Fernando Torres: Timing Is Everything

By , January 29, 2011 10:57 am

Upon hearing the unthinkable news that Fernando Torres desired to leave Liverpool and go to one of their Premier League rivals, Chelsea, the one and only question running through my mind was: Why? While clubs have made their admiration for Torres obvious over the three plus years he’s excelled at Liverpool, there was never any indication the forward ever wanted to leave. He’s made statements in the press professing his love for Liverpool Football Club, and his most important statement has always been on the pitch where he’s been prolific as a goal scorer. Despite a recent drop in form, which most believe had more to do with his lack of respect for former manager Roy Hodgson, Torres has been given a new lease of life under Kenny Dalglish and has looked the player we all knew he was. So why leave now? With new owners already showing they mean business, a new manager whom the Spaniard respects, and a clear indication that the club’s ambitions are to get back to the top with the additions of Luis Suarez, Damien Comolli, and Steve Clarke, then his desire to leave only seems more bizarre at this moment in time.

It’s very difficult to know where to begin, primarily because it’s a strange feeling to be hurt by a football player. This person doesn’t know me, and I don’t know them, but somehow we’ve cultivated a relationship together that is hard to explain. This is the case with Liverpool’s (or perhaps soon to be Chelsea’s) Fernando Torres. He’s a player that has produced moments of magic over the years. He endeared himself to the fans almost immediately upon his arrival, and he’s never failed to set Anfield alight on more than one occasion. And the fans love him for it.

In this way, the relationship between the fans and their football club can be compared to a marriage. When a player signs a contract, they are committing to the team, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. If the team does poorly, the player doesn’t jump ship, and the opposite is true (not always, but more often than not, especially at Liverpool). What hurts is that through all Torres’ injuries and bouts of low confidence, the club and its fans have stuck by his side, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. We’ve watched as he’s had recurring knee and hamstring injuries leaving him out of the side for weeks and months at a time. Did the fans demand that he be sold? Did they turn their back on him after all he had done for them? Never. And yet with this transfer request, Torres has blatantly treated the fans with such a lack of respect for all their support through the years. He’s basically put two fingers up to the Kop, the ferocious fan base that has sung his name hundreds of times, in favor of a move to another team.

Why Leave The Club Now? Liverpool Fans Dismayed At Torres' Desire To Leave LFC

Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand a player’s desire to move on at some point. There’s nothing that says, no matter what, a player has to or will want to stay at one club for most of his career. I believe that if Torres had made the decision to complete the season, playing his best for the club and the club ended the season relatively well, he might still feel the same way he does now. If that was the case, the fans and club would be disappointed to lose him, but it would make more sense to move on when the club has adequate time to utilize the enormous amount of money from his transfer to buy two or three replacements. £40-£50 million is great, but only when given the time to use it. This is the issue I think some people, fans and media alike, are missing. It’s not about the money, but the timing of Torres wanting to leave.

Sadly, Torres’ sudden change of heart to leave the club that made him the world-class player he is may not have been as sudden as it seems. Jason Burt at the Telegraph reported after the news broke that Abramovich had flown to South Africa during the World Cup specifically to have a word in Torres’ ear about a potential move to Stamford Bridge. And while Torres remained loyal, stating numerous times in the summer, and as recently as January 9th that his desire was to stay with Liverpool and honor his contract, Abramovich continued his pursuit. Apparently, Ancelotti is not convinced about signing Torres, but of course, what Abramovich wants, Abramovich gets (Shevchenko anyone?). Supposedly the Russian has promised Torres shelves of silverware, but what makes Torres think this is possible?

Once again, here come the questions. Despite still being contenders for the Champions League this season, Chelsea are a team perhaps more in decline than Liverpool are at this current time. Their squad is seriously aging and most point to this as a direct reason for their slide down the table this season. With Terry, 30, Lampard, 32, Ashley Cole, 30, Anelka, 31, Drogba, 32, Malouda, 30, and Petr Cech becoming a shadow of his former self, this team needs a massive rebuild and it may take a couple years before they start seriously challenging for trophies again, especially with the Financial Fair Play rules coming into effect after this transfer window. No longer can the Russian oligarch throw his checkbook around without abandon. They will have to be shrewd, and may not get everyone they want anymore.

So why join a team that is aging and in need of many replacements, while also not looking to challenge for any honors this season? I honestly can’t believe that Torres thinks they can win the Champions League. This apparently is said to be the reason he wants to leave in January, rather than the summer. If that’s the case, then he must be more disillusioned than when Liverpool fans were told Roy Hodgson would improve Liverpool Football Club.

The feelings of fear, followed closely by hurt, disappointment, and sadness are what has engulfed Liverpool fans in the past 24 hours. January 28th was supposed to be the day that the team celebrated the signing of Luis Suarez, an extremely promising young goal scorer who’s potential partnership with Torres was mouth watering. Instead, it turned into one of the most disheartening and dispiriting days in the club’s history. This isn’t about a player wanting to leave; it’s about the player picking the absolute worst time to do it. That, coupled with the fact that only three weeks earlier, he once again stated his commitment to the club only makes the situation so much more unbelievable.

Players leaving for other clubs have become as much a part of modern football as billionaires buying titles. But what was so hurtful about Fernando Torres was the way in which he made it clear he wanted to go. Why leave mid-season when you know the club needs you? Why leave for one of our biggest rivals? Why go to a team that looks like it’s on its way down in the mid to long term rather than up? Why break the hearts of the fans that have stood by your side through all the highs and lows of the last three years? Liverpool fans know that when a player comes to Liverpool it’s because they want to play for the club, and love to do it. Liverpool, no matter its current station, is a special place and special players will be deified. As fans, we always felt the love was mutual.

No matter what happens now, Fernando Torres has rather foolishly broken the unique bond he built with Liverpool. The situation may change and Torres may stay a Liverpool player, and the fans may yet come around in some time if that happens, á la Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. But it’s not looking good. Nothing about his character ever suggested he would leave in this manner. It’s a sad day for Liverpool Football Club. Not because they might be losing one of their best players, but because that player decided to leave at the worst time, in the worst circumstances, and for all the wrong reasons. Liverpool was willing to love you through thick and thin, it’s a shame you didn’t feel the same.

Women And Football: The Legacy Of Andy Gray

By , January 25, 2011 3:55 pm

I think it goes without saying that the decision to dismiss Andy Gray from Sky following his remarks regarding a female linesman was correct. The fact that he and his co-commentator, supposedly refined journalist Richard Keys, decided to have a dig about the young female referee was pretty shocking to the football world as a whole, and not just the women. It may be an exaggeration to say that their behavior sets women in sports back 50 years, but it might not be far off. Fortunately for the women in football today, there are enough people in power to not let two big-headed presenters get the best of all those women that have worked so hard to get where they are in such a male dominated arena.

The Smug Ones - Andy Gray And Richard Keys Mug For The Camera

I can pretty much guarantee that when 25-year-old Sian Massey took to the pitch at Molineux Stadium, she never envisioned herself becoming the catalyst for the sacking of one of Sky Sports’ most well known commentators. I imagine that she woke up that morning, ate a healthy breakfast in preparation for the game, had a cup of tea to relax, and then proceeded to go about her business on the field as an official for the match. Ninety minutes later and she was most likely headed home, feeling very confident in the fact that she did a fine job officiating a big Premier League contest. And to her dismay and bemusement, she awoke the next morning to find her name branded all over the print, online, and television media. Not for her laudable performance as an official, but because she is a woman, and according to Keys and Gray, women don’t know enough about football to be anywhere near it.

Understandably the chain of events that followed, first the suspension of Keys and Gray followed swiftly with Gray’s sacking, had very little to do with her in the end. She was merely the focal point for a couple of over-the-hill chauvinists who believe they are living in the 1950s, a time when it was perfectly acceptable to chastise women all in the name of being manly. And what makes the whole situation even more comical is that Keys and Gray, who are not well liked by many viewers, are often questioned about their knowledge of the offside rule. Something they ignorantly believed Massey was incapable of knowing simply because of her gender.

