Category Archives: Shankly Gates

Peter Marshall, BBC Panorama, and their contribution to the search for Justice for the 96

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I didn’t have high expectations for the latest Panorama documentary about the Hillsborough disaster. How many ways can you re-say the same thing? I’ll let you know when I cease updating this blog. On a less flippant note, the programme was mostly a good example of the genre – testimony of copper with a conscience here, revealing interview with interested-but-ultimately peripheral player in the scandal there, pointed reference to the lack of response from a key player everywhere. Workmanlike would be the appropriate description for most of it.

Except in one respect. The thing which has caused the outrage over Hillsborough to bubble under for two decades was not the disaster itself or even the subsequent cover-up. It was the decision by the coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, to impose a time limit on any evidence submitted to the inquest. As far as he was concerned, everyone who died was doomed after 3.15pm due to the extent of the injuries they had received so there was no point wasting the inquest’s time by allowing evidence after this time. Stated in such a blunt manner, the decision makes sense. If everyone was as good as dead by 3.15pm, why muddy the waters with anything that happened after it? In an interview a number of years back, Popper was belligerent in his defence of the decision. He had done the families a favour by not entertaining anything that had nothing to do with the deaths and those who were suggesting otherwise should be ashamed of themselves for using the grief of the families for partisan ends. The confidence he displays in his own decision and the forcefulness with which he expresses it would be very convincing to someone not disposed towards the families of the victims. If someone like me were to object, well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

The problem with Popper’s self-congratulation is that it assumes that the assumption (so to speak) was correct. To put it in a more sinister context, anything which contradicts the correctness of the decision must be dismissed. How to address the testimony of Derek Bruder? He had told West Midlands Police that Kevin Williams was still alive when he attempted to revive him. Bruder was convinced that this was after 3.30pm but couldn’t be sure. Faced with this inconvenient statement, you can almost imagine the delight of the investigating police when he mentioned the arrival of an ambulance on the field. The inquest was told of his uncertainty about the time but his certainty about the arrival of the ambulance, because the official narrative had it that no ambulance had arrived on the pitch after 3.15pm. Anyone watching the programme would have seen Stefan Popper smugly dismissing his evidence in a 1994 documentary on the subject. 96-0 to the coroner.

It was into this breach that Peter Marshall has stepped. Having established this official position on-screen Marshall, in a breathtaking few minutes of forensic television, drove a coach-and-four through it. He shows the three ambulances on video at 3.37pm, confirms from the ambulance driver that the police were quite explicit in their understanding of when this third ambulance arrived, then reports that this fact was never revealed to the inquiry. We then see Derek Bruder arriving at Kevin Williams, exactly when he said he had, and the viewer now knows that his timing of the ambulance’s arrival was correct. It’s an Istanbul-style comeback for the truth.

Some people online have been griping that this would have been better revealed decades ago, how the BBC had all this footage and never revealed it to the world until now, and of course in an ideal world we wouldn’t be seeing this with Anne Williams gone to join her Kevin. But let’s look at what Peter Marshall and the Panorama team have accomplished here. They had the footage and they had Derek Bruder’s testimony, but they had no way of knowing if the former would confirm the latter. It was the journalistic equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack when you couldn’t even be sure the needle was there. I dread to think of the hours of analysis of the footage from eight separate cameras they must have ploughed through to find the few seconds of film they needed. Yet find it they did. Peter Marshall and his colleagues on Panorama have done a great service to the truth. Hopefully they’ve brought us one decisive step closer to justice for the 96.

He’s soccer crazy, he’s soccer mad

Always nice to get some compliments from whatever source:

Thanks very much, gormacha, but surely I didn’t use the ‘s’ word that much, did I?

Oh. Four times in the first paragraph. That’s a lot.

The sensitivity of supporters of association football to the name of their sport is a curious phenomenon. At first glance you might be inclined to think that this is a reflection of a chip on the shoulder on the part of followers of the League of Ireland, resentful that the biggest sport in the world is playing second fiddle to a sport in Ireland that calls itself ‘football’ but is really catchthrowpunchfootball. But there are two problems with this analysis. At the risk of looking like this is an exercise in mutual backslapping, anyone who has read gormacha’s posts on BTID would know not that they are not a bitter, resentful person. Secondly, my wife feels the same way. When I speak of gaelic football as ‘football’, she will arch an eyebrow and say “I presume you mean that other sport and not proper football?” It’s interesting to see how even someone from a culture where football is totally dominant gets irked when it is referred to as anything other than football and other sports steal the title.

What explains this seeming over-sensitivity? I think it’s down to the dominance of another culture – that of America. We’re saturated with American culture, and a big part of American culture is their version of football. Americans are very proud of gridiron, the rootinest tootinest shootinest sport on the planet against which all others are hopelessly lily-livered, mind-numbingly low-scoring, or – in the case of soccer – both. The fact that no-one else cares does not shake their messianic confidence that American football will take over the world, and it antagonises the heck out of association football fans, who feel the need to confront any misuse of the word ‘football’ wherever they find it, whether it be bombastic Yanks or Irish people who view soccer as the garrison game.

For my part, I never set out to make a Nationalists (note the capital ‘N’) point by referring to association football as soccer on this blog. I made a conscious decision that the blog would exclusively refer to gaelic football as ‘football’ and association football as ‘soccer’ because it was a GAA blog. References to association football as ‘football’ would be found in the columns for Shankly Gates because they were not, strictly speaking, of this blog. It wasn’t meant to be a political statement.

Okay, maybe it was a little bit.

But that neat dividing line is breaking down. Reading back through the post after gormacha’s comment, the repeated use of ‘soccer’ came across as forced. In my private life I will effortlessly swing between football, gaelic football and soccer according to the circumstances. Conversations in Liverpool would be pretty short if I used ‘soccer’ all the time. Why shouldn’t that be reflected in my blog? So from now on, I’ll be referring to ‘soccer’ only in the GAA-related posts. I’ll just have to believe that people will have the wit to realise the distinction without being prompted. Oh dear, this is going to cause trouble, isn’t it?

Hillsborough – still having the power to shock

I thought I knew everything about the Hillsborough disaster, or at least everything that it was possible to know. The police had screwed up. They had failed to respond correctly to the crush that developed at the Lepping Lane turnstiles by opening the gate onto the terrace and closing the gates into the already-full central pens. When faced with what was happening, they were caught like rabbits in the headlights and basically did nothing for the best part of an hour. And when it became clear the consequences of their inactions, they closed ranks as all big organisations do. Deny they had anything to do with it and spin against those who might contradict it. Don’t deviate from the party line – if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately.

