Posts tagged: liverpool football club

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.

Liverpool, Suarez, and Why I Think Dalglish is King

By , January 4, 2012 5:19 pm

Please excuse my lengthy piece on the matter, as I realize the whole Suarez affair has been extremely upsetting and exhausting for everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club. And most of all, for Luis Suarez himself. One of the major issues with everything that has happened since that fateful day back in October is the way it has drawn whole sections of England and even Liverpool fans apart. You may agree with what I have to say, or not. Either way, I will respect your opinion even if I don’t believe it myself. This is much the case with the FA, but I am personally having a more difficult time than some accepting the way they’ve handled this case, dished out its punishment, and gave reasons for their decision based on the term ‘probably.’ I am also finding some of Liverpool’s handling of the case poor, in only so much as to how Suarez was represented. I firmly believe Liverpool’s players and Kenny Dalglish have done everything right in their support of Suarez, and I salute their bravery in the face of countless media articles, opposition fans, and even anti-racist organizations turning on them. This must be acknowledged, because as much as some people simply want Liverpool to just roll over and move on, like they would have done under the previous regime, it’s nice to know the team will stick by someone, believing 100% in their innocence whether others do or not.

I read the 115 page FA report, cutting into my New Year’s Eve festivities to do so. At first, I found the reading to be very uncomfortable with the allegations about what Suarez said. It wasn’t pretty, and I thought after the first few pages that Suarez may in fact be a truly awful person despite all obvious evidence to the contrary (mostly referring to his jovial nature, electric smile, and passion for the game. He may be snarky at times, but that is what makes him a great player, not necessarily a horrible human being.)

But as I continued to read, I began to feel puzzled, confused, then I started to laugh. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the claims, the lack of corroborative evidence, and the pure lack of evidence at all. When I finished page 115, I kept scanning back thinking I had missed something. But no. The FA had no real evidence on which to base their judgements on. Simply that they somehow found Evra a more convincing and reliable witness than Suarez, even though Evra was not the one on trial, therefore Suarez is found guilty of racially abusing him, but is also not a racist. Confused yet? I was, and still am.

Who Do You Believe When So Much Is At Stake?

Before I go any further, I’d like to point to some other articles that have broken down and analyzed the report, as well as some other articles on the subject. I agree with their sentiments, and while I’d be happy to do the breakdown myself, I would just be repeating what others have already said very succinctly. A great piece by Stuart Gilhooly, the solicitor for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland, can be read here. A few great pieces on the Anfield Wrap here, here, and here. This post by @joescouse_LFC is also a great read regarding the breakdown of the report’s numerous inconsistencies. Plus the excellent language dissection by Professor in Hispanic Studies at Brown University, Aldo Mazzucchelli here. (Also, while in the middle of writing this piece, Paul Tomkins has of course trumped me with his own excellent article here. A must read, and so much of it I agree with).

Any logical person who has read the report, Liverpool fan or otherwise, can see the glaring inconsistencies and bias that is there. And when I say bias, don’t misunderstand that I think the FA and all of the footballing world have it in for Liverpool. While it sometimes does appear that way, I simply mean bias in the FA’s strong correlation between Evra’s events and the truth, despite no evidence or witnesses to support it. And of course, because the FA published its reasoning, the media takes that as word on high that they must be right, no matter how flawed their reasoning is and no matter how many times they use the word ‘probably’ or some variation thereof.

There are two things that some have casually mentioned, but that I find astoundingly atrocious when reading that report. The first is the FA explaining that while they believe Suarez is categorically NOT a racist, they basically explain his comment to Evra simply as ‘heat-of-the-moment’ and ‘we’re all a bit racist sometimes.’ I am appalled at this comment and the logic with which it is brought about.

From the horse’s mouth:

Paragraph 342: We asked ourselves whether a player (Suarez) with this background would make the comments that Mr Evra alleged. We took all these points fully on board and thought long and hard about them before finding the Charge proved. We dealt with them in the following way.

Paragraph 343: Mr Suarez’s background as described by him in his statement raised doubts in our minds, in the first instance, as to whether he would ever make the alleged comments. We recognised that Mr Suarez’s background together with the seriousness of the Charge, meant that a greater burden of evidence was required to prove the Charge. We formed the view that, overall, the preponderance of the evidence favoured the FA’s case.

And here’s the kicker, Paragraph 344: We took into account the fact that it is a real albeit unattractive trait of human nature that we all act from time to time, to greater or lesser degrees, in ways which may be out of character. This is especially so when we feel under pressure, or challenged, or provoked, or pushed into a corner. We do and say things that we are not proud of and regret, and that we might try and deny, sometimes even to ourselves. We occasionally do or say things that we would be embarrassed to admit to family or friends. It is not inconsistent to have black colleagues and friends and relatives, and yet say things to strangers or acquaintances about race or colour that we would not say directly to those closer to us.

And their incomprehensible conclusion, Paragraph 345: Bearing these considerations in mind, whilst we were initially doubtful that Mr Suarez would make the comments alleged by Mr Evra, we proceeded on the basis that the factors relied on in relation to Mr Suarez’s background and experiences did not mean that he could not or would not act in this way. We weighed these considerations together with all the evidence when asking ourselves whose account was more probable.

Why am I appalled by this part of the report? Because the FA has basically said that people in a highly tense situation will of course say something racist, but would never say the same things to their best friends of another race because that would be too embarrassing. This is so insulting and bizarre to me, someone who despises racism and prejudice in all its forms. And the fact they can come up with the conclusion that despite Suarez having NO history of anything he was being accused of, having a grandfather that is black, playing with black players, and being involved in a charity that supports and encourages young black and white children to play together and stamp out racism, they STILL believed that he must have said what Evra alleged. If anything, with all their decisions based on ‘probabilities’ and ‘likelihood’s’ this would make Suarez LESS likely and ‘probably’ impossible to racially abuse someone in the way he is being accused of.

The second of the astounding atrocities is the confusing manner in which the FA on one hand defends Suarez, giving him some benefit of the doubt when it comes to his limited use of the English language and the way he may feel nervous at having to defend his good name in light of such serious charges. Yet, they neither seem to care or believe that those two things could be why there were some inconsistencies in what he said. And on the flip side, the way that he speaks his own language has somehow been summarily dismissed as wrong because Evra, someone with the ability to converse in Spanish, but by all means not fluent, especially in Suarez’s dialect, claims Suarez said something that Suarez refutes. Personally, I’m going to believe the person who grew up speaking that language and is fluent in it, but obviously the FA does not.

On that note, as many others have stated in the articles I linked to above, despite what you may believe, I am not defending a ‘racist’ in my defense of Luis Suarez. Accusations like this are beyond me. The club, manager, players, and many fans believe he is innocent of the allegations of being a racist and using racist language. The part where many people differ is their understanding and the importance they give to the idea that there may be – brace yourself – cultural and language differences between two different cultures and languages. I know this may be hard to grasp for some, especially it seems from the English speaking countries like England, but it’s true. I think we can all agree that Spanish and English are undeniably two different languages. There, I’ve said it. Get out your pitch forks and start lynching.

A great comment was made by Glynn on The Anfield Wrap’s article Suarez: Why the Guilty Verdict Was Correct stating, “That’s a fairly reasonable article, however, like the media at large, you also are taking the English literal meaning of the five letter word which Luis has admitted using (negro) and presenting it as proof of Luis’s guilt. There’s no attempt to explore the meaning in the cultural-linguistic context in which it was originally used – and that this is dismissed as not even being worthy of discussion smacks of xenophobic arrogance.” This is excellently stated, and concisely explains what I said above.

