Liverpool FC: My Lifetime XI

Posted: June 22, 2015 in Family

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As a Red born in 1967, I have been truly blessed. I can boast that I have seen many of the true greats in the flesh, but that only makes the task of selecting my lifetime eleven all the more difficult. I am bound to leave out some true legends. All I can hope for here is to squeeze as many of my heroes into the eleven as I can.

I have gone for a rock solid defence with attacking full backs, a midfield of real hard men, all of whom could score goals and what, in my opinion, would be the most prolific strike-force of all time.

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Goalkeeper: Ray Clemence

Signed the year I was born by the great Bill Shankly, Clemence went on to become an ever-present for Liverpool making a massive 665 appearances for the Reds before departing for Spurs in 1981. He must be the most decorated English goalkeeper, winning 3 European Cups, 5 League Championships, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cups and 2 UEFA Cups.Back when I actually gave a toss about the England national team it used to really annoy me that Shilton ever got a start of Clemence. I would later grow to love Grobelaar, but Clemence will always be our greatest keeper for me and I will always remember him for  the 78/79 season when we won the league and Ray only conceded 16 goals.

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Right Back: Phil Neal

Nicknamed Zico by the Kop, Phil was ice cool from the spot and often waded in with important goals. He narrowly pips Steve Nicol in my list. He is also the clubs most decorated player having collected¬†eight league titles, four League Cups, five Charity Shields, four of our five European Cups, one UEFA Cup¬†and one Super Cup in just eleven years. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea these days, but Neal is undoubtedly a club legend. I went on a stadium tour recently and met the man himself. I always knew he had a record for the longest spell of consecutive games (365) but I learned that he had played a number of them with a broken foot. He was so scared of losing his place he would stuff his boots with newspaper. An incredible servant for the Reds.

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Left Back: Alan Kennedy

I did see Alec Lindsay play, but I really can’t remember much about him. Kennedy, nicknamed Barney Rubble will always hold a special place in Liverpool history for Reds of a certain vintage. He only scored 20 goals for the Reds but many of them helped us clinch trophies. Who can forget him walking through the Madrid defence late in the game in Paris to deliver our third European Cup, or his wild celebrations after he scored the winning penalty in Rome in ’84. I always got the impression he was a big character in the dressing room and very much part of our success during that period.

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Centre Back: Alan Hansen

Without doubt the greatest centre back to wear a red shirt in my lifetime. Consummate in defence, he could also carry the ball out and set up attacks and putting the opposition on the back-foot. Hansen played a key role in the Reds record breaking season in which they only conceded 16 goals, a feat made even more remarkable when you consider the league was 42 games back then. Like all the players of that generation Hansen’s love affair with the club remains as strong as ever and the feeling is mutual.

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Centre Back: Jamie Carragher

This was tough. Hansen’s position was guaranteed, the role of his side-kick could have one to any number of contenders. Phil Thompson, Tommy Smith, Mark Lawrenson, Emlyn Hughes and Sami Hyypia. In the end I have gone with Carragher because for me no Liverpool player has ever worked harder to get to the top that this lad. No defender before him has single handedly carried the back four the way he did. Hansen and others had the luxury of playing alongside sheer quality. Jamie at times was Liverpool’s last line. His performance in Istanbul alone is deserving of a hall of fame place. A team of Carraghers wouldn’t score many but no team would work harder.

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Right Midfield: Jimmy Case

Another hard working Scouser who knew how to tackle. Jimmy left nothing on the pitch and could score the type of goals that only Riise would dream about. He scored 46 from midfield in 269 appearances. His is a Roy of the Rovers story that starts with a career playing for South Liverpool and ends with him winning the European Cup and many other honours. With Jimmy in the middle of the park the opposition would get no peace.

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Centre Midfield: Steven Gerrard

Quite simply the greatest player ever to pull on the red shirt. A captain, a Scouser and a genius. I’ve lost count of the amount of times Gerrard saved Liverpool or lifted them to victory. For a good decade he was Liverpool Football Club. Steven had everything. He could tackle, shoot, score, pass, defend and create. He played everywhere except in goal and his performance in the Ataturk in 2005, a game where he covered every blade of grass in the cause of his team was legendary. Gerrard scored in every major cup-final. Many will point to the fact that he never won the title, but given the squads he played in over the years he can be rightly proud of his trophy haul.

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Centre Midfield: Graham Souness

I just had to get Souness into the team. His managerial career may have been a bust, but as a player he was untouchable for Liverpool. I remember his last game at Anfield and the Kop refusing to leave after the game until he came back onto the pitch to receive an ovation. “Souness must stay” they chanted, but the deal with Sampdoria was already done. Before Gerrard came along I would have had this tough tackling Scot down as Liverpool’s greatest ever midfielder. Souness had an astonishing passing range, a terrific shot, could score goals and nobody would argue with him on the pitch. He was a genuine hard man and you’d have to say he would spend most of his playing career serving bans if he played today. Nevertheless he is up there with the greats and would have to be part of any Liverpool eleven in my opinion.

