It’s only preseason right?
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?