AS The Kop poured into the streets with leaden shoulders and a collective stooped gait, a lone voice roared above the hubbub.
‘Libpool, Libpool – top of the league. Libpool – top of the league.’
It was an act of defiance. It spoke of a heart awash with the Liverpool blood that pumps through us all. It spoke of ‘we’re not done yet’. The timbre had a razorwire growl. It had needle. It wanted you, provoked you to argue. It spoke of purpose and indefatigably.
I just wanted him to shut up.
I wasn’t ready for that. I had to go through my process. Constantly re-living the mistakes, ruing the missed opportunities and wishing we could start again. I wasn’t in the mood for the Libpool man though I couldn’t blame him. He did have a point.
It’s 24 hours later and it still hurts. Each step away from the ground carried an expletive heavy mutter. We have to rely on others now. We looked to Palace for a favour but that had gone by the time we made it past The Sandon. It boils down to maths and City are holding the cards. The pressure’s off now. They can have that.
In some ways it’s mad that we’re hurting at all. We’ve just had a win record of 11-0-1. One defeat in all that time and it stings like salt on a mouth ulcer. Before this season we’d lose one in three and we (sort of) accepted it. That bar has been raised considerably and it’s welcome.
But it’s more than the points. It had to be them or, more significantly, him. Chelsea and Mourinho. Thing is, I don’t see Chelsea as a rival. I think we should have a say in who we dislike and they’re newcomers to that particular party (and I’ve always had it in for Spurs). Fabricated rivalries are useless. I can’t have an enmity if I’m told to just think that way. Similarly, I’m not usually anti-Mourinho. He’s a tit but so is Alan Pardew. I can see why he’s lauded but spare me the column inches. However, yesterday cranked both he and his club a notch up the scale.
Mourinho’s been criticised for the negative tactics and the time-wasting etc but, as unpleasant as it was, sometimes you have to do that. We didn’t complain in Turin nor did we moan about Barcelona away in 2001 when we created the Houllierian blueprint of stifling football. There are times when entertainment must give way to pragmatism and them waiting for us to make a mistake and taking advantage is a viable tactic – not a nice one but good enough to give you a 0-2 every now and then. We haven’t had to play that way yet and it may be something we need to learn if we want to reach the latter stages of next year’s European Cup. I’m surprised no-one else has tried it against us.
I wanted us to hammer Chelsea, we all did, but a dull 0-0 would have left us much happier today. This is not to criticise Brendan’s tactics as we looked comfortable before the slip. We all want to see glorious free-flowing football after all but there’s a time when a point is enough. Again, I’m not sure we could play as Chelsea did but sometimes you need a new way to win and sometimes, as strange as it might seem, a draw is a win.
You can’t fault either side for their part in a 97-minute game of Attack v Defence. It was an interesting clash of styles if you didn’t have your health riding on it but come the end the good guys lost. The press ran panting to Mourinho and spoke of genius and master tactician as they always will. They love him because they think we love him. I’ll just say this. Brendan Rodgers will probably finish above them so what does that make him? Neither man is a genius, both are good at what they do but one is at least adaptable.
No, it’s not time-wasting and nine men in the penalty area. That’s what he had to do and he did it. What sticks in my craw is the deification of a man dressed in a body warmer. As Liverpool fans we love the theatre and the unbridled pomp of following the Reds but I’ve never seen a manager run to his fans and gee them up when they were winning.
Jesus Christ, they know the score. It’s up there in big letters. There’s no need to be a gilet-clad cheerleader. It wasn’t uplifting. It didn’t show the closeness between manager and fans. It was not theatrical. It was vulgar. He did it for him, not them, knowing that every news piece would lead with those pictures. Don’t get me wrong, we’re guilty of it too. The man who reads the teams out pisses me off when he gets to Suarez(zzzzzzz) so the fake razzmatazz isn’t solely a Chelsea thing but begging the cameras to follow you is crass. Point to your players, not your own inflated sense of ‘brand’, you feckless tit.
Of course their fans played up to it as it was a big moment for them but if I ever see Brendan Rodgers do that at Old Trafford he’s getting a pie down his suit.
Despite this, in some ways I don’t dislike him for that. The snipes at Pellegrino, the uncalled for criticism of Wenger and the little snort he gives when asked a question is demanded by the media. Jose, please be rude. Jose, please be rude. Jose, please be rude. Ooh, he was rude! Story, everyone! Story! Nah, not for me. If I want a cartoon villain I’ll make do with Mr Burns.
Anyway, fuck him. We must return to Liverpool and let the histrionics play out elsewhere. As the captain said, this is gone now. We can’t go back or feel sorry for ourselves. If snotting Chelsea gives us any comfort then six points gets us past them so their win is merely pyrrhic. Let’s see him run to his fans with that.
All that matters is Palace. We will have dusted ourselves down by then and I want to see Liverpool angry. Fucking angry. I want to see Palace punished for yesterday. I don’t want to see celebrations from the players after we scored. I want to see us taking the ball from their net and plonking it down on the centre spot because we’re ready for more and more and more. I think I want to see that more than Tony Hibbert’s fourth goal against City.
It wasn’t the time for sabre-rattling yesterday. It wasn’t the time for cameras, panto and cheerleading but later this week the sap will rise and we’ll eye the Palace back four with contempt. This is a club that shouldn’t be top of the League. This is a club that has scored 96 goals and are still under threat at the top of the table so these are getting it. Winning the League on goal difference is improbable, but this is an improbable club and I’d love to see us have a go.
I’m not saying that we can win the League. I’m saying we can win two games. That’s all we can do now and whether it’s enough or not it’s been a hell of a ride. What’s more it’s not over yet.
Pics: David Rawcliffe