Gutted, not Surprised and My Flash Forward

April 30, 2010

Last nights result came as no surprise really based on our season so far. The performance and effort from the majority of the team though was fantastic. If results were based on effort and commitment then we would have blown Madrid away – unfortunately however football doesn’t work that way and we were robbed typically by an ex Manc player who shot past Reina shortly after we took the lead through Benayoun.

Am I gutted about last nights result? – yes I am but as I was explaining to a mate yesterday afternoon I didn’t have the same excitement or tension I had in the build up to the Champion League semi finals against Chelsea where I couldn’t think about anything else with my stomach turning over and over.

Why was this?

Largely I believe its down to the season we have had – I wanted to believe that we were going to make the final but always had this feeling in the back of my mind that it just wasn’t going to happen. If we had gone into this game last season I would have expected us to win and would have already started making arrangements on how we were going to get to Hamburg because I would have felt confident of beating a team of Athletico Madrid’s standing.

Then why was I not surprised?

I would have been surprised about last nights result if this happened last season but this season has been so poor in terms of the levels we have previously achieved that thinking this was a game we should win was in my view always being optimistic. This view was also cemented in my mnd because of the injuries we currently have to Torres, Aurelio and Insua meaning we had influential players playing out of position such as Mascherano and Johnson. Last night also showed how light our squad has become that our three substitutes used to ‘change’ the game consisted of two very inexperienced youngsters and a player that has been left out in the cold all season.

So was I surprised? Based on the above no I wasn’t and that is why it doesn’t feel as painful as it did when we lost to Chelsea in the Champions League Semi Final 2 seasons ago or when we lost in the final in 2007 to AC Milan. This season has been full of disappointments and last night was just another one to add to that list.

I want this season to end as quickly as possible but I have a feeling that the way our season has gone so far we will beat Chelsea on Sunday and hand a 19th league title to United in the process. That will just about top off a miserable season.

In a previous blog I wrote after the United game ‘Great Expectations’ I described how I had accepted that we were unlikely to play in the Champions League next season and that there had to be and would likely be major changes at our club or we could face the real threat of continuing the downward trend of this season.

In my Flash Forward…..

Those of you who watch the TV show Flash Forward will already know that it is based on the world blacking out for 2 minutes and people seeing their future whilst blacked out.

In my flash forward I saw new owners at our club who cleared all of the clubs debts and put money in place to build the new stadium and to buy new players. I saw us competing with Manchester City in the transfer market and buying the players we need to get us to the next level. I saw us at the top of the league in May next year and Torres scoring his 35th goal of the season against united to win the league and then I woke up…..

If only my flash forward would come true but the reality is that I cannot see such owners coming to light, I cannot see there being money we need to buy the players we need and I definitely cannot see us at the top of the league in May next season. This is sad but dare I say a true reflection of the current state of our great club.

I am not trying to be downbeat but just trying to be realistic – I more than anyone want our club to achieve great things and keep our best players and our manager and attract new players. I believe that we will keep our best players next season but I honestly don’t believe Rafa will be there with us.

I hope I am wrong but I will be there next season whatever happens cheering on my team.

YNWA

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Great Expectations…..

March 21, 2010

The recent games against Manchester United over the last 2 seasons have been fruitful with Liverpool winning the last 3 encounters scoring 8 goals and only conceding 2 which included last seasons memorable 4-1 win at Old Trafford. However in contrast to last season Liverpool were not a team brimming with confidence but a team whose season had been dogged with bad luck, poor performances and at times a complete lack of passion.

Yes we had come into this game on the back of 2 wins scoring 7 goals in the process, however the body language of the players during those games were still not showing that everything was rosy in the garden.

Did we therefore come into this game with expectations that were too high? Was it realistic to think that we were going to win at Old Trafford for a second consecutive season?

We started the game brightly with good passing and control which then led to a great move ending in Torres heading in his 5th goal in 3 games. Then the game changed with a typical Howard Webb decision at Old Trafford….Valencia broke free from Mascherano and drove towards the penalty area and thats when Mascherano pulled back Valencia outside of the box until deciding to fall when inside the area. There is no doubt that Mascherano fouled Valencia but Mr Webb decided that the infringement took place in the box when it was clear it started a good 10 feet outside the box. As we all know Mr Webb doesn’t need an excuse to award a penalty to Manchester United and true to form he pointed to the spot.

This incident, which along which various others during this difficult season, got to the players and they were clearly unsettled. This transferred itself to the way we played during the rest of the game where we rarely troubled Van Der Saar particularly in the 2nd half. Manchester United were no means at their best and Reina wasn’t really tested apart from the penalty which he saved but was unlucky that it went straight back to Rooney who put it into an empty net.

Mr Webb did play his part in this defeat where some of the decisions he made were baffling such as the karate kick by Gary Neville on Maxi’s head which apparently is allowed but this wasn’t the main reason the team lost today. We let his decisions dictate our attitude and the way we then played the rest of the game. We simply did not create enough to win the game and that is the fact.

This defeat however isn’t as hard to take as the one at Wigan even though it was against our biggest rivals and I don’t feel the anger I felt then. I think if we are honest we all felt deep down that winning today was a bridge too far based on our form  this season and that is the reason I for one don’t feel as bad as I normally do after such a defeat.

Although I am a passionate Liverpool supporter I am also a realist and even though I wanted us to beat United today I knew that we would have had to play to a level that we haven’t achieved so far this season so anything other than the eventual result today would have been an over achievement in my opinion.

I think that as fans we now have to accept that this season is one we need to forget and for me May can’t come quick enough (although there is still the possibility of a Europa league win) and concentrate on next season and  that also means accepting no Champions League football.

As I said in my last blog, Deflation and Reality, Champions League is a faint possibility now and we have to prepare for that scenario. That doesn’t mean I don’t want us to qualify I am just facing facts and know that there has to be changes made. I only hope that our top players, who apart from Torres, haven’t performed this season, for one stay and are able to perform at the level we saw last season. I hope that the Boardroom  fiasco is sorted and hope that Rafa does stay and has money to spend.

The above could be described as great expectations but with our great club does come great expectations.

Y.N.W.A

Deflation and Reality….

March 9, 2010

Deflation is best to describe what I am feeling right now after watching the poorest display from a Liverpool team i have seen in many years.

After one defeat in 10 matches against a good Arsenal side we were on our best run of the season. Confidence that was lacking a few months ago had returned albeit slowly along with fight and passion that we as Liverpool fans are accustomed too. Although our football wasn’t as free flowing as last season we had been digging out results that had put us back into contention for 4th place. Last week at Blackburn Torres started his first game in 12 and our somewhat long injury list had began to dwindle giving us hope that we were now best positioned to go on a run that would see us home in on 4th place and secure the prize that is Champions League football for next season.

So all day yesterday I was looking forward to and expecting a good performance against Wigan who themselves were on a run of 9 games without a win and that we would help ourselves to 3 points that put us back into 4th spot for the time being.

How could I have thought I would be so far from reality…

I have never seen a Liverpool team give away the ball as much as they did last night with every single player doing their best to contribute. Gerrard was not himself (like a lot of this season), Torres looked more frustrated as the game went on, Kuyt couldn’t pass to anyone in a red shirt all night (and was at fault for the goal), Insua was skinned every time Wigan attacked down their right hand side, Maxi didn’t feature in game for best part of 80% of it and our back 4 looked like they only just met that evening. So why did this happen and why did the players look like they didn’t care?

We can all have a bad day at the office and have days where things don’t go for you but the display last night was more than that. My main concern about last night was that every single player on that pitch showed a lack of fight, a lack of passion and little or no commitment to the Liverpool cause. The players need to take a good long hard look at themselves AGAIN and reignite these passions or the consequences could be far worse than losing out on a Champions League place. With displays like that of last nights questions will be asked again and again about the future of some of our players and the only way these can be answered is to show the fans that they DO want to play for our great club and that they will fight for the cause otherwise I fear the inevitability of certain players and our manager leaving at the end of the season. Something is not right with the players and manager and they need to sort it out quickly.

The reality is that it is unlikely we will be playing Champions League football next season with us relying on 3 teams to drop 6 to 9 points each and for us to win more or less every league game left of the season. In reality and on the performance of last night this is not going to happen and in reality I can see big changes at the end of the season.

One thing is for sure whatever happens I will always support this great club of ours.

YNWA

Passion or Assault…..

February 8, 2010

Is it safe to come out yet….?

The 183rd league Merseyside derby won’t be remembered for the silky football played by both sides or the healthy serving of goal mouth incidents dished up but will be remembered as a game where passion and commitment above all stood out

But was this simply passion and commitment shown by players or an excuse to commit assault?

My definition of passion on a football pitch is Jamie Carragher. From the first minute on Saturday we got nothing else (or nor do we expect anything else) from JC with a hard but completely fair tackle on Steven Pienaar winning the ball cleanly but taking the player out in the process. This set the tone but unfortunately some players (mainly Everton) saw this as an excuse to show a little more than just passion.

Let’s start with Steven Pienaar. Not normally known for his aggressive style of play he decided that Saturday was going to be the day when he was going to show the millions watching (unfortunately we can’t include the referee as one of these) that he had this aggresive side in his locker.

Just before the half hour mark the ball broke free around Mascherano and Pienaar which seemed to ignite the red flame with Pienaar who then decided it would be a good idea to launch studs showing, knee high into Mascherano’s leg. In real time it looked a horror tackle but in slow motion showed it to be a million times worse. Today I still don’t know how Mascherano’s leg didn’t snap in 2 and even more how Mr Atkinson didn’t reach into his pocket for a straight red but decided it only warranted a yellow card!!!! Now because he was only shown a yellow (unless the rules have changed) Pienaar will get away with it and cannot be charged by the FA. Was this tackle a lesser tackle to that of Mascherano’s at Portsmouth where he received a 4 match ban and do the FA believe that this tackle should go without punishment?

Everton can do better than Pienaar though and that comes in the form of a supposed £15m worth of  player in Marouane Fellaini. Here is a player that time and time again is invloved in ‘nasty’ incidents on a football pitch. I believe that more often than not his intention is to hurt a player when on the pitch and he tends to succeed with these intentions. His numerous bookings and sendings off over the years he has been at Everton goes to prove that theory and on Saturday he again showed us what he is capeable of.

Lets start with the kick to Dirk Kuyts face. The whistle had already gone for a foul on Kuyt hence why he was down on the ground when Fellaini refused to pull out of kicking the ball and made sure he followed through straight into Kuyt’s face. Again Mr Atkinson refused to acknowledge that Fellaini had committed anything sinister to someone who was laying on the ground instead believing that it was a pure accident. In my view Fellaini knew exactly what he was doing and again his intentions were to try and hurt Dirk Kuyt and succeded in leaving a very nice cut or two on the side of his face. I am also surprised that his cheek bone wasn’t fractured.

Then we move onto the Kyriagos tackle which also involved Fellaini. This incident was not as straight forward as first thought with Kyriagos sliding in two footed on Fellaini (although he didn’t leap into the tackle as Mr Moyes had suggested) giving Mr Atkinson no option but to send him off. However on the replays and also shown above this was one of those incidents where both players should have been sent off with the actual worst offender being allowed to stay on the pitch (although he was subsituted soon after). Again it is my opinion that Fellaini knew exactly what he was doing when he saw Kyriagos slide in two footed and made sure he was going to stamp on him before going to ground.

The image above does not show a man trying to escape a 2 footed lunge but the a man with an expression of intent. As they say the camera never lies.

In the end I believe that David Moyes’ tactics on the day backfired and that the over aggression showed by his team did border on assault and to associate this with passion is an insult to our intelligence.

Is this something that should be allowed to pass as passion or should the FA stamp down on what I believe was assualt?

Y.N.W.A

My First Game

February 1, 2010

Following my first two blogs about the goings on at our club recently I was thinking what to write about next.

There have been many blogs written with different views regarding the club’s current situation and I felt that I wanted to divert away from that a little and reminisce a bit. That’s when I thought ‘why not write about my first ever game I went too as a Liverpool fan’.

After reading a very good blog from @LFCKirstyLFC (Liver Bird Blog) last week before the Wolves game where she described her excitement about attending her first game as a Liverpool fan, it got me thinking about my first ever game and my memories of it.

It was 5th October 1985 and I was being taken for the first time to watch my team play live. I was 13 years old and had been a supporter since I was 5 and had only ever seen Liverpool games on television although back then live TV games were few and far between.

Being a ‘southern’ fan also had it’s obvious logistical issues and at my age to actually have the ability and access to go and see games live was near on impossible. In addition to this my mother was (and still is) a Manure fan which also had the obvious restrictions!!

However on this weekend in October my mate Darren (also a red) and his dad had a spare ticket to the away game at Loftus Road against QPR and they asked me to come along. I had never been so excited knowing I was going to see my then current footballng heros play for the first time. The one downside was that the tickets were for the QPR main stand but from what I remember this didn’t matter to me one bit.

I remember going into the ground in awe of the surroundings and fans and just sat there taking everything in!

The team to play QPR that day was Grobbelaar, Neal, Beglin, Lawrenson, Hanson, Whelean, Walsh, Johnston, Rush, Molby and McMahon.

To be able to see the likes of Ian Rush and Alan Hanson play up close was just amazing and I was just star struck to see the team I had supported since the age of 5 up close and personal.

However the game didn’t go our way and a first half goal by Paul Walsh was cancelled out by 2 second half goals by QPR to complete the 2-1 win.

But just being there that day cemented my love and passion for Liverpool which can never be taken away from me.

My first visit to Anfield however didn’t happen until 7 years later.

It was during the disasterous 92-93 season under Souness where looking back we lost a total of 15 games in the league alone. It was 3rd October 1992 against Sheffield Wednesday and for an early Christmas present I had been given 2 tickets to the game to stand on the Kop. This was to be the penultimate year that the Kop was to be all standing in favour of an all seater following the Taylor report in the aftermath of that tragic day at Hillsborough.

Whilst driving to the ground I just kept thinking that today was the day I was going to be standing on the famous Kop at Anfield! The day itself was miserable as it had been raining all day and was bitterly cold.

We arrived at the ground 5 minutes before kick off due to traffic and the first thing I remember when walking onto the Kop was the amount of people around me!!! It was truely an amazing feeling and one I will never forget.

This particular game was massive because we had come into this on the back of 3 consecutive defeats so you could feel the tension in the Kop as soon as you walked in.

The team that played that day was Grobbelaar, Marsh, Burrows, Nicol, Piechnik, Hutchinson, McManaman, Stewart, Rush, Redknapp and Walters.

The game was tense and still locked at 0-0 when Don Hutchinson popped up and scored what proved to be the vital winner! Which leads me on to my absolute special memory of that day – the infamous Kop surge. I was standing watching the Kop just above halfway up and as Hutchinson scored I found myself lifted up by the surge finishing towards the front! Phenominal! This was only something I had seen on TV and now I had experienced it for real. That memory will stay with me forever!

Since then there have been many more firsts for me in relation to Liverpool but those first experiences will always be special.

This weekends Merseyside derby will also be a first for many more supporters and I am sure they will hold the same kind of memories as i have of mine when they look back in 20 years time!

Y.N.W.A

Spurred On

January 21, 2010

One of the many questions that has been asked in the media recently has been ‘has Rafa lost the dressing room?’ and I have to admit following the performances at Portsmouth and Reading I had started to question this too as I think a lot of fans also had.

However we saw glimpses of the fight and determination from the red men even without Stevie G and Torres at Stoke where bad luck again prevented us from an excellent 3 points ( even though the ‘experts’ were predicting a home win).

After the game I was hoping that this wasn’t a one off like so many times this season (united being one) where we had seem glimpses of fight and passion only to see mediocresy the following game.

The game against Spurs has now more or less eradicated this from my mind with an excellent win against a potential ‘top 4 pretender’.

The Red men were quite simply superb! They didn’t play ‘Arsenal’ like football but wow didn’t they battle!! The performance for 95 minutes showed the doubters (I have to say including me) completley wrong. NO manager who is deemed to have lost the dressing room can expect his team to perform like the Red men did against Spurs!

Will this performance again be proved to be a ‘one off’? I don’t think it will.

We can now see the confidence of the team slowly creeping back into the players. Something changed in the last 10 minutes of the game where instead of us being nervy we looked the most composed we had been in the last 4 games. We created numerous chances where in fact we should have scored more. But the main thing for me was we didn’t sit back and wait for the pressure to come, instead we attacked and looked so much more relaxed.

Why the lack of fight previously then?

I think the reason for this was excellently highlighted by a piece written by Paul Tomkins (Tailspin) on his website http://www.tomkinstimes.com where he highlighted when things start to go wrong they then tend to spiral out of control and this has definately been the case with the lack of confidence and luck within the team.

I am sure we have now hit the bottom and that we are starting to rise up again as I can’t see things getting as bad as they have been over the previous few months. I mean we even got awarded a clear penalty which has got to prove my point!!!

Another reason why things have started to change is the attitude of us Liverpool fans. We have had enough of our club being dragged through the gutter by the media and have shown this by the support at Stoke and then the amazing support on Wednesday night. I wasn’t at the game but you could feel the atmosphere at home. This was the Kop back to their supporting best and this was transformed into the players attitude and work ethic. EVERY player fought hard and wanted to be involved hunting down every Spurs player like he had just murdered their mothers which then made the Kop want more and more!

The result was a well earned win but most importantly showed that even without our ‘flair’ players in the team we have the fight to get results when needed.

We are now on a decent run of 3 wins and a draw and only a point behind our rivals for 4th spot which for a club that apparently is in deep trouble isn’t the end of the world!

If we can still be this close after ‘the worst possible season ever’ what does that say about the other clubs fighting for 4th place?

By all means our problems are not fully over but the last few league games can now give us the confidence to push on and secure the 4th place that we so desperately want!

In Rafa I definately trust!!

Y.N.W.A

LFC – My view

January 18, 2010

Hello –  I am a huge Liverpool fan who although not a native scouser  have been a supporter for 33 years and I try to get to as many games as i possibly can.

I have never written a blog before and have only recently joined the world of Twitter.

I just thought I would write down my own personal view of the current situation at our wonderful club and just share them with you.  I am not here to tell you what to think just to share what I think and open up a sensible discussion on whats going on.

I have read a lot over the last couple of months concerning our club and it’s current ‘misfortunes’ from various sources of media and blogs and have never in my 33 years of supporting this great club ever seen such histeria and general hatred of both our club and our manager. I still can’t understand why in some corners of the press and media it has become like this?

Why Liverpool and why Rafa?

In the past few months we have been constantly reminded of how ‘poor’ our squad is and how much Benitez has apparently taken our club backwards – this after a season where we were top scorers in the PL losing only 2 games and albeit for some poor draws at home we would have been champions. This in addition to previous seasons where we have seen a champions league success, another CL final, an FA Cup win, 2 CL semi finals and a Carling Cup final. From my point of view that’s not bad considering our record over the preceeding 15 years.

So what has Rafa done to deserve this? Granted we have not played well for most parts of the season but we have also been hit with injuries to nearly all of our first team squad and the luck every team needs has also deserted us to the extreme that beach balls have gotten involved in defeats.

It seems that everything that could go wrong HAS gone wrong. Is this primarily Rafa’s fault?

Granted he is not blameless – some of his decisions at times are baffling, he has signed some questionable players but he has also signed some really good players such as Agger, Reina, Torres, Mascherano, Benyiuon, Crouch, Johnson and Alonso to name but a few. Is this any different to the likes of what Fergie or Wenger have done in the transfer market?

Of course we are then constantly told that Rafa has spent extreme amounts of money whilst failing to mention that he has had to sell players to fund new players and also forgetting that he has had to restructure the whole team when he took over from Houllier. I am not one for Stats but Paul Tomkins (www.tomkinstimes.com) has written many articles on how much Rafa has spent over the previous 5 years highlighting that his net spend is below £100m. This is still way below the likes of Chelsea and Man Utd, Tottenham and now of course Man City.

So is not having the money to compete at the top of the transfer market Rafa’s fault?

Injuries have also been a major factor with the majority of our first team being injured for a substantial time. Not having Torres, Gerrard, Benayoun, Johnson, Riera, Agger, Aquilani and Skirtel (sorry if i have missed anyone) available would have an impact on any team. Add this to the suspensions of Carragher and Mascherano then it gets even worse. If you take Man Utd’s injury problems last month they too suffered with defeats to teams they would normally be expected to beat.

So are all these injuries Rafas fault?

As said at the beginning our luck (which every team needs) has completely deserted us to a point where we are all expecting things to go against us in every game. Stoke was a great expample of this where the incompetent referee Lee Mason not only waved away another stone wall penalty but then proceeded to book Lucas for ‘diving’. Even Andy ‘anti Liverpool’ Gray had to concede it was a penalty. If this was Utd or Chelsea would that decsion have been different? Who knows but that decision added to the last minute equalizer just added to the already drained confidence. Suerly Rafa cant be blamed for bad decisions made by a referee?

With all the focus on Rafa should the players take some of the responsibilty and criticism? The one thing that has disappointed me has been the lack of fight from certain players who dont seem to be playing for the shirt. The Portsmouth game was a real low for me because they didnt look ineterested especially when they went behind – I don’t think that any player after that game could have said they played for the shirt and that is a major concern which Rafa needs to get to the bottom of sooner rather than later.

So is all this media hype justified? No – especially when you think that Wenger hasn’t won anything for 5 years (but hey they play pretty football) and that one half of a season over 6 years doesnt make Rafa a bad manager.

Will this media hype stop? Unfortunately not. I think the media will not be happy as long as Rafa is manager. This  has been their agenda ever since we lost our second game of the season.

It is something all us fans will have to put up with (although it wont stop me calling people on ITV and Sky and so called journalists tossers) and get used too but as far as i am concerned I am backing Rafa all the way and more than ever will be getting behind my team.

In my view Rafa is not a bad manager – he has given us 5 years of highs that we have not experieced since the late 1980’s –  In my view the players need to step up and be counted and fight for that shirt and in my view we as fans need to stick together and support our club as hard as we have ever done and I am sure we can turn this around.

Y.N.W.A