Kuyt: Reds close to title tilt

Two summers ago, having run Manchester United a close second with a

record 86 points tally, it appeared the Reds were finally ready to

take the final step and end a championship drought dating back to

1990. However, off-field matters took a heavy toll. The financial

problems incurred by then owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and

the political in-fighting behind the scenes was bad enough but what

really derailed the club was their transfer policy. Veteran

defensive linchpin Sami Hyypia had already left having failed to

secure the contract he wanted but it was the departure of Xabi

Alonso, along with Alvaro Arbeloa, to Real Madrid which did the

most damage. The cultured Spain midfielder was never properly

replaced as £17million signing Alberto Aquilani arrived

injured from Roma and struggled with his fitness until the latter

stages of the season. By that time Liverpool’s Champions League

hopes had disappeared and it would not be long before manager

Rafael Benitez would go the same way after the club finished

seventh, their worst performance for a decade. It seemed the

decline was continuing this season under Roy Hodgson but since the

arrival of new owners in the former of Fenway Sports Group and the

return of Kenny Dalglish as manager there has been a marked change

of emphasis. The change was no more apparent than in yesterday’s

5-0 thrashing of Birmingham at Anfield and Kuyt, who scored his

seventh goal in six Barclays Premier League matches, believes the

good times are just around the corner. “It has a bit of the same

feeling as 2009 when we were really close and finished second,”

said the Dutchman. “I had the feeling that if we made a few good

signings we would be right up there and that is exactly the case

now. “With the arrival of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll we have two

top quality signings but also with the arrival of the young lads

who are doing well things are looking much more promising. “If we

can add a few other good players I think we can compete with the

best. “We have already shown in the second half of the season we

can beat Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and draw at

Arsenal. “We are close but everyone is thinking we have to move

forward and we have to get better. “Hopefully we have learned from

2009 and if we can move forward we will be there and the way I see

it that will happen.” The effect Dalglish has had on the squad

since his appointment in January has been nothing short of

remarkable and that was highlighted in the demolition of Birmingham

in a complete team performance. In his first start for six weeks

Maxi Rodriguez scored a hat-trick to double his tally for the

season, Kuyt continued his good form in front of goal while even

forgotten man Joe Cole was on target with the late fifth as Alex

McLeish’s side crumbled. “It is going well but it is all to do with

us working together,” added Kuyt. “With the arrival of Luis and

Andy it is easier to play with top quality players but to see the

young lads breaking through is very good. “Everyone is speaking

about Flanno and Robbo (teenage full-backs John Flanagan and Jack

Robinson) but Jay Spearing is also doing well. “It is exciting to

see that and if we are able to add a few more players the future

will look brighter than it did seven or eight months ago.” While

Liverpool can continue looking up, targeting fifth-placed