AS A Liverpool fan, it pains me no end to see the current Premier League Table. If I were the Liverpool manager, I would take a print out of the table, and tape it upside down on every player’s locker door just to remind us where we belong – in the stratosphere of the top four. The defeat against Manchester United rankles, and the dubious penalty responsible for it rankles more so, but I don’t intend to take that crutch to defend anything.
As one the classiest and most knowledgeable
Manchester United football fans I know put it on Twitter, such a disgrace to the game diminishes its respect but then, there’s no point over analyzing it. The jokes are flying all around and yes, just as rain drops hurt the most when your skin is sliced open, they hurt at vulnerable this time. But tongues have always wagged and again that’s not what this storied club with an incredible 120 year history is about.
It has been an emotional time for the club, especially with developments on the Hilsborough disaster recently and the lack of performance (2 points from 5 games, no wins and winless at the fortress called Anfield) has exacerbated the pain. As a fan, these are the time your patience, faith, loyalty and belief are all tested. I remain a loyal red fan; one who started following this team back in 1997/98 and has seen every vicissitude since.
And there was one simple reason I became a fan – I believed the team played pretty good football. Attacked often, defended decently yet doggedly and not desperately (watch a Jamie Carragher and you’ll know what I mean) and mostly kept up the spirit of football. In recent times, it seems those things have been relegated to the background with financial troubles, racism allegations and transfer decisions taking centerstage. I believe all the off field incidents have diluted the one reason the club played for – pride. I don’t care about platitudes such as giving it your best and always looking to win. These are weak and short termist statements made by those who don’t understand the Game.
Positions on the table matter, silverware matters, but above all this pride in playing a beautiful game matters. Technical experts can nitpick as many holes as they wish to pick in my assessment, but live with it that I am an old school romantic. The only cliché I still believe in is playing for pride; pride of the greater spectacle of the game. I believe Steven Gerrard does that. Every bone in his body feels the occasion every single time and every vein pumps up the proud feeling. Those who saw him celebrating today’s goal v United will understand my point. And I consider it no coincidence that Liverpool’s performance has dipped in the period where he’s been intermittently absent from the team because of injury. Because being the talisman that he is, it’s not just his midlfield and scoring skills he brings in to the game. He brings the ‘feeling’.
Point out as much as you want to the technical deficiencies and tactical disasters, but those things are temporary. I don’t overanalyze such stuff, because that’s the preserve of football ‘pundits’ who have to fill TV airtime or newspaper column inches. The permanent thing is the ‘feeling’. And the greater responsibility towards the game is what Liverpool have to invoke to do better. We owe it to the history, to the fans, to the naysayers and to the critics alike. And that’s why I would stick that table upside down. Cheesy? Maybe. But sometimes, such is the power of an act like that, it can tangibly affect performance.
In 2005 at Istanbul, AC Milan went 3-0 up against Liverpool in the Champions League final at halftime. The Milan players’ premature celebrations reached the Liverpool players’ ears in the dressing room. The rest is history. The gentleman of the tweet mentioned at the start of the article aspires to coach a football team someday, and I know his first lesson will not be in tactics; it will be about spirit. Arsene Wenger had once said ‘To perform to your maximum you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes beyond logical justification. No top performer has lacked the capacity for irrational optimism; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind.’ That’s why dear naysayers and critics, we reds will back our team to the hilt.
Through the prism of reality and pragmatism it may look ridiculous but then the point remains as one American sportswriter had so memorably put it – ‘For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.’ Play it with and for the pride of the game, and you’ll truly never walk alone.