Ian Rush: Mane Head Injury Proves There’s Work Still To Be Done
It was disappointing to see Sadio Mane’s health put at risk in Senegal’s 2-0 win over Cape Verde in the Africa Cup of Nations this week. The Liverpool striker appeared to suffer a concussion after colliding with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha, but was allowed to play on until it became clear he couldn’t.
In this day and age, you have to stop anyone from continuing when there’s a serious head injury and take them off the field even if there’s the slightest doubt about their wellbeing.
I remember in my playing days I once got a boot to the head in the process of scoring a goal and although I knew something wasn’t quite right, I finished the game. But during the game and after full-time, I had to keep asking my team-mates what the score was.
It turned out I was concussed and had to spend the night in hospital to get myself right, so I can relate to what happened to Mane. But with advances in science and knowledge of head injuries today, there really should be no excuse for that to be happening in 2022.
The safety of the player has to come first, above all else. Mane should have been taken off directly after the collision, not five or 10 minutes later. Knowing Mane, he wouldn’t have wanted to come off, but from a medical point of view it would have been the safest option.
It just goes to show you that we still have some way to go in the fight to change attitudes towards head trauma in football. Great strides have been made in the English game, but there’s still room for improvement and players will never be fully safe until there is a global shift in how we approach head injuries.
Liverpool Coping Without Star Duo
Liverpool have done really well in the absence of Mane and Mohamed Salah, getting to a final at Wembley and cutting a tiny piece out of Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League table.
It goes to show you that Liverpool’s strength in depth is perhaps not as bad as some were making out before AFCON got underway. Don’t get me wrong, I was also wondering how they’d cope and I was concerned, but the players who have come in have put my mind at ease.
I’m really pleased for the players who have stepped up, particularly those who had a hand in getting the team to Wembley for the League Cup final, which is a massive step for this group of players and the younger ones in particular.
I used to love going to Wembley as a player, soaking in the build-up and the atmosphere created by the supporters. It was always an enjoyable occasion and your first Wembley experience will always leave you wanting more, which bodes well for both Jurgen Klopp’s senior and younger players.
The fans will get a fun day out at Wembley for the first time since 2016 and I’m made up for them. They used to call Wembley our second home, so this cup final is well overdue.
FA Cup Weekend: Liverpool vs Cardiff
Being Welsh, I know Cardiff City quite well and I’m looking forward to their FA Cup visit to Anfield this weekend. No doubt the away end will be sold out because the Bluebirds have fantastic support and I’m sure their team will make a real go of it.
Cardiff haven’t been playing particularly well of late, so I do expect Liverpool to win, but then this is what the FA Cup is all about. It’s games like this where you tend to see players from lower tiers rise to the occasion and that’s what makes the competition special.
The FA Cup is all about the underdog, and Cardiff are clearly the underdogs here. The expectancy is with Liverpool, even if Klopp fields the younger lads, and I think they’ll come through it, but don’t be surprised if Cardiff make a real fight of it.
Liverpool Transfer Talk
I mentioned in a previous column that I felt Liverpool would be quiet over the January transfer window and as we approach the end of the month it looks as though it will pass without any major movements in or out.
You should never buy for the sake of it when these windows come around and I’m guessing Klopp could not identify a transfer target that could immediately improve his options, otherwise we’d have seen some action already.
Part of that probably comes down to how well the fringe players and younger players have performed when called upon this season. I’m sure that will have delighted Klopp and they’ll be rewarded with his faith in upcoming games.
However, how well they perform between now and the end of the season will probably have an impact on what business the club plan to do come the summer.
Ranieri Out, Hodgson In
Claudio Ranieri lost his job this week and I have to say I think it was a little harsh, even from Watford’s owners! Funnily enough, we saw Norwich beating Everton cause Rafa Benitez to lose his job, and then the Canaries beating Watford also cost Ranieri his.
Credit to Dean Smith for getting Norwich out of the relegation zone, but Watford now look to be in big trouble. I heard some reports that Ranieri wasn’t too involved on the training pitch, whether that’s true or not I don’t know.
But what I do know is that when you’re in trouble at the bottom you have to work twice as hard on the training pitch to make things right. If the manager is not involved in the day-to-day training, that does tend to transpire onto the pitch.
Ranieri is very experienced but by bringing in Roy Hodgson as his successor they’ve got an even more experienced manager now. I know Roy well and I’ve seen his training sessions first hand from his time as Liverpool manager and I know he puts serious emphasis on working hard in training.
He still has that fire burning within him and he’ll be getting those Watford players practicing every day on their defending, knowing when to attack and when not to. That experience and that work ethic that he’ll bring could make a real difference.
Christian Eriksen Progress
I’ve been following Christian Eriksen’s recovery from a cardiac arrest with interest and it would be amazing if he can get back to playing at Premier League level after what happened him at Euro 2020 last summer.
Brentford are reportedly interested in giving him a chance after doctors gave him the green light to resume his playing career and I’d love to see him link up with his compatriot Thomas Frank.
You have to be super-fit to play in the Premier League, so it might not be a case of him picking up where he left off. He’ll have to pass a medical and be examined by club doctors if Brentford are serious about bringing him in, but it would be an inspiring story.
We know he’s a quality player with a lot of ability, but it’s about proving his ability to compete at this level now in a safe manner after being fitted with an ICD pacemaker. He seems to have the determination to make it back to the top level, but he’ll have to take it one step at a time. Good luck to him.
Lukaku Looking Sluggish
I’ve been watching Romelu Lukaku’s progress since he patched things up with Thomas Tuchel but he doesn’t seem to have rediscovered his form for Chelsea as I expected.
I see it as a slightly similar situation to the one Harry Kane was in at the start of the season. He’d made his desire to leave Tottenham very public and when Spurs refused to budge he struggled for form once the season got going.
But Kane is starting to score goals again now and I wonder will Lukaku go the same way once he gets some minutes under his belt. We know he can score goals because he’s done it at every level already, but he’s got to build up his fitness because he doesn’t look sharp.
You could even argue that he’s trying a bit too hard. I’ve been in that position before where nothing is going in for you and then you start to overwork which makes matters worse. As a striker, sometimes you have to just wait for a chance to come along and when you eventually tuck one away everything else tends to fall in to place.
Some Chelsea fans may be wondering why they sold Tammy Abraham and brought in Lukaku. Abraham is scoring goals for fun in Italy, although it has to be said Serie A is not as strong as the Premier League these days.
But the big difference between Abraham and Lukaku right now is that the former is enjoying his football. Jose Mourinho has been showing Abraham some love, which is really important for a striker, while Lukaku and Tuchel haven’t exactly seen eye to eye.
It’s important for Lukaku to just knuckle down and stay patient, I’ve no doubt his quality will shine through for Chelsea sooner or later.
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