Liverpool dug deep to win again at the weekend as the latest iteration of Jürgen Klopp’s mentality monsters show their steel…
I WAS at a black belt Taekwondo grading on Saturday.
They’re lengthy and exhausting affairs and it amazes me how the candidates have the strength to fasten their new belts around their doboks at the end of the session.
My own took a full eight hours back in 2011 and such was my relief that it was over that I woke up the next day unsure as to which hurt more, my body or the subsequent hangover.
One of Saturday’s candidates was so tired that, come the last hour when he had to show the judging panel his pattern (‘Choong Moo’, TKD fans) his head had gone completely. He was second guessing himself, couldn’t remember what the next move was or where his limbs even were, never mind what they should be doing next.
This was the business end of the day at the business end of his eight years of training and it had all gone.
Of course, rather than being an austere judging panel shaking its head sadly, you offer advice and apply balm to the anarchy that goes on within. My instructor called it perfectly…
‘We know you can do the moves. We’ve been teaching you for years and we wouldn’t grade you if we thought you couldn’t, but this is where you need to show courage. To work against the tiredness and do what you’ve been trained to do. We learn more about how you react when you’re up against it than when you’re not.’
So I had to make do with the radio on the drive back rather than watching the match. That meant listening to TalkSport. Sam Shaddapayaface and Scott Minto. The dream team.
Any port in a storm.
(It’s a fascinating channel. At one point they advertised a phone-in show hosted by Gabby Agbonlahor and Jamie O’Hara. What a meeting of intellectual powerhouses that must be.)
There’s always an immediacy to radio commentary. If one side is, say, playing poorly then it reflects badly and intensely for that minute alone. There’s no such thing as wider context. Should that situation change then the sentiment changes with it and all previous utterances are never mentioned again. Hence…
‘Liverpool have picked up 15 points from losing positions this season, Scott.’
‘Yes, but that’s not sustainable. They can’t win leagues playing this bad and hope they can rescue it later on. Liverpool have been terrible today. Palace has been great.’
An hour later.
‘Liverpool have now taken 18 points from losing positions. They just keep going.’
‘And that’s how you win titles. If you can win when things aren’t going well and you find a way, you’re in with every chance.’
Scott, have you ever met Scott?
Now, I’m not going to waste your time by saying that Liverpool were glorious from the first whistle and hammered on the door throughout, but it’s always nice to be reminded that games last 90 minutes, nominally at least, and you can score at any time. Furthermore, if you think you can come from behind there’s a chance that you will.
It’s the attitude I love. I’ve always been one of those fans who takes conceded goals deeply personally and want that temerity punished with an unproportional response. I want them destroyed for doing that. I want The Reds to have the opposition players’ mothers weep openly in the stands for that insult. At the very least, I’d like an apology.
On Saturday, I merely rolled my eyes at the Crystal Palace penalty and muttered ‘destroy them, Reds’ to an empty car. I knew they would. I think we all did. That’s the difference these days.
What do you do when you’ve played three hard games in six games, your best players can’t get behind their organised backline and they’re just a little bit more up for it than you are?
You do the same when you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned in Taekwondo and have to not only remind yourself of what to do, but also to perform it to people sat behind a table who haven’t expended a calorie of energy in all the time you’ve been busting your pipe.
Obviously, we’d all love to see a procession of 2-0 wins for the next six months but there’s still 90+ minutes to a game. It’s not the end of the world if we use one of those later minutes. Or two of them.
It makes me think of those duller Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez seasons where a conceded goal usually resulted in a defeat or, at best, a 1-1 draw. Late comebacks simply didn’t exist in those days. Even when we went a goal up, an equaliser would signify the end of the game.
My mate used to refer to such games as ‘Liverpool equalising first’. Nowadays any first goal is always just the first one rather than the last one.
Did anyone seriously consider settling for a point when Mo got the equaliser on Saturday? Of course, not. Why would you? If anything I would have felt disappointed.
I’ll say it again. One defeat in the league and that was due to a man in a comfy chair rather than footballing prowess. Even the defeat to Toulouse was nuts. A referee awarding the goal, even so far as pointing to the spot when he’d already gone to his mates in the stand before they worked out how they could disallow it. And they talk about everything being given to us?
There are sympathies around the red card, but you can’t give them a penalty for an incident that occurred half an hour earlier and then talk about favouritism.
There were even calls for Jürgen Klopp to be booked for shouting at their bench as Hodgson had been shown a card earlier. I’d like to think that was for his 2010 crimes, though. Well, if they can drag the game back long enough to give them a penalty why not go back even further?
‘They can’t win leagues playing this bad and hope they can rescue it later on.’
Yeah, they can. Of course, they can. My blood pressure might not like it, but you can do it if you have faith and ability. Liverpool didn’t send off Jordan Ayew. We just took advantage of it.
Keep going, Reds. You can score at any point in the game.
He got his black belt, by the way. He dug in and used his character to reset himself. There’s an awful lot to be said for that.
Top of the league.