Tag Archives: Chelsea

History is bunk

A little piece of me died on Saturday. When Didier Drogba stroked home the decisive penalty in the Champions League final, it was disappointing enough that such an odious cast of characters had landed the choicest prize in club soccer. And yes, I realise there’s hypocrisy in feeling that way when I support a club that contains Luis Suarez. And no, Fernando Torres is not someone I count among the ranks of the odious.

The feeling brought on by this attitude faded quickly enough. Much was made of how Barcelona won every trophy they competed for in 2009 – League, Cup, European Cup, Spanish & European Super Cups and World Club Cup – which ignored how perilously close they were to being beaten by Chelsea in the semi-final, requiring a wonder goal in the last minute and a string of contentious penalty decisions to go in their favour before they could overcome the chavs. A year earlier they had been the width of a post away from winning the competition on penalties. Fortune has not been kind to Chelsea, so in that context it was not difficult to feel some admiration for the manner in which they ground out the victory. Now they could claim to be half as good as Nottingham Forest.

A feeling that persists though is dismay that Chelsea were able to overcome their history and spirit away the Grand Prix. It had been an article of faith for me that the European Cup was a trophy that could only be won by inadequate teams if they possessed a granite-solid back story. Liverpool may have only been good enough to finish fifth in 2005, but even Djimi Traore could be lifted up to Olympian heights when playing for a club that had won the competition on four previous occasions. And Chelsea’s near-misses in recent years seemed to confirm such this prejudice. Now they’ve made a nonsense of this idea. It wasn’t ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ that allowed Liverpool to win the Champions League. It just happened, and teams are not quite as beholden to their history as I thought.

Of course, the upside to that is that teams are not quite as beholden to their history as I thought. There’s lots of teams who could take inspiration from being able to cast off the shackles of precedent. Alas, one of them found out within 24 hours that reality is a cruel mistress. When Mark Ferncombe did an Arjen Robben and missed a penalty to take the lead against Limerick you just knew the Waterford footballers were toast, and so it proved in grisly fashion as they failed to score at all in the second half. Unfortunately this was a case where history proved to be a reliable indicator of what was going to happen next.

I’m at a loss to explain the inability of Waterford football to make an impact beyond our borders. It’s not as if football is a new thing in the county. Having first been staged in 1885 there can’t be an older title in the country and to this day the football championship is more competitive than its hurling equivalent. Some years back a clever chap on An Fear Rua’s website presented an image displaying the geographical split between hurling and football within the county, which clearly showed how large swathes of the county are football territory. Despite this, our biggest claim to fame at senior level since the shock victory over Kerry in 1957 was putting a stop to London’s gallop last year and getting on to Sky Sports News. We haven’t been to the Munster final since 1960 and while much of that could be down to a rigged seeded competition for much of that time ensuring Kerry always met Cork in the final it hasn’t been that way for a couple of decades now and not once have we managed to put two wins together against our fellow minnows.

I don’t like being critical of those who run the sport in the county, and I’m certainly not going to be associated with those trolls who litter the Waterford thread on boards.ie with their jeremiads about how the time invested in football is not only futile but actively limits our success in hurling. Still, something is wrong with football organisation in the county. In 2003 we were able to win the Munster Under-21 title, with some character called Michael Walsh playing in midfield. This year the team (if ‘Easterly Gael’ in the late-and-much-lamented Tramore Hinterland was to be believed) was cobbled together at the last minute because of confusion over whose responsibility it was to select the manager. No surprise that they went down in flames. We may not have Chelsea’s option of being able to lob out millions to improve things, but you don’t need a Russian oligarch to threaten you with Siberia to know how to pick a manager. With the back door ensuring that a panel can look forward to more than one match in the championship, the only ones we can blame for not being able to give it a proper lash are ourselves. The ghosts of history can ram it.

