By Stephen Hains (@StephenDHains)
One of the most regularly uttered comments of the past season was “Liverpool will never have a better chance to win the Premier League than this season”. Despite scoring 101 league goals, having one of the youngest squads in the Premier League and having the undisputedly world class Luis Suarez in their ranks many within the game had written off the side even before the new season has begun.
Conversely in spite of another dismal major tournament performance many commentators have predicted a brighter future for England as a result of a number of emerging talents. Regardless of straight defeats against sides that in all probability won’t contend the latter stages of the World Cup and a clear lack of genuine world class players the national side is apparently on an upward trajectory.
England were knocked out of the World Cup after 6 days. Liverpool took the title race to the very last day of the season. Facts and statistics can inform any prediction yet there seems to be a genuine belief that a miraculous change in fortunes for the national team has more chance of occurring than another title challenge for Liverpool. When pundits proclaim that a young England team can improve after such a wretched tournament they do so while neglecting the team which employs the very players they believe can bring glory to the nation, namely Liverpool.
Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad excited many. Shorn of the ‘Golden Generation’ tag and including many inexperienced but exceedingly exciting talents there was a rational sense of optimism around the side. As things progressed however, old failings arose and against half decent opposition England wilted and will be home to watch the middle weekend of Wimbledon.
The initial excitement focused upon a group which included World Cup debutants Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. All had just come off successful club campaigns and expectations of significant performances at the World Cup seemed justified.
During the tournament the only players of this group to make any impact were Sturridge and Sterling. A goal from the former and a thrilling performance by the latter against Italy were a glimpse of what a future England side could possibly entail. This was all that was required for followers of England to believe there was great potential within the squad. Yet when the Premier League begins again most if not all of those predicting future success for England will give little consideration to Liverpool title aspirations.
Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that Liverpool will be title favourites, indeed there are major factors against them having the same success as last season. Champions League qualification will obviously test the depth of the squad and the progress of their principal rivals will be followed closely.
Arsenal will surely be able to at least postpone their Spring meltdown if they manage to avoid such crippling injures particularly to Welsh dynamo Aaron Ramsay and Theo Walcott. Reinforced with a high level centre forward Chelsea will surely challenge at home and in Europe. Whereas in Manchester, in spite of two trophies City will hope to get more out of such a talented squad that wobbled badly at times last season and unfortunately things surely can’t be as bad for United as they were under David Moyes.
In spite of this there is still enough about this Liverpool team to again challenge for the championship, and central to this challenge will be their young English stars. The development Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and even John Flanagan under Brendan Rodgers has been remarkable, even to non-Liverpool fans. If their development continues in a similar manner over the next few years England’s fortunes will be intertwined with Liverpool’s.
Throw in Rickie Lambert, Glen Johnson and possibly Adam Lallana and the national team suddenly cannot do without their men from Anfield. While there may be legitimate reasons not to back Liverpool to repeat their efforts of last season those who champion England’s cause must now give recognition to Liverpool’s contribution to their side and to Liverpool’s own exciting future.
With players such as Henderson, Sturridge and Sterling hopefully hitting their peak close to the Russian World Cup in 2018 England and Liverpool fans will hope that under Rodgers expert guidance these players will be integral in ending many years of hurt for club and country.