Posts tagged: dalglish

The Lucas Lesson

By , July 9, 2012 5:10 pm

In just a few short years, Lucas Leiva went from being a midfield pariah, to the rock that anchors Liverpool’s midfield down. It was a transition that was anything but swift, and looking back, I think every fan is amazed he wasn’t driven out of the club. At one point, the vitriol against him was so immense, all it lacked was actual torches and pitchforks to literally run him out of the city.

Lucas’ story is a great one, and for a number of reasons. It taught an ever increasingly impatient fan base patience. It taught players, managers, pundits, and the media that you can’t always rush to judgement on a young, foreign player. And most importantly, it taught everyone what a self-motivated and talented young footballer can achieve when he truly believes in himself and his ability. Add to that Lucas’ uncanny knack to stare adversity in the face and win without even blinking, and you have yourself a player that taught us all a lesson.

To give some context, Lucas arrived at Liverpool as a mere 20-year-old from Brazil. He shined for Gremio and caught the eye of more than one manager in Europe. But it was Rafa Benitez who saw something special in the young Brazilian midfielder and decided he would fit well into Liverpool’s setup.

He joined the team at a time when the Reds were on the rise. They had just competed in their second Champions League final in three years, and were building towards continued success for the future by investing in promising, youthful prospects such as Lucas.

A Young Lucas Looked Increasingly Overawed When He First Joined LFC

Fast forward to the 2008-2009 season, and Lucas struggled. Badly. He was disappointing in a number of performances for Liverpool, so much so that the Anfield faithful took to booing him off after several lackluster games. Benitez, being the kind of manager he is, leapt to Lucas’ defense. He claimed none of us knew just how good Lucas was. And in return, we claimed that Benitez had no clue just how terrible he was. Many, including myself, struggled to see what the manager saw in the diminutive Brazilian.

To be fair, it couldn’t have been easy competing in a midfield stacked with talent. At the time, he was up against Mascherano, Alonso, and Gerrard. And as we all so cruelly remember, the axis of Alonso and Mascherano was phenomenal, and Gerrard’s inspired role behind Torres was ingenious. Lucas was the weak link, and the fans and media were intent on getting him out of the team. At least, I know I was.

Then the bottom dropped out. The 2009-2010 season was a disaster. Alonso was gone, the team were never able to build on their incredible success the season before, and in the end, it all cost Benitez his job.

But, while the team was most definitely on the wane, Lucas was on the rise. With Alonso’s departure, the Brazilian was finally given more responsibility, which he seemed to grab with both hands. His first half of the 2009-2010 season was decent, but he grew in stature as the season went on.

And while the 2010-2011 season (the first half of it anyway) was something most Liverpool fans want to forget, Lucas’ performances were tremendous. Rumors have it that Hodgson actually wanted to flog Lucas off. Thankfully, no such thing happened. He continued his excellent run of form when Dalglish replaced Hodgson mid-season, and enjoyed a wonderful run that saw the team go from a lowly 12th to 6th in about 4 months.

In May 2011, Lucas was voted the fans’ player of the year. He also made the most tackles in the top 4 European Leagues for the 2010-2011 season.

Lucas Showed Fans How Good He Really Was

His barnstorming form returned at the start of the 2011-2012 season, and he was absolutely immense against Manchester City and Chelsea in November. Sadly, his season was cut short from a terrible ACL injury, and the collapse of form of the team following his injury tells you a lot about how much influence he truly began to have. From a player that most would have been happy to sell, to a player that, through his absence, the team around him disintegrated.

In the five years since Lucas was brought to the club, he has undergone a transformation few players have the opportunity to make, namely because time is never on a player’s side when trying to impress a new team. But every fan that maligned the very name of Lucas, was singing his praises last season, and no one could mention the demise of Liverpool in 2012 without uttering what a loss Lucas had been to the midfield. There was an enormous chasm that opened up after his injury, one that was never filled by Dalglish. The team lost its balance, and most importantly, they lost its metronome. Two things Lucas provided in spades.

I honestly haven’t been as impressed with a player’s improvement as I have been with Lucas.

So what does this story teach us? It teaches us to give players time, especially players who come from halfway across the world, don’t speak the language, and are only 20 years old.

But it also teaches the importance of a mentality, belief, and intelligence that belong to only a handful of players ever to have graced the beautiful game. Lucas took the anger that was aimed at him, misdirected or not, and he turned it into a reason to work harder, rather than pack it up and go somewhere more comfortable, somewhere a little easier than the cauldron of cruelty that he experienced at Anfield. But he didn’t.

His story is a brilliant one. For once it wasn’t a player asking what the club and fans could do for him, but rather what he could grab onto deep inside and give to the club and fans. And all that in the face of rancor from every corner of Anfield and every media outlet that needed a new person to beat down.

So while the fans also needed to learn a few lessons, chiefly in their patience skills when it comes to a young player’s development, it was an even bigger lesson for players. Perhaps other footballers will take something from Lucas’ story. Perhaps they’ll walk away thinking that it’s them that have to impress the club and the fans. Perhaps they’ll realize, that deep down, the fans always want a new player to succeed, and that if the player gives it their all and more, they will, and with the fans’ backing.

Lucas has taught us all a lesson. And I hope he continues to do so for Liverpool for years to come. He’s an excellent example of a player you can be proud of. And more than anything, he should be proud of himself for reminding every one of what players need to show the fans, and how the fans should really treat the players. We were lucky he stayed. And if we didn’t learn the Lucas lesson fully, we may not be so lucky the next time a young player like him comes along.

Kenny Dalglish: A Breakup of the Worst Kind

By , May 17, 2012 10:45 am

Disappointed. Saddened. Confused. Surprised. All these emotions and more were felt immediately following the news that Kenny Dalglish had been sacked by Liverpool Football Club. While the fans can’t seem to agree on anything these days, I imagine a great majority felt the same way I did. Whether the decision proves to be the correct one remains to be seen. But right now, it just feels like an agonizing, soul-crushing breakup.

Goodbye, Kenny. Thanks For Everything, Always And Forever

You know the kind I’m talking about. Where there are lots of wonderful things about the other person, things you adore and wouldn’t change for the world. Such as Kenny’s undying love and affection for Liverpool, the institution, and the fans. His passion and electric smile on view every time Liverpool scored a goal. His pure outpouring of emotion when Liverpool reached and subsequently won the Carling Cup final. And most of all, the way you just knew that he, of all people on the planet, understood the fabric of the club like no one else. Since his arrival in the late 1970′s, the process of weaving the club’s DNA into his own had begun. And it continues to this day despite his unfortunate dismissal.

But with the good in someone you love, there are also a handful of things you find difficult to understand, and even dislike. While I believed in Kenny throughout the season, there’s no denying the league position was not good enough. Sometimes his tactics seemed strange. His substitutions would come too late, or not come at all. His squad selection was often baffling as several players were off-form, but still chosen ahead of others who had more to offer. And while I appreciated his surly demeanor with the press, the press obviously did not. And so the smearing began and continued throughout the season, culminating with the crescendo that was the Suarez/Evra debacle.

Despite all this, I trusted Kenny to get things right. And sporadically throughout the league campaign, and 99% of the time in the cups, he did get it right. Many forget that he was working with a team that had several new players, several young players, and that he lost his best central midfielder for almost the entire season with no suitable replacement. The woodwork, lack of clinical finishing, and lengthy suspensions and other injuries affecting the other world class quality in the team all lead to a dismaying league campaign to say the least. But anyone that doesn’t think Liverpool often didn’t get what they deserved based on their overall play throughout the season, wasn’t actually watching the games. In many cases, it was small margins between winning and losing, which can almost be worse and infinitely more frustrating than overall dire displays and performances. While the old saying goes “the buck stops with the manager,” I think the players should take a sizable amount of responsibility for the results in the league. After all, Kenny couldn’t run out onto the pitch and score goals for them, as much as we all would have loved to have seen that.

Like a breakup, sometimes you know when it is time to call it quits. Other times, you feel in your heart it deserves one last go before throwing it all in. I felt the latter. My head understood the reasons for dismissing Dalglish, but my heart believed he had more to offer. Another chance, a bit more time, and things would turn around. And if not, then you would at least know for sure it was time to part ways, however painful that may be.

FSG didn’t see things quite the same way I did. They operated with their minds, and their wallets, in performing a cold, calculated separation as soon as the season ended. Their hearts were not involved and how could we expect them to be? They may know business, but they don’t know enough about Liverpool Football Club to truly understand what a breakup of this magnitude would do to the fans of this great institution.

As with any breakup with someone you still love despite knowing they just aren’t right for you deep inside, it hurts to see them go. You start to think about how you’ll never spend the afternoon with them, share an inside joke, or lie next to them at night. As a loyal and emotional Liverpool fan, it hurts to think of how I won’t get to see Kenny’s goal celebrations, his beaming smile, and utter unbridled elation at seeing his team succeed while putting an arm around their shoulder when they fail.

Other clubs, other fans, and the media will never understand what Kenny Dalglish means to Liverpool and to Liverpool fans. The breakup might be best for our future, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And to read Dalglish’s own gracious words describing how he wants the fans to be happy with whoever their new manager is, just makes it hurt even more. Because you know he means it. He loves us, perhaps like no other manager can possibly do, so he can truly let us go and wish us only the best.

I hope all fans, no matter if they were for or against Dalglish’s sacking, can understand what the man gave to this team, not just in the distant past, but in the more recent past as well. He united the club after a period of great turmoil and disillusion. He brought us a trophy, three trips to Wembley, and some of the best performances individually and collectively that we’ve seen in years. But more than anything, Dalglish deserves the best in his future just as he wishes that on us. We may never be together as we once were, but Liverpool and its fans will always love Dalglish. I just hope he knows that.

Dalglish Has The Right Attitude

By , August 26, 2011 12:37 pm

I understand priorities. I deal with them everyday. Deciding what is more important and what to deal with first, second, third, etc. is a daily occurrence for most people. So it doesn’t surprise me that football managers prioritize too. They decide what game is more important and what players to start. Depending on the importance of the game, that can determine who plays and why.

A lot of fans as well as the media often jumped on Benitez’s back for all his prioritizing. It was obvious he focused his sights on Europe. So much so that it gave the impression he wasn’t as concerned about the league or the domestic cups.

I can’t lie, I too was frustrated watching Fernando Torres rested in a league match if there was a Champions League game to think about. Because it seemed that points were often dropped due to this and while a great cup run is always wonderful, Liverpool fans are ready for the focus to be on the league (and all domestic fronts in general).

This season poses an interesting set of circumstances. As we all know, Liverpool will not be competing on four fronts. Europe was too far a reach last season, and whether good or bad, we are not in European competition.

Some see this is as a great opportunity to focus on the league, and the domestic cups. With no European distractions (and even more importantly, no European hangover), the team should realistically be able to field strong starting XIs for just about every game.

If Benitez didn’t have Europe to contend with, perhaps he would have given more thought to the league and started his best team every week. It’s hard to say.

But one thing I will say about Dalglish’s approach so far this season, which was evident following Wednesday’s win in the Carling Cup, is that he isn’t afraid to field a strong side in a game that might not be deemed as important as another. When many teams believe the competition isn’t worth their time, and it’s silly to risk first team players, Dalglish believes otherwise.

“We said before the game we’d make changes. But we also said it shouldn’t be taken in any way, shape, or form as a sign of being disrespectful towards Exeter or the Carling Cup. We are Liverpool Football Club and we will try to win every game that we’ve got to play.”

Dalglish continued, “I think the most important thing was our attitude to the game and I think we started it in the right frame of mind.”

Dalglish’s quotes concisely encapsulate how I feel about Liverpool. I’m not an advocate of the attitude of being disgruntled or annoyed by “lesser” competitions like the Europa League or Carling Cup. I want Liverpool to be playing in and winning everything they possibly can because that’s what this club is all about.

Argue all you want about how the team needs to build back up to being a stronger squad in order to not have to prioritize so much. But my feeling has been and always will remain that “We are Liverpool Football Club and we will try to win every game that we’ve got to play.”

Nice to see my manager feels the same way.

Fernando Torres: Me Thinks You Doth Protest Too Much

By , March 11, 2011 9:58 am

For all the pain that Liverpool has had to endure in the last number of months, culminating in the, at the time, devastating loss of Fernando Torres, the club and its fans are moving on. We are moving forward into the future, one step at a time, rebuilding the confidence that was stripped away from the club under the horrible regime of Hicks and Gillette and the disastrous reign of Roy Hodgson. No one involved with the club is under any illusions that the club is anywhere near its best, but the progress, positivity, and incredible signs of life under Kenny Dalglish are proving that the end to this fallow period is nigh.

Fans of the club have recently been reveling in the joy that is Luis Suarez, and are even seeing signs of what Andy Carroll will offer once match fit. Mouths across Merseyside are indeed salivating at the prospects of a fully fit Liverpool across the board. Kenny Dalglish reminded the club that while the departure of former idol Fernando Torres was painful, no one player is bigger than the club. Almost immediately, everyone adopted that attitude and the team has since gone from strength to strength, together as one.

As Liverpool looks to the future, it seems odd to keep hearing reports from Fernando Torres, who seems to be focused on the past. Since leaving the club in a rather backstabbing manner, Torres has come out in the press time and again to remind everyone (mostly himself) that he is happy with his move.

This of course despite the fact he has made no impact at his new, “bigger” club. I have watched every game he has played in a Chelsea shirt and all I see is someone just as lost as they were when they were at Liverpool. Not only should Torres leave well enough alone and move on, like Liverpool has already, but maybe he should stop blaming everyone else for where he is as a player and start looking at himself.

Walk On, Just Walk On Already

Time is the great leveler, and as time has slowly moved away from the end of January when the shocking transfer took place, perspective now grows. Fans were tired of defending Torres’ constant moodiness. I’m sure the manager was tired of it too. I’m sure his fellow teammates didn’t appreciate the way he sulked on the pitch when many of them were doing their best to bring the club out its misery. The bottom line is despite our better judgment, the fans defended Torres because he was our player, and he should have defended Liverpool because that was his club.

After all his statements since leaving, his newest one really takes the cake. He claims to Spanish paper Marca that at Chelsea, “There are more personal relationships and jokes between the players than there were at Liverpool. Everything was much more serious there. Here, you don’t have to prove you are a professional, it is assumed.” To quote the old saying, it is the plainest instance of the pot calling the kettle black. No “professional,” as he claims, leaves a club in the manner he left Liverpool. And remember Fernando, you should never assume, as it makes an ass out of you and me.

Fernando Torres goes on to blame the sale of Liverpool for wanting to leave stating, “The institution was in chaos with the sale. There was all this talk of possible projects. In many ways it reminded me of (former club) Atletico Madrid… a great history, many ideas but without money, it needed time. I don’t have that.” He continues, “I knew I was an idol for the fans but it wasn’t the same any more.”

So he blames the sale of the club and the chaos that ensued, he blames the manager, he blames his fellow players for being too serious, while at the same time not being professional enough, he blames the former owners for not investing when they should have, and he torments the fans by reminding them that he was their idol, but he no longer felt the same about them anymore.

When someone tries this hard to convince every one of his or her behavior, you start questioning why. Torres convinced himself that this was the right move, but you have to think he’s really not so sure. He must have watched Liverpool’s performance on Sunday against Manchester United, especially Luis Suarez, and started doubting his hasty decisions, wondering what could have been had he stayed.

While Liverpool fans are sick of hearing from him as they look to focus on their team and the players that want to play for Liverpool, maybe he should do the same with his new club. The more he opens his mouth, the more I don’t believe a word he says. Indeed, me thinks the Spaniard doth protest too much.

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