And the latest report into the Hillsborough disaster shows all of this to be correct. What I did not expect was the industrial scale of the cover-up, the sheer effort that went into preventing the truth coming out. Much of what I described above, while not right or fair, is at least understandable. We saw a small example of it from the England-Ukraine match on Tuesday night. A Ukrainian player engaged in a ludicrous piece of diving which led to the free being awarded rather than Jermaine Defoe’s goal. Yet rather than blame the player for cheating, the ref was blamed for not being able to see that there had been no contact. You never know when you may need to behave as if it never happened yourself. Likewise, the police will instinctively defend each other. It’s human nature, and I expected it would all be reiterated in repetitive detail in the new report.

What was unexpected was the sheer scale of the cover-up. For no fewer than 164 police statements to be doctored, there must have been a conspiracy of epic proportions. It couldn’t have just been a few bad apples. They all must have known. South Yorkshire police, West Midlands police, the Police Federation, even South Yorkshire ambulance service engaged in an industrial level project to deny the truth and smear the victims. And for the report to reveal it all was quite breathtaking. The pithiest quote came from Trevor Hicks: “When you get the chief constable sitting down with his trade union to cobble together a solid story, then you know we’ve reached a new depth of depravity.”

In the lead-up the report, I would have been inclined to dampen down expectations. The chances of a smoking gun being found were slim. Surely any doctored statements would have found their way into a shredder a long time ago. The best that the families could hope for was a public airing of all the available facts so no reasonable person could dispute the culpability of the police and a half-hearted ‘lessons have been learned’ apology from someone high up the chain of command. There were two things I didn’t reckon with. The statements didn’t find their way into a shredder. Initially I thought this might reflect a Stasi-like desire to hoard paperwork, but that comparison is too hard even on the South Yorkshire Police. More likely it was a reflection of what Jack Straw has referred to as “culture of impunity” in the Stormtrooper-like police force that had been encouraged under Thatcher – anyone who has studied the miners strike would know that’s not being too hard on the police. The attitude about the doctored statements would have been to not care. If anyone tried to look at them, they’d redact them. And if someone did get to see them, they’d shout loudly that the statements were edited for ‘clarity’ or to remove ‘ambiguity’. They could always rely on their friends in the media to have The Truth spread halfway around the world on while the truth was still deciding what length of blade to use for lower limbs. So the statements survived, ticking away in the filing cabinet of some Humphrey Appleby, waiting for their moment to explode.

The second thing that no-one could have anticipated was the diligence of the independent panel and the ease with which they were able to get their report out. It runs to nearly 400 pages but it’s a masterclass in clear writing and layout. Click on a heading and the information is all there. What’s more, they didn’t have to go through the press to get their message across. Can you imagine the hammering the pre-Milly Dowler Murdoch press would have given this assault from the Bishop of Liverpool and his pinko friends on the thin blue line? The Mirror and the Guardian may have pushed back, but any attempts to be reasonable would have been swamped by the noise from Wapping. Instead everyone was able to analyse it at the same time and it took all of five minutes to get to the explosive parts. If David Cameron were contemplating giving the police a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of an even-handed apology, he soon would have been disabused by the forensic nature of the panel’s report. The truth was out, and no-one was putting it back in its box.

So what now? As the excellent Joshua Rozenborg points out, this is going to drag on for years yet. The nature of the revelations is going to require a wide-ranging investigation and there are going to be significant frustrations along the way – watch out for a sudden epidemic of ill-health among policemen in south Yorkshire which will put them beyond the reach of any internal police investigations. There will be a backlash of sorts. Watching the news and reading the papers, there has been complete unanimity on the scale of the travesty, which has been great to see. It can’t last though. It won’t be long before the bleating starts about how every bobby is being tarred with the same brush, even if no-one is saying that at all. The residual contempt for Scousers will eventually find some mode of expression. Old habits will die hard. And any trials will be deeply distressing as the accused will be entitled to employ to dredge up any story, no matter how discredited and designed as a smoke screen, in their own defence.

For all of that, the narrative has changed utterly. The truth is now at the heart of the story, not something that needs to be explained in excruciating and defensive detail every time it gets brought up. Watching rats like Kelvin MacKenzie and Irvine Patnick scamper from their sinking ship of lies is a grimly satisfying sight. Simply put, the enemies of the truth are now on the run. No effort must be spared in making sure that becomes a rout.

You Come At the King, You Best Not Miss

One constant of Liverpool FC is that when it comes to sacking managers we don’t do Night of the Long Knives-style decapitations. From Dalglish to Dalglish, the removal of managers has been flagged in advance. It’s a well-worn football meme that the vote of confidence is to be ‘dreaded’ but all other things being equal a public expression of support is more useful than a public display of non-support, and the deafening silence from Boston when Kenny Dalglish went there to present his vision for the future spoke volumes.

Personally speaking, by which I mean I have zero evidence for this assertion beyond a vague feeling about the nature of old-school football men and their attitude to the suits who govern their lives, I think it is likely that Kenny had a chance to salvage his job when he spoke to John Henry et al last Tuesday and he blew it. The men (I’ve not researched it, but it seems unlikely there are any women involved beyond trophy wives/mistresses) of Fenway Sports Group are not immune to sentiment, or at least they are capable of seeing the value of sentiment. They’ve made a virtue of the ramshackle nature of Fenway Park, touting it as ‘America’s Most Beloved Ballpark’ and had Kenny gone to them and said that he had the support of the fans, Anfield was sold out every game because of his presence, give me another year and I’m confident I’ll turn it around, they might have been swayed.

I doubt that’s what happened though. Instead Kenny would have gone in and asked for one hundred million bucks with which to improve the squad. That’s what chairmen are meant to do, right? Just sign a blank check [sic] and leave the football to the football men. Not any more, Kenny, not any more.

Now, I emphasise once again that I have no evidence for any of the above. It’s possible he walked into the room, was told he was fired, could he please not make a scene as it would be damaging for the club’s future prospects and don’t touch anything on the way out of the building. Whatever happened, he’s gone and it administers the last rites to what has officially been the worst season since Liverpool were last relegated. That was the reality facing the owners, and in the end that was what did for Kenny.

What on earth went wrong this season? It was just over a year ago that we beat Fulham at Craven Cottage with a performance of sublime virtuosity, so much so that most fans assumed the emphasis would need to be on the defence (where little was done during the summer) or the midfield (where, with the arrival of Henderson, Adam and Downing, lots was done). No-one was talking about problems up front. Carroll would probably come good and Suarez has already arrived so there was little to worry about on that score.

Yet it was up front that did for us in the end. Our propensity for hitting the woodwork did mitigate the incompetence to some degree. All season long Man Utd fans would pompously declare that since neither the bar or the post was ‘the target’ hitting either was a sign of bad play rather than bad luck. Which would be fine, except they all started bleating about how unlucky they were when Evra hit the post against Everton when 4-2 up. Had that gone in, Man Utd would have won the league. That’s how close they were, and that’s even before you factor in the helter-skelter finish to the Man City-QPR game on the final day. We have been unlucky with all the shots hitting the woodwork, and we shouldn’t be made to feel that it’s sour grapes to say so.

But if even half of those chances had gone in, and you’ll probably find in more than a few cases we scored moments later, we’d probably be ten points better off at best – you can’t just add a goal to every draw and say presto! that’s ten extra wins. Ten points would do no more than lift us ahead of Everton. So bad luck can only hold you back so much. The only game I got to see in the flesh this year was against Blackburn and the one-dimensional nature of our play was terrifying. For years people lamented that we weren’t getting the ball wide and Stewart Downing’s stats – 2011/12 Premier League record: goals 0 assists 0 – would suggest that we didn’t do much of that this season either, but against Blackburn he dutifully got to the endline and got decent ball into the box on numerous occasions. It was so utterly predictable though that Blackburn, who conceded the most goals away from home all season, had no problems counteracting it. Stuff bodies in the box, don’t lunge at anything. It was a lesson not heeded by Charlie Adam as he slashed at a corner to give Blackburn the lead. Things improved in the second half but it was more by accident than design and you couldn’t begrudge Blackburn the point they took from the game. When you’ve been outfoxed by Steve Kean, you’re in trouble.

The management must take the blame for the lack of a Plan B that so blighted our season, especially at Anfield. But the blame for what happened after the Carling Cup final can be laid at the feet of the players. The win over Cardiff has to have been the least-pleasurable penalty shoot-out victory we’ve ever experienced. Quite apart from coming against a team we should be battering – their most noteworthy name would only be recognisable in the same manner that Steven Spielberg’s non-union, Mexican equivalent, Señor Spielbergo, is recognisable – penalty shoot-outs are a lot more satisfying when you come from three goals down or equalise in the last minute. Nevertheless, a win was a win and it was not unreasonable to think that the season would be a success. Newcastle United haven’t won a major domestic trophy since 1955, yet within months of arriving at Anfield and for all the brickbats, Andy Carroll had already won something. That’s what it means to be Liverpool FC, and surely the players could play with more fluency now they had that first piece of silverware in the cabinet.

Not unreasonable, but wrong. Instead they threw in the league towel, an insult to each of the people who paid good money to see the ground be stunk out week after week. The most impressive individual performance of the season came in the FA Cup final when Carroll tore Chelsea apart for thirty minutes. Part of his awesomeness that day was situational as he revelled in the wide open spaces of Wembley against the increasingly carthorse-like figure of John Terry. But much of it must be ascribed to a player saving his best form for the biggest occasion.  The only luck Liverpool got in the cup competitions was the penalty given against Manchester City’s Micah Richards for handball. Otherwise, Liverpool got through by dint of being the better team in every game. With that in mind, you’re entitled to ask what team turned up for all those league games – two super cup wins over Stoke, two utterly dire performances against the same opposition in the league.

There’s enough in all of the above to make you come to the conclusion that, however much a giant he might be, Kenny had to go. Now that the deed is done though, what next? Bring up André Villas-Boas’s name and suddenly sacking Kenny doesn’t look too clever. Given his experience at Chelsea, Villas-Boas would be entitled to some manner of reassurance that he’ll get longer than 256 days to implement his vision for the club, reassurance he won’t get from the treatment of his predecessor. If the club’s greatest player can only get one full season to make the club a success, how long is Villas-Boas going to get? The season has been a barely-mitigated shambles, and one can’t accuse John Henry of being duplicitous about his short-term targets. Anything less than fourth-place was a disappointment given the investment made. But if that’s the case, he’d better prepare for a lot of disappointment. The two Manchester clubs are surely locks for the top four for the foreseeable future, Arsenal have developed the knack of qualifying and Chelsea are likely to make the investment necessary to get back there before too long. Would any manager relish taking the job in those circumstances? A time may come when we’ll regret not having Kenny’s presence on the touchline as a lightning rod for criticism.

Arsene Wenger expressed the opinion this season that qualifying for the Champions League is as good as a trophy. To my mind it’s a daft proposition. What good is being in the CL for fifteen consecutive seasons, as the Gunners will be next year, if you haven’t won it? Arsenal fans will no doubt have some happy memories of individual wins but ultimately they all pale into insignificance against our one win from a mere eight appearances in the competition under its current format. Still, the evidence of this season suggests that Fenway Sports Group agrees – fourth is first, eighth is nowhere. I’m still inclined to think well of their intentions. If anything, firing Kenny suggests that they really have bigger plans for the club, that they’re willing to make the investment to knock either Chelsea or Arsenal (most likely the latter) out of their perennial spot as top four contenders. They’d better be ready to do this, because if things don’t improve they’ll regret not having the King to intercede with the mob on their behalf.

FA Noire

Liverpool FC never listen to me, and they are usually correct not to. Quite apart from the club being a multi-million pound enterprise with multi-millions of very opinionated fans all over the world, I’m the kind of guy who gets agitated if I don’t have a glass of milk to go with a bar of milk chocolate. Not the kind of person you’d turn to in a crisis. But if only one request of mine could be acted upon in all my life supporting the Reds, it would be this – please persuade Luis Suarez to drop any appeal against his eight-match ban for using racist language against Patrice Evra.

The club have stood behind Suarez up until now, and reading between the lines I think this is because Suarez has been privately quite vociferous at the way he has been treated. He didn’t think it was racist, he didn’t mean it to be racist and to accept the punishment would be to admit he is a racist. Reading Rodney Hinds in the Guardian’s Comment is Free relaying as fact Evra’s claim that Suarez used the term “at least 10 times” would be galling in the extreme for Suarez. Accepting as fact the account of a man whose evidence the FA dismissed as “exaggerated and unreliable . . . an attempt to justify a physical intervention by him which cannot reasonably be justified” when Man Utd made all manner of accusations against Chelsea’s ground staff after the post-match fracas at Stamford Bridge in 2008. Comments from Evra that he doesn’t think Suarez is racist are a case of shutting the stable door after the horse is bolted. Suarez will now be labelled a racist, and Evra’s attempts at who? me? will probably only add to Suarez’s feeling of victimisation.

And make no mistake – Suarez is being victimised. Like so many organisations the FA is happy to sign up to high-profile campaigns to eradicate racism, encouraging clubs to employ the Moses-like cadences of their local George Sephton to read out stirring denunciations of racism (“in all its forms”) at matches. But actually doing something practical about it is a lot harder. No-one wants to be the one who tars someone with the tag of ‘racist’, and that’s even before you consider their hysterical reluctance to antagonise potential English internationals, exemplified by their hiring of some of the finest products of the Old Bailey to appeal on Wayne Rooney’s behalf to Uefa.

To them, Suarez must have seemed like manna from heaven. While ‘El Pistolero’ seems like an engaging enough character in the few interviews I’ve seen with him, he isn’t a high-profile foreigner in the way that (say) Dietmar Hamann was during his life in England. There’s no danger of Luis putting down roots here and managing Stockport County. Then there’s his extended reputation. This is the man who once bit an opponent. This is the man who not only handled a goal-bound effort in the last-minute of the World Cup quarter-final against Ghana, but – gasp! – was unrepentant about it afterwards, thus reinforcing the image of the sly, pinch-the-lace-from-the-ball South American. There was no way the FA were going to let an opportunity like this slide to be Tough On Racism, and be seen to be Tough On Racism. To understand the depths of the cynicism, you only need to look at how they made sure Gordon Taylor was onside (how else to explain the delay over the weekend if not to get soundings from interested parties?) before they announced Suarez’s punishment – the same Gordon Taylor who in 1994 said, of England’s Brave Stuart Pearce’s alleged racist abuse of Paul Ince, that it was “in the heat of the moment . . . Stuart regrets what he said, and he’ll be ringing Paul to apologise. Hopefully that will be the end of it.” Times change – but not so much that Johnny Foreigner doesn’t get the blame.

And yet, while sympathising with the plight of Luis Suarez, the overriding advice to the club remains the same: please persuade Luis Suarez to drop any appeal against his eight-match ban for using racist language against Patrice Evra. For a start, the chances of winning the appeal are practically nil. The FA is not like the criminal justice system with its notions of habeas corpus or reasonable doubt. It’s like a gentleman’s club where you sign up and agree to adhere to the rules, even if some of those rules permit you to be royally screwed. Take the charge of “bringing the game into disrepute”. It ultimately means “anything we bloody well like” and the FA have used it in that manner since the year dot. But even if they abuse that rule or apply other ones in a scattergun fashion, that doesn’t change the fact that they are following their own rules. Remember when Sheffield United objected to the punishment meted out on West Ham United over the illegal contract arrangements they had for Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez? Every effort by the Blades to get a meaningful punishment, i.e. a points deduction, foundered on the fact that the FA had followed their own procedures. The same will apply to Suarez. He was charged with using racial language, he was convicted of using racial language. End of. Any attempt to claim otherwise will have to overcome the fact of him, well, admitting he used language that could be construed as racist and is only going to be seen as being a nuisance appeal.

But even if we ignore the kind of narrow legalese that keep QC’s in the cocaine-powdered wigs to which they are accustomed, you have  to ask what the FA were meant to have done. As soon as it became clear that something was said, every eye belonging to those in (for want of a less pejorative term) the racism industry was turned on the FA. It’s all very well putting up hoardings and having high-profile players hosting training sessions in disadvantaged areas, but here was a high-profile player for one of the heaviest hitters in the world using dodgy language. Chris Rock once expressed regret that he had laden one of his acts with the ‘N’ word as he came to realise that people would point to his use of it as an excuse for their own use of it. You can be certain that if the FA had given Suarez a free pass the FA would be accused of introducing the thin end of the wedge. The next person who was charged with using dodgy language would say “well, you let Suarez off and what I said wasn’t that different to what he said”. It wouldn’t matter if this was hypothetical. The FA would still have to face the accusation, and it wasn’t unreasonable on their part to decide that it was better to err on the side of making a harsh example of one person rather than having to defend themselves for setting a lenient example down the line.

Now let’s look at the reaction of Liverpool FC. I’m fairly certain that the rush to defend Suarez is less motivated by naked partisanship – our player, right or wrong – than genuine sympathy for a man who feels he has been wronged. But if ever there was a case for ruthlessly applying the notion that no man is bigger than the club, this is it. There has to be a point past which defending Suarez becomes counter-productive. We are heading down a road where any attempt to cast the FA as the villains will become increasingly problematic. In fact, the longer it goes on the more the FA will be tempted to cast themselves as standing up to racism in all its forms, a line of attack which will lead Liverpool to use the mantra about we being against all forms of racism too BUT . . . the ‘but’ will get more and more hollow with each invocation. Do Liverpool want to be that guy, the one who has many black friends BUT . . .?

Some will say that’s not the point, that an injustice is an injustice no matter who it is meted out to. If you truly believe that then I suggest you give up following football and become an activist for Amnesty International. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve managed to get this far without mentioning John Terry, and I’m not going to mention how much worse his comments would be if he is proven to have said them and how the FA must be praying the problem just goes away – mentioning them there doesn’t count as a ‘mention’. And the only reason I’ll mention him is to ask people to be honest: you’re delighted Mongo is experiencing such discomfort and you hope the sobbing sap is nailed to the wall by the CPS or the FA or the PFJ or whomever it takes. For double honesty points which you can cash in against any future stay in Purgatory, admit that you’d feel none of the above if he played for Liverpool and would be holding a metaphorical pillow over your head going lalalalala every time you hear about the accusations. In short, you can believe that Suarez has been hard done by without having to think it is essential for the club to devote all its credibility to his defence. If that means he flounces off to the continent because we wouldn’t back him every step of the way, then so be it. No man is bigger etc.

