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.”