This season will be a vital and hopefully a memorable one. Not an earth shattering statement I admit, every clubs season is vital and everyone hopes it will be memorable. However for us this campaign has added resonance given everything that’s happened over the last few years and what might happen in the next twelve months?
In yesterdays Guardian Richard Williams when asked the question “what will we know by May?” said
“Whether Liverpool are on the way to rediscovering their integrity”
My, my. Clearly we are the lowest of the low in industry where everything is whiter and whiter and where we have strict compliance guidelines so if players agents, managers or referees or anyone else steps out of line they are bought to book! What integrity football has, it has to be the benchmark for so many multi million pound industries! Williams’ statement is of cause utter nonsense. It is because Liverpool has always had integrity starting first and foremost with its fans that we are where we are at the moment. It is why Hicks and Gillett have had such a hard time and it’s why groups such as The Spirit of Shankly are doing what they doing. The club and all who follow or sail in her should never be judged by the actions of the two “captains” that own it?
It’s been a struggle, and after years of resistance and denial, I guess last season the situation off the field seemed to finally transfer itself to things on the field. This is reflected in people’s expectations for us this year? For the first time in as long as I can remember we go into this campaign with very little expected of us, no longer in the Champions League and “off the pace” in the running for all the other bits of silverware. The Sunday Times predicted us to finish sixth, ditto The Metro on Friday and The Guardian “poll of writers” yesterday – seems like its par for the course? Where do I think we will finish? For me thoughts are not so much about wining silverware but stopping last seasons slide to seventh. No that doesn’t mean coming sixth but regaining a Champions League place is paramount not because the tournament is the be all and end all of everything but it will show that we have arrested the latest decline, after that anything else is a bonus. Above all I want to us see the foundations laid down on and off the field to take us forward beyond 2010-11.
Perhaps such vagueness is not surprising in these times of change which is another way of saying I don’t really know what the f*cks going to happen! Until last season we had done well to achieve what we did given what the Americans were doing. However eventually it will out, you can’t hide it forever and the unrest seemingly got to the team even if was indirectly via limits placed on our budget or Rafa’s general demeanour. For long periods last season the team seemed numbed, bereft of inspiration, partly because of injury which exposed the lack of depth and quality in the squad. Because of that I think things finally came to a head with Rafa.
The relation between Rafa and his players had always blown hot and cold and his man management was an acquired taste. For all his achievements, Istanbul will always, always be remembered, he eventually paid the price for his player’s lack of application and inspiration and his inability to bring it out. Where does the blame lie? I’ve no doubt it will come out eventually but let’s just say that sometimes you just have to part, it’s best for both parties?
So with Roy Hodgson we have what is hopefully 1. a new beginning and 2. a new journey forwards. The second depends on new owners delivering the promises Hicks and Gillett’s underhandedness and general incompetence reneged on. As I write the board are considering a number of bids but in the short term all Hodgson can do is to address the first, via matters on the pitch. At first hand we seem to have appointed the right manager to suit our circumstances. He is realistic, knows what he is up against, knows what he has to work with and what he can and can’t do given the situation he finds himself in. Above all he has been honest in expressing this.
I guess we should feel depressed going into this season after the body blows we’ve received however HRH has instilled a degree of optimism in me that I didn’t think I’d have. It’s refreshing to go into a campaign were we can, to a degree, just play football without the weight of expectation that has always seemingly accompanied the team. Hopefully the players under a new manager will respond to new methods and new responsibilities. Above all let’s see good performances, some that stick in the memory and simply give us a bloody good feeling?
Today’s game against Arsenal appears to be big test. Arsenal always seem to come to Anfield and give it a good go. The last dozen or so visits haven’t seen them sit back and defend and it has shown it the results, and goals, they’ve achieved. Not a good time to be playing them or perhaps it is as it is the start of the season and sides are still “ring rusty”, new players are still bedding in? That said of course it will be the same for us?
Arsenal’s pre season has mirrored ours in the sense that speculation has been over who might leave or, more to the point, can be persuaded to stay. To this outsider it seemed clear that Cesc Fabregas wanted to go to Barcelona but however, he looks like staying. How will this affect his play, will he be focused and motivated? For us Torres and Gerrard have been persuaded to stay but it is clear that Javier Mascherano also wants to go to the Nou Camp however, it still looks like he could be lining up for us today? Mascherano has, at last, broken his silence over his situation.
“The only thing I want to say is I don’t have nothing against the Liverpool supporters, the Liverpool people. My problem is not to play for Liverpool. I’m very proud to play for Liverpool. It’s another thing. I said to him (Roy Hodgson) that maybe for my life I prefer to change the country, not to change the club – that is the fact.”
Fair enough and refreshingly honest but again the same question applies to one a posed about Fabregas. Will Mascherano’s mind be on other things and is anyone really convinced by HRH’s assertion that Christian Poulsen is NOT a replacement for the Argentinean?
Elsewhere it’s been suggested that Fernando Torres might also feature, but how fit is he? No preseason games and of course the injury sustained in the World Cup final? This presumably means, with the search for striker still continuing, that we will see one or both of Dirk Kuyt or David Ngog upfront? Javanovic and of course Babel provide alternatives but at this stage of the season they are unlikely to be taken up?
Prediction? Who knows at this stage of the season however given everything I won’t be too disheartened if we come away with a draw nonetheless let’s be positive and say that we will edge it by the odd goal in three.
Whatever the case here we go, albeit a day late and let’s hope it’s better than last season? It could well be I think we might be in a better place than many believe we are!