THIS was the season Liverpool won nothing but said everything. Forget Manchester City, it was Brendan Rodgers’s Reds who made the biggest noise in 2013/14; they had the best player, the best manager, the most exciting team, and, as the scenes on Anfield Road in the later stages of the campaign showed, the wildest supporters. Collectively staff, players and fans built a huge cake over the course of nine months and, at the end, all that was missing was the cherry.
Not winning the title was tough, but this really was a season where the journey meant as much as the destination – a reminder in a much broader sense about what it means to follow a football team. Ultimately, there are ever only a handful of sides that win trophies. For the vast majority, the joy instead comes from the process of watching your team perform, in the flesh or from behind a screen, with friends or in solitude, and no one had more fun from start to finish this year than those who follow Liverpool. I personally cannot remember an individual season that included so many memorable matches – two wins against Man United, thrashings of Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham, twice, madcap victories at Stoke and Cardiff, Luis Suarez’s single-handed destruction of Norwich, and that epic triumph over City at Anfield. Even some of the draws were action-packed, most notably those 3-3’s at Goodison and Selhurst Park. Indeed, running through Liverpool’s fixtures in 2013/14, starting with the win against Stoke and ending with the Newcastle game, it is hard to pick out a single contest that does not throw up at least one notable memory.
Tellingly, there was not a single 0-0. This, after all, was the season defined by goals. Liverpool scored a frankly bananas 101 in the league; meaning there were 101 occasions that Reds literally had something to cheer about, and again this goes back to the true meaning of this season – it was joyous, almost continuously, and while the final day left those watching at home and at Anfield with a somewhat flat sensation, overall we were more than pleased with what we had seen over the course of the campaign. Optimism returned in spades.
And that really needs to be cherished. As the goals flew and Liverpool relentlessly pursued a first title since 1990, it felt increasingly more important to remember that this was a club which less than four years ago was in the midst of a trauma. Battles were being fought not just on the pitch but on the streets and in the courts, and its very existence was in severe danger. And even after Liverpool’s future was secured there existed little immediate hope, thanks mainly to the Hodge, that following the team would be a thrilling endeavour any time soon. Yet in just one World Cup cycle, that is exactly what it is. Little wonder that as fans, we lost our minds this season.
2013/14 wasn’t purely joyous- this, after all, was a year where again these appeared a worrying disconnect between club hierarchy and supporters, not to mention that hierachy’s failure to sign the vast majority of players they targeted in both summer and winter transfer windows – a potentially worry portent for the crucial months to come.Back on the pitch, some of the goals Liverpool conceded were as maddening as those scored were exhilarating, and I for one am not someone who believes that if you love the attacking play of Rodgers’ reds, you have to put up with all of their defensive frailties. Many of the goals-against were basic errors and it was the constant leakage of single goals in the midst of otherwise straightforward thrashings that ultimately led to the team finding themselves behind to City on goal difference in the final weeks of the season, and, in turn, attempting that maddest of resounding victories at Palace, a game which served as a microcosm of this Liverpool side; superb in attack, suspect at the back.
But, again, that was what this season was all about – fun, memories, the sense that following Liverpool in itself is a wonderful thing to do. Yes we want trophies, and if Rodgers doesn’t deliver one in the next three or four years he is likely to be toast, but fans occasionally need a reminder that watching a team play is not meant to just be a cold-hearted pursuit of silverware, but instead a ritual based in the generation-to-generation passing of life-enriching experiences.
We didn’t win the league in 2013/14, but we will never forget what we saw this season.
This originally appeared as part of The Anfield Wrap End Of Season Reviews podcasts.
Images: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda