Why the FA should be ashamed in the wake of Liverpool's success

Posted by Paul Tomkins on June 2, 2005, 08:23:53 PM

Is anyone else still pinching themselves? Has it sunk in yet? Winning the Champions League was supposed to be the culmination of Rafa's efforts over a number of seasons: it should have been the dessert, not the starter.

   Not that I am complaining at its speedy arrival. We can but hope that it's just the start of a several five-course meals . . .

   Getting into next season's Champions League 末 in terms of Uefa and the FA getting their acts together 末 was something many offered as a 'mock' sacrifice if it meant winning it this year. A pact was made whereby large numbers of fans, myself included, said "sod defending it, I just want to win it".

   But now we've won it, it feels different.

   We didn't just win the Champions League 末 it was wrested from the jaws of defeat; in fact, it was closer to the digestive tract of defeat. It arrived as a result of Herculean effort. It came against all odds (well, odds of 360-1 at least). The rules shouldn't be changed simply because of the circumstances of the win 末 good win, bad win, a win is still a win 末 but the moral right to defend it seems stronger.

   By winning the tournament, Liverpool confirmed that they are once again a major force 末 but if not allowed to defend the trophy, there is a danger of Rafa not being able to attract the players he wants, and momentum will be lost. Not permanently lost, because let's face it, if this manager can achieve so much in the face of adversity then he can do so without a big helping hand from the faceless, brainless bureaucrats. But the progress of the club will be slightly slowed by the antics of Uefa and the FA, in not being able to find a place for Liverpool.

   When teams ranked as underdogs do well in the Champions League, they are usually broken-up within months 末 such as Ajax in the mid-'90s, and both Monaco and Porto from last season's final, where all the best players were quickly sold. These teams burn brightly for one season, and then quickly fade away.

   In Liverpool's case, the club is too big and strong to ward off rich poachers. Whatever European competition the club is entered into, the rebuilding will be at the behest of Rafa, not against his wishes. With the exception of Steven Gerrard, who has yet to sign a new deal (but hopefully now will), anyone leaving this summer will because they were shown the door.

   Having put his stamp on the club in just one season, the manager should be afforded the utmost trust.

   If Rafa wants to keep Gerrard, rather than cash in, we should want to keep Gerrard. It's as simple as that. No arguments about whether the money would be better than a player whose effectiveness has been occasionally called into question. If we are denied our rightful place in the top competition, then Gerrard may think twice 末 and that's the worry: Rafa losing anyone he feels is essential to his plan. However, I don't see any of our other heroes asking to leave: only those whose place in the side is not guaranteed, and whom Rafa doesn't rate.

   By the same token, if Rafa wants Peter Crouch (if the reported interest is true), we should want Peter Crouch. Whatever we think about him as an individual shouldn't count 末 after all, no player will be signed to play on his own, one against eleven. It's the team that matters. Rafa knows why he would want a player of that ilk: and as he picks the team, that's fine by me.
   
   Someone like Crouch won't care if he's in the Champions League or not, of course. He's probably not in the top 100 strikers in world football, let alone the top ten. But even the tallest defenders can find him 'unplayable' at times 末 as did ours at St Marys earlier in the season. While Rafa will also want to add some top class international players over the summer, I'd be happy to see him add some effective 'alternatives', especially for the Premiership. Crouch wouldn't arrive to be first choice, he would be purchased to give a different option. With the quickest striker in the league (Ciss), it would offer a nice counterpoint to have the tallest.

   It's about possessing a solution to every problem. You need a collection of talents: the best passers, the hardest workers, the most committed, and so on. If you can call upon the tallest and the fastest as well, it can only add to your effectiveness.

   The problem, however, it that the top continental players 末 someone like Joaquin in Spain 末 are the ones we're now in danger of losing out on, due to the FA's total incompetence. As dumb as Uefa are for not having a rule that categorically states the Champions of Europe must be guaranteed the right to defend their title, the rule did have some leeway 末 and it is the FA who chose Everton over Liverpool. From what I can tell, it was simply because most people haven't read the rule book.

   The FA, like Everton, spoke along the lines of "everyone knew at the start of the season that 4th would get you a place in the Champions League". The true rule was that this would be the case unless the winners of the tournament finished 5th or below in their domestic league, if talking about one of the highest-ranking leagues. What everyone "knew" was incorrect. Everyone assumed, it would be truthful to say.

   In March, when this scenario was first on the cards, the FA should have followed the precedent set by Spain in 2000, and said "4th qualifies, unless Liverpool win the tournament". Winners always count as more important. They didn't.

   Liverpool have given English football a massive shot in the arm. Last week's heroics has given the Premiership added credibility, and will make our game even more attractive to the world, given the amazing character and spirit on display in Istanbul: from both players and fans. It has brought the premier club trophy back to England for only the second time in 21 years 末 since Liverpool used to regularly win it, in fact.

   In return, the FA has given Liverpool a massive kick in the balls. To call the FA morons would be too kind to morons.

   Liverpool are the champions of Europe. The champions of Europe, dammit!

   Everton are the champions of nothing, and frankly, not even within a country mile of being the champions of anything.
   
   Had Everton, for example, finished just three points behind Chelsea in 4th place, and Liverpool remained 37 points adrift of top spot, it would be far harder to argue the case against the Toffees' inclusion 末 although, as the champions of Europe, Liverpool should still have earned the right to usurp Everton. As it stands, a team who were 34 points worse their domestic champions are being given more reward than the champions of Europe.

    Were the situation reversed (not that Everton are ever likely to win the European Cup), I would argue the same: the champions of Europe trumps 4th place in the league. Simple. I may be Red, but I am no hypocrite. No 4th place team should ever enter the Champions League at the expense of real champions, and no champions are more worthy than the champions of Europe. When did football lose it's sense of logic and fairness?

   Fifty years of the European Cup, and the most remarkable victory ever seen in a final: and the FA, by inexplicably pinning their colours to Everton's mast a month ago, have chosen mediocrity over utter brilliance. For that, the FA should hang their heads in shame (assuming they can work out how to remove those very heads from their own arses).

   One thing I will say is this: if Liverpool are in the Uefa Cup next season, then the Reds will finish in the top three of the Premiership, and come within at least ten points of the title. Everton, even though they appear to be spending fairly intelligently, will be mid-table at best. Europe will take it out of them 末 assuming they make it through the qualifiers.

   Excluding Liverpool may not be fair, but let's not be bitter about it. As we learned this season: he who laughs last laughs the longest. Everton may have their small victory; Liverpool have their fifth enormous one: the very best of all.

ゥ Paul Tomkins 2005

Raise a glass 末 "Golden Past, Red Future" is finished![/i]

It took a few days longer than planned 末 the anticipated 2,000 words on the final ended up closer to 10,000! (The book is just under 200 pages, in case anyone is worried about a book the size of a house brick.)
 
Following an email I received, I would just like to clarify that this is not merely a reworking of my internet articles, but an entirely separate project. Some small sections have been duplicated from the internet pieces, but over 90% of the book is original and not seen before.

Hopefully the book will do justice to what has been a truly remarkable season and a totally inspiring manager.

Available to order from www.paultomkins.com

 :wave

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