FOOTBALL’S a bit of a mad one, isn’t it?
The tricks it can play on you, the anxieties it can bring out despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the way it’ll make you reach for straw of despair and yet keep you hoping for the impossible.
I’m not having it that I was the only one in the ground thinking, nay, assuming, the worst when Michail Antonio made the most of one of Emre Can’s catalogue of miscalculations today to reduce West Ham’s deficit to only two goals.
Despite tons of evidence — because why would you take notice of the vast majority of times a consolation goal has turned out to be exactly that? — it’s easy to think that Liverpool will do a Liverpool.
The atmosphere in the ground in the 10 minutes following West Ham United’s goal was testament to the trepidation ingrained in a significant number of Kopites.
I know, because I’m one of the worst for it.
It’s something we, as a collective, need to pack in, and pack in now.
We’re committed, as a fanbase, to torturing ourselves with what ifs of the worst kind, the sucking on teeth, the intake of breath, you know it, I know it.
The cocksure swagger of yesteryear replaced with the prickly anxiousness of near misses, reinforced with every passing year without a big tin.
But the defeats are becoming fewer and wins becoming more frequent despite an increasingly competitive field.
If ever a marker for progress was required, we can only look to the last fortnight to see how far Liverpool have come.
Today’s victory against West Ham puts Liverpool, at the time of publication, second in the league in a freak season in which Manchester City — having only registered one league defeat all season against you know who — have ran away with it.
The same Liverpool side, who in their first Champions League knock-out fixture in nine years registered a record victory, against the Portuguese Primeira Liga’s unbeaten Porto, by five goals to zero and now have more than a toe in the quarter finals.
And this despite all the glorious flaws, the obvious fixes, the little bits of polishing, the weaknesses that are already being addressed, with Naby Keita en route, as well as another goalkeeper — unless Loris Karius can maintain his recent form and improve further.
We strive for heroes and totems, and yet we have a lad from Egypt, if we are going to compare debut seasons, who has far surpassed the impact of Luis Suarez.
We constantly look for holes in the plan, overanalyse small details, embrace the nagging voice when all the evidence points to the contrary.
All the chat going in the game today is that we can’t perform against teams that park the bus, but this is expediently becoming the exception rather than the rule, even if it doesn’t dominate the psyche.
The Reds might just be on the verge of something special, but we need to recognise we also have a part to play in it.
We need to trust that it will happen, otherwise, what’s the point?
What is there to suffer other than the fear of defeat itself?