Liverpool seek Sunderland solace
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is targeting a first Premier League win since taking charge when the team travel to Sunderland on Saturday.
The match comes at the end of an emotional week for the club.
A damning report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, found police changed statements and tried to blame supporters for the crush.
Rodgers, who was only 16 when the disaster happened, said on Thursday he hopes the publication of the truth about the Hillsborough disaster will end disgraceful and tasteless chants by “idiots” at future matches.
“I speak as a human being and I don’t ever like to hear anything like that, whatever club it is, that associates with other people’s tragedies and death,” said Rodgers.
“Unfortunately there are that minority of supporters who will maybe disappoint, but let’s hope we can all move on and we can all learn from this whole process.” Liverpool have yet to win in the league since Rodgers took charge in pre-season, collecting just one point from their opening three games.
And with a match against bitter rivals Manchester United on September 23, three points at Sunderland are essential although they are by no means certain.
Steven Gerrard, sent off for England against Ukraine in midweek, is set to continue in midfield while winger Stewart Downing, whose career includes a loan stint at Sunderland, is pushing for a recall.
Martin O’Neill, the Sunderland manager, is preparing his players for the special atmosphere that will accompany Liverpool’s first game since the independent panel’s Hillsborough verdict.
“I’m never sure it is a good time or a bad time to play Liverpool, but it will be a very emotional occasion with Liverpool fans coming in their droves for the first game afterwards,” O’Neill said.
“They always felt they were maligned greatly and it has now worked for them. It is a total vindication. They must draw some sort of comfort from this, even though 96 people lost their lives.
“Liverpool come here with great tradition. I know the word legendary is used at the throw of a dice these days but that club is legendary, especially since Bill Shankly came in.
“It’s a club of real proud traditions. It will be a really highly charged atmosphere,” added O’Neill.
Whether James McClean is given the chance to sample that atmosphere is the chief decision that O’Neill must make before the match.
O’Neill was upset by McClean’s Twitter outburst after he was left on the bench for the Republic of Ireland’s game in Kazakhstan last weekend.
But O’Neill, who had his fair share of run-ins as a player under successful Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough, said McClean should not have reacted so publicly to veteran Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni’s decision.
“It’s good when a player wants to play and also wants to manage the team, but James is rather young for that at the moment.
“Mr Trapattoni has a couple of years and a couple of titles on him.
“James has been rather foolish and he has admitted it himself. He has taken himself off Twitter, he could have a situation with Facebook as well — and 14 other accounts. We will have to rectify it.
“Some of his language is pretty poor and we will genuinely have to deal with it. Now it is getting a bit ridiculous.”