Why always us? because we are Liverpool
This article by me was first published on Liverpool Day Trippers Website
The potential signing of Mario Balotelli has divided opinion among Reds fans. Nobody doubts his talent. The fee seems modest by modern standards, and even the reported wage demands, reputedly £92k per week, seem about right for a player of his stature. What worries a lot of supporters is his reputation. After all we’ve just offloaded one bad-boy. The clubs’ PR department must be sweating like the pig who knows he’s dinner.
The Reds have a track record of buying, or even nurturing, this sort of player. It’s a tradition that goes back further than you may think. Sometimes, it works spectacularly well. Ron Yeats, Ian St John, and of course Tommy Smith, could all mix it up on the field. Shankly famously said, of Smith, that he could start an arguemnent in an empty room. He was also one of Shanks’ favourite ‘sons’.
Throughout the 70′s and 80′s our squad always retained a hard case. Some of them even got up to mischief off the field. Souness, McDermott and Jimmy Case would all be thankful that players weren’t under the same scrutiny as they are today. Underlying this policy, was the idea that to win things, you needed a ruthless, or even nasty, streak. It worked a treat for Shanks and Paisley, but Souness and later Evans found to their cost, that it could be a double edged sword.
The likes of Ruddock illustrates this. Signed by Souness, Razor certainly had the tough guy image. Looking at his autobiography, you could also say, he lacked discipline off the field. It’s apparent that Souness’ successor, Roy Evans, also failed to bring him under control. You couldn’t imagine him getting away with calling Shanks “uncle Bill” on the training ground, yet he referred to Evans as “uncle Roy”.
Throughout the glory days, the hard men of the club always knew who the boss was. For too much of the 90′s it seems this wasn’t the case. Paul Ince called himself the “Guvnor” and seems to have got away with it until Houllier arrived. If the Frenchman is to be believed, on the day he assumed full control, Ince marched into his office and assured him the he had guaranteed that “the boys will do a job for you.” Gerard couldn’t have two bosses at the club, after all he’d just seen one disastrous partnership end, and Ince was gone soon after.
Even Rafa liked a player with a nasty streak. Craig Bellamy did a great job, but was moved on as soon after he started moonlighting as Riise’s caddy. Of course Kenny signed the daddy of all bad-boys. Luis always danced on the trip wire between madness and genius. He was a success at the club precisely because, when it came down to it, he knew who was boss. Under Brendan, Suarez had, arguably, the most productive season of his career. He plundered 30 goals, had numerous assists and his work rate was phenomenal. It is no coincidence that he scooped so many accolades that year. The work put in by Rodgers and Steve Peters went a long way to harnessing that genius, and keeping the mad man from the door.
It’s also worth mentioning that a certain Daniel Sturridge came with his own baggage. Many of us doubted his attitude and temperament. Again, Rodgers and Peters’ skills seem to have turned him into a class act. Liverpool will once again call on those skills, if they are to sign Mario Balotelli. If they are even half as succesful with him, as they were with Suarez and Sturridge, that £16 million will be money well spent.