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Left Midfield: John Barnes

When Kenny signed Barnes from Watford for a bargain ¬£900,000 it was to signal some of the most exciting football I have ever witnessed at Anfield. With him in the team the Reds simply blew the opposition away time and again. He was irresistible and when he got the ball the sense of anticipation in the crowd was palpable. He could dribble, shoot, score and create goals. Possibly the most exciting player to play for the club in my lifetime. Many will say Suarez deserves that title, but Barnes stayed with us longer and won trophies. I firmly believe had he had the chance to play for us in Europe, he’d have brought another European Cup or two.

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Striker: Ian Rush

Quite simply a goal machine. I remember him returning from a prolonged spell out the side with a broken leg only to score a hat-trick. Many say Fowler was the most natural goalscorer to pull on the shirt, but Rush did it over a much longer period. His strike rate was astonishing, 345 goals in 660 appearances. When  Rush scored Liverpool almost always won.When Liverpool sold him to Juve it broke my heart. I remember finding out that he was coming back on Ceefax! (that was just a crap internet for the younger readers among you). I was delighted and phoned everyone I knew. He has to be one of the best strikers in the clubs history.

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Striker: Kenny Dalglish

As a kid growing up, this man was a God to me. My bedroom was like a shrine to him. He was unbelievable to watch and the sight of him, arms held a loft a great big grin on his face after he had scored became one of the most iconic images in football. I was privileged to see him play and he was every bit as good as his legend says he was. In particular the partnership he struck up with Rush was exceptional. Dalglish was a goal scorer and a creator. He came to the club a relative unknown as I remember. He was replacing a superstar in Kevin Keegan. He didn’t take long to become a Kop favourite though and his goal against FC Bruge to win the 1978 European Cup Final capped a memorable first season on Merseyside. He will forever be The King and he is definitely cooler than The Fonz.

So, that’s my lifetime eleven. Everyone of them is a world-beater. However, you only really get a sense of how blessed with talent our club has been, when you consider those I left out.

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

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Informed sources suggest that the Club’s search for a new back-room team are coming to an end. The highly rated Dutch coach Pepin Lijnders’ name has been mooted for several days and speculation is rife that another more experienced assistant joining Brendan’s team soon. These may be the most significant appointments in the clubs recent history and they simply cannot afford to get them wrong.

Even before John W Henry’s posse rode into town it was clear things were going to have to change. Few of us expected FSG to buck the trend in football and hand Brendan a reprieve. Even those who wanted to see him given one final sip at the last chance saloon held little hope he would get a chance to take it. Managers seldom escape such a slump these days. Brendan may still be holding a dead man’s hand but for now he’s still at the table.

So with no new Sheriff in town attention has turned to his deputies. From the outside it seems a highly unusual step for a club to retain faith in their manager but show his faithful assistants the door. Many have suggested that Rodgers should have followed them on principle. Loyalty is a precious commodity in all walks of life, but in a team setting it is priceless. When you go to battle you have to know that each and everyone of your people are right by your side.

This was the ethos that underpinned the famous old boot room, summed up with classic understatement by the great Bob Paisley. When asked by Brian Reade to explain the mentality at the club during his period of unparalleled success, he replied that when you’re lost in the fog you find your way home if you all stick together. Liverpool find themselves in the mother of all pea-soupers right now and it looks like we are all wandering off in different directions.

It may have been a move calculated to show faith in their man, but the net effect has been to weaken him severely.  It appears to be yet another example of the owners confused and at times worrying approach to managing the football side of the club. We may yet see a method in their madness, but for now they are doing little to convince us that they have worked out what it takes to lead Liverpool back to the top. They came to win, but right now they are on the canvas and referee is counting them out.

So we meander through another summer transfer window. Social media is full of sarcastic and divisive attacks on the club and the manager from our own fan-base. You sense a groundswell of negativity that threatens the season before it has even begun. Camps are already deeply entrenched and my fear is, that when the season finally gets under-way, nothing short of perfection will prevent all out war.

If FSG truly believe in their man, then they have a very cock-eyed way of showing it on the current evidence. If they are to avoid further undermining the manager, then they have to get almost every decision right this summer and that includes their handling of back-room appointments.

Whatever you think of Brendan Rodgers you surely want him to succeed right? If you are a supporter of his then that seems obvious, but even if you don’t rate him, as a Liverpool fan you must want him to prove you wrong – no? Of course I am being deliberately provocative here. In truth I am speaking directly to Rodgers fiercest opponents.

You may have kidded yourself that it would be painful, but ultimately for the greater good to sacrifice next season in order to force a managerial change. How many times are we going to say this? Are we going to become like Newcastle supporters, chanting “You don’t know what your doing” at Brendan from behind the dug-out? If so, then we are going to make his ultimate demise the greatest self-fulfilling prophecy in the history of….well prophecies.

Surely if he get’s it right, then we all win. If he doesn’t despite the full backing of the club and the fans, then it will be justifiably the end for him.¬†The owners may have fudged the end-of-season review, but we can’t. If Rodgers is to start the season as manager, then he has to be given complete support from the Board, the dressing-room, The Kop and crucially the back-room. This is the only way out of the fog for us now.

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In reality the changes to Rodgers supporting cast has the potential to become a double-edged sword. If FSG get them wrong they will further undermine Rodgers; get them right and it could spark an unlikely turnaround for the Irishman.

With the departure of Marsh and Pascoe, the appointment of Lijnders seems fairly a fairly uncontroversial one. He is a young rising star and highly regarded. His methods are perfectly in-sync with those of the manager’s ¬†and at 32 he represents little threat to Brendan’s authority.

However, the second appointment needs careful consideration if we are to avoid the impression of a ‘manager in waiting’. Surely if they wanted someone else in post, then they should have acted decisively and made a complete change. They haven’t done this, so they now have to act in such a way that gives Brendan every chance to succeed. If he fails then there should be no doubt where the blame lies.

If they get this right, then there may be the smallest chink of light through the fog for us. No club in this country can match the template Liverpool produced for Boot-Room excellence in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.The Reds boasted one of the greatest dynasty’s in football and their legacy was silver-ware by the shed-load. It spurned five managers and dozens of trophies.

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All of this success was built on a rock solid team ethic, both on and off the pitch. These men were like one mind acting in concert to achieve success that, at the start seemed unimaginable. Anfield was the biggest toilet in Liverpool when Shankly arrived. It had the biggest trophy cabinet in English Football by the time Graham Souness demolished the Boot-Room in the 90’s. All of this was built on a great back-room team, who bought the best players they could afford and collectively marshalled them into a machine that would dominate both home and abroad.

There will be much debate over the signings Liverpool make this summer. On the transfer front it is yet another tediously make-or-break window for the club. Of course we must invest in quality. However, for all their importance, changes on the field may be far less significant than those off it.

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

Originally posted on Jeff Goulding:

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The Night Bus

Stop #3

The Driver’s Tale

I never rode the bus, never. Sharing a ride with anyone else was an anathema. My life to that point had been all about me and as far as I was concerned it always would be. Believe me I’ve had a lot of time to mull over my decision making that night. It tortures me sometimes, but I still can’t fathom why I chose to climb aboard. I can only assume that somehow I was meant to.

Just a matter of minutes earlier I was being vomited into the night through the doors of a bar. The staircase to the street had been steep and dark. I remember the sensation of being on an escalator, driven forward by the pressure of bodies behind and lacking any control over pace or direction. What a great metaphor for where I find myself now.

The…

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The Night Bus

Stop #3

The Driver’s Tale

I never rode the bus, never. Sharing a ride with anyone else was an anathema. My life to that point had been all about me and as far as I was concerned it always would be. Believe me I’ve had a lot of time to mull over my decision making that night. It tortures me sometimes, but I still can’t fathom why I chose to climb aboard. I can only assume that somehow I was meant to.

Just a matter of minutes earlier I was being vomited into the night through the doors of a bar. The staircase to the street had been steep and dark. I remember the sensation of being on an escalator, driven forward by the pressure of bodies behind and lacking any control over pace or direction. What a great metaphor for where I find myself now.

The air outside was crisp and it froze the sweat on my forehead and back. The feeling was glorious and I sucked it in, allowing the night to fill me up. It was so good to be alive and I felt invincible. Of course, I now realise how fragile such delusions can be.

Amy was just behind me. I ran into her and her friends earlier in the evening. I had been stood alone at the bar and she had made a bee-line for me. The two guys she was with didn’t seem to mind, so I tagged along with them. I had been bored and they seemed like fun.

She was laughing as she stumbled into the street. I don’t even remember what she was so amused about. I had said something that tickled her. I was funny back then, always the entertainer and not even an unpleasant but necessary run in with a heckler had silenced her merriment. I could ignore him interrupting the act. That was an occupational hazard. Besides putting pricks like him in his place was part of the fun.

Problem was he kept it after I’d left the stage and followed me into my dressing room.¬†I still had blood on my shoes and pants. Amy had shrieked as my foot struck his face, but I actually thought it turned her on a little bit.

I could have stayed with her for the night, or joined the others on a tour of city’s pubs and clubs. Instead I chose to leave. Always leave them wanting more, or so the saying goes. I was full of that narcissistic bullshit in those days. Sometimes I wonder how I stayed upright, given the weight of my bloated ego. Having said that, it was a happier and stronger me and that me never saw the tiniest glimpse of what was to come.

Besides I had Beth waiting for me back at the house. Truth was, after the exertions of that night, I had nothing left to give anyway. It had been a tough crowd and the after-show ‘party’ had left me spent.

Matthew Street was awash with bodies, each of them soaked in beer and cheap cider. I remember a scuffle erupting outside Flannagan’s. Two teenagers who could barely stand, let alone fight, were doing their best to look hard. I put my arm around Amy and pulled her close. She pressed herself into me and it felt good.

“You act like a tough guy,” She said “but you’re more than that aren’t you?”

“Nah I’m really not.” I smirked.

“You can’t kid me funny man.”

I looked down at her upturned face and immediately wanted to kiss her, but Jeff and Karl put paid to that.

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“Get a fucking room.” They were on top of us now and their laughter made my stomach knot.

I flipped them my index finger ¬†without looking back and walked on. They had no idea I was letting them off lightly. Without even thinking about it I had released my hold on Amy. I’d already started to let her go.

I think she sensed the separation and it all got a little awkward for a bit, before finally she broke the silence. Her voice was all nerves and embarrassment and I realise now that her obvious vulnerability probably fuelled my arrogance.

“You want to share a cab?”

“We’re going in opposite directions aren’t we?” I knew what she meant. There was no need to add to her unease, but that was me back then. I always had to be in control and I got off on making people squirm.

“Well, yeah, but you could come back to mine for a coffee or…..” She smiled and I remember being overwhelmed by the sense of power.

“Sounds great,” I said allowing just enough of a pause to watch her smile grow, before ruthlessly wiping it away. “But I’ve got to be up early tomorrow. You don’t want to see me in the morning without my beauty sleep, believe me.” I laughed, but she didn’t reciprocate.

Sometimes I go back to that night in my head. I watch that scene play out in my mind and I scream at the idiot playing games. I’d be out there free now if only I could tell him what was coming. It would have been useless though, because even if I could go back there and grab him by his stupid Pierre Cardin shirt and tell him what a fool he was, he wouldn’t listen. Him and me you see, we’re altogether two different guys.

Jeff and Karl were stoned and couldn’t stop giggling. I told Amy she should stay out with them. No need for her to go home just because I was. Then I started spouting some pretentious bollocks about the night being ‘pregnant with possibilities,’ before calling out “I’ll call you” as I walked away.

I actually wasn’t lying. Beth still had plenty of life left in her, but I’d eventually grow tired and have to let her go. It was always good to have a replacement lined up. It would save me going to the effort of hunting down another plaything.

It was around two in the morning and Town was just getting started. Half naked girls teetered across Whitechapel, dodging cars and pretending to be offended by the cat-calls that came their way. The smell of spice and grease filled the air and I drank it all in, the sights, the sounds, the aromas of the night.

It was all magic to me and for a moment I thought about heading back into the bars and clubs alone. There was adventure to be had, conquests to be made, but I really didn’t like to leave Beth on her own too long.

Our paths collided about three of four days earlier. I found her crying in the doorway of a bar on Slater Street. She had a black eye and her lip was cut. It had been so easy to get her back to my place and she’d been there ever since.

As I turned the corner into Williamson Square¬†I almost tripped on a loose shoelace. A couple of drunks laughed as I stumbled and I quelled an urge to chase after them. My shoes were badly scuffed after my earlier run-in with the idiot in the club. I hadn’t realised I’d kicked him so hard.

By now you will have realised I’m not a good guy. There’s a darkness behind all comedians right? Well I don’t really know about the rest, but it’s true for me. I take no shit from anybody and if that means people get hurt, then that’s how it goes. I told the others he was still breathing when we tossed him in the rubbish skip at the back of the club; he probably was.

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The guy was an arse-hole anyway. He was a big drunk one at that and he seemed to be on a mission to humiliate me from the start of my act. I was furious, but I probably would have let it go until he chose to follow me back-stage. I couldn’t have him showing me up in front of my new friends, so I put him down. He’d clearly been on the ale all day and his reflexes were shocking. It really wasn’t a fair fight.¬†I remember chuckling to myself as I approached the terminus on Roe Street. The look on his stupid face when I hit him; he really didn’t know what hit him.

I was aiming for the taxi-rank that night. It wasn’t my way to travel with the masses, but I had to go past the bus-stop to get there. It was empty apart from some tramp slumped against the shelter.¬†The taxi rank was just across the road and a crowd had already begun to assemble there.

I was on the verge of stepping off the kerb and running across the road to join the queue when I spotted a poster someone had pasted onto the perspex next to the routine bus schedule.

‘Night Bus. New Service.’

It looked like someone had taken exception to the sign. There had been an attempt to scratch it away. It actually looked like there were claw marks across the poster and I wasn’t sure if there was just a faint tinge of blood too. Actually it was probably just nail-polish, but vodka shots and strong lager bring out the dramatist in me.

Despite the vandal’s best efforts, I could make out that the service was due to start tonight. I checked my wrist-watch and realised it was just a actually only a few minutes away. I wondered how it all worked. Did the driver just take you where you wanted to go? Was there a set route? If so, did it go anywhere near my house? The bus service was bound to be a cheaper option and it could be interesting. In the end I just shrugged and said to myself, ‘What could it hurt?’

The guy on the floor was starting to stir and when he caught site of me he started to get agitated. I did my best to ignore him and lit a cigarette. The temperature had dropped and my shirt was offering little protection from the cold. I could feel myself getting irritated and checked my watch again. The bus was late, only by a couple of minutes, but it was enough to set in motion a spiral that usually ended with violence.

