The moment Luis Suarez sank his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic on April 21, the fog that engulfed many Liverpool fans began the slow process of lifting – a process only grinding to a halt in light of the interview given this week stating his desire to leave and wailings against broken promises.
It is not unfair to say many Liverpool fans now have a view of Suarez that large parts of supporters from other clubs always have – special, even world-class player, but someone who will always let you down one way or another, on-or-off the pitch and leave you with a sour taste in the mouth.
The outsider’s view is fairly uncomplicated. As a footballer, not one fan wouldn’t take his energy, desire to play and his no lack of quality in many areas. But the person? Nah, no thanks.
Of course, it’s never as black and white as that. Everton fans supported Duncan Ferguson through his jail sentence, Arsenal fans saw Tony Adams through his. Both returned the support given – Adams lifting the league title and one of three legend statues outside the Emirates. All clubs have rogue galleries.
But looking outside in, it’s obvious Liverpool fans will no longer give the Uruguayan that love and support because it has already been thrown back in your faces.
The Evra incident and the consequences i.e. not shaking the hand when insisting to Kenny Dalglish he would and then biting another professional player AND NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME.
While it’s not ‘I told you so’, it’s not unfair to say you’re starting to see what many fans could see unfolding all summer and Liverpool fans steadfastly refused to – Suarez wanted to leave.
It’s not new. I still believed Wayne Rooney would wear an Umbro kit at Everton. Arsenal fans thought Nicolas Anelka would lead their attack for years to come.
But to aim the abuse cannons at journalists who have been spot on, whether you like the agendas or not, and to continue to support a player whose heart was clearly not at your club, made a usually knowledgeable fanbase look – put bluntly – very stupid. Though not all fans need be tarred with that brush, I agree.
And I honestly feel that’s a massive contributing factor to part of the Suarez problem at Anfield – the tribal, blind loyalty and creation of (false?) icons.
Look, as you know, I’m a Blue, and while I despise the ‘Bitter’ tag for certain reasons, I know we can get a bit one-eyed about a few things. Allow me to go off-piste here, but in the superb Terry Prachett Sam Vimes/Discworld book ‘Jingo’, Vimes is accused of being a suspicious bastard who only suspects his own. That sums up Evertonians best i.e. don’t have a go at our lad….that’s our job.
But this, for want of a better term, ‘human shield’ Liverpool fans put around Suarez created an air of being untouchable. You can never do that – you didn’t allow it in 2004 and 2005 with Steven Gerrard when he wanted to leave, and allowing it to happen with Suarez only made this public break so much worse.
Love your club, support the players in the shirt, but never put the player before the club, which is my honest feeling of what happened. Learn the lesson on this.
Now, helpfully, as I write, John W Henry has announced publically described the notion of selling Suarez to Arsenal as ‘ludicrous’.
Again, my outsider’s view is simple – Brendan Rodgers must be prepared to be pragmatic about the whole thing. Ostensibly (look it up), Rodgers has handled this well, with scathing criticism of his star man, and is clearly offended by the suggestion of broken promises.
It was said on Twitter about how Bill Shankly would deal with this. I don’t think that’s a fair question – football is too different now. The question is, and you won’t like it:
“How would Sir Alex Ferguson deal with this?”
Simply, he would get rid of him at the first available opportunity (Stam, Keane, van Nistelrooy, etc). But that option has gone with Liverpool’s refusal to sell. So what does Rodgers now do? Put him back in the team to help Liverpool win football matches – it’s as simple as that.
If he doesn’t, the top six will be difficult to crack, never mind the Champions League. Manchester City would never have won the league without Roberto Mancini putting Carlos Tevez back in the team. Ferguson used his best players for his and his team’s end, no-one else’s.
All fans are fickle – if he fires you to 4th place or even to challenge for the title, you’re not going to care.
But at least the blinkers will be off and you all know what he is. A very good player, who isn’t that loyal and prone to moments of mentalness.