A WIN is a win?
Sometimes a win is a win and nothing more can be gleaned from it. Sometimes it’s worth a little bit more than that – even when it’s the type of performance that usually provokes the response that “a win is a win”.
Casablanca. 1942. Starring Dirk Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. As Time Goes By – the song most closely associated with the movie in question. “Play it again, Sam” – the iconic line that was never actually uttered. My six-year-old lad is called Sam and I took him to Anfield for the first time on Saturday. The fundamental things apply as time goes by.
Sam is into movies more than football, although he’s more a fan of The Lego Movie and Despicable Me than anti-Nazi 1940s’ black and white propaganda classics. Saturday meant more to me than any other stilted narrow home win ever has before, and while the silver screen is likely to hold more allure for my little lad than the green rectangular patch of grass and the round ball ever will, he was good enough to indulge me in this ‘passage of rites’ ritual which he ended up enjoying more than he expected.
Still, it wasn’t easy coming up with a quick ‘alternative’ answer to Sam’s question: “What does the message say behind that plane?”
Erm, it’s for a restaurant, a Spanish restaurant,” I unconvincingly offered.
He’d only have wanted to know what a ‘Gentleman’s Club’ was.
So, with my son planted on my lap for most of Saturday’s game, everyone looked pretty good out on the pitch in red through my rose-tinted spectacles.
Forget Simon Mignolet being rooted to his goal-line, and embrace the saves he made from speculative West Brom efforts tried from distance. He also shouted really loudly and encouragingly at his defenders at one point during the second half. In the hushed atmosphere Anfield offered for much of the game it took me quite by surprise.
Forget Dejan Lovren’s clumsy attempted tackle on Berahino a hectare or two outside the area – a challenge that mystifyingly won a penalty rather than the free-kick it warranted after the referee took an age to opt for making an embarrassingly ridiculous decision. Instead, embrace the moments where he looks a cross between Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson – all calm assurance striding forward with the ball at his feet, the hallmarks of Hansen, coupled with the occasional bursts of speed and a hint of ‘telescopic leg’ that were the calling card of Lawrenson. Cut out the odd mistake he’s capable of making here and there, and we’ll be in possession of a serious ball-playing centre back. It’s back to that patience game again as far as Lovren goes; he is a good player and one that will blossom given the time to do so.
Forget the slightly awkward performance of Javier Manquillo, and ‘steady but unspectacular’ outings for both Martin Skrtel and Alberto Moreno. Embrace Glen Johnson being on the pitch for 30 minutes and there being no real signs of any nervous breakdowns occurring in the stands. Johnson’s return seemed to creep under the radar of everyone.
Forget Philippe Coutinho living another game on the periphery of the action – he’ll snap out of it, as will Raheem Sterling who isn’t operating in a much higher gear than Coutinho currently is, yet seems to be allowed the leeway to rediscover his full-fat mojo. Sterling isn’t doing anything wrong as such, but he’s running on a semi-skimmed basis at the minute. Instead embrace the joys of the growing chemistry that is beginning to bubble between Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana.
Picture a time when the link play between Henderson and Lallana is given an arrowhead striker in front of them, one who can take advantage of their intricate abilities to pick the lock of stubborn opposing defences. Daniel Sturridge is nearing a return to action. An indomitable rapier-like swathe clad in Liverpool red might yet be cut through the Premier League this season. The words ‘tricky’ and ‘Reds’ could be reunited very soon. The goals Lallana and Henderson took in this game suggests so much more is still to come. It is almost like this is a Liverpool FC we are waiting to ripen. If we were bananas we’d be green ones at the minute, rather than the blackening ones many would lead you to believe we are.
Forget the reportedly frustrating visage of Steven Gerrard as a deeper-lying midfielder, or potential ‘fifth defender’ that it seems to be ‘all the rage’ to suggest he is. He looked ace further up the pitch after Lucas came on, didn’t he? Embrace the danger he still poses to our opponents, but also embrace that he can be a very effective deeper lying midfielder when required. Embrace the versatility.
Forget the supposedly ‘out of sorts’ form of Mario Balotelli. Instead embrace the subtleties in his play that often go unnoticed yet really do create openings for others. The pressure to operate like an immediate demi-god will dissipate and he will make a positive mark. Forget how much Rickie Lambert appears to ‘lumber’ and embrace the fact that he’s living his dream. He’ll put the ball in the net before too long and will be a player reborn.
Embrace the imminent returns of Joe Allen and Emre Can, along with that of Sturridge. While we’re at it let us even embrace the diva strop of Mamadou Sakho as the actions of a man who cares?
I’ll always embrace the 2014-15 Anfield encounter between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, despite the air of ordinary it exuded out on the pitch. It will always be the first game I ever took my little lad Sam to.
Yes, he got more joy out of finding a bar of chocolate that someone left on the wall behind the Kop on Breck Road, along with a 20p piece and some elastic bands to add to his collection.
It meant the world to me though.