By Karl Coppack
YOU can’t not enjoy a last minute equaliser. They’re glorious things and are great in either category – the deserved and the ‘how did we get away with that.’ Sunday’s helping was nice (thanks for doing your bit, Nando) and it arrived to give us a brief fillip at the end of a pretty miserable month for Liverpool. We haven’t kicked on since our good spell. A dig-in victory over Spurs followed by a return of three points from twelve has led to a loss of both momentum and a top six finish.
Add to this the latest Suarez pantomime and the ridiculous polar opposite opinions ranging from vilification to over-protection, from deportation to ‘what actually constitutes a bite’ and the result, once again, becomes secondary. We know the game here. Go into work the next day and ask someone who the goal scorers were and there’ll be a brief ‘um’ and a chewing of a finger before answering. Ask for a view on Luis Suarez and information is much readily available. It finished 2-2 by the way.
Another leviathan sized dump lands in our laps again and statements are released, online apologies issued and the moralising takes full swing in any direction. Ian Ayre cancels his trip to Australia (Oz Harley Expo 2013), tells everyone that he’s cancelled it and tries to clear up another mess.
Meanwhile, with the waves of bile riding high in the nation’s stomach and questions asked of politicians and amusing Hannibal Lecter jpegs, Man United get on with the quiet business of securing their twentieth title. Not just won the title, of course but to do it possibly with a points record. They’ve won it at a canter and with, many believe, a pretty average side.
Jesus, they’ve won a lot of Leagues with average teams. I wish we had a few of those 85+ points sides. Hold on. I know an average side.
This isn’t going to be a revelation of a supposed United admiration or even grudging respect, my point is the opposite. For, conversely, the club should be focused on United by not being arsed about them and all that comes with their lionisation. Hear me out.
There are many reasons that United have been so successful over the last years, the obvious ones are manager longevity and a structure which is only rarely altered to ensure that the worst possible season tends to be a runners up spot. They do make bad buys but they’re hidden well. They sell at the right time too, mostly to Sunderland, to ensure that their squad is always hungry and hitting their peak at the same time. They’re well run, enjoy large crowds and are rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Apart from their debt which is seldom talked about in the press or by fans who are interested in winning things rather than spreadsheets.
There’s another reason too.
We let them.
For the simple case is that United’s dominance has been down to the utter mismanagement, back biting, paranoia and lack of focus of Liverpool FC. Okay, there are other reasons but as recently as 1991 we were level with them and, brief peaks aside, have allowed ourselves to fall away like Andy Gray’s career. A mate of mine reckons he can pinpoint the exact moment when we handed over the reins of English football. When Forest went down and the bigger clubs picked over the bones of the carcass they bought Keane, we bought Nigel Clough. Indeed.
That shift in power should burn away at the club every day, every hour and I’ve no doubt that it does to some extent but what are we actually doing about it? How do we go about knocking them off their fucking perch? Surely that’s a weekly discussion in the corridors of Anfield.
Excuses are easier to find than solutions. United get preferential treatments from refs, United have the FA in their back pocket, United tap players up and get away with it because the powers-that-be never question them. Of course they do. That’s what power’s for isn’t it? This is no longer a Corinthian game. When they need to be they are underhand, they refuse to speak to the media when their players let them down or are outraged at a media slight. They ban reporters from the grounds if they think that their words are not in the interest of the club. Ferguson runs the club as a despot. All nay-saying crushed until everyone’s on message. The result?
They win things.
They won the League this year because, following the humiliation of last season, they never believed for one second that they couldn’t take it back.
And what do we do? Nothing. We swipe away at the destructive bees of transfer deadline fuck ups, embarrassing Cup exits, give away leads, play ten year olds, sack a Director of Communications for fighting with a mythical character and don’t get a win on the board till late September.
Now, I’m not advocating the use of United as a blueprint for success. I’m just pointing out that they have a focus that we don’t. The bastards.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no love for Man United and never will do. I find them and their fans unusually reprehensible in this most odious decade of the game. Actually, scratch that. I just don’t understand their fans. How you can watch your team win a record League title and then barely mention them in their songs? Guess who got central billing. I’m not criticizing that, I just find it odd. How can Andy Carroll be a ‘Scouse bastard’ while he was standing next to Wayne Rooney? If Ferguson is the greatest manager in their history, and he is, why don’t they sing about him? Logic can go and take a powder.
‘Ah, but they’re obsessed with us’ comes the obvious answer and of course they are. We represent their one true, non-City enemy and they’re doing well and want to shove it in our faces. Good. That’s how it should be and we make damn sure we give it back when we’re given the opportunity so this isn’t a one way street. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of ‘Are you watching Manchester?’ from the Ataturk. That’s to be expected but we told the world about what we’d won, who the manager was etc. More importantly, we don’t really sing anti-United songs to Norwich or Reading.
The obsession criticism is on shaky ground at times. There were a plethora of tweets about United but surely us pointing this out is just as bad. The main gist being that I’ve tuned in, heard what they were singing and am telling the world that they’re pathetic. Why turn up to that show at all?
I get that hating Liverpool comes free with any United support and vice versa but that obsession goes both ways and let’s not pretend otherwise. True, we sing about our team while they sing about seemingly everyone else’s (I thought they were singing ‘You’re not champions any more’ to Villa last night before I realised that they meant City. Some grudge that would have been) but that’s about it.
The football is a different matter altogether and I’m tired of the ‘yeah, but’ culture of fora and Twitter when we’ve played poorly or United do well. They said this, we said that. We’re better than them because. Jesus, wake up! We’re fucking seventh in the League! Seventh! Can we not address that first please? Man United, Chelsea, Torres, Gordon Taylor, Ollie Holt, Jeff Powell, the F.A. and all the other malodorous shitehawks who are the willing targets of our barbs did not put Liverpool in seventh place. Liverpool did. The swarming ephemera surrounding Luis Suarez does not stop Daniel Agger from marking his man at corners. United fans singing ‘always the victim’ to an empty ground does not stop the manager thinking that a one armed Joe Allen can stop Ricky Lambert on his own. It’s not about any of that. It’s about Liverpool fucking up. It’s about a shift of focus from the targets in May to putting out whatever fires we’ve created in our own backyard or the sheer complacency of a mini good run.
We’re great at spiralling. From Hicks and Gillett, to Rafa’s dismissal to Hodgson to Kenny’s millions to Kenny going to the worst start in decades to Suarez to Suarez we seem to love a slump. Is there any one man who is going to put their foot on the ball and think ‘Hang on, why don’t we start doing things better?’ One of my favourite goals is Steven Gerrard’s goal against Bolton in New Year’s Day 2002. We were looking to go top and we’re making heavy weather of getting through their defence. Gerrard stood on the edge of the box looking for runners and, and you can see it in his face, thought ‘Fuck this’ and ran through the lot of them to put us one up. Who at the club is looking up and seeing that the usual every day strategy of how to get back to the top isn’t working? Who is going to stand up and say that this self-imposed Suarez shit is down to our own doing? Who is going to think that spending £150m and still having a wafer thin squad is a ridiculous position to be in? Who’s going to notice that we’re seventh and that this isn’t really progress?
Well, there’s another debate, another fight, another distraction. Pro Brendanites versus those who think John Henry is Satan’s bitch for sacking Kenny (hello). Everything comes with an agenda and by Christ I’ve got mine but once more we lose focus of the one thing that unites us – we all want Liverpool to do well. We may have different versions of what doing well actually is but we all want better than this. Personally, I never want to see a joyous lap of honour and a mosaic for fourth place. The thought of Ian Ayre gleefully throwing his cufflinks into the crowd makes me want to keck but the bottom line should never ever fade. We want to be where United are now. We want to succeed.
And that takes energy, from us as much as the players. If we leave the ground defeated I want our fans to be hoarse and our opposition to crawl off the pitch by their teeth through the sheer amount of work they’ve undergone to beat Liverpool. What I don’t want is to see the players looking at their feet by way of an apology and anodyne excuses from them and the manager that will sound empty the second it reaches the air.
So let’s forget this Suarez stuff. He’s guilty and he’s going to either serve a deserved ban or an inflated one to keep Patrick Barclay and his ilk happy. Fine. Get on with it. Fuck them. Who wants to be liked by those people? Let’s get past it and tell Sturridge that he’s leading the line from now on and he’s got some boots to fill so get working. Does haranguing and harping stop United winning the title next season? It does not. Does it pull focus from the whole raison d’être of the club? Yes. Liverpool first, dramas second.
How about becoming more obsessed about where we’re going rather than being outraged about Patrice Evra holding a toy or whatever it was supposed to be in front of a Sky camera. There’s a bigger picture, a bigger vision and it’s not going to be realised while we’re concerned that some clubs, journalists and governing bodies don’t like us. Fuck them all. They’re getting in the way so let’s do that Andy Dufrense walk through shit and come out with something worthwhile. Let’s have a proper Year Zero rather than convincing ourselves that our current strategy is working. It really isn’t. As annoying as the Suarez incident is, it isn’t the biggest shame of the weekend and that should be recognized by everyone connected to the club. Time to move on and let the other shit land where it may.