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Power to the People

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Football fans are completely powerless to influence results, an observation whose most glaring exception – the Reds beating Chelsea in the 2005 European Cup; and will I ever get tired of referencing that night? I think not – only goes to prove the rule. We react to what we see on the pitch, not the other way round. The performances shape our hopes, fears and expectations. You only have to look at the way the ambitions of Newcastle United fans have crushed successive teams of managers and players, not lifted them up where eagles fly as the orthodoxy would have us believe happens, to see the truth of that.

So if you are looking for evidence that Liverpool are moving in the right direction, you could have done worse than observe my demeanour at half-time of the match against Manchester City at Eastlands. Anyone who read my pessimistic screed a few weeks back after beating Manchester United would have been forgiven for thinking I would have being slitting my wrists when Garrido rattled in that free kick. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t perturbed at the prospect of our decent start to the season coming to a crashing halt against the Premier League’s latest moneybags club. But mixed in with the despair was hope.

The hope didn’t spring from some nonsense about the spirit of Istanbul – only three of the players who started that day lined up against Citeh, a remarkable enough stat in and of itself. It was simply that this team has shown themselves to be made of stern stuff in recent weeks. After the frustration of being denied repeatedly by a small club like Stoke they would have been forgiven at half time in the derby for thinking ‘oh no, not again’. But they seemed confident that if they kept chipping away that their superior football skills would be decisive, and so it proved as Fernando ‘doesn’t score much away from home’ Torres came up trumps. For all of my previous talk of reverting to the mean, it didn’t seem outrageous that we could come out in the second half and do a number on the Mancs.

Think of it this way. At 2-0, I was confident we’d get one back. At 2-1, that we’d equalise. When they had a man sent off, I was eagerly anticipating the Reds going for the jugular which they did in most impressive fashion. When we had won, it was heartening to think that we battered a team when we had the man advantage, not an accusation you could level against us in recent times. Then I found out that the third goal had come 10 v 10, which just made it better. Heck, nothing short of a long term injury could ruin this buzz!

Darn.

I’ve always been a fatalist, preparing for the worst and therefore being ready for it if it happens. On the other hand, I’ve always been determined to extract the best out of any situation. So you might be 2-0 down against Man City, but they’re probably better under Mark Hughes than most of us expect and losing there is no shame. Compare that to the legions of online Reds who went into complete meltdown when staring defeat in the face. People were already talking about defeat before it happened, oblivious to recent robustness, the harshness of the deficit in the context of the match or trivial things like, you know, every game lasting 90 minutes.

Those people will claim that they’ve seen decent starts to the season before only to have the Reds hit the wall in true marathon fashion. This is fair enough, and I’ve been saying to my wife (to the point where she has stopped listening to me) that we seem to be only one bad result from complete implosion. But that result hadn’t happened by half time against City and – get this! – it still hasn’t happened. To make matters worse, most of the Cassandras behaved post-match as if the result were a blip and that their half time prognostications were a more reasoned analysis of what had just happened.

There is a world of difference between sounding a note of caution after a great result, whether it be beating Man Utd or coming from 2-0 down away to beat any team you can think of, and braying that the world is coming to an end because you happen to be losing at half time. Who knows, if people could learn to appreciate the distinction they might enjoy following their team a little bit more.

Reversion to the Mean

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How arl arse is this, sneaking back into the building after Rafa finally putting one over on Demento? Everyone else at ShanklyGates.co.uk puts in the hard graft week in week out keeping the site on the road, putting up with the outrageous slurs from fans of other clubs gloating at the close season turmoil at Anfield. Then along comes bucko here, the brilliance of the grin stitched to his face after that thumping performance against Man U only matched by the luminescence of the tan acquired from a summer of doing naff all. Nice work if you can get it.

But fear not! I come not to praise Liverpool but to bury them. Console yourself with the notion that the river of flame that will be diverted into my inbox as I dare to go off message should keep me going well into the wee hours for several weeks to come. For the joy of beating down on the Mancs does not cancel out the misery of a summer when Liverpool did, to my mind, so much wrong.

Let’s start with some positives. A while back I raged against Rafa’s habit of buying players on the cheap then selling them on quickly at a loss, the footballing equivalent of a lucky dip (cf Jan Kromkamp, Mark Gonzalez). He doesn’t seem to have rid himself of that habit. The likes of Dossena and Riera don’t inspire, players purchased not because they are brilliant but because they might be brilliant. It’s the Championship Manager school of management, scouring the leagues of Europe for undiscovered talent – except Rafa doesn’t seem to have the hit rate of A Geek with his PC, or even A Wenger with his MA. You don’t need a crystal ball to see Jermaine Pennant joining the carousel. The sight of Philippe Degen trundling in on a free while Andrei Voronin trundles away in the opposite direction having also being purchased on a free, looks like history repeating itself . It would make you weep at the notion that playing for the most successful club in England is meant to mean something.

Still, it’s not all bad on the to-ing and fro-ing front. While Rafa may have shuffled the pack with a few duds, he’s also managed to make the club a tidy sum in some surprising places. While Peter Crouch and Momo Sissoko were both decent players in their times at Anfield, it would have seemed nothing short of miraculous had someone wanted to pay an eight figure sum for their services. The mere act of a top club admitting that they are open to offers for players should be enough to see their price plummet. Yet both those players went off having made the club a substantial profit.

There are a few lesser lights on which Rafa made silly money. Scott Carson proved to be a sound investment, the outrageous figure he was originally touted around for notwithstanding. And then there’s the case of John Arne Riise. A fond figure at the club thanks to his penchant for goals that were both brilliant and important, he had undergone a horrible loss of form last season culminating in that clanger against Chelsea. When it became clear that his days at the club were numbered – and again, bear in mind that you expect other clubs to be pointing out the bald tyres, the miles on the clock, the scratch on the bumper and just look at the alloy wheels and sunroof on that other model over there, mate – it didn’t seem possible that he would be anything other than a free. Yet we got €4 million for him, an absolutely fabulous piece of business. Factor in the sale of Luis Garcia, another cult figure at the club who proved instrumental in bagging a certain Fernando Torres, and look at some of the flops that have passed through the hands of A. Wenger – anyone remember Christopher Wreh? Sylvinho? Nelson Vivas? – then Rafa seems to be one of the smarter cookies in football.

So the swings and roundabouts of the mid-market signings can be said to be that for Rafa – swings and roundabouts. It is the big money deals that can make or break you as a manager though. The 20 million-plus signings are the ones that are meant to catapult you into the stratosphere, and if you get them wrong . . . Rafa got it spectacularly right in the summer of 2007, laying down big bucks for a player that half of the top clubs in Europe seemed to have sniffed around and passed on. 2008 doesn’t look like it’s been anywhere near as productive. The increasing sniffiness of the media about the start to his Anfield career can be dismissed as the usual Phil Space guff, but a decade watching the exploits of Robbie Keane have not been conducive to endearment, especially when you consider he is by some distance Ireland’s record scorer.

For someone with a spotless record off the pitch – quite an achievement in this day and age – he can be such an infuriating nark on the pitch. Some people might appreciate his constant moaning at refs for frees, his incessant insistence that he wasn’t offside or the habitual pained expression when a team mate fails to meet his lofty standards. But they’ve always left me cold. As top strikers go, he has an appalling habit of missing sitters – they all do it, but he does it more than most. He always looks like he’s just started playing football, brilliantly talented and should be great after a few years. Except that he’s been on the road for the best part of a decade. Paying c. £20 million for a 27 year old with five different clubs behind him seems excessive. You have to keep looking at his goalscoring record, which is very good indeed, to remind yourself that he’s a top player. But I can’t shake the feeling that we’re picking up a player who has passed his peak, and paid top dollar for the privilege.

