We're almost half-way to the monumental, must-watch match between England and Wales that is Saturday's Euros 2012 qualifier. So, can anybody else feel that excitement? No? Well, I guess it might have just been something I ate acting up...
* Liverpool's four long term injuries might get sorted out by the end of the international break, with it sounding as though Steve Clarke expects Steven Gerrard, Martin Kelly, and Jonjo Shelvey to return to training next week, with Fabio Aurelio's immanent return sounding less likely put still possible:
They’re all improving. Fingers crossed, we will have Martin Kelly and Steven Gerrard back training by the middle of next week. We hope the same for Jonjo Shelvey, who has been out for a long time. Fabio Aurelio is also making good progress. They’re our four longer-term injuries, the ones that have been causing us a bit of concern recently, but hopefully they’ll all join in training next week.
And have I mentioned how much I love international breaks lately? Well, I do. For now. Until the matches actually start and there's the potential for something bad to happen to any number of included and currently healthy Liverpool players. In the meantime, it's nice to have that extra week for injured players to work back towards fitness without quite the same level of rush and urgency.
* Meanwhile there's big news from the backroom, as Ian Ayre was named the new managing director and Damien Comolli promoted to Director of Football. Said John Henry on Ayre's promotion:
We conducted an extensive recruitment search and met with outstanding candidates who sought this role but in the end, after having worked with Ian and other top executives within the club, we realised that Ian had all of the attributes necessary to lead the Club forward. Ian has been doing an outstanding job driving commercial revenues and has a proven track record in successfully leading and developing businesses in a number of different regions and sectors of importance to Liverpool FC...
But importantly, Ian is also from Liverpool and understands the relationships between the Club, the supporters and the city. He will play a key role in all of our future plans.
Even with Ayre being quite possibly the one big name to transition from the old regime to the new without any reservations on the part of the fans, that he's stepping into Christian Purslow's old job when the former managing director was himself so often billed as a lifelong fan can't help but cause a rueful chuckle or two. At least in Ayre's case he has a good deal of experience with the club to suggest he's up to the job and is very likely the right sort of lifelong fan to have running things, but still, if the recent past has taught us anything with Purslow, and even David Moores before him, it's that being a lifelong fan doesn't always mean you actually know what's best for the club.
As for Comolli, his work in the January window alongside Dalglish to bring in Suarez and Carroll is a good early return, and all things considered this doesn't seem as though it should get in the way of the eventual extension of Dalglish's contract, so that he's officially taking on the Director of Football role everybody assumed he was hired for in the first place probably won't make much of a real difference in the long run.
* Elsewhere, the never-ending soap opera that is Alberto Aquilani's potential permanent move to Juventus rumbles on apace. Apparently Roma has inserted themselves into proceedings as a potential suitor should Juventus decide they are unwilling to match the previously agreed fee, which seems to have wakened Juventus after a couple of months spent angling for a further cut rate price on what was already a foolishly generous agreement signed last summer when former managing director Christian Purslow1 was doing his best to ship out any player the Daily Mail didn't like. Said Aquilani's agent of recent developments:
[Juventus] could sign him by making three to four delayed payments, a system which was established last summer. The agreement between Liverpool and Juventus is already there, it all depends on the willingness of Juventus. I think Aquilani will stay at Juventus and there will not be any obstacles.
It did never seem especially likely that he'd end up back at Liverpool, and Roma sniffing around seems to have only increased the likelihood he'll stay in Turin. Then again, with this soap opera, you never do know what will happen. But it'll probably involve evil twin brothers with mustaches at some point.
In the meantime, while you wait for injuries to heal and decisions to be made and tedious weeks you'll never get back to pass...
1 Have I ever mentioned that regardless of whether or not he was a Liverpool fan, Christian Purslow was in fact far, far worse than Hitler?