By David Segar
IF they didn’t know then, they know now. Brendan Rodgers’ mighty band of crazy bastards are not only in the Premier League title race, they’re leading it.
You want to know how barmy football is? Why all the predicting and forecasting in the world is pointless? Go back to the Southampton game at Anfield on 21st September. The final whistle goes, but Arnold Schwarzenegger has arrived from the future to tell you that Liverpool will be top in April and that Jon Flanagan will be a pivotal member of the first XI, to the point where Cafu is begging for tickets so he can come and watch the lad play. You’d tell Arnie to put his pants back on and stop talking soft.
So it was incredibly appropriate that while dismantling Tottenham for the second time this season, the Reds had emblazoned across their shirts the words ‘Seeing is Believing’. This was of course to provide publicity for the charity collaboration between Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, but it could not have been more fitting for this team at this time.
As I’m sure has been mentioned once or twice, it has been 24 years since Liverpool were the Champions of England. Every season since then, we as Reds fans have expected to challenge again. It didn’t seem to matter how we’d done the season before, who was in our squad or who was at the helm, we were Liverpool and we were going to be in the title race from the get go. Same old story, we’d fall away, sometimes before Christmas, but no matter, next season would be our year.
That is what happens when you have a fan base used to winning. Logic goes out of the window and you are stuck with this inherent belief that your team should still be the best around, if only they’d get their act together and play to their full potential. So many third places, so many fourth places, the odd second place, quickly followed by a realization that it was another false dawn. That has been Liverpool in the Premier League era. All expectation and little end result.
Is it merely coincidence that going into this season there were three, maybe four Liverpool fans who said we could win the league? It might just be time to let them out of their butterfly nets. This was one of the first years since 1990 where we went into the season with no real expectation of even mounting a challenge, let alone winning it. Most of us said we’d settle for fourth. Offer me fourth now and I’ll throw hot coffee on you.
Perhaps it was the lack of pressure to challenge for the title that has enabled us to do so. Not to give previous managers and teams the excuse of too much pressure from the fans, but you look at not only the effectiveness of this Liverpool side, but the freedom with which they play, and they look like a team that is executing a game-plan, and doing it without a care in the world.
The win against Spurs was more than three points, more than adding another four to our goal difference. After somewhat struggling to put Sunderland away on Wednesday, the fact that we came out and did that to Tottenham told everyone who needed telling that this team can win the league. The pressing, the chasing, the passing, the moving, the telepathic linking of play, and the overall relaxed manner in which they dismantled a team who will finish top seven this season, it took all the anxiety and doubts anyone will have had from last Wednesday and did a big wee all over them.
This season has been like that scene from A Clockwork Orange where Malcolm McDowell is being forced to watch those crazy images to warp his mind and make him go insane. The Reds have been subjecting us to the same. We’ve all lost our minds, but in the most wonderful way.
The most important thing now is to maintain that attitude, to keep the blinkers on. Get Dr Steve Peters in there and get him to have a word with everyone in the squad, hypnotize them if necessary. Think of little fluffy clouds, go to your happy place, and smash West Ham to smithereens.
At the start of the season you always look at the first six games in isolation. I’ve no idea why that appears to be the agreed number by which you can judge how your season is going to pan out, but there we are. However, taking games in isolation is what we’ve done all season long. One game at a time is the mantra; it’s a solid one, and you saw it within those first six.
Having to negotiate them without Luis Suarez, we relied on the firepower of Daniel Sturridge and a solid defence. Remember that? We didn’t concede a goal until our fourth game. Well now we have a six game run again, but this time we do have Suarez.
What happened to the team that won three in a row 1-0? The very idea of winning anything 1-0 now is laughable. 1-0? Gerroff! That’s for wimps. 5-3, 6-3, that’s what you want to be doing. That’s how you win a league.
The way we are playing at the moment I’m half expecting Ray Winstone’s floating head to pop up at half-time and just say “You know what? I ain’t got a Scooby. Don’t bet in play now. Wait until some normal guys play.”
We can’t get ahead of ourselves, we can’t tempt fate, we can’t do as I did last night and listen to ‘We are the Champions’ imagining it blaring out at Anfield on May 11th, but we can enjoy looking at the Premier League table.
The world is sitting up and taking notice, and the inevitable question is now being asked. Do these Liverpool lads have the minerals to maintain their place at the top? I have seen absolutely nothing this season to make me think otherwise. It’s in our hands and the bookies can do one. We are the favourites.
For Liverpool Football Club right now, and for everyone watching them, Seeing really is Believing, because notorious bitey racist Luis Suarez is the best player in the league, Chelsea reject Daniel Sturridge is starring alongside him, forgotten reserve Jon Flanagan is being stalked by Cafu, big girl’s blouse Jordan Henderson is a leader of men, and Brendan Rodgers, a man once sacked by Reading, has guided Liverpool to the top of the Premier League with six games to go.
Six games from immortality. Embrace the madness.
Pics: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda