“We’re going to win the league, we’re going to win the league.”
This time last year every Liverpool fan was standing tall, singing aloud, bouncing in unison and feeling like the Champions elect. The team were playing the most exciting attacking football in living memory, demolishing teams with rapier-like efficiency and scoring goals by the bag full. We had just put Man City to the sword to complete an 11 match winning streak and were sitting pretty at the top of the league. 5 points clear with 3 games to go. This was our year, finally. Wasn’t it?
The iconic huddle lead by Steven Gerrard after the final whistle against City illustrated just what this league title meant to him and everyone connected with Liverpool.
Our captain, his arms seemingly wrapped around the entire team, lead an emotionally charged moment shared by the players on the pitch and every fan with a Sky subscription.
“This doesn’t slip, we go again” – he bellowed with the resonance of a man who knew he was within touching distance of his life’s work and ambition. He had one hand on the trophy and could almost smell the polish.
“This doesn’t slip.” – he roared again with the rallying conviction of a man on the cusp of his dreams. The players and fans echoed the sentiment in their hearts and minds. The perfect end to a scintillating season for Liverpool and a fitting tribute to Steven Gerrard.
I had visions of Stevie G pumping the league trophy above his head amidst a red and white ticker tape parade. People would talk about that huddle and that speech for decades to come and fondly remember when Liverpool’s best ever player finally ended the 24 year wait for the title.
Al Pacino would surely play him in the Oscar winning movie adaptation ‘Any Given Super Sunday’ and nail the ‘this doesn’t slip’ speech like only Al Pacino can. This season was going to be EPIC!!!
Little did we know, that no less than a week later, the ‘this doesn’t slip’ speech would be flipped on it’s head in an episode of tragic irony that would make Shakespear himself cream in his pantaloons.
Liverpool vs Chelsea at Anfield. The first half is coming to a close. Steven Gerrard receives a short pass just inside his own half. In no danger at all, he presents his right foot to control the ball. His boot is slightly high and with the dewy surface and his momentary lapse of concentration, the ball slips under his studs and scutters past him. Demba Ba spots his mistake and reacts. Gerrard is still favourite to get there but in a case of the worst timing ever, he loses his footing and slips.
Having gone down on one knee, with a last gasp of desperation, Gerrard tries to drag himself along the turf like a dog with an exceptionally itchy arse but to no avail. Demba Ba runs onto the ball and takes it down the field, unchallenged, to slip it past an isolated Simon Mignolet.
Gerrard hangs his head, drowning in dramatic irony, hearing tomorrows headlines and todays twitter feeds echoing in his ears. His dreams had fallen to pieces. Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0. The beginning of the end.
Obviously Liverpool didn’t win the league last year and supporters were forced to revert to form and say:
“Next year lads, next year is our year”.
A year later, here we are again, in tatters. After enduring a season like a backfiring exhaust pipe on a rusty two-tone pickup we are languishing in 5th position in the table, 4 points off a Champions League spot and in a mocking sense of symmetry and sickening deja-vous, our season gave up and died at Chelsea at the weekend.
This season has been one disaster after another.
Suarez jumped ship to hang out with Messi and Neymar in the Barcelona front three, there has been no end of bogey buys in the transfer market and we have a treatment room queue longer than a Tyneside A&E on New Years Eve.
The cherry on the black forest gateaux is the behavior of a jumped up, money hungry British teenager with an over inflated sense of entitlement upsetting the apple cart with his undeserved wage demands. It’s quite apt that his name is ‘Sterling’. Of course his full name is ‘Raheem’ derived from the ancient arabic word meaning ‘not worth anywhere fucking near that much’ Sterling.
Suarez was always going to be courted by the best teams in the world after the season he had last year. Liverpool were never going to be able to hold on to him. They just needed to manage the transition well. The first thing Liverpool needed to do was get a good price for him. 75 millions pounds was the reported figure. Done.
The second thing Liverpool needed to do was to invest the money wisely and try to replace the amount of goals that were lost with the sale of Suarez. That didn’t happen.
Rodgers went for quantity over quality and has to put his hand up here as none of his signings have secured a place in the starting line-up with the exception of Moreno and Emre Can at a push. I maintain that Rodgers stumbled across the idea of putting Can in defense due to injury induced necessity rather than tactical acumen.
So we have a string of signings such as Lambert, Lovren, Lallana, Manqillo and Markovic that never reached the level of performance they achieved at their previous clubs in the previous year. Lack of form and injuries meant that Liverpool were often forced to play last seasons first team minus the best strike force in the premier league, and with it, minus 80% of their goals.
Sturridge’s absence through injury was the final nail in the coffin for Brendan Rogers’ ‘striker crisis’. His response, amid raised eyebrows, was to bring in Mario Balotelli in the transfer window.
I bet he was convinced he would be the one to tame the dopey donkey and was preparing his acceptance speech for the manager of the season award for achieving this feat.
Any of Balotelli’s previous managers could tell you you’d be better off drawing a sad face on a training cone and gluing a mohawk to it. At least then there’d be an obstacle in the box for the opposition defense to navigate. So February comes and we still have a ‘striker crisis’.
When I hear Rogers refer to this ‘crisis’ I always wonder how Liverpool’s three fit strikers feel when they hear those words. I can imagine the team being read out in the dressing room when it gets to revealing who’s playing up front. Borini, Lambert and Balotelli all sitting with their hand in the air like a trio of over-eager school kids who know the answer to teachers question only for Rogers to say:
“And playing up front. . . Raheem.”
Now I agree with Rogers here. Those strikers wouldn’t score if they fell dick first into a bucket of clunge and there lies the problem.
Liverpool just can’t score enough goals to win enough games to challenge for the Champions League places. We stuttered and jumped our way through the fixture list only registering one win against a team in the top four and struggled to break down supposedly lesser teams on a weekly basis.
Our position would be worse only for the teams around us went through bad patches too. That nearly made it harder to take as we had so many opportunities to capitalise on other teams bad results but the cherry was always just out of reach.
As supporters we were constantly forced to re-assess our expectations as the season went on. We were clinging on to any piece of positivity we could find. It seemed we were constantly only 4 points off a Champions League place with friends and colleagues telling me:
“We’ll make up the points because United are shit and will drop points before the league is over.”
Agreed, but you’re forgetting that we’re also shit and will drop points too. Not just against the teams above us either but against the teams around us, below us and the ones fighting relegation.
It’s hardly worth mentioning the group stage of the Champions League. The best I can say is that the lads got a few trips away to play in the nicer stadiums in Europe. It kinda feels like a lingering memory of a dream or something.
The only thing keeping us going this season were the Cup competitions. I’ve heard it said:
“If Rogers can win a trophy this year then the season will not be a complete loss.”
Very true. Again, didn’t happen.
Liverpool stumbled their way through relatively easy cup games by way of last minute winners against lesser teams and a series of replays against lower league opposition. We were up and down, back and forth, hither and tither and somehow managed a victory in the quarter finals. When drawn against weaker opponents for the next round, on paper things were looking good to go all the way.
Alas, as is the theme of the season, Liverpool came up short.
After all the bitching and moaning, screaming and shouting and a season long piss into the wind, we are officially out of the Champions League places and destined for the dreaded ‘Thursday night football’. There are just two meaningless 90 minutes of torture left to endure.
It’s disappointing for Steven Gerrard to wind up his final season with Liverpool having nothing to play for. It would have been great for him to go out in a blaze of glory and leave on a high but real life is rarely that kind. He has to just go through the motions now for the last two games. It’s kinda like when you delay breaking up with your girlfriend so you can get the last one or two rides in to fill up the bank in case of a dry spell.
Honestly, I’d just as soon fast forward to the end of the season so I can look forward to the disappointment of the summer’s transfer activity.
So like a stumbling drunk with a bad case of whiskey dick; Liverpool got nowhere near a trophy, severely lacked any meaningful penetration and had to make do with a semi.
Next year lads, next year is our year.