Optimist or Pessimist? You should get your education from the Kop

Optimist or Pessimist? You should get your education from the Kop

As the new season approaches, I, along with many Reds, look for signs or hints as to how the forthcoming season may pan out. Pre-season usually arrives like a junkie’s fix for me. After the cold turkey of late May and June those friendlies are a clear sign that, once again, life has meaning. Football is back. Of course this summer we lost a talisman, so the issue of whether we could crush teams without him was at the forefront of my mind. Earlier games had offered little comfort and the United game in Miami, regardless of the ‘it’s only preseason’ mantra I subscribe to, left me feeling a bit strung out.

Last Sunday though I saw some of the signs I was looking for. Liverpool demolished a, admittedly under-strength, Borussia Dortmund side at Anfield. It was our last pre-season game before the real battle commences and at times the football was sumptuous. In fact, it was so pleasing on the eye that it prompted one fan to tell the excellent ‘Redmen TV’ that “we are going to win the treble.” Unsurprisingly, he got a bit of an online kicking for this.

Football forums and social media are just virtual school playgrounds at times. They are full of point scoring and hilarious banter, mixed with a sprinkling of humiliation and abuse. Step out of line once, or appear different in any way, and you’re done. On Sunday, this lad was a bit like that kid who turned up for P.E. in September wearing Adidas four-stripe. It did not go well.

A lot of the stick that came his way was entirely predictable. He had given the enemy an opportunity to trot out the old “this time it’s going to be their year” line. So what! I expect no less from rival fans.  These are, after all, the same fans who routinely fall back on outdated stereotypes cooked up in the eighties, in order to mock us. They say we live in the past. I couldn’t care less what opposing fans say about us. In fact their abuse only makes our success that bit sweeter when it arrives.

To be honest, I was more disappointed in the reaction to his comments from some of our own. As far as I could tell, people were worried that he had handed ammunition to United, Chelsea, or Arsenal fans. Do people seriously believe that, had he presented a sober assessment of our chances of success, based on a detailed analysis of the relative strength of premier league squads, our enemies would have left us alone? Of course not. In the playground your rivals will always find some weakness to exploit. It’s just a question of when and how often. You’re far better just being yourself and letting the chips or the quips fall where they may.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want the manager or the captain to come out with such bold claims on the eve of the premier league campaign. That would place a huge amount of pressure on them and the rest of the team. As Brendan said last year, it’s great for the fans to dream, but we’ll  stay humble. It is different for the supporters. We have a crucial job to perform and that is to make every player in a red shirt feel ten feet tall. When they know we believe in them they don’t hurry their passes or rush their shots. In short, they perform better. You could say it’s our sacred duty to be optimistic. To support and believe, as a famous banner proclaims.

Winning the treble this season may be unlikely, a pipe dream or even delusional, but no matter how improbable, it’s not impossible. This time last year I went into the season firmly believing in the doctrine that you can’t go from 7th to 1st in one season. Well, alright that’s a bad example because we didn’t, but we came damn close. At half time in Istanbul you’d have been placed in a padded room if you dared suggest the miracle that actually happened that night.

For me, this is the one time in a season where I believe blind optimism is essential. I couldn’t bear going into a new campaign without feeling that this is finally going to be our year. I always have. I don’t shout it from the rooftops or post it online (until now), but sod it; my name is Jeff Goulding and I am an optimist. I am a Liverpool fan, brought up on a steady diet of success and trophies. I refuse to surrender to pessimism.

In fact, I have often managed my expectancy in the face of far more inferior squads than the one we have now. Yes, I have had that dewy-eyed idealism beaten out of me on more than one occasion. I remember it disappearing around November quite a few times. You know what, I survived and life went on.

Anyway, this year is different, honest. Look what we achieved last time out with a much smaller group. We have strengthened. The players have new belief. The likes of Sterling, Coutinho, Henderson and Ibe will all grow this season. I’m genuinely excited. You may say I’m a dreamer, but that lad on ‘Redmen TV’ proves that I’m not the only one.

