SIX to go. The last bend navigated and we’ve straightened up for the finish. The destiny of the title in our hands. This is different; very different.
Rewind to a year ago. The 2012-13 Liverpool FC will forever be damned by black and white statistics. When people, many years from now, turn the page to that campaign, they’ll scan through it and see that not only did we finish a disappointing seventh, but that we struggled for wins against the six clubs that finished above us.
Last season the only win we picked up against those to finish higher than us was at home to Tottenham Hotspur – a game when we were outclassed for long periods.
Conversely, we were hard done by, results-wise, in other games against the top six sides, when some of the performances were far better than the way we played in that 3-2 victory at home to Spurs. And yet we came away from them without the three points we deserved.
Fast forward to this season. Liverpool have hit the rocket boosters, while Spurs have pushed the self-destruct button. We’re six games away from ensuring that in 2014-15 we won’t face one team, let alone six, that finished above us in the previous campaign.
The power of inner zen is a wonderful thing. The slight unease I felt before Sunderland was replaced before Spurs with a chilled-out feeling that what lay ahead would work out to our liking, and with some to spare. I even felt comfortable enough to promise a win to those of a more nervous disposition outside the ground before the game.
Some days you just know, while other days you just don’t know. Over the course of these last six games there will be a gut-wrenching swing back and forth to both ends of the spectrum. But don’t deny yourself the unbridled joy that is embracing the belief that we can do it. Don’t be a title-denier any longer; if you are a title-denier then you miss out on a huge amount of the fun.
Marketing genius, nothing less than marketing genius, given the aviation-based occurrences at Old Trafford 24 hours earlier, yesterday saw a local landscaping baron fly a light aircraft overhead just prior to kick off offering his wares of ‘turf and soil’ at the most competitive of prices.
Everything about the turf at Anfield looks perfect, everything in red out on the turf at Anfield looks perfect. Luis Suarez is today the best player on the face of the planet, Steven Gerrard is ten feet tall, Daniel Sturridge is a laser-guided goalscoring missile. Jon Flanagan is Paulo Maldini, Simon Mignolet is moving from near zero to superhero, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have found their cohesive mojo. Glen Johnson has reclaimed the attacking intent of old. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are the creators supreme and Jordan Henderson? Well Jordan Henderson is just plainly and simply Jordan Tremenderson. Maybe even Joe Allen might yet step forward to play the role of the Welsh Xabi after all.
Ok. Some of the above might be a bit fanciful, but it’s all about belief and convincing yourself that the mountains in our sight lines really are there to be moved. It doesn’t matter now if Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all have ‘bigger dad’s’ with bigger cheque books than we do.
What we instead have, in more ways than one, is pound for pound the best team in this title race. We don’t need a squad to match our rivals to win this thing, because right here, right now we have a better team than each and every one of our rivals. We have bigger heart, bigger desire, and bigger self confidence. We want it more. That one element of wanting it more is perhaps the singular most potent ingredient in our title-chasing recipe. You can see it in the way they walk; you can see it in the way they talk. The eyes and the smiles say it all.
Yesterday I applauded so many things my hands buzzed for two hours beyond the final whistle. I found myself applauding the most beautiful of things and the simplest of things. Yesterday everything deserved a round of applause. Near enough everything received a round of applause. I kept on doing it on the walk back to my car. Navigate a pedestrian crossing? Half jogged across the road completing a 180 degree turn as I did, applauding those road users who stopped as if I’d just been subbed in the last minute of the cup final. Definitely the most ridiculous thing I’ve done since the last time I said “ta” to a cash machine as it dispensed its money. That would have been around 11am yesterday morning then.
Six games to go in a season I never want to end. We’ve reached the closing down sale and everything must go. Part of me would love us to unearth a David Fairclough circa 1975-76 or a Ronny Rosenthal circa 1989-90 to bamboozle our last six opponents and help push us over the line, but we don’t really need one.
Those who step out on to the pitch are good enough. Step into the sunshine. Enjoy it. This is very, very different.