YOU’VE paid your money, settled into your seat and the match is about to kick off. As the referee draws breath on his first whistle what do you want? What do want to see from your players?
What is it that will have you out of that seat, clenching a fist, letting a roar out, giving it a “come on!”?
Goals, sublime skill, a breath-taking pass or a bone-crunching tackle can all have the desired effect.
But much can depend on the identity of a club as to what really lifts a crowd. Some supporters love a showboater, or a fancy dan. A player full of the flicks and tricks. Widening out the theme, it’s why certain managers have never truly been accepted at certain clubs — there’s an unconscious pre-programming about what fans think they should — and shouldn’t be seeing. It’s why Roy Hodgson was quickly rejected and why, elsewhere, Sam Allardyce has struggled to win friends for his football.
Players-wise, we like the skill and the thrills at Liverpool but only to a point. Because it’s got to be in the right place. And at the right time. And if it isn’t? Well sorry, mate, you’ll soon know about it. Ask Luis Garcia. And, as poor as his Liverpool career ultimately turned out to be, perhaps this is what happened to Stewart Downing. All those times when he turned back and played the easy ball inside? Well he knew, didn’t he? Knew what was coming his way if he got it wrong. He wasn’t mentally tough to try to do what he was employed to do and instead went with the easy option. And that’s not accepted either when the fans know you have more in your locker.
Some players don’t care of course. See Camara, Titi. But not many can get away with that kind of behaviour. Most, despite some of the protestations from the pros to the contrary, will be wary of the fans around them and adapt their game accordingly. How the crowd reacts to a player must be vital for his confidence. It’s got to be. Who wouldn’t rather operate in a positive atmosphere than a negative one? Jordan Henderson has referenced being aware of what is said about him at the match and while we can’t draw one-size-fits-all conclusions, it’s fair to say it must count for something for most players.
Which brings me to yesterday and Danny Ings. Danny Ings had me out of my seat. Danny Ings had me clenching a fist, willing him on.
Because he scored? Well yes, that helped, and it was a lovely finish and a lovely celebration. No moody sulky, too-cool-for-school bollocks on show. Just sheer joy. And a moment he wanted to share with the supporters. But it’s more than the goal, it’s that he’s recognised another way to our hearts. Hard work. Passion. Graft. Playing like it matters. Playing like it means something. Showing the fans that, basically, you’re arsed. Like they are. That moment when he punched the ball in frustration after rounding the keeper but running the ball out of play? Knew how he felt. And it was great to see he felt the same.
More than perhaps anyone else at the club right now the 23-year-old striker seems to have recognised the importance of having the fans onside.
In the summer, he revealed how he had knocked back the chance of wearing the seven or eight shirt at Liverpool. Some took the decision as a cause for concern; a sign that he didn’t back himself to cut it at Anfield.
I took it the opposite way. As a rare sign of a player who doesn’t think merely signing your name to become an official Liverpool FC employee makes you a success. As he said himself: “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.”
And we love a grafter. Remember the banner? “Dirk Kuyt works hard”? Or how about the other one? “Momo is boss.” What both Kuyt and Sissoko had in common was spirit and fight. Nothing left out on the pitch. If a game was there to be won then they would do their damndest to make it happen by sheer force of will. Craig Bellamy was another to show that spirit. And it’s been good enough even for some of the biggest names in the club’s history. No one ever accused Kevin Keegan or Ian Rush of not putting it in.
We saw that spirit from Ings in his cameo as a second-half sub. He was desperate to impress and impress he did. Every loose ball was chased. If there was an opportunity to close down, he was taking it. And if there was any chance of keeping a ball in to make a Liverpool attack happen, he was leaving nothing to chance. He was sprinting, sliding, harrying, pressing — it was like a 45-minute attempt to better the moment Steve McMahon kept that ball in on the line, fell into the advertising hoardings and returned to the action to tee up a goal against Arsenal.
It’s within every player’s gift to at least try all this but it’s not always in evidence. Some might not have the mentality, others might not have the fitness. For some it might be considered beneath them. Maybe they consider themselves more cerebral for conserving energy for the right moment.
But maybe the wrong moment is the right moment. You’ll never know unless you try.
We loved Kevin Keegan. We loved Dirk Kuyt. And one of the reasons we loved Luis Suarez – aside from his world-class skills and that – was his willingness to work and work and work. It’s an attitude that is infectious. And an attitude that is refreshing to see when there’s so much that is depressing about Liverpool right now.
It’s still early for Ings and who knows how his Liverpool career will pan out. What we do know – already – is that success or not, it won’t be for the want of trying. And for now that’ll do.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo
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Ings has impressed with his attitude and performances so far. I’d like to see him start v Villa on Sat as striker in a 2.
I don’t really like it when we sign Burnley players and although I’ve never been against Ings, I imagined him as someone who can come on if we’re not getting any joy. Maybe provide that something different. That was all before I’d seen him though. He’s the player I’m most excited by. I really think he can make it, so much so that I’d probably put him before Benteke, at this present time if both fit. I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of his first 15 mins yesterday. Apologies (I have moved on, honestly), but I thought we had that look of 2013/14. Ok, few of the through balls didn’t make it but the game seem to open up more but much more in our favour. He looked like how a striker used to look.
Regardless of how he played though, I want him on the field for his work rate and desire. He sprinted across my view at one point and it struck me how much he ran like shaggy from Scooby Doo. His head and chin were stuck out in front trying to get that little bit extra and his arms and legs were going ten to the dozen. Although I’d warmed to him in all his other games for us and certainly after he scored, it was that image that’s stayed with me today. Apologies again, but Suarez’s genius has been missed, no doubt about that, but it’s his passion and never giving up spirit that we miss most. It’s been flat since he went. I think Ings can be the one to ignite the team. More so, when Henderson returns. Who knows but if someone’s dangling a carrot then I’m happy to clutch at it because there isn’t much more to cling to. Ings offers some hope.
I’m very much in agreement w both you and Gareth. As for those first 15 mins, they coincided with Sturridge being on the field…
Would like to see Ings’ attitude from all the players, and praying pool persists w a front pair
At the time we secured him I thought that his signature rendered the pursuit of Benteke unnecessary. He’ll get goals through a sheer bloodyminded refusal to give up and he’ll get goals thanks to his good feet – he’s got better skills than given credit for. While he’s in the side others will get goals because of his selflessness and workrate. Again, at the time, I thought he had all of Suarez’ attributed minus the streak of genius, but you can do a lot with all of the other bits.
Having said that, I’ve probably consigned him to a spot on the bench again. Oh well.
Great shout Gareth.
Hard work & looking arsed isn’t enough on its own but it didn’t half help cheer me up. Plus he looks like he’s got plenty of talent to go with that.
Be good to see him given a run in the side in a two.
Was the McMahon incident against Ars? or Notts Forest?
Delighted for him,
Has said all the right things since signing and then backs it up with
enthusiasm that should be the starting point of every player especially a new fella in the door (take note Divock lad – next time try and leave it all out on the pitch),
I watched quite a bit of him & Vokes the year Burnley came up as it was a really good championship that season and I’m all for getting my money’s worth off Sky,
He was the exact same then also,
I reckon some people recognise how lucky they have it and play football as if they are still a kid,
I love that quote from Barrett about running being the most underrated thing in football.
since Derek mentioned about running…Sky Sports reported today that our stanim skipper Mr Milner leads the distance covered this season among all PL players with 74.8km.
pls analyse what u want … interestingly no Man City, MU or Swans players in the top 20 ‘runners’ list.
should we run less and pass more? maybe genuises at TAW may come up with some kind of analysis?
Running around loads did Suarez no harm !!
Maybe get better at that passing thingy whilst still running like a loon.
our vice skipper did all the running, but his passing was off (not to mention corners.and freekicks). hope his passing and set piece plays come back against Villa.
maybe he will share the ‘running’ with Hendo once he comes back, after reading Stevie G’s book.
Run Hendo Run….
Actually, maybe he is one who needs to stop the running so much and start getting more composure in his game,
What im seeing is someone who feels he needs to be making a huge lung busting effort doing his best Stevie impression whilst I was hoping for a more matured player who keeps making the correct passing option and keeps us ticking over (like Lucas when he is on his game but with a few goals)
Everything seems hurried and last ditch,
You can’t win eh, run to much and I’m saying slow down.
Referencing Bellamy, it reminded me of him in the league cup semi against City. Did everything, was everywhere and got the goal.
exactly. Against Hammers and MU, we desperately needed players like Bellamy or Suarez who would fight every ball, cover every blade of grass. those are the players with big balls :)
Call me crazy, but this is why Ings excites me more than anyone else in and around Liverpool right now. Ings?!? Yeah. He works hard, he clearly cares, and looks a bit mad. That attitude and effort makes the impossible possible.