OVER the last week myself and loads of the lads I go to the match with have been in Spain. There was an option to fly back on the Saturday and go to the match against Stoke, but not many took it. Why bother? The season had finished at Wembley against Villa, and the league campaign before even that. With a Bank Holiday Monday on offer, another day in sunny Spain was far more appealing. The morning of the game my Twitter feed was full of people who were going, moaning about it. So you imagine my surprise when I checked after the game to discover that it was suddenly the most important game of football ever.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why Neil and Gareth are more annoyed than me (although they really should have just come to Benidorm instead). They had to stand there and watch us go 5-0 down before half time, whilst I just got to shake my head and order another Pina Colada. But it is still ridiculous to suggest a manager should get the sack based on one result. If you want to then the games against Basel, Manchester United and Aston Villa are much more significant. Not a game that mattered less than some Sunday League fixtures taking place in Liverpool over the weekend.
The manager made some strange decisions at the weekend and rightly took his share of the blame for the loss. But there isn’t much you can do when all your players can’t be bothered, which looks to me like what happened. You can shout and try to motivate all you want, but if eleven lads just didn’t want to go to work that day, then they’ll always make you look a poor manager. And I can’t even blame them that they couldn’t be bothered going to Stoke. Because I couldn’t be bothered going to Stoke either.
Ah, but “they are paid loads of money to care!” I hear you say. So what? If someone tripled you salary tomorrow how long would that extra money motivate you for? A week? A day? An hour? You’d still moan when your alarm went off in the morning. You’d still moan about having to go in on a Monday. You’d still moan if you had to go to Stoke and work in front of 25,000 bellends.
“But footballers have a great job! They should feel lucky!” Yeah they do have a great job, but it quickly becomes work, with ups and downs. All of us have it better than someone, even the fella who mops up the peep show booths in Amsterdam, but you quickly forget it. Your reality becomes the norm. Today my ‘work’ is writing two football articles and then going to do a podcast where I get to talk to my mates on the phone. If someone told me that would be part of my job when I was 16 I’d have been made up. Instead I’m moaning about it because its sunny outside and I want to go and watch the cricket in Southport. We are all ungrateful bastards. No more so than young males.
An unmotivated gang of sulky lads couldn’t be bothered going to Stoke on Sunday and got embarrassed by a group of lads who ran more, because that is all they can do. Neil said “there needs to be consequences” and he is right. The club needs to ensure a result like this doesn’t happen again for a generation at least. But that doesn’t mean the manager goes. That is a separate, albeit valid, argument.
The way you ensure it never happens again is by ensuring you always have something to play for. By ensuring that footballers aren’t on their “holiday wind down” a month before the end. By being much much better at winning games between August and April. I want to see Liverpool going for silverware at the end of next season, even if it proves just out of reach. I want games in May to matter, not to fizzle out into nothing. I want all my lads on that early flight back from Spain.
That’s the way Stoke never happens again. Liverpool have a big summer ahead of them to ensure it doesn’t.