Sit on the Kop on a European night and you’ll see that banner exhorting you to ‘Support and Believe.” Last year there was one that said ‘Make Us Dream’. Brendan, Stevie and the lads have done their bit and, well,  now I’m dreaming. If you’re not, then why not? You may not like it when fans get carried away after a great victory, but, when all is said and done, they get their education from the Kop.

This article by me was also published on http://www.thisisanfield.com

Is Agger set to join Pepe on his way out of the club?

Is Agger set to join Pepe on his way out of the club?

The reds have been prolific in the summer transfer window and the recruitment drive appears set to continue. If reports are correct and a certain South American football expert from the BBC is to be believed, the final pieces of the puzzle could also be in place in the coming weeks. It was always going to be this way. The squad was painfully thin last season. With Champions League football on the horizon, a serious foray into the market was essential.

As firm disciples of FFP, the Reds American owners were always going to try to live within their means. This meant that along with the sunshine there was always going to be a little rain sometime. The loss of Suarez may not have been anticipated by all fans, but it appears the club may have known it was on the cards for quite a while. When you think back to Stevie’s “we should enjoy him while we’ve got him” comments, you do wonder. I am not suggesting that the club wanted to sell him and I am sure they tried hard to persuade him to stay,but, the £75 million received, coupled with record TV receipts, will have eased the pressure to sell players before bring in new ones.

This seems  borne out by the clubs activity to date. Luis remains the only high profile departure since the window opened, while a total of seven players have been photographed leaning against stuff at Melwood. The club have spent £89 million with a string of fringe players released or leaving on loan. The gross spend is set to top £100 million with the anticipated arrival of Moreno. Therefore, if we are going to continue improving the squad with quality, high earning, players we will need to experience a bit more of that rain.

One down more to go?

One down more to go?

The first casualty of this process is Pepe Reina. I share the pain of many fans, who are left with a bad taste in the mouth after the popular keeper left for Germany. It doesn’t matter that he spent last season on loan at Napoli; for me his leaving marks the end of an era. As a mainstay of the Benitez Spanish revolution, Pepe deserved a better ending to his Anfield career. His goodbye note was, at least this time, dripping with class and dignity. Having said all of that, Liverpool simply couldn’t have a player earning £110,000 per week sitting on the bench, or rotting in the reserves.

Sadly, it’s probably not over yet. Reina leaving will seem like a summer shower compared to the downpour that’s likely to greet the departure of Daniel Agger. Dagger was at times brilliant, brutal (just ask Fernando Torres) and ultimately brittle. In my opinion his injury record blighted what could have been an exceptional career at Liverpool. If he goes I will be able to understand the decision. It will be in the best interests of both the club and the player. However, the romantic in me will feel pangs of regret at his leaving, regardless of the fee we receive.

Agger joined that growing band of of foreign nationals who came to Anfield and fell in love with the club, the city and its people. My abiding memory of him will be him scoring a goal against Blackburn in a game played close to a Hillsborough anniversary. I remember him striding towards us in the Kop, fist clenched, his face etched with pride and full of emotion. His other hand was touching his black armband, signalling to each and every one of us that that goal was for the 96.

Daniel Agger is no phony. He is uncomfortable in front of the cameras. You sense he thinks hard before he speaks and when he does he means every word. His YNWA tattoo is not the only thing to bond him to the supporters. All of us will hope that reports of training ground tears are not true. If they are it will only convince us of his passion for the club. If Danny leaves he can hold his head high and he should go with the best wishes of everyone at the club.

While the departures of Reina and Agger are likely to unite reds in sadness, the reaction of supporters to the rumoured departures of Lucas and Borini are likely to generate a mixed response. Lucas has been a loyal servant of the club for many years now. He has come through a lot to ultimately earn the respect of the Kop and those who have managed him. With the addition of Can in the middle and the ability of Gerrard to act as that shield in front of the back four, Lucas seems surplus to requirements. I feel his experience can still serve the club in a fixture laden season, but surely any decent bid for the Brazilian will be accepted. Napoli are reportedly interested and another goodbye looks likely.

On their way out?

On their way out?

Then we come to Borini. He is undoubtedly a talented player. Rodgers knows him well and persuaded John Henry to part with £11 million for his talents. Borini had two big problem at Anfield. They were Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. This meant that, even if he was able to stay injury free, he was never going to get the run of games he needed. It now seems inevitable that Liverpool will receive an unlikely profit for the player as Sunderland rush to spend their TV millions. For me, Fabio Borini’s Liverpool career is one of unfulfilled promise. There have been glimpses of class and it is to be hoped that he doesn’t come back to haunt us next season.

The clear-out may not end there either. It remains to be seen if Seb Coates has performed a miracle and convinced Brendan to hold on to him. Then there’s the Johnson enigma. There will be few tears shed if Glen leaves. Last season was poor. He was carrying injuries for the most part but, again, any decent offer will surely see him depart. West Ham or QPR could offer him a way out, but his wages are sure to be an issue. My money would be on him seeing out his last 12 months and leaving for free next summer.

There is a real sense of a revolution taking shape this summer. The old guard are being moved out along with those who have failed to fulfill their potential. Decisions over who we sell are as critical as who we buy. The riches on offer for a top four finish this season are staggering. Liverpool cannot afford to be out in the cold. 

This article by me was also published on http://www.live4liverpool.com

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I’m struggling to remember how I felt during the preseasons of my childhood and I just can’t. This is probably because back then these warm up games rarely got any media attention. It was an innocent and happy time. Today every kick, tackle and missed chance is analysed in the minutest detail and that’s just the training sessions.

My first memory of being aware of preseason was the summer of 1987. Liverpool had just signed John Barnes and Peter Beardsley. I couldn’t tell you who we had played, but I remember overhearing a red and blue exchanging some banter on the bus the following day. Apparently we lost and Barnes had been poor, according to the blue. As a club we seem to have recovered from this setback though. The league was all over bar the shouting by Christmas.

This is why I continually lecture anyone who gets upset at preseason setbacks. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about fitness. Modern football fans eh! What are we going to do with them? Trouble is I’m a huge hypocrite.

While my brain tells me these friendly matches are meaningless, my gut tells me something else. I might pretend I am not bothered. I may not go on social media and slate the players and the club after a defeat,  but I do hate it when Liverpool lose. I don’t even like it when the under 18’s get beat. A Liverpool defeat ruins my week. A victory sees my optimism sore. I know it’s stupid but I am powerless to stop it. I bet I am not alone.

So you can imagine how I feel going in to our “final” against United on Monday night. I’ve got butterflies already. You’d think this was a champions league final. It’s really on a par with the Charity Shield at best, but that doesn’t help. There is no such thing as a friendly match against that lot from down the M62. Win and we go into the new season with bragging rights tucked snugly in our back pockets. Lose and we will never hear the end of it – Sky Sports will see to that.

On paper at least it looks like being a tight game. Both teams are going into it on the back of some decent preseason form. Liverpool followed up their pleasing victory over the other Mancs by dispatched AC Milan with ease on Saturday night. Both victories were achieved with less than full strength teams. United have been on a decent run and secured their place in the Miami showpiece with a good win over Real Madrid.

For us the loss of Lallana and Sturridge is a blow. I would also be happier if our new defensive recruits were available. However, the form of Ibe and Sterling has been impressive. They offer terrifying pace on the wings and at least in Sterling there’s also a goal threat. Emre Can looks a beast in midfield and we can only hope Markovic recovers from his “niggles” to build on his promising cameo. Up front though we are very light. If Ricky Lambert is looking for a stage to burst onto, this is definitely it. Still you get the feeling it could go either way.

Whatever happens, it’s probably wise to ignore the gut and listen to the brain. There are no points at stake here. The clubs bank balance will be boosted by a further £2 million regardless of the result. The game will edge the players one step closer to full fitness. The result is completely meaningless. Just repeat this mantra over and over again and you’ll be fine. After all it’s only preseason, right?

 This article by me was also published on http://www.live4liverpool.com

He's done a great job, but is he a legend?

He’s done a great job, but is he a legend?

According to Kop verse, Brendan Rodgers built a team like Shankly did so that kids would have a story. The man from Ulster is rapidly becoming a hero among Liverpool fans.

He has overseen an astonishing improvement in both performance and achievement. In addition he has surmounted every challenge thrown his way and embraced the clubs history and ethos. Such is the esteem in which he is now held, some fans are referring to him as a legend.

Towards the back end of last season I counted three banners in the ground specifically dedicated to the boss. That was more than for both Shankly and Paisley.

Rodgers Banner

Rodgers Banner

As a huge fan of Brendan Rodgers, I am certainly not knocking this. However, it does make me wonder. Is he a legend? More importantly what does it take to become one?

It has always felt a very straight forward process in my eyes. All you need to do is be successful over a long period of time and Bob’s your uncle.

That worked for me as a Liverpool supporter, because all of our legends were successful over a long period of time. Today though, that theory doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny.

Forget Liverpool for a moment. At Everton ‘Big Dunc’ is considered a legend, despite not winning a single trophy at the club. I’m certain fans of other clubs have similar stories.

Perhaps that’s fair enough. If the criteria for becoming a legend in the game were restricted to my narrow definition, then they would be very few and far between. Only a small number of teams would ever have legends.

Matt Le Tissier is a legend for Southampton. Aside from being a Full Members Cup finalist in 1992 and a string of player of the month awards, he hasn’t exactly had a glittering career. However, he was a loyal servant of the Saints over sixteen years. He could have moved to a more successful club but chose not to.

So, is that it then? Is loyalty the defining characteristic of a legend? Using that as our benchmark, we could certainly crown Carragher, Gerrard and Hyppia as legends. However, we couldn’t offer the same honorific to Keegan, Souness or McManaman.

Then we come to our managers. In this arena there are two men who can lay claim to being undisputed legends of the club. These are of course Shankly and Paisley. Both won major honours and were, over a sustained period of time, successful in their jobs.

Sadly this doesn’t help either. What about Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan? Are they not legends? They were also part of a dynasty of unparalleled success. So too was Roy Evans. Sadly we refer to him as a servant, rather than a legend.

Skip forward a decade or two and we come to the clubs first two foreign managers. Houllier won six major honours for Liverpool in six years. Is he not a legend? If not, why not?

Is Gerard a Legend?

Is Gerard a Legend?

What about Rafa Benitez? He won the greatest prize in European football for us. He nearly did it again two years later. Some call him a legend, while others would strongly disagree.

There must be a common denominator, some yardstick we can use to objectively judge. For me there might be and it’s wrapped up in the definition of the word. Legend comes from the latin legenda or things to be read.

We are back to the kop song about kids and stories here. Are legends people who provide us with tales to pass on to our offspring? These could be tales of glory or of failure. Often they are stories of falling and rising again. That’s it then. It’s about success and stories. We’ve cracked it. Or have we?

Yes all of these men have given us stories to tell our kids. There are books dedicated to our disasters and triumphs under them. Alas though there others who have done the same, yet failed to become legends.

After all Djimi Traoré was successful. His Champions League winner’s medal proves it. He gave us stories too. That spectacular Bambi impression against Burnley in the FA Cup was a doozey. He was hardly a legend though. So what is that missing ingredient?

By now you will have noticed that there is one glaring omission from this piece. His is a name that has become synonymous with Liverpool Football Club. He is an undisputed legend and we call him King.