Perhaps (hopefully) the conversation has been had behind the scenes. We’ll defend you thus far, Luis, but there has to be a point where we cut our losses. It’s painful, but people will forget. When you see Jan Molby, do you see the fat Dane with the Scouse accent and the brilliant passing ability, or do you see the man who did six weeks of porridge for drink-driving? People’s memories for bad stuff among their idols has the life expectancy of a Wayne Rooney follicle. John Terry’s travails will soon swamp the headlines. We’ll stand by you. But we won’t go over the cliff with you. It’s make-up-your-mind time. For both player and club.

Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears

The date was 2 May 2004. I found myself outside Anfield before a match without a ticket. For various reasons – it was only Middlesbrough, it was the tail-end of a less-than-stellar season (Gerard Houllier would be sacked a couple of weeks later), the money I was contemplating spending looked more useful going on my impending nuptials – getting inside the ground didn’t seem to be the most pressing matter in life. Yeah, I know, what a part-timer. Emboldened by this knowledge, I waited until a few minutes before kick-off then asked a tout, easily identifiable by their Uriah Heep-like demeanour (NB not really), how much a ticket would cost. “£45”, came the reply from the servile lick-spittle (NB not really). “Forget it,” I instantly declaimed, puffing my chest out in the manner of a cartoon astronaut (NB not rea . . . okay, you catch my drift). “Face value or nothing”. The tout knew the score. £25 changed hands and mere moments later I was in the Kop having triumphantly stuck it to The Man.

The incident contained a few valuable lessons. For a start, my triumph was not quite as Caesar-like as I first imagined. The couple sitting beside me asked what I’d paid for the ticket. It seemed their son had had to cry off at the last minute and they’d sold the ticket at the ridiculously knockdown price of £15, so the tout had still made a decent profit on the transaction. Still, it taught me that touts, a species that hitherto I had considered to lie somewhere between Evertonians and amoebas on the food chain, can serve a useful function. With the best will in the world there are going to be circumstances where someone ends up with a ticket that they don’t need. In this case the couple were refreshingly realistic about what had gone down. They were happy to take the hit on their ticket to save themselves the grief of hawking it around Anfield. So while I still think the tenth level of Hell is reserved for telemarketers and those selling a ticket for above face value, it was handy to know that someone shorn of the desperation of the day-tripper could pick up a ticket for face value by waiting until a few minutes before kick-off.

Or so I thought. Because on 5 November 2011 when Liverpool took on the might of Swansea City it became clear that the world had changed. Having circled the ground enough times to leave a trench for future archaeologists to inaccurately speculate over and having three touts say they had nothing, one finally offered me a ticket for £150. 150 knicker! Five minutes after the match had kicked off! For Swansea City! Mrs d was in the ground with a season ticket that on a per-unit basis cost one-fifth of that! All of the above was rammed into the derisive “No!” that greeted such a preposterous offer. Ten minutes later the price had dropped to 60 notes. This was haughtily spurned as well, and in the end I was able to console myself with finding out that Stanley Park was nice at this time of year and not paying anything at all for the dross that followed.

150 quid! The truly astonishing thing is contemplating how much the touts must have been charging for tickets a couple of hours before kick-off to some pitiful day-tripper who had travelled from far, far away in the hope of gaining access to the Holy of Holies – and yes, I realise that strictly speaking I was day-tripping myself, but I know there’ll be other opportunities in the near future. Anyone who has come from anywhere which involved travelling across Runcorn bridge – happy birthday, bridge! – or didn’t go along the M62 would be tempted by those crazy prices rather than endure a wasted trip. And a lot of people will have come from a lot further away than that . . .

This is the point at which articles  about touts and ticket prices veer off into the won’t-someone-think-of-the-children territory, but we’ll leave that for another day. Besides, it’d be a bit cheeky to bemoan touts having tried to use them myself. If the club can’t come up with a proper system for keeping tickets out of the wrong hands – wasn’t that what the Fan Cards were meant to do? – then it’s inevitable that a secondary market is going to emerge, and it’s up to the individual to not tout their ticket rather than expect touts to go all Francis of Assisi on us. No, what really struck home about the prices being demanded is the staggering potential of the brand that is Liverpool FC.

I realise that using terms like ‘the brand’ when it comes to a football club is anathema to most, the domain of ponytail and red brace-wearing ponces. But language is not neutral, and there’s no better term for explaining the value that lurks beneath the football club, the football club itself being [sickbag] like a mother’s love – priceless [/sickbag]. And it is that simmering Vesuvius of money-making potential that moved Ian Ayre to speculate recently on the merits of breaking up the cartel that is the Premier League’s collective bargaining deal with Sky. It’s often forgotten in the rush to pound the naked capitalism of the Dirty Digger – and throughout the ongoing phone-hacking scandal, few people have enjoyed News International’s discomfort more than myself – that the deal with Sky is a long way from naked capitalism. If a regular market consisted of twenty companies ganging together and selling their product exclusively on a five-year contract and splitting the proceeds amongst themselves, they’d be broken up faster than you could say Milly Dowler. When small clubs like Bolton and Everton (snigger) routinely bleat that they can’t compete with the moneybags clubs, they conveniently forget that there are far more brutal business models out there, ones that fit in much better with the anti-monopoly laws of the UK and the EU. Spain is the classic example, where each club flogs their wares individually. All the money inevitably flows to the duopoly that is Real Madrid and Barcelona. And it’s not hard to see something like that  happening to Liverpool should we be released from the Bolshevik shackles of the collective Premier League deal.

Just think of it. Liverpool can sustain a business model where people are willing to pay hundreds of pounds for a ticket to see them play Swansea City. And this is despite over twenty years of mediocrity (with one shining exception, of course). There was a joke doing the rounds after the recent Manchester derby that Citeh fans hadn’t seen their team give Man Ure a five-goal beating since Chelsea did it a few years back. It’s a gag that would be often be re-tooled to dismiss glory-hunting Liverpool fans. Yet that would be to ignore that a whole generation of Liverpool fans around the globe have adopted the Reds as their club despite a distinct lack of success. We are a leviathan, and the Lilliputians are holding us back. The sooner we cast off their pathetic threads, the better.

