What Next For LFC?
Throughout history there have been great empires, dating back thousands of years to the Incas, the Egyptians, the Romans and through to our own British Empire. All of them have one thing in common: They eventually came to an end.
I am inclined to write that today, with the 1-2 home defeat by Blackpool, the sporting dynasty (it would be wrong to call it an empire) that is Liverpool Football Club also came to an end.
However, that would be wrong, for the LFC dynasty did not end today. All that happened with our home defeat by Blackpool was that the I’s were dotted and the Ts were crossed and the final bells were tolled.
Tomorrow, in the national press, and especially in the tabloids, the last rites will be read and we will be officially pronounced dead.
The situation we find ourselves in, however, did not just come about today and nor did it come about at any point this season, or last. We have been in decline for a lot longer than that, right back to the day when Graeme Souness was appointed as manager of Liverpool Football Club.
On that day, our reign of terror over the rest of the footballing world began to go into decline and ever since, we have been spiralling downwards.
One of the problems with our decline has been that we have had spells when there has been the illusion of greatness, still, that has caused us all to believe that our fortunes were on the way back up and that we were close, once more, to regaining our place on that lofty perch we once occupied.
An FA Cup here, a League Cup there, throw in UEFA Cup and Champions League miracles and you have the complete illusion, bolstered by the occasional 2nd or 3rd place finish in the league.
But, during the past 20 years, how many of you reading this has ever seen a new season arrive and truly believed that we were strong enough to win the league? Have you ever, once seen the start of a new season arrive and believed, with a strong conviction, that our players, our tactics and our style of play was better than that of our rivals?
I have begun many a season these past 20 years with hope but never belief or conviction.
You see, once a dynasty or an empire is over, it is over!
And so it is with ours.
The reality, you see, is that during those 20 years we have never had an owner or chairman with enough conviction, desire and passion to make the investments that were so drastically needed if we were to keep up with rivals who were overtaking us. Oh, we purchased a lot of window dressing along the way, yes indeed. We made purchases which, superficially seemed as if they were progressive, forward thinking additions to our squads, but we never really invested in players who you would say were ‘The Real Deal’.
Look back over the signings of the past 20 years and while there were some golden nuggets, they have been few and far between. Mostly we have been the beneficiaries of the services of ‘has beens’ or ‘never will be’s’. We have lacked the true quality from back to front to ever pose a serious threat to whoever happened to be the main threat of the time.
The other reality, aside from ownership and investment, is the quality of managers we have had during the past 20 years. Evans, Houllier, Benitez and now Hodgson. Not one of them was fit to manage Liverpool Football Club.
Roy Evans had the right, certainly, to follow in the tradition of the boot room and have a go, but he was never really manager material, without an ‘enforcer’ by his side. He was too weak and idealistic. He did, however, ensure that in failing to achieve our ultimate goal, we at least played like a Liverpool Football team should.
The next 2, though – Houllier and Benitez, were wrong and should never have been appointed. During their time, individually and collectively, LFC made no progress whatsoever. Not one single bit.
Sure, a few cups were won, including the champions league, but let us not get carried away with ‘that night’in Istanbul. It was a thrilling occasion, of course it was, and it is one which will live in our folklore for an age. BUT, it was not a stepping stone towards a brighter future.
Houllier and Benitez were simply foreign tacticians who valued themselves above LFC and they did nothing to improve our style of play or to bring in players of genuine quality, even though both spent a small fortune in the process of delivering continued and reliable failure.
And now, we have another tactician. This time an English one. A gentleman, indeed so, and a pleasure to listen to but, not a Liverpool manager. Not in this lifetime or any other lifetime.
Tacticians, you see, may seem like wonderful things, being all knowing, gurus of footballing theories with great knowledge of players and systems but I am afraid that is not what makes a winning manager. What makes a winning manager is the ability to recruit the best players for the job (not necessarily the best players in the marketplace) and then, to have the skills to get the best from those players.
In both of those cases, all our managers of the past 20 years have failed. Miserably.
Neither Houllier or Benitez recruited players who were the right ones for Liverpool Football Club and neither of those managers were ever able to consistently get the best from the players that they did have. Probably because to both of them, their own stature, kudos and opinions were what mattered most.
So now we are in an uncomfortable marriage with Mr nice guy, Roy. Knowledgeable, yes. Decent, Yes. Experienced, yes. But not, I am afraid, up to the task of raising the Titanic that is LFC.
I say that because, even if the players are not quite good enough, you would expect to see them giving everything, if the manager was the right person. But they are not. The players seem as lifeless, clueless and disinterested now as they did for the whole of last season. The new manager is simply not getting through to them and one can only assume that is because the players have little respect for their new boss.
And what of the players?
Quite simply, they are not good enough.
Of the current squad of first team regulars, we only have Gerrard and Reina who are worthy of a place in the Liverpool team. The rest?
Well, Johnson is simply not up to the task of being considered to be a reliable defender and it is a long time since he was even a half decent defender. These days, he is not too hot at going forward either. Skrtel and Agger are just not good enough. They both have poor positional sense, make bad decisions and are weak in the air and Carragher is just too old and slow now. We don’t have a left back at all. Koncheski is a hafl decent left back but not of the class to be considered a long term prospect.
The midfield is full of plodding, ordinary players with no bite, no pace and no passing ability. Lucas, Poulson and Raul are all simply ordinary, uninspiring players who are not game changers or match winners. They are easy for opponents to play through and the reality is, they contribute nothing.
Maxi, Jovanovic and Kuyt are much the same. Hard working but limited. Totally lacking in creativity and pace.
And Joe Cole? A player who once had pace and vision but who is, like so many other signings over the years, living off a past reputation. A name and nothing more.
And as for Torres . . . .once a very good striker but a player who has now become a liability. When he is not injured, he is sulking. His pace has gone and with it went his one weapon. Rather like Owen, really. Once players like that, who lived off their pace, lose that, then they are nothing more than ordinary.
When he first arrived, he was a sensation. Now, he is a sad reflection of the overall plight of LFC. Once great but sadly lacking.
So, what of the future? Well, it seems that the answer lies in matters off the field as much as on it. Liverpool have to start all over again and we have to hope that we begin by being bought by someone who has a passion to see LFC great again and who will invest appropriately. Not stupid spending. I don’t want that. I don’t want LFC to suddenly become ultra wealthy spendaholics. I want us to be able to buy some good players and I want us to have a manager with vision, who has a burning passion for success. Not a master tactician. Not an ego maniac. Just a passionate manager who gets the best from the people around him. Someone with a vision and who will work tirelessly to make that vision a reality.
For the present, however, we have a fight on our hands.
In previous seasons we have fought hard to secure a top 4 place. Now we have to fight with the same intensity to make sure we don’t secure a bottom 3 place. I know these are still early days but after the Blackpool match look at what we have to face next.
Everton away – They must wish they were playing us tomorrow
Blackburn home – Unless we learn how to scrap, QUICKLY, we are in for a bad day
Bolton away – never a good game, even when we are playing well
Chelsea home – They could make our negative goal difference massively worse
Stoke away – Jermaine must be dreaming of this one already
Those 5 matches will define our season
By the time we have played Stoke, we will either be on a confidence boosting recovery or on our way to oblivion.
Which way will it go? Who can tell but the signs are not good.
To get out of our predicament we need one thing. A fighting mentality and so far, this team have not shown the first sign of that sort of mentaility.
This could be the time when our youngsters make the difference. Spearing, Shelvey, Pacheco, Amoo . . players with no experience whatsoever but they have what the first team players currently lack, namely pace, creativity, spirit and above all hunger.
For the past year and a half, our ‘big names’ have let us down. Consistently. No point, then, in trusting that they will make things any better now we are in real trouble.
There is an old saying . . .”If you keep on doing what you have always been doing, you will keep on getting what you have always been getting”
Time to change what we are doing then. I just hope Roy considers this before it is too late. Now is the time for him to show he can manage, and that means making bold decisions and doing whatever is necessary to change things, before things change us. For ever.