I READ a piece this week by a Liverpool fan having a pop at other Liverpool fans for overreacting to The Reds’ form over the last month or so.
It was over the top, he said. Too much. What about how The Reds started the season? The points accrued? The goals scored? How can they react like this?
This isn’t to have a go at said author of said piece. It’s a continual thread sown through Liverpool FC conversations, online and offline: how other fans behave; what they wear; how they act; when they sing and don’t sing; when they lose their shit. How realistic or unrealistic they are.
The truth is, surprise, surprise, that everyone is different. Some are glass half full, always looking for the positives, always pointing to progress, always providing context and reasons to be cheerful even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Others are glass half empty; some worn down by 27 years of failure to win the title, others pissed off with platitudes, more remembering how Liverpool was once run, what it won, when and how, and struggling with the ever-present business talk that has become the norm of modern football and Liverpool’s place within the moneyed elite of the game.
The truth is nobody is really “right”. The social networks of modern life allow us to constantly converse on our shared love of the same football club. But the time devoted to being “right” is wrong because so much of the game is based on subjectivity – from how good a player is, to how much they are worth. From a manager’s influence to the duties of the people deployed on the pitch.
If you felt – like I did after Swansea – that your world had collapsed around you watching Liverpool, again, fall short when it mattered chasing the thing we yearn for most then you’re not going to be in the mood for plucking out the positives. You might be moody. Poor company. Good for nothing. That kind of thing.
Equally, if you’ve grown up in a different era – one where it’s only old fellas with furrowed brows who talk about when Liverpool won the league – then perhaps you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Liverpool, you might be saying, have done pretty well this season all things considered – after 23 games in the Premier League era, only the pace set by the Liverpool of 2008-9 (48 points) is better than that clocked up by the class of 16-17 (46).
With 15 games to play and 45 points to aim for, the dream is Liverpool finishing on 91 points, Chelsea falling on their arse, Arsenal and Spurs dropping points somewhere and Liverpool taking its clothes off en masse to celebrate the title. But, at odds of 20-1 to win the league now, I think I’ll choose to remain with my current state of mind — mildly pissed off, wondering when it will happen and wondering why it hasn’t happened already.
Since John Barnes and co. lifted league title no.18 in 1990 with 79 points, Liverpool have bettered that total four times – in 2001-02 (80), 2005-6 (82), 2008-09 (86) and 2013-14 (84).
Each time it wasn’t enough to win the league.
It’s within the reach of Jürgen Klopp’s side to top that total again. And again it’s likely not to be enough. Chelsea’s form has been phenomenal.
Is it any wonder then why so many of us have gone slightly mad?
In the Premier League era, Manchester United have won the title 13 times. In seven of those seasons they clocked up 84 points or less (84, 82, 75, 79, 80, 83 and 80 points). Totals Liverpool have equalled and bettered in the league. And yet it wasn’t enough.
Arsenal have won it with 78 points. Leicester finished last season as champions with 81 points on the board (but actually won the league with two games to spare, with only 77 points proving to be enough to stave off the challenge of Spurs).
Again then, this is why heads – including mine – fall off. It must happen to the players, too. To managers. To everyone involved.
Fuck’s sake, what do we have to do here? Why not us?
Back when Dr Steve Peters, the psychiatrist responsible for the best selling book, The Chimp Paradox, was involved at the club he did an interview with The Independent that caused quite a stir among some fans.
Some interpreted his points as setting up for failure or lacking ambition. Given his track record in sport it was quite the leap.
Back then, in 2013, he said: “If you start going into the realm of the uncontrollable with a pre-defined goal then you are going to start to stress.
“So I would be guiding Liverpool to say, ‘By all means let’s commit to the dream and make it happen. But let’s not make it a goal and put pressure on ourselves to live up to something that is actually not in our control’.”
He added: “At the end of the day you can’t do better than your best.”
It’s a key point, albeit one tough to swallow. Liverpool have done their best many times. This season. Across the course of seasons. And yet it hasn’t been enough. That can’t be controlled. Because it’s hard all this. Clubs have been better than ours. And it’s left us yearning. Longing. And thrashing about wondering when all this will ever end and we can have that party we’ve been dreaming of.
The impact of all this on the mind is fascinating. It goes some way, I think, to explain why Liverpool’s support (some of it at least) is what it is. Why some fans would think booing their own players helps. Why Klopp is turning round during a match and having it out with a supporter at Anfield. Why fans are continually at each other’s throats online.
Another psychiatrist, (deep this isn’t it?) Dr Alan Hirsch, studied the problems with yearning for nostalgia.
He described it as: “A longing for a sanitised impression of the past, what in psychoanalysis is referred to as a screen memory — not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions filtered out.”
We remember the good times, and not the bad. We remember winning things simply and easily but not the near misses, not how we got there, not the heartache, the pressure, the hard work, the mistakes.
It would all help if it didn’t matter quite so much. I know my Dad would say that if he read this. He doesn’t think it does.
But it does to me. It does to you. We’re all in. And when it doesn’t go our way it hurts. Liverpool’s only win in the month of January was against League Two opposition. It’s no surprise if people are pissed off, depressed, going mad, or are not fully convinced that Liverpool are about to rip up the Premier League and make it all nice sunshine again.
But what now? We can feel sorry for ourselves. We can lash out. We can seek people to blame. Or we can pull together, remember why we love footie and this club, and, as a brilliant player who once wore the red said: “Go again.”
Because, as another revered figure in our history once said: “There are possibilities, no?”