Kenny Dalglish, whose own daughter works in the field of football as a presenter, first on Sky Sports and now on ESPN, claimed he didn’t even know a woman was officiating until after the second half began. As the whole situation gathered momentum, the Liverpool boss was then questioned about his thoughts on the matter. Ever the intelligent diplomat, Dalglish simply replied, “I don’t know what Sky’s attitude is towards women, but certainly for me if you’re good at your job I don’t think your gender should be a restraint. If they’re there, then fine. As I said, I didn’t even realize until the second half that there was a woman running the line. It didn’t bother me in any way, shape, or form. The most important thing is how they see and interpret the laws of the game. The fact that we never knew tells you something. And, by the way, I never noticed if it was a guy on this side either.”

Dalglish has since poked fun at the situation by asking the press before his press conference, “Is it OK for a lady to be here? It doesn’t affect Sky?” His daughter Kelly followed suite and supplied her own quick-witted response to the inanity of Keys and Gray’s comments. She said on Twitter: “Phew am exhausted. Just read about something called ‘the offside rule.’ Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes.”

I can say as a woman who has played, watched, and analyzes football that I’ve never understood some men’s obsessions with constantly wanting to remind women of their inferiority. Many men, such as Keys and Gray, take some kind of pleasure in making others feel subordinate. Anyone with an ounce of self-confidence knows that the best way to make themselves feel better about their own self-image is not to degrade, but to enhance. With Keys and Gray, it seems a clear case of projecting their own inferior lack of knowledge onto someone else.

In all honesty, despite the prevalence of men like Richard and Andy in the world and especially the world of sports, I’ve rarely come across such antiquated attitudes in my personal life. As a kid, I played on official league teams with all girls, but spent the rest of my time playing with the boys. They always picked me for games and I was often one of the first to play. Was this because I was a girl? Was it because I wasn’t a boy? Or was it simply because I could play and no one gave a toss what I was as long as I contributed to the game?

This being the twenty-first century, I assumed people would be able to notice that one person can do anything just as good as another, no matter what their gender, race, or beliefs are. Perhaps it was naive of me to think that Keys and Gray’s sexist opinions were a thing of the past. I can only hope, along with the rest of the intelligent football community, that with Gray now out of the game for the foreseeable future, it will send a message that such behavior is unacceptable. That, and maybe Sian Massey can become a shining example of just what women can do in football when given the chance, despite what some people might say about them.

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

By , January 13, 2011 2:54 pm

The fortunes of Liverpool Football Club look to be much brighter after the return of one of their legends, Kenny Dalglish. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the club looks set to become successful once again.

Dalglish Returns To Liverpool

After what proved to be one of the worst periods in Liverpool Football Club’s history, the manager that oversaw it all is now gone. And while there are still some, mostly in the media it seems, that believe Roy Hodgson was not given a chance to shine, it was obvious to about 99% of Liverpool fans that his reign had become untenable.

When the news eventually came of his departure, along with the installment of one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players and managers, the future looked bright once again. King Kenny as he is affectionately called by the Liverpool faithful took time away from his vacation to swoop in at the first call from owner John Henry. It didn’t take much to persuade the 59-year-old to take charge of the club for the rest of the season. It is well known he continued to eat, sleep, and breathe Liverpool despite not having been a player or manager there in two decades.

Dalglish’s effect on Liverpool has already been immense. Having been there less than a week, the whole mood around the club has changed. The owners are behind him, the fans are behind him, and most importantly, he is behind the team and the players. What Hodgson lacked (and he lacked a lot), was the ability to unite the football club and the team behind him. His appointment wasn’t a popular one on Merseyside, and the fact that he managed a mid-table team to some mediocre success in the past did not allay any of the fans’ fears he wasn’t the man for the job. It took him six short months to prove this, and a devastating first half of the season is what he left as his legacy.

As a result, the team has been left low on confidence and with less talented players and more deadwood than was at the club last summer. That was not all down to Hodgson, but a lot of it was. He plunged Liverpool into believing it was no more than a mid-table team and expectations of anything grander would never be achieved with a squad like that. It was Hodgson’s belief that given the time and money to put his stamp on the side, he would bathe the team in glory once more. But what glory was he referring to? That of being safely mid-table? That of going into games desiring just not to lose? He proved with his signings, tactics, man-management, and team selection that he was out of his depth. I hate to say it, but I really can’t think of anything positive he left with the club, except his resignation.

