Here’s what you can expect as a Liverpool fan in the 2020s: life will be a roller-coaster.
Here’s what you can’t expect: to win the title more than once in a – and I use the phrase consciously – blue moon.
It’s no use cryarsing about every defeat and every missed transfer target. The words ‘the game has changed’ are thrown around too flippantly in football. But the truth is the game has changed. The sovereign-wealth fund clubs are skewing the competition.
For most of the sport’s history support was the key factor in what made a ‘big’ club. Not any more. Real Madrid and Manchester United cannot match Manchester City’s spending, no matter how many people come through the gate or how many shirts they sell. Neither can Liverpool.
Even so, the performances against Nottingham Forest and Leeds United were not good enough. And let’s face it, the Napoli result could have gone either way. Especially if the Serie A side needed points.
Everyone wants a simple answer to the team’s problems and a quick fix but there are none. The tactics aren’t working. Any system has a limited shelf life and the reliance on full backs to be the creative hub of the team has taken Liverpool further than anyone had a right to expect.
The team have not only grown older together but they’ve lost their momentum as a group. So many in the side overperformed for so long that everyone forgot what their natural level was. Some strange and beautiful alchemy meant that the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho routinely exceeded their abilities. They’ve dropped a notch and the younger players haven’t taken up the challenge. It may be that the past four years have been an aberration, a brilliant accident that cannot be replicated.
Which brings us to the transfer market. Here’s the problem. In 2019 there was much grumbling about not rebuilding from a position of strength when the team were champions of Europe. Then, they romped to the title.
The summer window business in 2021 was underwhelming but the campaign that followed was remarkable. History only remembers winners but, as someone who has been going to the match since the mid-1960s, let me tell you than last season was something to be cherished, even though the title and the Champions League trophy went elsewhere.
A big spending spree in either of those transfer windows mentioned might have upset the balance in the dressing room and the team. It’s not a computer game. Jurgen Klopp knows how to man-manage. He is a vocal part of the recruitment team. Throwing blame at FSG is easy but the reality of why things go wrong is nuanced.
Liverpool under Klopp have overachieved. We probably won’t know just how spectacular that feat has been for another decade.
The dumbest articles being written at the moment are the ones that claim Klopp is ‘under threat.’ The owners love him. He got the freedom of the city of Liverpool this week. If they could, FSG would give him the freedom of Boston.
On Monday night there was a meeting of the Public Accountability All Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster. The launch of the committee, chaired by Ian Byrne, brought together a variety of campaigns who back the Hillsborough Law. These included Covid Justice UK, Factor 8 – who advocate for those affected by the tainted blood scandal – and Grenfell United. The stories were distressing. Clair Walton, whose haemophiliac husband was given transfusions contaminated with AIDS, spoke movingly of not only losing her partner but becoming infected with a life-threatening disease in her early 20s and the impact that this continues to have on her.
There are so many scenarios where the authorities have let the public down, placed them in danger, responded ineptly when alerted to the situation and then lied in the aftermath. It’s heartbreaking.
Our struggle sometimes overwhelms us. But so many others are fighting the same battle on different fronts. Byrne, the MP for West Derby, is bringing all these individual interests together. It underlines the fact that the Hillsborough Law is not just for the dead, the families and the survivors of 1989. It is for everyone who believes that authorities should be held to account and public employees should be legally obliged to tell the truth, no matter how damning it is to themselves as individuals or their organisation.
The fight for a Hillsborough Law is much bigger than us. One day even the dickheads who mock the dead might realise this, especially if Byrne and his committee have their way.
An Irishman carrying the Sun overshadowed the Leeds game. This needs to be taken seriously but part of me wants to laugh. You’ve died on the weirdest hill if you’re an Irishman who’s gone down waving Britain’s most xenophobic redtop. In Chris Horrie and Peter Chippindale’s ‘Stick It Up Your Punter! The Uncut Story of the Sun Newspaper,’ the authors retell a Kelvin MacKenzie rant about how the vile former editor saw his readers: “He’s the bloke you see in the pub – a right old fascist, wants to send the wogs back, buy his poxy council house, he’s afraid of the unions, afraid of the Russians, hates the queers and weirdoes and drug dealers.”
Ireland doesn’t get a mention but you can imagine it easily slotting in. Oh, and if anyone thinks things have changed since MacKenzie said this in the 1980s, turn on the TV news.
I don’t know about you, but I was more staggered by the spectacular stupidity of the gesture than offended. This individual has to be in the running for Ireland’s Ignoramus of the Year award. And Liverpool’s. And Leeds’s.
I’d bet money he would have sung God Save The King had he been allowed into the ground. Now that would have been really funny.
Imagine thinking we find the National Anthem anything other than risible? Carry on singing it at Anfield, you laughable lickspittles.
One of the more insidious bits of ‘banter’ over the years has been when away fans at Tottenham hiss. The reference to the Holocaust’s gas chambers and the supposed Jewish fanbase of Spurs rarely got the level of disgust it deserved. Instead, many people were fixated with Tottenham fans’ appropriation of the word ‘Yid.’ That always seemed a strange way to approach the problem.
I’ve heard it in our end over the years. Not recently. I doubt there’ll be any hissing on Sunday.
What Liverpool supporters hear at games is appalling. But sometimes it’s worth a little reminder that disgusting behaviour gets aimed at others, too. Show solidarity with the abused, not the abusers.
Remember the rivalry with Tottenham? It lasted about two weeks.
I reckon Madrid ended it forever. It was boiling up nicely just before the Champions League final but there was a moment when we realised there was more that united us than divided us.
Yes, we all hated the Imagine Dragons. They killed the atmosphere at the Wanda. Things were never the same between us and Spurs after that.