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#16: The Ring of Fire with Zinedine Biscan

Broomy

TIA's Redkopi
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The Ring of Fire with Zinedine Biscan

With just four days to go until Liverpool kick off their new Premier League season, to discuss the Community Shield Final and to look ahead to this weekends action, the Ring of Fire travels over to a town in southern England called Basingstoke as thrown into the 'Ring of Fire' this week is TIA Forum Member @Zinedine Biscan

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Your TIA Username: Zinedine Biscan
Location :
Basingstoke, UK

You and Liverpool FC
Favourite Current LFC Player :
Andy Robertson
Favourite all-time LFC Player : Robbie Fowler
Favourite all time Reds match : Istanbul in 2005 isn't only the most memorable match I've ever seen, it's one of the most memorable moments of my life full stop.
Funniest moment following the Reds : Djimi Traore Cruyff-turning the ball into his own net against Burnley to single-handedly knock us out of the cup. Cracking bit of skill tbf.

And the rest:
Favourite non-LFC Player : Might cop some stick for this, but I always admired Paul Scholes for his attitude to the game - never had an agent, never made a fuss off the pitch. Just turned up for the one club he ever played for and did a professional job, week after week. Just don't mention the 'tackling'.
Favourite other clubs (if any) : Always had a bit of a soft spot for Charlton, probably as the first match I saw live at Anfield was against them. Shame what's happening to them.
Other sports/hobbies/past times : I'm a Football Manager legend!
Non-footballing heroes : Gerald Durrell

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First up Zinedine, the customary question so far in this Ring of Fire Series.... Growing up in Basingstoke, how did you come to support Liverpool?

I actually only moved to Basingstoke around 10 years ago – I grew up in south-west London and lived in Bath for a while before we eventually settled here. I guess that doesn’t change the question about why a southern lad comes to support a north-west club, though! It’s a bit of a complicated one. The first thing to say is that compared to many I came to follow football relatively late – around 15 or 16. The reason for that is that my mum was (and is) quite fiercely anti-football and it just wasn’t something that was allowed in our house when I was growing up. I can remember being in primary school and collecting those packs of football stickers you used to get (and probably still do). I didn’t have an album to put them in or anything, instead I used to just stick them on my bed.

For a while, that was about it. Then, I think in 1996, there was a summer tournament on – I feel like it was the Olympics – and it was televised in the UK late at night, when my parents have gone to bed. I got into the habit of staying up late to watch the games, one of the first of which involved Brazil. I was instantly hooked. From that point on I took an active interest in English football ahead of the 96/97 season. That summer I devoured everything I could read about the top division teams. During that preseason period I just kind of graduated towards Liverpool. It felt like a natural fit, and to this day I can’t really explain precisely why it happened. Looking for a team to support I wanted one that played attractive football and had a chance of being successful – but even as someone relatively new to football I had an instinctive dislike of United . In fact I can remember clearly thinking if anyone’s going to beat United to the title, it’ll be Liverpool... something I would think on an annual basis for most of the next 25 years!


Describe in detail your first memories of supporting Liverpool?

The earliest memories are things like, having chosen Liverpool to follow, devouring everything to read I could lay my hands on about the club, its players and its history. It was a lot harder seeing us play in those days, basically limited to Match of the Day and the like. Spending games anxiously waiting for Ceefax to update! A vivid early memory is my dad driving us up for our first trip to Anfield, a couple of years later. Shortly after I started following Liverpool (much to my mum’s chagrin) my dad developed an interest as well – he admits to being a Norwich City fan in his youth – and became an LFC supporter too, and it’s something we’ve bonded over in the years since. Anyway, that game was a 3-3 against Charlton, the result wasn’t great but Robbie Fowler, my biggest idol at the time, made his comeback, scored a couple of goals and Paddy Berger, another player I liked, scored an absolute rocket, so overall I was pretty happy.

In terms of other players I liked, as well as Fowler I really enjoyed watching Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp (when he was fit), and Michael Owen as well when he broke through a short time after I started supporting. Robbie was the guy, though. I loved the goals he scored, obviously, but he was such a character as well, someone I really warmed to. I was devastated when Houllier sold him.

I didn’t play much at school, as mentioned it wasn’t really on my radar at the time. The first thing to say is that I was crap. So, naturally I played either in goal or at right-back! I actually wasn’t a bad keeper – I had pretty quick reactions, decent co-ordination and the role didn’t require much running about or silky skills.


Liverpool have just lost to Manchester City in the Community Shield Final.... What three things did you learn from the match?

My answer to this one would probably be different if you'd asked me at half-time! But viewing the match as a whole:

- We're ready. As hinted at above, we didn't start all that well, looking a bit sluggish all over the park, particularly compared to City, who played 4 friendlies to our 7 and looked much fresher for it. However, the second half was another story. As the match wore on we looked more and more like our old selves and began to dominate them. If the match had gone to extra-time, I've no doubt we'd have won before it went to pens. In particular I was impressed with how sharp Bobby and Salah looked (even though Salah's shooting wasn't that hot), considering how late they returned to the squad after their summer exertions. I wasn't at all bothered that we lost on pens, for me the match was all about judging how ready we are for the proper start to the season on Friday, and in that sense it was very positive.


- The squad is strong in places... not so much in others. Okay, this one wasn't really something I learned from this match, more it was confirmation of something I and others have been saying throughout the summer. Overall we have a very good squad, I think most people would agree, and in a couple of places, notably midfield, we look deep, with (at least) two quality options for each position. But in two particular places you can see potential issues ahead. Mane was out, not yet returned to training, and while in his place Origi tried hard, the difference in quality on that left wing was quite glaring. He's earned his shot after stepping up when it mattered last season, but I think we're going to be left hoping Sadio not only hits the ground running on his return, but that he also stays fit and able to play most games. The absence of Harry Wilson from the bench highlighted for me where he sits in Klopp's thinking, even if I personally would like to see him given a chance. The other position of less-than-ideal depth is LB. Milner was absent for this one, apparently through injury, and for me it was glaring how we had no-one else capable of coming in for Robbo. I was surprised not to see Hoever on the bench at least, and maybe he and Milner will have it covered between them. Hopefully so.

- City remain the team to beat. It seems an obvious thing to say, so again this is just confirmation of something most could have told you anyway. The match was a continuation of what we saw so many times from them last season - come out firing and look to blow teams away early on, and once again capitalise on that pressure with an early goal. I think we can expect more of that this coming season, and it obviously works well for them. Their new DM, Rodri, did well I thought, and given they've not replaced Kompany I wonder whether we might see them play Fernandinho at CB a fair amount with the young Spaniard taking his place in midfield. And just as players like Ox are, as Klopp says, like a new signing, the same is true for City and De Bruyne, who barely played last season. He ran the show in the first half, and if they can keep him fit (a big if admittedly) then he'll be a massive boost and they'll probably maintain a similar level to the past two seasons. But there's no reason we can't maintain the same standards we set last season - arguably there's plenty of room to improve even when you consider Keita is now ready to properly contribute after a long settling-in period and Fabinho being there from day one this time - so there's no reason not to feel hopeful before a ball has been kicked. Bring on Norwich!


Joe Gomez started ahead of Joel Matip, what did you make of his performance and has he done enough to regain his starting spot alongside Virgil van Dijk for the new season?

I was a huge fan of Joe at CB early last season. In this match he started a bit sluggish, on one notable occasion taking too long to control a ball and getting dispossessed by Sterling in a dangerous area, but I felt like most of the team he grew into it as the game progressed. After that he was solid, dealing with pretty much everything that came his way, and his pace is a huge asset. Alongside VVD they must be the quickest CB partnership in the league. It was also noticeable how, after Trent went off and Gomez moved to RB, City got nothing from that side of the pitch. He doesn't have Trent's attacking qualities, but he's a strong defensive presence wherever he plays. It should be noted that Matip looked sharp too after coming on, and scored our equaliser after a nice assist by Virgil, so it's a tough call and I couldn't say for certain which way Klopp will lean on Friday. But for me personally, Joe shades it. There's no doubting his quality, the biggest thing for him I feel is proving that he can stay fit for an extended period.


Pre-season has just ended, what was the most pleasing aspect from pre-season?

I think most people would probably agree our preseason has been mixed – understandable with so many first-choice players missing most of it for one reason or another, and one key player yet to return even now.

