January 2, 1976
Ray Kennedy bursts back into first-team action to-morrow when Liverpool launch their F.A. Cup bid at holders West Ham, as the unfortunate Peter Cormack gets the worst possible start to the new year.
Cormack, who has been back to his best in the last four games after being dropped, broke down in training yesterday and now faces a cartilage operation.
He sees the club specialist on Monday and manager Bob Paisley, an expert in the complex field of footballers’ injuries, fears the verdict will be that an operation is needed.
Mr. Paisley told me: “Peter has been unlucky. He had this knee problem earlier this season, but his recent rest seemed to have cleared it. He came back early in December to play well but the knee went again yesterday.
“It doesn’t look too good. We would have sent him to the specialist immediately but for the holiday. We’ll have the decision early next week.”
So Kennedy, the striker converted to midfield, is back after missing the last four games. He went off during the U.E.F.A. Cup tie against Slask Wrocklaw on December 10, finding difficulty in breathing, and he was rested while Cormack was staging his comeback.
Kennedy’s return is the only change from last Saturday’s team. Mr. Paisley adding Terry McDermott and Brian Kettle to the party.
West Ham looked a top team when they took a point at Anfield in the first home League game of the season, and the fact that they have slipped recently is discount by Mr. Paisley. He said: “The Cup is a law to itself and as Cup-holders they’ll be looking for a return to form. But we’re playing confidently and well and we’re expecting a good result to-morrow.”
West Ham’s losing streak has come as Liverpool have found their most consistent form of the season. The Cup-holders have lost four of their last five games and are struggling to regain the collective rhythm which kept them in the top three for most of this season.
They are suffering one of those spells when confidence drains as players lose form … and Liverpool are in such competent moo just now that the Hammers are likely to be struggling even more to-morrow.
They will be without the suspended Keith Robson, sent off against Ipswich last week, but should have top full-back Frank Lampard back after injury.
I think they’ll be saying a swift farewell to the Cup they won with such ease against Fulham last May.
I am convinced Liverpool won’t lose this one, even though they might need a replay to decide it.
West Ham are delaying selection until to-morrow to give centre half Tommy Taylor an extra day to recover from illness. A squad of 16 has been named:
West Ham: Mervyn Day, Keith Coleman, Frank Lampard, John McDowell, Tommy Taylor, Pat Holland, Michael McGiven, Kevin Lock, Alan Taylor, Graham Paddon, Trevor Brooking, Billy Jennings, Alan Curbishley, Clyde Best, Alan Wooler, Bobby Ferguson.
Liverpool: Ray Clemence, Tommy Smith, Phil Neal, Phil Thompson, Ray Kennedy, Emlyn Hughes, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Case, Steve Heighway, John Toshack, Ian Callaghan. Substitutes: Terry McDermott or Brian Kettle.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: January 2, 1976)