Belfast Telegraph

Paul McGrath’s fury at Liverpool's Suarez solidarity

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Former Manchester United defender Paul McGrath has described the Liverpool squad's public show of support for Luis Suarez as ‘shameful'.

McGrath singled out Anfield defender Glen Johnson for particular criticism, saying he should have thrown down the T-shirt which sported Suarez's name and image when asked to wear it.

The entire Liverpool squad, and manager Kenny Dalglish, wore the shirt before Wednesday's fixture at Wigan to show the club's unity behind the striker, who faces an eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

Beyond Anfield, condemnation for the club's emotive response to the verdict of the Football Association's independent commission has been relentless. McGrath, who played for United from 1982-89 and for Aston Villa from 1989-96, winning 83 Republic of Ireland caps in the process, was scathing.

“It puts the anti-racism campaign back to the beginning as far as I'm concerned,” he said.

“If I was in Glen Johnson's situation, I'd have thrown the shirt to the floor. If that had been someone in my time and I'd heard the comments or I'd even suspected he was guilty, and obviously there has been a tribunal, then I would not wear a T-shirt with his name on it, saying all is well and good here. Maybe Kenny [Dalglish] is trying to make a statement to the FA but I just think it is in bad taste that he sent them out in those T-shirts.

“It would have been much better for Liverpool Football Club if they had have worn anti-racism shirts.”

Johnson immediately responded to McGrath's comments on his Twitter account.

He wrote: “I will support who I want. There are a lot of reasons why I'm standing by Luis Suarez.”

Liverpool's American owners held crisis talks about the Suarez situation last night as the club considered their next course of action. It was the first time the Uruguayan was able to speak at length with senior club officials since the suspension and £40,000 fine was announced.

Liverpool are standing 100% behind their player, reacting with unprecedented defiance against the judgment. The club's owners, John W Henry and Tom Werner, are taking a hands-on approach as they consider how a situation rapidly spiralling out of control can be resolved.

Aside from awaiting the written judgment on the case prior to an appeal, their options seem limited.

Meanwhile, Liverpool defender Daniel Agger insists football remains the most important matter for the players despite their very public show of solidarity for team-mate Suarez.

The club, who issued a hard-hitting statement criticising the Football Association's handling of Suarez's case, have adopted a siege mentality since judgment was passed on Tuesday.

Agger said that while the players fully backed Suarez in his attempts to clear his name after being found guilty of using insulting words to Evra — which included a reference to the Manchester United defender's colour — they still had to focus on their day job.

“That is not on our mind. We are playing football and that is most important, we don't think about that stuff,” said the Denmark international.

“The squad is together, that is the way it is. It (support for Suarez) has never been in doubt.

“Of course it is second nature to back our friend but the most important thing is to win football games — it just wasn't a big success at Wigan.”

Suarez's lawyer back home in Uruguay has already said the player will lodge an appeal but he has not been involved in the process at any stage and Liverpool's legal team will make the final decision.

But they will not do that until they have combed through the written verdict of the independent regulatory commission and they are not expected to receive the full paperwork for at least another couple of days.

Once the document is in their hands the 14-day period which the club then have to launch an appeal begins.

The attacking dimension Suarez adds up front will be sorely missed should his ban be enforced as even with him in the team Liverpool are struggling to score goals.

They dominated the opening 20 minutes against Wigan with Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Dirk Kuyt and Glen Johnson all having good chances to open the scoring.

But Latics came back at them and after Adam saw his 50th-minute penalty saved by Ali Al Habsi it was the home side who threatened to break the deadlock.

For a team who have scored just 20 times in 17 Barclays Premier League matches it was another difficult time in front of goal and maintaining the top-flight's best defensive record (just 13 conceded) was little consolation.

“It was a frustrating night because we went there for a win,” added Agger.

“I think we had the better, more clear chances.

“We are just not finishing the games. The first 20 minutes we played really well but when you are not scoring goals you are not winning games.

“The good thing about football is there is always another chance (at home to Blackburn on Boxing Day) and we have to be more clinical in that game.”

l Meanwhile, Alan Hansen has apologised after his use of the word “coloured” for black players on MOTD sent Twitter into meltdown.

He said: “I unreservedly apologise for any offence ... I deeply regret the use.”

In a discussion about racism Hansen had said: “There are lots of coloured players who are probably the best in the League.”

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