Following the demolition of Maribor a litany of caveats attempted to bring the stratospheric Reds back to earth. They’re a ‘glorified pub team,’ are ‘easily the worst side Liverpool will play this season’ and ‘well, if you they can’t beat them …’
It would difficult to argue with some of those words. Maribor were poor and how they failed a gazumping by Sevilla and Spartak is beyond me. Their unerring ability to fall for the same trick every time was endearing. I watched the game with my brother-in-law and remarked as the ball went wide for the second strike that ‘this is exactly the same goal as the first.’ That’s even before Coutinho put it away! Maribor knew what the plan was and it was a pretty basic play yet they could do nothing about it. Not exactly inspirational.
Being a grumpy, curmudgeonly ‘go on then, impress me’ sort of fan, I tried to temper the pleasure of the score line with a few of those comments, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Then, after a while, I wondered why I was trying.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been present at some real hammerings. I was on the Kop for the 9-0 with Palace in 1989 and a handful of 6-1s and 5-0s over the years. I was a milk-faced eleven-year-old when Liverpool beat Oulu Palloseura of Finland 10-1 at Anfield, but could only listen to it on the radio. Such were the times that I had a conversation with a mate about it when the game was on. He phoned me. From a phone box. Yes, he actually left his house to phone me and discuss the game while the tonking was still live. Ah, but that was a bygone era and, as Slim Charles tells Bodie in The Wire, ‘the thing about the old days, they the old days.’
I suppose the reason some exercised caution about a 0-7 trouncing was that the Reds do tend to fall heavily once we’ve embarked on a good run or snotted a virtuous and worthy opponent. This side does tend to believe its own hype (in either direction) following a good performance and can reward itself with a few bad ones. Before too long the LFC media centre will be awash with gung-ho talk and Churchillian speeches about ‘the season starts here’ etc. only to be followed by the limper end of the limper lettuces.
Passion hurts and this club extracts more than its fair share of that. One minute they make you taste heaven, the next they’re pushing you nose first into the gutter so you’ll forgive a few of us if we quietly mutter ‘Yes, but…’ through the din of hyperbole.
That was my view last night. I didn’t go mad because I didn’t want to be hurt afterwards. I was like a florid teenager who was tired of watching the best looking girl talk to the other lads and refuses to get excited when she says hello to him in front of his mates.
But this morning I awoke in a drunken haze (though not literally) of a 0-7 win. Today the world looked a little different. Liverpool couldn’t hurt me today, Liverpool could only make me smile and in a footballing world where fury sits atop fury and agenda stands opposite agenda, it’s a sanctuary I’m happy to be in.
Yes, Maribor was poor, but for once we had the game wrapped up early AND WE CARRIED ON PLAYING! No resting players this time. No shutting things down and taking the points. We went for the jugular, knowing full well that the next hour would be a cakewalk while Tottenham – Sunday’s opponents – had to get through enough legwork to keep the biggest side in the world out. The pressure was off and we could actually play without that irritating nag about a fear of failure getting into our guts. We played football to enjoy it simply and Maribor were kind enough to let us.
No one is saying that that’s the tournament won and that UEFA might as well not bother fulfilling the fixtures, but sometimes you have to grab the moments of relief with both hands just to recalibrate your mind a bit and this run has been so bad that it’s a welcome fillip to anyone’s system. That’s not to say that I don’t want the players to be immediately disavowed of any cockiness when they line up at Wembley. I’m still too scared to think about the weekend – though that has nothing to do with Spurs. I’m a Liverpool worrier by nature – but this feels like a week off work before a huge new project or problem starts. Let’s enjoy the beach in our own minds for a time.
And if you can’t smile at that, consider this. Trent Alexander-Arnold has scored the same amount of Champions League goals as Everton.