The life of a football supporter eh? If I knew then what I know now I’d have to ask myself, are you sure you want to get involved?
It’s not exactly the most serene way to live a life. Moods changing in tune with a ball hitting the back of a net, spitting pure hatred at those deserving of it, usually folk from Manchester, displays of passion and euphoria that to the casual observer look massively unhinged and lunatic in their nature, and songs, lots of songs. The life of a football fan is never dull…unless you support a Tony Pulis managed side of course.
As a Liverpool fan I’m one of the lucky ones. One of those alive during the domination. Alive to witness the red tide demolish the towns and cities of England, watch it wash across Europe and watch captains dance around the pitch, big smiles, the cup aloft.
I remember vividly my ten-year-old self running to the kitchen of our house after Alan Kennedy had tucked away his Rome penalty to win the European Cup. My old man was already there ahead of me having leapt from his seat seconds before, he stood on a wooden chair screaming his head off in delight as I began to run in loud celebratory circles around the same chair completely lost in a blur of the purest euphoria saved only for the birth of a child, and football.
Yep, the life of a football fan is never dull. But I am one of the lucky ones.
What of those born in the nineties and beyond, those born as Manchester got a grip on things and Chelsea won the chairman lottery?
They had Istanbul, we all had Istanbul, and we’ll always have Istanbul, but it didn’t prove to be the new dawn. What about those fans who have yet to see us win the league? Those who saw us come within a whisker under Brendan Rodgers, who witnessed the most fantastic attacking football possibly ever seen at Liverpool, only to fall short at the death, what of them? I’d hazard a guess that they’ve been on a very different football journey than that I’ve taken myself. For them former triumphs have made way for seasons littered with disappointments and only occasionally dipped in joy.
But, I believe things can change again. I’ve believed it since the nineties, a time when I’d never have believed we could possibly go five years without a league title, let alone over twenty five! But I feel more conviction in that belief today than I have in a long time, and it has nothing to do with taking a wrecking ball to the crumbling stronghold of Aston Villa. Right now, regardless of the undoubted up and down climax that awaits us in the close of the season, I genuinely believe we have a lot of reasons to be cheerful going forward.
The Sturridge, Coutinho, Firmino affect.
That is one hell of a front three! Despite my previous critiques of Firmino’s performances, before the Villa game I was excited at the prospect of finally seeing this attacking trio together. And they didn’t disappoint. A lot has been said about how poor Villa were, and rightly so, they were a disgrace to the badge of that famous club, but I doubt we’d have put them quite so easily to the sword without the impact, both technically and mentally of these three.
Technically the talent is unquestionable. Each offers something different and each compliments the other beautifully. Coutinho, the magician, the safecracker, unlocking defences with a flick of the boot and speed of mind. Reminiscent in some ways of Peter Beardsley, the tight control, the jinking runs and the ability to be three passes ahead of the opposition. The hustle and work rate of Firmino, never tiring as he chases down defenders. Intelligent passing, slick skills and constant movement make him a defenders nightmare. Within the three, he’s the one I expect to see really blossom now he has the players around him. And Sturridge, the goalscorer with so much more to his game. Lovely ability on the ball and never afraid to try something special, the ideal point of this potent triangle.
The impact mentally on both the Liverpool players and the opposition shouldn’t be underestimated. For the Liverpool players knowing they have three potential match winners in the team has to be a huge boost. With these three up top there are no lost causes. Whilst for the opposition, the defender now has to deal with a constantly shifting, fluid attacking force threefold, where as previously they might have faced an underperforming Benteke or makeshift Firmino. The lift this should give the Reds is massive.
The League Cup Final
We’re in a Cup Final! There’s always something special about watching the lads walk out in a cup final. Whether it’s Wembley, the Millennium Stadium or the Ataturk, the pride is almost unmeasurable. Some might write off the League Cup, but I don’t see it myself. It’s a final, an occasion to be relished, it’s about the fans, the noise, the players and more so this time than in many previously, the manager. This time I want us to win the cup more for Jurgen Klopp than I do for myself, he deserves it for the lift he brought us, for taking on the job and its enormity with the sort of humility and wit that has long been absent from the English game. And for the passion that will almost certainly see him charging from the dugout to celebrate like the young me running around that kitchen chair back in ’84.
This is the low point
Overall I think it wouldn’t be unfair to say the current squad isn’t great. It’s an average squad peppered with genius, but the genius has been injured and is only just reminded us of what we missed. If we take it that Klopp knows his stuff, knows his masterplan inside out, and knows the players to implement it, then it can be assumed that right now this is as poor a side under our current manager that we’ll ever see, and at times it’s been pretty good. The building work has already begun and the future, based on my own faith in the backroom staff, is only going to get better. Better performances, better results and better opportunities to challenge where we need to.
For me, the biggest reason to be cheerful at present is the manager himself. It seems crazy now to think that anyone else could manage Liverpool, and It’s been a long time since I watched a manager fit so seamlessly into the framework of a football club and be adopted as one of our own so quickly. Like many other fans I found myself instantly taking to him. The charisma and wit were great, but it was the passion that really shone through. The desire to win and be successful that embodies everything we want at the club poured out of him. I remember thinking, as a player, here’s a guy I would have ran through brick walls for, would have left everything on the pitch for him to ensure we won the match. Jurgen Klopp is exactly who we need and, I hope, we are exactly who he needs, because together our beloved football club can once again elevate us to the sort of euphoric lunacy only delivered under the glow of footballing silverware.