I like following fans of other clubs on Twitter. It gives an insight into what is going on in their world. The table only tells you so much, after all, especially at this stage of the season. And after all, the real madness lies in the detail.
It’s fun over in Manchester at the moment. Manchester City fans are unhappy that no-one has gone to prison for hurting a bus before the Champions League Quarter Final they lost last season and are furiously tweeting Merseyside Police with zoomed in images of lads standing about. Manchester United fans, meanwhile, have gone into full-on conspiracy mode, deciding that there is a media bias against them, because a few people have pointed out that they don’t look very good.
The media bias shout brings back fond memories as a Liverpool fan. I remember that one well. I think every big club and Everton have had a go at it at some point. In fact probably every club in the world. Somewhere on the internet there is definitely a Wealdstone fan complaining that their results in the Vanarama National League South are always listed last. It’s just the way we all are.
The truth obviously is that a football club plodding along doing OK isn’t particularly big news for the media, especially a big club. You need to either be on the verge of something special or in crisis. In between doesn’t sell newspapers. Rafa Benitez was a genuis then an idiot. Wenger a winner, then a serial loser. Even Alex Ferguson was only ever a couple of bad results away from opinion pieces suggesting he might be past his best. Every few years one would emerge before quickly being hidden away when they went on to win the bloody league again. Now it’s Jose’s turn. Until it’s someone else’s.
I’ve lived through plenty of hearing Liverpool are brilliant and “the worst Liverpool team in living memory”, and often they are months apart. When people are choosing to talk about you, you are generally fine. It means you are relevant. It’s when people stop talking about you, you need to worry.
My worst times as a Liverpool fan are when we looked like we were just drifting along not bothering anybody. To be fair to the board at Liverpool, these periods have tended to be just before they’ve replaced the manager. Nothing is massively wrong, but nothing is particularly right. You are all set to finish somewhere between the middle and the top, not beating anyone particularly good along the way and you are making all the noise and commotion of a pebble being thrown into the ocean. It’s thoroughly depressing.
So having lived through some of those times, I’m grateful when I hear anyone outside the Merseyside bubble talking about Liverpool, especially in positive terms. When it is all time arch-rival Gary Neville saying that he’s scared you might win the league this season, well, just inject that straight into my veins.
He went on though. He also thinks we need to sacrifice The Champions League this season to do so. Is he right? Well there is some evidence to suggest he might have a point. The last title challenge at Anfield was in 2013-14 and Liverpool had no European Football that season at all.
But I’m still not sure. For a start Liverpool can have a brilliant league campaign this season and still not win it. He says “I know that’s very hard to do but if they could go into February, March, April without it, I think they could have a real chance if they had free weeks”. without acknowledging the fact that last season Manchester City had basically won the league by then anyway. We can have the best run in ever and it won’t matter if they only drop four points all season.
It also ignores the fact that Liverpool is a club that thrives on momentum. This week at The Anfield Wrap we produced a special on the 2001 FA Cup Final. That year Liverpool played every game they possibly could and ended up with three trophies and 3rd in the league. From January on they just kept going and winning until the summer when everybody collapsed. But without that first trophy, none of it might have happened. Liverpool have many faults as a team, but we certainly know how to ride a crest of a wave.
"It is tough winning trophies. That's why 2001 was so great and we're still talking about it now.
"We are in great shape to at least try and do something similar this year. Aim for the moon and land on some stars." 🙌https://t.co/PHMeFVkAPw
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) September 14, 2018
I don’t know, it all feels like a bit of a trick to me.
Maybe Gary is worried we might go one better than last year and lift a sixth European Cup, to double the number his club have. Maybe he’s hoping we won’t notice that going out of the group stages of the Champions League probably means going into the Europa League and going away to Kazakhstan on a Thursday night. Maybe he thinks that’s the best hope Manchester United have of getting in the top four.
I’m not sure, but I don’t trust him one bit.
Besides, Liverpool haven’t won a trophy for ages. Can we really be picking and choosing? We’ve finally got a squad that allows us to rotate and stay strong, so lets just do that. Win as many games as possible and see where you are in the business end. I guess that isn’t very sexy headlines for the papers either, but it’ll do for me.