By Sachin Nakrani
CLOSE your eyes and what do you see? For a little over two decades now I have clung to an image bathed in golden sunlight, of a man in red, the Liverpool captain, holding aloft the championship trophy while all around him a crowd roared and sung in joy. Facing the Kop, with a winner’s medal sparkling around his neck, he would mouth: “we’re back!” before kissing and clutching the silverware held in his hands. As the years roll on, however, and the effects of turmoil take their toll, that image has begun to fade and now, grizzled by age and disappointment, I can barely see it at all. It’s like Marty McFly’s photograph in Back To The Future, fading slowly and surely into complete nonexistence.
It is a question all Liverpool supporters must now comprehend; will we ever see our team climb back to the summit of English football? And if we do, how long will it take? Years? Decades? Generations? All we can say for certain is that No19 isn’t going to be achieved any time soon. The reality is harsh but one we must embrace if Brendan Rodgers is to have any chance of succeeding at Anfield. His appointment as the club’s latest manager, the 10th to take on the mantle since Bill Shankly’s arrival from Huddersfield in 1959, has been met with a fair few furrowed eyebrows and sighs of frustration from Kopites in recent days. ‘He is not a big enough name,’ some decry, ‘bring back Rafa!’ comes another call. The anguish is understandable but in no way helpful.
First, the call for a ‘bigger name’. Without Champions League football and even a hint of genuine title credentials, Liverpool simply do not appeal to Europe’s top guns. The claims that emerged soon after Kenny Dalglish’s sacking on 16th May that the club was interested in speaking with Pep Guardiola was, I’m convinced, a smokescreen, an attempt to appease the supporters and lead reporters tasked with keeping on top of the story down a path which did not lead to the truth. In contrast, the pursuit of Jurgen Klopp and Frank de Boer was genuine but their decisions to decline an invitation to meet with John W Henry equally made the point that Anfield is not the draw it once was.
And Rafa? In some ways he is symbolic of the decline Liverpool have experienced. It is remarkable to think that when he was appointed as Gerard Houllier’s replacement in June 2004 the Spaniard was, alongside Jose whatshisname, the most sought-after young manager in Europe having won two La Liga titles and a Uefa Cup in the space of three seasons at Valencia. That was the calibre of candidate Liverpool could draw eight years ago; now we are reduced to hiring someone whose claim to fame is steering Swansea to 11th at the end of their first season in the Premier League.
Rafa’s backers insist he remains the best candidate for the job and on credentials alone, it is hard to argue with that assertion. But having employed one former manager it would be absurd to do so again. This is Liverpool’s problem; continuously looking backwards, grabbing hold of a golden past which increasingly jars with a less glittering here and now.
But it is that which we must deal with and despite the uncertainty and sense of anti-climax, there is reason to feel optimistic. Rodgers may be raw, completely untried at the very highest level of English and European football, but he has displayed at Swansea a defined sense of vision, a belief in a style of play that liberates players and allows them to over achieve in an eye-catching manner. As long as he holds firm to those principals and does not allow the pressure of managing a club that draws as much scrutiny as Liverpool overwhelm him, than the 39-year-old could prove a long-term, possibly era-defining success. But it will take time. The squad Rodgers is inheriting is shallow in terms of high-calibre talent, especially in midfield, an area fundamental to ensuing the composed, possession-heavy style of play Rodgers deployed at the Liberty Stadium operates as it should do. He is likely to want to play with three in the centre of the pitch and may decide upon looking at his options that one, maybe two new players who are comfortable on the ball and able to play a range of passes are required.
But will there be much money for Rodgers to spend? Unlikely given Liverpool’s absence from the Champions League and the huge amounts invested last summer on players who collectively remain short of the required standard. All of which means the club is only going to slip further behind the likes of Manchester City, United and, following their still mind-boggling victory in Munich, Chelsea. The London club signed Eden Hazard for over £30m this week; a marquee addition that would not been possible had Bayern held out for two minutes longer on their own patch.
Hazard was the type of player Liverpool were once able to comfortably compete for. Now we must look on with frustration as he and others move to our rivals. All we can do is take stock and give Rodgers our backing. His first task is to re-establish an identity at a club that has been in a state of drift for three years now and, once that has been done, look to compete for major honours.
The former objective is a demand, the later an aspiration, one which may take a lifetime and many more managers to achieve. That is the reality of our situation, hard as it may be to take. But the only way forward is to embrace the future, move on from the past and accept that the picture we have, of inevitable glory on a sun-kissed May afternoon, has faded into total uncertainty.
Nice piece, just thinking of transfers.. If we are limiting ourselves to “moneyball” signings arent we limiting our progress? spurs and man city both spent big to reach the top four of us, utd, Chelsea, and Arsenal; in doing so they have now pushed us out. Wouldn’t it be more worthwhile this summer to spend big, (you can attract any player as long as you offer the wages) to try and claim our place back?
Just how long can we afford not to be in champs league, with FFP rules coming in soon this will be our last chance to spend. I agree clubs like Newcastle surprised many last season spending very little, but let’s see if they can do the same thing this coming season.
If you’re successful on the pitch, the financial rewards take care of themselves, but we have to spend the money to catch up. Utd will spend, so will city, Chelsea have already started. It will be interesting to see what Newcastle, spurs and arsenal do… Either way we have to spend more than them just to keep pace with them.
It’s going to be another interesting summer, I just hope we’re ready and our owners have balls.
Utd are the most overachieving club in history. Their squad is absolute rubbish, relying on two old men to run their midfield, they have no money, an ageing manager, & alot of gaps to fill.
Chelsea have a total rebuild to do despite clawing their way to 2 cups, Arsenal would have been close to relegation without RVP last season & can’t improve any further under a mentally weak Wenger & Spurs selfdestructed in the second half of the season also. That just leave the Citeh who are on a different planet & unless UEFA clip their wings, will remain on that different planet for some years to come.
All we had to do differently last year was win the games that we dominated & should have won. The gap is nowhere near as wide as some pundits seem to think & this is probably a great position for Rodgers to find himself in. With two or three astute buys I see no reason that we should’nt be able to compete with any of the above clubs barring Citeh.
Go on stick €20 on them to win the title.
Correct — it’s all about being smart. Arsenal, Spurs, and Newcastle are all above us in the table because they were more thoughtful, not because they spent more money.
Certainly we have the worst midfield for years at LFC, and there should be many players we can sign that would upgrade us there who aren’t expensive.
Generally good comments but re the midfield – we have Gerrard and Lucas, two of the very best! We are not that far way – have faith : )
Not having a go Ted but Stevie is not a CM and playing him there actually weakens the team as other players regress due to his imposing persona, Stevie plays best behind the front man where he can burst forward or on the right as used by Rafa. Some LFC fans have been yearning for Stevie to be this midfield maestro and it is a myth propagated by the likes of Andy Gray and other media sources. I’m not detracting from the greatness of Stevie but he is what he is, a great attacking midfield player but he lacks the discipline and intelligence for the central midfield role
Watch out mate, criticizing manure!!!! you’ll have Crip on calling for your head in no time… totally agree with you about the gap to the top 4, I doubt we can dominate games and not win again, or hit the post 30+ times… can we?
I don’t know how you can call this a ‘nice piece’. How about saying something positive for a f******* change. The constant whining about FSG and the team are beyond a joke.
Missing out on Hazard? where did that come from? i don’t recall seeing us having a bid turned down. Playing well in France is one thing (after all a guy who could not get into our squad is being lauded there at the moment).
Do we need to improve our finishing? Yes. Are things as bad as this site and a lot of fans are making out? No.
I don’t like it when our so-called supporters revel in our misfortune and decline. They dress it as realism but they just can’t resist a poke.
Maybe we need a few more years of mediocrity just to shake a few more of these sods out…
That is all.
Absolutely, they love wallowing in the stuff.
Am I the only person that thinks that a ‘Moneyball’ signing is basically another way of saying ‘a good bit of business’…?
I believe Rodgers will have an enormously positive effect on how we play and that he will get a great deal more out of the squad that we have, incl Aquilani and Cole if we keep them.
Just a thought on that “comfortable on the ball midfielder that can play a range of passes”, have we not got one already in Alberto Aquilani?? I know opinion is divided on him, but I think he’s boss. I believe he would suit Rodgers style of play perfectly, and we could save a bit of cash in the process (and we all know how much the owners love saving cash!). Can’t wait to see what Brendan has in store for us!
Yes Michael but he doesn’t want to play for us period. He doesn’t want to play in England & that’s the problem. When you think of the abuse some of last years signings have got, well at least they want to play for the club, I can’t believe how this dude has got off so softly with some of the fans. He should be asked to buy out his contract & allow him to be a free agent. This is where Rafa lost it, those last few signings cost the club dearly in both transfer fees & salaries. This guy & Joanavic, what a waste of money.
Is this the style of football we can look to expect?
“tika taka football”
Could be very exciting times ahead….
I think years decades and generations is a little bit rich, considering that when we had shite owners and Rafa had next to no money, we still finished second, and got to two Champion’s League finals under his stewardship. And he didn’t become a bad manager overnight. That Marty McFly picture that you referred to would be white now if not for Rafa. I just cannot for the life of me understand why the hell FSG didn’t talk to him, and I’m not gonna go on an anti-Rodgers rant, I welcome the guy and he has certainly started a whole lot better than Hodgson did.
No, I am starting to worry now tbh. Twitter reports that there is evidence that the owners have tried to sell the club make me uneasy. The relatively small price that FSG paid for the club means that with a minimal amount of effort, they could conceivably make a buck or two by selling. And the old chestnut of the stadium (and in case no-one remembers it’s the stadium that got us into this mess in the first place, because Moores sold the club because he couldn’t afford to build a new one) not being built is starting to look to me now like classic stalling tactics. And the way the DoF was talked up, the new system we were going to have, dropped completely when Rodgers insisted he wouldn’t wear it.
Because there *is* a reason why FSG wouldn’t want Rafa, and that is that maybe he would start asking the questions that the fans would want asked at press conferences. Awkward questions like, where is the money if you want to bring the club up to CL standard? Questions he asked of H&G privately, and then publicly when he was fobbed off.
Hodgson was brought in by H&G because they were fed up with Rafa’s awkward questions…I just hope BR isn’t being brought in because Kenny was about to start asking questions too.
mate, to save yourself any stress in future, instead of calling it ‘twitter reports’
refer to it as ‘utterbollox reports’ you will be less stressed and more accurate.
I agree Ferdia, FSG have never had any intention of building a new stadium. I did not like the sacking of Kenny because it is obvious there was no great plan and if FSG could sell I think they would
Can we not look at the glass as half full? Looking back on the season, until the Suarez debacle, all started by a nervous old pensioner and a once decent player in serious decline, we looked a more than competitive team. Liverpool dominated the Utd match at Anfield, swept aside Newcastle, had Spurs Parker the bus, and lost to Arsenal due to defensive errors that can be attributed to a loss of form for Pepe that I am sure he is aware of and is well capable of rectifying. We have a commanding and potentially great defense. The likes of Coates, Kelly, Flanagan, Wilson, ready to join a much improved Agger, Johnson and Skirtyl, the return of Lucas, a couple of gifted, very young midfielders in Henderson and Shelvey, Suarez, and a centre forward who after the treatment received in his home town has since realised who his friends are. Add to the mix Buck Rodgers, I defy any fan to not acknowledge the fact that this man is dedicated to the cause. I know, actions speak louder than words, I wanted Kenny to be given more time, which is why I hope the players he put so much faith in repay that faith by waking up to the opportunity they have been afforded. I am excited but will be patient, can’t wait to watch them at Fenway!
I think this is a very realistic piece and I find it embarrassing reading some of the comments.
Liverpool are not owned by Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour and neither would I want them to be. I’m sure it’s great to have someone walk into town throwing £500m around on whoever you want but it certainly doesn’t sit well on the soul. FSG are a business not a cash cow and spending has to reflect that. Wages have to reflect that. Liverpool are not a Champions League side at the minute. Commercially, the club have been sleeping for 20 years. Where do people expect this money to come from? Aside from that there’s the FFP to consider. With a lot of comments I read from Liverpool fans I find one aspect missing from their argument – being realistic.
This brings me to my second point. I’m shocked some of you have the audacity to say you don’t like it when ‘so-called supporters revel in our misfortune and decline. They dress it as realism but they just can’t resist a poke’. This is laughable. Are you really so blinkered that you can’t see LFC has under achieved in the last 3 league campaigns and some would say the last 23. Some of us want LFC to be ‘great’ again and others are devising a plan to attempt that. Others though, think we are still a ‘great’ and we should be spending our time chasing Guardiola or scouting Messi.
Personally, I think this week has been one of the most productive and progressive ones, off the field, in decades. Finally, we seem to have torn down the wall of mental blocks that were stopping us from developing to meet the needs of the future. We’ve appointed an exciting up and coming manager rather than an old legend who ‘knows the club’. We’re not going around telling our manc and bluenose mates that ‘this year’ we’re confident of challenging for the title. Most seem to think 5th would be an achievement. Maybe, such a shift in thinking can help bring some atmosphere to Anfield.
So the way I see it is Liverpool are one of Europe’s biggest clubs but are not performing like one. In fairness to FSG, they want to turn that around but rather than throwing £100m at it, which is not sustainable, they’re using a 2 pronged attack. Success off the field, commercially, and success on the field which will eventually lead to higher revenue and therefore better players bought. At the minute we’re clearly not able to do that.
My feeling is that LFC has been stripped of it’s ego and so rather than continuing year after year believing we’re still ‘up there’ and then laughing off the ridicule at the end of the season, with ‘next year mate’, we’re going back to grass roots and building the correct way with youth, good scouting and a footballing ethos whilst FSG fiercely fight our corner commercially and globally.
FSG’s vision may not succeed. Or maybe it will. One things for sure though. We weren’t going to succeed the way we’ve been going. At last we’re now looking to the future, not the past.