WHAT you get out of football is so often about expectations. Thanks to Roman’s numerals and Mourinho’s snide, Chelsea fans now expect to win the league every year. There’s nothing for them to enjoy if they finish second. The arrogant expectation of the nouveau riche is part of the thing that makes Chelsea supporters such an unappealing bunch to the rest of us.
Manchester City fans, on the other hand, haven’t yet adapted to the expectations that should come with the billions that flow in from Abu Dhabi. There’s still something ingrained in City fans; some sense that no matter how well things are going they’ll somehow find a way to balls it all up. It’s why everyone else seems to be more shocked when City don’t win a trophy than the supporters themselves, who still nod knowingly when something goes wrong.
United fans are in an interesting situation now, the intelligent ones, anyway. They know, deep down, that Alex Ferguson was the glue that held everything together at Old Trafford and that now they’re in a state of flux that they may never really get out of. They expect United to win trophies because United have won trophies for the last 20 years, yet somehow they know it won’t ever be that easy again.
Liverpool fans are still, just about, the reverse of Man City fans. We know in reality that we don’t have the financial muscle to win things as regularly as the teams above us, yet we still believe that we will. Our expectations far outweigh the reality of our situation. Yet it is those expectations that allow us to hit the highest highs. The belief that is ingrained in Liverpool supporters can drive the team on to achieve the unexpected. Of course those same expectations can also lead to devastating lows and feelings of immense frustration. In reality should we really have expected a team shorn of Luis Suarez & Daniel Sturridge, and with a Steven Gerrard who was another year older, to repeat the title challenge of the year before? Of course not; yet those unrealistic expectations led to planes being flown over Anfield by some bad teds.
What of this year? Some bookies have us as long as 28/1 to win the Premier League. Are your expectations that long? Mine certainly aren’t. I think we can win it. I don’t think, man for man, our squad is significantly worse than any of the teams above us, so if the new players can click and those first 7 aways don’t leave us broken, where should our limit be? The pundits think we’ll do no better than 5th, but they said the same thing in August 2013. Maybe I’ll be disappointed come May, but I’d rather feel let down then because of dream-like expectations than negative and miserable before a ball has even been kicked.
Players can live or die be the expectations placed upon them, too. In hindsight it’s clear that Mario Balotelli was never going to be a good fit for Liverpool, but he was damned even further by an expectation that he could fill the boots vacated by Luis Suarez. Morons who have spent the last month saying the club have “swapped” Raheem Sterling for Christian Benteke can only be disappointed by the big Belgian’s output because of the false expectations they’ve placed upon him. A 20 goal season won’t be good enough because he hasn’t run down the wing dead fast and then put his hand on his face when he scored in that weird way that Raheem used to do.
So where does Danny Ings fit into this world of expectations? How will his season pan out in relation to what we expect of him? Stop reading this for a second and have a think about what you expect him to do in a Red shirt. Not what you want him to do or what sort of player you secretly wish he was, what do you genuinely expect from Danny Ings this season? Are your expectations fair? If you’ve said you expect him to score 30 goals and assist 15 I’d suggest that perhaps they’re not.
Ings isn’t coming into the team as a first choice striker. He shouldn’t have the burden of expectation that has been placed on Benteke’s shoulders. But he isn’t coming in as some wide-eyed youngster enjoying the equivalent of work experience, either. He scored 11 goals for a Burnley side that was far more interested in admiring the dark satanic mills surrounding Turf Moor than in playing attacking football. There’s a reason Sean Dyche’s nickname is “Ginger Mourinho”, and it isn’t because he looks like the John Major Spitting Image puppet with red hair. It’s because he enjoys a good defence more than OJ Simpson’s legal team. Yet even within that set-up Danny Boy was able to put the ball in the back of the net 3 times more often than Sturridge, Balotelli, Borini and Lambert combined in the league.
What’s my expectation of Danny Ings this year? I expect him to develop. Given his exploits for Burnley last year it would be easy to forget that the lad’s only 22. He’s still very, very young in striker terms. I also expect him to be dedicated to the cause. He knows what it means to come in and play for Liverpool and is full of respect for the club as a whole. He deliberately chose a high shirt number when he signed for the Reds, saying, “Obviously I am going to work my socks off to earn that number one day. For now I will take a high number and work hard”.
Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that the key characteristic of any new signing? A burning desire to prove themselves and to drive themselves into the ground, giving blood, sweat and tears for the team? I hope he’s backing himself in private, of course, and doesn’t allow himself to get overwhelmed by the weight of the shirt. But I’m pleased he hasn’t come in to the club behaving like the Big-I-Am, wandering around like Billy Big Bollocks when he hasn’t proven himself on the pitch yet.
If you expect Danny Ings to be Liverpool’s number 1 striker, smashing the ball into the back of the net every time he touches it, then you’re only going to be disappointed and, judging by recent trips to Anfield, will soon find yourself screaming abuse the young lad.
If you expect him to be a very useful cog in a well-oiled Anfield machine, however, then you might find yourself absolutely delighted with his development as the year goes on. He may not be as spectacular as Sergio Aguero or as snidey as Diego Costa, but he’ll run and he’ll harry and he’ll pester and he’ll chase – all qualities that this new look Liverpool team will have in abundance this year.
Imagine being a player for Norwich or West Ham or Aston Villa coming to Anfield this season. Someone passes you the ball and you take a touch before looking up to see who you can find and all you’ve got in your vision is Danny Ings, Jordan Henderson and James Milner running at you. You panic, try to go long but inadvertently give the ball to Philippe Coutinho who feeds it through to Benteke who puts it into the back of the net. Danny didn’t score; he didn’t even get an assist. Some of the bores in the crowd will spend the season asking, “What does Danny Ings give the team?” But we’ll know, you and I; we’ll know what he gives the team – he gives the team legs, movement and a never-ending desire to improve itself.
Expectations are funny old things: they make one man weep and another man sing. Whether a player, a team or even a club’s owners do well can depend entirely on how you expected them to do before they’d even moved a muscle. Perhaps you expect Danny Ings to be little more than mediocre this season. Maybe he’ll prove you right, maybe he won’t. I expect him to be a brilliant addition to the squad that goes on to achieve great things for the club, and maybe that’s unrealistic. But I’ll take my unrealistic expectations that are full of hope and joy over your expectations of doom and gloom any day of the week. So go on, Danny Boy, the goals, the goals are calling. Anfield expects.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo