By Mark Sproule
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I was listening to Adrian Durham and Darren Gough on Talk Sports drive time this evening and nearly crashed the car when I heard them open a debate asking for Liverpool fans to call in, questioning the credentials of Kenny Dalglish, his signings and league position to date, suggesting after a mere five league games that a top four finish could be beyond them. Forgive me if I am incorrect but is there not a further 99 points to play for? Are Arsenal not lying in 17th and Spurs in 11th place. Is Liverpool not a mere 3 points behind Chelsea in third place?
Prior to Sundays crushing defeat at Tottenham Liverpool had performed extremely well in their previous four league games, and with a bit of luck and a couple of favourable refereeing decisions having gone their way Liverpool would be sitting on 12 points, just behind City and United, even given the abominable display at White Hart Lane that followed.
Let’s not forget that four of the starting line-up at Tottenham hadn’t played together before August and six of that line-up were new additions to this premier league team since January. Seven new players once Coates was introduced on 26 minutes. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Yes it was an inept performance from start to finish, an early Spurs goal was scored deservedly by the better team. Add to this a lack of discipline which saw the team go down to nine men and the three goals which followed summed up a disastrous trip to North London by the visitors.
So, that’s that then for the hopes of Liverpool’s Champions League qualification this year? Four good performances where they only managed to amass 7 points and one terrible game where they got exactly as they deserved. I don’t think so.
I can understand the hope and expectation which surrounded Liverpool fan’s prior to the season beginning, some promising new signings, quite a few pounds spent since January and King Kenny back in the dugout. Add to this the excitement of watching the latest No.7 Luis Suarez perform in the latter half of last season and as usual expectations went through the roof. I myself, like many Liverpool supporters, and senior Liverpool players, saw Champions League qualification as a more realistic achievement as the new team grows and gels. After all, how many teams have gone from 7th and 6th league positions to become champions. When Dalglish last did it at Blackburn it was 4th and 2nd before finally lifting the crown. Sure, anything is possible in this wonderful game and Liverpool fan’s know that better than most, but in order to avoid too much disappointment let’s be realistic and be delighted if our team exceeds our expectations, that I believe is the Liverpool Way.
No better man than Kenny Dalglish to have spoken some harsh words to the players involved on Sunday (behind closed doors) and analyse with his staff exactly where we went wrong. Dalglish has seen, heard, coached, played, managed, and player-managed it all before. There is nothing new in the modern game unfamiliar to the Liverpool manager who was never afraid to make bold decisions or leave people out. Like Fergie, players were unceremoniously moved on by Dalglish if they didn’t fit into what he was trying to achieve in his previous tenure. The beauty with Kenny and the squad he now has at his disposable is there are no dead certs on the team sheet, bar maybe Reina, an in-form Suarez and fully fit Steven Gerrard. There are plenty of options for Dalglish if he needs to ring the changes.
Rewind back 12 months and look at the mess Liverpool Football Club were in both on and off the pitch. Liverpool fans have a lot to look forward to now under this transformation of excellent owners and management, not least the re-introduction of Steven Gerrard and also seeing a bit more of Craig Bellamy. I firmly believe that despite Sunday’s grave disappointment, this was only a set-back and perhaps the best thing that will have happened as the season unfolds. Some of the players might have seen a different side to King Kenny for the first time and endeavour not to repeat a performance like that. Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish both suffered similar defeats in their previous managerial tenures 4-0 and 4-1 respectively, and both times went on to win the league, so I wouldn’t read too much into what was just a very bad day at the office. I also firmly believe that Liverpool Football club will be back where they belong next year. Cold Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Anfield with that famous champions league anthem ringing over the tannoy.