At least we went for him and got him. No such pleasure can be derived from the Gareth Barry saga. Once upon a time, English internationals came from all kind of wacky clubs. Jimmy Bullard this week became the first Fulham player since George Cohen to play for England. Cohen happened to win the World Cup. But this was a time when the maximum wage and the fact that revenue was derived almost entirely from tuppence-a-head gate receipts meant there was little incentive to move clubs. Now, you are a loser if you’re not plying your trade in the Champions League. Yet Gareth Barry is still chugging away with the mediocrities that are Aston Villa. If he were that good, surely someone would have pounced on him long before this? We all thought that, and more pertinently so did the best-friends-forever (again) Gillett and Hicks. Even Roman Abramovich has drawn the line on paying over the odds for players. For Liverpool though, the line seems to be a lot lower than it is for Chelsea and Man United. So this is what we have learned from our pursuit of Gareth Barry – that we are chasing players who are not good enough, and then we can’t get them anyway. Marvellous.

Unless, of course, that spectacular win over the Mancs is closer to our mean performance than the first three games. I’m dubious that we are that good. The controlled ferociousness was a pleasant surprise – take a bow, Javier Mascherano – not least to Man U who were probably congratulating themselves in advance of another toothless Liverpool attempt at a comeback. Keep that up and we’ll do well, but we had to come good against them some time – again, reverting to the mean; we haven’t been as bad as the results suggested in recent times. Even more surprising was playing so well with Gerrard only playing quarter of the match and Whatisname from Spain not playing at all. We’ve surely got to take that reality with a large pinch of salt. Play that well in every game with their additional power and we’d be invincible – which is why we can’t expect that to be the mean.

Back in the mists of time, a time when the Reds were capable of winning leagues, a rate of two points out of three was enough to be a competitor for the title. We picked up 68.4% of the available points in 1990. Nowadays you need to be a bit better than that, probably closer to three points out of four. The Mancs got 76.3% of the points last season. So our excellent start to the season amounts to being a point ahead of the trend. The race has only just begun.

It’s Our Trophy And We’ll Cry If We Want To

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There have been many false dawns in the eighteen seasons since the Reds last laid claim to the League title. Would we have won the League in 1992 but for the injuries that plagued an ageing team? Twenty games without defeat in 1996 conspired to raise hopes that were dashed against the rock of the White Suits final, a match that should not be noted in infamy for any sartorial folly but for the bloated waistlines brought on by a leisurely stroll though the last few games of the league campaign as the title receded and players avoided injuries. In 1997 the Reds were top at the New Year and led 1-0 against Coventry with six games to go. Had they held on that day, they would have gone top. Instead, they were beaten by the Gary McAllister-inspired Sky Blues and suffered the ignominy of finishing fourth on goal difference behind Newcastle and Arsenal. In 2002 we won thirteen and drew one of our last fifteen matches. Unfortunately Arsenal won fourteen and drew one of their last fifteen. Some might have been sufficiently jaundiced not to extract too much optimism from any / all of the above positions, but it’s impossible for the rest of us not to get carried away by even the merest hint of winning the League – and there was more than a hint in any / all of the above.

Perhaps the cruellest taunts of that period were those that raised the possibility that the Evil Empire that is Manchester United was about to fall and be buried in so much Ozymanidian sand. When Alex ‘Demento‘ Ferguson, the greatest manager of this generation – yeah, I said it – announced his intention to resign back in 2002, it was a source of much rejoicing. It didn’t happen, but in the five seasons between 2001 and 2006 they won one League title, hardly the stuff upon which legends are built. When the Glazers came along like an impersonation of Mom, Walt, Larry and Ignar from Futurama it seemed like they were vanish up the collective backside of the clowns who flounced off to form FC United of Manchester. Yet here we are, suffering under the yoke of them being the first club to successfully defend the League having won a hat-trick of titles sometime in the past – it’s a crummy trivia question, but somehow still manages to hurt.

