ALMOST four years ago to the week, I wrote a blog post on my old Well Red blog entitled ‘Why I’m sick of being a Liverpool FC fan’. I wasn’t sick of the club – after a lifetime supporting it you can’t turn that off. It was just the actual being a match-going fan bit. It wasn’t enjoyable. The debt-ridden Liverpool of the time was a 24-hour soap opera; a club torn apart by politics and in-fighting, owned by carpetbaggers and managed by a coach in Rafa Benitez that, putting it politely, divided opinion among supporters.
On the pitch, the Reds limped to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, 23 points behind the title-winners Chelsea. The season finale was a forgettable 0-0 draw at Hull. The only dubious pleasure to be taken from the campaign was a touch of schadenfreude – Manchester United were denied title No.19 by Chelsea by just a single point. A moment worth remembering perhaps when griping about rival football fans doing the same to us now. It’s part of the game – it always will be. Crack on.
Going the match then, in 2010, was hard work, a time of subdued atmospheres, arguing among fans, marches, protests, newspaper leaks and agendas. No-one then was thinking about trophies or title challenges. No-one then was talking about sublime football, bucketloads of goals, a rebuilding of Fortress Anfield or a smashing of the Premier League status quo. Conversations instead were dominated by the fear of administration, the likelihood of Liverpool becoming the next Leeds or Portsmouth, of managed decline and of reduced wage bills. We cared not of men in football boots making us smile, we cared instead of removing men in suits whose motivations revolved solely around money.
Back then, what did we have to look forward to? All the talk was of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard considering their futures. Of Benitez being sacked (within a month he was). And of owners in Tom Hicks and George Gillet that were prepared to dig their heels in and hold out for a profit however long it took and regardless of the damage done to the club, reputation-wise, on the pitch and financially. Roy Hodgson was appointed in the July and you know the rest. They are times best forgotten. Dark days indeed.
To read Twitter following Manchester City’s win against Aston Villa, it would have been easy to think we had returned to 2010. Talk of a thin squad. A dodgy defence. An inexperienced manager and the apparent inevitability of next season’s Premier League. We may as well give up now, yeah?
It’s a bit early for all that. If anything, surely Liverpool’s exploits this season have smashed the myth. Liverpool have taken 81 points this season so far, who’s to say they can’t bolt on another nine next season? Arsene Wenger’s excuse for Arsenal’s lack of Premier League success in recent times has continually been that you can’t compete with Manchester City and Chelsea without big big money – in wages and in transfer fees. The current Liverpool side says otherwise. If money is spent wisely in the summer, the Reds can go again, even with a fatter fixture list.
Why? Because every transfer for every club is a gamble. As is every managerial appointment. And Jose Mourinho is a tit. So despite the doom and gloom from some, there’s no guarantee that Manchester United will bounce back, no guarantee that Chelsea will be stronger or that City will be better. We wait and see and we watch and wonder. It’s why we’re all in it – no-one KNOWS so why not look on the bright side? There’s plenty of light right now.
A nineteenth Liverpool title coming to Anfield on Sunday is now improbable, 20-1 according to the bookies. Not impossible but unlikely, out of our hands and in those of West Ham, of Big Sam, Scouse Kev and Big Andy (first name terms, all sound lads).
But for Liverpool to even take it to the final day, to score 99 goals, to win by five at Spurs, score five more at Stoke and batter Everton at Anfield. To humiliate the then table-topping Arsenal, boss it at Southampton and stroll it at Old Trafford. To bounce back and hit Cardiff for six, outclass Tottenham at Anfield with four and edge out Manchester City; that’s progress. Hugely exciting, unpredictable, expectation-smashing, grin-inducing, punch-the-air shiver-down-your-spine progress. We’re enjoying ourselves again and talking about the actual football. We’re singing, shouting and roaring. The Kop of old has returned. The game we fell in love with, not the circus around it, is the topic for post-match pints, not how a fan-base can be mobilised for battle. Liverpool are on their way up. There is team spirit, and faith in the manager. The club works. It can get better but by in large it’s fixed. It’s so far removed from Roy Hodgson et al it’s untrue and we don’t – thankfully – have to revisit those days to demonstrate it.
Liverpool at this stage last season were seventh, on 58 points, 12 points adrift of the Champions League places. Now Brendan Rodgers’ side have just been displaced from top spot with a game to go with 23 more points in the bag and 29 more goals scored. Say it all you want, but you didn’t see it coming. A 33-1 betting slip is a punt not a prediction. Hope not expectation.
Chelsea and Palace hurt, of course they did. But this season has been one hell of a ride. The most enjoyable journey for years. To come so close to the title and (perhaps, probably, maybe) not win it, is hard to take after a 24-year wait. But nevertheless simply making football fun again is to be celebrated. To be taken seriously is to be celebrated. To be a force to be reckoned with is to be celebrated. Even to be the wrong side of the schadenfreude is to be celebrated – it’s much better than simply not mattering, which for too long has been the case.
It’s been a cracking campaign – a season to remember – and, whatever happens, Sunday should be a celebration of that. Instead of watching a glorified testimonial from half-arsed players, we will instead witness the efforts of the most entertaining team in the league going one last time and praying for a miracle in Manchester. This manager and this group of players have delivered over nine months of football. And then some. They should be thanked for that rather than sneered at for failings in crucial minutes of two games.
Forget the 0-2 and the 3-3 and think instead that next season we will again hear the Champions League anthem ring out around Anfield to a backdrop of You’ll Never Walk Alone and a passionate Kop. The league’s best strikeforce will remain, along with their supporting cast. And top quality reinforcements should be easier to find with the lure of Europe’s top competition and the opportunity to play for Brendan Rodgers’ entertainers. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it, it looks like fun. These are good times, they could soon be great, if not this season then maybe next. Raise a glass and raise a smile. It’s probably all over, but it isn’t now.
And one thing’s for certain after this season: I’m not sick of being a Liverpool fan any more.
Spot on Gareth.
My Evertonian wife made a fine comment in the aftermath of the Palace game. While I was lying face down on the rug desperately clutching an incredibly half empty glass of red wine, Carra and Neville had moved from pulling the defence apart to questioning the need for an improvement in our scouting systems.
J looked up and pointed out “there was nothing wrong with your scouting system, it’s just that other people bought your targets.” Willian, Salah, those two lads that I can’t spell; Brendan knows what he wants, with Champions League he’ll get them.
I have friends who worry that this was our one chance (it still may be – sending love out to Andy, Kev, Sam, Stewie and Joe) as others will improve. WE will improve. New purchases, loanees who’ve had good seasons elsewhere returning – a fully functioning Borini now acclimatised and coming back to a system that suits his style? I’ll have him from the bench anytime. Suso to step in for Coutinho? Ibe, Wisdom? The kids that have had slight chances so far from the ressies? A year older, a chance for cameos.
The future’s bright, the present isn’t over yet.
Totally agree Ian. I thought Carragher and Neville’s analysis was extremely harsh on this young side.
It’s far too easy to blame the defence and defenders this season, but how can anybody say Martin Skrtel has not been magnificent this season?
Nobody in the media or in our fanbase was saying we should be setting up against Chelsea in a defensive manner to secure a point. Not one.
Nobody at 3-0 the other night was saying or thinking we should not go for more goals. Most people were thinking “how many can this team get?!”
People are starting to blame our philosophy and style. The same philosophy and style that won us 11 on the trot, that helped us defeat/smash the likes of Arsenal. The same philosophy that has seen us score 99 goals.
No, it’s far too easy to blame the defence. When in fact in the last 2 games we’ve just missed that experience and know how that champions have.
Similar to Manchester United in the season before they won their 1st Premier League.
This team will learn, this team will get better. I just hope we go out next season with the same philosophy. If we get caught up in being more defensive and listen to the hindsight managers and pundits and it means we don’t score as many goals. I’m not on board with that, more goals please, you can keep your buses!
Fantastic piece, Gareth, summed up beautifully how I’m feeling right now. Cheers.
What a read. I remember Gerrard passing it for Chelsea to win and edge of the scums. Torres talk, Torres proudly showing off scarf and then dumping us, Real Madrid offering 30 m quid for Gerrard. Woy and his legendary face rub, our poor poor performances for that period. LFC winning as H & G are out. Kenny coming back, then Brendan lifting us and where we come…Proud of the boys!
Brilliant. Its like I was reading my own thoughts. This is Liverpool team is magnificent, even with its faults, and it is going to get better. Same again next year!
We go again!
Brilliant Gareth, spot on. This season has reawakened the club and the fan base, and reconnected us to the mains. It’s given us some amazing thrills along the way. All that is cause for celebration alright.
Absolutely spot on. Feels like the old Liverpool is back and most players across Europe will have been looking with envious eyes at our fans and the managers tactics.
Time to build and keep the momentum going over the Summer. We’ve got the right manager, a young squad and owners who are in it for the right reasons and the long haul.
I’ve been an LFC all my 33 years and this has been by far and away the most exciting season I can remember.
How does it go – “and kids will have a story”………
Spot on. Best season since 85/86 and would be best ever if we won it. No doubt winning it would make winning it again a bit easier, but I have faith in this team and this manager that we’ll do it before long, and it’ll be all the more sweet for missing out this season when it happens.
I wouldn’t want to support any other team in the world at the moment. We are Liverpool.
Great comments from Ian & Lee also, (she can’t be a real Evertonian with that insightful ness Ian !!)
I was only saying the other day how this reminds me of Man U all those years ago when Leeds (I think) pipped them to the league and I was laughing at my Manc following mates “that was your chance and it’s gone now”
Little did I know that they were just learning how to last the pace and hold there nerve before they were unfortunately back for more,
I’m forty years old and have seen us win loads but I have never enjoyed a season in its entirety like this one,
My wife (Man U sorta fan) says I still haven’t wiped the smile off my face from the Spurs away game and that was in Fuc*ing December,
There will be no three one nils in a row and hanging on grimly to start off next sesason, this lot have come of age this year and the inferiority complex is well and truly gone,
Cannot wait for Sunday whatever it may bring,
Cheers to everyone on TAW,
The articles,podcasts and comments have been great company.
Spot on mate, we’ve got our club back, maybe this is the moment that will be the makng of this team, it now knows how good it is and what it can achieve, proud of them whatever happens on Sunday.
Well in Gareth. Fantastic writing as always and really thought provoking. It’s been hard not to be depressed about the whole thing considering how exciting the idea of actually winning the league was before the Chelsea game. This has lifted my spirits.
Am still gutted am hurting bad should have had the cat in the bag, I know the future looks bright but its hard to take YNWA.
A really enjoyable read Gareth, and above all else a timely reminder of what a great season it’s been. As the week has gone on, I’ve found myself in a much more positive frame of mind. The progress made in the last year is insane. Staff and players should be very proud of their work. They’ve set the tone for a whole new glorious era at LFC. With the right signings in the Summer, I think we’ll be a real force to reckon with at home and abroad (we’re back in Champions League again, and nothing I saw this season makes me think we can’t go far). One of the most difficult things to get back is the fear factor – we certainly achieved that this season. Teams will be worrying about how to shackle us next season – that’s a real advantage. Whatever happens on Sunday, next season, We Go Again!
Great piece Gareth. At the start of the season both my lads and I predicted a 5th place finish this year, Champions League would be great but couldn’t see it to be honest. And now here we are, the best most exciting season I can remember full of wonderful play by our team. Ok, we may fall just short this year but I think that this is the start of something beautiful. Can’t wait for next season!
My favourite 6 words from this article, “And Jose Mourinho is a tit.” Cheers Gareth.
Agreed. Just enjoying the highs and lows of the football for 90 minutes a week is a good feeling to get back. Being disappointed/defiant/etc. over the game the other night is what being a fan is all about.
People can get fed up with Glen Johnson or whatever but I don’t think anyone will truly lose perspective or forget how grim the club’s situation was in 2010. We can lose any football match to whoever in the future but no one will ever wish they didn’t care so much about LFC as they did during the dark days of Christian Purslow’s Liverpool for that calendar year.
