Liverpool Fans: Don’t Listen To Them, Thing’s Aren’t As Bad As They Seem
Kenny Dalglish’s return to football management has brought about quite a furore throughout the footballing world in the last week or so. Since being put in charge at Anfield, Dalglish has become a permanent fixture in seemingly every part of our lives. News stories about his return, archive clips from his playing days, and pictures of the last time he was in the Anfield dug-out have been difficult to avoid wherever you go, or whatever you’re doing. Every waking hour has been spent listening to, looking at, or thinking about King Kenny. For some reason, I’m fairly confident that’s not the first time a Liverpool fan has said that.
On hearing the news last Saturday morning that Roy Hodgson’s short tenure at Anfield had come to an end, and Dalglish had been asked to step in, the romantics amongst us were out in force. An away tie at Old Trafford in the third round of the F.A. Cup had all of a sudden ceased to be a cause for Liverpudlians sleepless nights; he was sure to mark his return to football management with an emotional victory against the old foe. Those 9,000 travelling supporters were all of a sudden ‘lucky’ enough to have tickets. Twenty four hours earlier that same 9,000 were considered to be knowingly marching into a Mancunian furnace designed to be filled with their own humiliation. The appointment will ‘get us back where we belong’ read the message boards and forums, ‘Ferguson will be anxious to see his old enemy competing against him again’ said one journalist in The Mirror. Great expectations seeped out of every line written or sentence spoken about Dalglish and his man management skills, his experience, his eye for a player etc.
Fast forward to the morning after the Blackpool defeat, and the positivity flowing out of the newspapers, message boards and pubs had almost completely evaporated. The momentum we were expected to pick up due to the Dalglish factor meant heading into Sunday’s Merseyside derby with a win under our belts away at Blackpool, and at least bringing Manchester United back to Anfield in the cup. This week would be the catalyst for our re-emergence as challengers to the top four. All of a sudden, the phone-ins, forums, and papers were labelling the derby as a ‘must-win’ game due to threat of relegation re-appearing. Dalglish had been in charge for under twenty four hours before his Old Trafford baptism of fire, and then three days to prepare his team for a tricky away tie at Blackpool. All whilst trying to rearrange his back room staff. A tall order for any manager, never mind one who has been out of the game for as long as Dalglish has.
A sense of perspective is essential for all football fans, though it can often be difficult to achieve due to the nature of our affiliation with our teams and our heroes. Particularly when the nostalgia of a glorious past is seemingly thrust in to the present day, as is the case with Dalglish’s appointment. However, football fans with a grip on reality appear to be few and far between at the moment. A simple black-or-white view fed to us by the national media only furthers our initial irrationality caused by the love of our team. There are no shades of grey outstanding amongst many football fans at the moment. The character of Cliff Lawton puts it perfectly in ‘The Thick of It’- ‘This is your thing. Everything has to be absolutes. ‘I love you- fuck off”. Thankfully, Liverpool didn’t lose at the weekend and the knee-jerk reactions weren’t pushed into overdrive with an Everton victory.
We have impressively managed to plummet from the dizzy heights of wins in The San Siro, Nou Camp, and Bernabeu, to the depressing reality of Blackpool taking six points from us. All in the short space of eighteen months. It is repeatedly written that Liverpool need a complete squad haul over. In my opinion, an element of perspective is needed even more so. Regardless of the longstanding damage Tom and George did to Liverpool, there are still numerous positives to take from the scenario we find ourselves in at the moment. (Especially now Hodgson is no longer having his evil way with our team) Along with the glaringly obvious positives e.g. very strong spine, a youth set up which is promising a lot at the moment, the club being ran in the correct way etc., there are a lot of shades of ‘grey’ which, when you remove your emotional connection, are mostly positive. Despite what Andy Gray et al say.
For instance, Glen Johnson has come in for huge amounts of criticism despite the fact he has been playing under the most negative manager at Liverpool in living memory. It must be difficult for an attacking full-back to showcase his talents in a set up which doesn’t allow him to attack. His two games under Dalglish have seen him play at left back, and although in a side with a far more attacking mentality, this isn’t an ideal situation for Johnson. His first six months in Benitez’s doomed final season saw him prove himself as the best attacking full-back in the Premier League, if not Europe, but a dip in form suddenly renders this meaningless.
Two or three signings would allow Liverpool to compete towards the top of the league again, rather than be floundering in the bottom half where the media believe this set of players belong. The possibility of capturing the signature of Luis Suarez, for instance, could make for a three pronged attack of Torres, Gerrard, and Suarez, whilst the likes of Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole, and Dirk Kuyt would make for a strong substitute’s bench. A top quality signing like this would also allow the likes of David Ngog and Daniel Pacheco to develop their potential the way you would expect, as opposed to being metaphorically thrown in at the deep end. Or the return of Alberto Aquliani would see a competitive central midfield area with Miereles, Lucas, Aquilani, and Gerrard being the possible options to fight over that particular position. James Lawton’s demands in Monday’s Independent for massive reinvestment are hugely exaggerated. Although it is unarguable that reinvestment is needed, just not the to the extent the scaremongering media hacks make out (on the plus note, at least Lawton ceased to spout his xenephobic vitriol at Liverpool now we have a British manager)
Now, more than ever, I feel a sense of perspective is needed. A transitional period after the demolition job the last owners attempted meant a re-building process was inevitable. Luckily, they didn’t achieve all that they had hoped for. And although the utterly depressing feeling that has gone hand in hand with Liverpool recently has remained present this season, things aren’t as bad as they seem. No matter what the papers say.
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