With that in mind I think the most positive aspect for me has been the performance of some of the younger players. Hoever has followed up a highly promising debut last year against Wolves by being arguably our best – certainly one of the most consistent – player in preseason. He’s not the only one.

Harvey Elliott may only have had two cameos, but his promise is there for all to see. It won’t be a surprise if a player who only turned 16 in April will become our youngest-ever player at some point during this season. I think he’s got about six months to make his debut in order to take Jack Robinson’s record.

Wilson has looked bright and obviously scored a worldie against Lyon to show what he can do from distance, although I still have the feeling the club would let him go if their £25m pricetag is met... personally I’d be disappointed with that as I think he can contribute next season.

Larouci, Jones and Duncan have all done ok as well, perhaps not enough to propel themselves into immediate first-team contention, but it’s a timely reminder of the quality we have emerging right now.


What was the most negative aspect from pre-season?

Some of the performances, particularly defensively, have been quite disjointed, which again isn’t altogether surprising given the missing personnel for much of the time, not least Alisson who for my money has a genuine claim to be the world’s best keeper at this time. And his mistake against Lyon shows even he needs a bit of time to shake off the summer rustiness.

But I think the most negative aspect for me is the injuries we’ve seen and the timing of them. There are a bunch of players that, for one reason or another, will be looking to improve in the coming season – Keita and Shaqiri in terms of performances and Ox in terms of fitness and winning back his place. It was disappointing, then, that the first two missed the majority of preseason with injury issues, when really we and they would have been hoping to see them lay the foundations for a better second season at the club. As the squad is likely to be stretched at points in the season, it’s probable we’ll be relying on them at some stage.

Similarly Ox, whose direct running, creativity and shooting I think our midfield missed last season, who we’re told has a chronic calf issue that could flare up at any time. I think every supporter had hoped he could put his injury issues behind him... fingers crossed for him.

Clyne was another untimely injury, and a bad one. He was probably on his way out in any case, but if we’d been able to bring in half-decent money for him maybe that could have been reinvested in the squad this summer.


A question which has many forum members divided... Are Liverpool making a mistake by not acting in the transfer market or if Liverpool decide not to bring anybody in between now and the transfer deadline on 8 August would it be a mistake?

The big question. Probably the biggest question LFC has faced this summer. In a way, I think the only way to properly answer it will be in 12 months’ time with the benefit of hindsight.

Personally I put myself in the camp saying we look thin in a couple of places – thinking specifically of the backups for Mane and Robbo – and with a couple of additions this squad would be complete and ready to win titles. So in that sense it would be frustrating to be so well-positioned to take that final step, if we end up missing out because of the availability, or quality, of the backup options.

On the other hand we’re lucky enough to have one of the world’s best managers in charge, someone who has forgotten more about football than I will ever know, backed by canny owners who love him and supported by a transfer guru fans are rightly talking about now in awed tones. If this group of people look at the current squad and think it’s ready, then who am I to argue?

I think the big issue here is, how good are our youngsters, and how ready are they to step up? In a couple of cases, despite their tender years, you look at how they’re playing in preseason when surrounded by senior players, realise they don’t look at all out of place and think that, yes, perhaps this is where that crucial depth is going to come from.

I’m a little nervous, I can’t deny that. But I trust in Klopp and hopefully in 12 months’ time we’ll be sat here celebrating no19 and wondering what all the fuss was.


No doubt a host of big-money deals will be done over the coming few days until the window closes at 5pm on Thursday, August 8. Who has been the best signing of the summer so far?

Not just a single signing, but if there’s a club who’s business I’ve been impressed with in recent times it would be Leicester. I really like Tielemans, he seemed to instantly settle into the PL when on loan there from January, so to pick him up permanently for a pretty reasonable price is a great move by them. Then there’s Perez, who over the course of last season really hit his stride and was a major factor in helping Newcastle not only stay up, but fairly comfortably in the end. He’ll be a big miss for them, but also could be a pretty nice signing for the Foxes, particularly as Iheanacho has only performed in fits and starts. If he and Vardy strike up a good partnership they could have a very good season. I wasn’t Rodgers’ greatest fan at Liverpool (to put it mildly!), but he’s made a good start there and has been quietly building a good squad. After Wolves it wouldn’t surprise me if Leicester were one of the teams pushing the top 6 this coming season. I guess the main issue might be, can BR do there what he couldn’t do here, and make them defensively sound?


