TWICE before Selhurst Park had played a pivotal role in the outcome of a title race we’d been involved in, and on neither occasion had Crystal Palace been our opponents. 1990 a 4-0 win against Charlton Athletic had been a big step towards our 18th and to date last league title. Seven years later in 1997, a 1-2 defeat to Wimbledon extinguished the final flicker of hope on Roy Evans’, coulda, woulda, shoulda title challenge. Last night the owners of the ground finally got in on the act.
With not much more than twelve minutes remaining, and the scoreline reading Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 3, we’d posed Manchester City all the questions we had to. With not much more than three minutes remaining, and the scoreline reading Crystal Palace 3 Liverpool 3, we’d inextricably handed Manchester City the answers sheet. Key points highlighted with a fluorescent marker pen.
Bonkers, insane, ridiculous, jaw dropping, eye popping, sensory scrambling, draining, deflating, joyous, uplifting, unbelievable, yet utterly, utterly in keeping with all that has passed in the opening thirty seven league games we’ve launched ourselves into this season. Last night Selhurst Park encompassed everything that 2013/14 has represented for Liverpool Football Club. That was absolutely nuts. Forget it for now though. Put it out of your mind and revisit it sometime next week instead. Let’s go one more time. Let’s dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues.
As far as the numbers game goes, and regardless of the outcome of Manchester City’s game at home to Aston Villa tomorrow night, we will go into the final day this Sunday still in with a shout of winning the title. A totally unthinkable concept when we set sail on this crusade back in August. At this point in time we sit top of the league. Manchester City still have a job to do to tomorrow to dislodge us. We’ve had our slip against Chelsea, we’ve had our stumble against Crystal Palace. Manchester City now have to show they are sure footed enough to reach the finish line. We’ve leveraged less pressure on them than we’d have liked to, but a degree of pressure is in place all the same.
Wishful thinking it certainly is. Avoid defeat at home to an Aston Villa side that has the capability to fold like a wonky deck chair, far more often than it defies common sense with outlandish away wins, and Manchester City will return to the top of the league. While two years ago Manchester City themselves came to within seconds of doing so, no table topping side has gone into the final game of the season and contrived to blow the title since we ourselves did it against Arsenal a quarter of a century ago. This phenomenon rarely occurs, and we’ll be left with the hope that Sam Allardyce can play a starring role in bucking that particular trend. Sam. Allardyce.
The laws of footballing physics are firmly against us, logic is against us, yet so much of this season has flown in the face of logic and the laws of footballing physics, while this party, this wondrous and awe inspiring party definitely deserves to rumble on to the final day. Brendan Rodgers might well have publicly conceded the title, but privately he hasn’t. He subscribes to the notion of anything being possible. Anything is possible; last night proved that anything is possible. Time still remains in this wild ride of a football season for another example of ‘anything is possible’ to make itself seen and heard.
Anfield on Sunday should be a celebration rather than a wake. Now isn’t the time for recriminations, now isn’t the time for the autopsy on what went wrong. Any red that is sat writing the 2013/14 season obituary today should have their knuckles wrapped. All of this can wait. Let’s not indulge in ‘loser talk’. The next five days need to be embraced positively. Enjoy what remains of a season that has reinvigorated so many of us. I’m still smiling today and so should you. The sun still shines on this remarkable campaign. We’ll never encounter another one quite like it again. Next season will be very, very different in its composition. That’s not to say it won’t be a successful one, just very, very different. The uniqueness of 2013/14 will stand on its own without compare. Don’t waste your last few days in its company with your mentality flag flying at half-mast. Yes, we now stand at a juncture where the less likely scenario is that we will win the title, but the laws of mathematics dictate that at this juncture we ‘can’ still win the title. Enjoy that this very fact still wafts in the breeze today.
Newcastle United will come to Anfield on Sunday, a football club that has bared witness to the Liverpool FC concepts of ‘anything is possible’ more than once in their history. Be it one of the, if not the most one sided FA Cup Final performances that the old competition has had to offer, or the 4-3s of the mid 1990s, or the Steve Nicol master class at St James’s Park in September 1987. Yes, it was the Premier League computer that yakked out the identity of our final day blind date, yet no more fitting of an opponent than Newcastle United could have been hand selected. If the impossible were to become possible this Sunday then it seems right that Newcastle United should be the club we dance with. The party invites are sent. Let’s go one last time. This is no time to whimper. 2013/14 deserves to end with a bang, and it could still turn out to be the biggest bang of all.
Pics: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda