Not surprisingly there was some fall out from Athens.
There was a lot of sniffy analysis, from hacks and ex players, over the “lack of quality” we apparently displayed on Wednesday night.
Putting it crudely. If we lacked quality then where does this leave Milan? Although they won, we were much the better side. But they are Milan so quality is inbred? I’m not denying that some changes are needed but I’d like some clarification please? Neither has anyone managed to explain how, despite our lack of quality, we’ve managed to get to two out of the last three Champions League finals whilst the rest of the so called big domestic four have only managed one final appearance between the three of them in that period. How does this all square with the numerous newspapers articles published after the Barcelona results praising us. It doesn’t because newspapers will take whatever stance suits them at any given time.
To go back my original question. What is meant by “lack of quality”? Should Kuyt have tried score with an overhead kick instead of heading the ball in? Should Reina’s goal kick run up include a forward somersault before kicking the ball? Just want do they mean? If you asked the scribes or pundits that question would really be able to answer you in a convincing way? And what team, or performance, is the benchmark, blueprint we should take our lead from? Certainly not any of the other big three in England I’d say and not, on Wednesday’s evidence, Milan.
I would guess that quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Flicks and tricks and fancy step overs and generally arsing about with the ball are one thing. But is there not something equally satisfying about a straight forward decent tackle to deny a rampaging forward, or a powerfully headed clearance or seeing your team collectively working their socks off the deny and frustrate the opposition? Equally had we been under the cosh for 89 minutes seen Milan rattle the wood work a dozen times, miss a few open goals and had a few blatant penalties turned down only for us to score with a break away goal in the 90th minute, that would also have been quality for me and, had it been Manchester United instead of Milan, highly amusing!!!!
Turning to events off the pitch. It is clear that the whole final was an organisational bal*s up from the moment the ticketing arrangements were announced to the final whistle on Wednesday night. The whole crux of the matter was that the final was played in a smallish stadium. Don’t get me wrong there is not a stadium in the world that could accommodate the number of fans that wanted to go to game. However, against this background the appropriate measures should have been taken but neither Liverpool Football Club, it’s supporters, the Greek Authorities or UEFA, have come out of this without criticism.
It is clear that Liverpool Football should mishandled the allocation of tickets. Of the 17,000 made available to fans they kept 6,000 for their own purposes making only 11,000 available to supporters. Even that bit of the process was mishandled putting in Euro Card holders with season ticket holders.
Against this background it was inevitable that some supporters were going travel without tickets. Although I appreciate their desperation to get to see the match in light of all this bungling, it’s sad to say that those who tried and some cases did, get into the ground without a ticket or with a forgery did the club and their fellow supporters who had tickets no favours. It is clear that many authorities have not learnt from the Hillsborough Tragedy (remember the treatment of the Mancs fans at Lille earlier this season?) but we do not have behave in such a way that encourages that sort of situation to occur again and leads to the sort of headlines and stories the right wing press have gleefully seized on since the final. There is also honour and respect for your fellow fans. Gatecrashing is basically cheating an honest fan out of a seat and is therefore, regardless of the circumstances, bang out of order.
The Greek authorities did nothing to smooth or prevent the situation. There are stories of police overreacting and poor ticket checking procedures and why didn’t they crack down on the touts? Added to this the authorities announced that large screens would not show the match. Plenty of fans travelled to the last World Cup without tickets just to experience the atmosphere and were content to watch games on large screens. I don’t know what the Greek authorities thought the thousands upon thousands of ticketless fans would do during the game. Just sit there and shrug their shoulders or perhaps something else like going to the pub and getting a bit angry!
Which brings me to UEFA. The allocation of 17,000 to Liverpool was simply not enough. Please do not tell me it was impossible to make more available. These sort of events are in danger of becoming soulless events because the crowd is full of prawn sandwiches munchers rather than real fans. I also think the UEFA should look at their current policy for deciding the venue. Surely it would be possible to decide the venue nearer the time once you knew who might get through? As Milan is in Northern Italy and Liverpool is in North West England (sorry, had to put that one in for you Londoners) then an obvious venue would have been somewhere nearer and bigger such as the Stade De France or The Nou Camp. I know this takes way some of the tradition and the policy of sharing the final venue around but one has to look at this practically as well.
And what will be done about this for next year? My bets are on “nothing”!
Going back to Liverpool. I feel some of the utterances I heard in the lead up to the final, although true in some respects, were not exactly the epitome of tact. Firstly we’ve Rick Parry announcing that the Champions League is secondary and that the league is the most important. This before a game that some of our players would consider to be the most important of their lives. Thanks for the encouragement Rick, Should we they have bothered as after all they were only playing in “the plate” competition The Mancs having got the main prize!
Secondly we’ve reports that regardless of what happened in the final Benitez will rampage through the squad in the summer taking out player after player. Although this would certainly focus the mind of many of our players this week was not really the time to announce it?
Next we have Tom Hicks rambling on like some batty old uncle about the nature of the takeover twenty four hours before the final and comparing us to Weetabix! Mr Hicks over the last few months has proved that he is in danger of turning himself into a loose cannon. We’ve see shots of him pressing the flesh of fans, looking at Istanbul on his laptop, even being interviewed on Match of the Day. Doesn’t he know that over here Chairman are supposed to shut up, keep the ego in check and just sign the cheques!
Back soon with a review(s) of the season.