When Saturday Comes

Posted by MichaelA on January 21, 2004, 02:18:10 PM

The latest issue of When Saturday Comes has a picture of Harry Kewell and Emile Heskey wheeling away after scoring with the caption "Minimum Target for Liverpool" - Harry is saying 'three more wins and we avoid relegation'.

For the neutral, this has been an interesting season so far. United do what United always do; in fact they are doing it better than last season. They have also entertained us off the pitch; we have had the Rio carnival, and the Magnier/Ferguson lawsuit steeplechase.

Arsenal have played jaw-dropping football, and have produced an amazing comeback in the CL group stages. And Chelsea have quite simply boggled the mind of the average fan with their spending power. Their fitful form on the pitch has kept them in touch domestically and in Europe. “And they are still bedding in”. The Roman revolution still has many more turns to take, but it seems inevitable that they have become a real challenge and threat to the duopoly that Arsenal and Manchester United have enjoyed over the past few seasons.

And Liverpool? Well, our club is a laughing stock. In some quarters this verges on pity. Having started the season with a tempered sense of optimism, we are now reduced to scrapping it out in mid table; we are interested in the results of Fulham and Charlton as a yardstick of our progress up the table. In our defence, we have had half a season of debilitating injuries; but also crass tactical mismanagement.

Team selections often appear to have been based upon drawing names out of beret; the squad players are squad players for a reason. Too many faces have failed to fit; too many players have had their potential wasted as first team players set their own sights low and then missed. The gnomic utterances of our manager have left fans confused, or outraged, or both. In any case, they have given the media plenty of ammunition to fire at our manager.

The stated ambition to achieve FOURTH place is the one that has caused us the most amount of harm. It has rightly agitated our own fans - appalled by the perceived lack of ambition. It has given opposition fans a great opportunity to extract fun at our expense. It has provided the critics in the media with a ready-made stick to beat the manager.

The Chairman has essentially offered to stand down at the end of the season if we do not achieve this goal. Since his faith in the manager is unshakeable, and their fortunes are inextricably linked, it seems inevitable that they would both have to go if this situation arises. Some of the stuff that comes out of Anfield these days needs treatment before it is fit for human consumption. Does this club have a press officer? Media relations? Do they actually have any feeling for the club that they work for? Whatever. They need to be fired; they’re doing a terrible job.

So can we achieve a top four finish? Well my opinion is that if we do achieve CL football it will overwhelmingly be due to the poor standard of competition in the Premiership this season. Its mid season, and already the top three are already sailing off into the sunset. The rest are swilling around somewhere between the open season and the sewage outfall.

The gulf between the top and the bottom is immense, but there is not much to separate the rest in between. The joke on the cover of WSC made me laugh, but it chilled me to the bone, because despite the clear nonsense of relegation, our form since November 2001 has largely been average at best, with one or two little moments to cling onto. We are one of many clubs in with a chance of a top four finish. We should achieve a UEFA slot. Yippee. Liverpool Football Club is HMS Mediocrity, marooned in the sea of the average.

If we do achieve CL football, it will not be due to the high command and expertise of the manager. The talent assembled at Anfield should be capable of challenging for the highest honours at home and in Europe. We do not do this, and it appears we can no longer do this. Dortmund seems a distant memory; the expectation inside and outside the club since then appears to have eaten away at confidence ever since.

Ultimately, this is due to the leadership that they are given. In any sphere of human interaction, the quality of individuals and the nature of the work that they achieve can only truly be realised by the leadership of others. This is true whether it is Anfield Football Ground or Anfield Cemetery.

When Saturday comes; or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday or sodding Sunday, it fills me with anxiety and dread. I feel like that these days, I wonder how do the players feel?

There is a broad consensus, echoed in the Chairman’s comments, that if we get fourth, the manager will keep his job, and that we proceed as before. I no longer believe that that is good enough. Gerard Houllier has propelled this club as far as he can. The high water mark was Dortmund. Although we have had a few decent high tide lines since then our performance levels have dropping.

I think he needs to go, and he needs to go now. And I think that Phil Thompson has to go with him. I believe that a new manager, even a caretaker manager until the summer, can capitalise upon the adverse predicament that we are in, and actually salvage something from this shipwreck of a season.

The cover in question:

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