To my mind, Kenny Dalglish has that missing ingredient that alongside the success and the stories means he truly deserves the title legend. I would say that Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Evans have it too.

True Legends

True Legends

They are each icons of the club. By this I mean that during their time they have become representative symbols of the club and what it stood for. They understood the values of the club and tried every day to embody it. You will undoubtedly think of others who match this criterion.

In the case of Houllier and Benitez it gets a bit tricky. Certainly both can claim to have restored the clubs pride. They both strongly identified with the supporters and history of the club. They brought success and stories, but were they icons?

It is said that under these two managers the club ditched its football philosophy. The free flowing attacking football, that had become the hallmark of Liverpool Football Club, was gone.

In its place was a more pragmatic style of play that, while achieving success, didn’t sit well with the clubs purists. Therefore can they really be described as the embodiment of the club that Shanks built?

In fairness to Benitez, he was the only one within the club speaking out against the Hicks and Gillett reign. In this sense he could be seen to be embodying the spirit of the club. This is why he continues to be held in high regard by the majority of fans. Is he an icon and a legend though?

I’m going to leave that to the comments section and skip, conveniently, over the non-event that was Roy Hodgson. Here we arrive at the current incumbent, Brendan Rodgers. Is he deserving of legendary status?

In his short time at the club he has certainly made strides to imbue its spirit and ethos. Most of us would happily say that Brendan speaks for us, understands us and believes in the football we believe in. His speech at the 25th Hillsborough memorial could have been delivered by one of the clubs grandees.

For me though Brendan hasn’t had time to be successful or become an icon at Liverpool. He needs both of these attributes to merit being hailed a legend. I think he may go on to achieve this, but until he does we should spare him the baggage that comes with those titles.

Brendan’s story is just beginning and we should give him space and time to weave it. If we don’t we do him and his predecessors a huge disservice.

Dalglish the Icon and Legend

Dalglish the Icon and Legend

This article by me was also published on http://www.thisisanfield.com

The giant that captivated a city

The giant that captivated a city

Yesterday the city of Liverpool bid farewell to a spectacular piece of street theatre. It spanned three glorious days, in which sun baked crowds lapped up all that was on offer.

They came to commemorate the advent of WWI and the finale was particular poignant. Leading the giant grandmother along The Strand (a road that runs along the city’s waterfront) were men dressed in civilian period costume. Uniformed officers led them to battle. Their widows in black followed behind.

These men represented the PALS, friends and neighbours who had been recruited together by Lord Kitchener to fight in Europe. The theory was that men, who lived, ate and drank together as comrades in peace, would fight for each other in war.

It was an interesting idea in theory. Sadly it also meant that whole communities would be decimated when, en mass, those same comrades failed to return home. Liverpool, though not alone, was particularly affected by this policy.

It is no surprise then that our city was chosen to lead the nation’s commemoration of that bloody conflict. It also seems perfectly natural that we should turn to France, and specifically Royal Deluxe to help us find a way to pay our respects.

The city and Jean-Luc Courcoult, the company’s creative director, have formed an amusing and surprisingly affectionate bond in recent years.  Given the reaction of the throngs, it’s a love-in that seems destined to flourish.

However, all is not sweetness and light when it comes to the weekends festivities. There have been dissenting voices. Grumbles range from disruption to transport to the cost of the event.

The former complaint seems extreme. It’s not as if events like this are a daily occurrence. Indeed given the benefits to the city’s image and economy, surely we can suck it up for a few days. This was a message delivered, far more subtly I add, by a station announcer yesterday at Fazakerley.

As I stood on the platform early Sunday morning, the lady on the speaker system pleaded with me to be patient “during this very busy period.” She needn’t have bothered. I got it.

As a veteran of the 80’s, I often went to London to either demonstrate or watch my team win a cup. I had seen how even the capital could struggle with large numbers. Liverpool is a city with a much smaller population, which had more than doubled this weekend. Disruption was inevitable.

However, perhaps the economic argument is more understandable. The city council recently voted through £156 million worth of cuts over three years. This is as a result of a reduction in government funding. Such cuts can only mean hardship for the most vulnerable in society.

Against this back-drop, the largesse of the Giant Spectacular seems obscene to some. Is this fair? I don’t think so.

Let’s look at how much this event cost to stage. Reports suggest a figure in the region of 2 million pounds. This seems a lot. However, the contribution from council funds was a fraction of the overall sum, coming in at three hundred thousand pounds.

This amounts to around £1.55 for every person in the city. The rest of the funding came from European and Government grants. Of course we are still entitled to ask if it was all worthwhile.

Before I explore the intangible benefits to the city, of which there are many, let’s look at the cold hard economics. Or to coin a phrase – ‘show me the money.’

The last time the Giants came to Liverpool, in 2012, they attracted up to 800,000 people. It is estimated that this earned the city a staggering £35 million. A third of this income went to the hotel industry with the remainder spent in bars, restaurants and shops.

This year’s attendance is expected to reach 1.5 million. In the context of these sums, our £1.55 per person investment doesn’t seem like much.

If I have any criticism at all, it is that so many of the businesses benefiting from this spending are national chains. This means that the money spent in the city doesn’t necessarily stay here. Yes those chains employ local people who spend their wages here, but the profits go elsewhere.

Perhaps the council should look at increasing the number of local independent businesses occupying prime locations in the city centre. This may help ensure the local economy benefits more.

However, the council and organisers are to be praised for taking the giants into the neighborhoods. Just as they did in 2012 Royale Deluxe also visited some of the most neglected areas of the city. The joyous scenes in Newsham Park on Friday night suggested that this paid off.

For me though the economic and political argument, whilst important, is missing the point. Yes the council and the people of Liverpool should resist the cuts they are expected to endure. Yes we need clothes on our backs, a roof above our heads and food in our bellies.

These are the stuff of life, the basis of existence. However, surely life is about more than mere survival. What of the city’s self belief? Isn’t a confident and assertive population also a healthy and prosperous one?

Too long negative stereotypes have pervaded. I once welcomed a visitor to the city who proclaimed how astonished he was at how ‘modern’ it all seemed. What was he expecting – horse and cart? He probably was.

Surely all such notions have now been dispelled. Liverpool is once again seen as an international city. We are not just capable of hosting these types of events, we excel at them. This weekend’s carnival was beamed around the world. We remain part of the global psyche.

Events like the Giant Spectacular, The River Festival, Liverpool Sound City and The Matthew Street Festival are all important factors in achieving this. As well as bringing in cash they change perceptions. They energise, inspire creativity and motivate people. Life, after all, should be more than just an endless cycle of work and rest.

Imagine there’s no giants? I’d rather not. This was Liverpool in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Yes back then we regularly had thousands on the streets. Trouble is they were either protesting or welcoming their victorious hero’s home with a trophy.

I am not saying we shouldn’t still be protesting. Of course we should. There is still much injustice about. Food and shelter remains the stuff of life. However, events like this weekend and the joy they bring thousands, are what make life worth living.

 

 

lallana

Adam Lallana: are we finally signing the right quality?

 

I love science me. I get excited by the unexpected and bizarre avenues it can take me down. I love the fact that apparently random and chaotic symbols on a chalk board can describe the world and everything in it; even though they are like hieroglyphs to me.

I am often perplexed an amazed by them. Rumour has it the Liverpool squad felt the same way about Roy Hodgson’s tactical scribbles.

Science also tells us that when we gaze at star light, we are often looking at celestial objects that are no longer there. It takes the light so long to reach us from these distant bodies that the source has often winked out before it hits our eyes. Amazing huh?

Our players’ Brazilian odyssey felt a bit like that for me. By the time I got round to watching them, their hopes had already vanished from view. Never mind.

The problem for me though, is that my brain isn’t really equipped for the heavy mathematics that goes into working all of this stuff out.  I might know that E=MC2, but I couldn’t tell you how Einstein got there. Instead, it’s the weird theoretical stuff that really floats my boat.

I love those crazy thought experiments that just blow your mind, like if a player falls down in the box and he’s not a foreigner; is it really a dive? We may never know the answer, but doesn’t it make you think?

Then there’s the Daddy of them all, the ‘Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox.’ Stick with me here; you’ll see what I mean soon honest.

Erwin Schrödinger suggested that if you trap a cat in a box with some poison, you can’t know if it’s alive or dead until you open the lid. In fact, he went further and said that it is the act of opening that lid that forces the cat into one of the two states.

It’s actually far more complicated than that and I’m hoping no actual scientists are reading this. Anyway, the point is that it’s because of the musings of this Austrian physicist in the 1930’s that I love this part of preseason.

You see, to me, Liverpool right now are just like that moggy trapped with the poison. It’s only when we open the lid and get a look at them in action; that our season becomes either alive or dead.

Until then there is just as much chance that we will be champions come May, as there is of us enduring another trophy less ‘lap of honour’.

To be honest though, this summer’s optimism feels a little less theoretical. Even for me, one of footballs eternal optimists, this is the first time in 20 years that I can see some evidence that we might actually push on.

Of course we have been here before. Three times in the last fourteen years to be precise. In terms of how we managed that important ‘next step,’ history doesn’t bode well. We begin our analysis in the summer of 2002.

Bruno Cheyrou: The New Zidane?

Bruno Cheyrou: The New Zidane?

This was a world cup year. Kopites had gone into the summer basking in a second place finish. It represented yet more progress under Gerard Houllier, who had followed up the treble season by finishing just seven points adrift of Arsenal and pushing United into third. We were standing on the brink of history, or so it seemed.

When it comes to transfer windows, Liverpool has had its share of turkeys. However this one, for me, was the mother of them all. This was the window that brought us Bruno Cheyrou. He was heralded as the new Zidane. He wasn’t.

Liverpool signed six players in total that summer. Between them they managed 178 appearance and just 10 goals. This included Alou Diarra. Remember him? If you don’t, you can be forgiven because he didn’t manage a single appearance in a Liverpool shirt.

The following season was sadly the beginning of the end for Gerard. Despite defeating the ‘Mancs’ to lift the League Cup, there was familiar gloom in the league. From finishing 7 points short the year before we now languished in 5th, 19 points adrift of champions United.

You can’t keep us down for long though. You don’t need to be a scientist to recognise where the cream always ends up and in 2009 we came damn close again. What a season of contrasts that was, full of Infuriating draws and sublime victories. Two draws and four points dropped against Stoke robbed us of number nineteen.

The football we played in the second half of that season meant that, once again, we jetted into the summer with high hopes. What we couldn’t have legislated for was ruinous effect of the ownership problems and political infighting. There was to be no silver linings.

This was the summer of Alonso and Aquilani. It was also the transfer window that saw our central defensive linchpin leave. Of all the players that joined that summer, only Glen Johnson remains. Aquilani managed only 1 goal and 18 appearances.

Alberto Aquilani: failure to launch

Alberto Aquilani: failure to launch

 

The following season our fall from grace was astonishing in the context of the highs we had experienced under Rafa. With the team in 7th place and 23 points adrift, the writing was on the wall for our Spanish manager.

So here we are again. After a season in which the title came so close we could taste it, we are once again riding a wave of optimism. Is history about to repeat its self? Or are we on the thresh-hold of a momentous breakthrough?

For me the club seems to have learned from the mistakes of the past. Einstein said madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This summer I am genuinely excited that the club are finally ‘going for it.’ They seem to recognise what a golden opportunity this is for us to crack on. Our activity in the transfer window has been swift, decisive and for once successful. One by one the targets have been hit and there are more to come. Finally all seems harmonious off the field too.

The fact that I feel so optimistic, even in the face of losing our star player, tells its own story. The progress the club is making is far from theoretical. There is hard evidence all around for me.

Of course we won’t know if I am right until we lift the lid on the 2014-15 season. That’s the beauty of the now, according to Schrödinger anyway.

Yes the detractors will paint this as yet another Liverpool fan saying “next year is going to be our year.” Our rivals may seem like immovable objects but I’ll quote another scientist in reply.

Archimedes said there was no such thing as an immovable object. You just need a good place to stand and you can move the earth. This summer we look to be in a very favourable position to me and we don’t need to move a world, only Manchester City.

This article by me was also published on http://www.thisisanfield.com

Is this man fit to replace Luis Suarez

Is this man fit to lace Luis Suarez’ Boots

It’s official now. We knew it was coming but despite the huge fee there’s a tinge of sadness and a little anxiety in the air. Luis Suarez is undoubtedly irreplaceable. There are literally just two players in the world who would be fit to lace his boots. We know who they are and £75 million would not prize them away from their respective clubs.

In order to deal with this problem the club should look back to when Luis arrived. In January 2010 we were facing up to losing Torres, who was very much the finished article. Suarez on the other hand was not, but importantly he had the potential to become a superstar.

Liverpool parted with a relatively modest £22.8 million for his services and he chipped in with four goals in 13 games. The following season he managed eleven and was criticized by many pundits for having a very poor shot to goal ratio. We were also treated to commentators claiming he ‘was not a natural goalscorer’. Of course, such claims seem ridiculous now, but there are lessons for us to learn in all of this.

The club are reportedly looking at a number of striking options to replace Luis Suarez. One name that has caused uproar among a section of our support, is Wilfried Bony. The objection seems to be that he is not of the quality of Luis Suarez. Well, no he isn’t, but neither was Luis himself three and a half years ago.

What we can say with confidence is that Bony is a natural goalscorer. After joining Swansea City in 2013 he has plundered 25 goals in 48 games. This is better than a goal every other game. He has achieved this with a team that finished 12th, winning just 11 games.

More importantly, from Liverpool’s point of view, he has done it in one of the toughest leagues in in European football. Therefore signing Bony,  means no frustrating period of adaptation. This is surely crucial if the club are to kick on quickly and take that important next step to the title.

Another argument against signing Bony is that the club needs a ‘marquee signing’ in the aftermath of the Suarez sale. Aside from PR, I really can’t see why this should factor into Brendan’s thinking. Of course a big name signing can work wonders. It can also sell shirts.

They can also spectacularly back-fire. Ask Chelsea fans. I am sure they were jubilant with the signings of Shevchenko and Torres, who cost a combined £85 million. It remains to be seen whether Paris Saint-Germain fans will be pleased with their recent Marquee signing, David Luiz. The only thing a marquee signing guarantees is an empty transfer kitty.

In any case such talk ignores the tremendous progress of other players in the squad. Sterling, Coutinho and Henderson will all improve next time out. I would expect them to contribute more goals. Sturridge will also relish being centre-stage. His 21 goal haul last season was nothing to be sniffed at.

There will also be improvements in defense. We may not need a 30 goal a season striker if we were to concede 20 goals less than we did last year. We may be better served, if we spent the  bulk of the Suarez windfall addressing our obvious defensive frailties.

In the end Liverpool may or may not take Bony to Anfield. There are also links to Benzema, Martinez and Griezmann among others. The point is none of these players are at the level of Suarez. What matters is what can they offer the first team now? Can they improve under Brendan Rodgers? If they can and are able to reach even half the level of Suarez, they will be worth every penny we spend.

This article by me was also published by http://www.live4liverpool.com