WE ALL have our little patterns in life.

Me? I make a slice of toast. I butter it and spread on some strawberry jam. Before I set it on the plate, I take a bite out of the corner. I don’t even know I’m doing it.

ToastThat’s one of my little patterns. I suspect it’s a result of having to mark my breakfast table territory as a nipper – take a bite, they’ll know it’s ‘taken’, you know? But even when I’m in the kitchen on my own, I still do it. It’s a little mental sub-routine that runs subconsciously without my even thinking about it.

But now I’m married, and naturally the old lady hates it. I’ll make us toast and next thing I’ve taken a chunk out of hers. She’s seldom happy when that happens. But until recently, unless I was laden with lurgy, she’d sigh and munch what remained of it. But no more – she’s taken a stand.

So being a modern broad-minded fella, I’m trying to change this wee habit for the greater good. To jolt myself out of it (and this doesn’t always work mind) I have to say to myself before it pops out of the toaster “right, she’s gonna go mental if I get this wrong – don’t take a bite this time – just leave it”. And then I sometimes leave it. But sometimes the sub-routine still kicks in, and hey presto, two bits of toast, sat on our plates, corners missing.

And she goes appropriately mental. She’s not a morning person.

They’re stubborn you see, these little patterns.

But maybe if she keeps it up, I’ll:

  1. think twice about taking those bites.
  2. develop the kind of aversion that kicks in, remembers the pain of the resulting ballache, and prevents me taking those bites
  3. eventually just deliver each slice as God intended as a matter of routine.

Voila. Bon appetit.

It’s just the same with football clubs. (Bear with me here.) In fact, it’s the same whatever the size of the organism, or the organisation, or the governing body, or whatever it is. We have our little routines we go through without really thinking about them. There’s a trigger, and off it goes – we all sleepwalk through them step by step. We make assumptions on behalf of our counterparties in life, and even when other people’s assumptions take a chunk out of our collective toast, we harumph a little and we put up with it. That’s life – we just get on with it.

But sometimes we don’t. We make like my old lady and we deliver some ballache to the biters in return. But first we have to muster the right level of resentment and guts – that takes time.

So Rafa Benitez sees his instructions ignored on the touchline and waves his hands as the ball hits the back of the net to say ‘ah whatever, you know better than me’, and hey presto, the quirky and delicious little organism that is the British football establishment takes a chunk out of Liverpool Football Club’s toast in the process. The club are outraged. There’s token defiance. But ultimately they sigh and eat what remains.

Alex Ferguson alleges that Fernando Torres is a diving cheat. Hey presto, the establishment takes another chunk out of another slice of Liverpool Football Club’s toast. Only this time, Liverpool’s manager, himself part and parcel of said establishment, picks up the slice and licks off the jam in the process, singularly failing to stand up for his player, and throwing in the fear that Manchester United might decide to buy him in the next transfer window. A few crumbs remain on the plate, and the club and all its constituent parts – the players and fans anyway, begin to experience acute pie rage. We want our toast, and we want it real bad.

Hodgson out – he’s toast. The fanbase devour him with a little nutella – it’s a special occasion after all.

Steven Gerrard can’t play for England cos he’s not fit to play. Capello says that if Liverpool want their toast intact, they’ll have to send Gerrard down to the team hotel to collect it. But the club’s made a New Year’s Resolution this year. Kenny’s at the helm and there are new owners talking the talk, and ostensibly walking the walk, so it’s not gonna let its loved ones put up with half-assed toast anymore. The club quietly reminds the establishment that it’s not happy. The establishment harumphs a bit.

Wayne Rooney violently kicks a Johnny Foreigner in open play. UEFA, enacting their own little pattern, applies the textbook ban. The FA has another pattern that kicks in on these occasions. The Alan Shearer kicks to the face occasions. The FA appeals. They want their toast, jam, and whipped cream on top, served on a silver platter. And hey presto, they get it.

But Liverpool’s made a Resolution, so Kenny pipes up and reminds them all: so how is it any different for you? From now on, we’re having the exact same, and if we don’t get it, you’re gonna be hearing from us.

And so we arrive where we are now.

We expected our toast and jam intact, but the FA has served up the proverbial shit sandwich. That’s not what we ordered. And we tried to tell them what would happen if they did that. Not in so many words, mind, but we gave them ample warning.

It matters not a jot how this ends up legally – the cogs and gears of due process will kick in – each with their own agendas and little unconscious patterns – and eventually we’ll arrive at a result. But they’ll all know at the end of this that Liverpool FC won’t sit back and accept being fucked with any more.

There’s value in that that goes far beyond the details of the case in question. Ferguson, over two or more decades, has made it clear that when breakfast time comes, he wants ‘the usual’. The FA scampers up the stairs to his bedroom, with his paper neatly folded and some nicely heated slippers to slip his toastie little toes into. It’s what he’s come to expect after all. Imagine the ballache if they failed to deliver! It’s not even worth thinking about, etc.

Give it time and get behind the club. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be getting brekky in bed. But here’s hoping it’s not matron from the FA – it’ll be Salma Hayek after we’ve binned the old dears off.

Bon appetit!

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