I AM stupid. Uneducated. Not just ‘ill-educated’, which would suggest that Fazakerley Comprehensive didn’t do a fantastic job on me between 1975 and 1983, but uneducated. I simply didn’t go to school. Apparently. According to Twitter, obviously. You know this is Twitter. You know this is the weekend. This is the last week. Eight hours of the stuff last Monday, just as much on Saturday night and then all day Sunday.
Writing down words here has its downsides, you know. It ensures that people have easy, direct, access to letting me know that I am ‘a deluded fucking twat’. It’s particularly easy if your Twitter profile contains both your real name AND your photo, unlike every single bastard that’s sending the shite your way. ‘Liverpool’s season’s aged David Tennant really badly’ — quite liked that one, quite inventive; other than that, insult after insult, after insult, after insult. And fish jokes. So, so many bloody fish jokes. And all delivered with a flourish which indicated that the sender knew for an absolute fact that he was the first person ever to spot that my surname is also the ACTUAL name of an ACTUAL fish. ‘We went fishing and we caught a fish….literally’ from a lad who clearly doesn’t understand what literally means. ‘Look at his name…deffo something fishy going on there.’ Jesus Christ, I first heard that used in 1969; you’re adding nothing to the sum total of the world’s humour reserves. Literally nothing.
And all this because at the start of the season I had dared to embrace positivity and suggest, okay state very openly that we could, okay would, very definitely WOULD win the league.
The majority of missives arrived from lads who had 1878 in their Twitter name. Strangely, some of these seemed to be from countries other than our own; this confused me as I’d always assumed that they checked your address on the way into Goodison to ensure that you lived on County Road. Lads who support a team who haven’t won anything in 22 years were abusing me for the sheer audacity of showing hope and belief in my team. There was one lad though, one lad who I really liked; ‘you turn up at our place with banners and balloons and expect us to keep quiet? OK chief.’ I like him, I’ll talk to him again; he gets it, he knows a rejoinder when he sees one.
There were the others though. There were those that didn’t belong to the Blues. One or two Manchester United kids taking a risk with the chance that Jose won’t simply implode again, a Manchester City lad who dared to stick his head above Pep Guardiola’s melting parapet and there were, as ever, some of ours. One lad, with a picture of Bobby as his Avatar and a name that wasn’t his own (might have been the lad who suggested I delete all my old articles ‘rite now’ in case I embarrassed this site – or perhaps this ‘sight’ seeing as we’ve moved into a world of alt-spelling now), another with a photo of Phil, a third with a snap of a snarling Jürgen, others with three letters in their names; all taking up one theme: I am an FSG apologist.
The common opinion here is that FSG are destroying our club (I say ‘our’; one lad kept referring to ‘Liverpool fans’ and ‘Liverpool FC’ as though they were foreign concepts that he had no real link to and I’m more than willing to believe that he doesn’t. They all know for a fact that Jürgen Klopp is unhappy, not being supported, not being given the money that he wants. They have direct access and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, when Jürgen says that he can see no players available that he feels would improve his squad beyond the players he currently has, he’s lying; he’s simply hiding the fact that he’s not allowed to spend.
This is evidenced by the fact, the FACT, that FSG will not spend on wages. In the week in which they made Philippe Coutinho their highest earner, improved Adam Lallana’s contract and secured Joe Gomez till near my 60th bloody birthday, FSG are not willing to pay the players. Confirmation bias at its best.
These are the Twitter accounts who went mad after Burnley and then, quite wisely, shut their gobs for three months while we played the best football in the country. Feels a long time ago, doesn’t it? November? Feels like years. You’ve forgotten it. The wheels have come off. Big style. I won’t pretend that they haven’t. That would be stupid. Ill-educated. January, with it’s 36 games a fortnight, has been bloody awful; we’ve seen everything fade away, seen all the hope that we held vanish into nothing. We are now, and you’re more than aware of this, out of exactly as many cup competitions as Everton. There is no day out at Wembley to look forward to, there is nothing but the league and we’ve blown that. Swansea was the top hat on that; the first of the three energy/will/ heart/hope-sapping losses in seven days that killed us and left us hopelessly adrift and plummeting.
Or. There’s always an ‘or’. In this case the ‘or’ is ‘or we could put it like this:
We are still only two points off second. That hasn’t changed. Lots of things have changed and lots of things can still change but that hasn’t. We’re two points off second and a massive 10 off the top. That’s insurmountable. If you believe that it’s insurmountable then it is, simple as that.
If you can look at us playing (very, very badly) against Wolves having pulled back a goal and think ‘we’re on 85 minutes, there’s only five to go, this is shit’ and get up and walk out, then this is insurmountable. If you can start a game singing You’ll Never Walk Alone and start calling players ‘fucking useless’ (quotation marks as it’s a direct quote from a voice by me BEFORE the free-kick was given away on Saturday) the first time a ball goes a little loose, then it’s insurmountable. If you refuse to believe that we can accomplish greatness then we won’t.
Do you need me to quote Shanks on this? Do you simply not get what Jürgen’s talking about when he says that he needs everybody behind the team? Do you not see what he’s trying to build? If you don’t, then 10 points is insurmountable.
If you take the other option though, if you take the option that you’re willing to take the shit from the anonymous no-marks on Twitter because you’re willing to believe. If you’re willing to believe that when our manager says that he will not buy for the sake of buying, and that there is nobody available (and the key word there is ‘available’) who will improve what we already have, then it’s because he has a plan and we brought him in for that very plan. And maybe, just maybe, FSG know what that plan is better than you do and are actually working to make it happen.
Things change quickly. Three weeks ago every blue on the planet wanted Ronald Koeman sacked because he wasn’t good enough for their club and their squad was the worst squad they’ve ever had — lacking heart, fight, love for the club. Now, they are apparently so great that they can laugh at our misfortunes. In August, Pep was the messiah; now he’s a man who has burned out and can’t hack England. After we and then Arsenal dismantled Chelsea in quick succession, Antonio Conte was a mistake. That changed overnight. Things change overnight. We changed overnight after Burnley.
We go into the Chelsea game finely balanced between hope and disaster. A loss basically, realistically leaves us fighting for a top four place. And, if you choose to accept that as something that will happen then it will bloody happen because the first thing that goes wrong in the match will send Anfield into meltdown. If you choose to hope, though…
Think of Wednesday morning. Think of sitting in second. Think of only being seven points behind Chelsea while knowing that they have to face Arsenal, United, City, West Ham, Southampton and could lose or draw each and every one. Think of watching us go on a run that equals that of spring 2014 while Chelsea hit the streak that we’ve just had. Can’t see that coming? Did you see ours coming? I didn’t.
We could pull out the biggest cliche on earth at this point. We could claim that Tuesday night against Chelsea is a cup final. It’s not. It’s a semi-final. To be very precise, it’s the Champions League semi-final in 2005. It’s that big because everything that follows hinges on it. We win this and we don’t know what it does to Chelsea’s mentality. How would this Chelsea side respond to losing to us on Tuesday and then to Arsenal on Saturday? How would they deal with those successive event repeating themselves?
Everything is open. Everything is possible. Nothing has been determined. We write our own future. So, Tuesday night; in the damp, in the dark, in the cold, under the floodlights with the steam rising from us, scream, shout, stand, roar, taste every single bloody second. And do it all with the knowledge that we can do this, that we have done this before. Do it with the knowledge that what we do is what others don’t expect. Do it in the knowledge of Chelsea in 2005 and Saint Etienne and Borussia Dortmund.
Make every moment positive, precious, perfect. Give every single ounce of your soul to this. Don’t worry about external factors, don’t worry about business, transfers, wages; if a ball goes out, don’t worry, the next one won’t. If a pass goes astray don’t scream ‘you useless fucking bastard’ scream ‘come on you fucking Redmen’ because the next pass won’t go astray, the next pass will decide the next moment, and the next, and the next. The next pass will decide the season because it has the weight of your belief behind it.
And if you’re willing to succumb to despair?
I don’t care.
I choose to hope, to believe. I always choose to hope, I always choose to believe.