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ON a Monday night in May, the ball drops to Sebastian Prödl a few yards from goal, on the volley, unmarked, my heart races, and I think, “Oh not a-fucking-gain.”

I feel as if I’ve seen it too many times already this season. Liverpool ahead, comfortable, but not securing it when on top and leaving themselves in a very vulnerable position in the dying moments. I thought “Oh not a-fucking-gain” watching us crumble at Bournemouth. I thought it at Sunderland away. I thought it at Old Trafford. I thought it. I thought it against fucking Bournemouth again at Anfield. I thought it against Crystal Palace barely a week beforehand.

But on Monday night Prödl’s strike crashed back off the bar. It didn’t go in. It didn’t cost Liverpool more silly points. They weren’t punished.

It’s mad and a little worrying that the Reds can dominate a game to such an extent and still appear fortunate to end up with three points, but it does feel nice that the customary last-10 defensive brain-fart in the penalty area didn’t result in a scruffy goal and a dampening of spirits, for once.

Emre Can’s Greatest Goal of All-Time™ has now set Liverpool up for a much more comfortable finish to the end of the season; with the run-ins the rest of the top four challengers have to face appearing a little more difficult, you’d wager the Reds can afford a few dropped points now and still qualify for the next edition of the Champions League.

Still, I’d like us to be 3-0 up against Southampton with 10 to play on Sunday, just so I definitely don’t end up thinking “Oh not a-fucking-gain” for the umpteenth time when we inevitably fail to defend a ball pumped into the mixer for the big lads.

Moyes Goes Down

Goodbye my lover.
Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one… for me.

After plenty of close-calls with the Blues and a couple of embarrassing managerial moves in between, David Moyes has finally suffered the ultimate footballing humiliation and been relegated from the Premier League with Sunderland. Like having a terminally ill relative whose condition has declined slowly over a period of many years and their eventual death comes as no surprise but still doesn’t quite feel real.

This column will not be a space to laugh at Moyes. No. It will pay its respects to a man who has given Liverpool supporters around the world consistent joy for a significant length of time and who has often gone above and beyond to lift the spirits of this club. Few people have genuinely touched my life in a lasting, positive way, but there are a few to whom I owe everything. My mother. Rafa Benitez. Mark Clattenburg. Craig Hannan. Moyes.

Before you mock him, before you say that his tactics are Jurassic, before you say that he has the permanent expression of a man who thinks he might have left the iron on, and before you do that impression of him attempting and failing to say “Illarramendi” in that bizarre Spanish accent of his, sit back and think of all the man has done for you in your life. Remember the walk-in-the-park derbies. Remember Villarreal, Pierluigi Collina and the “warm balls” nonsense he came out with about UEFA. Remember the 81 crosses United made at Old Trafford against a Fulham side that went on to be relegated. Appreciate him. Thank him.

It is quite astonishing the depths to which his career has nose-dived following his departure from Goodison Park. Obviously by that time everybody on Merseyside knew he was a tactically inept coach ruled by an overbearing sense of fear, but watching the rest of the country realise in the following years has felt slightly perverse. His last two jobs in this country have sullied his name to a potentially irrevocable extent, and his disastrous time with Real Sociedad means his stock is very low abroad, too. It is hard to see how he recovers from that. It is now safe to assume that Moyes’ Premier League managerial career is as dead as the sparkle in his eyes.

I will be holding a candle-lit vigil outside Taff’s Tavern in Old Swan on the morning of the final day of the season in memory of Moyes, who proves you don’t need trophies to be a winner, but he is a winner.

Sleep well, David. Sleep well.

Rule Change Trials

This can get so far to fuck it’s unreal.

Forget for a minute that this potential rule change is completely unnecessary. The major problem with it is that it absolutely reeks of public school posh-boys being told off by teacher for disrespecting the rules of the scrum. Sin bins aren’t for footballers. They are for Tory-voting rugby players who live in stately homes in Surrey and shit in pint glasses at uni society socials.

The system is apparently being trialled “seven rungs below the National League”, a level which I was completely unaware existed and can only assume consists of dogs chasing flyaways from terrified toddlers while the owner ambles slowly behind shouting, “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite, he’s actually very friendly” from halfway across the park.

Football does not need sin bins. Red and yellow cards are fine. “Dissent” is supposedly what the system will be used for in the first instance, but I don’t see the point. If a player loses his rag after a decision goes against him, book him. If he goes too far and is overly abusive, send him off. Don’t half-arse it by letting him back on after 10 minutes.

Waste of time.

This idea is also absolute dogshit.

Penalties are good. Everybody likes penalties. Even people who don’t follow football enjoy sitting down for a shootout. Nobody wants them changed in any way. Just leave it.

The most salient argument for shootout reformation appears to be that 60 per cent of them are won by the team that goes first. What’s the problem? Somebody has to go to first. Somebody has to go last. Messing with the order won’t change that. Penalty shootouts, by and large, are won by the football teams that takes their penalties better than the other football team.

Goal-line technology, video referees etc. I understand, because, in theory, they can be used to quickly and efficiently resolve incidents on a football pitch that can be allowed or disallowed by objective decision-making. But I have no idea why the various bodies that govern football seem intent on dicking about with rules that nobody on the planet appears to have any issue with.

Well, I suppose now that they have completely eradicated corruption, racism and homophobia from football, they probably have a lot of time on their hands to iron out the finer details.

Mental Health Matters

You will be aware by now that Everton’s Aaron Lennon has been detained under the Mental Health Act, and is receiving treatment for a stress-related illness. I’m sure the positive reaction of sporting figures and supporters online hasn’t passed you by.

You’ve also spent at least a few minutes reading the absolute wham I’ve written above, and have possibly read all of the previous managerial fan-fiction and borderline homoerotic odes to various referees that have appeared in this column over the last few months. So please forgive me for doing something a bit more meaningful with this final section.

Football can be used as a tool for change in many ways, and hopefully mental health can be one of them. A few articles popped up on my timeline this week which are excellently written, which provide deeply personal accounts of experience with mental illness, and which I think as many people as possible should read. I know that they had a profound effect on me and I’m sure they will on many others too. Here they are:

Speaking Out

Why I Have Hope For Mental Health In Football

Against Living Miserably

(I’ll attempt to make up for ending on a more sombre tone than usual this week by finding something suitably irreverent for next time.)

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