THIS is the moment where this happens. Right here, right now. Liverpool FC win the league if they beat Hull at home. Hull at home is the most important game Liverpool FC will play in 26 years.
Crazy? Yes. Ridiculous hyperbole? Why not. Ludicrous aggrandisement of a very routine Premier League game? Yeah sure, knock yourself out.
This is just how I feel. I can’t help it. I’m with these lads. I believe in this squadron. We’re walking with destiny. We’re clambering up the backs to be lifted on to the shoulders of giants. The view from the summit will be dizzying but we are surely ready for it.
Liverpool are getting better and better and better. Players we thought mere mortals now have winged heels. Our previous shrinking violets now know no fear. The Reds are on the march. The march of the righteous.
It’s a seven-game-old season. You’re fucking nuts, man. I’m not nuts. I’m blessed with second sight. But you don’t need my powers, the evidence is before you now. How many more defences do these lads have to shred? How many more midfields do they have to send scuttling? How many more goals, dammit, do they have to score?
The numbers show that this Liverpool side have notched up 19 goals in seven matches. Five of those matches away from home. Four of the seven matches against teams ranked in the country’s top six. Three of the five aways, representing three of the hardest five aways scheduled for this season.
The bookies have Liverpool as second faves for the league. Sit up. Take notice. The fixtures — revealed back in June — posed a question of Jürgen Klopp’s new Liverpool. No home matches for the first six weeks, and a glut of away match ups with the division’s elite. On paper, it just didn’t look fair. What answer did this generation of Reds have to such a challenge? The blip at Burnley aside, it has been emphatic. Of the other six games played (league and cup), Liverpool have won five from six. And that sixth, at Tottenham, was a moral victory if ever you saw one.
Hull at home. The most important game in 26 years. Win it and we go on. And on. These are the moments when teams define themselves. This is where glib talking of requiring momentum to reach greatness crashes into reality. Hull are not Liverpool Football Club’s fiercest opponent, but they represent a hurdle in the minds of men that must be jumped. A flinch, a side track, a notion, could throw these Reds from their saddle. Blinkers on, face forwards, never look back.
What can Hull do about all of this?
Hull’s coach Mike Phelan is an old dog. He hates Liverpool. He hates Scousers. He was Alex Ferguson’s number two at Old Trafford for too long, not to. He’ll be thinking the same way his predecessor, Steve — he of the big fat ‘ed’ — Bruce used to think about Liverpool FC. He always wanted to beat us so very much. He’d summon up any minute vestiges of Shankly or Clough or Guardiola within his yard-doggy soul. Dig deep into his crusty blemished DNA to find some nano element of Churchillian brio and walk into his pre-match dressing room and tell his boys that today the gods were with them. Today they were beasts in human form. His Wigan and Hull sides got too many improbable draws at fortress Anfield for it to just to be coincidence. He made them want it so bad.
What we know now that we didn’t know back then, is that in his spare time Brucey also wrote detective novels. The main protagonist was a wily sleuth, who played only by his own rules, trusted no one, and always left the dames in a daze. He also had a fucking massive head. Don’t look for these masterpieces on Amazon. You won’t find them there.
Phelan also has a novel in him, but it’s yet to surface. He’s worked on a plan for it. Like Bruce he will be sticking with the crime-detective genre. He’s looking to refashion the 1970s cartoon detective adventures of Hong Kong Fooey, semi autobiographically casting himself in the role of the sidekick cat who never gets any credit despite him being much cleverer than the nominal lead man and hero — in Phelan’s book, an anthropomorphised Scotty dog with a nasty bark and a purple nose.
Phelan, like predecessor Bruce, can want to smash the Scousers all he likes. This isn’t about him. Saturday will not be his big day. Jürgen and the Reds have business to attend to. Real man’s business.
Kloppo is telling the media he hasn’t made his mind up about who will keep goal for Liverpool against Hull. He played it poker faced in front of the press on Thursday. We all know you’re going to pick Loris Karius though, Kloppo. You didn’t scout and stalk that lad for the past year only to keep him waiting behind Simon the Ming. And when the teams are announced at 2pm Saturday, and it is confirmed to the world that Karius is your choice, and that the other lad is not, we will know that you’ve been having us off all along.
And thank Christ for that.
Because, while Simon Mignolet is not the world’s worst goalkeeper and has not disgraced himself this season by any means, he has never been and will never be the man who keeps goal for Liverpool for the next decade. The rest is up to Loris Karius. Godspeed him.
Elsewhere, the Liverpool team is largely picking itself. There is now a definitive back four. Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip all look like they have secured jobs for life, injuries permitting. Ahead of them, in midfield, possession of the shirt is nine-tenths of the law. Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana have been so imperious of late that even last year’s central kingpin, Emre Can, can have no arguments in being asked to wait patiently for his full return to the fold.
The attacking trio will be selected from a pool of four, with the best bet being on Phil Coutinho to miss out IF Danny Sturridge is deemed fully fit (having missed a couple of day’s training in midweek). Incredible then that Coutinho, Can and Divock Origi — arguably Liverpool’s best three players if you’d asked the question in April — are now possibly consigned to bit-part roles. This is a sign of good times.
Biggest game in 26 years then. Bring on those tame Tigers from across the way. Saturday 3pm. A rammed and rambunctious Anfield expects. Surely now, Reds. Surely now.
The (predicted) onwards and upwards Reds 11 to cage those Tigers then: Karius; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Firmino, Sturridge.
Last meeting: Hull City 1 Liverpool 0, April 28, 2015.
Odds: Liverpool 2-9, Draw 5-1, Hull City 12-1.