I had begun to recognise the signs. I even knew what sort of stuff would trigger an outburst, but I’d never managed to use that knowledge to stop myself. Truth is I’ve just never cared enough to do anything about it.

The tramp was getting noisier. He was pointing at me and was grumbling something unintelligible. I hissed at him to shut up. The filthy bastard made me sick. I had no time for these fuckers and their sad pathetic sob-stories and this one just wouldn’t let up.

I flicked my cigarette at him, but it made no difference. It must have hurt because I could see the mark on his face, but he just went on. In the end I couldn’t stand it any more and I lunged at him, grabbing him by the throat. His breath reeked of strong cider and tobacco.

I’m not actually sure what I was thinking, because just across the road there was a crowd of potential witnesses. I guess the truth of it is¬†that I wasn’t thinking at all. By the time my head reached this point I was rarely capable of thought. I was like Chernobyl and I was in full meltdown. It didn’t matter how many alarm bells were ringing I was going to blow and he was going to shut up one way or the other.

Then he just stopped. His eyes widened and he pulled away from me, scrambled to his feet and began to crawl away. I watched, heart thumping as he staggered to his feet and broke into a run of sorts. Part of me was relieved he was gone but there was that other side, the dark side that burned far too near the surface most of the time, that wanted to run him down and retire his miserable arse.

Fortunately for him the hiss of hydraulics woke me from my fugue and I spun around. The bus stood next to the kerb, lights blazing and engine purring. As far as I could see it was empty and I looked around expecting to see recently disembarked passengers wandering off into the night. There was nobody. The drivers seat was empty too.

How long had I been distracted by the tramp? It really hadn’t seemed that long. I’d have surely heard the chatter of people getting off the bus, surely the driver or someone would have tried to intervene. After all I was really raging. I stepped back and looked up to the windows of the top deck, but there seemed to nobody up their either.

I remember muttering ‘…this the fucking Twilight Zone or something?’ Then the doors opened and nearly stopped my heart. ‘Fucks sake!’¬†I almost screamed, but instead started laughing. I admit I was getting a little hysterical. I wasn’t too drunk. I’d certainly had heavier nights in my time. There was the line I did in the dressing room after I sorted out the heckler, but that was hours earlier.

There was someone on this bus and they were trying to mess with my head. At least that was my thinking. I felt the anger again. It wasn’t as bad as before, but it was enough to energise me. If someone wanted to play that was fair enough by me.

There was nobody on board at all. I looked behind and under every seat. Back downstairs I checked the drivers cab. Reaching through the glass partition it was easy to unlatch the door and climb into the seat. The keys were still in the ignition. I felt a rush of excitement and a brilliant but stupid idea occurred to me. Maybe I’d get that door to door service after all. Why follow someone else’s route when you can carve out your own.

It was time to go home. Maybe I’d wake Beth and have a little fun. I was feeling pumped and pressed my foot on the accelerator. The engine revved and I tingled all over. Then the door swished shut. I looked down at the door release, thinking I had accidentally activated it. There was no way.

“Who’s there?” I shouted, but nobody answered.

I admit I got a little scared at this point and decided to get the fuck out of here, but the door was jammed. No matter how much I struggled with the catch it wouldn’t budge. Panic started to set in and I hurt my hand trying to wrestle with it.

Then the engine roared and I was moving. The bus veered towards the central reservation. It looked like it was going to hit the railings and I grabbed the wheel steering it into the centre of the road. Then I attempted an emergency stop, almost putting my feet through the floor. It just rolled on regardless.

That’s what I have learned about the bus you see. It goes when it wants and it stops when the mood takes it. I can steer it this way and that, but otherwise I’m just as much a passenger as you. I have no idea what it has planned for you tonight, but you aint getting off until it’s finished.

Why don’t you take a seat. If you’ve got alcohol or anything stronger take it now. You won’t want to be sober on this ride. Sometimes, it let’s people go. I’ve seen a ¬†few over the years. Not many though.

If it does see fit to spare you, could you do me a favour? Go to the police. Tell them there’s a house on Hallow¬†Hill¬†they should check out. Specifically, they’ll want to look in the cellar. There’s a girl called Beth tied up in there. She’ll be long passed by now, but her parents are going to want to know where she is.

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Rodgers

Rodgers “If they want me to go, I’ll go”

After Liverpool’s historic and abject surrender to Stoke it appears time may now be up for Brendan Rodgers. He must shoulder the responsibility for many of our on field failings this season, but others must also be held accountable.

As Brendan Rodgers Liverpool were writing a new horror story in the Potteries, the city of Liverpool is gearing up for a ‘Royal’ spectacular. Tomorrow up to a million people are expected to gather on the banks of the Mersey to watch three cruise liners, Queens Mary, Victoria and Elizabeth sail along its historic waterfront. In the evening a smaller crowd will gather at the Echo Arena to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Liverpool becoming Kings of Europe. I will be one of them and it will be a bitter-sweet experience.

A decade on from that wonderful, magical night in Turkey, our club is a pale imitation of what it once was. In truth Rafa’s heroics in the Champions League in 2005 represented a spectacular over-achievement. You only have to look at the fifth place finish and the fact that Djime Traore and Josemi now have Champions League medals to see the scale of Benitez’ feats that year. Nevertheless it was to mark the beginning a period in which the club climbed to the summit of UEFA rankings, competing in yet another final, winning the FA cup and coming desperately close to a first League title in more than two decades.

Ultimately it all ended in acrimony and bitter in-fighting but, from the standpoint of today, these now seem like halcyon days. Once again we find ourselves playing the blame game. Let’s face it there is plenty to go around. I have been a supporter of Brendan Rodgers. I still think he’ll go on to be a good coach, even if it seems unlikely that will be at Anfield. However, for all of that it’s becoming harder to identify reasons to keep faith with him.

This is not about being pro or anti-Rodgers; it’s about what is best for all parties. Rodgers deserves to be treated with respect. He is a Liverpool manager and I believe whatever his failings he has given his all to bring us success. Some have criticised his post-match assessments, but that’s unfair in my opinion. These encounters with the media are always traps and attempts to suck a hapless manager into a gaff and a potential headline. The sensible among us know, that what managers say on camera doesn’t always reflect what they think or say in private.

The denigration of his achievements last season is also disappointing. I’ve heard it said that Suarez, not the manager led the team to an unlikely title tilt last year. It’s certainly true that the loss of the prolific Uruguayan cost us dear this season. Few teams on the planet could have coped with the loss of such a player.

Rodgers gets little credit for his handling of Suarez

Rodgers gets little credit for his handling of Suarez

However this ignores the fact that it was Rodgers who developed a style of play and a system that got the best out of Luis. In the preceding season many had criticised Suarez for his poor finishing, but last year he netted 31 times. In 2013-14 we saw some of the best football played at Anfield since the days of Barnes and Beardlsey. So where has it all gone wrong?

There were plenty at the club eager to share the credit for last season’s second place finish. Everyone from the CEO to the resident club psychologist were queuing up to accept the plaudits. When you win in the modern era, it’s the club’s success, but in defeat you stand alone.¬†If success has many fathers then failure is an orphan.

Brendan Rodgers looks hopelessly exposed right now. As a Liverpool supporter I take no pleasure in watching him squirm in a post match interview. There is literally nothing he can say in these situations that won’t draw criticism, or be seized upon as evidence that he should go. Sadly though for him, even if he was to perform immaculately in front of the camera, his failings on the pitch will always be the barometer by which he is judged. It really is difficult to see a way back for him. So what next?

It seems inconceivable at the time of writing that Rodgers will still be our manager next season. In pointing out the case for his defence, I can’t ignore the glaringly obvious. Even when you place Liverpool’s failings this year in the context of last year’s second place finish, even when you allow for the loss of a world-class player and the failings of a transfer policy written by the owners; you simply can not ignore the fact that this Rodgers Liverpool team have bottled it on too many occasions.

I could forgive last season. A young inexperienced coach, leading one of the youngest squads in the league came up short when it really mattered. It happens and, after all, we were never expected to challenge last year anyway. However, it has become a pattern at the club. When it really matters we lack the resolve to see it through. Sadly the responsibility for this lies at the door of the manager. It is his job to coach that mentality into the team.

This lack of a nasty streak was evident as far back as the Champions League tussle with Real Madrid. I wrote at the time, that we were just too nice in that game. The sight of players swapping shirts at half-time and sharing a laugh with their opponents on the pitch, was an anathema to the ethos of the club. It appears now that it was symptomatic of a wider malaise. They can’t be blamed for losing to a world power-house, but to capitulate the way they did, without conceding a single booking was unforgivable and suggested that they surrendered without a fight.

Strong words from the Echo

Strong words from the Echo

Liverpool finished top of the ‘Fair-play League’ this season, proving that our lack of a nasty streak continued all season. This is not a badge of honour. I don’t want a team of cheats, but I do want players who will tackle hard and do what’s needed to win the game. After the loss of Suarez Liverpool needed someone to step up and get in peoples faces, instead they have wilted in the face of pressure too many times.

Rodgers did turn it around at Christmas. The switch to back three seemed to shore up the defence and Mignolet, after being unceremoniously dropped for Brad Jones was reinstated and transformed himself. For a brief period it looked like Brendan had solved one of our main Achilles heels.

The Reds went on another 14 game unbeaten run, suggesting we had turned a corner and overcome the loss of last seasons strike force. There was even talk of summer signings beginning to bed in. Going into the United game, most of us were supremely confident of a win. I admit I was looking further up the table at an unlikely third place finish. In the cups we were progressing nicely also.  Then once again on the biggest of stages the team just went missing.

Liverpool as a city is rumour central. I have learned to tune this stuff out over the years. Tales of dressing room bust-ups and rows between Dalglish and Rodgers and Rodgers and Gerrard abound. My only question would be, if any of this is true and at least some of it will be; then why do we always have to channel our anger and aggression inwardly. Why not get angry with the opposition. Instead, over and over again Liverpool press the self-destruct button.

At such times you want your manager to create a fortress and a sense of togetherness, an us against the world mentality. This season we just don’t seem to have had that. The semi-final exit to Chelsea may have been unfortunate, but the performance against Villa was a criminal abdication of responsibility by the players and the manager.

You’ll forgive me if I say that I considered that the lowest point of the season, because I had no idea what was to follow. It doesn’t come close to the incompetent, gutless and shambolic displays we have been served up in the last two games.

These games were opportunities for the team to show that they cared. There was no hope of Champions League football, the cups were gone, but there was honour and pride to play for. They needed to show us they cared and they needed to honour a club legend. More importantly for Brendan, they needed to give an indication that they still wanted to play for him. They failed on all counts. Once again when they needed to rise to the occasion Rodgers Liverpool went missing.

Disconsolate Gerrard

Disconsolate Gerrard

Today represents a true low point in the clubs history. The manager is very unlikely to survive it, but if and when he walks out the gate, questions will remain about the future of the club and those leading it. They may have improved the club commercially, the new Main Stand will be spectacular, but what sort of football will those extra eight thousand corporate supporters be watching next year?

We are being run by absentee owners, who didn’t see fit to attend Gerrard’s last game at Anfield, who failed miserably in the summer transfer window and who preside over a transfer committee whose credibility is shrinking by the day. Their transfer policy of filling the squad with young up-and-coming talent is now in tatters as the poster-boy for this philosophy, Sterling is agitating for a move.

FSG made much of their admiration for Arsenal’s youth policy. They neglected to see how little that has yielded since Arsenal last won the league. It’s one thing bringing through youth and signing players before they become great; Coutinho is a great example. Ultimately young players, like him, want to compete in the biggest competitions and win medals. If the club don’t surround him with quality and deliver success soon, how long can they hold on to him?

Yet again we face a huge summer. Will the owners recognise that their strategy on the playing side has failed? They have to, but it’s going to be expensive. The cost of not doing so may be even more costly. ¬†Sadly, there is a lot more to fix at our club than the position of manager.¬†If Brendan does go, whoever comes in will be hoping the owners learn from their mistakes and learn quick.

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

Originally posted on Jeff Goulding:

The Kop Gerrard Tribute The Kop Gerrard Tribute

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

‚ÄėIt aint over ‚Äôtil the fat lady sings‚Äô, or so says the clich√©. Truth is she may not be singing yet, but she started going through her vocal exercises at Stamford Bridge and against Palace yesterday she stepped out onto the stage ready to belt out her finale. For Steven Gerrard it will have been a bitter-sweet ending to a magical fairy-tale career.

Life is a series of moments. In the end all that is left are those instants in time; the good the bad and the indescribable. I began my final match-day of the season immersed in one such moment; a school presentation for my daughter. These are precious moments in a fathers life and as it turned out, it was good preparation for what was to come.

Being a dyed-in-the wool sentimentalist, I’d fought back…

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The Kop Gerrard Tribute

The Kop Gerrard Tribute

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

‘It aint over ’til the fat lady sings’, or so says the clich√©. Truth is she may not be singing yet, but she started going through her vocal exercises at Stamford Bridge and against Palace yesterday she stepped out onto the stage ready to belt out her finale. For Steven Gerrard it will have been a bitter-sweet ending to a magical fairy-tale career.

Life is a series of moments. In the end all that is left are those instants in time; the good the bad and the indescribable. I began my final match-day of the season immersed in one such moment; a school presentation for my daughter. These are precious moments in a fathers life and as it turned out, it was good preparation for what was to come.

Being a dyed-in-the wool sentimentalist, I’d fought back the tears, heart bursting with pride as she received her award. By the end of the day I’d be risking dangerous dehydration as I watched one of Liverpool’s greatest sons receive his rewards from The Kop. However, in clapping Stevie off the pitch at Anfield yesterday, my sadness at the end of an era was matched only by my anger at the betrayal he had suffered at the hands of his team-mates.

Earlier in the day, at my daughters school, it had been hard to avoid talk of Stevie’s last home game. Have you got a ticket? Do you reckon he’ll cry? What are the best odds on him to score? and of course the 64 million dollar question, would you sell your ticket? Stories of people selling tickets for as much as eleven grand have been doing the rounds in Liverpool. That’s a huge some of money. It’s enough to pay for a decade of season tickets, yet still I couldn’t contemplate it.

Gerrard’s career has been one long series of incredible moments. Heart-stopping, jaw dropping and fist pumping moments of joy, despair and triumph. I’ve lived through them all and I have seen many of them in person. No amount of money could tempt me to miss his final precious moments in front of an adoring Kop. It should have been a send off fit for a King. In the stands it was, on the pitch it was anything but.

As I made my way to the game later in the afternoon, I reflected on the amount of times this lad from Huyton had seized the initiative and in an instant rescued the team or won the spoils. Olympiakos at Anfield, Milan in Istanbul, West Ham at Cardiff or United here, there and everywhere. So many special moments. Who’s going to fill that void now. Players who can step up, when it matters most, to deliver a winning goal or an inch-perfect pass and claim the spoils are priceless.

Gerrard starts epic comeback

Gerrard starts epic comeback

This is why players like Steven Gerrard are irreplaceable. It is the consistency with which he has delivered that sets him apart from the rest, but it goes further than that. Players like Steven embody the spirit of the club. They carry the hopes and dreams of a city and are the essence of each and everyone of us distilled onto the pitch. They come around once in a lifetime.

Liverpool have been blessed with some truly great players. As a kid my hero was Dalglish. There have been others who have captured our hearts, but for me Gerrard belongs in a special category of players.

He is an Elisha Scott, a Billy Liddell and a Dalglish. In Toffee language he is a Dixie Dean. These players transcend time and will live in the stories and tall-tales of successive generations of football fans. I wasn’t alive during the era of Liddell, Scott or Dean, but they live in my consciousness and are part of the rich folklore of Mersey football culture. That will be true of our current number eight.

Gerrard hits last gasp equalizer in FA Cup Final against West Ham

Gerrard hits last gasp equalizer in FA Cup Final against West Ham

My Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren will know all about Steven Gerrard. Everyone of those players on the pitch yesterday is privileged to share the turf with him, yet only the Palace players looked like they cared. In short Gerrard didn’t deserve that performance yesterday and many of his team-mates don’t deserve to wear the same shirt as him.

There was a huge sense of anticipation pre-match. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many camera crews around he ground before a game. Fans were busy being interviewed or posing for the paparazzi in front of the Paisley Gates. I saw two lads holding their tickets in the air and shouting “Priceless”. Given how much money had been changing hands for a chance to see the game, they weren’t far wrong.

My seat, just under the scoreboard to the left of the Kop, affords me a great view across the famous old stand. It was a pageant of colour. There were the usual classics, but at the front huge Gerrard banners took centre-stage. There was a buzz in the air and the expectation we were about to witness something truly momentous.

Given the magnitude of the occasion I expected Liverpool to fly at Crystal Palace. There was no silverware at stake, but there was honour to fight for and the need to give the captain a fitting send off after a seventeen years of unstinting service and loyalty. The fact that the team served up what can only be described as a turgid display still angers me now. I suspect it will niggle at me all through the summer.

The fact that these players couldn’t get it up for Gerrard’s last game simply beggars belief. As the whistle went and the game got under-way it quickly became clear that this was going to be a testimonial. All around me the atmosphere had been emotionally charged from the minute we took our seats, but the mood was turning to anger as the first half rolled on. When Lallana eventually broke clear and finished sublimely with his right foot the feeling was one of relief.

Everyone of the Liverpool players ran to Gerrard to celebrate. Perhaps they cared. Maybe now they would get going and deliver the thrashing such an occasion demanded. It wasn’t to be and team slumped back into pedestrian mode. I don’t know if their heads were already on the beach, but they certainly weren’t at the game yesterday.

The half was drawing to a miserable close, when on 42 minutes Emre Can fouled¬†Yannick Bolasie on the edge of the box. Puncheon struck the ball sweetly, but Mignolet didn’t even move. People all around me erupted in fury, I just hung my head in despair.

There was no way Palace were going to lie down and allow Anfield to slip into party mode. It was going to be up to us to stamp our authority on the game. Where was the passion and desire? As the players disappeared down the tunnel surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to rally them for the second half.

Instead it was Pardew’s men who came out fired up. Liverpool huffed and puffed, but they weren’t blowing anybody’s houses down. Palace got their rewards from yet another poorly defended set piece on the hour mark. Even this failed to spark the Reds into life.

Reality sets in

Reality sets in

Things were going from bad to worse and when Lucas replaced Lallana on 65 there was a sense of incredulity in the stadium. The former saints player had been the only glimmer of hope up to that point for me. If we needed a goal, I thought he had a chance of getting or creating one. I just couldn’t understand the substitution at all.

The tension was unbearable. It wasn’t meant to be like this and anger and frustration bubbled all around me. There was a risk this could boil over and ruin the occasion, until the Captain himself lifted the lid and released the pressure. He attempted a shot from outside the box, which sailed high and wide. It is probably in low earth orbit by now.

The Kop paused in disbelief, before launching into a rendition of “What the fucking hell was that?” It was a moment of irreverence that broke the tension and when the skipper raised his arm to acknowledge us the crowd broke into a round of sustained applause. It felt like we sang his name pretty much constantly from that moment on.

The penalty was salt in a gaping wound, but it changed nothing. Liverpool were sleep walking to defeat and failure anyway. They have been since the abject display against ¬†United. The referee’s whistle was a blessed relief. He may not know it but he was calling time on Liverpool’s season not just the game. It’s an end that can’t come soon enough for me. For our captain, it is hardly the send off he deserved.

As he wandered around the pitch soaking up the richly deserved adulation of The Kop, his team-mates skulked behind him and well they might. He may already be California dreamin’ but the club needs to wake up if we are to avoid yet another nightmare season.

A legend says goodbye

A legend says goodbye