WHERE’S the balance for this? Where is the tone? Because it is the rhetoric which tends to let these affairs down. For all the talk of the magic of the cup, and while acknowledging that tonight was a significant game for Plymouth Argyle and for two or three Liverpool players, it became a dreadful, drab game of football. It was little more than attritional.
There wasn’t much cup magic on show, instead there was a young Liverpool side scrapping with an opposition who managed one acrobatic effort off the post but which never truly threatened to dismiss The Reds.
It was no barrel of laughs.
It shouldn’t need to be. It’s a game of football, but more rhetoric: the Plymouth manager Derek Adams chatted some wham about showing Liverpool “the real world” after the game at Anfield, in that grizzled lower league tone which so many managers try to affect. It remains unclear what this real world is — Plymouth come across as a decent side across the two games but one which remained a smidgen too conservative to be able to impose reality onto The Reds. This isn’t unreasonable. It happens to football sides up and down the country. But it took the form of this dark notion, that what Liverpool do isn’t real, that what Plymouth do is. It insinuates that Liverpool’s footballers don’t have to work hard or that they can’t battle. They do work hard, every day they work hard, and they do battle. It’s the minimum requirement really, certainly for this manager.
What Liverpool actually lacked today wasn’t the real world, but the unreal one. What this cup game was short of was footballing magic. There was no strut, no swagger from Liverpool. There was tons and tons of real world graft, but nothing sublime. When the Liverpool manager came to Liverpool he said his side would come up against better sides and drag them down to their level and kill them. Today Liverpool dragged themselves down to Plymouth’s level and killed them oh so slowly. Liverpool were so determined to be real, to graft, they seemed to forget all the other stuff.
Entirely in keeping with this, Liverpool’s goal came from a set-piece, a bullet header from a footballer who embodies the very essence of reality. Lucas Leiva’s Liverpool career is one which is all about scrapping for everything. It’s stunning he remains at Anfield until you remember that football clubs are populated by real people, that dressing rooms have balances and that footballers themselves have families and expectations. Were football simply worked out on calculators he would almost certainly be long gone. The cynical calculation for Lucas should be around where he gets his game time. For Liverpool around where his level and usefulness is versus his wage. For Lucas what does his next contract look like — could he have secured something better for the next few years. For Liverpool what does he bring?
The man linked constantly to a move away never quite does it. He is a Liverpool lad now. He moved to Liverpool at the age of 20. He has spent most of his adult and professional life here, a third of his actual life. His children are Liverpudlian. His life revolves around this city. He’s a big presence for footballers from South America across the whole region and everyone who has dealings with him that I have ever spoken to only speak highly of his company and his values. He’s part of the furniture in the most mundane and simultaneously best possible way. There’s never quite enough reason to move him on, never quite enough reason for him to go. He has considerations beyond just the game. He has, frankly, a life. And he loves his adopted home.
There is something about Liverpudlianism at its best which welcomes adopted sons with open arms and loves them, holds them close. This city is a port city, a city which defines itself against English orthodoxy, which tells itself it loves the underdog. There’s a kissing-the-camera swagger about it too; you come and make your home here, son. You know how boss we are.
It’s easy to want the very best players to love the club you support, to call your city home. But his pride in leading Liverpool out will be as great, greater, than Luis Suarez’s. His joy in scoring that goal for Liverpool today will outstrip much of Fernando Torres’s. And he’ll go to sleep tonight in his Liverpool home with a smile that would match Steven Gerrard’s, had he scored the decider in a tie like this. Maybe wider because Steven scored so many goals. This a collector’s item.
Therefore the balance for this, the tone, is to talk of love and warmth and openness at a time when it seems in such desperately short supply in a national context, in so many of the national contexts around the world. To not be mean, small and parochial but to find that spark which reminds us what the purpose of this thing of ours and all human enterprises is. To hold the real world close and hold up a mirror against it. There are always stories to tell on the drabbest days; moments glisten, moist. Kaleidoscopic; catch them in a dreamcatcher’s net. Our pond water can always be someone’s frobscottle.
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night, he ain’t a beauty but hell he’s alright and that’s alright by me.
They are good at the magical realism, the Latin and South Americans, you know. Great set of lads.
Up Lucas Leiva’s Reds.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
Lucas Leiva, damn good player, top bloke and an adopted Scouser. We like him and we love him.
Marvellous writing Neil, joyous. Drab game made lovely by a Lucas goal! It’s being fun, this season. Up the reds and thanks for all the great content.
Only saw the first half but that’s one heck of a report Neil.
Lucas Leiva will always have a place in our hearts.
Lucas Leiva. He’s riding out tonight to face the promised land. A truly terrific fella. Give him a testimonial. Give him a Kop mosaic. Aquilani has had bigger flags on the Kop than Lucas. At his zenith, and just before he did his ACL one of the best central midfielders in the league. Mobile, fearless and biting in the tackle. I remember seeing him writhe in pain on the turf at Stamford Bridge wondering whether he would ever be the same again. To reinvent himself since then as he has done, it a testament to his footballing brain and versatility. Always with a smile on his face and loves a bit of needle. And that is why we like him.
A superb piece, that. Even better, than the pint of 7.4% Spingo on offer at The Fortescue on North Hill.
Maybe Divock could sink one of those before his next outing and just play a little more from instinct.
Enjoyed the thunder road reference!
Great read. Whenever I hear a Lucas rumor, and little piece of me always hopes it’s untrue. It will be a sad day when he goes personally, but like others before him, the city is branded on him. Is right, give him a teatimonial.
Well done, that’s a good tone. I couldn’t be happier for Lucas. his smile was joyous. I looked at his face. As for the rest: job done. Let us pray that James Milner stays injury-free because, (forgive the tone) Albie Moreno is a poor footballer.
Lucas, far bettor than anyone has ever given him credit for.
Pre injury and at his peak he had become a superb midfielder.
Man City game in particular stands out as he outplayed everyone on the park and in one majestic moment literally floated through the air to out jump jump ya ya toure and win another header. Top man.
Great piece Neil!
He was waiting out there like a killer in the sun
Headed it in, because he timed his run
To not love Lucas is to not love life
Lucas. Legend. Never let him go.
Lucas Levia, I have travelled a long and winding road in my feelings about this man. I’ll admit I was one of those who made him a scapegoat for everything that went wrong in games in his early years at the club. But his determination, work rate and obvious love for the club has worn me down, he may not be the quickest or most skillful player on the pitch but my god he gives everything and leaves nothing on the pitch.
Great report Neil, as always.
And bonus points for managing to stick some Springsteen lyrics into it as well.
Lucas is a decent cove…so is the guy who fixes my car.
But did your guy ever make it to F1 in his chosen field?
Excellent, Neil. Two different articles in one.
I think you’ve nailed the summing up of the tie in that line ‘What Liverpool actually lacked today wasn’t the real world, but the unreal one.’ We’re not used to playing against sides at that level, nor them us, so it’s a bit of a fake game in a way. Not everyone gets that though. They expect us to hammer Plymouth. But that’s the ‘magic’ of the cup; that’s the ‘leveller’.
And the stuff about Lucas is marvellous. What a lad. I hope he stays with us for years – his experience, not just on the pitch, will be priceless in years to come for other lads that we may bring over form the likes of South America.
The treble……………it’s on.
THIS is why I read TAW. I’m a book editor by trade, and this is by far the best thing I’ve read today. Glorious.
Springsteen and Lucas Leiva sharing a sentence at last. Life is complete.
Great that Neil, nice one, I live in his old club’s city, Porto Alegre, a port not that unlike Liverpool. Here in Brasil I’ve only ever heard positive comments about him as a footballer and a man.
Wonderful read and a great way to capture the fans respect for someone who only tried his best and maximised his-self.
Great stuff Neil. Lucas was very much underated, loved him and all that he brought to us. Happy retirement lad.