Listen to this article via @AIAudible !
Birthdays can be a real source of emotional volatility as one gets older. On the face of it, it’s a great blessing to have lasted another year in a world moving at such a distressing pace, in a direction which no longer seems certain, but on the other hand, one is afflicted with terrible and crushing angst about just where one fits in, nowadays. Why is everyone dabbing, for example? What even IS dabbing? Is anyone else cold?
Having reached the venerable age of 125 of your Earth years, Liverpool Football Club is in the midst of such an existential crisis. Once the strutting giant of European football and boasting an unrivalled domestic record, the last quarter century, of the five since John Houlding founded the club, has seen a slow decline in the Redmen’s status.
Of course, there have been a couple of great peaks – predominantly in the Rafael Benitez era, in which the Euro mojo was emphatically recaptured – but the overall trend, since the last Division One title under Kenny Dalglish in 1990, has been a slipping backwards into the chasing pack. It would make for the kind of performance chart that would leave business jerks apoplectic – occasional peaks, excessive troughs.
The latest incarnation of the club, under the ownership of FSG and the managerial guidance of Jürgen Klopp, has flirted with the notion of being on the verge of something of an Anfield renaissance but the all-too-familiar inconsistency of recent years has already severely hobbled this current campaign, Klopp’s first one proper. There does remain the very real and attainable goal of Champions League football in the season to come and that, without question, would represent progress for a club starving for just that.
Yesterday’s column saw my frank and needy admission of a desire for Liverpool to find its very own Great Benefactor, the idea being that we simply cannot have enough nice things after so many years of comparative penury. It must be said that such an opinion is knowingly entitled and based solely on the fact that as an old duffer, I recall the era of dominance and the feeling of quiet pride at supporting the best club in the land. Obviously, that type of whine will irk fans of less well-heeled outfits. Sadly, I lack the ability to care about their irritation.
Manchester United’s own period of supremacy has seen them equal and, depending on which pots you value, surpass Liverpool’s gargantuan trophy count. Now, us relics of the 80s no longer even have the history stick to beat them with. It’s becoming – let’s be honest – it has long since become, intolerable. Patience is in increasingly short supply and is often least plentiful amongst the fans who have a muscle memory of incessant success.
The only saving grace has been the Old Trafford club’s own recent flirtation with mediocrity since the departure of the Dark Lord of Mancunia. The Moyes season was a delight and the van Gaal one that followed also had some tremendous giggles. Even the arrival of a markedly bedraggled looking Jose Mourinho seems to have done little to shake the red Devils free of the shackles of sixth place obscurity. Schadenfreude, however, is cold consolation indeed.
Instead, we must busy ourselves with positivity – stories of the new Kirkby training complex and this summer’s extension of the Kop by some 470 seats as part of a very worthy project to enhance and increase the amount of wheelchair bays in the ground from 190 to 250. Sadly, for every tale of progress and innovation there is a corresponding story of YET ANOTHER transfer target, after a period of heavy MONITORING, engaging in talks with another club. Julian Brandt is the latest of these, apparently.
Basically, nothing, however worthy, will sate the fans’ desire for onfield success. Now, many of believe that in Klopp we have the perfect candidate to bring about the conditions for that success at Anfield. The problem arises when one suggests that patience might be required. Understandably, many have little of that famously precious commodity left. There is, however, absolutely no choice but to use up the last vestiges of one’s patience as the German schemer builds the club after his vision. It’s the only show in town.
The words of a surprisingly thoughtful Ragnar Klavan echo the notion that the club, for the sake of its own reputation and the sanity of its fans, MUST return to the continent’s premier competition. The Estonian international captain acknowleged the burden of the club’s grand history but expressed faith in his teammates rising to the last occasion left to them and securing a top four finish, despite the stiffest of competition.
“Liverpool is such a big club and has so much history that everybody thinks we should be playing in Europe every year,” opined the left-footed centre-half. “That’s what we want, to be at a consistent level where we play in Europe every season. We had that consistency at the start of the season and although we have also had low points I still think we have a great chance to finish in the top four. The Champions League is the most prestigious competition. It is an opportunity to compare yourself against other European clubs and I believe it is the biggest measurement of where you stand in Europe. At Liverpool we are working every day to achieve that goal. Everybody here wants to be playing in the Champions League.”
The chance to tart up the new kit with an array of fancy badges and line up with pride as the Gazprom theme, sorry, Tony Britten anthem, parps around Anfield on a Tuesday night? Now that’s a birthday present I want the club to give itself…and us. In the interim, UP THE 125-YEAR-OLD REDS!