THE biggest Liverpool defeat in Steven Gerrard’s career on the last day of his Liverpool career — an embarrassing epitaph to an Anfield CV that puts him among the finest to wear the red.
He looked apologetic. Sorry he couldn’t sort it. A lad who has poured heart and soul into the club watching it bullied and battered by the current ninth best team in English football. Liverpool owned by Charlie Adam on the day its last remaining superstar exits stage left.
Gerrard looked pained. I know the feeling. That was the biggest Liverpool defeat in my lifetime. And it was to Stoke City. Now we’re shorn of a leader when we need a leader the most. Losing star quality in a squad with too much ordinary.
For what felt like the whole of the second half, crowing Stoke fans sang about Liverpool being “fucking shit”. It was hard to disagree with their glee. Stoke. Taking the piss. Out of Liverpool. And being right. Absolutely, nailed on, right. That fucking hurts. And it should fucking hurt everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club.
At five-nil down at half-time there was a strong temptation to just get off. Go home, close the curtains, turn the world off and forget it ever happened. The John W Henry approach of late, if you like.
This type of thing doesn’t happen to Liverpool. The only other time I’ve witnessed the Reds concede six was in 2007 when Arsenal won 6-3 at Anfield in the League Cup. I’d managed to block that night and Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista out to be honest. We’ll never see the likes again, I thought. But then this. Jesus Christ, this.
We stayed. Stayed to see Steven score for Liverpool one last time. Stayed to see Jordon Ibe have a go. Stayed to watch some bellend wave a fiver at the away end for the majority of the second half.
Stayed to see Brendan Rodgers’ last game as manager of Liverpool.
I think that’s it for the manager. I think he’s done. I don’t see how you recover from that embarrassment. The players will point the finger at him for that. And he will point the finger at them for that. Ditto for how the season has panned out full stop. How do you make that unhealthy situation healthy again?
There’s been a lot of talk this week about Liverpool’s identity as a club. Well Liverpool’s identity right now is a club that has finished sixth in the league and lost 6-1 at Stoke City. A club that’s lost home and away to Crystal Palace, couldn’t beat Hull, was humiliated at Wembley and crashed out of Europe twice.
The team has sleepwalked its way through the past two months and three wins in 10 tells its own story.
What came before was bad enough — today was downright embarrassing. A new low. The worst for 52 years. Genuinely stomach-turning shocking.
Now Liverpool must do something about it. And that something is always sack the manager.
Again the summer transfer window is being talked of as a cure all. After a record spend of £117m last year, it’s got to rank as extremely unlikely that the same people get another chance to pick. And the manager is always the fall guy. Can you sack a whole committee? I’d give it a go. I doubt FSG will. That would mean questioning their own strategy. And the appetite for that doesn’t seem to be the best.
Liverpool now desperately need to make a statement that this result — and this season — isn’t acceptable. That three seasons without a trophy isn’t OK. The club has to say to the world it aspires to more. It does that by thinking big. By being bold. If it doesn’t then what are we in it for? And the sell. What’s the sell? How do we persuade the next Raheem Sterling to sign on the dotted line here rather than there?
Brendan has been flying the plane and building it but today it crash landed after skimming mountain tops for weeks. A new pilot is the likely course of action when Michael Gordon gets the markers and the flip chart out to review the season. It’s either that or admit his own failings have played a part. I know what my money is on.
No one – not players, owners, or fans – can accept today. Rodgers spoke when he arrived at the club of the three types of supporters that follow any team. All three types will now contain considerably less backers for maintaining the status quo when it comes to running the team.
“No 1 are those who love their club and will love their manager whoever it is because Liverpool is their life and their passion,” said Rodgers.
“The second group are supporters who will accept you but to earn their real respect you will have to be successful, and that’s fine.
“The third group are the critics and you never change them ever.”
I was in the second group. Not convinced when he arrived but impressed as time went on — it’s impossible (or it should be) to not respect the job he did last season in taking Liverpool so close.
But that was then and this is now. The game moves quickly. From almost reaching the highest of highs this is the lowest of lows. 6-1. Six. Fucking. One.
I’ve been convinced there were pros and cons about Rodgers, even in recent times; that there were shades of grey when it came down to whether he should remain as Liverpool manager rather than the black and white terms so many speak in.
But after this dark day the grey has all but disappeared. A result like that is only black. And so is the future for Rodgers, I reckon.
There was very little evidence of fight in that Liverpool side today and it was hard to understand the plan. A midfielder routinely roasted on the right of defence. Two more middle men toiling against experienced defenders up front. Attacking-wise Liverpool were bordering on non-existent, hardly a surprise with no striker in the starting line up and Raheem Sterling left to enjoy the greedy bastard chants from the safety of the bench. The plan at that end of the pitch was pull a worldie out the bag. And that isn’t a plan.
At the other end of the pitch, too many times Stoke players ran unchallenged to fire off pot shots at goal and — Gerrard’s defiance (loved the counting down of the six-second rule) and Philippe Coutinho’s kick of the advertising hoardings aside — where was the anger as the ball hit the net six times? Where was the spirit to not take what was unfolding before them lying down? Stoke wanted it more. They pressed better. Fought more. Were more physical. Moved the ball faster. Liverpool, by contrast, were a mess.
It’s long been common knowledge that some Liverpool players once contrived via underperforming to get Graeme Souness the sack. History repeating? Harsh maybe. But when you witness a performance so lacking in quality, passion and fight from so many it makes you wonder. Those players know Rodgers is under pressure. Did they do their upmost to keep him in a job?
When you’re questioning the commitment of the players — and many have today — then the next question is always why? Why have Liverpool lost 12 games? Why have Liverpool gone backwards? Why can’t Liverpool score?
There are mitigating circumstances but it always comes back to the manager and that felt terminal. He picks the team and he hasn’t found a way to make them win enough. Now he can’t find a way to stop Stoke hitting us for six, either.
Another season like the one that has just finished has no appeal unless we’re now officially ‘just another football club’. No one is waiting for Liverpool to catch up, Liverpool need to run faster and run better or they risk being sucked into the pack for good. Can they do that under a manager whose stock has now dramatically plunged?
Liverpool needs to be ruthless in everything it does in the pursuit of the ultimate goal. With every target for the season missed, better managers and better players could and should be sought.
Sticking with Brendan Rodgers would now be a huge leap of faith by FSG. It would also add to the questions that are mounting about their ambition.
Here to win? Prove it. Get the best.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo