Football Hangover

Posted by Garstonite on November 3, 2005, 05:16:26 PM

Our football hangover - is there a cure?

(And preferably one that doesn't involve a greasy burger from McNasty's)

How is it possible to ensue that night in Istanbul?  It's like the Spice Girls attempting to follow on from the routine majesty of Michael Jackson in his pomp. It is so difficult, it is nigh on impossible.

The anti-climax has hit Reds all over the globe at a ferocious speed.  It was almost as though everything in our lives had led up towards this moment and now that it had arrived, you didn’t quite know how to react.  Rafa’s first season at the helm was almost like the last scene in an epic film and this season is unfolding like a hastily and shoddily-commissioned sequel.  But the question that requires an answer is will we recover from this “footballing hangover”?

For me, this season has not really got going.  Much like my old Ford Escort.  It has stuttered its way along.  And how you can tell.  The atmosphere appears tense at Anfield this season.  The expectancy levels have always been high but this season they are so big, they have made Peter Crouch look like a garden gnome.

It is not how it is supposed to happen though. Our situation is a bizarre and a very, very rare one. A side that wins Europe’s most acclaimed prize is supposed (with this being the operative word) to have spent years dominating their domestic league. A title at least every other year, a couple of cups here and there and good runs in the Champions League, falling just short at one of the final hurdles.

Although we have found ourselves consistently in the top 5, we have yet to make that crucial push that fans anguish day and night over. 

It is, however, typical of Liverpool.  Never is anything as straightforward as it seems. One year, we finish 2nd with 80 points. A tally that was, then, arguably enough to have lifted the crown. A year on and we finish 5th. We didn’t do as people predicted and strengthen our squad and go that step further. Instead we found ourselves 16 points worse off than the previous year and failed to even qualify for the Champions League.

Again, a similar story.  Last season was an unpredictable and surprising one.  Everton finish 4th, ahead of Liverpool and journey into the Champions League qualifiers. Heads were down and the Blue half of the city made the most of it.  Up steps Rafa the magician and pulls out a rabbit from the proverbial hat and we are Champions of Europe for the 5th time in our illustrious history.  (So, as your gambling advisor, I suggest you steer clear of LFC!)

Although everything I remember from last year sounds like a strange, magical and wonderful story (good enough for Disney) Liverpool fans remained realistic. The simple fact of the matter remianed that we needed to improve our domestic form. 5th and a fast exit from the FA Cup was not good enough.

Simple. Sign some quality players with our bolstered finance and the lure of our “Champions of Europe” status and close the gap on leaders Chelsea. Dramatically. Are Peter Crouch, Bolo Zenden, Pepe Reina and Momo Sissoko the players we wanted? Or even expected? Not really. OK, we understand they will strengthen the competition in the squad, but when you are linked with the likes of Raùl, Joaquin et al, it is hard not to feel an element of regret and depression.

I did not hear one argument that convinced me things were on the up during the summer, and what started off as a continual celebration from May, ended in a rather glum and concerning break which raised more eyebrows than smiles.

Do not misread me. I am obviously willing to give things time. I will back every move Rafa makes and, more importantly, try to understand decisions he makes that I may not agree with. He knows best, after all. However, despite not particularly saying so at the time, I was not pleased and was, quite frankly, disappointed. I wanted players that would send shockwaves through the Premiership. They never came.

Our form at the start to the season has not been fantastic and it has not been particularly surprising. Looking ahead at our fixture list I thought we'd be in for a rough ride early on. Coming up away were teams that would challenge for the Champions League spots, two titans at home and potential banana-skins against sides that have come to Anfield in the past and come away with a point, thanks to some stern defending and a strict, disciplined performance.

Couple this with the International breaks here and there, the Super Cup and the never ending Champions League qualifiers and the season, as I have said, has haltingly faltered its way through until now. Anderlecht, on Tuesday night, was the first time I have been fully concentrating on the game and been delighted at the end.  I hope with all sincerity that we can get down to business as soon as we can (and I never thought I would be saying such things as late on as November).  That goes for both us fans and the players alike.

You never know what surprises lie ahead, as they say ...

© Garstonite 2005

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