I’VE been thinking about the 2007/08 season loads recently, mainly because I have had to like, but even still.
For those of you who don’t know, one of the regular subscriber shows on TAW is ‘What We Call History’. It is basically a review of the games that make up a season, with loads of shite chatted in between. We have been recording 2007/08 for about 36 man hours so far and still haven’t managed to get past December.
For a season where nothing happened, loads happened you know. Mad stuff, really fucking mad stuff happened at our football club that year and yet no one really remembers it. Of all of the Rafa Benitez years it is the one that gets overlooked or merged into another season in our memories.
When Neil spoke to Mike Nevin, The Captain of the WWCH Reds, and the man possessing the single greatest Liverpool FC memory bank, he said words to the effect of “I’m not sure you know — I don’t think there will be much to talk about.”
Its OK Mike, we all make mistakes sometimes. It was ages ago mind, nearly 10 years ago. Mad that, isn’t it? I mean, how long ago was the Capital of Culture? At the start of that season the council were still scratching around looking for culture in every nook and cranny of the city and ended up hiring a massive giant French spider for a bit and fitting a capital of culture 2008 carpet in Liverpool Airport, forgetting that the poor airport bastards wouldn’t be able to renew it until they had got their money’s worth, thereby reminding every prick who flew into Liverpool for the next seven years that it wasn’t 2008 anymore whilst simultaneously pointing out how fucked a carpet can get in a relatively short space of time. One of the happiest days of my life when they changed that frigging carpet, you know.
Anyway it’s worth remembering that in 2007, at the start of the season, the credit crunch hadn’t really kicked in. It was hanging out backstage, in the shadows, ready for a guest appearance in the encore, but its effects on the financial markets was at least a year off. With credit relatively un-crunched, the Reds could compete for the first time in years at the highest end of the market. Any warning signs about the Reds’ owners could be filed away, put to the back of your mind, as on the face of it they had invested in the team.
The purchase of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel seemed like a step up from the previous years. It did seem at the time like a fresh start. Rafa had managed to win us a European Cup, the FA Cup and get us to another European Cup final in the three years he had been in charge, despite having one hand tied behind his back; forced to rummage in bargain bins whilst his competition could buy who they wanted. There was a feeling that we were finally on a level playing field.
Liverpool, whilst drawing a few too many games, were unbeaten in the league going into December yet the manager was under massive pressure. The owners — starting to show their true, obnoxious, fat-headed, Donny Trump-esque colours — were letting it be known to all and sundry that if the manager didn’t qualify for the group stages of the Champions League he would get the bullet.
Seemingly pissed off with Rafa trying to plan for the future of the club, pissed off with him having the best interests of the team and club at heart, pissed off with him trying to manage upwards they told him to shut up and concentrate on training and coaching his team and started flirting with Jurgen Klinsmann for fuck sake; that diving, Volkswagen Beetle, tennis tit.
Thinking back on it, and reading up on it now, this seems like other-world type stuff — like 2016 politics. It also offers some explanation as to why Rafa was and is loved so much by many Liverpool fans. Benitez took it upon himself, one of the only employees at the club who did, to take the fight directly to the owners.
Concerned only about the wellbeing of the club and its future success, he chose to fight as opposed to taking the easy option. Lashing a trackie on at Newcastle away, winning the game and then providing a withering assessment of the owners in breach of a direct instruction to keep his mouth shut, Benitez might as well have got his plonker out and waved it in Tom Hicks face. Not concerned about himself he called them out — highlighted their characters for all to see.
I didn’t think I could love or support him more than I already did but from that day onwards I was at war. At war with the owners, the general public, bellend Liverpool fans who didn’t feel the same as me, Sky Sports and their Brexit basic viewpoint on zonal marking and squad rotation; at war for this man, this martyr of a man who loved me more than I loved him.
For me, Benitez’s role in opposing and exposing the owners for what they were was pivotal in the eventual outcome later on. He helped set the viewpoint of them, highlighted their wanton bastardness, held a mirror up to the dysfunctional nature of the club. His professionalism and genuine love of the club should have led him to being given the freedom of the city. There should have been statues of him on every corner — or at least have had his head plonked onto to some existing ones. How boss would it be for Rafa’s head to be welded onto the Ken Dodd statue in Lime Street, or the John Lennon one in Matthew Street?
That season, with the sword of Damocles dangling over the dugout, he managed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League by winning the three games he needed to with an aggregate score of 16-2.
“What’s that Tom? I’m going to get sacked if we go out in the group stage, am I? Watch this then, fat head.”
To ram the point home, he took us to our third Champions League semi-final in four years and was only undone by big, stupid John Arne Riise Sandy Brown-ing one into the bottom corner against Chelsea.
Rafa Benitez was and is the greatest of men and it shames our fanbase to this day, that by the time he left he was derided as much as he was loved. Some Liverpool fans openly called for him to be sacked. Some Liverpool fans openly celebrated when he was sacked.
They got all they deserved when Roy Hodgson bounced in with his self-serving nature and served up a couple of bowls of shit and knocked off early to go and get his hair done. Rafa Benitez was one of the greatest managers in our history, of that there is no doubt. He was also one of the bravest.
History will remember him well.
What We Call History 2007/08 already does. Get on it, it’s alright you know. It will get you thinking at least.
Let’s go Redmen.