Saturday, 8 January 2011
I use the term celebrate loosely. At the age of four, you don’t really understand the significance placed upon becoming a year older.
You devour cake after 22 failed attempts to blow out the candles, and you’re given toys that will be discarded within half an hour to focus on the bubble wrap it was packaged in.
You hardly remember any of it, either. You just smile and nod for photographs throughout the day, primarily as evidence your 4th birthday actually happened.
It’s all a bit like Roy Hodgson’s six-month reign as Liverpool manager, I suppose, but I digress.
As a Liverpool supporter, it’s hard to forget my 4th birthday. It’s nothing to do with the photograph of me dressed as a cowboy with a crayola stuck up my nostril, either.
On February 22nd 1991, Kenny Dalglish left his position as manager of Liverpool Football Club.
I didn’t go to my first Liverpool game until September that year. I was never on the march with Kenny’s army. I was too young to understand the significance of it then.
I understand the significance now.
I understand it every time my granddad utters the name ‘Dalglish’ to me; his left eye glistening from his chip against Chelsea, his right eye shining thinking of beating Everton twice in the cup final.
I understand it when the chorus of Every Other Saturday reaches its climax on the Kop, and 50-year-old men sing out-of-tune to the football deity, wishing the impossible possible. They really would walk a million miles.
I understand it when I read his autobiography and realise the pain he suffered during our darkest hour, and how he became our shining light throughout that period.
I understand it, because for the past six months, I’ve been without a character I was proud to call manager of our football club.
I’ve been without somebody who embodies the club and the city; someone who is proud of the people he represents every time he sits in the dugout.
For others - rightly or wrongly – it’s been longer than six months. It’s been 20 years.
On Sunday, for the first time in my match-going life, that Scouse solidarity will be on display unanimously. Shankly’s socialism will come through once more.
I’ll be on the march with Kenny’s army - me and nearly 9,000 others.
I’m about to have that glint my granddad’s eye; I’m about to walk a million miles.
I feel like I’m 4-years-old again; but this time, I will be celebrating – because this time, I understand.
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
That was your fault tonight.
The idealistic mirage of Liverpool supporters and the world-famous Kop is just that - a mirage. It's an illusion which has been perpetuated by Sky to give games at Anfield a unique selling point; ironically, some would argue it lost its lustre when Sky truly dug its claws into English football. Even so, people will hark back to the 60s, 70s and 80s and insist it wasn't always a wall of noise. My grandad says that. I always believe him.
I still maintain we not that bad though - we just don't have St. Etienne, Olympiakos et al every single home game.
But tonight, we did something we've never done before.
A small minority booed Lucas at home to West Ham, and then booed a side top-of-the-table.
A few sung 'you can stick your Gareth Barry up your arse' at the Lazio friendly.
A handful, I'm reliably informed, wanted Souness out.
We've never imploded, though; and make no mistake, that was a complete and utter implosion both on and off the pitch. That was akin to a child getting up in school and throwing a chair at the teacher, and then kicking the headmaster in the crotch.
Under any other circumstance, I'd be livid. I'd be embarrassed. I'd herald tonight as the death of what slight reality holds true regarding the fabled McKop Grandstand.
But this is your fault, Hodgson - and we'll be here long after you are, so there's only one winner in this.
This is your fault for bringing on Joe Cole and playing him central midfield.
This is your fault for shifting Raul Meireles to the right wing, despite the fact Lucas/Meireles has been the highlight of your horrendous tenure.
This is your fault for taking off David Ngog for Ryan Babel.
This is your fault for bringing on Joe Cole and playing him central midfield.
This is your fault for bring on a left-back for our final sub - even if it was to replace one of the worst left-backs this club has seen.
This is your fault for allowing Wolves to have as much time on the ball as possible.
This is your fault for bringing on Joe Cole and playing him central midfield.
And tonight was merely the final action. The straw that broke the camel's back, the drop that broke the dam; the last public humiliation, the last disregard to this football club and what it represents.
This is your fault for coming in on the first day and saying the ownership situation had nothing to do with you.
This is your fault for belittling 'those people' who were trying to do something about it.
This is your fault for blaming the youth players for our defeat to Northampton Town of the old 4th division. At home.
This is your fault for bringing that idiot Mike Kelly along and making him first-team coach.
This is your fault for signing Paul Konchesky, Joe Cole, Brad Jones and Christian Poulsen for around £10million, a couple of youth players and Alberto Aquilani.
This is your fault for making Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina change their style of play to suit your narrow-minded, short-termist viewpoint.
This is your fault for constant contradictions to what you say in order to cling desperately on to a job you know you have no right having.
But most of all, this is your fault for every time you open your mouth; every time you make this club sound like we should belong in the second division. It's your fault for that mentality, and it's your fault the players won't respond to you. It's your fault - and no one else's - that the supporters of this club despise you and despise everything you stand for.
And now you have actually had the temerity to blame the supporters and to blame Kenny Dalglish's interest (which you said wasn't there on your first day - another lie).
Both us and Kenny Dalglish will be here at our club long after you've been amputated from it, like the gangrenous limb your abominable reign has been. We'll still be here next season, "supporting" our team - supporting someone who represents us, who understands us; and someone who is proud to do so.
Roy Hodgson - get out of our club. Please.
Monday, 1 November 2010
And it was definitely Shankly's idea of socialism I witnessed when bodies flew everywhere, voices mustered an almighty roar and 3,000 of us sang Maxi Rodriguez's name over and over after his late winner on Sunday.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Comedic writing is one of the hardest things to do, especially when it’s intelligent to boot. As laugh-out-loud the Carry On movies or Norman Wisdom were, I’ve always preferred the reserved titter of The Office and Peep Show.
That’s probably why I appreciated Rory Smith’s piece on the Telegraph website so much. Smith is one of my favourite Liverpool writers (though I have little choice given my employment history), but this surpassed even the highest expectation. It was succinct and splendidly satirical in equal measure.
So I’m going to write my own analogy regarding the managerial position at Liverpool Football Club. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
I was never good at satirical pieces in university; Swift’s Tale of the Tub bordered on the subliminal to the ridiculous, so I offer my apologies in advance if it doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of Swift - or Smith, for that matter.
Roy Hodgson’s appointment as Liverpool manager has been an unadulterated catastrophe, and relegation is a definite possibility if he remains at Anfield for the remainder of the season.
When Rafael Benitez mutually consented to be sacked, foolish supporters had lofty ambitions. Some well-established names like Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink were mentioned, and then mixed with European upstarts such as Didier Deschamps, Unai Emery and Laurent Blanc.
But for any of those to take the job would have been like, like, Napoleon Bonaparte leading the Montenegrin army, or something like that.
The ship was sinking, the empire was crumbling. The famous/fabled (delete as appropriate) ‘Liverpool Way’ was tarnished forever as the Holy Trinity once proudly spoken of by Shankly was desecrated.
When a ship is crumbling and an empire sinking, you need a steady pair of hands. Don’t uproot the foundations; don’t, er, play basketball with the anchor.
At least, that’s what we were told in the press conference unveiling Roy Hodgson as our new manager. He was Christian and Kenny’s choice – or not - after an interview process as stringent as wartime conscription.
Are you English and agreeable with the press’ major players? Off you go, Manuel and Didier.
Can you remain silent against the regime and not alert fans to tight financial restraints placed upon you? Check.
Can you not then lament those financial restraints to the press, even though we’re only giving you half the money acquired from the sale of a world-class defensive midfielder? Good man.
Can you promise to give the elder statesmen of the football club, hereby known as the dressing room so desperately lost last season, the arm around the shoulder and new contract they rightfully deserve? Welcome to the job, Mr. Hodgson.
Despite this, Liverpool fans reserved judgement.
At least, it was murmured, the man was a gentleman. At least, it was said, he had over 30 years experience and would understand the traditions of this football club. At least, it was exclaimed, he could organise the side and rediscover the dressing room.
But it’s turned out wrong; wrong like a…like, erm…like a manager desperately out of his depth in a job far too big for him.
His signings are either extremely poor or extremely poorly utilised. In fairness, like Benitez, Hodgson suffered from nonexistent financial backing – he couldn’t even spend the entirety of Mascherano’s transfer fee.
But £5million and two youth team players for Paul Konchesky is dreadful, while an accumulative £5million for Christian Poulsen is just despicable.
The fact the pair replaced Emiliano Insua and Alberto Aquilani, who were both sent out on loan, does not help to temper the anger of the Kop. The fact Daniel Agger might as well be with them, given the treatment he’s received from Hodgson, intensifies that anger even further.
Raul Meireles should be an excellent acquisition. He can glide into space through the middle, he can pick out a pass with unerring vision, and he has a tremendous long-range shot in his arsenal.
He has spent the majority of his Liverpool career on the right of midfield, a position he’s never played before.
And, although it’s clear it’s not his signing, Hodgson’s instance to play Joe Cole – first, behind the hole, and now to play him at all – is baffling, especially given how after 30 minutes, he resorts to standing on the left-wing, hands on hips, out of breath, trying to backheel a thread through a needle that isn’t even there.
To claim Hodgson’s tactics are pre-historic raises philosophical questions over the enormity and concept of ‘history’.
Gone is the look of fear from teams such as Sunderland as they’re pressurised on the ball – they can now stroll into Liverpool’s final third with a bank of six lined up opposing them, like static pawns on a chessboard, awaiting their next move.
Gone is the confidence and dominance of Pepe Reina, who know must deal with Jamie Carragher stepping on his toes as Liverpool retreat further back, content to concede possession and territory, regardless of opponent or venue.
Gone is the sight of Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres linking up in the final third with quick, incisive, high-tempo passing and movement. Johnson does not cross the halfway line anymore, while Dirk stands on that same line looking lost. Steven Gerrard is now back in his best position, apparently, despite what the Sky pre-match graphics say and Fernando Torres is a substandard Bobby Zamora.
But most worrying of all for Liverpool supporters is that this is not going to change, and it’s not going to change because he doesn’t realise he is at Liverpool Football Club.
Hodgson delighted in telling the press these methods won him the league at Malmo, Halmstads and Copenhagen; how his methods won games at the Swiss national side and Neuchatel Xamax.
He is not a young manager who will learn. He is a manager who has learnt, and this is the product of it. He will not adapt, he will not experiment, despite the fact a defeat to Blackburn would result in its worst league start ever.
This is it for Liverpool Football Club under his reign.
Even more galling than his performances on the pitch are his embarrassments off it.
Northampton were formidable opponents, and he fondly recalled a famous night in Trabzonspor just eighteen months after the football club had beaten Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate.
The most abject derby display in living memory was described as the second-best performance of the season. Dominance, according to him, consists of Steven Gerrard clipping balls into Tim Howard’s arms as Everton looked increasingly likely to score a third.
He didn’t seem much of a gentleman when he mocked Danish and Norwegian journalists, saying he’d never wish to work there again; nor does he seem a gentleman when he constantly snipes at reporters who treat him infinitely better than his predecessor.
He doesn’t appear to have used his 30 years in football when he condemned those protesting for the removal of Tom Hicks and George Gillett; he didn’t seem understand that special affinity Liverpool supporters have with their football club.
With Torres arguing with Carragher on Sunday on the Goodison pitch, and Daniel Agger – our best defender victim of consistent unprofessional sniping by the manager - leading a queue of players desperately unhappy at the football club, it appears that the lost dressing room is still somewhere down the back of the sofa.
He was given the Liverpool job under certain circumstances, but those circumstances have changed.
With the takeover of NESV and the removal of Tom Hicks and George Gillett on Friday, the Goodison derby on Sunday should have been time for renewed optimism and a positive look into the future.
It wasn’t, and it proved we can not go forward if remnants of the past remain.
For the sake of the football club and for the sake of the supporters, Roy Hodgson has to leave Liverpool Football Club with whatever semblance of dignity and reputation his has left; if he doesn’t, he could take them down with him.
See? I told you I wasn’t very good at satire. It appears I'm as equally inept with analogies and metaphors as well. I suppose I’m Carry On Knockers to Rory’s Office; I guess I’m just Roy Hodgson to his Rafael Benitez.
Monday, 18 October 2010
Dear Mr Henry,
Blundell; Hill, Fleche, Bolland, McKenna; Gardner, Henderson, Dulaimi, Heaton; Andrews, Cummins
I recently wrote an open letter with similar intentions to Stephen Hester of Royal Bank of
I don’t expect you to know the relevance of the 11 names printed above. This is no ill reflection on you – few others would know either.
The names above are not the starting 11 of a pre-war side that ran out against Bradford Park Avenue, nor is it the substitutes bench of one of our extremely talented youth sides.
They are supporters of Liverpool Football Club.
In my letter to Mr Hester, I recalled the starting 11 of the first match I attended. Port Vale, October 1991. Sat at my computer, I shut my eyes and visualised my surroundings as a four-year-old boy, scrunching them tighter to help heave my memories of those Subbuteoesque silhouettes on the Anfield turf to the surface of my consciousness.
But what I remember with less effort and more vibrancy than the 11 on the pitch were the 20,000 who surrounded me off it.
That’s not to disparage the players, of course; but when a supporter engages with the Kop for the first time, they become part of a brotherhood or sisterhood. Spiritual contracts signed by all that state we will uphold the traditions of our predecessors, and persevere to teach our inheritors about dignity, loyalty and respect.
I can’t name the substitutes bench when we played Port Vale, but I can reel off yet more names who this football club can call upon: Smith, Edwards, Roberts, Naughton, Dhakal-Woolfall, Nelson, Crane, Barrett, Cook, Spreag, Jaggs, Ballard, Watson, O’Shea. The list could, quite literally, go on and on.
Some of these supporters I consider my closest allies while others I’ve only met sparingly. There are even a few whom I’ve never met at all. But we’re all united by the common bond of wanting what’s best for our football club and of acting in its best interests; we all subscribe to Bill Shankly’s idea of socialism of helping out each other and sharing the rewards.
In the next few months, you will hear an oft-repeated cliché:
Our knowledge comes from that aforementioned dignity, loyalty and respect bred on the Kop. It comes from an appreciation of the sport we have watched since we were youths; from Alonso to Ziege, we appreciate the game in its simplest form.
We appreciate football is played 11 versus 11; sometimes the better 11 win, sometimes the better 11 don’t. We appreciate those who tackle with ferocity, pass with finesse and finish with flair. We appreciate the time we have afterwards to sit with our friends and talk about these things. It’s a simple ritual for a simple game.
Three years ago, two men overcomplicated our simple sport; the one-time beautiful game manifested into two ugly heads, coins and bank notes dripping from their grotesque mouths like a constant stream of acidic, poisonous drool.
They took our simple game and our simple football club, and they almost destroyed it. The promises they broke, the debt they accumulated, the world class players they caused to be sold and taking an 118-year institution to the High Court twice – all of this wounded Liverpool Football Club and will leave scars that will take years to heal.
But most damagingly of all, it was the heart of the club, the supporters, that nearly stopped beating when they wrenched it from the Liverbird’s chest.
No longer did we discuss full backs without worrying about finances; we worried more about RBS’ right hand man than we did John Arne Riise’s right foot.
Last week, we watched nervously at the Guardian’s minute-by-minute coverage of one of the most importance matches in our history. But the bar being struck was not made of metal, and the judge was not a trite name for a ruthless referee.
Pars of litigation and terminology filled both our computer screens and our minds. Lads from Aintree became part-time accountants; boys from
The supporters of Liverpool Football Club did not become so to understand business. It was meant to be a simple game; this was meant to be a simple football club.
Now, thankfully, we feel we’ve got it back. The Liverbird’s feathers are displayed proudly once more as it looks out over the city, and its heart is beating as strong as it has in a long time.
Never again will we take Liverpool FC for granted.
You will learn a lot about Bill Shankly, as well. You will learn he was a great, humble and intelligent man. You will learn about his views on socialism and how the socialism we believe in is not really politics, but a way of living. You will realise several of our supporters subscribe to it, and that's why our team is the only team that will always stick together; that's why we are the only team you can ever fully rely upon.
The Kop has witnessed players such as Liddell, Yeats, Dalglish, Rush, Fowler, Torres, Carragher and Gerrard. But when they've gone, or when they go, the Kop still remains.
We very nearly crumbled under the intense pressure of modern football, under the weight and strain of two men overcomplicating our simple sport.
But now, we no longer have to sit in the pub after the match and worry about balance sheets and bitter court battles.
We no longer have to stop our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters from wearing the official club shirt. We no longer have to deny them the opportunity to play football in the park with their favourite player’s name on that shirt, just like we could when we were young.
We no longer have to leave our houses earlier on matchday to march to the ground, hoping we have some small influence of taking back the football club our ancestors founded over a century ago.
We have our identity back. Simply put, we have our football club back.
Please keep it that way.
Throughout the whole sale process, your actions were nothing but dignified, loyal and respectful.
Maybe you were meant to stand side-by-side with us on the Kop all along.
Friday, 27 August 2010
Here are the club's transfer dealings with summer, with thanks to Red and White Kop for the incoming transfer information:
Undisclosed (believed to be around £5m)
Outgoing transfers (including Mascherano's imminent departure):
Loan (fee believed to be £4m)
Loan (fee unknown)
|J. Mascherano ||Argentinian ||Barcelona || Fee around £17.5m |
Total transfer money spent: £13.5 million
Money going towards the debt: £20.7 million
£20.7 million - that's more than Fernando Torres' transfer fee, and more than any fee we've ever paid for a player. Roy may be held culpable for decisions on the pitch, but how can the puppet master play with both hands tied behind his back?
Of course, those figures are the basest figures available - wages/signing-on fees (which are now taken from transfer budget) aren't considered, nor is the loan fee for Degen. Paul Konchesky is also expected to replace Insua for a few million pound profit before Tuesday's deadline as well.
While trying to acquire some extra intelligence for this post, I stumbled across this article, written by Tony Barrett for The Times, on January 12 2010. Note the quotes in bold.
Tom Hicks has shrugged aside the controversial resignation of his son from the Liverpool board by claiming that the club’s debt problems are not as severe as those of Manchester United.
The Liverpool co-owner also vowed to spend “big” in the summer transfer window.
In a day of high drama for the two North-West giants, Tom Hicks Jr announced that he was stepping down as a Liverpool director after admitting sending an abusive e-mail to a fan.
United, meanwhile, announced plans to raise £500 million to restructure their debts after paying out £41.9 million in interest during the past financial year.
United’s problems gave Hicks an opportunity to divert attention from the storm at his own club and he duly took it.
In an e-mail of his own to a fan, he intimated that Liverpool’s debt — in excess of £200 million — is more manageable than that of their great rivals.
He also insisted that while Liverpool will not be splashing out in the present transfer window, they are already planning to invest heavily in the summer to bolster Rafael Benítez’s squad, and claimed the long-awaited new stadium will be delivered.
“Our debt is very manageable (see Man U) and we never use player sales for debt service,” Hicks Sr wrote in the e-mail, responding to concerns from a supporter that Liverpool will not be big spenders in January.
“Our interest on £200 million is about £16 million. The new stadium will be the game changer. January is a poor quality market. The summer window will be big.
“We are working hard on the new stadium. We have an excellent management team and manager. We know we need more depth on the squad and will address it this summer. We hope to have a stronger second half of the season.”
Liverpool’s search for investment is continuing, but there is evidence that the financial concerns that have plagued them for so long are beginning to filter down to Benítez’s playing squad.
Ryan Babel, the Holland forward, responded to a question on Twitter, the social networking site, about his opinion on Hicks and George Gillett Jr, his fellow American, by saying: “We need money for the club.”
It is that apparent weakness that has prompted fears that Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres or both could be prised away from Anfield should Liverpool fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Reports in Italy suggest that José Mourinho will launch his third attempt to sign Gerrard, this time for Inter Milan rather than Chelsea, next summer.
The chances of Gerrard leaving Liverpool for an Italian club are remote, but rivals sensing weakness at Anfield will give their supporters added cause for concern.
The resignation of Hicks Jr from the club’s board at least solved one problem, the Texan falling on his sword after he sent an abusive e-mail to Stephen Horner, a Liverpool fan, in which he said: “Blow me, f***face.”
The Liverpool hierarchy did not hesitate to accept Hicks’s offer to step down. His place has been taken by Casey Coffman, the executive vice-president of Hicks Holdings.
Manchester City added to the pressure on Liverpool when they opened a five-point gap to them in the Barclays Premier League thanks, to a 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at the City of Manchester Stadium, Carlos Tévez scoring a superb hat-trick as Roberto Mancini made it four wins in four games since succeeding Mark Hughes as manager.
No new stadium. Players being sold to service the debt. The only people this summer transfer window has been big for is Delta cab drivers driving our assets to John Lennon Airport and out of this football club.
There it is, in black and white, clear as crystal: Tom Hicks tells lies - as does George Gillett, Christian Purslow, and possibly even Martin Broughton. Get out of our club.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
- Holding onto the 1-0 lead from last week was never going to be done with consummate ease, especially with a depleted squad travelling to a hostile atmosphere. We've never won in Turkey, unless you regard Istanbul as such.
- With that in mind, it was a little perplexing to see an inexperienced right-footed 20-year-old play at left-back, especially when actual left-back Fabio Aurelio played just ahead of him in midfield. Once Kelly settled down, he looked as imperious as ever; there is a certain confidence he exudes on the football pitch, be it when he has the ball at his feet or staving off the attentions of the opposition player and ushering the ball out of play. He wasn't as productive with the ball as it was predominately on his weaker foot, but he looked like a fully-fledged left-back by full-time.
- As obvious and cliché as it sounds, losing the first-leg lead so early was a massive blow - confidence plummeted from that moment and it took us an entire half to rebuild it. What would have been a defensive outlook from us manifested into sitting deep, playing safe balls and looking to spring N'Gog free; something which failed miserably throughout the first 45 minutes. As for the goal itself, Kuyt, Carragher, Soto and Johnson can all feel culpable in some way. I wasn't surprised to see Guttierez (known at 'that tiny no.9' last week to the Anfield faithful) score for Trabzonspor, he was impressive against us last week.
- Second half was an improvement, although still operating nowhere near our full capability. N'Gog floundered between the sublime and the ridiculous, with his excellent hold-up play and perseverance tainted by profligacy in front of goal. One thing you can't fault him for is his effort - he and his elastic legs run the £1.5 million paid for him every time he strides on the pitch.
- Trabzonspor shot themselves in the foot somewhat after about 60 minutes; they become anxious to get forward and commit which finally allowed Lucas (who had a poor game otherwise) to drive forward. If Lucas is to play alongside Poulsen this year, he needs to be allowed to get forward as much as possible; we looked more likely to equalise when he broke deep from midfield simply because there was another body in there.
- Kacar's own goal was a fantastic advert of Glen Johnson's abilities when he is allowed to get forward, but it was again too much of a rarity. I can understand Roy wanting him to concentrate on his defensive ability but he does give an extra dimension, especially when two central midfielders sit so deep.
- Pacheco had another impressive cameo and it was good to see him having a shot at goal which eventually led to Dirk Kuyt's tap in. I think, ironically, he could play the role Joe Cole is usually associated with. He seems to have that innate ability to ghost into space.
- Not the best performance, but a very, very good result for a side without their two best players. All of this will be a distant memory tomorrow afternoon when I have Easyjet, Ryanair and other assorted airline websites open ready to book a trip to deepest, darkest eastern Europe.