Your football club, it gets up in the morning, and once it’s just about regained some idea of where it is, it rolls to its feet, picks its boxer shorts out of its arse, and staggers to the bathroom mirror.
Maybe it does all this with a little Gareth Cheeseman-style affirmation in its mind. “I’m a Tiger”, says Hull FC. “No, you’re not”, says the mirror in cold harsh judgement.
Some clubs wake and stare bleakly at their reflection, seeing the brutal truth of what confronts them, warts and all. Others, not so much.
Take Real Madrid, for instance. Real Madrid flounces out of silk sheets, naked save for its platinum crucifix and single diamond studded ear, and tells the mirror “It’s all about the glory for me. I exist to dominate the footballing world. To dominate it with panache and verve.”
Unflinching, the mirror replies, “No. You exist simply as a vehicle to express how audacious and clever a sequence of powerful Spanish businessmen are every half a dozen years. Your entire business model is itself an expression of how audacious and clever one of those businessmen was and is. The fact that it prevents you from dominating the football world, let alone with panache and verve, never seems to occur to you.”
Take Arsenal. Arsenal’s bleary sleeping giant’s eyes scan the room, a room boasting all mod cons, all state of the art fixtures and fittings, the cupboards and shelves bare, mind, but the HP all but paid off, and as it shuffles to the en-suite, it triest to muster some notion of what it is and why it exists.
“I’m a strong, integrated machine. I run on rails. I absorb youth and promise and churn out… ehm… I generate profit and am financially stable enough to pay my bills and… ahem… I.. I… A special spirit exists here, a special bond… ehm… where am I?”
If you’re the mirror, what do you see? A club that exists to secure a Champions League qualification spot by the skin of its teeth each May? A club that wows the footballing world with its youth team’s salutary run in the League Cup until the winter months kick in? A club of premium priced perenneal promise, but never the actual money shot?
Real Madrid. Why are they buying Bale? Is it because they want to dominate? Is it because they want to keep up with Barca? Or as much as either of those things, is it because they’ve built themselves such a retail juggernaut that recruiting a footballer becomes a business case rather than a footballing decision? That’s a question Liverpool fans are increasingly familiar with. Some have reluctantly accepted the necessity. Others aren’t quite as convinced.
To personify your club in this way is to be as brutally honest as you can muster, isn’t it? And possibly it’s a little rich for a Liverpool fan to pen a piece like this, given, if you believe the fans of other clubs, our almost unrivalled capacity for self-delusion.
The point is, this summer brings us to a point where the hype and the substance have got to start to tally. Where the rhetoric must start to really meet the reality. We need definitive proof beyond the hints and suggestions.
The pursuit of Mkhtaryan was exciting, wasn’t it? But just how real was it? The reality is we’re a hop and a skip from the start of the season with more tall tales of miscreant Brazilians, but as yet, too few meaningful scarves being held above heads.
Why does LFC exist? Are we really in it to win trophies? Have we regained some semblance if a joined up plan, both on and off the pitch? Hints and debates abound, but where’s the definitive proof?
FSG have never been short on rhetoric, but the month to come will see fans drawing their own conclusions. 2013 has been refreshing thus far. January brought the kind of promise we’d long since forgotten existed. The months beyond it showed glimpses of the kind of football we’ve long believed is our birthright. And since the end of last season, we’ve seen a summer of promise, with exciting pursuits, a few early successes, and a few high profile near misses (or so they seemed). But the weeks to come will underline how serious the club’s owners are. They’ll send a message that’ll resound for longer than they maybe realise – that’s how it seems at least.
There are plenty of Liverpudlians who, like many of the Arsenal fans, believe we’re being led along the garden path. Whether they’re right or not should become a little clearer shortly.
Here’s hoping FSG give good face.