THE gauntlet. I love the word “gauntlet”.

West Ham United felt like a gauntlet. Won six from the last nine. Big Caz. Big Kev. Big Mohamed. Big. Bigness. All the bigness. You want to run the gauntlet of bigness? You’ll need balls to do it. Have you got them?

Liverpool have. But they have more than that.

My third favourite thing in football is watching lads solve problems on the pitch. From about 25 Liverpool began to solve the problem of West Ham. It was a big problem and it was solved and it eventually resulted in the Liverpool penalty. They were coming closer and closer.

Football - FA Premier League - West Ham United FC v Liverpool FC

It was a crazed decision to overrule the linesman. Absolutely crazed. This though is the West Ham lottery. It is what they do. They want the game to take place in the zone where infringements are constant. Some are given for them. Some are given against them. Some aren’t given at all. This is a tactic and it is a valid one whether we like it or not. Morality doesn’t come in to it.

For 45 minutes West Ham played as well as they could at their tactics and Liverpool struggled at times and then began to solve what they were up against.

My second favourite thing in football is managers solving the problem. The Lucas change proved inspired. It wasn’t a diamond. It was a parallelogram. It promoted patience and brought about strength. It was sense on toast but sense twisted. Bellends like me would have sat Leiva in next to Ste Gerrard. Bellends like me are wrong.

All the pre match talk of second balls. Liverpool have fifth balls. Sixth balls. Balls coming out of their ears. Balls and brains.

That is as hard as any game will be for these Reds from here on in. It will not get tougher than this. West Ham were brilliant at being West Ham.

The second. What a pass from Lucas Leiva. What bravery from Jon Flanagan. What balls and technique and assurance from the captain. He’s gorgeous. Grown into himself in every way. I’ve never admired him as much. Wherever he is I am.

In this run Skrtel has been magnificent. He showed as much today. This is what winning your battles looks like, especially when up against the unplayable Caz.

Both Liverpool’s front two worked hard. Neither played well despite Suarez’s two glorious efforts.

Balls run gauntlets. Brains then beat gauntlets.

What is a football season if it isn’t a gauntlet. You start with zero. You have to work past 38 barriers. Some will batter you and bruise you. You overcome. Some will beat you. You overcome. Some will throw the ball into the air and you overcome.

Football - FA Premier League - West Ham United FC v Liverpool FC

I’ve become boring. Have we? Have you? I say the same things. To you. To Craig Rimmer. To people I meet. To myself. To you –

– This team has been hewn in Luis Suarez’s image. It hunts.
– This team is brilliantly coached by Brendan Rodgers. They improve every few games. They get better at football.
– This team is led by Steven Gerrard. Shepherded by Steven Gerrard. Fostered by Steven Gerrard.

Boring.

To myself upon opening a door –

– This league won’t win itself lad.

To myself upon cutting meat –

– Looks championship material that.

To myself in the mirror when having a shave –

– Just got this league to win. We’ll have a look after that.

Boring. Boring, boring, boring.

But we were never being boring. We had too much time to fill for ourselves. We aren’t being boring. The Reds, every week, they make amends.

My first favourite thing in football is Liverpool winning.

And the gauntlet. You want to throw the gauntlet down to someone?

Anfield. Sunday. Forty thousand people screaming at God. That’s a gauntlet.

Five to go.

The Mighty Boys In Red.

PICS: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda

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