Not being able to quite bring myself to actually speak to a Scouser of the red persuasion, I took the opportunity to get in touch with an old friend & former colleague, who although he’s now returned across the water, keeps a beady eye on developments at his club & makes the most of the ferry trips across the Irish sea to lend his support. Niall, it’s over to you mate!

Cutting straight to the chase, what do you think of your performances so far this season? Have they met pre-season expectations, and if not what do you need to change?

Up until 2008 things were progressing slowly along, I still had hope and would have been happy if we’d broken the top two and finished 2nd – with us pushing whoever came top, close.

Since the Hicks “hick-up” things have gone downhill rapidly. People say that things off the field shouldn’t affect the players performance, but it’s clear that it has. It’s amazing how poorly a team plays when there’s even a sniff of the manager going – just look at the Mancs when Ferguson said he was retiring. In my opinion Rafa was treading on thin ice until Hicks gifted him two more years!.

What areas of your squad need strengthening?

I’d like to see someone brought in who can make things tick in the midfield – someone who can complement Gerrard, but especially someone who pass the ball! (Modric maybe?). Too many players (Mascherano, Riise, Sissoko, Hyppia, Kuyt, Voronin) who have a touch like a donkey and pass it sideways/backwards or not all. Kuyt must be the only player who has a 12ft shin – and that’s his good leg. Also another striker to complement Torres and Crouch.

Who’s been your form player so far? Who do we need to look out for?

Form player, hmmm – Gerrard is an obvious choice, but Hyppia (for all his passing faults) and Carragher have been rocks at the back. I really like the look of Lucas and Babel and think they are fantastic players in the making. Torres has really impressed in his 1st season but I doubt will play any part due to the injury he picked up playing for Spain. Crouch will be a handful if he plays. If Kuyt plays, we’re doomed and playing for the draw. Is it obvious yet that I don’t like Kuyt? – he’d even make you look good Dan!!

Gillette & Hicks, idiots or messiah’s – discuss:

Still trying to figure that one out! I was originally delighted when they arrived. Very disappointed with what’s resulted. Lots of recent wrath directed their way and Gillette has been very quiet about it all. It seems very similar to what happened with the Mancs – and look what happended there. I’m willing to give them a chance and wait and see. It’s been handled very badly but I don’t think DIC would be a whole lot better to be honest?. There seems to be only one Roman Abramovich unfortunately – the rest are only in it for the money.

What do you think of Chelsea, as if we needed to ask? Have we done better than expected given our personnel problems of late, or is this just down to the amount of money we’ve thrown about since Roman’s arrival?

I think Grant has done a very good job since his tough baptism!. However, it’s only a matter of time that he goes to as Roman must be looking up the road with envy at the way the Gunners are playing – playing the way he wants Chelsea to play?. Still can’t take Avram seriously though – seems a nice, educated man when he speaks but when he doesn’t, all I can think of is the tune to the Addams family.

Which of our current squad do you most admire?

Who do I most admire? – I’d take Drogba in a shot – fantastic front player, made our back lads look ordinary recently. A few players have also chipped in with some important goals – Ballack, Kalou and SWP. Have been expecting you to fall away but ye’re nothing if not stubborn! Still – it’s not been pretty to watch – more like the Gunners of old (1-0) than the current Gunners!!.

What are your views on the new Stadium plans and how do you feel about leaving a stadium with so much history?

The proof is in the pudding! I’m beginning to wonder if it’ll ever happen now. It’ll be very sad leaving the stadium, so many people have so many many memories. Personally, I’d be just as happy if we stayed!

How will you deal with Chelsea? Do you stuff the midfield, or will we see a more adventurous line-up?

Give you Kuyt on the condition you play him! Rafa only plays one way away – defend. It’ll be Kuyt up front (he must be blackmailing Benitez) on his own with 5 in the middle. We’re not in great form at the moment and the Bridge is hard enough at the best of times. I’ve sat through enough losses there to last me a life time. I even missed a goal (against, obviously) as I was a couple of minutes late, waiting for you if I remember Dan?

Where will you finish this season?

4th – long way off the top 3. We might be pushed close for it but the chasing pack do not have the squads to keep it going at the business end of the season. I’ll give Rafa one more season to get us close to the top, but I think he’s too cautious to really push us on.

What about Chelsea?

Spark has gone since Jose got the elbow – going through the motions now. A lot of players will leave in the summer I think.

Give us a score prediction.

Heart 0-1 Crouch. Head 1-0 Chelsea, Joe Cole (again) – awful stuff.

Thanks for that Niall – happy memories of taking you to the Bridge to see your boys stuffed and watching you have to celebrate our goals through gritted teeth – if I was late for that game it was obviously ‘cos I was working, not that I was in the Butchers Hook or anything…

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