IT’S been a while, hasn’t it?
And apparently we’ve still got the weekend to negotiate before we get our Reds fix at home to Manchester United on Monday.
This notion of another blank weekend is one of several strange observations I’ve made during this period of reflection since the win at Swansea. It’s not a blank weekend for me. The Premier League is back after the latest international break and the three teams above Liverpool all play on Saturday.
Points that determine the destiny of this title will be won and lost tomorrow. We might have to wait until Monday to see the Kloppo’s Reds but, for me, it’s game on from the moment Chelsea and Leicester meet in the Saturday early kick-off.
Then, Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal are all in action at 3pm tomorrow.
The Reds don’t win this league in isolation. Sage old Boot Room voices from Bill Shankly to Kenny Dalglish used to talk of taking care of our own business as being the only thing that matters. They knew they were talking bollocks. Luck and fate – and results in other games – play more of a part in winning leagues than any of the old stagers would care to admit.
Dalglish’s Liverpool don’t win the Double in 1986 without Oxford beating Everton in the penultimate game. Beyond our control? Actually, no.
If you feel football, it’s all about getting in people’s heads; understanding it’s a spiritual game. Managers do it but we can play our part too.
I’m already telling everyone in Manchester – on a daily basis – Liverpool will win the league. Not City. Not United. Liverpool. Then I tell them why. They don’t like it. They don’t like us. They lose their sangfroid. I’m already inside their heads. I’m not yet inside the mind of their General, Pep Guardiola, but I’m messing with the mental state of his troops. Eventually it permeates.
It takes me back to the spring of 2014 when I knew every fixture, injury update, suspension; every conceivable points permutation, and kicked every ball in games Liverpool didn’t even play in.
In particular, I recall Arsenal sneaking a crucial point at home to City in the tea time game which theoretically left our chances “in our own hands” with five or six matches to go. I had steak and chips waiting for me at full time but I couldn’t be arsed eating and opted for the valium of wine and interesting cigarettes to soothe me through the night.
I upped my sessions at the gym to be in shape for the run-in. If I was going to put a curse on City and Chelsea I needed to be in tip-top form. Quite frankly it was knackering watching so much televised football. But, it worked. Chelsea were hexed at Villa (from a bar in New York) and at Palace (from a bar stool in The Edinburgh in Crosby) and duly fell away.
The only respite came through the Reds allowing me in to see their games in the flesh. Watching us batter everyone was the perfect relaxation. But, I wasn’t alone in realising supplementary, exterior forces were needed to win leagues.
Martin Fitzgerald, formerly of these pages, was of the same mind and performed actual voodoo on Joe Hart the night before we vanquished City at Anfield.
Hart let in three and Premier League Fatheads cut an extra, gold league-winners’ medal for Fitzy. They had it waiting for him, veiled in a leather box, resting on a velvet cushion ready to be presented to him by the late David Bowie after the final home game. Fitzy never got his medal, so this piece is for him.
A fortnight later before Chelsea at home, the internet was awash with rumours thousands had turned up at the plush Formby Hall residence, with more pyro than bommie night, to keep Mourinho’s c***s awake all night.
”How mad is that?” “Fuckin’ boss tha’ la'” purred Twitter, as self-congratulatory internet Reds all over the globe patted each other on the back for being so brilliantly wacky and crazy.
The sad truth of the matter was no-one was letting bangers off in Formby; no-one was breaking into hotels to set Mourinho’s pubes on fire. Most of the match-goers were at home watching Casualty and getting an early night. Chelsea slept well and Mark Schwarzer woke feeling 10 years younger.
I wasn’t outside the Chelsea hotel myself. But I was working my own brand of madness. I spent the whole Saturday night, suspended upside down like a bat from the ceiling, on the blower to various Catholic Bishops and witch doctors. On instruction, I spent Sunday morning pissing in different parts of the garden and showering North Liverpool with incense.
It wasn’t quite enough.
Stevie G (probably drunk on a fragrant cocktail of urine and religious scent) fell over, Suarez missed a sitter at the end, The Ev allowed City to abuse them; we tried but couldn’t score 10 at Palace, and the dream died.
We suffered a death by a thousand cuts. Martin Fitz started writing about LPs and gave up footy altogether. I lost it a bit, the harsh realities of real life took over and I ended up not being myself for over a year.
It’s hard to describe just how hard 2014 was on all of us, but we’re primed this time to go one better; to fight the fight from here to the finishing line. That goes for players and fans.
I hadn’t a clue what I was writing about this week when I typed “Back in Business” at the top of the page. It’s probably not the title of this piece. Robbo sub-eds that bit and normally inserts the headline profanities that upset my mum and dad.
When I mentioned, at the top, those other observations during the break, I was going to genuinely explore the fact that since we won in South Wales, while people have gone ape shit about footballers having to play in the fucking World Cup, I’ve celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary, enjoyed non-league football, some televised cricket and recharged my title batteries.
Instead, what I’ve ended up doing is asking myself this. Can I cope with eight more months of title torture? The answer is probably no. But that won’t stop me kicking every ball, and not just in a metaphorical red shirt. Tomorrow I’ll be playing for Swansea, West Brom and, sacrilegiously, Everton. On Monday night, along with 51,000 Reds (sounds good that, doesn’t it?), I’ll lace up my boots and play for Liverpool. I might be behind the Kop goal rather than in front of it but David de Gea still gets it.
Between October and May, we’ll see the clocks go back and forth and the seasons change. In the meantime, there is visualisation to be done, magpies to train, mind games to played, matches to be watched and spells to be cast. There are pints, shorts and bottles to be downed and songs to be sung.
I’m hanging from the ceiling again and I’ve asked Fitzgerald to dust off the black magic. We should all do the same, starting tomorrow. Don’t forget, Hart might have won a Premier League medal but Fitzy’s curse eventually saw him end up at Torino.
As supporters we play our part. We might have two left feet, but we kick every ball hard in this league; at the match, on the telly and in our rival’s heads.
Get cracking Reds.
See you Monday night.