By Jamie Ward
Henry Winter was in his favourite part of England last night. Not because he was sharing a glass of wine over another chummy interview with his buddy Alex Ferguson, or to fawn over how great Fergy’s Manchester United players are.
It was of course to witness a Man City team happily ticking along in second gear dismantle a Liverpool side speeding dangerously backwards towards disaster.
Liverpool’s season is only five games old, but even before the appointment of English media darling Roy Hodgson, the warning bells were screaming, albeit not as loudly for the majority of supporters following the club.
Yes Hodgson should, and will be, afforded the season to settle, I’m not here to jump on the back of our manager and start criticising every single little mistake simply because I did not want the previous manager to leave the club.
But if the handful of performances so far, not to mention serious questions about his time at Fulham, are a beacon of things to come, it certainly looks like another campaign of disappointment on the pitch and in the media. We haven’t even seen the back of August and supporters and pundits still have their cross-hairs firmly targeted on Benitez, and the hypocrisies in the media and in the forums are still rife.
Credit where credit is due however, in regards to last night’s dismal display Winter rightly mentions Roberto Mancini’s team is bursting with English talent, with the majority excelling during an easy home victory.
Even if the match report was saturated with more sycophantic nationalistic dribble than a one-year-old baby could produce in a week, he did manage to congratulate a foreign manager for buying up lots of English talent. It’s just a shame that a national British journalist who clearly loves his country and reaches so many people doesn’t choose to instead focus on the inflated transfer fees and ridiculous wages given for these exceptional English players, pricing 17 of the 19 teams in the league (and the majority of the world) out of the running.
Despite the £12million Gareth Barry earning the same amount of wages as Fernando Torres. Despite some of his team mates collecting £100,000 a week to sit on the bench who wont play regular football because of multi-million pound, world class internationals in the squad. And despite the tattered hopes for local, young English players coming through the ranks at City and their now limited opportunities to break through into the first team; Winter thinks that everything is rosy and none of that matters because last night’s performance and the future of the club and national team has “cast an encouraging light on England.”
But the most worrying aspect of the apparent Liverpool supporting journalist’s shallow article is his failure to highlight some key elements about last night’s game in regards to his own club.
The Christian Purslow mouthpiece did his best to ensure no blame was levelled at the cancerous Anfield board’s newly appointed yes man, Roy Hodgson.
I’m all for giving the new gaffa a fair crack and some headroom to make his mistakes, but I don’t want it to be in a hypocritical manner, or at the expense of the previous manager’s character and what he has done for the club over the last six seasons.
Last years critics would foam at the mouth with glee as they lambasted Benitez at every possible opportunity, many just making up lies as they went along. One regular taunt was starting players out of the media-perceived positions on the field, a stick that became well worn over the last few years.
Yet last night Daniel Agger, a central defender who is as alien to the left back position as Winter is to balanced journalism, was considered a sensible gamble to take in stopping the dangerous inside-out winger Adam Johnson and his counterpart James Milner. Even with the highly experienced left-back Fabio Aurelio fit and on the bench, there was no mention of this from Winter’s “analysis” of the game.
We all know full well that would have been plastered all over the back pages had this been last season and a certain Spaniard had made the decision.
Worryingly is that Hodgson did nothing to change things when something clearly needed changing, remaining in his defensive formation and not making substitutions until 70 minutes and 3-0 down. But I’m sure some of the senior players at the club wont mind as much because at least they got a nice arm around the shoulder after the uninspiring game.
Winter provides a few more national pride sound bites about the English contingent at City before casually mentioning “this was a damaging defeat for Liverpool, who badly missed the anchoring expertise of Javier Mascherano.”
Perhaps a true lack of footballing knowledge, pretty much like 80 percent of this country’s so called expert pundits, is why Winter refuses to analyze a game properly, and maybe living in Christian Purslow’s warm and comfy back pocket is why there was no mention of how badly the board have handled the sale of not only the club, but also Javier Mascherano over the last 12 months.
Winter decides instead to provide a snide deflection-dig at Barcelona “whose tactics in the transfer market will again come under scrutiny.”
Instead of asking the questions that needed to be asked of the board, Winter chooses to add fuel to the fire by creating divisions within the club and the supporters with speculative comments about the Liverpool players being “furious with Mascherano’s behavior after reportedly refusing to play at Eastlands.” Even if it is true, showing the world there is no harmony in the dressing room will simply help nobody but the opposition.
Perhaps Liverpool missed Javier Mascherano in the middle of the park because the club thought it was OK to publicly state they wouldn’t stand in the way if an offer came in for him? No club wants a player on their books who really does not want to be there, however, this is a business which needs to be run properly, and the midfielder should have been told that we are happy for him to leave the club, but only if a decent offer comes in before the end of July, for example.
There has to be a clear time frame set in place in order for the manager to get his team set for the new season. He doesn’t need to have a want-away player whose mentality is not focused on the job at hand because he still believes there is time to complete a transfer away from the club.
We now have a week left in the transfer window and an unsold player who is integral to the first team, evident from last night’s disappointing display. This ridiculous situation now leaves next to no time for negotiations between clubs, and even less time to bring in a replacement and bed him in to the first team (which wouldn’t be a problem if the replacement had been playing since the start of August).
That is of course if Roy Hodgson is allowed the luxury of actually seeing any profits earned from the sale of Mascherano, and it’s not instead quietly diverted in to the Americans back pocket to pay off substantial interest payments to cover the leveraged buy-out that wasn’t going to happen if they bought the club.
And more importantly, allowing the transfer saga to run until the close of the window allows other clubs to lowball the board with an offer for Mascherano, putting us under even more pressure to accept the offer because we have days, if not hours, left to get it done.
We have known the Argentinian has wanted to raise his family in another country since last year, yet his contract has now been allowed to get down to two years, which means if he doesn’t leave this summer, which is certainly a possibility if Barca play the bluff and Masch refuses to sign a new contract because of his treatment in the media over the last couple of days; we have another Liverpool player who’s value will considerably diminish because he has one year remaining on his agreement.
Perhaps if Rafa Benitez was not told to use his player transfer kitty to pay for player contract extensions last summer, as well as being expected to strengthen the first team and add quality depth to the squad, we may have been able to extend Mascherano’s contract and not be in this desperate situation we now find ourselves in.
But more importantly than that; perhaps if we had more Liverpool supporting journalists in the national media who didn’t abuse their position of trust by using Purslow-drip-fed slanderous propaganda to deflect supporters’ attention away from the cancer eating away at our club, we might have a few more fans asking why the plight of Liverpool, and all of the disgraceful behaviour over the last few years, is being swept under the carpet by those in charge and the little sneaks in the press who do their dirty work.
No one can be certain of what Liverpool’s fortunes will be on and off the field this year. But one thing is for certain, Henry Winter will still continue to be a media puppet with Christian Purslow’s hand stuck firmly up his backside.