Discrediting Liverpool - the world's best spin doctors

Posted by Paul Tomkins on July 17, 2005, 09:55:11 PM

We are the world's best when it comes to 'spin', aren't we? Politicians cannot hold a candle to us football fans. We can twist and turn any situation to our club's favour. Or, if we happen to be a fan of 'reverse spin' (no, nothing to do with shining only one side of your balls), turn any situation on its head.

We use spin on each other 末 as to why our favourites should play, and those who madden us be taken around the back at Melwood and shot with an elephant tranquilliser dart 末 but mostly we use it on rival supporters: to defend our club, and rubbish theirs. As Liverpool fans we might be called into 'spin action' a lot more over the comical-looking Peter Crouch, should he arrive. But ultimately, does it matter a fig what fans of other clubs think?

People are still laughing at Crouch, fresh from scoring 16 league goals in 24 games. Personally, I'd like to see a bit more of that kind of 'ineptness' in front of goal at Liverpool. I'd settle for Laurel and Hardy, or Ike and Tina Turner, or Michelangelo and his dead clay-sculpting monkey as our centre forward pairings if they all notched at that kind of ratio.

We all laughed at Andy Cole at Man Utd, but he scored the goals that won the league and was part of their Champions League-winning team. Was Cole the perfect player? Far from it. Did he do a job? No question.

I recently saw an Evertonian on a Liverpool forum, laughing that the Reds were looking to sign Crouch. Such fun at our expense, less than a month after Steven Gerrard lifted the European Cup. You'd think the Reds had just been relegated to the Conference.

It seems no matter what your team achieves, there will always be someone trying to lessen its significance in football's all-powerful whitewashing, white-lying, fast-spinning washing machine. But hey, none of us are perfect; we're all as bad as each other.

An example of opposition spin is the idea that Liverpool were 'lucky' to win the European Cup this May, despite the remarkable results against Olympiakos and three of the big favourites, Chelsea, Juventus and AC Milan. It's very rare for a fan of a rival club to hold his or her hands up and say "fair dos, you won it fair and square. We bow to your all-round superiority". Frankly, more often than not we start lying to ourselves before we even begin lying to anyone else.

To be perfectly honest, I don't really care much for discussing football online with non-Liverpool fans. Unless they are incredibly well-balanced and open-minded, it ends up being the kind of argument I thought I'd left behind when I graduated from primary school. (And as my dad was was an unusually growth-stunted circus dwarf descended from the Mbuti pygmy people of the Ituri Rainforest, I was always on sticky ground as to whose dad was biggest.)

Too little of it ends up being good natured and good humoured, and instead of clever badinage it just descends into rabid name calling. Banter is all well and good, but what you mostly find on internet fora, when it comes to inter-team discussions, is bile. Football has moved on. We no longer hurl broken seats at one and other; instead we launch catty epithets via our keyboard.

Your striker is a bit rubbish...

Oooo, Meeooww.


The summer of spin

The conclusion to last season provided one of the biggest opportunities for spin seen on Merseyside for 20 years. What happens when the bragging rights get a little blurred in their distinctions, and both parties feel they've won the moral victory? It becomes more confusing than the boxing world's hierarchy of titles, as to who is outright, undisputed champion.

Who is right? Does a fractional gap after 38 domestic games make you a better team, or does winning the European Cup?

Again, I fully expect Evertonians to say the former. And that is their right 末 the life raft to which they must doggedly cling, to avoid facing up to the Reds' achievement in Istanbul. (Of course, ask them what they'd prefer: to finish 3 points behind the Reds and win the European Cup, or last season's scenario. If you get an honest answer, it would, I suspect, be the former.)

If you are playing the theoretical game of footballing Top Trumps, then nothing beats The European Cup. Only one of the achievements by Liverpool and Everton will be writ large in the historical archives of the game. Everton won the local skirmish; Liverpool won the World War. (Okay, the European War, but that sounds a bit crap.)

Again, I don't expect Evertonians to agree. But I am happy for them to think what they want, just as they shouldn't lose sleep over anything I have to say 末 after all, none of us is impartial, and nor would we wish to be. Ultimately, we don't have to justify anything about our club to any outsiders. And they don't have to justify their club to us.


Managing spin

When opposing fans say something, it's easy for me to ignore; but when their manager has a veiled dig at Liverpool's expense, I become interested.

I was rather intrigued by David Moyes' recent comments about everyone else looking up at a 'big three' of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd. Now while I disagree with this on the grounds of what happened in Europe, in that I think Liverpool's major success there promotes them to form an elite band of four, I can't spin the Premiership table, in isolation, to make it look any rosier for Liverpool with regards to the points gap between 5th and 3rd.

I can offer the extenuating circumstances of injuries, but the Reds were too far behind the top three for anyone but Liverpool fans to take seriously the excuses behind the league failings. I'd like to think others would, but I wouldn't expect them to.

But the silly part of what Moyes' had to say was the following: how Everton now apparently compete in the transfer market with the likes of Middlesborough, Charlton and yes, you guessed it, Liverpool (the Champions of Europe).

Fair play to Moyes for milking last season's league table. If I were him, I would too. I fully expect Moyes to milk it until the teat is as purple as Alex Ferguson's nose (admittedly, that brings to mind some extremely disturbing imagery, if you picture it too literally). But Moyes was 'spinning' (something I've seen some Reds fans request he go do), because managers, just like fans, are experts in the art. Managers tell the fans of their club what they want to hear. And if he's our leader, we lap it up.

It was, however, a strange time for Moyes to make the comments, having only hours earlier lost out to Liverpool on the signing of the hugely promising Momo Sissoko, who had also apparently tempted Chelsea. It also coincided with Luis Figo pleading to join the Reds, who had also just signed 50+ cap Dutch star Bolo Zenden, Chilean boy-wonder Mark Gonzales, and the in-demand Spanish international 'keeper, Pepe Reina, who turned down Manchester United.

Liverpool, it is clear, are competing with Europe's elite for players (it hasn't always been the case, in recent seasons), and not with the likes of Charlton and Everton. If a club in the list Moyes names makes a move for a player, and Liverpool do likewise, it becomes a mismatch. It happened with Boro's attempts to hang onto 'free agent' Zenden. There was no hesitation on his part. Liverpool still has that pulling power.

Everton had a great season last time out. By their recent standards. But to me 末 and here I'm employing my own brand of spin 末 it's like a Sinclair C5 (sprayed blue, Chang Beer written one the side) finishing ahead of a beautiful bright red Formula One Ferrari on the grounds that the Ferrari spent too long in the pits, because someone kept puncturing its tyres.

(The tyres in this analogy being Ciss, Gerrard, Alonso and Kewell, not to mention several other reliable all-weather spares that were freakishly burst at various points of the season. Of course, it didn't help that some of the remaining spares were skinny and bald, albeit purely in a metaphorical sense.)

Of course, I have my tongue firmly in my cheek, and I exaggerate for comedic effect.

After all, it's clear to all and sundry that Everton have rarely been good enough to compare even to a Sinclair C5. (Note: this is not spin, but what is more commonly referred to as a 'cheap jibe'.)


Lying

Apparently, "the league table doesn't lie".

To my mind, the table is only "correct" once every team has played one and other home and away. But even then it doesn't take into account exceptional circumstances, such as unprecedented injury lists, and having Mike Riley referee your matches. All things being equal, the table wouldn't lie; but all things are never equal. It's part of the fun of football, but it's also a misleading element.

Look at it this way: Would Mike Tyson, in his prime, have been expected to box with a broken arm? Would he have been as fearful? 末 after all, he still had another perfectly good arm, right? But couldn't a mere slogger have stood a far better chance against him, with one of Tyson's arms in a sling? Given the choice, assuming running from the ring wasn't an option, I'd opt to face the incapacitated Tyson every time.

In football, if your best players are injured, there's no postponement to wait for them to be fit again, to make it a 'fair' fight. (Or, for that matter, boxers don't have their place taken by a 'substitute' in the form of a lesser fighter.) That's part of the joy of football 末 the selection headaches of the manager 末 but also reason for occasional statistical anomalies.

At least that's my spin. But hey, what does it matter?

Ultimately, we'll go on celebrating winning Number Five, and Evertonians will rightly enjoy the summer they spent above Liverpool in the league table down to points won the previous season, and not, for once, solely on alphabetical order for the forthcoming season.

Reds will tease their Manchester rivals about the beautiful ratio 5:2, and United fans will mention their eight Premiership titles; to which Scousers will mention the all-time total of 18, and so on. Arsenal fans will counter Liverpudlian taunts about never having won 'the big one' with their remarkable Premiership record in recent seasons, and as for Chelsea 末 well, anything they achieve will be discredited by all and sundry on account of the "throw enough cash at a problem" factor. But will they care? I very much doubt it.

It's all about to start again. Ten months of new spin await...

 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 (including www.amazon.co.uk) now stocking the book.

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