SO here we stand, blinking in the cold light of day, the mind whirring as it attempts to compute exactly what happened over the course of the last nine months. How we came from relatively nowhere to somewhere completely different, somewhere so close to our ultimate footballing utopia that we could reach out and touch it, we could smell and taste it, drink in what at one stage even resembled destiny calling and it all seemingly came to us in the blink of an eye. It was almost as if we were under hypnosis, and now that it’s all over, with the click of index finger and thumb “we’re back in the room” – Click.
This week is effectively the morning after the season before, a strange little chill out zone in many respects, where we find ourselves stood amidst the aftermath of having been caught within the eye of a most brilliant footballing storm. We really did come that close. We were so, so close in a title race we supposedly had no right to be involved in, yet involved we most definitely were, involved to the very final reckoning. We were no accidental witness in this title race. We were not there by chance of outlandish circumstances. We were instead there upon merit of deeds done, by goals plundered, points secured and opponents swept aside.
Yes, it wasn’t quite to be, but we threw the kitchen sink at it in our attempt, with the accumulation of eighty four points, which was a whole thirty two points more than we managed to obtain in 2011/12, five points more than we garnered when we last won the title in 1989/90. We took thirty seven of the final forty two points available to us, losing just one league game after the turn of the year. From the defeat at Stamford Bridge on December 29th it was all but four months until we literally slipped up once more against the same opponents at Anfield on April 27th. One hundred and one goals scored, fifty conceded in what was time travel football that nodded both towards the past and the future. We were Doc Brown and Marty McFly, we were the Delorean rattling around the Asda car park on Breck Road, hitting eighty eight mph and suddenly finding ourselves transported to old man Peabody’s farm to mow down his scarecrow and total his barn. We hammered various scorelines of three’s, four’s and five’s past each of Manchester City, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, all of whom finished above us a year ago. The title remained agonisingly out of reach, but we comfortably returned to the Champions League and we can look forward to some great nights both at home and abroad once more, the 2015 final is at the Olympiastadion in Berlin by the way. Rome, London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul and how about Berlin for number six? Has a certain ring to it doesn’t it? We don’t win the European Cup in insipid industrial backwaters. Only the most iconic of cities are good enough for us.
2013/14 was one hell of a ride, epic progress was made and it was an utter joy to be a part of it. For almost every two goals we scored we conceded one. If we had prevailed and won title number nineteen, then we’d have been the most defensively leaky champions since Ipswich Town shipped sixty seven goals in winning the title in 1961/62, the very season we won promotion back to the top flight, a season when Roger Hunt scored forty one league goals in forty one league appearances, a season when we scored ninety nine goals and conceded forty three, all over the course of an extra four games. 2013/14 Liverpool FC has proved to be more retrospectively open at both ends of the pitch than some of the most notoriously fluid sides in our history. They’ve been a privilege to watch. Maybe had they embraced a more traditional textbook blueprint for title success, perhaps we’d have reached the finish line ahead of Manchester City? Personally I think if we’d have embraced a more traditional textbook blueprint for title success then we’d have come nowhere near winning the title. We did it our way and not many teams could cope in the face of football played ‘our way’. At times we simply blew teams away. We clearly had our weaknesses, but we instead accentuated our strengths. We always looked for the positives, we took hold of the things we’re good at and we ran with them. We ran and ran and ran. How good could football be if all teams adopted the principles of ‘we’ll just score more goals than you’?
2013/14 was unique and it will stand alone in a class of its own. 2014/15 will be very different, yet that’s not to say it won’t be a successful season, just very different, but hopefully different in a way that becomes familiar, in a way that becomes the norm for years to come, a norm where we once again become part of the Champions League furniture, where our squad evolves and steadily gains in strength. With a lack of European football we didn’t necessarily need a squad in 2013/14, although it would have done us no harm to have been a bit stronger on the bench. What we had instead was the best team, but in comparison to our rivals we had a weak squad, where in the two games we lost to Chelsea, games that might well have made all the difference in us winning the title and not winning the title, Brendan Rodgers when looking for inspiration amongst his substitutes for someone to change the predicament of being a goal down in both of those games, he was cornered into throwing on Brad Smith at Stamford Bridge and Iago Aspas at Anfield.
We can all play the guessing game on who might be jettisoned from the squad, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there could just be a couple of loan signings that will return to the clubs they came from, without a forthcoming call from Anfield to enquire if permanent transfers are a possibility. Some of the players we loaned out might well return to play a part next season. Contracts due to expire for others might not find themselves being renewed. There could even be some surprise exits. A few weeks have now passed by since I heard my first “I was chatting to a Spanish journalist” ITK’er of the summer stating that Luis Suarez to Real Madrid was already a done deal. There is a World Cup and a long transfer window ahead, where we will still be both predator and prey, but any player that voluntarily leaves will find that football isn’t as much fun at their new club as it was at their old one.
We can build on the giant strides we’ve made this season. There is a touch of the 1971/72’s about what we’ve just witnessed. Bill Shankly’s newly constructed ‘second great side’ could have, perhaps should have won the title, but narrowly missed out when a John Toshack header late in our last game of the season away at Highbury was disallowed for a contentious offside decision. A year later that same set of players won the league and UEFA Cup double. Maybe a year from now Brendan Rodgers will be picking up a scarf that’s just been kicked off the pitch by an officious individual and wrapping it around his neck as our title winning lap of honour works its way across the front of the Kop.
One thing is certain though, August can’t come soon enough.
Pics: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda