Reds gaffer plays peacemaker

Leicester have added one teenage defender to their Under-21

ranks and allowed another to join Ilkeston Town on loan.

Jide Maduako, 18, will stay with Ilkeston for one month and

could make his debut for the Derbyshire club on Saturday when they

host Whitby Town in the Evo-Stick League Northern Premier

Division.

Maduako joined Leicester’s academy last season, signing his

first professional contract with the Foxes at the end of the

campaign and subsequently becoming a regular for the Under-21 team

this term.

Meanwhile, City have added promising youngster Karlton Watson to

their Under-21 ranks.

Subject to clearance being received from the Football

Association and the Football League, the 20-year-old defender will

join the club’s development squad under the guidance of coach Steve

Beaglehole after signing a professional contract this week.

The Dark Blues have picked up considerably in recent weeks and

are on a three-match unbeaten league run which has seen them move

to within a point of second-bottom Saints.

And Smith insists it is up to them to carry on the good work

which will see them leapfrog Danny Lennon’s men with a win in

Paisley.

He said: “We’ve been getting the right sort of results recently

which has obviously been pleasing.

“The lads have deserved it for all their efforts but it’s only a

start as far as we’re concerned. The important thing now is to make

sure we keep it going.

“I’ll be asking them for more of the same against St Mirren and

in the weeks to come.

“When you set a standard you like to try and maintain, which is

our aim.

“It won’t be easy as St Mirren are still a good side but we’ll

focus on ourselves and see where it takes us.”

Smith knows the Buddies have hit a rough patch recently but is

adamant that will not make his side’s task any easier.

He said: “Even though their results haven’t been all that good,

I don’t think St Mirren have been playing all that badly.

“We know what they’re capable of as they came to Dens Park and

won 2-0 earlier in the season.

“They have a good mixture of youth and experience who know what

the SPL is all about.

“We don’t read anything into their results of late because we

know that one win can start to turn things round for you.”

Dundee hope to finally move off the bottom of the table but

Smith knows league placings mean nothing at this stage in the

season.

He said: “It’s still early days. There’s a lot of football still

to be played between now and the end of the season.

“It would be nice to get off the bottom and it could be positive

psychologically for us.

“That’s what we’re going to try and do but this game won’t

decide anything.”

Dundee are still without injured skipper Stephen O’Donnell

(hamstring), Carl Finnegan (knee), Jamie McLuskey (Achilles), Brian

Easton (hamstring), Mark Kerr (knee), and Davide Grassi (knee).

Forward Mark Stewart has stepped up his comeback from a knee

operation earlier this season but is still some way away from

playing.

The 25-year-old former York City player has been out since early

October recovering from a knee injury which eventually required an

operation.

After a couple of setbacks during his seven weeks’

rehabilitation period under Killie physios, Alex MacQueen and Ross

Goodwin, the Englishman is ready for action.

“The last game I played was Aberdeen at home, so this will be my

seventh week,” he said. “I tore my cartilage in my knee. I actually

did it against Hearts but I trained and played the following

week.

“I got an operation five weeks ago and my knee is feeling

good.

“It hasn’t been easy. After the operation I couldn’t really do

anything for four or five days.

“But I have been doing rehab every day and the physios, Alex and

Rosco (Goodwin) have been absolutely brilliant. They have had to

put up with me moaning at times, but they have been brilliant and

that is why I got back so quickly.

“I am a horrible patient, not the greatest. I was asking every

day if I could step it up a little bit more and they were saying

that I wasn’t ready.

“A couple of times I went out running as part of my assessment

and broke down, there was a bit of pain and the knee swelled up

again so I have had to take a couple of steps back.

“But I’m back training and got 60 minutes in a reserve game

against St Mirren and now I have to work hard to get my shirt

back.

“Hopefully, I will be in contention to make the bench or

whatever the gaffer needs me for.

“The boys have done well but I am working towards getting myself

back in the team.”

Racchi takes inspiration from Dundee United winger Gary

Mackay-Steven who has scored three goals in his last four games

since recovering from a similar injury, including one in the 3-3

draw with Kilmarnock at Tannadice last Friday night.

He said: “I know Mackay-Steven had the same operation as me,

although I had a little bit of ligament damage.

“He played against us when we beat them 3-1 at home, that was

his last game before he went in for an operation.

“It is a similar timescale, he is back playing and playing

well.

“I watched him against us last Friday night and he was flying

and so if I could get back as quickly as he has done then I will be

happy.”

Killie could go third with a win over Saints but, with a tough

schedule looming, Racchi is setting his sights a little lower.

“The league is very tight at the moment.” he said.

“We have a busy time coming up over Christmas and we have got to

make sure we are in the top half of the table.

“St Johnstone is not an easy game. The first game I missed was

against them and I went up to watch and they played very well (to

win 2-1).

“But hopefully we can cement ourselves in the top-six for the

fixtures coming up over Christmas.”

Defender Williams criticised Suarez in a section of his book ‘My

Premier League Diary’, accusing the Uruguayan of being a diver and

showing contempt toward his fellow professionals.

The timing of the comments has stoked the fires ahead of

Sunday’s Liberty Stadium contest between the two sides, as Reds

manager Brendan Rodgers and midfielder Joe Allen return to their

former club for the first time.

But Laudrup does not believe the furore will affect the Wales

captain.

He said: “We know all about Luis Suarez – and Ashley Williams

certainly seems to know about him.

“The comments are not something that surprised me because

nothing surprises me in football.

“There have been lots of comments about Suarez, not only from

Swansea but lots of other clubs.

“But there is a referee on the pitch and three other officials

and they have to manage the game. The important thing is for our

players to keep inside the rules and I am 100% sure they will and

we will try to win this game.

“But I have no problem with Ashley Williams playing against Luis

Suarez, no problem at all.”

Suarez, 25, has been in red-hot form this season, and has scored

13 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions.

Laudrup acknowledges it will be difficult to stop the former

Ajax forward, and has warned his side they must look to cut off his

supply if he is not to add to his tally.

“It is not about one man. We all agree he is a player to watch

because he has scored 70 or 80% of their goals,” he said.

“But it’s only part of it; you have to look at the people who

make the passes and stopping the service.

“He will get chances and he will create some things but the only

thing we can do is watch him very carefully and try not to let him

out of our sight.

“He is a clever player – you only have to see the equaliser at

Chelsea to see that which was very smart.

“He is a goalscorer who has the instinct about where the ball is

going to go, but we know about him.”

Laudrup has received an injury boost with midfielder Ki

Sung-yueng back from a hamstring injury, while defender Kyle

Bartley returns from a thigh injury.

Ki’s return could see top scorer Michu moved back up front, with

Itay Shechter making way.

Swansea have been on a good recent run, and climbed into the top

half of the table with their 2-1 win at Newcastle.

They currently sit above Liverpool in the table, a fact that has

not gone unnoticed among the Swansea faithful.

But Laudrup expects Rodgers and Allen to have a good reception

at the Liberty.

He said: “I think the reception when we played them at Anfield

was good for him and Joe and I think it will be the same here.

“Football is about strong emotions and I think it is up to each

fan who comes to the stadium on Sunday to do what he or she wants

to.

“He did great here, like Roberto Martinez and Paolo Sousa. We

can’t say how other people should react but if you ask me what I

would do then I would applaud him.”

After a flying start to the season, the Toffees have won only

one of their last six games and lost to Reading last week as the

Royals picked up their first Premier League victory of the

season.

During that spell Everton have scored 10 goals but conceded just

as many, and Moyes is keen to get the balance right to ensure his

side get the results they deserve.

The Scot said: “There’s been a couple of games where we maybe

should have scored more but we’ve also got to make sure when we’re

not scoring that we don’t concede.

“Our play has been good enough to have merited more goals and

everybody’s got to make sure they chip in, the goals have got to

come from all departments.

“I’m going out to score and I’m going out to try to win. The

best teams get the balance exactly right. But I would still quite

happily settle for winning games 1-0, because the job is to win,

that’s always the priority.”

Everton will meet a Norwich team in great form, the Canaries

having won four of their last six games, including last weekend’s

1-0 victory over Manchester United.

Moyes praised the job done by manager Chris Hughton, and said:

“I hope they don’t play as well as they have been because they’ve

done very well. Chris is doing a good job and they’ve had some good

results recently.”

Everton have not been helped by injury problems and will

definitely be without captain Phil Neville after he had a knee

operation last week.

Striker Victor Anichebe (hamstring) and defender Tony Hibbert

(calf) are still struggling but winger Kevin Mirallas (hamstring)

and midfielder Darron Gibson (thigh) could play some part.

Gibson’s return to fitness is particularly welcome given he has

missed the last 10 games, while the Toffees will also be without

key midfielder Marouane Fellaini tomorrow through suspension.