It can get worse though, much worse come Wednesday night. My wife, good Red that she is, is torn as to whether to root for the Mancs or the Chavs. On the one hand, the Mancs are, well, the Mancs. On the other hand, as a veteran of our two European Cup wins over Chelsea and an enthusiastic singer of “F*** off Chelsea FC / You’ve got no history . . .”, she finds it hard to see someone new muscle in on Liverpool’s territory. Man Utd have won leagues and even European Cups in the recent past and we’ve coped. Chelsea joining us at the summit might lower the tone to the point of no return.

It’s not an opinion I share though. With Man U’s 17th League title under their belt, the gap between them and us domestically is tight. While in terms of numbers we are still ahead, not all trophies are equal. Their eleven FA Cups and two League Cups is probably worth more than our seven FA Cups and seven League Cups. Let’s assume for the sake of argument – not that we want to ‘argue’, fellow Red – that a League Cup is worth one point, an FA Cup worth two and a League title four points, i.e. an FA Cup is worth twice a League Cup and a League worth twice an FA Cup. That would leave them with 92 points and us with 93 points. Yep, perilously tight.

Even if some Manc hack was to come up with a metric that weighted success in such a way that they came out ahead, a decisive tiebreaker would be Europe. Our five European Cups and three Uefa Cups easily trump their two European Cups and one European Cup Winners Cup. Factor in that the ECWC was never very impressive despite being technically superior to the Uefa Cup – continental teams don’t take their cup competitions seriously leading to some God-awful representatives, and Uefa eventually put the competition out of the misery of having been won by the likes of West Ham and Man City – and we stomp all over Man Utd’s European record.

Every which way you turn it, Liverpool’s European performances make other teams Blue with envy. Even during the disappointments of the last two decades, Europe has been the supreme consolation. With the ECWC no longer available to provide English teams with soft European gongs, they’ve had to wade through the more robust fields of the European Cup and the Uefa Cup, and come up short. Since the oh-so-convenient cut-off point of the beginning of the 21st century, only one British team has won any European trophies, and Liverpool have won four. Think about it. One of our wins in the Super Cup, a souped-up Community Shield, is one more European win than every other team in Britain put together has managed in the Noughties. Watching Rangers stink the place up against Zenit St Petersburg, it was easy to preen ourselves at how much we have offered to European football compared to the rest of the island.

Alas, that proud record will end Wednesday. In the absence of hoping the English team loses to keep our bragging rights intact, it has to be issues closer to home that dominate. And no issue can be more piquant than our status viz. Man Utd. So come on Chelsea, put the lessons you learned in finally being able to overcome the mightiest British club to ever stride the playing fields of Europe and win the thing. You’ll be ever so glad you did.

That Was The Season That Was 2007/8

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In a season replete with shocks, one stands out like a woolly mammoth sitting on a Van de Graaff generator. No, not Portsmouth meeting Cardiff in the ‘English’ FA Cup final. It’s the horrible truth that letting your hair grow to, well, woolly mammoth proportions has no material impact on Liverpool’s progress through the European Cup. As the follicles hit the floor in the days after losing to Chelsea, they came to resemble a pile of ashes, thus making a very appropriate metaphor for Liverpool’s season.

Not that we could have had high ambitions for the season.

While lying in my hospital bed back in early August, a fellow Liverpool fan who was given the ward booby prize of being stranded beside someone who hadn’t the energy to talk to anyone or do anything – although at least he didn’t have to worry about them being flatulent or stealing his Fig Rolls. Anyway, said Liverpool fan was convinced that a) Fernando Torres was going to be top scorer, and b) Liverpool were going to win the League.

The worst thing about looking back over those predictions is that his belief in b) flowed from his belief in a). Had someone assured him that a) was going to come true, or close enough that if Torres had been taken the penalties it would still be a live issue going into the final day of the season, then it would have been no great leap to assume that b) was going to come true, or close enough that it would be still be a live issue going into the final day of the season. And yet, b) is not the case, and rarely looked like it.