Brilliant piece Gareth and also commenters . As Bri says above , mourinho is henceforth known as the tit!
The last few months have been a brilliant ride. We all handle it differently and my way has been to live in fear of dropping points in the next match. Even though it’s a constant state of anxiety and nervousness – I find I need that intensity. That’s what my idea of enjoying it is. I won’t lie, I’m fully resigned to our fate now. The intensity dropped off this week and left me feeling quite mellow. It’s odd but, like everyone, I wanted it so badly but oddly I’m not actually that bothered now. I’m genuinely not gutted. All my thoughts have been just positive ones.
Sometimes I ask myself – Why am I so desperate for Liverpool to be successful? The closest I’ve come to an answer is that A) I love my mates and this is something we all share together as a deep bond and B) I’m a vindictive bastard. Football is about rivalry and banter for me. Liverpool winning gives me an easy life. I’ve changed this season though. It’s almost like it’s taken me until 42 years of age to mature. This week, the haters (not the Liverpool ones) have been like water off a ducks back to me. There’s nothing they can say because I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved this season that I’m simply not bothered by them. I even sympathise with them because I know why they’re doing it and what they’re going through but I’m not in their camp anymore so I don’t have to get on the defensive. It’s a superb feeling of superiority.
One final point, if I may, I’ve left the ground this season buzzin beyond belief. I think if I’m honest it started with the Everton game. We had some amazing performances before that with some quality goals but the derby was when I realised I was loving it in a way I thought may have gone forever.
I’ve been leaving the ground the way I wanted my son to be when I took him to his first 5 games or so. I thought he’d be on cloud nine and I couldn’t understand why he was fairly subdued. Truth is it was a fairly wank experience for him. Nothing to really grip him. The second half of the season I’ve seen a real change in him though. In the past I’d be watching the match on TV/Internet and he’d come and watch half an hour then slope off. I couldn’t comprehend what could be more important to him than watching Liverpool. Now, he won’t even go for a piss when the game is on. He’d rather sit in agony than miss any of it. He records every MOTD and watches our game at least once a night. I’ve taken him to 3 games since Christmas and he didn’t shut up all the way home. It was doing my head in because I wanted to listen to Aldo’s analysis / joy on the radio. He’s got the bug now (to use a shit expression). It’s a small by-product of our season but one that means the world to me and I’m sure others have had similar experiences. It’s just been a buzz.
Excellent piece as always mate. Captured exactly how most of us feel. Wanted to end with ‘We go again’ but I think for me that belongs solely to this season albeit just the end of it. That slogan and this season will live with us forever.
One thought that really brings a smile to my face is thinking that through the summer, apart from being consumed during the World Cup, I imagine other PL managers will be playing back this season’s Liverpool games and studying Suarez and Sturridge — individually and as a partnership.
They’ll talk about it with their coaching staff and think about how they can train their own players to have the same exuberant love and passion purely for the joy of playing the game that SaS display on the pitch.
The flip side is that their strikers will probably improve, which will make LFC’s job harder next year. But imitation, after all, is the highest form of flattery. And in the meantime Brendan will be strengthening LFC’s mid- and rear defensive strategy. The future for exciting Premier League football is bright indeed!
Brilliant piece this team have given me so much pleasure home and away this season,the fans have been rewarded with a manager that believes in attacking football,never mind about the defensive frailties they will be sorted out for next season,we can look back on a season worthy of champions,a fan base second to none and a team that has performed outstandingly,in relation to your article it sums up what a mess we were in and how Brendan and his team have fixed it and made us into a team that sides now fear us not bad in two seasons,whatever happens on Sunday we should be proud of what we have achieved this season,hopefully the good times are a rolling again
Kudos to TAW for all their energy and endless quality posts to enrich what will forever go down as a special season no matter what happens Sunday and massif Kudos to all you passionate Reds that make the comments as worthwhile as the articles themselves! No trolling, no illiterates, just hope and pain and passion and ecstacy and ultimately joy and what is happening at our beloved Club. Quality redmanship all round. Cheers from Oz YNWA!