TNS Beaten: How Liverpool Followed 'The Great Miracle'

Posted by Paul Tomkins on July 13, 2005, 10:39:30 PM

How do you follow that? I don't even need mention it by name. That suffices.

Well, 49 days later it involved a collection of Welsh journeymen 末 TNS 末 but it wasn't the men from Llansantfraid who had the impossible task. It was the Reds, with the 'unfollowable' act of May 25th. Afterall, how often does a comprehensively one-sided 3-0 victory feel like a massive anticlimax? Even 15-0 would have felt insignificant.

It was like being asked to sing last on the bill, to close a show at a bigger event than Live Aid, directly after the set by a mythical supergroup containing legends miraculously resurrected from the Great Beyond 末 live on TV 末 by Jesus Christ: Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash and, of course, Vanilla Ice.

Once the dead have been raised 末 and pulled a breathtaking performance from the bag 末 there's very little left in life to see.

Liverpool came back from the dead in Istanbul 49 days ago; leaving us with the sense that, in football terms, we'd seen it all: The Great Miracle. Anticlimax is all that remains 末 not just for tonight, but from now on.

Or is it?

In many ways, nothing should follow Istanbul. Hugo Sanchez, erstwhile hero of Real Madrid, once suggested a game should have been called to a halt halfway through, after an amazing goal of his left nowhere for the match to go but down. Blow the whistle, stop the game, crack the champagne.

Liverpool calling it quits after Istanbul 末 closing down the club, dismantling Anfield brick by brick 末 would be like James Dean crashing his Porsche Spyder in 1955 (okay, I'll admit I'm in danger overdoing the dead celebrity similes): going out with a veritable bang, while at the top. But if football can continue 末 and Liverpool Football Club continue 末 after the lowest ebb of Hillsborough, then it can after the highest in Istanbul. We needed football then to anoint and heal; now we merely want it in the understandable lust and greed for glory.

Football regenerates itself on a yearly basis. Every season it starts again, and the slate is wiped clean. (But not too clean, you understand: we are allowed 12 months to crow about the previous season's achievements, and after that we are not exactly going to forget them. Four became five, after all.)

There are always new targets. Liverpool have much left to achieve, and this team still has almost everything left to prove. The freshly-arrived players, and those on the horizon, have breathed new life and excitement (and belief) into a season that is now, on the night of July 13th 2005, already underway. Some of the best players in the world (and Peter Crouch) have spoken of their dream of representing the club. There's a buzz about the place, and the old cachet is returning; always a fashionable club, but when Luis Figo calls it a dream, you know the gloss is back.


Cometh the hour...

It had to be Gerrard who stole the headlines. It's been his summer, but until he signed his contract, not in a good way. His first hat-trick, and not just that, but an 'all the goals' hat-trick: always sweeter than getting three goals in a 10-0 victory.

A half-strength, half-fit Reds knocked the ball around nicely in what felt like a glorified pre-season friendly; although at least, for once, it actually meant something. The sharpness was lacking, and that's always the last thing to arrive: the players are fit enough to run about, but it's that extra burst of pace of strength in the muscles that makes all the difference, as well as the stamina late on in games.

The decision-making in the final third was disappointing, but faultless football at this time of the season just doesn't happen. You don't expect boxers to fight before they peak in their scientifically-programmed training, and for footballers, as athletes, the same applies. The players are being honed for mid-August, and beyond. But as a fan you can't help but want goals, and the whipping boys to be whippd.

There was precious little to get over-excited about, but what do you expect? In the absence, you look to the positives. When players do good things this early in the season, it's encouraging; bad things, and given the rustiness, it's excusable.

Gerrard and the ever-impressive Alonso aside, the main plusses were the two subs: Ciss, who was superb on the right wing (we will be blessed when he's fully match fit), and Zenden, who put in five dangerous crosses in twenty minutes, and generally looked the kind of busy, intelligent player we can always find room for. (He reminds me a little of Ray Houghton in stature, playing style and effectiveness.) Pepe Reina in goal had next-to-nothing to do, but that one forceful punched clearance was a nice insight into how he deals with players jumping into him. No nonsense.

Potter, Le Tallec and Warnock showed they can do a job, but have a fair bit of development left ahead of them. Elsewhere it was a mix of steady, tidy, tired and sloppy. But nothing to cause any concern.

The main thing is that the season is underway, and we can come to terms with experiencing football that doesn't excite, bewitch and bewilder to stupefying degrees, but which does its job: a few goals, a victory, and some kind of smile on our faces.

It won't be with us week-in, week-out, and it may only be fleeting, but the real excitement lies ahead.

ゥPaul Tomkins, 2005

Details of how to get my book "Golden Past, Red Future: Liverpool FC Champions of Europe 2005" for 」2-4 discount can be found at www.paultomkins.com, along with a list of shops and online stores now stocking the book.

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