LAST day of term. Farewell to Anfield for the summer.
It’s been a strange year with the old ground. She’s put us through the mixer for half the time, but come good in the end. Anfield never lets you down for too long. Eventually Anfield becomes Anfield again, and when it does — as for the visits recently of Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal – you wonder why you ever doubted it.
I hate the season’s end. It’s such a deflation. A disappointment I’ve lived with for decades. A long, inevitably wet, hollow summer awaits. Nothing to get out of bed for but the bloody Euros and transfer rumours.
Transfer rumours — I don’t get how so many of my brethren can’t get into them. First off, they see you through that close-season slog. The modern age has been rendered far more bearable by the increase in squad sizes and the commensurate requirement for teams to re-stock with whole new teams’ worth of footballers.
Nowadays, we’re on about a transfer a fortnight once we’re out of May. That’s no little entertainment. That represents a whole heap of new Reds to be researched and anticipated.
For those who are unmoved by the market, I ask, what do you with your Liverpool supporting during the summer? Do you just put it in a box, and broadly forget about it until August? Does the tennis get you through? The cricket? The golf?
You people. You’re the worst.
The emotional energy involved in following the Mighty Reds throughout a long hard season can’t just be converted or forgotten. What are you doing with that heat? Your eyes aren’t bulging, veins aren’t popping and you’re not primal screaming when some white kecked wearing, wooden ball-tossing no-mark takes another wicket against a former British colony in July. So what were you getting so excited about during the football season? Were you faking it? Can you just get in a football ground and turn this thing on, and then flick the switch the other way the minute you’re in the car park? I don’t begin to understand you. You look like me, you talk about the endless minutiae of the game like me, but somewhere deep in your recesses I think we may just be very different.
I don’t even understand the sneering disdain towards summer international football and the watching England football team option. If you love the football, and it is then taken from you, then it is natural that you in turn glean some comfort from the football-lite that these things represent. International competitions may be so much less interesting than domestic ones, and the England side may be an anathema in so many ways, but in the absence of all else, you dig deep and find a way.
It is of course fashionable to scoff at the entire concept of the England. We do live in a country called England, though, and watch football set in an English league. In the absence of our beloved Liverpool FC, it’s not the maddest thing to turn attention to the fortunes of an England football side.
It’s not the England of the Football Association, of Roy Hodgson, nor St George flag-draping Nazis that I’ll be tuning in for this June. It will be the England of John Barnes and Peter Beardsley in Italia ’90. The England of Steve McManaman in Euro ’96. The England of our prodigy Michael Owen (the good Michael Owen) in 1998. It will be the England of our lovely lads at France 2016 — Jordan Henderson, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, James Milner and Daniel Sturridge.
These are Liverpool players on show in a very high-profile setting. Flying the flag for Liverpool FC. They need my love and support. I am endlessly interested in how they get on.
Then there’s the litany of stars who will be performing in Euro 2016 dreaming of transfers to the Reds — Mario Gotze, Zielinski, that German left back and some keepers.
I love it when the two summer distractions — international footie and transfer rumours — collide and intertwine. Suddenly, England v Poland becomes a 90-minute uber YouTube audition for future Liverpool idols, matched and scaled perfectly against existing ones. What’s not to get excited about? What’s not to go down the pub for?
Glad that’s all put to bed then, and I hope you can now all enjoy your Liverpool-free summers correctly. Breathe easy.
The close season is not quite here yet, though. Tonight, in the dying embers of 2015-16, as we mosey into Anfield one last time and there are still questions to be answered before we pack up our desks:
- Is this Liverpool team to face Chelsea the one that will attempt to win us European silverware in exactly a week’s time? Is this a full-scale drill?
- How does this Liverpool FC match up against a Chelsea side which has been nearly as crazily bad as Leicester City have been good? Are they still a yardstick of any sort?
- Can we get the points that we do kind of need to add some respectability to our league season? Points required to allow us the freedom to win the UEFA cup within the context of being a half-decent team domestically.
- Are the Reds that will be on display tonight worthy of getting another go at it next season? What remedies does the summer need to bring?
I’m, as ever, looking forward to Anfield this evening. Never take her for granted. You’ll be missing her like mad within a few weeks as you talk yourself into watching Croatia v Turkey just so that you can roar on Dejan Lovren and scout the Turkish goalie.
I won’t be waiting behind at the end of tonight’s game to watch the players bring their kids on the pitch and to do a bit of waving. That can keep. There’s still a cup to be won.
Oh what an ambiguous night of top-flight football awaits us. Up the end-of-season Reds.
The 11 dress-rehearsers to take on Chelsea: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Milner; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino; Sturridge.