By Mark Sproule
They say a week is a long time in politics, well the same can be said of the beautiful game . A game which can frustrate or elate each one of us as we strive for success on and off the pitch for our favourite team. On the back of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Bolton at the Reebook on January 21st Kenny Dalglish took an unprecedented step of publicly criticising a team of players he is normally so protective of: “If that’s the level they expect this football club to play at, they won’t be here long. The most disappointing thing for me was I don’t think they were ready to play the game.”
Harsh words from the manager, but what sort of response would they be met with? Exactly what he would have hoped for was the answer. Two massive perfomances in the space of four days saw the Merseyside club reach their first domestic final since 2006 and progress into the 5th round of the FA Cup at the expense of none other than the two Manchester teams, City and United who both lead the way in the Premier League, first and second respectively.
A heroic performance from the new favourite son Craig Bellamy (no doubt the transfer bargain of the season) in the City game set the tone for another fine display in the FA Cup on the Saturday to see off United in a much sweeter result that saw the reds earn a last 16 home tie with Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion. This finished off a week where sensationalist pundits gleefully questioned the progress which was, or wasn’t, been made by Liverpool Football Club in Dalglish’s second term of office. Whilst Liverpool fans are knowledgable and humble enough to realise that nothing has been won at this juncture, you do have to wonder how many of the aforementioned experts were eating humble pie by 2.35pm on Saturday, less than seven days since the defeat at the hands of Owen Coyle’s team was well and truly turned on its head.
Bear in mind this is a “work-in-progress” this Dalglish’s side, just one year into his second reign where the manager is in the process of bedding in seven new first team regulars who hadn’t played together until 6 – 12 months ago. Add to this the fact this has been an injury plagued season for Captain fantastic Steven Gerrard who has watched most of it from the sidelines, and all of a sudden the glass is very much “half full” at Anfield now Gerrard has returned. I make no mention of the fact that Liverpool have now played six games without one of the Premier League’s players of the season, Luis Suarez, for fear my loyalty and allegiance to the player in the midst of much controversy may be viewed as some misconstrued support for the Uruguayan who has been labelled a “racist” by all and sundry, without most knowing all the facts.
Much also has been made of the failures of Downing, Henderson and in particular Andy Carroll to live up to their expectation or transfer fees. You do wonder in the midst of all this negativity aimed towards the Merseyside Club, how much these numerous cases of misfortune have cost them. Despite all that Dalglish and his newly formed back-room team of Clarke, Keen and himself have done so wrong (in the eyes of the anti-Liverpool public that is) they have managed to reach a Carling Cup Final, last 16 of the FA Cup to date, and are currently sitting just 1 point and 6 points behind Arsenal and Chelsea respectively in the quest for that coveted fourth Champions League spot. There are 16 games or 48 points left to play for.
If only Kuyt hadn’t hit a barren run this season, if only Carroll, Downing and Henderson had chipped in with a few goals to turn those 7 home draws into wins, if only each time you hit the woodwork you were awarded a goal, if only we hadn’t missed 3 league penalties, if only Rome WAS built in a day. But for all these things Liverpool would be Championship contenders and Kenny Dalglish manager of the season, instead criticism from every angle rains down on the canny Scot.
I for one am delighted at how things have gone thus far. Frustrated admittedly at various points throughout the season, as all Liverpool fans have been with so many near misses that have thwarted better league progress. Human nature dictates we are impatient for success, but lets stand back for just a moment and reflect where the club has come from 6th October 2010 when from the brink of Administration we were rescued by Fenway Sports Group and John W. Henry. Almost as importantly from 8th January 2011 when team duties were passed from Hodgson to Dalglish. My thoughts are simple, the club has come a long long way and I cant wait to see what lies ahead.
Twitter – @MARKIESP