How could this be? We’ve been told for years that Liverpool were going nowhere until they secured the famed 20 goal a season striker. Along he comes, blowing us – and, more importantly, opposition defences – away with a string of spectacular goals. He even scored on the big occasions against Porto, Arsenal and Chelsea, thus negating any suggestions that he’s only any good at filling his boots against the likes of Derby. Factor in the now famous armband he wore for Athletico, an incident that spawned a chant so good that it had Anfield hopping for the visit of Reading – Reading! – and you surely have the recipe for success.

Yet here we are, one game to go and able to write a season review. For the first time under Rafa, we have nothing to play for going into the final game of the season. Defeat to Chelsea in the European Cup semi-final was not a source of bitterness. The players fought the good fight, battling back from a position of self-inflicted adversity and went down with all guns blazing, a stark contrast to Barcelona’s spineless capitulation to Man Utd the night before. To go toe-to-toe with a stronger team three times and come out ahead twice is a decent return, so there was no disgrace. What the result left was . . . nothing. A case of going from sixty to nought in the length of time it took for the referee to blow the final whistle at Stamford Bridge.

Economists can see trends of boom and bust in the post-Second World War developed world, and it is the Holy Grail of the dismal science to be able to discern a pattern from these cycles, the so-called Kondratieff cycle. Liverpool have had several booms and several busts under Rafael Benitez. The team can go eleven wins on the bounce, conceding one goal along the way, yet can go five league games without a win like they did at one point this season and looking nothing like a team going to win any more games outside of against nobodies in the FA Cup. A long term trend may be emerging, and it’s not a pretty one. Fifth, third, third, fourth. This season, depending on results at the weekend, we are 8-14 points ahead of fifth place but 7-13 points adrift of Arsenal.

Ah, Arsenal. Back in August when in my sick bed, about the only thing that could have stirred me from my torpor would have been the idea that Arsenal could finish ahead of us. Even if Torres only proved to be a ten goal a season striker, i.e. a failure, that would still represent an improvement on what we had before. There was no way Arsenal, having sunk all their cash into their stadium, were going to be able to compete with a team able to land the likes of Torres and Babel. If you stand still in football you end up going backwards, and Arsenal had lost Henry so there was no chance they could even stand still. Arsene Wenger’s season plan came apart at the end as injuries and tiredness took their toll – twenty minutes into their match against the Reds at Anfield in the European Cup as they tore us apart, I consoled myself with the thought that there was no way they could sustain that level of intensity for ninety minutes; for once, I was right – but they are a good 15-20 points up on their performance last season. When you look at the amounts they spent relative to the likes of Portsmouth, Man City, West Ham and even Everton, this was miraculous. It also put Liverpool’s efforts into context.
Looking back through that rant, it’s been a bleak season. It hasn’t been all bad though. We’ve had to some wonderful wins to set off against the dismal defeats. Winning the European Cup in 2005 means that a run through Europe doesn’t have the Sisyphean trauma that it did for, say, Valencia back at the start of the decade whose each step closer to the ultimate prize was marked by a sense of hysteria at the possibility of failure. For us, those wins over Besiktas, Porto, Marseilles and Inter could be enjoyed on their own merits because you could be confident at the time that they were going to be part of something special. The fact that it didn’t work out that way doesn’t invalidate the contemporaneous joy. Then there was Arsenal.