And yet . . . Ian Ayre invoked the need to be released from said constraints by the need to be competitive in Europe. This makes sense. The long-run revenue projections of Madrid and Barca must dwarf those of any team in the Premier League – Man City are an obvious exception, but if Uefa succeed in making those rules on expenditure needing to be a percentage of turnover stick then they’re going to hit the skids soon enough. But is that how Liverpool really want to be competitive? We’ve shown we can cut it in Europe. Even at a relatively iffy period in that season we played them we swatted Madrid aside and have come out ahead in our various jousts with Barca over the years. The problem is that we can’t compete in England. Throwing out collective bargaining will benefit other teams too, Man Utd and Arsenal in particular. So while we may have fewer worries about playing Swansea, so would the other leviathans in England. All other things being equal we’d be no better off. In fact, the sense of anguish at repeatedly coming up short would be even more acute.

And besides, do we really want to be That Team? The ones who snuffed out any lingering dreams that a Nottingham Forest or a Leeds United could aspire to charge through the divisions to the very summit? My heart says yes: screw every last one of them against the wall, LFC comes first every time. My head says no: you’d be reducing the top flight to a La Liga-style farce against a succession of embittered teams without any guarantee that it would give us the success we crave. What’s the solution to that conundrum? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. . .

Married to the mob

Members of that exquisitely privileged club [season ticket holders] are ripping off fellow Liverpool fans in the most egregious manner possible. If they were to average £15 for every away ticket throughout the season, they would be two-thirds of the way to paying off their season ticket. The ghosts of Liverpool fans long dead cry out with frustration at this mockery of support for their club.

J’Accuse – Season Ticket Holders, 13 October 2001

Upon further reflection, I think I may have been too hasty.

That Was The Season That Was 2010/11

The other player to transcend greatness to the status of myth and fable is Kenny Dalglish. This is certainly more justified than the [Billy] Liddell legend, as a fair proportion of present day Reds saw him weave his magic. Four different locals have, without any prompting from me, detailed their first memory of King Kenny. None of them speak of the same incident, but the story is always the same. The summer of 1977 saw much fretting about how Liverpool were going to replace Kevin Keegan, and everyone feared that the mulleted Scotsman wouldn’t be up to the job. But once eyes were clapped on Kenny, and he had produced some moment of football genius that would leave Pele or Puskas gasping with admiration, the refrain would be: Kevin who? A star was born, and eight championships and three European Cups later, the glow hasn’t dimmed one jot.

Return of the God, 2 May 2003

Liverpool’s season has all been about one man. This man dragged the club back from the abyss and restored its pride, receiving the adulation of all Reds wherever he went as a result. I refer, of course, to Martin Broughton.

Tributes to Kenny Dalglish are almost superfluous at this stage, but another laurel wreath you can add to his honours is that we’ve forgotten just how close the club went to the brink. The appointment of Broughton by George Gillett and Tom Hicks is an example for the ages of how you should be careful what you wish for. Selected with the remit to sell the club at all costs, they couldn’t have imagined that he would sell the club at all costs. The ins and outs of corporate law are beyond me, but the way events unfolded makes it appear that the robber barons expected Broughton to define ‘the club’ as its owners, whereas he saw it as an entity with a separate life of its own. Given the manner in which the world has become prisoner to the corrupt and shameless needs of Gordon Gekko-types, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Gillett and Hicks appointed a different man whose view of The Club dovetailed with their view and not that of the fans. If that happened, we would have been utterly screwed. As it was we got a man who was possibly swept up in the romance of it all – the smile on his face as he emerged from the High Court to the adulation of the travelling Kop suggests he was enjoying a moment that few businessmen can ever expect to experience. Or maybe he was just a sober suit who felt he was doing the correct thing. Whatever it was, 2010/11 should go down as the season when Liverpool flirted with oblivion – and survived.

It won’t though. Football is changing, and Liverpool’s place in football is going to change with it. It seemed to inevitable to me that any change was going to be downgraded. Look at the populations of those cities that have produced more than three European Cups (source: Wikipedia):

  • Milan (10 wins) – 1.3 million
  • Madrid (9) – 3.4 million
  • Liverpool (5) – 435,000
  • Amsterdam (4) – 1.2 million
  • Barcelona (4) – 1.6 million
  • Munich (4) – 1.3 million

As you can see, we’re not in the same league, and that’s even before you consider how much richer all of the other cities are per capita. Liverpool, God bless her, is a provincial kind of place by comparison. Once it became clear that Gillett and Hicks did not have the kind of money that Chelsea or Manchester City had, it was important that we cut our cloth to measure. The appointment of Roy Hodgson was perfectly consistent with such a mentality. Given the resources he could look forward to, no one else was going to be daft enough to take the job.

Yet such pessimism brings with it the power of self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t do any better than what you aspire to, but you can do a hell of a lot worse. Google ‘roy hodgson magic wand’ and you’ll see just how determined Roy was to suppress expectations. At the time I would have agreed with this assessment and it wasn’t until I saw the shambles against Wolves, a team we should be beating with a feather duster, that I realised just how bad things were. Beating Bolton a few days later only confirmed that the team weren’t anywhere near as bad as Roy was making out. He had to go.

Next up, his replacement. There was much media scoffing at the rage of Aston Villa fans at the appointment of Alex McLeish as their new manager. How dare football fans allow themselves to be so irrational! And at the start of 2011 I probably would have agreed with the media. Managers needed to be cool, calm and collected. Appointing them in a spirit of nostalgia would be a recipe for disaster. And yet here we are, making the ultimate sentimental appointment in Kenny Dalglish and thriving beyond what would have been our wildest dreams at the turn of the year, and the same hack who was so scornful of Villa fans in June for being so irrational was burbling with delight in January at how “Kenny Dalglish reminds Liverpool who and what they are“. It’d probably enrage Villa fans even more were they to see how Paul Hayward was making the assumption that Liverpool could somehow tap into something intangible – Whacker, the Spirit of Scouse? – to improve results.

And while Villa fans would be right to be upset, there’s no arguing with how Liverpool have blossomed under the King. It does present the slightly unnerving prospect that there is a man who is bigger than the club, and the rational part of me thinks much of the credit for Liverpool’s revival can be attributed to Steve Clarke, a suggestion that the club seems to agree with as evidenced by their easing out of Sammy Lee in favour of the Special One’s former henchman. But if the fans are happy, why worry? The most entertaining aspect of the second half of this season was not any individual win, although the obliteration of Fulham was particularly memorable. It was Kenny bouncing up and down the sideline like a puppy on acid, behaviour that provided positive feedback to the fans doing exactly the same thing thus raising that special-at-the-worst-of-times feeling you get from a goal to stratospheric heights. The kids reading this may not recall his demeanour when Liverpool would score in his first stint as manager. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now could have been written for him. As with the owners it is all changed, changed utterly. And I claim my £5 for referencing Morrissey and WB Yeats in successive lines.

Things may still end badly with Kenny, and perhaps I should maintain a strict neutrality on the subject so that I can revert to my previous position, i.e. that if  we “were looking for someone called Dalglish with knowledge of football in the 21st century, you’d be better off giving the job to Kelly“. But lovely and all as the sight of Mrs Cates in the dugout would be, I have to yield to my friend – big shout-out to Ryan! – who demanded for years and years that Kenny be brought back and considered the limp draw with Wigan to be a success because it had the privilege of seeing her father prowling the touchline after being denied it the first time around. Aprés M Hayward, it’s impossible to put a value on the feelgood factor he has brought back to the club. Let us have an end to rationality, and let the good times roll.

Rights and Wrongs

When Robbie Fowler left Anfield for the first time, he took a little piece of me with him, specifically the piece that hero-worshipped men who played well for Liverpool. Admittedly it was a slightly shop-soiled piece of me. All of three picoseconds were spent pondering the hypocrisy of cheering for Paul Ince when he was signed by Liverpool, having previously expressed a fervent wish that the Kray twins would take offence at someone misusing the name of the Guv’nor . . . the notion that players could be more than simply very good servants went with him. When Steven Gerrard’s media boosters made a virtue of his loyalty despite his blatant flirtation with Chelsea, the overwhelming emotion was that I didn’t want that piece of my life back, a piece so treacherous that the Bee Gees could have written a song about it to be performed by Dionne Warwick.

But the viper is back in the form of Fernando Torres.

To Err Is Human, Torres Divine, 2 March 2008

Looks like I was right the first time. Even if one comes from the perspective that all footballers are mercenaries, and I think we all accept that to a greater or lesser degree at this stage, they’re not equally mercenary (see: Cashley Cole). Fernando Torres seemed a little bit different from the norm,  his famed armband typifying a player for whom money wasn’t everything. So to see the cynical manner in which he engineered a move away from Anfield took your breath away. We have it from the horse’s mouth that negotiations had been going on behind the scenes for twelve days prior to the transfer. The tapping-up doesn’t bother me. They’re all at it, including Liverpool (see: Charlie Adam). But had he revealed his desire to leave two weeks ago, Liverpool would have been in a better position to deal with it. In retrospect, the assumption that they were pursuing Luis Suarez to replace Torres was completely wrong. They were playing coy with Ajax in the hope that the player would demand a move and we could then get him on the cheap (see: tapping-up, Charlie Adam). Instead, Liverpool had to meet Ajax’s evaluation of the player and then desperately scramble around looking around for a replacement for Torres. Andy Carroll may well turn out to be a star, but at this moment he looks horribly over-valued – he is *assumes Lloyd Bentsen voice* no Fernando Torres. Is it any wonder that Mrs d, who I met at Anfield donchaknow, is gradually finding her relationship with Liverpool to be an increasingly painful one? And before you say that’s because we’ve been crap, she is having an increasingly more cheerful relationship with England – they’re crap too, but at least they’re identifiably her crap. So adios and thanks for the memories, Nando, of which there are many glorious ones. But thank you too for reminding me that no footballer is to be trusted. Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.

So an old verity has been depressingly reinforced. But the last few weeks have seen another one loosen its grip on my psyche, i.e. the idea that pride and passion has no place in the running of a modern football club. The main reason I was content with the appointment of Roy Hodgson was that he could be relied upon to take a sober, serious attitude towards the business of managing Liverpool. No one would be signed because he had heart or guts or all those other things that a player can have in abundance and still be rubbish because he lacks such qualities as talent or skill. It was the cultivation of the latter qualities that made Liverpool great. Yes, Bill Shankly had talked about the passion, but talking the team up when they were due to play Ajax in the second leg of their second round tie in the 1966/7 European Cup hadn’t led to an improvement – first leg: Ajax 5-1 Liverpool; second leg: Liverpool 2-2 Ajax. And a few years later, after a cup defeat to lower division Watford, even he had to admit that he had persevered with the old stagers for too long. Compare this to Bob Paisley who ruthlessly trimmed any player as soon as they were past their peak. Result? A period of dominance that was without parallel in English football. Leave the passion to the fans, and leave the football to the mercenaries. That would be Roy’s philosophy.

In addition, he also stood in the way on the nonsensical reappointment of Kenny Dalglish. One of the most entertaining things in football in the Premier League years has been the comical contortions at Newcastle United where great stock was put in quick-fixes, such as appointing a club legend to the post of manager. So we saw Kevin Keegan come back and Alan Shearer come in. Both started with much fanfare and talk of the passion, and ended in failure, abysmally so in Shearer’s case. The thought that Liverpool could go down that road, and there’s echoes of Kenny’s return in both cases, is an appalling vista. To compound the irony his last job was managing the Geordies, which was an amazing 13 years ago. If you were looking for someone called Dalglish with knowledge of football in the 21st century, you’d be better off giving the job to Kelly.

You always become the thing you hate the most. During the repeated heaves against Houllier and Benitez part of the reason I was so defensive of them was that their critics seemed to be having it both ways. If they were failures in the end and got sacked, the I-told-you-so’s would be unbearable. But if they were eventually successful, the critics would be able to surreptitiously submerge their rage under the tide of celebration. Yet this is the position, barely a couple of weeks into Kenny’s second coming. It is, of course, early days, but even the first game at Old Trafford had positive signs. Not because the team played well – they did, but Kenny admitted he had nothing to do with the selection – but the sight of him standing alongside Alex Ferguson had a reassuring feel to it. When the likes of Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger take on Demento, their only weapon is their managerial wiles. And they will always, no matter how hard they strive or how well they do, lose out in the end. The roles are reversed in the case of Kenny Dalglish. Kenny is a footballer who can be mentioned in the same breath as Maradona and Pele, while Alex Ferguson is the bitter little man who wouldn’t bring Kenny to the 1986 World Cup – West Germany, Denmark and Uruguay were clearly going to be more cowed by the likes of Paul Sturrock. Do what you like, Alex. You’ll always look small next to Kenny.