On this basis, I just cannot understand how people keep pointing to the fact that Suarez admitted using a word, which to him is completely harmless and not only not racist, but not insulting either, as clear evidence that he’s guilty of racially abusing Evra. Think about it for a second. If everything we said in one language was insulting to someone in another, we’d all be apologizing everyday for everything we say. Doesn’t the FA’s logic on this seem completely illogical?

Many also keep pointing out that: ‘ignorance is not an excuse.’ Really? It is a perfectly good one to me when Suarez, by his own admission of using the word, clearly had no intention of insulting or racially abusing Evra. Because if he did have those intentions, it would be much easier to lie and profess that he said nothing at all. And if what he admitted to saying was misconstrued by Evra as something racist, how is that Suarez’s fault? He was honest (perhaps too honest seeing how horribly he’s been treated over all this) in saying what he said because he felt he had nothing to hide. I, as I’m sure many others, have also done this in their lifetime; been honest in a situation where we had nothing to hide, but were found guilty of something anyway because of the way it was perceived by someone else.

If this was such a grievous mistake made by Suarez, then shouldn’t the powers-that-be have done the right thing in just explaining to Suarez that despite him speaking in his own language, they found it abusive and therefore unacceptable? Giving him a one-game ban and explaining to Liverpool and every other club that foreigners need to be given better lessons on understanding the culture they are now living in? Surely this kind of scenario should have been sufficient for anyone even if it does reek of xenophobia.

Perhaps if Evra had attempted to discuss what he thought he heard with Suarez, the ref, and the managers before making the accusations to a television channel, then Suarez would have easily been able to apology for any misunderstanding and clearly explain what he meant in saying what he did. People have told me I’m foolish for thinking of this and it could never be an option. And clearly a logical, sound, and rational approach to all this from the FA was also never an option after reading their report. I don’t know how I could be so silly as to think that they would be any of those things with such a serious charge being made.

To comment on current rumblings, in regard to those in the media, Man United corner, and any opposition or Liverpool fans that agree with the notion that Suarez should now apologize for what he’s done, let me say this. Saying he should apologize is an outrageous thing to ask when they are referring to an apology for making a racist remark, which he categorically denies he did. If anything, maybe an apology for the simple misunderstanding on the part of Evra, but never, NEVER should he be made to apologize for something he didn’t do which is racially abuse Evra. From my own negative experience of a similar situation to Suarez’s, where I was being accused of all kinds of outlandish things by people around me, none of which I was guilty of, did I ever think that apologizing was right. I knew in my heart of hearts that I did nothing wrong, and at the end of the day if someone else felt otherwise, that truly was their problem and not mine. I think Suarez feels much the same as he continues to deny doing anything malicious or racist in any way, shape, or form.

I’ll make two more comments about this whole sad and sorry affair.

First, I’m not excusing some of Liverpool’s misguided tactics in all this. It seems to become more and more clear that their handling of the situation as far as preparedness of Suarez and other witnesses, as well as the lawyers chosen were perhaps not the best. So many on various websites, forums, and twitter have been able to logically dispute so much of what was said it’s almost incomprehensible that an institution as big as Liverpool didn’t have the absolute best representation in their corner. They seemed to have screwed up royally in some ways that made it difficult for Suarez to truly defend himself.

But this is also not to say that I think what Dalglish and the team has done was ever wrong. Obviously the media see the support of Suarez’s manager, teammates, and fans as blind favoritism and in turn they are of course supporting a racist, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dalglish, to his great credit, has stood by his player in the face of criticism from every corner. Read the transcription of his press conference after the Manchester City game here and you can see that he is defiant and still 100% believes in Suarez’s innocence, while also condemning the ‘blind’ favoritism the FA and media have for Evra. This is what makes Dalglish so brilliant, and why Liverpool fans will always see him as the king. While Suarez may be young, and relatively unknown to the British footballing world, Dalglish is not. Anyone that doubts his sincerity and integrity throughout his prominent career as a player and manager is sorely mistaken.

Which brings me to my second point. I want everyone to imagine being in this situation themselves. If your good name was sullied across the country in every national newspaper, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, and forum, and you knew yourself to be completely innocent of what was being said, would you not try and fight for yourself? Would you not expect those closest to you, who know you better than everyone and who know the truth as you do to stand up for you in every way they can? Perhaps I find this more difficult than most as I’ve been in a similar personal situation where I had ONE person on my side, and no matter how hard I fought, how hard I tried to prove what was said about me was untrue, and how much I pointed to the past as an example of why those things would never be true, no one believed me. Sometimes it’s easier for people to believe one thing over another based on their own prejudices, biases, and mistakes they’ve made in the past by projecting their negative (and ill-informed judgements) onto others. I would hope that most would want the same support Suarez has received if they were in his shoes, and would also offer it to someone they truly believed was innocent. By all means let’s “Kick Out Racism” from the game, but not by slandering someone based on no evidence, who is most likely innocent if not completely misunderstood in this situation.

To conclude, I feel for Luis Suarez more than anything. Neither him, nor Liverpool, and even to a certain extent Evra and Man United, have come out of this smelling like roses. But Suarez is the one that has to live with these unfounded accusations the rest of his life and especially his footballing career.

Not only that, but say a scenario occurs in the near future, maybe next season, or two seasons down the road where an opposition player is having a torrid time against Suarez, much the way Evra was having on the day in question, or felt aggrieved at a decision that went in Suarez’s favor against him, and he felt in the heat of the moment to accuse Suarez of racial abuse after the match. Despite it not being at all true, and simply based on this player’s word, the FA will look to this current case and decision as an easy way to convict Suarez again and have him permanently suspended. Serve the ban, pay the fine, whatever. But this isn’t a case of a bad tackle where a player serves his suspension and it is easily forgotten and never brought up as evidence next time he makes a challenge, a challenge which can easily be proved on video evidence. This is the man’s career at stake on the word of someone else. A word with no evidence behind it. A word that has yet to be corroborated. By anyone.

And just as this incident was ‘proven’ based on one man’s word against another (despite the FA so cutely saying that this just wasn’t the case), what’s to say that won’t happen again? No one has believed Suarez thus far despite nothing against him holding water, so even less evidence is bound to find him guilty too. This is what I find most disturbing and worrying for Suarez’s future as a world-class player. So forgot how you feel about Suarez, forget he plays for Liverpool, or whether or not you deem him a racist, forget the ban and the fine. Simply think about how easily he was found guilty based on one other person’s word and how easily that could happen to you, your star player, your wife, brother, parents, or child. Then see if you’ll feel the same way Liverpool did in their defense of Luis Suarez.

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.

Liverpool Need to Let Their Heads Catch Up With Their Hearts

By , August 19, 2011 8:57 am

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?

Crouching Liver Bird, Hidden Transfer

By , July 6, 2011 10:51 am

*Update
In between the writing and posting of this piece, the Charlie Adam deal finally went through and he is indeed having a medical at Melwood tomorrow according to the official site here.

Ah, the transfer market. There truly is nothing like it. The agony and the ecstasy all rolled up into one. The joy of a fantastic capture in one hand, and the disappointment of a lost opportunity in the other. There really are only so many world class players out there, and plenty of different clubs competing for them. So far for Liverpool in this transfer window, it’s really been a case of frustration more than anything else.

Who Will Be Wearing The Liver Bird On Their Chest Next Season? *Photo courtesy of Kit Nelson

That being said, we have been told from on high to be patient. The powers that be have been and are continually working on bringing in the best players for the team that they can. The fact that John W. Henry came “face-to-face” with the fans by responding to their anxiety on Twitter should tell everyone something. But does it calm anyone down? No, not really.

We are anxious to get the ball rolling. And when the club vehemently told the fans after the super quick procurement of Jordan Henderson that they would attempt to secure transfers quickly to have almost everyone in before pre-season, it seemed a fait accompli all transfer business would be done by then. That time has come and gone as pre-season began this week.

So what are we to make of the secrecy involving the transfer targets? Fans begged for the return of “The Liverpool Way,” but then we hypocritically can’t stand it when we don’t know what’s going on. It’s very difficult being on the outside looking in when you’re trying to look through a piece of frosted glass.

Newspapers don’t help with their pages full of “transfer rumors,” sometimes containing the most ridiculous and out-of-this-world piece of transfer nonsense. But it’s not for lack of trying, or even full disclosure. Many journalists may have more information than they are allowed to reveal, which leaves them in the unfortunate situation that the clubs are also in; tell & you die, don’t tell & the fans will kill you.

The saying goes: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that,” but surely no one should die over anything that happens in the silly season. At least we hope it doesn’t come to that. But with Charlie Adam having his 10,000th medical tomorrow, and Aston Villa rejecting another bid for Downing, it’s becoming increasingly aggro in the world of Twitter, fan forums, and even blogs when it comes to Liverpool’s transfer dealings.

The real question that keeps cropping up is whether any of these “rumors,” that is any information about transfers full stop, are actually true at all. No one except for a select few inside Liverpool know who Liverpool Football Club are actually targeting. The Clichy, Wickham, Adam, and Downing possibilities seem plausible enough because actual bids were made, and the other club revealed that they had turned them down.

But those aside, who is Liverpool FC really going after? Will Juan Mata be the club’s marquee signing? Is Jose Enrique still on Liverpool’s left-back radar? Is there any truth to the rumor they are interested in another Spanish star, Santi Cazorla?

Unfortunately for those of us looking in, we won’t know until the papers are signed, the official website makes an announcement, and a medical, an actual medical conducted by the club when they specify, is done.

Until then we must all live in the haze and mystery that surrounds the transfer market, wishing and hoping for the best players to choose us over anyone else. But luckily for us, a new dawn has descended over Liverpool with new owners, a new manager, and hopefully plenty of new players in place before next season. Liverpool Football Club finally has a lot more to offer than just a successful history. They can now offer a successful future as well, something we hope players realize when they make their final choice for a new club.

*Great Liver Bird picture courtesy of Kit Nelson

Let The Transfers Begin

By , June 8, 2011 12:48 pm

With the news of Liverpool Football Club signing Sunderland’s 20-year-old star Jordan Henderson, the transfers have officially begun. Many in the media are already bemoaning the hefty transfer fee of what is said to be £20 million for the talented youngster. But the club wasted no time in sealing their first transfer deal of the summer and no matter what, with this bold and logical approach of snapping up Britain’s best talent, Liverpool will be winners. Whether it’s now, or a few years down the line, the strategy Dalglish is implementing will pay off.

The opinions being spouted in the media (and they are only that, opinions), is that Liverpool have now overpaid on potential talents not once, but twice. First in January on Andy Carroll and now in June on Jordan Henderson. Putting aside the fact that everyone must overpay for young English players, such is the inflation and premium they command, Liverpool have not overpaid for anyone just yet.

Buying any player is always a gamble. No one will ever know if the player will fit into the team or not, if they will get injured, if they will perform as well as they have in the past, etc. But buying a young, gifted, English player for perhaps more money than a mid to late 20′s English or foreign one offers two advantages.

The first would be that the potential resale on the player down the line is always going to be higher. Buying a player at 20, getting four or five good years out of them and selling them on for a profit at 25 is a genuine long-term strategy. Key examples of this would be Fernando Torres and David Ngog. Bought young, and sold for massive profits.

The second advantage is the obvious one: they have youth on their side. Of course not every 18, 19, or 20 year-old with amazing potential will succeed in the long run, but they have every opportunity to do so with plenty of time to learn and develop ahead of them.

I won’t pretend that I know a lot about Jordan Henderson right now, but from what I’ve read, he has a wonderful range of passing and the ability to distribute with thought and accuracy. Journalist Iain Macintosh reckons he is of the “Alonso school of play.” Whether he turns out to be as good as Alonso remains to be seen. But the potential is there.

With Henderson, Liverpool have acquired their first big signing of the transfer window. And it would appear that Kenny Dalglish is not stopping there. If rumors and conjecture turn out to be true, than Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, and Connor Wickham will follow hot on the heels of young Henderson.

The Newest Addition To The New Dalglish Era

The pattern coming into focus with Dalglish and Comolli’s strategy is not just “buy young English players,” but to buy young, gifted, and versatile players. Henderson is essentially a central midfielder, but he can also operate successfully elsewhere. The same goes for Adam, Meireles, Gerrard, Suarez, Kuyt, and Downing. And just look at the ability of Glen Johnson to switch to left-back as if it was his natural position.

The team is being built with and around players that have the ability to not just play one position in one formation, but to play in multiple positions in various formations. This is what creates pass and move football, and this is what Dalglish wants to achieve.

Like everyone else, I have my doubts about players until they have had some time to really prove themselves. On top of this, with Henderson and the others rumored to be added to the squad, I’m not sure how the team will gel and who exactly will be in the starting eleven. But the fact that there will be options and selection headaches is what every big team needs and wants. Liverpool’s squad has been poor over the years and now finally looks set to have genuine strength in multiple areas on the pitch.

Dalglish and Comolli have already taken this team leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last summer. We’ve traded OAP’s for youthful, promising talent. The intent being shown in this transfer window indicates that Liverpool are preparing themselves to once again be a force to be reckoned with. Let the rest of the transfers commence.

What About Adam Johnson?

By , June 6, 2011 2:57 pm

With the summer transfer window open and transfer speculation in full swing, it’s worth taking the time to look at some of the players mentioned in the same breath as Liverpool Football Club. By now we all know the names being bandied about and the level of enthusiasm, anger, and apathy is pretty clear with each one.

Most tend to think that Stewart Downing, now a strong candidate to be a big signing, doesn’t have what it takes to consistently perform in the big games and for a big club. He has his strong points, but most, myself included, feel his weak points may take over when push comes to shove.

There’s also Juan Mata, Charles N’Zogbia, Ashley Young, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, and even radical fantasy possibilities like Alexis Sanchez, Fabio Coentrao, and Eden Hazard. Many of these are examined extremely well and in great detail in Paul Tomkin’s latest subscriber piece “Transfer Views – Creative Midfielders In Focus,” which can be read here. There is also a great piece written by Tony Barret about trusting Kenny Dalglish and Co.’s decision making when it comes to transfers here.

With these and other great articles regarding transfers this summer, my focus is not to rehash much of what’s already been said so well. My question to LFC is: What about Adam Johnson?

Could He Be Headed To Liverpool?

First and foremost, I am a massive fan of Adam Johnson. Having only seen him in Manchester City’s first team this past season and a half, I am already an ardent admirer. The fact that he was excellent against Liverpool back in August really put him on my radar.

In terms of raw ability and pace, Johnson has both in spades. He’s an extremely pacey left-sided winger, with wonderful dribbling skills. He’s confident enough to take defenders on and can score as well. He’s tricky, elusive, and fast. Exactly what LFC have been missing for the last number of years.

Johnson also appears to tick a lot of the new FSG player philosophy boxes. Turning just 24 this summer, he’s young and his peak years are still ahead of him. He has a head start on some other targets by already being settled in the Premier League. And while squad strength will be built this summer with an eye to rotation next season, Johnson would most likely start every game, as long as he stays fit.

According to some of his stats found on Anfield Index, he made 15 starts last season for Man City, while playing a total of 1531 minutes. He scored 4 goals, and had 26 total shots. His goals per game average is not bad with around 3.5 every time he starts. Where he might be lacking is his chance conversion, which is at a mere 15%.

In his first full season with Man City, he put in a total of 108 crosses, with 20 of those being accurate, a cross accuracy of 19%. Again, that’s not a number to get too excited about, but he has five assists for the season. On top of this, Johnson has an average of 2.1 successful dribbles per game. When compared to City’s standout star David Silva who has had the same amount of successful dribbles, but has played 1000 minutes more, you can see Johnson’s potential when getting the chance to play week in and week out.

There are definitely some flaws to Johnson’s game, but he is only 23 and has shown a lot of potential in his one and a half seasons at Man City. With the über rich Sheikh Mansour collecting as many players as possible, Johnson has been edged further out of a starting place. There were some rumblings toward the end of the season that he was becoming frustrated with his lack of first team opportunities and this could be the perfect time to snatch him up.

Johnson is a player that will not only be great for next season, but also, barring injuries, for seasons to come. He has the potential and proven skill to be a brilliant winger, and he may be just what Liverpool needs.

The Wonderful Conundrum of Andy Carroll

By , May 18, 2011 3:33 pm

Putting aside the pretty toothless defeat to Tottenham on Sunday, the second half of the season has been damn swell for Liverpool Football Club. From the brink of relegation in September to fifth place in May, the season has been the epitome of a roller coaster ride. With each crazy turn, people have gotten off (Hodgson, Torres), and more have gotten on (Dalglish, Suarez, Carroll). And while Liverpool may not be able to look forward to European football next year, it is not a loss that will dampen anyone’s spirits too badly. With King Kenny being signed up for three years, the youth team progressing and producing at a rapid pace, and a set of owners willing to do whatever it takes to bring the club back to greatness, the future looks incredibly bright from here on out.

But let’s not get carried away.

I’ll admit that I was allowing myself to get a little carried away over the last few weeks. With stellar performances against Manchester City, Birmingham, and most recently AT Fulham, there were plenty of reasons to start believing we were all but assured the Premier League title next season.

Obviously the game against against Tottenham gave everyone, myself included, a big slap in the face to wake us up to the fact that despite an impressive run of form since January, the club still needs improvement in many areas.

I’m not even sure where exactly the problem was against Tottenham. I felt this was as winnable a game as could be. The recipe for success was as follows: The momentum and confidence surging through the team, combined with Kenny Dalglish’s fresh signature on a three-year contract, and add in the extremely poor form of Tottenham and presto! Three points for the Reds with at least a +2 or +3 goal difference on the day. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

It didn’t make me particularly happy to see the last home game of the season, after such an incredible run of performances and results, end in such a limp defeat. But taking a step back to look at the bigger picture is much more important.

I saw Raul Meireles as a bigger loss in that game than I thought he’d be. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s great when he plays, I just felt the team had enough about them to cope without the Portuguese playmaker. And despite Kenny saying he doesn’t think a change in personnel and formation caused the defeat, I’d like to think it still had a lot to do with it.

Tottenham must also be given credit as, for the first time in months, they decided to actually show up and play their hearts out for a game. Fair play.

Many have suggested it was Andy Carroll’s lumbering, half-fit presence that really did the team in on Sunday. Outside of a handful of decent touches, he was pretty useless overall. He was pedestrian up front, he failed to win headers when challenging Ledley King, and he wasn’t linking up well with his fellow forwards. It almost seemed as though his inclusion on the team was more of a hinderance than an asset on the day.

I’m not denying that Andy Carroll had a poor game against Tottenham, so did a lot of the other players. But going back to the idea that the bigger picture is what is important here, Andy Carroll “the problem” is a problem Liverpool haven’t had for a long time. That is, having a very talented striker to utilize while already having a very potent front line. Finding the formations and systems to get the best out of him is still a new challenge, but one that should be greeted with great joy from anyone supporting LFC.

For too many years Liverpool have relied too heavily on Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to score the goals in a very limited formation. Now the team has options and fluidity up front which will only get better after this summer of purchases. If Andy Carroll is a problem to figure out right now, than he’s a wonderful problem I can’t wait for Liverpool to solve.

Liverpool Need To Finish Strong

By , April 27, 2011 12:56 pm

We are now ensconced in the business end of the season, but unfortunately for Liverpool Football Club and its fans, there is really no business to take care of. The season probably finished for most when the club was mired in the relegation zone, along with being dumped out of the Carling Cup by lowly Northampton Town. This has been one of the most incredibly dramatic seasons for Liverpool in a long, long time, and while there may not be silverware or even a place in Europe to show for it, the last four games in the Premier League need to be played as if they are all cup finals.

The club’s roller coaster ride this season has been well documented. From the farcical appointment, rise, and fall of Roy Hodgson, to the near collapse and administration bound point-of-no-return for the club as a whole. Just as darkness appeared to descend on Anfield, the cavalry arrived in the form of American John W. Henry. With a scroll of his pen on a massive check, he wiped away the club’s debt and informed everyone involved that a new era would develop and Liverpool would be back in their place as one of the best sides in world football.

A collective sigh was breathed from Huyton to Mumbai as Liverpool fans from all over the world witnessed a new beginning. Just a few short months later and the horror show that was Roy Hodgson would also be wiped from the club’s collective past, present, and future.

The return of the King made all the headlines in January, until another Kop hero overshadowed even Kenny Dalglish’s long awaited return at the helm of LFC. Fernando Torres made a strange and oft looked at treacherous move away from Anfield, only to find his new home at Chelsea to be anything like the light at the end of the dark tunnel he described after leaving. But enough about him.

With Kenny In Charge, The Club Has Taken A Turn For The Best

January saw, ostensibly, three new signings in the form of Dalglish, Luis Suarez, and Andy Carroll. FSG displayed their intentions for the famed Merseyside club by installing a capable and historically significant man to steward the good-ship LFC and splashing the cash on much needed reinforcements up front. Already a massive success, Suarez looks the business and Carroll, who is yet to fully recover from injury, is still finding his feet better than most believed he would.

It’s almost the end of this sometimes torrid, sometimes shocking, sometimes spectacular season and it would seem that Liverpool need the season to end already to put a lot of the bad memories behind them.

While it would be easier to sit comfortably in a position mid-table, with guns at the ready to aim at the summer transfer window and prepare for next season, this can’t be done. Liverpool need to finish the season strong and prove to themselves and their supporters that they are better than anyone in the media, Roy Hodgson, or anyone else outside the club has given them credit for this season.

There are no trophies, but there is pride at stake. Forget the possibility of still qualifying for the Europa League (or the very outside chance of the Champions League), Liverpool need to do this for them.

Arsenal fans were aghast at their team’s dismal game against LFC, and many were shocked that Liverpool and their fan base were not more willing to just give up in the dying minutes so as to help Arsenal’s chances of taking on Man United for the title.

I don’t know about most of you, but just the thought disgusts me. I would never prefer Liverpool rolling over just to hurt one of our rivals. The thought never crossed my mind, and I don’t think it crossed any of the players’ minds either. That’s why they never gave up until the final whistle and secured what could be an invaluable point.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy that Manchester United will win another Championship this year, and overtake Liverpool’s record, but more than anything it should spur the players and club on even more to win that all elusive Premier League title in the years to come and overtake United’s new record. After all, records were meant to be broken.

Once again, while it may seem the club has nothing to fight for, it is just the opposite. The fans give everything to their team and they deserve nothing but the same in return. A strong finish will give the team confidence, attract new players, possibly secure Kenny Dalglish into a permanent manager’s role, and perhaps even garner a place in next season’s Europa League. The positive boost going into the summer in which LFC will be busy in the transfer market and pre-season is unquantifiable and could make all the difference heading into August.

The ups and downs the club has experienced this season have all pointed to one extraordinary thing: a new dawn. New owners, new players, and a new manager will return the club to where it belongs. But until they can get there next season, they need to finish this one right.

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