THE cusp. The abyss. The tightrope.
All modern Liverpool seasons end up there at some stage. It’s what they do when they reach it that counts.
Almost every football season when you watch Liverpool is death or glory. Sometimes that’s the case because good quality makes it so. Players play very well and glory becomes possible. It being in your grasp means it can fall from your grasp. There are very few 12-13s. Some seasons get it out the way early. Some string you along. Some find ways to deliver.
Acknowledging that all plots lead to death is important. It makes you want to be able to choose or experience your sort of death. Last season the journey went to the last game and while the manner of the final act stung it lead to a feeling of promise. Football does this, for all the talk about the river that never stops moving, washing you, it never washes you clean. It never lets you forget. It means you know when the river starts to pull your from your feet. When the detritus will follow. When the dam might break.
This, here, now is what the cusp feels like. What it feels like to stare into the abyss. To gasp at the wobble on the tightrope. There’s a safety net — the fight for fourth, that most mundane of battles which the grey-bearded will rightly tell you matters. But, once the highwire act has fallen into the safety net it is so very hard to care. The thrill is in watching the walking from one side to the other. Mitigation, consolation — these are no longer our concerns. They aren’t relevant to our interests. Unless you think the river can be controlled as it ebbs into the following season. I don’t. I think we start again but that bit more eroded, that bit more worn.
This evening Liverpool looked into the abyss and Southampton winked back. The South Coast side worked hard for their progression and across the two legs they deserve it. They should have taken the tie away from Liverpool at St. Mary’s. They should have been two ahead tonight but for Liverpool’s goalkeeper who currently has the same unenviable run as Liverpool’s other goalkeeper — making big saves in games Liverpool don’t go on and win. No-one remembers those saves, not a couple of days later.
Liverpool were frustrated, though they should possibly take the game away from Southampton in one 20-minute second half spell. There, then, they are the better side, prompting, creating, patient. The strange anxiety and over-commitment of the first half had dissipated. Liverpool probed and started again and found one more. They pulled them left and right, got in and were Daniel Sturridge not further cementing the seemingly endless sense of Greek or Shakespearean tragedy that surrounds him, and instead just sticking it into the net, then Liverpool could well have stolen something they didn’t deserve.
It wasn’t to be for Sturridge tonight and may not be for him in general. Tonight he looked the most he ever has like a lad who everyone knows used to be really rather brilliant at football. Regardless, Liverpool didn’t fail to win the game simply because of him. Instead, it’s because they have become a football team not sufficiently convinced by Plan A but not quite in possession of a Plan B. They neither surrender nor stick to their guns in the face of defending like Southampton’s.
By Wednesday morning we may well know. It may well be over. Death or glory. That place we always end up. By Wednesday morning we may well move into a new chapter, keep death at bay, reach out towards glory however it may well all be in vain in the end. All plots lead to death. I keep writing it down here.
But I’ll have glory, please. If not, the most glorious death. Going meekly into the night should not be an option. Rage instead against it, don’t let it grab you and overpower you, rage in its face. Rage as an 11. Rage on the touchline. Rage 55,000 times over. Palpable rage.
Rage, Reds, rage. It’s later than you think.