Then we were soon treated to Kenny’s biting wit. When Kenny was last manager, the media circus had yet to get to full three-ring status, so the stories of his zingers were just that – stories. Now we can see them in full Sky Sports News-a-rama. To begin with, we had his winding-up of the unfortunate Sky man after Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ infamous clanger. The video also shows him playing a dead bat to silly questions yet somehow not being obnoxious about it. Classy to his fingertips.

None of this is to say that Kenny is going to return us to the glories of old. Things have definitely picked up, but Sunday against Chelsea and Whatsisname will be far more telling. It’s just that there’s a spring in the step of the club that is almost entirely down to the return of the King. In my commitment to keeping it rational, I’ve forgotten that a club is more than the sum of its parts. I was wrong to be so dismissive of the intangible. When Phil Thompson said after Istanbul that “Liverpool FC is the greatest club in the world”, he was channeling the spirit that produced that night to beat all nights. It weren’t Djimi Traore and Milan Baros who turned Milan over. It was Liverpool. Perhaps everything will go belly up in the next few months and I’ll regret ever committing these words to disk space. But right here, right now, Liverpool fans are smiling again. I’ll settle for that.

Future Imperfect

Some things seem to be hardwired in to the DNA of clubs. This shouldn’t be the case. Why a group of professionals, particularly the diverse group of mercenaries that constitute a modern-day squad, should be influenced by the behaviour of their predecessors in, uh, mercenarydom is a mystery. But it is real. How else can you explain (for example) West Ham’s appalling record at Anfield. They haven’t won since the 1963/4 season. To put things into context, they’ve won on twelve times in the League at Old Trafford versus three times at Anfield (source). It’s a phenomenon that can only be explained by memes that transfer themselves through each common squad member across generations. Or it can be explained the existence of the Gods, in which case you disposing of those lucky underpants you wore during every game throughout the late 70’s and 80’s because your new girlfriend thought they were minty is the reason we’re crap.

Such a pattern makes more sense in the context of the fans, who inherit habits from their fathers. So when the Kop applauds the opposition goalkeeper or turns up the gas on big European nights no one needs to be told to do it, it just comes naturally.

So it’s kinda sad to see a little piece of the club die in the last week, that is  the policy of giving a manager a chance to make his mark. Graeme Souness was drummed out of Anfield pretty quickly, the Loverpool debacle eliminating any leeway he might have had. But Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez were all given sufficient time and resources to come within touching distance of the ultimate prize, that of League champions. As soon as they began to fall back the axe was wielded, second acts being as uncommon in football as they are in American life. So Roy Hodgson is entitled to wonder why he never far past the first scene.

As someone who bought heavily into the notion that a manager should be given more than twenty games in which to make his mark, what to make of Roy Hodgson? Oddly enough, the moment of realisation that he wasn’t up to it came in a match which Liverpool not only won but in which they played rather well. It came about an hour into the Bolton game. The Reds were dominating having come from behind but Bolton, a decent team who didn’t wobble one bit when Torres equalised, were proving a tough nut to crack. It was crying out for a change in personnel and/ or formation to discombobulate the defenders. One wag in the Kop, displaying the wit for which we are so renowned (and saying that we are renowned for our wit is the kind of pomposity for which we are so renowned), bellowed out “make a change, Roy!”. Even those of us who haven’t a clue about football (ahem) could see that this was needed, but the bench consisted of one long pregnant pause. The team were on top and any change might jeopardise that dominance. Put simply, he was loath to speculate to accumulate for fear that the change might not work. Holding what you have is fine if you’re flush, but Liverpool had just lost what should have been three banker points against Wolves. They had to go for broke, and N’gog only came off with fifteen minutes to go, by which stage he was a few moments way from being stretchered off with exhaustion. It was cowardice and typified a man who had found himself in a job for which he was not equipped. He had to go.

Plenty of people will scoff at such a Damascene conversion, a hopelessly belated acceptance of Roy’s inadequacies for the job. I apologise for not having sufficient knowledge of the game to be able to clearly see this. The fact that I came to this realisation around the same time as John Henry e al, people who until recently thought a ‘football’ looked a giant caramelised peanut, should testify to the truth of that. However, I make no apologies for being acutely conscious of the dignity of the club and what it is meant to stand for, and it is painful to see Liverpool FC heading down the same road that was once one of the things that separated the club from everyone else.

Yes, King Kenny is back, and you’d want to have a heart of stone not to be excited by the prospect of the greatest of them all (© A Liverbird Upon my Chest) returning to stick his immovable arse into the opposition’s nether regions. But it would not be too harsh to say that it was his bizarre behaviour 20 years ago at almost exactly the same point of the season  – the FA Cup 4th round – that sent us down Not Winning The League Avenue. His CV since then has consisted of winning the League with Blackburn Rovers, spending what was for the time was the kind of money that would have made Roman Abramovich pause for thought, then kept the Newcastle United hotseat warm long enough for the Toon Army to move one step closer to the promised land of being managed by Alan Shearer.

Ah, Newcastle. How we all laughed at the Geordies and their ultimately destructive pursuit of Shearer. There’s a large slice of that sense of delusion to the return of Dalglish – and that’s before we even consider the spooky parallels with the Second Coming of Kevin Keegan – fuelled by a whole generation of Liverpool fans who grew up on tales of his derring-do but were too young to understand exactly what I mean by the above reference to his immovable arse. Now they can get to see him work the magic that he wrought with Ian Rush, Alan Hansen, John Barnes and Steve Nicol, only now with David N’gog, Martin Skrtel, Lucas and Glen Johnso . . . have you seen the problem yet?

A palm tree defies the hurricane by yielding to it, and zany as the obsession Newcastle fans had with Shearer and Keegan was, it wasn’t going to go away until the club had succumbed to it. Now that this has happened with Liverpool, about the best we can hope for in the short term is that Kenny’s Zeus-like authority nips any spurious thoughts of charging up the table and qualifying for Europe in the bud. European football is in a state of flux at the moment with requirements – gasp! – balance the books or set wages as a proportion beginning to look like they might come to pass. If this happens, Liverpool should well placed to capitalise. Until then, it’s a question of sitting tight. As tight as Kenny Dalglish’s shorts.