We've made more than our share of jokes about the long, dull, dragging days of summer without Liverpool football to distract us from cruel reality, but when you get right down to it there are few sports that span the calendar quite like football. And so, three long, hard days (or thereabouts) after Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final to close out major European competition, the first wave of players begin to trickle into pre-season training camps in England to kick off July. Players with international commitments and senior squad members nursing injuries (hello, Steven Gerrard's groin) won't be taking part any time soon, but still, good job making a mockery of our constant whining about the offseason, football...
* After news of Sammy Lee leaving came out late last week, it didn't take Liverpool long to line up a new member of the coaching staff, and today they brought Kevin Keen in from West Ham to take over first-team coach duties while Steve Clarke officially became assistant manager. Keen was previously assistant manager at the London club, having spent nine years there working his way through the ranks as a youth and reserves coach after a playing career that spanned over six-hundred games with stops from West Ham to Wolves, Stoke, Macclesfield, and Wycombe. He is also well known by Clarke from his days at West Ham, reaffirming the new assistant manager's importance in the current Liverpool set-up.
As with Lee at Liverpool, Keen always seemed as though he would be permanently a part of West Ham after spending the majority of his adult life attached to them in one way or another. As such, one has to wonder if the arrival of Sam Allardyce—either due to personal disagreement or because Keen had hoped to finally become the club's full-time manager after spells as caretaker on three separate occasions—is what caused his departure. It also has to be assumed that at 44, his goal isn't to be first team coach at Liverpool forever.
For however long Liverpool has him, though, he's certainly a respected, experienced name, as well as a man with experience bringing youth though to the first team at West Ham and a history with Clarke that suggests he should fit in fairly easily, making it a promising hire to once again fill out Liverpool's first-team coaching staff.
* Speaking of bringing the youth through, the NextGen Series—a u19 Champions League equivalent that first came to light a month ago—continues to take shape, with news of planned expansion to 24 clubs next season while this year's 16 participants get broken up into groups of four and have their schedules announced. Clubs such as Ajax, Inter, Celtic, City, and Barcelona could all be in store for Liverpool in the later rounds, but first they'll have to navigate their group in the summer and fall:
Group Two: Liverpool, Molde, Sporting Lisbon, Wolfsburg
Aug 17 - Liverpool v Sporting
Aug 31 - Molde v Liverpool
Sept 14 - Liverpool v Wolfsburg
Sept 29 - Liverpool v Molde
Oct 5 - Wolfsburg v Liverpool
Nov 23 - Sporting v Liverpool
If they make it through, the knock-out rounds await in the new year. For now, though, while Liverpool's first-team players may be missing out on European action, there are a few good looking trips in store for the kids—and hopefully a few supporters, too—as the new season approaches.
* And in internationals news, the Copa America continued yesterday with Lucas and Brazil taking on Venezuela in what turned out to be a rather dull draw after a promising first half had made it seem as though it was only a matter of time before Brazil put their stamp on a tournament that has seen no clear favourite emerge in the early going. By the end, rather than seeming a powerhouse, Brazil appeared nearly as flawed as Argentina—though their shortcomings were in different parts of the pitch. Robinho looked more like the player who came out for Manchester City than the one who regularly excels for his country, while Ganso—one of countless hyped youngsters in the side—hardly put a pass right in the second half and appeared put off by the speed Venezuela's defenders closed on him in the number ten role. Neymar, meanwhile, despite showing flashes of brilliance, again was too easy to muscle off the ball, doing nothing to assuage doubts as to his ability to make it in the Premier League. Oddly, too, manager Mano Menezes chose to take off Pato, his only attacker who appeared capable of causing real problems for Venezuela, as the match wound down.
On the other hand, Brazil's fullbacks bombed down the flanks wonderfully—particularly Dani Alves—while a largely defensive trio of Thiago Silva and Lucio with Lucas camped in front of them snuffed out any Venezuelan efforts and set a solid base for what should have been a dangerous Brazilian attack. Those five combined with Argentina's attackers would likely lead to a side that could challenge Spain, but as it is neither country appears the finished article, leaving the role of favourite open to Uruguay as they prepare to face Peru at 11:15PM GMT/6:15PM EST today.
A full schedule remains up in our Copa preview for those looking to set their schedule over the coming days.
Before Suarez and Uruguay can kick off, however, Raheem Sterling and England take on Germany in the quarter-finals of the u17 World Cup at 9PM GMT/4PM EST.
Well, that about does it for this Monday's news and notes. With players reporting back for pre-season training, more football than you have any right to expect on a Monday in July, and the continental transfer window finally open we'll be back later if there's anything to pass along. In the meantime, have something upbeat for your Monday soundtrack...