Who is the signing you are most excited to watch next season?

For us, it would be Elliott. There isn’t a lot of choice, I know! But I’m excited by the promise he’s shown in these early cameos. Not just his skill, but nothing seems to faze him – he oozes confidence. I think we’ve landed a real gem there.

Elsewhere in the league, it’s difficult as there haven’t really been many transfers – so far – that make you sit up and take notice.

Excited would be the wrong word, but I guess given how closely we’ve been linked to him over the past couple of years, I’m intrigued to see how Pulisic performs in England. While it’s not yet finalised (at the time of writing), it’s similar for Moise Kean at Everton – he was someone I actually suggested for us potentially in the ‘who would you buy?’ thread last season, and could be a canny signing for them. Another one that’s only rumoured at this stage, I’ll be a bit gutted if Dybala goes to United, partly as I think he’s a top player but also because he’s someone I’d held out hope we might make a move for – a move to United basically kills that hope.

Another interesting one, given our links to him this summer, is Pepe to Arsenal. It's a lot of money that we were obviously never going to try to match, but he didn't shine at the ACN, losing his Ivory Coast place I think, while the PL is a fairly big step up from France. It could be a masterstroke, he could be an expensive flop, either way I'll be keeping an interested eye on how he gets on.


You will be a member of the ThisIsAnfield forums 10 years at the end of July... What do the forums mean to you and how has it changed since you first joined?

Yikes... 10 years! I guess, for me personally, it’s hard to overstate just how central an online community like this one is to my following the club. Not coming from an LFC family or growing up in an area where kids naturally chose to support them, it’s my main if not only real outlet for talking about the club. My two best friends both support clubs – being Londoners as well they went for the more traditional choices of Chelsea and Spurs – so while football forms a large part of our conversation when we meet up, it’s mostly ribbing and/or insulting each other’s teams or players. You know, normal guy stuff.

But TIA is where I come to discuss my club and not only share my opinions but take in and learn from other people’s as well. Football isn’t about isolation, it’s about communities, and this is mine. For me anyway sharing is a vital part of the experience – sharing both the successes and finding consolation after the failures. It’s become such a normal and ingrained part of my daily life I’m not quite sure what I’d do if one day it wasn’t there.

As for changes, many of the people who were around when I joined are still here – lots have been here even longer – and while others have fallen away there are always new members joining who quickly become a part of the furniture. I think on the whole the forum is pretty similar now to what it was then.


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The 'Ring of Fire' - a weekly feature on the This Is Anfield forums.

Many thanks to @Zinedine Biscan for taking part this week and for taking the time to answer the questions, thanks mate!
 

Broomy

TIA's Redkopi
Ad-free Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Messages
1,521

Broomy

TIA's Redkopi
Ad-free Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Messages
1,521
@Broomy if you ever track down CardiffPete to do one of these I'll never speak to you again
Now now, I'll happily send cardiffpete a set of questions here although I found out while posting @Zinedine Biscan's q&a that there's a word limit of 20,000 words per post (Hence why I had to leave out your Ki-Jana Hoever answer!!!!) so I'm not sure if I can keep cardiffpete's word limit down!!

Thanks a mill again @Zinedine Biscan for a fantastic q&a...

Been some great issues so far in this series, if anybody would like to get involved in this series and has an interesting story to tell, maybe your first cousin is Trent Alexander-Arnold, like @Zoran maybe your grandad was involved in a Liverpool player arriving at Anfield or maybe like @roydom your brother played against Liverpool - maybe you have a story about following Liverpool you might like to discuss, let me know via private message and I'll get you featured in an upcoming issue!!
 

William Clarke

REDSHIRT ~ I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
Joined
Dec 28, 2017
Messages
2,263
A boss read, Zin, and congrats to both yourself and Broomy for another riveting read. I always look forward to catching the 'Ring of Fire' and, without sounding as though I am being a crawler, none of them have disappointed me -- including my own (well I had to say it because nobody else would have). Gawd, I'm sounding so needy. I need it, I need it. Basingstoke, huh, you don't write as though you're from there. :Firmino: Cheesey grin.