The Belgium international has been one of the players of the

season so far but Moyes is confident others will step into his

shoes.

The Toffees boss said: “I don’t think we need to plan any

differently. The team’s been playing very well, I know they’re in a

good rhythm.

“Obviously Felli’s been an integral part of that so we’ll miss

him but we’ll try to find a way of winning with the players we have

available.”

Moyes has also taken the precaution of recalling teenage

midfielder Ross Barkley from a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday as

cover.

The 18-year-old has enjoyed a productive two months at

Hillsborough, scoring four goals in 13 appearances, and is likely

to head back out on loan later this season.

Moyes said: “Because of the injuries I felt we needed to get him

back in the squad.

“Ideally I would probably have liked to have left him longer to

get more games, and if I don’t get him the games I want I’ll

probably look to put him back out on loan maybe going into the new

year. But we’ll see how he does while he’s here.

“It’s really important that we keep his development going and,

from what I’ve seen, he’s matured a bit and come on a bit with the

games he’s had at Sheffield Wednesday. With young players the games

make a big difference.”

The Swans defender was heavily critical of Suarez in an extract

from his Premier League diary recounting last season, their first

in the Premier League, published this week.

Williams was quoted as saying the Uruguay international was

“streets ahead of any player I’ve truly disliked” and he wanted to

“knock him out” for the player’s diving antics.

Rodgers was taken aback when he read those comments and has

spoken to Williams, who in turn has talked to Suarez, in an attempt

to prevent the situation escalating ahead of Sunday’s match at the

Liberty Stadium.

“I have spoken to Ash and Ash has spoken with Luis so there is

no issue there,” said Rodgers, who along with Joe Allen returns to

the club they left in June. “When I saw it I was surprised because

in my time there because Ash, knowing his character, is a real good

man with good intelligence and maturity and a good footballer

player.

“When I saw those comments I spoke to him and got the full

explanation of how it has seemingly got out there and he was very

quick to want to apologise for that.

“That is done. There is no problem there and I am sure they will

shake hands on Sunday and get on with it.”

The fact Rodgers was able to use his good relationship with his

former club to intervene in the matter has no doubt helped avoid

any lingering ill-feeling.

Last season Suarez’s obvious disdain for Patrice Evra, whom he

was found guilty of racially abusing and banned for eight matches,

manifested itself in the refusal of a handshake with the Frenchman

at Old Trafford in February.

It was one of a number of high-profile public relations

disasters by the club in respect to the affair and Rodgers was keen

to avoid any chance of things getting out of hand at the Liberty

Stadium.

Rodgers has already lost to his former club, at Anfield a month

ago, when they ended Liverpool’s defence of the Capital One

Cup.

Visiting fans cheered former midfielder Allen but chanted “We

don’t need you any more” at Rodgers.

The Liverpool boss does not expect to encounter much hostility

but accepts, with points at stake, there may not be a warm

welcome.

“It is a real special place Swansea. I spent two fantastic years

there and had a wonderful rapport with the supporters,” he

added.

“The club was brilliant for me and hopefully I gave them

something back while I was there.

“I never said I was going to be there for many years but it took

a truly unbelievable club like Liverpool to draw me away.

“Whatever reception I get is irrelevant, the important thing is

I know the good people there and I am sure time will heal any bad

thoughts.

“But we are going there to keep our (seven-match) unbeaten in

the league going.”

Key to Rodgers’ success in south Wales was his close friendship

with chairman Huw Jenkins.

A move to a club Liverpool’s size makes those kind of

relationships more difficult but Rodgers feels it is working well

with United States-based principal owner John Henry and chairman

Tom Werner.

“When I met Huw I was very impressed. It was a hand-in-glove fit

me going there,” said the Reds boss.

“It was so refreshing speaking to a chairman who had a clear

identity of how the club worked all based around simplicity and a

philosophy that has been going for many years.

“I believe it can be replicated at Liverpool. Simplicity is the

key.

“That is what this club was based on over many years: good

players, good coaching, good people and good values and ethics.

“As long as we can continue to keep it that way and not

complicate things we will be fine.

“This is a different kettle of fish altogether, a world-renowned

football club where everyone has an opinion but as long as we

manage that and know where we are going we will be fine.

“I don’t speak to the owners every day but we have communication

every other day by phone or email.

“You have to understand there is a board who have brought you in

to do a job and I respect that.

“I am here to try to keep it moving in the same direction and in

order to do that you need to communicate well.”