Reds boss Hodgson issues challenge to Torres understudies

LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson has challenged Ryan Babel and David Ngog to prove they are good enough to provide back-up for Fernando Torres and save him the trouble of having to sign a striker in the future.

The 62-year-old had wanted to bring in another forward last month to help ease the burden on Torres over the entire season.

However, he admits there were no players which “excited” him enough to spend money late on in the transfer window – when additional cash became available after Javier Mascherano’s £20million move to Barcelona three days before the deadline.

Now he is looking to those players within the squad to show they can make the step up.

“I’m not that disappointed not to bring in another striker because I don’t think there was a great choice of centre-forwards out there for any of the teams,” said Hodgson.

“We didn’t see much movement in terms of strikers between the Premier League clubs because I think there are a lot of clubs chasing a very particular type of player.

“It was only after the sale of Mascherano that it would have been possible for me to have the money available to do a transfer at a high enough level.

“The shortage of time bothered me and I would have been concerned we were jumping into something without researching it fully.

“Quite frankly I didn’t see the players out there that really excited me to spend the amount of money those players cost.

“I would prefer to put my weight behind David Ngog and Ryan Babel – who has never been given a proper chance at centre-forward – because we have Torres and good players who can play behind a lone striker.

“I will be using these players in some of the games in order to give Fernando the rest he needs and it will be up to them to prove to me there is no need for us to look further than those to players.”

Hodgson declared himself suitably satisfied with the club’s summer transfer activity after bringing in the likes of Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, Raul Meireles and Paul Konchesky.

He did, however, reject suggestions he missed out on signing Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart before he completed his last-minute move to Tottenham.

Hodgson said he turned down the opportunity as he was looking for players to cover different positions.

“Those stories can get very irritating. First an agent rings you up and asks you if you want to sign Rafael van der Vaart, you say ‘no’ and the next minute you are one of the ones trying to sign him,” added the Reds boss.

“I apologise to Van der Vaart if his agent gave him another story; I think he is a very good player but he is not the profile of the player we were looking for so when it came up I made it clear we had players in Van der Vaart’s position,” added Hodgson.

Meanwhile, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish has admitted he is close to finally signing a new contract with the midlands club.

McLeish said: “Talks have progressed and I’m just inches away from signing a new contract. The figures and everything are fine. We’ve just got to iron out the rough edges.

“We’re pretty close and there are just a couple of technicalities – a release clause and that kind of thing – but it’s not excessive from either camp and it’s absolutely standard.

“Contracts are not something I like talking about in public, but it will be nice to get it resolved.”

McLeish has not ruled out recent signing Aleksandr Hleb for the game against the Reds despite him suffering a leg injury when on duty for Belarus against Romania in midweek.


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