The trouble now is that all the damage he did to the club will be difficult to undo before the season ends. If Hodgson thought it was difficult to take a team that previously finished second and seventh in their last two seasons to loftier heights, than the challenge on Dalglish’s shoulders must be far greater. The team currently languishes in 13th place, and if not for the unpredictable nature of the league this season, they may have been in a far worse position.

While I don’t pretend that Dalglish is the long-term answer for Liverpool, he certainly makes for a bright spark to come in and help arrest the club from plummeting further. As he has done through most of his career as a manager, he intends to win by playing football as he used to. I believe that most fans disliked Hodgson not just because he lost, but also because he refused to play in any kind of positive or attractive manner. Many of the players that Roy so rudely alluded to as not good enough and below par, are seasoned internationals and just 18 months earlier, part of a team that finished second in the league and gained one of their highest points totals ever. You don’t do that without footballing talent and skill. These players want to play football, they want to pass the ball from the back, they want to win the ball in the opposition half and attack, they want to move around the pitch with pace and purpose to win football matches.

This is where Dalglish comes in. Despite not having managed for a while, he is a footballing mastermind. Few have achieved what he has as a manager and there is no reason he can’t apply the same ideas he’s always had to a team begging to play attacking, creative football again.

The first two results of his reign have been unkind. What was always going to be a tough game against United at Old Trafford was compounded by the fact that United earned a ghost penalty in the first minute, and Liverpool had Gerrard sent off after only 30 minutes. This not only made the game more difficult, but also exhausted the players for their next match to be played three days later.

Some will be quick to point out that had Hodgson lost these two games, he would well and truly be crucified. But the fact remains that Liverpool fans saw a lot more in these two games than just two losses. The spirit was back, the passing was back, the disappearance of hit-and-hope long balls was back, and against Blackpool, Fernando Torres looked back. They may have lost these two games, but the wins will come if they continue to play in such a manner.

That’s not to say there aren’t criticisms to be made, and Dalglish is just as accountable as any other manager. I believed his team selection wasn’t the best against Blackpool, but then he is trying to discover just what his best team will be. He made substitutions far too late in the game, and that is something I couldn’t take with Hodgson or Benitez for that matter. And to be fair, the team started very well, but petered out in the second half. A lot of that had to do with the previous game at Old Trafford being played with ten men for 60 minutes. Even so, the defense was all over the place at times, and the passing left a lot to be desired.

The team has a lot of hard work ahead of them, and when I say the team, I refer to the players, Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clark, Damien Comolli, and John W. Henry. No one expects success overnight, and it may even be a season or two before Liverpool are back to their best. What’s important now is the progress the team makes from here until the end of the season when they will have time to further assess where the club is at on all fronts.

Unlike the previous manager, the belief that the future looks good for Liverpool is back. While they may be facing a difficult time in the here and now, and the media continues to be unsupportive of Liverpool, their fans, and their future, those that understand the club will know what lies ahead. So as one manager and era comes to an end, let the next begin with nothing but hope in our hearts and the king back on the throne.

You’ll Never Walk Alone, But It’s Time To Walk Away

By , January 6, 2011 6:39 pm

This article will also appear on Well Red Magazine

Where Did It All Go Wrong For Roy Hodgson?

There’s not much more that can be said in regard to Roy Hodgson and Liverpool. At least from the point of view of the fans and the writers that know and understand Liverpool Football Club well. For those outside of it, however, perhaps they need to hear it all again. It seems that in spite of facts, statistics, and obvious fan revolts, the media continue to believe in Roy Hodgson and feel, most of all, that he has been treated completely unfairly by those who love the club he is in charge of. What is unfair is the treatment those around the club have received and the constant notifications of how we don’t know what we are talking about. Oh that’s right, fans have only been eating, sleeping, and breathing the club since most were too young to even totally understand the game. But hell, what do they know?

It’s bad enough that the fans have had to live through the poor results, and even worse, the awful performances this season without being told how disastrous the squad is or that it’s really none of Hodgson’s fault that the club is in the mess it’s in. It’s Benitez’s fault of course. Why didn’t I think of that? It has to be Benitez. He’s the one that took Liverpool from an underachieving top four team to two Champion’s League finals (winning one), consistent top four finishes, and runners up just two years ago. It must have been all those dreadful players he bought and managed so atrociously to achieve those accomplishments, all of which weren’t good enough at the time, but Hodgson’s current record of seven wins in 20 games is of course by far the better record. I abhor using sarcasm to make a point, but it seems that the media has left us with little else since they refuse to look at the facts.

Here’s a fact for you, reported following what was another disastrous defeat to Blackburn. Kenny Dalglish has won more trophies than Hodgson has won away games in all his time managing English sides. While this kind of statement may be superfluous, it’s certainly a very glaring observation about the lack of success Hodgson has had, not just at Liverpool, but also anywhere in his career. The fact he hasn’t won any major trophies should be proof enough that he was never good enough for Liverpool. Whatever the media decide their opinion is about Benitez, one thing you can’t discount is the trophies he’s won, in a much shorter-lived career than Hodgson.

For those who tuned in to the Blackburn game yesterday, many of whom must have watched on TV because the traveling support barely attended (I wonder why?), they would have noticed two things. First, the staggeringly abominable performance churned out by the team on the pitch. Although, even before seeing that, some might have noticed that the lineup was altered quite a bit to the previous game against Bolton. To the nascent viewer (the English media in particular when it comes to Liverpool), this wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary, but to those who watched the much improved performance against Bolton, it begs the question of why mess with a system that worked quite well a few days earlier? That game involved one of the better performances of the season, and just happened to have Gerrard in the middle, and Agger at the back. The team pressed higher and Agger was in the opposition half attacking more often than not. Subsequently, he was once again left on the bench against Blackburn, perhaps he was deemed “too offensive.”

The second thing one may have noticed watching the dross against Blackburn was the vomit-inducing rhetoric spewed forth from the commentators. Throughout the match, as Liverpool played worse and worse, and Hodgson looked his usually clueless self on the sideline, they continued to back him. They believed it was all down to the disaster Benitez left in his wake over the summer, and that none of the current tactics, players, or system out on the pitch was at all because of Hodgson. And even more damaging was their refusal to point out his mistakes in the past, most notably with his time at Blackburn, where he did a Benitez by leaving the team in such poor shape that the following manager was left with a relegation battle. Only difference is, Hodgson isn’t blamed for that failure like Benitez is being blamed for Liverpool’s. All that was mentioned was that he led Blackburn to 6th place. What also wasn’t mentioned is the fact that Fulham are now in a terrible state since his departure. Surely it must be his fault, as Liverpool’s failings are Benitez’s? The media doesn’t seem to think so.

The British media have accepted Roy Hodgson’s dopey nice-guy act as genuine, and therefore he remains untouchable despite his obvious deficiencies as a football manager. The constant lowering of expectations hasn’t helped, and for some reason the media keep buying into it. After the Wolves defeat, he cynically said, “If fans are going to expect to [beat the bottom-of the league team] that’s very dangerous. If they’re going to do that they’re going to be in for a lot of disappointments.” Hodgson clearly lives his life in disappointment by never approaching anything with positive intentions and expectations. He may choose to live his life in this manner, but Liverpool fans want, and deserve, better.

For all the comments surrounding the current Liverpool manager, with many that could be construed as nasty or derisive, I don’t think anyone believes he’s an evil man. He’s just a man who blindly believes in himself, despite the outward results proving he’s not up to the position of manager at a club like Liverpool. At the end of the day, I hope he moves on from Liverpool with a deeper understanding of the game and takes the (harsh) lessons he’s had to learn in his short time in charge to better himself as a manager. For all the fans’ disappointment and anger vented toward Hodgson throughout the first half of the season, we can only wish the man well. And for all his obvious inadequacies as a manager, his glaring negativity and nigh on spiteful reactions to criticism and his own team’s fans, it’s only right to remind him that he’ll never walk alone, but perhaps now it’s time to just walk away.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy