Ahead of tonight’s match we wanted to hear what Liverpool fans made of tonight’s match and also an outside look at the Mike Ashley circus, now in its eighth year at St. James’ Park.

Gareth Roberts has kindly done the honours, Editor of ‘The Anfield Wrap‘ and Liverpool fan, Gareth consider swhich Newcastle players would walk into the Liverpool team and what the future holds for both clubs.

Last 19 Premier League matches at Anfield between the two sides have seen 16 wins for Liverpool and 2 draws, yet Brendan Rodgers describes this as ‘always a tough game’. Discuss.

I think Brendan is always mindful of what he is saying to the media and how he will be perceived. He’s very into crafting his public persona. He is often accused by our fans of ‘talking too much’ and there is some truth in that at times. With the quote you reference, he probably wouldn’t want to be perceived as disrespectful to Newcastle and rightly so. Had he said, ‘Well look at their record, it’ll be a piece of pi**’ it would have been on every back page and would have been pinned to the away changing room wall later today for the cliched ‘he’s done their team talk for them’ moment.

From the outside it looked a bit embarrassing some of your fans calling for Brendan Rodgers’ head only months after nearly winning the title, do you agree?

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I’m not calling for his head. We nearly won the league last season, as you say, and this season, after a bad start, we’ve recovered to make the semis of the FA Cup and we’re still in with a shout of a Champions League spot, albeit an outside chance now.

Rodgers has made mistakes, but all managers do. I’m also not sure what the fans calling for his head would expect from any other manager. Whoever that might be would be given the same brief from the owners: buy young players, buy potential and make them into stars. It’s unclear how many of the so-called ‘top managers’ would be willing to accept that as a job description. Last season’s performances raised expectations but personally I felt another title challenge was unlikely this season.

Did Liverpool just get lucky when Gillett and Hicks were forced to sell the club because they couldn’t afford to do otherwise?

I don’t think anything connected to the Hicks and Gillett era could be termed ‘lucky’. There was an organised and sustained campaign to get rid of them from the fans, and later from within the club, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they were rattled by it. It also went through the courts before their fingers were finally peeled away from Anfield, so I think luck is too simplistic of an explanation.

Recently there were polls and claims which suggested Steven Gerrard was the greatest ever Liverpool player. Do fans now seriously think he was better than the likes of Keegan and Dalglish etc, or are some just swept along on the Premier League bandwagon?

Would guess the latter. It’s all highly subjective and these type of opinions are very much swayed by the era you have grown up in and the players you have watched live at the match, versus those you’ve watched on a DVD or heard about second hand from older fans.

I started going in 1990 so I’d include John Barnes in any conversation about the best player to wear the red, others would throw in Graeme Souness and I’ve even heard people say Luis Suarez. Nonsense for me regarding him at least. A ‘great’ sticks around, inspires performances by leading by example and wins silverware. Have a pint with fellas of a certain vintage and they will tell you all about Billy Liddell and his greatest player credentials. That it’s even a debate is alright, we’ve done OK for great players down the years. We could do with a couple now though.

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Is it a big reality check for Liverpool fans that a player who has achieved relatively little and is as young as Sterling, is seemingly trying to engineer a transfer elsewhere?

It isn’t for me. If Liverpool want to keep one of the best players of his age in Europe then they have to pay the market rate for his wages. If they don’t do that, and they aren’t winning silverware or qualifying for the Champions League, then the player’s agent will stir the sh** in public to generate interest and strengthen his hand in negotiations. That’s what has happened and now Liverpool have a decision to make. Liverpool have sold good players before. So have Arsenal. So have Manchester United. It happens. Clubs outmuscle other clubs financially all the time. It’s how we signed Sterling from QPR as a kid in the first place.

Quite why Sterling’s agent saw fit to make everything public at this stage of the season when the player has two years to run on his deal is anyone’s guess. But he hasn’t done Sterling any favours with many Liverpool fans by doing it.

