ON Sunday, May 24, Liverpool lost 6-1 to Stoke City. Remember that day? Shortly before that, on the 16th of May, they’d lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace at home. Both games had represented ‘lasts’ for Steven Gerrard, beyond the procession of ‘last game against’ moments that had followed his announcement some months earlier. His last home game… his last ever game… surely the boys would put in a shift to mark his departure with a flourish?
It wasn’t to be, of course. But do you remember those games? I mean, it was all of five-and-a-half weeks ago. Do you remember them? I mean, really? The feelings you had? The notions of things not being quite right on some fundamental level that you couldn’t quite identify?
Even the most level-headed of fans were losing faith in the manager. In an article for The Guardian, for example, myself and Sean Rogers of this very parish, both (I’d like to think) reasonable and level-headed types, teetered either side of the ‘should he stay or should he go’ debate. My view was that another manager should take the helm, while Sean’s was that he deserved another year and that there were bigger issues to resolve behind the scenes — the type of issues that would hinder any manager, at any football club; like a lack of a joined-up recruitment strategy, or an ability to act quickly to land key targets. I read his views and found myself nodding in agreement — it was in the balance for Brendan as far as I was concerned.
Time has passed since then, and as they say, it heals all ails. By the time you read this, it’ll be closer to six weeks since the game at the Britannia. Not that long, really; but for some reason, it seems like an eternity. Why is that? Well, two things.
1. The club has, through its own channels, remained largely silent on the issues in question — no fuel has been added to those particular fires.
2. A lot has happened (much of which has been announced simultaneously ‘en masse’).
Here’s the timeline of the ‘communicative events’ that have issued forth from the club and the media since that day — Ground Zero, if you will, in Stoke. Is it any wonder we’ve been swept along to a different place?
Day 1: Club pays tribute to Steven Gerrard, and Brendan Rodgers apologises for Stoke defeat.
Day 2: Club confirms Wisdom and Toure’s contracts extended. Range of newspapers report that a review meeting will take place with FSG representatives in the first week in June, and that the club are after Benteke.
Day 3: Silence from the club. Newspapers report the club will sign Ings.
Day 4: Silence from the club.
Day 5: Silence from the club. Newspapers report the much vaunted “Review”.
Day 6: Silence from the club. Klopp links emerge.
Day 7: Silence from the club. Klopp leaves Dortmund.
Day 8: Silence from the club. Newspapers confirm the club will sign Milner.
Day 9: Silence from the club. Newspapers confirm that Rodgers will stay on as Liverpool manager and that a ‘comprehensive plan for improvement’ has been put in place.
Day 10: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that Skrtel is unhappy with his contract offer.
Day 11: Club confirms that Milner will sign. Newspapers report that Rodgers staying on was a condition of the signing.
Day 12: Silence from the club. Newspapers report Pascoe sacked, Marsh’s contract will be allowed to lapse, and that the club will look for more experienced coaches.
Day 13: Silence from the club. Newspapers report bid from Man City for Sterling.
Day 14: Silence from the club.
Day 15: Club confirms that Ings will sign.
Day 16: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that Klopp’s agent says he’s interested in Liverpool, and that the club will bid for Clyne.
Day 17: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that Liverpool have rejected a £25m bid from Man City for Sterling.
Day 18: Silence from the club.
Day 19: Club confirms that Bogdan will sign, and that Johnson and Jones will leave.
Day 20: Silence from the club.
Day 21: Silence from the club. Newspapers report link to Gomez, and likelihood of improved bid from Man City for Sterling.
Day 22: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that Lijnders will be promoted, and that Sunderland will bid for Coates.
Day 23: Silence from the club.
Day 24: Silence from the club. Premier League fixtures are released. Newspapers report £40m bid from Man City for Sterling.
Day 25: Silence from the club. Newspapers report the second bid from Man City is rejected.
Day 26: Silence from the club. Newspapers report bid for Firmino and that Gomez deal is complete.
Day 27: Club confirms that Gomez will sign.
Day 28: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that, as well as Benteke, the club are looking at Bacca and Rondon.
Day 29: Silence from the club. Newspapers report Firmino will sign, and that the club are “eyeing an experienced coach to work alongside Rodgers”.
Day 30: Club confirms Danny Ward contract extended. Newspapers add detail to Firmino story, and describe role played by Ian Ayre in the negotiations.
Day 31: Club confirms that Firmino will sign.
Day 32: Silence from the club.
Day 33: Silence from the club. Newspapers report second bid for Clyne.
Day 34: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that Bacca interest will be dropped, and that he’s likely to sign for AC Milan.
Day 35: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that club will sign Clyne.
Day 36: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that Sean O’Driscoll will be the new assistant manager.
Day 37: Silence from the club. Newspapers report that club will sign Bobby Adekanye.
Day 38: Club confirms that Clyne has signed.
That takes us to July 1. And in among all that, we’ve had the FA Cup final, Champions League final, the UEFA Under 21s Championships, the Copa America, the Women’s World Cup, and of course, people have been off on their holidays, going to Glastonbury, watching the tennis or the golf… having a life. Time passes, and wounds heal; but not everyone heals at the same rate.
We’re human — even the people we think are mental on social media. We get so emotionally invested in the fortunes or otherwise of our football club and spend so much time manically ingesting information from every conceivable channel on the subject that it’s surely inevitable for people to respond in extreme ways, particularly against a backdrop of silence from the club on the questions on everyone’s mind. It creates a feeling of bewilderment… and there’s the point.
In hypnosis, one well documented way to induce a subject is to overwhelm their senses and create conditions of confusion. Against that backdrop, the subject will reach out for anything that their brain can process as making some kind of plausible sense. That’s why we rationalise, and look for patterns where perhaps none exist. That’s how magic eye pictures work — our brains see something that makes no sense and work hard to try to make sense of them on our behalf. You look at the clouds, or the dots on the roof of the car, and your brain starts seeing shapes and faces and patterns. Are the faces angels, or are they demons? Deep down, all we want is for it all to make sense, and for the bewilderment to stop… even if bewilderment and chaos is all there really is.
I read that Guardian article again this morning from the 25th of May and found myself swayed far more to Sean’s version of events than my own. Is that rational? Six weeks ago my stomach was in my boots and, like most people, a rage simmered gently under the surface of my every waking action. Since that time we’ve had rumour upon rumour, and theory upon theory. Does it mean this? Or does it mean that? We’ve seen Gerrard, Johnson, and several others depart through the exit door alongside Marsh and Pascoe, with Sterling almost certain to follow. Milner, Ings, Gomez, Firmino and Clyne have arrived in the opposite direction, with Lijnders and O’Driscoll confirmed in the dugout, and a striker likely to follow.
Things have changed, to a pretty dramatic extent, and not in the manner that many would have had us believe they would. We don’t know yet how things are structured, and we don’t yet know how much authority Rodgers has license to wield. It’s bewildering. Against that backdrop of so much information, so much change, and so much uncertainty, it’s only natural to want to believe that these changes represent a pattern. But are they evidence of the “comprehensive plan for improvement”, as we were promised? Or are they evidence of the opposite? Do we see angels, or do we see demons? Either way, it’s only human nature. We should maybe be more tolerant of each other in light of that fact.
I’m not saying the club has created this confusion and bewilderment, by the way — confusion and bewilderment lie in the eye of the beholder, and we’ve only compounded it while they wisely kept schtum. Whether the beginnings of a pattern are really emerging from that soup, there really is no way to know — not for certain. Will we see angels? Will we see demons? Only time will tell.
Pics: PA Images/David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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