I was as disappointed as any Liverpool fan last Saturday when the team managed a measly 1-1 draw with Sunderland. It wasn’t just the scoreline that disappointed me, but the manner in which it was played. “Hoof and Hope,” the mantra that has now become our perennial second half way of life, did nothing to ease the tension and anxiety within the stadium, or for those watching worldwide. As cliched as it is, this truly was a game of two halves and while the team ended on a sour note following the final whistle, perhaps we can continue to take heart in the way the first half was played.
It’s easy to forget the first 45 minutes after having to endure 45 dour minutes of the second half last week. There was no cohesion, no movement, no energy, and poor, sloppy balls were given away all over the pitch. The momentum from the first half, despite an appalling display from referee Phil Dowd, should have propelled Liverpool to pick themselves up, score a couple of quick goals, and put the game to bed.
As we know, the game did not go this direction. When the team was 1-0 up and the cracks started to show, the final whistle couldn’t come quick enough. When it was 1-1 and Sunderland attacked threatening a winner, I think the recurrent thought running through everyone’s head was, “here we go again.” It could easily have been a loss on the opening day of the season, something all too familiar in recent years. And in some ways, this draw felt like a loss because of the team’s inability to kill the game when the opportunities arose in their completely dominant first half exhibition.
But I digress. The first half is what we should all focus on. Because at the end of the day, had Suarez converted the penalty, Richardson been sent off, Carroll’s goal stood, and Downing’s fierce drive just tickled the underside of the crossbar, we would be top of the table with four or five goals tucked away and a victory brought about through creativity, movement, and sublime skill from multiple players. As much as the draw hurts, the encouraging signs were there that great things are to come.
So do Liverpool fans need to be patient and await for the pieces to click? I tend to think so, but Kristian Walsh makes a good point in his piece Why Context, Not Patience, Is Needed on the Kop Blog.
Walsh writes, “An excellent opening 45 minutes was immediately eradicated when Dowd began the second half. Larsson’s goal acted as a switch; agitation and restlessness followed, both on and off the pitch.”
Walsh continues, “Anfield knew what this newly-constructed side was capable of already. This wasn’t impatience, this was anxiety and frustration – anxiety at not getting the result the first half performance deserved; frustration that the anxiety was well-founded.”
I think he hits the nail on the head. Liverpool fans are smart enough to know how good the first half performance was. The issue of disappointment arose when the fans felt that while they performed more than good enough for three points, it was still not earned. How many years has this happened to good Liverpool sides while simultaneously watching Manchester United perform under par and still gain the three points? Frustration does not even begin to describe it.
Even so, I still believe Liverpool and Liverpool fans need to practice some patience. But the kind of patience I think we need is not patience for the team to click, they’ve already shown us at the tail end of last season and in the first half against Sunderland that they click very well.
The patience needed here is between our heads and our hearts. Every Liverpool fan across the world wants so badly for the team to win and achieve the trophies and prestige that has eluded them for five years, and in some cases, 20 years. The fans’ love beams from the deepest parts of their heart for the players, the manager, and everything having to do with Liverpool Football Club, no matter how well or poorly they do.
The difference is, for maybe the first time in that 20 year span, the fans finally feel like they have the manager, players, and owners to achieve great things. The heart (the fans) believes we have already won, while the head (the team) is still catching up.
We know what Liverpool is capable of, and despite a disappointing draw, there is no reason to change the way we feel about the club. The head will soon catch up, and until then, well, the heart wants what it wants, don’t it?