I’ve been writing this nonsense since October 2007 and ever since then Liverpool Football Club have not won a trophy. The same goes for a friend who is an Arsenal fan. Yogi (name changed to protect identity), if we gave up then may be the silverware might come tumbling in?
The Millennium Stadium 2006 and the FA Cup final against West Ham, seems a long time ago and although we had the small matter of a Champions League final in between, it is still a weird feeling to be in a major domestic final, and at Wembley. Our last final at “the home of football” (note big quotation marks), was the “cream suit debacle” in 1996. We’ve visited Cardiff around eight times since however what was a routine occurrence has, recently, become a less familiar experience.
Many clubs and managers still look down at their noses at the Carling Cup and field sides in the competition that reflect that.. It’s a strange situation as most of these clubs have not won the silverware, or are predicted to win it, to justify prioritising it in this way. Worse still others say a cup run takes second place to Premiership survival, it is an unconvincing excuse to suggest that one cup game every so often can scupper a whole season’s activity!
Nonetheless who are we to comment? Had we been in Champions League I think it would be a reasonably safe bet to say that we won’t be in this position today? We have, regrettably, fallen into the trap of not giving this tournament the respect our record in it deserves, seven wins, a record. This season it has only taken on more significance as we are free from European commitments so have had the time to give it a go. Yet it is timely, it is something tangible, a marker laid down that fans and players can point at and site as evidence of our improvement over the last twelve months. Kenny will still say things are “work in progress” but, win or lose, we and he will surely be grateful for this as it is evidence that things are moving, and in the right direction?
“We have got a huge opportunity in front of us to make the season relatively successful. We’ve got the Carling Cup final, the FA Cup sixth round at home to Stoke and some really important league matches coming up. This could be a decent season for everybody.”
Cynics may say the league form is the true marker and that this is a cup final and, arguably, not the major one at that. However, psychologically, for players, fans and everyone connected with the club, it will be priceless? Well I’m looking forward to it anyway!
For Kenny the Carling Cup is only domestic trophy he hasn’t won as a manager, motivation enough for him? For Steve Gerrard it is a chance to exorcise the last time we were in this final in 2005. Then his own goal against Chelsea prompted all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, as he had been linked with a move to the club at the time. I never gave it a second thought however the gossip clearly affected Gerrard prompting him in the papers this weekend to use words such as “nightmare” and “suicidal”. A trifle OTT perhaps however and indication of how important this is to him and how he will be fired up for his first domestic final at Wembley?
I suppose there is a certainly symmetry that we should return to Wembley, from the Millennium Stadium and play our first game against Cardiff. What is there to say about them? Certainly nothing along the lines of this should be easy as they are a division below us? Finals don’t work like that and history is littered with examples of where the favourites have come a cropper. Kenny is all too aware of this and will no doubt remember that 1988 FA Cup Final against Wimbledon!
Team wise Kenny has a problem, but it’s a “nice” one! Everyone is fit and available for selection save the long term injured such as Lucas. Agger, who missed out last week, will presumably have Jamie Carragher fearing for his place? Up front it’s a case of picking from Bellamy, Carroll, and Suarez plus Kuyt, Perhaps Kenny will play Carroll and Suarez and put Bellamy on the wing at the expense of Downing who, despite playing fairly well last week, hasn’t produced to date certainly in comparison to those vying for a game in his position?
Prediction? I think Cardiff will come out and try to make it difficult for us and even set themselves up with a view to extra time and beyond. However, I have faith. I have faith in the moment, faith that someone will find some kind inspiration to make it tell for us on the day. Achieve that and things suddenly take on a very different hue, 2-0 to us!
Finally win or lose, given everything that has gone on at the club recently this is an opportunity to do something right, on and off the field. To remind those who have doubted us over the last few months that we are still the football club with a reputation to be proud of. It’s a reputation that, despite recent events, people have worked over years and years to create. A reputation that doesn’t deserve to be trashed over a comparatively small period of time. Said Kenny
“I think there is more to the club than winning trophies, but we did win a lot of trophies and every club that wins a trophy is making a bigger name for itself. Somebody once described Liverpool to me as ‘very good winners’ which is really difficult. It is really difficult when you’re a winner to be friendly, amiable and respectful but I think that is the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid this club.”
If we achieve that then, even if we lose, it will have been a worthwhile day.