Ah, Arsenal. A Spurs fan who posts on another Internet forum went to the match at Anfield. This particular character may hate Arsenal, much as Evertonians hate Liverpool, but he has a peculiar hatred of Liverpool too, making a comment several years ago that Liverpool fans killed their own at Hillsborough, looted the bodies, urinated on policemen etc. When many irate people pointed out the error of his ways, he simply retreated behind the notion that the Taylor report was a cover-up, making it the first report in the history of the universe to take the side of the masses over the classes. This character then was not predisposed to say nice things about Liverpool, which gives his comments that the atmosphere that night at Anfield was “arguably the most fanatical I have ever experienced” the unmistakeable ring of truth. Watching it on the telly and reading about it afterwards, the best that could be said is that it made the top ten of Great European Nights at Anfield, at best. The atmosphere at the start wasn’t amazing, especially when Arsenal were running rings around the Reds. That would still make it the best atmosphere anywhere in football since, well, last season’s semi-final against Chelsea. Unusually, it was the team that ignited the crowd, Hyypia’s intervention completely against the run of play and Torres’ goal of preposterous precociousness leaving everyone gasping. And it was just one of those games that delight even the most hardened cynic about football, whether they be tired of the modern game or not like football in the first place. Being able to enjoy the last couple of minutes was a rare pleasure as well, one for which my heart was profoundly grateful.

The league wasn’t all bad either. The team finished the season superbly, putting together a great run of form just when everything looked like it was going completely to pot after the astonishing implosion against Barnsley, a game they not only lost but deserved to lose. We may have dropped a place in the league but that can be traded off against an 11/12/14 point improvement on last season, which suggest there might be something to build on next season (whether Rafa can do it or will even be allowed do it, we’ll get back to). They broke even against Chelsea and Arsenal, and might have done better but for the worst refereeing decision of the season – and yes, we got a few dodgy decisions ourselves, but all of them could be justified by the ref seeing it wrong in the heat of the moment; how Rob Styles saw that as a penalty at the time is anyone’s guess. While our performances against Man Utd continue to frustrate, these can be partly offset by wins home and away in the derbies, the former enjoyable for as wimpy a performance as the Toffees have managed in living memory and the latter for just about everything going our way and inducing collective apoplexy in the streets of Kirkby. Don’t you just love it? Finally on the credit side of the ledger, there is Torres. There are not enough bytes in cyberspace to emphasis how superlative he has been, so here is one I prepared earlier.

Looked at in isolation, it’s been a mixed season. Except no team is an island, and it’s impossible to look at Liverpool’s season without reference to the shenanigans at board level. Before the Anfield match against Everton, Mark O’Brien of WSAG wrote the ifithadinabinfor article that habitually accompanies these events – if that sounds a bit scornful, let us genuflect at the altar of the best metaphor of the year, where Mr O’Brien refers to “the Kopite capacity to deify a dog turd if its been trampled through the bootroom”. It’s funny because it’s true. He refers to the boardroom battles at Anfield and how they had reduced LFC to a pitiable laughing stock. At the time, I felt well able to snort derisively at such a comment. Sure, we had our problems, and the spectacle of Anfield engaging in the kind of Sack The Board stuff once the reserve of joke clubs was more than a little irritating. But it was rather rich for the fan of a club who once had Agent Johnson as their owner and now had Luvvie Kenwright bringing all the glamour of Blood Brothers at the Playhouse Theatre to the Pit to be scoffing at our boardroom foibles. Then Tom Hicks demanded that Rick Parry resign and any illusion that Liverpool’s troubles were akin to teething problems came apart like follicles under an electric clippers. The absurdity of the owner publicly demanding an employee resign was a humiliation too far. Who knows what indignities will be visited on our grand old club before the folly of the Gillett / Hicks junta is brought to an end. For end it must, something even they would acknowledge. But the form of the post-American club and the path to take to get there is a complete unknown. Any scenario can be entertained ranging from the al Maktoum’s buying Mutt and Jeff out and lavishing riches upon us beyond the dreams of avarice to Gillett and Hicks plundering the club and leaving a Wimbledon-like shell behind, and all points in between.

It is the uncertainty that hurts. Winning the European Cup would have given us something to hold on to, so when the curtain came down on the European run and with it the season, all we had left to look forward to was a club bobbing around on the tide of history like a piece of cork. We’ll wash up on some shore eventually. But where we’ll go in the meantime . . .