recipe for success as other fan media outlets well know. United We Stand, the Manchester United fanzine, remains just that – a Fanzine – read by a select few although it launched way back in 1989.

Other fan websites like ArsenalMania, We Ain’t Got No History (Chelsea), Spurs Web and Blue Moon (Manchester City) have only a fraction of the numbers of TAW. So why has TAW been so successful and other clubs’ fan podcasts hardly heard of?

“Probably a combination of factors” says Roberts, “We’ve poured everything into it and been fortunate to be able to put together a dedicated team of passionate, knowledgeable (and funny) contributors. So that helps.

“But it also helps how Liverpool fans consume their football – it’s 24/7, it’s passionate not passive. There’s a constant thirst for more. And we’re in a position to provide it.” Also not being an official organ of LFC it also means TAW have the ability to speak out when they need to.

“What we do is largely independent of LFC” explains Roberts. “The club have been very helpful at times but we’re not afraid to be critical of their actions and have been on many occasions.

“We get on well with the Liverpool Echo, we get on well with the club, we’re not in their pockets so if they need to be criticized we’ll criticize them. “I think generally most people think we’re pretty fair about things, we try to be balanced. If we are criticizing the club we also give them the opportunity to have their say .

“They don’t always take that opportunity – that’s their choice.” Over the last four years Roberts has been at the coal face of the biggest stories gripping the club – and even created a few in the process.

“Jürgen Klopp, Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers, Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier have all been on the podcast” says Roberts, “along with Jamie Carragher, Lucas Leiva and Xabi Alonso. “Very often we’ve found that what they say on the shows has become the story.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 8, 2015: The Anfield Wrap's John Gibbons and Gareth Roberts at the Football Supporters' Federation Awards Dinner 2015 at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

TAW’s John Gibbons (l) and Gareth Roberts at the 2015 Football Supporters’ Federation Awards Dinner.

The TAW formula is clearly working, with more growth projected over the coming years. “More of the same” says Roberts when asked about the future, “but we’re also getting much more into video now, which is taking off in a big way.

“We’re also taking the podcast to the stage more frequently now, too. We’ve put on live shows in the US, Australia, Ireland and Northern Ireland with Dubai and Hong Kong being added to that list this summer.”

The Dubai show has come about as TAW are stopping over en route to covering LFC’s pre-season tour to Asia. They made contact with the Dubai Reds, one of the cities strongest supporters’ clubs, who were happy to facilitate the live appearance.

With such insight into LFC can Roberts give long suffering Reds fans some hope for the year ahead.

“Last season was a good one and offered plenty of evidence Liverpool are on the up” says Roberts, “In the early months of the season some of the football was fantastic to watch and opposition teams could do little to stop it.

“The Reds’ record against the top sides was fantastic and although LFC had a sticky patch at the turn of the year it was to their credit that they were able to show the mental strength to turn it around.

“Liverpool found a different way to win later on in the season, that bodes well for the next season.” So even though LFc have no League titles since 1990 and only one trophy since 2006 – the League Cup – Roberts still has faith?

“There isn’t a problem with mentality – Klopp has worked hard on rebuilding and changing that. This is a Liverpool side now that can go toe to toe with anyone. What is vital is the numbers – the strength in depth. That’s what let Liverpool down last season.”

LIVERPOOL’S BEST AND WORST WITH GARETH ROBERTS FROM THE ANFIELD WRAP

Personal LFC Highlight

The highlight has to be Istanbul. It’s obvious and might provoke a few moans and groans from opposition supporters but, come on – we were 3-0 down to a fantastic side in the European Cup final. And we won! It’s hard to top that. I’ve never hugged so many strangers in my life.

Personal LFC Lowlight

Chelsea at home 2014. It was so cruel – on us, on Steven Gerrard. We played some brilliant football that season.

Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard

Best Guest

Carragher is always good value – he opens up, clearly loves the game and he appreciates fan culture as well as the football itself.

Worst Guest

Worst guest…not sure we’ve had any real stinkers. We don’t let them near the microphone if they’re weird!

Favourite LFC Player

I absolutely loved John Barnes growing up – he was something else at his peak and he had everything: power, pace, strength, every type of finish and amazing skill. He was oddly underrated by the rest of the country but at Liverpool we loved him. He could win the game on his own. I think Steven Gerrard pips him though – just because on a personal level he was from the same area as me and I watched his Liverpool career from start to finish. He was fantastic for the Reds.

Least Favourite LFC Player

Apart from El Haj Diouf? Well it is Diouf. But after that I never really took to Paul Ince. There was lots of mouth and swagger on display but not quite enough good performances in a Liverpool shirt to warrant it.

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