THE best thing that has happened to the Reds since New Year’s Day which doesn’t involve Joe Allen is the side Jürgen Klopp selected against Exeter City on a Friday night.
It acted as a reminder of two basic points for us all:
a) Gang of lads wearing the Liverbird there. Let’s get behind them.
b) You can play youngsters in cups without it being a death knell.
Indeed it arguably led to a c):
c) It was much more fun.
I was at Carlisle. Back when Brendan Rodgers was knocking about the place. I was there. It was deathly. The side too strong, too much of an eye on the weekend, too distracted.
There were absolutely no laughs. There was pressure. To have gone out would have felt dreadful. To go through felt dreadful. Extra time backbreaking metaphorically. The 90 literally backbreaking for Firmino.
Instead against Exeter, Brad Smith’s equaliser felt like a winner — a proper “fucking take that” moment, out your seat flicking the vs about like nobody’s business (bemusing people in a Prague bar in my case) and just mostly feeling like something had been stuck to someone somewhere. Possibly Gary Lineker. He’ll do in this instance.
I was with those lads. They deserved what they got from that game. They wore the Liverbird. They put a stint in, matching their opponents for endeavour and desire. Both sides played like it was the biggest game of their lives to date. They were right to do so. It was.
When people — me — people bang on about throwing all resources into the league it isn’t just because the league is everything — it is — but because at some point the younger Reds need to have the biggest game of their lives. They need to have their chance.
Six Europa League games, third and fourth round of the domestic cups. That is 10 opportunities to play for Liverpool. Ten chances to find out who can do a bit for us, who can’t. But 10 chances to give lads the game of their lives.
Football tends to be a meritocracy. If you are good enough you make it. But you need the opportunity.
Even then if you aren’t mustard you may need a bit of luck — a manager with whom you fit, an injury at the right time, the right experienced team-mate. Christian Benteke to score the header from your cross so they talk about your cross, not his miss or the goalkeeper’s save.
All of these things need to happen in some way.
If you don’t fit with the manager, it might be best that everyone knows that early — find a manager you do fit with.
These are human beings with dreams we’re talking about here. Careers. If it can’t happen at Liverpool let these lads succeed elsewhere. But the best way to know if it can or can’t happen is by playing them, getting that information. What does he do at Exeter when the camera, the lower league player, the pitch all bears down?
Every player who ever comes into contact with Liverpool I want them to feel Liverpool did everything they could whether it works or not, whether they are 12 or 32. It may be an impossible dream but it’s what a football club should be.
So it is Exeter again. What warmed the cockles after the first game was the number of Liverpool supporters who wanted to see the same lads get another go at this, out the seat and flicking the vs, get them back to our place and then we will have them.
Then we will get stuck in. What a thing. The right way to do it.
Anfield is a sell-out, ticketed sensibly, so well in the club. Anfield is a sell-out. Six thousand Exeter fans. It’s the third round of the FA Cup. It will be freezing cold. It will be the biggest night of some young men’s lives, the thing they have worked and worked and worked for. How gorgeous. Anfield is a sell-out and we’ll all be lucky to share it with them. The togger — it sneaks up on you sometimes. Drop dead gorgeous from nowhere.
Mignolet in for Bogdan. The rest as you were.
You mean, Ward for Bogdan
or not..damn rules
I’d probably stick Ward in not Mignolet, see what he can do. Caulker, Allen and Benteke the senior players I’d start, the rest I would leave as it was in the 2-2. Good piece mate.
Turns out Ward and Caulker ineligible, making my comment redundant! Hahaha
Great stuff as always, Neil.
My son and I have a pair of tickets in the Kop and we’d love to be there for all the reasons you set out so eloquently and emotively.
We got the tickets because I signed us up for the Auto Cup enrolment scheme. We live down south so it’s difficult to get to many home matches and the Auto Cup scheme seemed like a good bet. The date for this replay was only finalised last week by which time the price of the tickets had been taken off my credit card – and I was already commi tied to working in London. So, we can’t go.
After days of trying to get through to the club on the phone, I finally spoke to someone yesterday who told me that they could only resell the tickets if I cancelled them. And if I did that we would be removed from the Auto Cup scheme! I pointed out that this is madness given that they have a resale scheme for season ticket holders who can’t make particular matches and the auto cup scheme is the equivalent of a season ticket.
Now, I’m not actually that bothered about getting my money back – I’d already committed to that cost when I signed up for the scheme. I’m much more interested in making sure that the seats aren’t left empty and someone else gets to see the Reds. So I suggested this to the person on the phone – but apparently the club are not allowed to GIVE the tickets to someone else either.
And because they’re on our fan cards, we could only give them to someone else by physically giving those people our cards. None of our mates down here is able/willing to make the 300 mile round trip. So that doesn’t work either.
The only other suggestion the club person had was that we could arrange for someone else to use them, call the ticket office again to leave tell their names, then get them to turn up at the ticket office and spend £10 per ticket getting “reprints”. All very well – except that I have very little expectation of being able to get through to the ticket office again on a match day. Oh, and she was very keen to point out that I’m not allowed to advertise the tickets because that’s illegal!
So, I’m stuck. I have tickets for a pair of seats on the Kop which I can’t use, I can’t cancel, and I’m unlikely to be able to resell. So this seats will probably be empty.
And I doubt I’m the only person in this position. So although it’s a “sell out”, it won’t be full. Which is a terrible shame but all the club’s own doing.
Bloody bureaucracy! Nothing like making it difficult for people when it should be, oh so easy.
Carlisle might be the worst game I’ve ever been to. It’s certainly up there. Desperate team selection and – unfathomable before kick off – an even more desperate performance from that team. Actual reds around me chanting “who are ya?!” at the away end. Just… so, so bad.
Klopp’s Mignolet comments in that video are killer. I think Mignolet is in and around the age now where Reina started his decline from one of the best keepers in Europe to someone you’d replace. Mignolet’s not going to get good enough over the next five years.
He’s definitely not worth the money we paid Sunderland for him because his glaring weaknesses weren’t massively known to the watching world before he became Liverpool’s no.1 and started making some of the maddest mistakes you’ll ever see in your life. I mean, the lad’s 27-28yo and unable to consistently kick the ball up the pitch properly ffs.
How many solid games would Mignolet need in a row for his defence (and the crowd) to start to trust him at this stage? It’s not going to work out.
I have more confidence of the same the lads that played last time around beating Exeter, than of the seniors winning against Norwich at the weekend. Go figure!
I like the idea of giving the kids 10 chances to shine. But we said the same things about a shed load of ‘great’ youngsters who never made it with us or any other team. Morgan, for example. Couldn’t gel scoring until he got into the reckoning. Mellor another. There are loads of examples. But they had to contend with a good senior team to force their way into: the current hopefuls have the best chance in years to make a name.
Couldn’t STOP scoring…