“If you want to be happy, be.”
“You’re in pretty good shape, for the shape that you are in.”
An unusual thing can happen when one is confronted with the disquietingly fragile nature of one’s own mortality. Instead of becoming maudlin and resentful of the unseen forces threatening to extinguish life, sometimes the reaction of the person enduring the slings and arrows is quite the opposite. In the face of horrendously bleak reality, sometimes all one can do is search for, and indeed revel in, the few moments of unbridled joy that this often wretched life coughs up. For even in the worst of times, the kind of times your scribbler is currently wading through, some sustaining morsels of comfort can always be salvaged.
All of which self-indulgent navel-gazing is a typically verbose way of saying that even when everything is utterly shite and you fear you might not make it, thank your chosen deity for the mad world of football and, in particular, the bottomless well of comedy gold that is José Enrique Sánchez Diaz. Liverpool’s resident Überboard guru and naked selfie enthusiast can bring unwitting levity to the most troubled soul. Not even his self-imposed exile from the unbridled hilarity of his Twitter account can keep the musclebound Spaniard down. He may not actually play the old football anymore, but damn it, he will not go gentle into that good night. Not when there are parties to host, parties that feature costumes and the opportunity for photographs. So many glorious photographs.
The images of José and his chums were not really funny in and of themselves, but rather because of the way in which they simply enhanced the former left back’s burgeoning status as the club’s one-man social committee. Where once Enrique wreaked havoc on opposition right backs and pinged glorious long balls to the feet of Luis Suárez, now, he updates his Instagram with the vim and vigour of a teenage millionaire socialite. No occasion is too small, no spa visit too pointless, to warrant extensive documentation via the ex-Newcastle man’s camera. It’s gotten to the stage that when the news broke about the missing person at Anfield last week, well, you thought it too, didn’t you?
Speaking of things going missing, also delightfully AWOL on Saturday last, was the final shred of José Mourinho’s dignity in defeat. Never one to display much in the way of graciousness when vanquished, the pouting Portuguese has become a parody of himself in recent weeks, as he has grown familiar with the sting of loss. The Moany One’s finely honed martyr complex, once a useful tool in building a siege mentality to galvanise his troops, has now become bloated and out of control.
The sullen refusal to speak to BT Sports’ touchline flunky following Liverpool’s rousing victory at the once impregnable fortress of Stamford Bridge, marked a new low in Mou’s behaviour and one of the highs of this Irishman’s weekend. How pleasing it was to know that Jürgen Klopp’s boys had been the ones to really land a killer blow. If you witnessed the shabby gilet-sporting Chelsea manager’s absurdly over-the-top, chest-beating histrionics when his side effectively killed Liverpool’s title challenge and didn’t bathe in the dark warmth of Schadenfreude on Saturday, then you, dear reader, are a better person than I.
Happiness can come in many forms, of course, and whilst most of us beamed at the sight of big Jürgy Bear doling out the congratulatory hair tousles and vaguely aggressive hugs as he strode around the pitch in victory, Joe Allen seemed decidedly weirded out by it all. His teammates appeared to be uniformly made-up with the displays of gruff affection from Papa Klopp but the newly bearded Welshman was a picture of awkwardness whilst receiving his cuddle from the lanky German. Allen, the player who is most readily identified with Klopp’s predecessor, may have ample reason to be wary. After all, there are no pictures of him and the current manager in quaintly matching tartan. His affection for Brendan Rodgers is eminently understandable, however, and it is nice to see at least one player pay tribute to the Carnlough man.
“He was a huge influence because he was my manager for over five seasons with two football clubs,” Allen said a little laconically. “We won promotion to the Premier League with Swansea City on a fantastic day in the play-off final at Wembley and obviously we came so close to winning the title here at Liverpool a couple of seasons ago. It means we shared some massive highs but as everyone knows change is something that always happens in football and you have to accept it.”
That wariness mentioned earlier is definitely evident in the midfielder’s take on Rodgers’ replacement but it is pleasing to hear him back himself to make an impression on the new gaffer. Perhaps his new sensitive backwoodsman look is a reflection of a freshly acquired steeliness.
“When a manager leaves a club everything is up in the air for the players,” the Welshman offered. “You have to wait to see who comes in next, what sort of style he plays and if there’s a place for you in his plans. I’m confident that the things he’s looking to bring into the team are things I pride myself on and I’m looking forward to getting down to some hard work to make sure I’m part of the new era.
“It’s almost like the reset button has been pressed for everyone at the club and we’ve got a clean slate to re-focus and try to impress him so we can be part of his plans,” he continued. “Everyone has been impressed with the new manager’s ideas and approach. His passion is very obvious and that is something we as players as going to feed off. There is a lot of new information for the lads to take in, a new way of playing to learn and new styles to take on board. But I think the lads already see the benefits of it and everyone is buying into what he’s looking to bring to us. We’re all 100% behind him.”
Well, that’s genuinely invigorating stuff, isn’t it? This Irishman would be delighted to see Allen flourish under Klopp, in much the same way as, say, Mamadou Sakho has. Did you know, valued reader, that until this Saturday, the powerful Frenchman was a liability, whose lack of prowess on the ball was a constant danger to Liverpool? You didn’t? Well, shame on you and here’s Garth Crooks, former Tottenham striker and master of the inappropriate pause, to enlighten you. Now, as you read the following guff, reproduced here purely in the spirit of the piece’s comedy theme, bear in mind that this chap is paid to offer these opinions on his BBC blog.
“Can someone please tell me what has got into Mamadou Sakho in these past few games?” enquired Garth. “The Liverpool centre-back is playing like a man possessed. He battles for every ball as though his life depends on it,” Crooks sagely observed. “Yet it was the quality of his distribution that startled me. It happened in the first half when he hit a wonderful Steven Gerrardesque 40-yard diagonal pass for Nathaniel Clyne and he did it again in the second half. I said last week that Sakho might be surplus to requirements once Jürgen Klopp gets his chequebook out in the transfer window. But the way Sakho’s playing the new boss might start building his team around the France international.”
Now, I will bow to no-one over my fondness for Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian is the embodiment of much of what I admire in a footballer and a person. He has endured setback after setback since he first arrived on Merseyside but he is still standing, defiant, smiling and polite to the end. Much has been rightly said about the midfielder’s lack of mobility and oftentimes I have openly lamented his propensity for fouling opponents in dangerous areas all the time. However, the final helping of happiness in this column comes courtesy of the immensely amiable rancher, as he defends himself against claims he should have been sent off on Saturday. In the light of the aforementioned eye-gouger’s sideline antics, Leiva’s insistence that the referee made the right call is delightfully needle-infused.
“It will probably be talked about,” he said of the contentious decision. “It’s normal, especially when you lose a game. Sometimes in my position you make fouls, more to stop a game. I think it was a good decision by the referee, he controlled the game very well. I think it was a fair game. People will say this could change this game. In the end we were the better team.”
“The better team.” Doesn’t that just fill your little heart to bursting? Can’t you just taste the salty goodness of those bitter Chelsea tears? Are you not, as Russell Crowe might say, entertained? Remember, when things are at their worst, get on your metaphorical Überboard, throw on an absurd costume, take a selfie at the dentist’s, read Garth Crooks’ take on reality or simply have a sly chuckle at J Mo’s latest meltdown. There are always moments of joy to mine from even the deepest pits of despair and Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool promise to be a source of happiness for all of us in the months to come.