Do you see Newcastle United escaping the clutches of Mike Ashley any time soon?

I hope so. It must be strange to have paid so much money to be involved in something only for everyone to hate you. Eventually that must grind you down no matter how much you tell yourself ‘it’s only business’ which is presumably what he does.

I know how demoralising it is to go the game feeling the club is going nowhere because of the people in charge. Football clubs are community institutions that deserve protection beyond the useless ‘fit and proper person test’ which has been proven to be a contradiction in terms time and again. There is a lot to learn from Germany’s ’50 plus one’ rule which means no one individual can own a club.

If you could turn the clock back would you rather have lost THAT game 4-3 to help Newcastle win the league and Man Utd not?

I never want Man United to lift trophies but I always want Liverpool to win games and we still had an outside chance of the league ourselves at the time. Where the title ended up that season wasn’t down to Liverpool so I’ll leave it how it is. Instead, if I find the keys to the DeLorean, I might suggest to Kevin Keegan that when he’s got that 12 point lead he works on the defence a bit.

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Can you ever see a day when clubs accept the TV money etc is so outrageous that they have to charge similar tickets prices to those charged in the Bundesliga?

I think what is important is that fans keep making their feelings known. Keep protesting, keep lobbying, keep demanding meetings and keep ramming the message home. There is a generation potentially missing out on the game we love and that’s worth fighting for. We’ve seen small victories with reciprocal agreements between clubs and small reductions here and there. The clubs and the league don’t want anything that spoils the ‘brand’. So let’s spoil the brand until we see fairness in pricing. Football is more than supply and demand and balance sheets. The moment we give in to that argument is the moment the game truly dies on its arse.

In five years time where do you see Liverpool and Newcastle competing?

In the upper reaches of the Premier League. If that’s to be more than between fifth and tenth, then both clubs need to show a bit more vision and bollocks for success than is currently on display. In my opinion.

Would you settle for second place if Everton won the league?

That’s never going to happen so pointless considering it.

The same question if it was Manchester United?

No, I want Liverpool to win the league.

Which Newcastle players, if any, would get in a combined team made up of the two squads?

I honestly haven’t watched much of Newcastle. We’ve been hammering The Anfield Wrap so outside of watching Liverpool I’ve usually got my head buried in something to do with that. I’d take Tim Krul over Brad Jones though!

Some outsiders criticise Liverpool fans for being keen to take the moral high ground, how does that square with the defence of Luis Suarez by many of your supporters?

I can’t be arsed with all that to be honest. Loads of fans will defend their own no matter what. We’ve seen that at many clubs. Not sure how Liverpool fans take the moral high ground any more or less than other groups numbering millions around the world. Who’s counting the incidents of it? And why haven’t they got something better to do?

From your perspective what have you made of Newcastle this season?

More of what seems to be a never-ending soap opera. Going back years, from down here at least, it seems that every time the club is close to getting it right it somehow shoots itself in the foot and has to start again. Mistakes have followed mistakes. Not that Mike Ashley has got much right of course. Fair play to the thousands that stick with it week in, week out but it’s that loyalty that is being thrown back in the face of fans by the likes of Ashley. We saw similar with Hicks and Gillett, then we had to go through Purslow, Hodgson… All this should be a laugh!

And Alan Pardew?

Hate the fella. Condescending, up his own arse. I can’t see much beyond that to be honest. And yeah, it probably does stem from that goal for Palace.

And…John Carver?

Not sure about his credentials to be a top class Premier League manager. Seems a decent bloke though and a bit of shame he has ended up caught in the crossfire between fans and Ashley. That said, the results under him have been awful. Can’t see him sticking around somehow!

What’s your prediction for the game?

We should win given the respective form of the two clubs and the fact that our players are playing for a place in the starting 11 for Wembley, as well as ensuring Liverpool finish as high as possible in the league. I’ll go 2-0 Liverpool.

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